Venezuelan opposition, take note…

You people. You’re always claiming that Hugo Chavez–YOUR president, like it or not–is trying to drag your barely-existent middle class into poverty, because it’s the poor that vote for him and so he wants to make/keep people poor in his efforts to be president for life.

The fact that all this is a shameless lie doesn’t stop you from repeating it. Or believing it. You people are not so much human beings as loop tapes on endless replay. Do you seriously believe Karl Rove’s unwritten adage–that endless repetition magically turns a lie into truth?

Apparently, you do.

Common sense should tell you that poor people don’t vote for those who keep them poor, but for those who promise to improve their circumstances. And they tend to re-elect those who actually deliver on such promises.

But you, the Venezuelan opposition, are not creatures of common sense. That much is blindingly obvious. The fact that a solid majority of your own countrymen and -women often refer to you as “disociados” speaks for itself.

I’d like to say I’m sorry that this is not a very flattering post, but why lie and pamper your already inordinate vanity? I cannot tell a lie: I am not the least bit sorry that you aren’t faring as well as you did when you had a steady succession of laissez-faire bottom-feeders nominally in charge of your beautiful, but badly abused country.

The reason I bring this up is because I remember one of you levelling that poverty-pimp accusation, in Venezuela Bolivariana. It was a very earnest-looking young guy who looked like he was having trouble squeezing the words out. Or maybe he was having trouble trying to regurgitate what he viscerally knew to be garbage, in something that sounded like his own words, and then make the whole wretched thing sound somehow sincere. It was hard to tell exactly. What he said, more or less, was that Chavez is trying to pull the hard-working middle class back into poverty.

It was one of the ugliest slanders I’ve heard in my life.

My jaw hit the floor the first time I heard it, and even though I have now seen the documentary so many times that I’ve practically worn holes in my DVD, I still get the dry heaves every time I get to the part where that guy says that. Sometimes I’m tempted to skip past it so I don’t get my blood pressure up too high, because I don’t think this jackdaw is worth busting a perfectly good blood vessel over. But then I remind myself that I have to sit through some bad acting, however much the performance disgusts me, if only to know mine enemy better. So I sit, and grind my teeth, and wait for him to stop laboriously pulling the feces out of his own rectum. And wonder for the umpteen thousand ump hundred and umpty-umpth time how this guy in Venezuela–seemingly intelligent, and seemingly educated–got to be so full of shit in the first place.

The reason I bring this up? Well, there’s this. Which seems to be unrelated, but it’s really not. It’s a BBC piece on the real enemies of the middle class, and I think it behooves all of you to read it and take it to heart. It’s not about your pet hate Chavez. He never figures in it even once. So you can all heave a big sigh and go ahead and read it; it won’t kill you, although it might jack up your own blood pressure if you have even a glimmer of common sense anywhere in your well-primped head. Here’s a sampling:

Daniel Wolfe worked in civil engineering for 22 years. He lost his job eight months ago.

We meet Daniel and his wife Cynthia as they collect free groceries from a charity food bank – cereal, muffins and tinned spaghetti sauce.

Theirs is an extraordinary – and salutary – story, one which illustrates the fragility that often underlies American prosperity.

Daniel had been earning $90,000 a year, he tells me. He’s an articulate man, with a professional, warm demeanour.

He was laid off when the state government, itself strapped by a shrinking tax base, cut back on contracts to private companies.

In the course of eight months, Daniel and his family have gone from prosperity to poverty.

His unemployment benefits expired. Much of that money had been spent on trying to keep up the family health insurance. And his savings disappeared, to the point where he says he is, quite literally, broke.

He had never before accepted charity.

“To find myself in a position where I couldn’t afford a gallon of milk, I couldn’t afford a loaf of bread – it was very humbling,” he says.

“For want of a better term it made me feel like a loser, like I wasn’t able to provide even the basic things for my family, let alone anything beyond that.”

I ask Daniel and Cynthia if they thought of themselves as middle class. They both answer yes. I ask if they still think of themselves as middle class.

“I think we’re on the poverty line right now,” says Daniel. He wonders if he will be able to hold on to his house.

I hope he will be able to hold onto his house, but I’m not confident. What dragged this once-prosperous middle-class family down to the poverty line? A lot of things. The sub-prime mortgage fiasco, however, has got to be the main thing. It has created an economic crisis that reverberates far beyond the barely-middle-class people whom it has immediately robbed of their homes. With fewer home-owners, the tax bases of municipalities shrink, and with them, the amount of money that can be allocated to social services–or to pay private-sector professionals like this man, who worked as a contractor to the government on the taxpayers’ dollar.

