On Thursday, February 26th in a balmy Toronto, in a beautiful room of one the University of Toronto’s most beautiful colleges, an extraordinary meeting took place. Venezuela’s Ambassador designate to Canada and two learned academics presented with laser-like legal precision Venezuela’s evidence of a US supported attempted coup d’état against Venezuela’s democratically elected government.
If that sounds mostly untrue, and a little uncritical, you would be correct. The date is accurate though. Also a fact is that the meeting took place in an unbelievably beautiful room of Victoria College — renowned for having Northrop Frye, one the English-speaking world’s greatest-ever literary criticism theorists as one of its past Principals. But the rest is a total stretch.
To be clear, Toronto is suffering through its coldest February in recorded history. But watching a room full of passionate, well-financed ignorance — willful, wasteful and otherwise — left me colder still. It was the only really extraordinary thing about the evening.
I’d estimate attendance at around 225 to 250. It was a mostly well-orchestrated affair (surprising, as it was coordinated by Venezuela’s consular staff and if you have ever attended any Venezuelan Consulate to obtain service you will have an acute understanding of this unnecessary aside). Videos, music, simultaneous translation, flags, signs, and a variety of consulate staff handing out a variety of translated pamphlets. It was Rio Caribe on a Friday night.
Post-national anthems, we got to see this video of Quico-favorite Daniela Cabello looking radiant and resolute in red, “cleverly” in the company of others (children, seniors, national monuments — 4F of course) also in red and all looking quite revolutionary.
She provided the sort of clarity on Venezuela’s truth (plus costume changes) that Maduro’s cadenas just can’t match.
The Ambassador designate, looking small and ill-at-ease out of military uniform, was accompanied by two persons described (perhaps a bit loosely) as academics. They all sounded like they were desperate to be in military uniform. They all offered perspectives (that might also be loosely described as analyses) on geopolitics, on international law, on human rights, on the ethics of transgression and the narratives of resistance.
Essentially, in between standing ovations and chants from a fairly sizable Honduran ex-pat contingent, the audience was advised that the US was perpetrating a slow-motion coup on behalf of the 1% in Venezuela. We were advised that you can’t trust the corporate media and that we are all soldiers of the Fatherland. We were told that the 1992 golpistas’ transgression was a valid coup attempt as they had good intentions and were brown-skinned like the majority of Venezuelans. We were also advised that last year’s student effort was illegitimate as it was orchestrated by the non-brown-skinned 1% and various international provocateurs – and was always intended to be violent. Evidence provided included edited video clips of students (faces hidden behind t-shirts to defend against tear gas so you couldn’t quite discern their non-brown-ness) picking up tear gas canisters and throwing them (from whence they came).
We learned that the Misiones are fantastic. That democracy is alive and well. That the rule of law and human rights are fundamental to the Maduro Government. That Europe (Greece and Spain) is following Venezuela’s inspirational lead.
The academics on display were: Victor Rivas and Donald Kingsbury. Their academic chops/bona fides were not. (Note to self: never recommend UC Santa Cruz to anyone, save folks wanting to sport hipster moustaches). After two hours of hubris, the evening did not appear to be nearing a Q & A session. One might assume that the organizers were fairly confident that no one would have any doubts in the veracity of Daniela Cabello’s dissection of the truth about Venezuela. Magic realism was alive but not particularly well at Victoria College.
On the upside, revolutionary musical interludes were frequent. The evening — felt a bit longish by this time however — especially when we were advised to put our hands together for the next proponent of workers of world uniting — advertised as a Young Communist Worker. Even though a very well catered reception was promised, my salida was early, was voluntary and was no real hardship.
As I reflected on the nonsense offered up by these affable revolutionary poseurs I wished I had juxtaposed their sopa de mondongo with some of Frye’s most famous works: Fearful Symmetry (1947), Anatomy of Criticism (1957), and his study of how the Bible provided the symbolic underpinnings of Western literature, The Great Code (1982). I didn’t, but I did recall his observation that “there is only one way to degrade mankind permanently and that is to destroy language.”
The Ambassador designate and his highly qualified friends are well on their way to a new dialectic. The presentations outlining “the facts” related to US interference and the pamphlets that listed the “rebels” behind a February 12-13, 2015 US attempted coup are fairly fantastical reads. The new dialectic is not a method for examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth. The new dialectic is not concerned with facts. It is founded in fallacies and non sequiturs and bias and hatred and Daniela Cabello and the decibel level of Ambassador designates’ exhortations. It was all quite unfortunate and apparently not a bit embarrassing for those who offered it up.