By Michael Rowan
Culture is destiny. Culture is what a society believes and how a society behaves on those beliefs, which become institutional. Culture is how societies do stuff, how they operate.
Culture is not obvious. It is often invisible to the user, like using a knife, fork and spoon to eat. As we pass into 2018, it’s worth examining where Venezuela’s culture is headed. Warning: this column contains observations which may cause anger, depression, nausea, delirium, starvation and death. Continue to read only at your own risk.
The prime cultural beliefs in Venezuela are: the country is rich; the state distributes the wealth; life is a win-lose system (what one person wins the other loses), and take care of your family or tribe and everything will be fine. This is not brain surgery or rocket science. If you want to succeed, get on board and strap yourself in.
Here’s what’s important in this culture: success comes from connections to power and thus money often through sharing magical thinking and corruption. Corruption is democratic: with the dollar worth 10 bolivars to 115,000 bolivars each -- depending on who’s buying and selling -- the culture promotes criminality with every exchange in the economy. Corruption is so pervasive that we are astonished when someone is arrested for it.
Here’s what’s unimportant in such a culture: law, rules, knowledge, work and production. These things that fill the world population with such concern are unimportant to us because Venezuela is rich: It doesn’t need production but distribution.
It goes without saying but let’s say it anyway: You don’t have to create something you own and have hidden under your bed. Right?
The oil and gas and gold and minerals in the ground make Venezuela rich. You don’t have to produce them to get rich. You just have to enjoy them, borrow and spend against the collateral. Don’t worry, be happy: Throw a party with 20-year-old scotch.
Sure, productivity has fallen every year in Venezuela since the nationalization of oil and industry in the 1970s. Sure, debt may have increased dramatically since then and so did inflation, corruption, disease, infant mortality and recently, starvation. Not to worry, magical thinking saves the day:
We pray as in Church: Our father, Venezuela, has eliminated poverty and created the best democracy on earth. Thank you lord for the rule of law and the dignity of human rights for all, whether rich or poor, citizen or foreigner, black or white or anything in between. Give us our daily bread and we’ll hang in there with you forever, lord.
Anything to the contrary of our lord’s prayer is a lie, a calumny against the sovereign, and a crime, committed by jealous enemies of Venezuela’s great achievements, who need to be purged, punished and imprisoned.
Loyalty is the first commandment: Our leader is God and no false gods will stand before him in the crony-line pecking order. Secret riches are permitted but talking about being rich is sinful.
Yes, 300 billion dollars that entered the country since the year 2000 may be unaccounted for, and if any wrongdoers are found with that money they will be punished unless they are in the ruling tribe.
Yes, we have the worst homicide rate in the world and almost all of the killers have escaped to high positions in the culture, while our prisons are filled with those who dared mention those facts. But other countries have problematic prisons as well. So there.
How many times must we remind ourselves that the facts of our enemies are not our facts?
We stand proudly behind or sometimes cringe behind the sovereignty of Venezuela, our current leader, and our culture.
Everything that happened had to happen and everything that will happen must also happen. Get used to it.
Trust us, 2018 is going to be great. Our sovereign leaders are going to Make Venezuela Great Again. They’ve had only 20 years in a revolution that will last one thousand, so relax, everything’s fine, we’re just at the starting gate. Remember: do one year at a time, one day at a time, forever. Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.