On Maldonado' victory, Goicoechea and Patriotism

There is a reason why this blog’ URL is “antipatrioticvenezuelan” – It is not pure coincidence, nor is it just an odd desire to make my blog’ URL controversial. It rather reflects the negative views I have towards patriotism, and hence, nationalism. Before you point out the obvious, I know, it is not the same thing. But just for the record, I’m against both. We have talked a lot about how an exacerbated nationalism can hurt foreign cultures but we haven’t talk enough on how our own patriotic pride can hurt us greatly. In this post, I’m going to explain you this with a recent example.

A few days ago, a Venezuelan won the F1 race for the first time ever. Pastor Maldonado’ victory quickly became a Trending Topic and a strong source of national pride. Comments ranged from how good the Venezuelan National Anthem sounded at the podium till how high was now the Venezuelan pride overseas. I won’t say that hearing the “Gloria al bravo pueblo” melody was not a pleasant experience. What I will say is that truly, there is nothing else pleasant about this victory.

Before the race, Maldonado was a piece of Chavez’ political propaganda – he continues to be that. Chavez’, using the state’ Oil Company PDVSA, finances Maldonado and his team called Williams. People who opposed Chavez despised him. I read loads of articles worried about the millions of dollars used for sponsoring Williams that could have found a better use in loads of things a poor country such as Venezuela needs. But as soon as Maldonado won, all those voices went silent and all it was left, was this chain of corny patriotic comments preaching the victory and forgetting everything behind.

This smoke screen was cut by Yon Goicoechea. Remember him? He was one of the Student’ movement leaders that aroused with RCTV’ (opposition TV network)’ closure back in 2007. The media adored his speeches and gave him more visibility than to others– which probably wasn’t the best for him. Since then, he has had an accidental political career: joined a political party, then left and then stayed rather low profile; hosting a daily radio show and writing a column at a popular newspaper.

Yesterday, on his column, he launched an aggressive article criticizing and insulting – he called them idiots- all those people who celebrated Maldonado’ victory, forgetting all about his sponsoring and the fact that he’s key of Chavez’ propaganda system – Maldonado specially thanked President Chavez for his victory - . There are two sides of this coin: first, we can all agree that Yon’ usage of language was not a smart choice because everyone looked at the word “idiot” and did not cared about the argument. But second, probably, had he choose his word more carefully, his article wouldn’t had been so widely read.

Strong reactions against it continue, even today. It is hard to find one comment in Twitter that says “Well, the guy was sort of right… we should think about the millions our country is investing in Maldonado’ car with all the inside affairs we should solve first…” – For example, someone – besides myself, Yon Goicoechea, and a couple of friends – should be calling the attention about the recent messure made by the government on which only careers considered “priority” can obtain foreign currency. My career is not part of that “priority list”. So Maldonado’ race is important but my graduate studies over seas (that are far, far, far more cheap) are not?

You won’t find almost any of that on any Twitter discussion either of government supporters or patriotic members of the opposition. What you will find instead is tweets such as “you (referring to Yon) do not deserve to be Venezuelan” and “it is disgusting and scary that someone like Yon Goicoechea claims to be Venezuelan” (From Speedy Gonzalez’ another Venezuelan pilot declaration, available here http://laradiodelsur.com/?p=91975.). Notice that all the critics go in the same direction: if Yon is not able to celebrate a sports triumph that has become a national pride, despite his reasons, he does not love his country and thus, he does not deserve to be Venezuelan.

What people do not know or forget is that many governments who tend to be less democratic, limiting and condemning dissent; and threatening civil liberties are; at the same time, strong promoters of art and sport as source of national pride. Think China, think Russia, think Germany back in Hitler’ days. Think about all those brilliant athletes and medals they collected at the Olympics for their countries. Think about all those painters promoted by fiercely right wing or left wing dictatorships around the globe.

They might are or not good athletes, musicians, painters etc but that doesn’t deny the fact they are part of government’ propaganda.  As long as they do not express political dissent and even preach a bit the government they will get all the money they need to perform their activities. The government, in return, will be seen as a government who promotes sports and culture, it will rise national pride providing stability (who doesn’t want to hear the national anthem over seas?, the words “Venezuela won”?) and, most important, it will minimize dissent (who doesn’t like a government who promotes music and sports?, who does not easily forget the lack of investment to health and education when is exposed to the magical sound of an orchestra?).

This arrangement has all the advantages for a government who needs to cover his not- so- impressive record on Human Rights, the constant limitations its citizens must go on a daily basis, violence, crime, shortages, lack of opportunities, inflation, a corrupt judicial system – Do I need to go on? –

It is obvious why while athletes, dancers, musicians who do not dissent (and we don’t blame them for their attitude, because is the only way they can be successful on what they do) have all the advantages, all the money the government can provide; while other people whose professions and passions are not so convenient neither can become a source of national pride- are deprived off all those advantages and treated as second class citizens. Think again on CADIVI and the foreign currency quota Venezuelan’ students abroad can buy from the government. A dancer can get as many CADIVI dollars as he/she wants. We can’t say the same about a journalist or a political scientist.

Patriotism. A beautiful folk dance against an article spotting a truth we don’t want to hear. A driver winning an F1 race against a political scientist point out the threats democracy is facing. A flag. A song. A tool for governments who want to keep their citizens silent, proud of something they think is part of them – while the same government makes their lives miserable, crushing their dreams, putting away their hopes and expectations.

Patriotism. A useful tool to express intolerance, to make anyone able to think for himself a scapegoat.

A useful tool to cover what the system needs to be covered, to deviate our thoughts from what is really important.

Patriotism. A useful tool to keep useful idiots under control.

(Yes, I said “idiots”)