What liberals did to Venezuela
Blame It on Fidel, Fidel being Fidel Castro, is a film by Julie Gavras, daughter of the famous left-wing film director, Costa Gavras. She is more subtle than her father, but no less ideological.
Made about ten years ago, and set in France, the film tells the story of two radical left-wing parents and Anna, their daughter.
An intelligent and precocious little girl, Anna is mystified by and resentful of the sacrifices her father and mother make for the causes they espouse.
Those sacrifices, including poverty and removal from the religion class where she excelled, bring suffering on her as well.
Eventually, however, the influence of her parents prevails and she goes down the same radical road herself.
While Gavras’ ideology is clear the film is a touching and revealing study. It shows how a child’s mind and soul are influenced by her surroundings and by the adults among whom she lives and whom she loves.
But the film works on two levels, the personal and the ideological. We watch it today, aware of what is going on in Venezuela, whose present woes can certainly be blamed on Fidel.
The country is on the brink of what commentators are calling “apocalyptic collapse” under its economically illiterate President, Nicolás Maduro.
Even food is in desperately short supply; the murder rate in Caracas, the capital, is the world’s highest; and inflation may top 700% this year.
The failure of the socialist policies of Hugo Chávez and his successor, Maduro, now stand exposed. Unbelieveably, despite all this, the cult of Chavismo is still strong.
According to the Financial Times, Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, and “should be a rich, modern nation.”
Instead, after 17 years of “revolutionary rule” under Chávez and Maduro, it provides the “most extreme example” of the mismanagement that led to the downfall of leftist governments in Brazil and Argentina.
But its problems go far beyond the economic illiteracy of its leaders, said Matt O’Brien in The Washington Post.
Much of the money “redistributed” under Chávez went straight into of the pockets of the regime’s cronies, and drug dealing has flourished. These days, Venezuela is no better than a “gangster state”.
Venezuelan Emiliana Duarte, writing in The New York Times, reflects: we were raised to believe that we lived in “the most stable democracy in South America.
“Yet now I find myself in a country where mob lynchings are commonplace – 74 have been reported this year.”
Looking at little Anna 10 years on from Gavras’ story of her conversion to her parents’ radicalism, and looking back at those radicals of the late sixties, we wonder what they would make of Venezuela today, a product of all they stood for.
An end to meaningful political debate
Ireland is not a particularly radical country, despite last year’s referendum which changed the institution of marriage to include homosexual relationships.
That vote was passed more on a wave of sentiment cooked up by a powerfully funded lobby and a notoriously biased media rather than by any thought-out radicalism.
What is frustrating about Ireland, however, is that while it is at heart conservative, it is pathologically ashamed of being so.
It has few conservative media voices and every political party is terrified of being called conservative.
And the country’s left-wing minority have organised themselves in the media so that conservative voices are excluded or sneered at or intimidated as soon as they speak.
All this is crippling our capacity for serious political thought and a meaningful political debate.
Political parties are not in themselves the problem, as many people complain. Edmund Burke argued in their favour.
They were not, he said, factions contending for their own particular advantage, but rather bodies of people united by a vision of the common good of the nation.
Partisanship, he insisted, was beneficial, as it helped to organise politics into camps defined by different priorities about what was best for the country.
Parties as such are not our problem. Our problem is the poverty of our political thought and judgment – impoverished because it no longer has a basis for recognising what the common good of society is.
Learn from history or…
Historian Mary Beard has written a new book, S.P.Q.R., on her speciality, ancient Rome. It will not endear you to the Romans, and may even horrify you.
Certainly they were trying to do their best, striving for some kind of justice. The book gives some sense of mankind’s long painstaking journey towards the rule of law.
While we see some of the origins of our own civilisation there, we realise how radical and necessary was the Christian revolution to bring us to where we are today.
The book also reminds us of what we will lose if we abandon the principles of that revolution, as the West is now doing wholesale.
Only when Roman society began to be transformed by the Christian faith did the Roman world and law flourish as the framework for western civilisation that it has become today.
Until then it was a cruel world, dominated by selfishness and the pursuit of power and pleasure, filled with the seeds of its own destruction.
History is full of warnings. We ignore them at our peril.
From the current issue of ALIVE!