Nineteen Eighty-Four on the Cheap

A year ago today...

A year ago today…

Damian Pratt takes a moment to commemorate the one year anniversary of that epic cadena in Caruachi last year – you remember, the one where Chávez’s handpicked audience turned on him, prying a series of concessions out of the guy live on TV before the whole thing shut down to a conveniently timed blackout.

The key win for the SIDOR workers that day? A presidential pledge to relaunch collective bargaining talks, which had been suspended unilaterally for years.

Fast forward 12 months: how many new collective bargaining agreements have been signed in Guayana? To ask that question is to answer it.

But that isn’t even the part of Pratt’s column I wanted to remark on. Instead, this is what jumps out at me:

Tengo otro recuerdo de aquel mitin. En línea recta  entre la tarima y la represa de Macagua II y III (2.600 MW), construida por aquella Edelca (ahora desbaratada) e inaugurada por Caldera II en 1997, no hay mas de 6 o 7 kilómetros.  Pero el candidato-presidente  dijo que “en los 40 años anteriores no se hizo nada en inversiones para generar electricidad”.  Y reescribió la historia:  “las empresas básicas fueron construidas por MI general Pérez Jiménez. Los gobiernos posteriores las destruyeron y nosotros las estamos rescatando”.  Hace un mes, cuando estuve en Mérida en un par de foros sobre mi libro “Guayana:  El Milagro al revés”, encontré -por absurdo que parezca- personas repitiendo esa historia.

You know, you gotta hand it to these folks: even George Orwell didn’t think you could get away with falsifying history this crudely.

He thought it possible to get a party elite to believe easily demonstrable lies, but doublethink struck him as an unworkable mechanism for the control of the masses.

That’s why, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, there’s a whole bureaucracy devoted to carefully rewriting the official record of the past, “updating” history to match the current party line. Orwell thought it plain that if common people were faced with direct evidence of regime lies, their adherence to the party would be compromised. And so in his dystopia a small elite capable of doublethink was tasked with falsifying the past for everyone else.

In Venezuela, more and more, we’re finding out that the Winston Smiths of Orwell’s imagination are dispensable. Why waste all that money rewriting musty old archives nobody’s going to read?

Turns out the masses can doublethink with the best(worst) of them.

18 thoughts on “Nineteen Eighty-Four on the Cheap

  1. “Busquen algún galpón desocupado por allí”, dijo el comandante. ¿En un galpón funciona una petrolera?. Obvio que jamás se hizo nada.

    Great stuff.


    • Dateline August 22, 2012:

      Petro SanFélix generará empleos directos e indirectos en la zona como lo hacen las petroleras en los estados Anzoátegui, Monagas y Zulia; ya que contamos con la reserva petrolera certificada como la más grande del mundo en la faja petrolífera del Orinoco. “Sabemos que el presidente se la ha jugado por los trabajadores y las empresas básicas. Eliminó la tercerización con la aprobación de la LOTTT. Nosotros creemos en este proyecto por lo que estamos rodilla en tierra con el presidente, por lo que no hay duda que en el municipio Caroní, va a obtener una victoria electoral el 7/0”.


    • Yes! Thank you, especially for that “MI general Perez Jimenez”. One of the things that drives me the craziest is the opositores that have the bolas to say that all major infrastructure (including Guri and other hydroelectric plants, the highways in Caracas, the national highway system – such as it was – or basic oil infrastructure) was built during the PJ years.

      To think that way is to think like a chavista, as clearly shown by this bit from el difunto. Puntofijista democracy may have had plenty of faults and though I am no adeco I don’t ever tire of pointing out the enormous fallacy behind that thinking. The democratic period built so much more in its first ten years (say 1959 to 1969) than PJ ever did, and all it ever gets credit for is el Metro.

      Gimme a break.