Venezuelan “middle class” opposition, you who pride yourselves on being intelligent, educated, hard-working, and properous because of it, take note. Being intelligent, educated and hard-working was not enough to keep this guy in the middle class. Something dragged him down to the poverty line. And that something was something I should not have to spell out for all of you, but I guess I must, because for all your pricey private-school educations, you have not divined it yet.

That something is C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M.

You may fondly believe that capitalism has made you the successes that you are. Or you may credit your or your parents’ or grandparents’ hard work and up-by-the-bootstraps attitude with getting you into the middle class, what little there is of it in your neck of the woods. In any event, you consider capitalism your best friend, worthy of your undying allegiance–and you will fight to the death to defend it, just as your parents, your grandparents, or whoever, drove themselves to the grave trying to succeed in the face of it. Your devotion is touching, but it is sadly misplaced.

Capitalism has made a scrapheap out of the state of Michigan, where Daniel and his wife live. It has done so in the most blatantly literal way, and you can see its wreckage clearly in Michael Moore’s films, even such seemingly unrelated ones as Bowling For Columbine. The fact that the economy of the state is almost a manufacturing monoculture, tied intimately to the Big Three automakers, used to be its blessing and is now its curse. Michigan didn’t hitch its wagon to a star; it hitched its star to a wagon once known as the “horseless carriage”. And now Michigan–which once boasted a more balanced, diverse, farm-based economy–is paying the price for that big blunder. Michigan, the motor state, is going bankrupt.

And it is an attachment to capitalism that is to blame.

How did it come to this?

Well, the healthcare system in the United States is a messy patchwork of private and public. (To see how messy, see Michael Moore again.) The private, capitalist part of the system is what’s made a mess of it. Healthcare isn’t provided free of charge by the state to the citizens, or at least not all of them. Wherever possible, the state shuffles off the responsibility for it onto the private sector. Health insurance is one of the nation’s biggest for-profit industries, and the reason isn’t hard to see if you are one of the mil
lions of premium-paying Americans who have ever been denied coverage for a routine procedure. Untold numbers of middle-class, intelligent, hard-working Americans have died because their so-called insurer refused to insure them. The reason?

In a word, P-R-O-F-I-T.

It would have cost too much, from the insurer’s point of view, and would have made the shareholders unhappy. Better to let someone go uncovered, and thus untreated. Get rid of that useless eater, that worthless drain on the profit machine.

And people wonder why I liken capitalism to fascism? Listen–the phrase “useless eater” is quintessentially Nazi, and capitalists made out like bandits on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to Nazi Germany’s slave economy and union-bashing. No capitalist likes the idea that an underling might be taking away what said peon should be handing over to the superior capitalist with a shit-eating grin. And that something is spelled P-R-O-F-I-T. (Or, as Clara Fraser so inconveniently reminds us, unpaid wages.)

So. There’s the expensive, for-profit private insurance system, which refuses to cover expensive, for-profit private medical treatments, and expensive, for-profit private drugs. But wait, it gets worse. In the United States, that expensive, for-profit private insurance coverage is supposed to be provided by the employer.

And if your employer is a Big Three automaker, the vaunted “backbone of the US economy”, you are shit out of luck. Your job is either moving to Mexico, where labor and environmental laws are lax and putrid, or–irony of ironies–to Canada. Where, as luck would have it (but for how long, I’m not sure), the government is still in the business of paying for routine healthcare. With the health insurance onus off the employer, the cost of producing a car in Canada is actually still cheaper here, despite our now-higher (but for how long?) dollar.

But don’t take my word for it. Read Dave Lindorff.

Private education doesn’t necessarily equal better, either. In Canada, at any rate, it can actually be worse. Since private schools are not held to the same standards as public schools, a private education can be shockingly inferior, despite the way the right-wing up here touts the “efficiency” of the private sector. (How something is supposed to be “efficient” and deliver a superior product at the same time as it milks a profit, is never explained.) Private schoolteachers often lack proper professional accreditation. Their pay is typically less than that of a public schoolteacher, to boot. And, insidiously, because of the closed environment of the private school and the for-profit nature of the beast, there is less oversight. Meaning, it’s easier for a pervert to become a private than a public schoolteacher.

