(Part IV) A life cut in two half: The loss of the General Strike

I did not sign during the very first “firmazo” (read the previous entry) and could not sign afterwards, on the several pick up signatures events like that were made because the CNE (Electoral Organism) rejected the signatures over and over again.The reader might remember that my ID was stolen in a political demonstration just three months before the strike.

No matter how hard I try, I couldn’t get a new ID until almost two years later (the “Mission Identity”, a governments program who gives Venezuelan IDs in just a few minutes on special events; one of the very few government programs I support although not fully because it has a lot of defects, didn’t exist when my ID was stolen), so therefore I couldn’t sign up in the electoral register as a voter like a lot of friends of mine quickly did when they turned 18.

Maybe that was one of the many reasons that explain why I worked so hard as a volunteer during those days. Was also a matter of conscience because I couldn’t do what it was more necessary for that time: to sign; so I focused on working to get other’s signatures.

Therefore, I was no victim of any political discrimination. For those lists that government supporters kept for identify people against Chavez, I did not exist; so without even wanting to, I was luckily saved. Not all had that luck, and some did not even had to sign. I’m talking about the people who join the strike, and sacrificed their jobs and even their lives as a result, people who had jobs that were somehow related to the government.

A few days ago I met a friend of mine in a hallway of the university and we talked for a while. For some reason or another, the strike was mentioned in the middle of the conversation. I was distracted talking to her about demonstrations, violence, tortures, and many other things that happened during the strike and that people didn’t care now or simply forgot. Then she told me her story, quite different from mine even counting that we are both middle class and we are both against the government.

Her mom worked for the state oil company: PDVSA when the strike started. For some reason, she did not agree with the strike. She was openly against the government but for her, it wasn’t just logical to stop working in order to break down a president. That wasn’t the right way for her.

She was in the middle of many rivers, if she went to her job as she wanted to; she would have her friends at the office who were against the government, against her as well. And if she decided to not attend she was in risk of losing her job, the major income of her family. At the end, trapped into many contradictory options she joined the strike and lost her job. My friend found her several times crying in her bedroom, frustrated by the situation.

My friend’s parents didn’t allow her to go to any demonstration, at the same time my mother was encouraging me to enroll in a political party. “Your mom lost her job” – Her father told her – “We sacrificed enough for this country”. My friend simply became indifferent to the political situation. She went to a demonstration with a group of friends, in secret, just to “have fun and see how it was”. And she told me: “I wasn’t obviously the only one who was just having fun, the people were dancing samba there” – The scenario of the demonstration made her think that the people were not taking the issue as seriously as it required.

But I disagree with her: after all we are from Venezuela, a tropical country and we laugh even (and specially) on funerals. Our smiles don’t always means jokes, sometimes they mean “smile for not cry”. “At least I know that I went to every single demonstration with conviction, don’t know about the rest” – I explained to her. But despite of that, I understood why she locked in her own sphere while I was pretending to save the world; we had been raised in very different ways politically speaking even counting that we belong to the same class.

My family is made of idealistic intellectuals that would rather live under bridges before working for something against their beliefs; and that is not always good since many times we have spent incredible rough economical situations that we could perfectly avoid if it wasn’t for our beliefs. My friend’s family is probably more realistic.

A guy at the bus yesterday, in front of my passionate idealism told me: “Well, my wife works for the government and she hates Chávez; believe me she does, more than me. But she has weared red shirts and attended several pro-Chavez demonstrations. And what else she could do? Otherwise she would lose her job…. After all, “en la vida, uno tiene que bailar al son que le toquen” (bad translation: “In life, one most dance the song that’s playing”)”.

My friend’s mom couldn’t even found a song to dance to, to be saved. And I’m no one to judge that since no one from my family worked for the state oil company when the General Strike started so we didn’t have to face the trouble personally and it’s far more easy to fight when the issue is not touching the door of your house and the bread in your table. “Sooner or later it will touch us all. My mom worked for PDVSA during the strike and now your aunt works for RCTV” (the TV network that Chavez will close tomorrow). – “Yes” – I answered- “But probably my aunt has ever fewer options to save her job that your mom ever had”. Doesn’t matter, my friend is right, it touch us all anyway.

My friend’s mom isn’t the only case that I know or heard about, of someone who worked for PDVSA during the strike. I know a guy who passed from having a very rich and comfortable life to counting the coins for maintain his family by giving some random lessons at one university. From being an expert engineer, he passed to be almost no one, but he survived little by little and enjoyed his classes even knowing they were less than enough.

Another friend of mine moved to the north (means USA) a few months ago. He didn’t gave us a lot of explanations, except going after his father who was also a PDVSA worker and had to leave the country; probably because he was supposed to end up as a political prisoner.

But I have to tell in detail my friend’s mom case because it’s the only one I know of a person who didn’t choose that horrible destiny. My conviction’s tells me that she should choose it but my democratic belief also tells me that she should have the right to choose if she wanted to join the strike or not. But the gravity of the situation did not let her.

In times of such a strong and radical political crisis rarely our individuals choices count, despite on which side of the political spectrum we are. We just find ourselves in the middle of the madness, in the game of “if you are not with me, you are against me”, in the game of calling such as “antipatriots” or “the ones who do not take it seriously” and the strike basically consisted on those contradictory, radical and unbearable games; that cut our lives in half parts, which the memories find now, impossible to rebuild.

PS: I just thought this song could relate. Wise up by Aimee Mann (don't pay attention to the video, just the song and the lyrics)