      • It can’t be denied that Perez Jimenez’s goverment made public infrastructucture and urban planing at a bigger scope than ever before, the “fourth” tried to continue those plans and built a lot of infrastructure as well, PJ also did some unforgivable things like torture and oppression.

        Two things I find sad from the whole history, that no other president after PJ was able to present a real and comprehensive national development plan and that a lot of people in both political sides would be willing to accept another oppresive dictatorship if it would bring economic prosprerity, some would even bring PJ back to life if they could


        • I think that PJ was proud of “his” country, an aspect that would distinguish him from the prevailing powers-that-be.


      • “To think that way is to think like a chavista,”

        Well, those opositores were the very first chavistas, after all.


        • Very true… but even some pejoteros and mariacorinistas keep thinking that way. It’s absurd. Incoherence caused by politics taken to its most absurd extreme.


          • Venezuelan society severely lacks some schooling in basic analytic thought process. In most other countries, you don’t need school for such basic skills since you can learn most of them from your family. But this society general intelectual skills have fallen behind to a level when not even that is possible or likely anymore.

            I predict that in 20 years, Venezuelans will rediscover fire


          • “Very true… but even some pejoteros and mariacorinistas keep thinking that way. ”

            I have to think that it correlates with age, so they’ll thankfully die off.


  2. Well, there is (or rather was) one difference. While Orwell’s Big Brother was a mythical, never seen figure, the one in Venezuela was real (literally el que cantaba y bailaba). Orwell didn’t account for BB to come down from it’s pedestal (or its posters rather) and tell us about his bowel movements or go around flirting with “madres de la comunidad”. You guys have discussed the subject at length, a pillar of chavismo’s success is that it appeals to people’s irrational, even magical, side. Chávez didn’t need Room 101 or the Thought Police, he had “chamo, how could he be lying about the power plant after he held my baby daughter in his arms and got her to stop crying, smile and hug him. Él es un buen hombre, sincero, babies know that kind of thing”.


  3. I once had a student who claimed that the Avila (not the Teleférico, mind you, but the actual mountains) was put there by Pérez Jiménez. I kid you not.


    • I believe you. I asked recently a Venezuelan student in what century he was born. He was aware I was grilling him. He thought he was born in the XIX century. I asked him in what century we had our independence and he said “XX” and then realised it could not be because he was supposed to be born in the XIX century. Admittedly: it’s just one century more or less. But then when I asked further I could see he didn’t have a clue about anything else in history. So: this point when Chávez said mankind is 25 centuries old represent the world knowledge of more than half the Venezuelan population.


  4. In December 2010 Rojas declared “In this National Assembly the persecutors of yesterday will meet”
    His view was that he was the persecuted and we the persecutors.
    In reality on the side of the PSUV you actually had not just the guerrillas against a legal government but people like Róger Cordero Lara, who was a pilot shooting to kill at those guerrillas while they were sleeping.

    Corina Machado was 15 years old when Róger Cordero Lara was killing some of the pals of his current mates.

    It’s so easy to re-write history in Venezuela.


  5. This denying of contemporary history goes back to the pre-Fifth years. “Los adecos y copeyanos no han hecho nada en 20-30 años,” Heard that from friends and many adults in the 80s and 90s. Ch.F. continued mining and deepened this trend.


    • That’s exactly right. They (we?) seem to be obsessed with history, but they (we?) don’t know it at all. Nobody ever gets past Bolivar, Miranda, and Sucre, for the most part. And not only do they (we?) not get past them, but they (we?) get them completely wrong every single time.

      With that, I’ll go beat my head into a wall. Mr. Aveledo has depressed me. What’s the cure for this collective amnesia?


  6. We use history to inflame our emotions by finding villains to blame for our failures and heroes to worship as proxies to our delusional conceits . History has to be studied to learn lessons , to allow us to better navigate our future. We have no true sense of history despite our obsession with its more theatrical aspects. We like history to concoct candified or glorified legends and myths . We seldom understand it !!


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