Today I am 28 years old. Before I get into the topic on my mind, big thanks to all those who took the time on facebook or here or in email.. to wish me well. Made me feel very special, I appreciate that. But nevermind me and age.
In discussions, both online and off, people often want to place one another in a little box – to summarize the person’s beliefs in one or two words. You’ve heard them all, they sometimes appear in blog comments “you leftists…. you neoconservatives… you christians.. you scientologists.. you commies” etc. These types of labels are an effort not to see someone as complex as they probably are or to simply write off whatever they have to say due to some predetermined belief system. Obviously I seek to advocate the idea that people are more complex, even if the tagline at the top of this blog uses some adjectives, I am both some of that and none of that.
This comes to mind as I listen to more and more analyses of the referendum in Venezuela a few weeks ago. For those not keeping score, president Chavez and his supporters in government put forward a proposal that would give him some greater powers and supposedly allow him to stay president long past the normal term limit. The proposal included several other measures, which the president has called necessary in order to carry out a socialist revolution. Actually I don’t even know if that is completely true as all I read lately are analyses and I’ve never seen with my own eyes, these documents.. but Ill accept that this is what they are essentially about as I have listened to a few Chavez speeches on the topic. The proposal was put to referendum, where citizens could vote if they were for or against it.
The verdict was NO. Citizens voted down this measure, and various media and leaders throughout the world have pointed to this as a great defeat or Chavez (who many of them hate with a passion) or as a victory for democracy in Venezuela.
Much like one of the correspondents on a recent edition of Uprising (the podcast), despite my frequent admiration or support of Chavez’s words and actions, in this case I’m with all those people who were against the measure. I’m a firm believer, with plenty of history in every part of the world to support the idea, that power corrupts. And while I do believe its necessary to stand up to bullies, whether they are in Moscow or in Washington DC (where Im headed in the morning), I also believe that no human should be given divine and unlimited powers. This proposal sounded like too much power and an invitation for corruption and injustice on a mass scale.
I listened attentively to Chavez’s reaction following the vote. I wondered if he would call the No voters terrorists, using that now cliché strategy. But he didn’t. He sucked it up and conceded defeat. Which is encouraging to me. He is certainly no Gandhi, and this may not be the last troubling measure he puts forward, but I’m glad to see he can admit when he has lost something, and I hope that everyone understands that whether you’re considered a “leftist” or a “conservative”, ideas and values are not that simple and cannot be summarized so easily.