CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
When we lose people that are indispensible to us, nothing may change on the surface: we are still walking, eating sleeping, working, even fighting. The void, the gaping hole is what dominates our hearts and our souls.
Yesterday, the President of Venezuela and one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of mankind – Hugo Chavez – passed away, and the world is still moving by inertia. Buildings did not collapse, continents did not sink, and the wars and misery ravaging many parts of the world did not stop.
Yet something changed. Three beautiful muses that have been inspiring so many millions all over the world, turned into widows, at least for one day or two. Their names are: Love, Faith and Hope.
Some ask: is it really wise to make an entire country, an entire revolution dependent, and reliant on one single man?
My answer is simple: people like Chavez are born infrequently, too rarely. It would be a historical anomaly for two giants of his size to live in the same period of time, in the same city, and even in the same country.
* * *
Yet his words and deeds were simple and pragmatic: poor people have to be housed, fed, educated and given medical care, and above all, they have to be armed with dignity. And the wealthy world, which became rich through plunder, colonial expansions and unmatchable brutality, has to stop terrorizing and looting; the countries of Europe and North America have to be forced to behave like members of the international community consisting of states with equal rights, instead of what they have been accustomed to for decades and centuries: a bunch of thugs living above the law.
Hugo Chavez was a man who appeared to come from a different era, where Western propaganda, indoctrination and surveillance had not yet broken the free spirit of men and women. He stood tall, spoke loudly and coherently, naming names, and pointing fingers. He was not afraid of his own people: he drank gallons of coffee and talked to them from the balcony of the Presidential Palace, and at street corners.
“And it smells of sulfur still today,” he laughed, at the UN, after George W. Bush left the stage. He was not the only one who smelt it, but he was the only one who dared to say it.
In his universe, no tyrant, no hypocrite was above the law, and immune from his attacks. He was not scared to say what he believed, publicly, even about such characters like the King of Spain, or the President of the United States of America.
* * *
Not everybody liked him, not all ‘natural allies’ stood by him.
It is mainly because he spoke the truth when others did not dare to. It is because he was constantly taking action while most of the others who were ‘resisting’ the global regime, were content with shouting at the television and exchanging conspiracy theories through electronic chats, while taking no risks. It is because, in a way, he became the bad conscience of those who have been playing it both ways: simultaneously criticizing power and collaborating with it.
Those who were morally bankrupt hated him the most. Western mainstream media, and Arab mainstream media like Al-Jazeera, detested him relentlessly.
Chavez wrote history as one writes an epic and daring poem – with his own mind, heart and flesh. He lifted the flag with his own hands; he straightened his back, shouted a few essential words to the wind, and walked forwards. He was always at the front. He never hid behind the backs of others. This is how the legendary Samurais fought, or closer home – the great warriors of the Andes.
How few, how very few now dare! One can make a list that would fit into handful of pages. And most of those who do dare –often fall, silently and anonymously. And those who fall even for one single moment, from exhaustion or suffering from wounds, are chased and bayonetted by the regime; bayonetted mercilessly, to death.
President Hugo Chavez to the people of Venezuela, or Commander Chavez to some brave men and women all over the world, wrote his poem while standing on thin ice. Decisions he made were never simple; never comfortable. His life was always in danger.
To be a young officer, a paratrooper/philosopher, and to attempt a coup in a country locked in a horrible embrace with the North was not easy. But his country, his beloved la patria, was like a woman who had been raped and then forced to offer her body to the same men who ravished her. To free her, that beloved land of his, from such misery and humiliation, one had to fight decisively, with all the means available. There was no time to theorize.
And he fought. And was captured and imprisoned. But his courage gained him admiration and support unknown in his country for centuries.
That suffering woman he was ready to die for – Venezuela – finely opened her arms; decided to believe again, to hope, to dream one more time. She embraced him, pressed him against her body with all her strength. And then, with one powerful stroke she broke the walls of his prison, and elevated him, almost literally, on the outstretched arms of her people, to the Presidential Palace.
Three muses, three celestial beings, stood by him throughout that mortal fight for genuine freedom of Venezuela and Latin America; during those endless days and nights he was locked in a dungeon:
Love – for Venezuela, for Latin America, for humanity itself.
Faith – in justice, in his strength and in the vigor and determination of his people.
Hope –which whispered in his ear, relentlessly, that the present brutal arrangement of the World is not final; that it could be fought and changed.
And they won!
Venezuela washed tears from her face; she put on her modest but clean dress, and stood up, at the northern tip of South America, stunningly beautiful and despite the past, proud and daring.
Chavez and his people won. His three Muses won. Entire Latin America fell silent. Then it cheered. Hundreds of years of servitude were over. All unified, this beautiful continent was finally liberated. Because, as we all know by now, people when united and inspired, when aiming at great goals and ideals, are always victorious, no matter how immense is the sacrifice!
* * *
Optimism, enthusiasm and determination: there could be no more dangerous or deadlier enemies to the present inhuman global dictatorship, which is imposed on the world by the Western colonial and neo-colonial nations.
The Empire is spreading nihilism, fragmentation, financial and moral corruption, fear, and compliance with mainstream thoughts and ‘ideas’, manufactured by its ideologues, propagandists and the advertising industry. Life is reduced to a form, which devours all substance. A depressing breed of individualism, egotism, passivity, and obedience is constantly promoted and advertised.
The Venezuelan Revolution offered exactly the opposite: optimism, solidarity, hope, and a great opportunity to fight for, to create and to live for humanity as a whole. Against some callous Hollywood-style horror movie, it placed simplicity and beauty, against Armageddon, a few simple flowers and the promise to return to the essence of humanism.
* * *
I write this dispatch in Nairobi, in Kenya; in Africa, which is being ravaged and chained once again. Every word causes me pain and I know that the pain is coming unmistakably from the direction of Venezuela. The pain is sharp; it is immense. Only love can hurt like this; only true love.
But there is no time for laments and tears. One false step, one month, even one day of letting down our guards, and everything that Chavez and Venezuela fought for, everything that we fought for, may disappear in one simple instant.
Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, declared: “Chavez is More Alive than Ever”.
That is true. But our determination to support, to defend the Latin American Revolution, should also be more alive than ever. Chavez did not believe in goals only, he believed in journey, in the process – en el proceso. That is what the revolution is: determined, selfless, an optimistic journey; it is the indefatigable fight against fascism – for a better world, and for justice.
During that long but beautiful journey, some people fall, but then others rise and lift up the banners. Those who fall will be never left behind: they will be carried in our hearts and in our songs, because their achievements are everlasting.
So back from where I began: when we lose a person who appeared indispensible, we may double from pain. It is only human. But then it is our duty to straighten our backs again, remembering the way Hugo Chavez did. There is Caracas, Havana, La Paz, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Quito, Managua and so many other beloved cities behind us; depending on us for their defense. Asuncion in Paraguay has already fallen, and so has Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We cannot afford to lose more!
Human life is short, but dreams of humanism, and the love for humanity, are eternal. And one can only love humanity and fight for it with a straight back; never doubled over, and never on ones knees.
The man who freed Venezuela is no more. But she will go forward, no doubt, with him inside her heart, with his words on her lips.
Yesterday, a true hero of the Latin American Revolution, President Hugo Chavez, has fallen. And long live freedom, long live Venezuela, long live Latin America, and the Revolution, damn it!
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific – Oceania – is published by Lulu. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.