Watching a national suicide and a gooey mess of resentment and excuses

Joel D. Hirst on The Suicide of Venezuela.

I have watched the suicide of a nation; and I know now how it happens. Venezuela is slowly, and very publically, dying; an act that has spanned more than fifteen years. To watch a country kill itself is not something that happens often. In ignorance, one presumes it would be fast and brutal and striking – like the Rwandan genocide or Vesuvius covering Pompeii. You expect to see bodies of mothers clutching protectively their young; carbonized by the force or preserved on the glossy side of pictures. But those aren’t the occasions that promote national suicide. After those events countries recover – people recover. They rebuild, they reconcile. They forgive.

No, national suicide is a much longer process – not product of any one moment. But instead one bad idea, upon another, upon another and another and another and another and the wheels that move the country began to grind slower and slower; rust covering their once shiny facades. Revolution – cold and angry. Hate, as a political strategy. Law, used to divide and conquer. Regulation used to punish. Elections used to cement dictatorship. Corruption bleeding out the lifeblood in drips, filling the buckets of a successive line of bureaucrats before they are destroyed, only to be replaced time and again. This is what is remarkable for me about Venezuela.

I tried to fight the suicide the whole time; in one way or another. I suppose I still do, my writing as a last line of resistance. But like Dagny Taggert I found there was nothing to push against – it was all a gooey mess of resentment and excuses.

Witness is all around us yet many refuse to see. Consider VDH, 21st Century California Reverts Back to the Wild West.

I was the beneficiary (born in 1953) of the work of past generations. In my early youth of the 1950s and 1960, I can’t recall that we locked the house or perhaps even had a house key. We still used a shared open telephone line (my great-grandfather had strung it up with redwood poles and vineyard 12 gauge wire on glass insulators). It was also certainly a multiracial and intermarried upbringing, as Portuguese, Armenian, Japanese, Mexican-American, and Punjabi farmers both collaborated and competed with one another on their 40-80 acre vineyard homesteads.

That entire world, of course, is gone, a victim of wealth, affluence, consolidation and corporatization of agriculture, globalization, high-tech appurtenances, the postmodern ethos that followed the 1960s, and massive influxes of illegal immigrants. What I regret most, however, is the disappearance of the rule of law. In some ways, we have returned to the pre-civilized days of the 19th century. When I walk or ride a bicycle in rural areas, I expect that the dogs that rush out from rented-out homes and trailers are neither licensed nor vaccinated—and that fact is of no concern to authorities.

There seems to be many that put Venezuela and Cuba and Argentina and modern Greece and even California as role models. They see dictators and oppressors as heroes. What is not seen in that the path they seek to follow is one of human misery which is why so many are going in the opposite direction that they defy the law and other national border barriers to do so. That “gooey mess of resentment and excuses” drags all of us with it and there may not be a Reagan “shining city on a hill” for any of us to escape towards to escape.

What I regret most, however, is the disappearance of the rule of law

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