In short: If you live in Canada, and you want a quality education for your children, don’t bother shelling out for that pricey, big-name private school with the cute little uniforms. For all the talk about superior education and discipline, you are not really getting your hard-earned money’s worth. You are, instead, robbing a perfectly good public system of badly needed cash. And you may even be trusting your little darling to a very unhealthy atmosphere. Conrad Black, our biggest white-collar criminal, was the product of a private school, and made some of his earliest ill-gotten profits selling stolen exam papers to his cheating classmates. The same private school he went to was not so long ago the subject of an investigation concerning sexual abuse.

Is this the kind of elite you think you should continue trust the government of your country to? As I recall, you were governed for more than 40 years by a plutocratic machine that makes Conrad Black look like a piker.

If this were what the right-wing proposed to do to Canada, there would be an uproar. And for reasons many and good: We are a middle-class country. Our middle class is not dominated by a right-wing elitist band, as yours is. Nor is it a mere 20% of the population, as yours is. It is a solid majority, and that majority votes for candidates who won’t “fix” by wrecking what isn’t broken–namely, the public services Tommy Douglas gave us.

Yes, those services are paid for by taxation. So what? They are still a bargain compared to what they would cost on the private market, and if you don’t believe me, read what John Lemberger (a US American with a Ph.D.) has to say. It is very heartening to see our neighbors to the south waking up, however slowly, to the virtues of the public service sector.

In fact, it is those public services, and not “plain hard work” under capitalism, that made our middle class the large, prosperous dominant force it is. And it enabled my parents–German immigrants of modest means–to make something of themselves here that they would not have been able to do in Hitler’s day. My dad has only an eighth-grade education. He apprenticed as a blacksmith and worked in the coal mines–when he wasn’t bootlegging Schnapps on the side. Had he stayed in Germany, he would have been scraping by–barely–on a tiny pension today. Maybe he’d turn back to potato-peel moonshine to make ends meet! Instead, my dad is now in the upper middle class, with money to burn, and his oldest daughter (me) is a two-time university graduate who speaks several languages–and he owes it to socialism, whether he realizes it or not. Not because he cozied up to some party or leader for a handout, but because a well-crafted system took the pressure and the costs off his shoulders and the bills off his mind, so he was free to become an entrepreneur, devote his energies to that, and make a damn good living at it. And me? Well, I was free to study what I wanted, and learn what I liked, instead of just whatever would shoehorn me into the ranks of the yes-people. Because of socialism, I am an independent and individualistic (but not in the “every man for himself” sense) thinker with good health and a great education.

So when I see Hugo Chavez–who essentially comes from the same social class as my parents–trying to do for Venezuela what Tommy Douglas did for us, I say Bravo! Adelante, Comandante. Good work, and keep it up. Keep fighting those fascists, and keep calling them by their right name. Because it is not a lie, it does not require repetition to make it true. It only needs to be repeated often enough to drive the message home.

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This entry was posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Confessions of a Bad German, Crapagandarati, Fascism Without Swastikas, Huguito Chavecito, Socialism is Good for Capitalism!, The Hardcore Stupid. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Venezuelan opposition, take note…

  1. Damn Bina,
    Just reading that article made MY blood boil. Great piece. I love it when you get into a rythm of “fact smacking”, using (holy crap) Actual Evidence!
    I wish that you were here in the States, I’d try to draft you for President in 08 like some Dems are doing for Gore! 🙂 Keep up the great work, you make me proud.

  2. Wren says:

    Bravo! Simply an amazing entry.

  3. Slave Revolt says:

    Nice, Bina.
    Kudos to your Mom and Dad! They are lucky to have you in the family.
    I just recently saw Moore’s film, Sicko.
    This film is a testament to how craven the corporate media are in the US. Interestingly, the Dems ran from the film–and the Rethugs and the corporate media slammed it–over and over again.
    Could any of this tyranny and hypocrisy exist if the corporate media did not have such an overwhelming monopoly in culture and news? Of course not.
    The Venezuelan middle classes suffer serious ethical retardation:–that they could travel to Disney World while their fellow citizens went without access to basic, quality healthcare, homes, food, education, etc.
    There is nothing to do with these people save for throw their ethical failings in their face. And this is what Moore’s film tries to do–but, by choice, the hypocrits run from this film.
    I am of the opinion that the shit just has to fall to the ground before the people in the US understand what human decency and solidarity is all about.
    What is called ‘capitalism’ promotes the worst in human-beings. It is a disease that is killing our earth and rendering huge swaths of humankind into wage slavery or perpetual poverty.
    Again, nice post. Viva Tommy Douglas!
    i really want to see the film about his life.

  4. Bina says:

    Slave, you’re in luck. has four copies of “Prairie Giant” here:
    I guarantee you’ll be singing the “CCF to Victory” song by the time it’s over.

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