Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I’m staying temporarily with some people who are generally inclined to believe that the defacing of at least one Venezuelan synagogue (that I’ve seen) and today’s news that another has been forcibly entered and vandalised, mean that Chavez should not have thrown out the Israeli ambassador. Perhaps he should not even have uttered a negative word about the state of Israel; we didn’t get that far in our one and only conversation on the matter.

If Chavez had supposed that his action (even if not anti-semitic in itself) would provoke an anti-semitic sector/give them legitimacy to indulge in religious discrimination and criminal acts, would that render him culpable for today’s news? This is, of course, assuming that the criminals are even revolutionary — and how revolutionary can they really claim to be? Revolutionary maybe, socialists almost certainly not. Their apparent contempt for the reputation of the revolution suggests they are more closely alligned with the opposition.

No-one could not have assumed any such vigilantism would result from what Chavez must have seen as (and it was) an important step towards defeating the Israeli PR machine and its global propaganda effort to diminish the crimes carried out against Gaza. But even if it was entirely predictable, one would have to weigh the positive results of Chavez’s outspoken stance in a global sense, against the negative effects suffered by Jewish members of Venezuelan society.

I’d suggest that the vast majority of synagogues in Venezuela remain untouched, and that there has not been a single reported case of aggression or discrimination against any Jews here. And yes, they are as likely to dress traditionally as in any other country. Chavistas, the immense majority of them, have absolutely nothing against any faith or any regular citizen of any race, nationality or persuasion. It’s an incredibly easy-going society, led by a president who repeatedly calls for humanitarian values, morals, conscience, enlightenment, and peace.


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arria5But who brings us this wonderful news?

Ambassador Arria has served on the board of the International Crisis Group (he is now a Senior Adviser), in the International Peace Institute, as a Diplomatic Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City and Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. At present he is on the board of the Institute of the Americas at the University of California, the United Nations Association of the United States, the Museum of Art and Design of New York, on the Advisory Board of the Center for International Policy and Ethics of Brandeis University, and the School of International Service of American University in DC.

This kind of bio gets you credibility only in certain places, my friend. To most people, it would seem you’ve spent a lifetime sucking up to power. It’s a classic example, however, of someone in awe of American values attempting to impress an audience which aspires to be more American each day (his bio is not only twice the length of what I’ve quoted, but also printed in full on the front page!).

Like this guy, who recently made this comment at another opposition blog:

What Latin America most needs is a healthy injection of gringo blood to make us more industrious, community-oriented, and believers in the individual rights of every man.

This is what we’re up against, camaradas. Racists, rich boys, exploiters of the common man, defenders of wars and colonization. The kinds of people who, left to their own devices, would dedicate themselves to industry and “individual rights” until the planet and all its most humble inhabitants were destroyed. They have no idea what community or democracy really mean.

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Full disclosure time: I’ve managed to spend quite a lot of $$ in Sambil. I lost my digital camera and replaced it with an upgraded model in the Casio store. Near the end of my time in the country, loaded with far more currency than I could realistically spend, and needing a coat for the London winter, I laid down a chunk of it in a store I’m too embarassed to mention.

Actually, I’m not embarassed. It’s just that I know of a few readers who relish learning such information in much the same way as a schoolyard bully enjoys discovering that your surname rhymes with a rude word.

Plus a couple of tees, some swimshorts, and you get the idea. I didn’t go crazy and wasn’t in there more than once a month on average. The only reason I ever went, of course, was that I bought currency at a preferential rate. For an honest Venezuelan, Sambil’s prices are nothing but daylight robbery. For me, most things (excepting electronics) were extremely reasonable.

Having destroyed any claim I have to being a socialist (yeah right), let me proceed to say that I’m 110% in favour of putting the blocks on mall construction in cities. Despite Venezuela apparently suffering from a crisis of investor confidence, and Caracas’ traffic problems blighting the lives of many a resident, malls are springing up with no end in sight.

Closing established malls are the quickest way to upset the mindless consumer drones, who find every excuse to burn time inside these megaliths and couldn’t imagine life without their local complex. I’d even say every major population center has a right to one. Enjoy them, you bubbleheads.

However, there’s nothing wrong with expropriating newly-built instances. The Sambil-in-construction which Chavez mentioned yesterday, in the Candelaria district of Caracas, would no doubt be profitable and busy. This doesn’t mean that existing malls are straining under the weight of demand! Rather, the more malls you build (up to a certain point), the more total money will be spent in malls — even if the population and its spending power remains constant.

Venezuelans need to save their money. Caracas needs to reduce its congestion. Whoever lives in Candelaria is already no further than a bus ride to a number of other malls. Malls are pure excess and inefficiency. They sell junk food, show idiotic films, overcharge for everything, and entertain multiple instances of the same stores (5 sportswear stores, 5 skatewear stores, 5 bookshops, 5 electronics stores…) in multi-storey buildings that in no way reflect unfulfilled demand.

Time to stop the madness.

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