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Beauty and 21st Century Socialism
Maybe it is prejudice, but it seems to me that the Venezuelan is a more beautiful and handsome person than the European (and being of Austrian heritage, I have to include myself in this second group).
I am not referring here to the numerous Venezuelan women who have won international beauty contests. Almost without exception, they have been very beautiful light-skinned individuals who mimic the white culture’s idea of perfection.
I am referring to the ordinary Venezuelan whose body contains a mixture of African, European and Indigenous blood. For centuries people have commented on the danger of inbreeding. Most Venezuelans have escaped this problem. The result has been human beings as unique as the multi-colored birds that abound in this tropical paradise.
But today, I am thinking that maybe this gift of a mixture of blood goes even further than only affecting the physical aspects of people. Is it possible that it has also created an individual that thinks differently, that has the possibility of creating more beautiful ideas than the world has known up to the present?
I have often noted that water runs down sink drains differently south of the equator than in the northern hemisphere and wondered if maybe blood also runs through the body in a different manner below the equator. Could this have something to do with the new ideas emerging in the southern hemispheres?
When I was in the United States in April, a woman in Connecticut asked me after one of my presentations if it was true that President Chávez of Venezuela had decreed that all public employees must have four hours of classes in Marxism. I replied that I wasn’t aware of that, but if it were true, I only wished that I were a Venezuelan government employee. I know nothing about Marxism, or hardly any other “ism” with the exception of Catholicism. I said that I would be interested in having someone teach me about Marxism.
But then the woman corrected herself. She said maybe it was a course on socialism, not Marxism. I have the feeling that she isn’t the only one in the world making the same mistake.
Let me try to explain the matter as I see it. As I understand the situation, there are two economic systems in competition today. One is capitalism; the other socialism. Capitalism seems to base world organization on money, things. But together with money and things capitalism has brought more misery into the world with the money and things in the hands of relatively few people. Socialism, on the other hand, seems to place its emphasis on society, people. Nevertheless, socialism in the last century, in spite of some successes, was pretty much a failure and also brought oppression.
I don’t like the idea of a world centered on money and things, but if I am going throw my lot in with socialism, it will have to be a different socialism, a new socialism, a socialism for the 21st Century.
But what does this idea, which has its strongest base in Venezuela, mean? For one thing it means looking at the ideas of Simon Bolivar about how society should function. One example: last year I visited George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. I found it interesting that in his will he asked that the people he had personally enslaved be set free. There were over 300. But my question was why he waited until he was dead to free them? Simon Bolivar instead, responding to a request of Haitian President Alexandre Pétion, freed the enslaved as he liberated the countries of South America—a different idea of society—one where all people would be free.
A new socialism would also include the ideas of the indigenous people. I once heard that there is an indigenous group here that defines “leader” as “the one who listens.” That certainly gives a different dimension to societal organization. If we had to rate world leaders on a scale from one to ten accordingly to such criteria, I wonder how many would pass a grade of two.
The spirit of the African-Venezuelan would also have to be included. Having survived centuries of oppression, these people could teach the world a lot about how people should live as brothers and sisters.
21st century socialism might also include the ideas of Jesus. Chávez in a major speech earlier this year spent several minutes talking about how the early Christians lived in community.
I suppose it would also at least consider ideas of Marx and Lenin, but more importantly it must be open to your ideas and to my ideas.
In other words, nobody knows at this moment what Socialism for the 21st Century will be. It is a dream; it is a process. And if it is going to succeed, it will need to be based on the ideas of millions of people and not just those of Marx or Lenin or of Hugo Chávez.
A better wheel
There are socialist “purists” who are unhappy because Chávez doesn’t speak much about Marx and Lenin. They insist he is not talking about socialism if he doesn’t include them. But can I speak of democracy without including Jefferson or Franklin? I think I can. They didn’t have any copyright or trademark on the idea. Marx and Lenin didn’t have them on socialism either. Personally, being one who knows almost nothing about the two gentlemen, it doesn’t matter to me at this moment of history whether they have any prominent place in the development of the new socialism. The ideas of contemporary men and women are more important to me than those of two European males who died before I was born.
Some might see this as an attempt to re-invent the wheel. I see it as trying to invent a better wheel, or even something better than the wheel.
In contrast to those who want a “purer” socialism, there are those who feel Chávez is striving exactly for that socialism. They simply do not trust Chávez. They say he is using Bolivar, Jesus, etc., as a cover-up and is really thinking only of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, etc. They could be right; I don’t think so. I could be wrong, but I am tired of fifteen years of people bad-mouthing Chávez and seeing evil intentions in every idea he expresses and everything he does. It started on February 4, 1992, shortly after Chávez and others tried to oust Carlos Andrés Pérez from the presidency. That day in congress one Venezuelan senator shouted, “Death to the traitors!” He was thinking of Chávez’s group but he should have been thinking of his own companions in congress and those who had supported them in sacking the country for decades.
I think Chávez has the ordinary person at heart and an unselfish dream for a better world. Again, I could be wrong, but the ideas he presents make a lot more sense than any I have heard before—and I maintain they are the ideas of the ordinary human being who is fed up with the way the world has been run up until now.
That’s why I like the idea of 21st Century Socialism and pray for its success. Hopefully someday capitalism will be a topic only found in history books; the same for the socialism of the last century. We need a new world with new social relations. I’m tired of the god of money, the god of things, and the god of power in the hands of a few people. I don’t want another god. But I really would like to see a world of brothers and sisters.
Charles Hardy ©
Charles Hardy is author of Cowboy in Caracas: A North American’s Memoir of Venezuela’s Democratic Revolution which is