I visited Venezuela many times during the reign of President Hugo Chavez and while there I would often watch a TV show on Saturday nights called Bailando con los Gorditos [‘Dancing with the Fatties’]. This was Venezuela’s primetime version of Strictly Come Dancing, the only difference being that all of the contestants were fat and wobbly. Within this abomination of a programme could be found a certain Venezuelan greatness [bear with me]: namely, its relative absence of victimhood. For Venezuela is a land of many victims, but little victimhood.
Here in Britain, Dancing with the Fatties would be dismissed as exploitative. It would be descended upon by a thousand enraged social justice warriors. In Venezuela, however, fat people, even fat women, are deemed sufficiently sentient to decide whether they want to appear in such a programme.
This article is a defence of Venezuela, or rather, a defence of a Venezuelan spirit, forthright and devoid of political correctness, which lies beyond the reaches of its catastrophic government and insatiable criminal class. Imagine a land without PC grievance culture (or toilet paper) and you have Venezuela. In Venezuela they broadcast beauty pageants because they realise that men like looking at beautiful women, and women like looking at how beautiful women carry themselves. It ain’t no biggy, just an acceptance of humanity for what it is. For this, I love Venezuela. Its ongoing collapse is tragic.
When I first travelled to Venezuela, I found myself being called ‘gringo’ by a man in a bar. I sat there, silently brooding on this outrage, immediately flying into ‘western grievance mode’. I had been labelled according to my ethnicity – I had been ‘othered’. And then I noticed that nobody else cared. For in Venezuela race is simply regarded as an observable fact. People are greeted as ‘negra’ or ‘rubia’. There is no accompanying minefield of offence attached to these salutations.
This non-attitude to citing a person’s race was exhibited by one of my Venezuelan friend’s incredulity at the reaction in Britain a few years ago to the ‘racist incident’ involving Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez. Suarez had called a black opponent ‘negrita’ (little black girl), the attempted insult being the ‘little girl’ part (sexist, perhaps). “But he is black”, said my Venezuelan friend, who is black, mystified.
The presence of race in Venezuelan conversation, paradoxically, makes things a whole lot less racist – as an issue, it dissipates. I am not fondly reminiscing over the use of racial epithets in the UK. In Britain we have swung from one extreme to the other; whereas we once employed such terms as ugly insults, we now embrace a crippling civilisational cringe, whereby, as a society, we prostrate ourselves before each and every identity-based grievance. Neither approach fosters fully normalised relations between communities. This is a cul-de-sac down which Venezuela has not travelled. Venezuela proves that the route to racial cohesion does not lie in social engineering, but in the casting off of obsessive self-critique.
Venezuela is not, however, some racial paradise. The absence of dark-skinned actors and presenters from Venezuelan television is striking. And there are still Venezuelan nightclubs that admit only white people, something unthinkable in other Western countries. Yet these examples of bigotry seem merely to function as curiosities, induce a shrug of the shoulders in most Venezuelans. They are not used to label the very idea of Venezuela as racist and sick. They are merely indicative of the fact that certain individuals are racist and sick.
But why does this mindset exist? Venezuela was born out of an abolitionist agenda. From Day One, the notion of Venezuela, the Republic, as a vehicle for the liberation of all races, was set. It is this sense of a shared historical endeavour that leads most Venezuelans to view themselves as Venezuelans full-stop, rather than ‘Spanish-Venezuelans’ or ‘African-Venezuelans’.
In the multicultural Anglosphere things have developed differently. We have no one joyous unitary point in history to be proud of. Not long ago in the movies, Mickey Rooney played a Jap for laughs. Judy Garland blacked up, got big fat lips, and sang ‘dem songs. And redskins died in their thousands at the hands of a psychopathic John Wayne.
Venezuelans also enjoyed these films. But in the Anglosphere they were becoming ‘wrong’. A thousand humanities departments, appalled at these depictions of ‘the exotic’, came up with the theories that would undermine them. Eduard Saїd, with his writings on post-colonialism, identified a pervasive ‘orientalism’ in Western culture, where things are ‘othered’ and reduced to being either jokes or threats. All of this has meant an avoidance at all costs of ‘othering’ anything. Grounds for offence began to appear everywhere, even in the most insipid of statements. And herein lies the liberal West, quivering guiltily under the weight of its own awfulness.
Venezuela will eventually emerge from its current catastrophe. The socialist government is on its last legs. But whatever changes may come, I hope that, as a nation, it never becomes mired in self-disgust and riven by the politics of identity as have many societies in the West. For all its many, many problems, there are good things that lie deep within Venezuela’s soul, untainted by current events.
(Image: Carlos Díaz)