Reports from Venezuela: Two views of the ‘Dialogue’
A Night of Epistemic Closure
First, a confession: I did not watch last night’s misnamed “dialogue”. I didn’t need to. Nor did anyone else.
There was no point. We all knew exactly how it would go. Reading the accounts this morning, that’s exactly how it went.
Last night’s parallel-monologue (which is way different than a dialogue) exercise was useless for reasons that don’t boil down to the basic fact that the two sides just don’t agree on anything.
Not agreeing on anything can, under the right circumstances, be the starting point to a productive exchange. But only if some minimal conditions are met. Each side has to be partially interested in how the other side sees the world. Each side has to agree that it doesn’t own the truth, that there is a possibility of learning by confronting their own beliefs to a reality that’s sometimes recalcitrant, and to views it might find repugnant. Each side has to agree that dissidence is legitimate, and that truth matters.
We knew last night was a waste of time because it’s so gallopingly evident that those conditions don’t hold in Venezuela. But while the opposition has its problems with confirmation bias and groupthink, this is no time for specious parallelisms: the problem in Venezuela is a government sealed into a air-tight bubble of rigid ideological certainties that bear no resemblance with reality as the rest of the world knows it.
The opposition’s problem with epistemic closure is a spring breeze. The government’s problem is a category-5 super typhoon.
Fifteen years of sitting in front of a VTV screen have taken their toll. Chavismo has zero interest in reality outside the deep, cozy grooves of its ideological comfort zone. We’re talking about a movement that, when faced with a prominent figure claiming that Jews were using newspaper crossword puzzle clues to send each other coded messages, actually promotes the guy.
These people have all the power, all the money, all the rents, and all the guns. It’s going to take a lot more than having the Papal Nuncio sit through a six-hour meeting to get them to step outside that bubble.
In a way, chavismo doesn’t have an epistemic bubble - it is an epistemic bubble. The obdurate refusal to confront a reality it cannot control, to honor opposing points of view without necessarily sharing them, to treat others’ points of view as basically legitimate even if possibly wrong…these things aren’t features of chavismo as a belief system, they’re its essence.
Which is why, all told, there was just one figure who came out of last night looking relatively good: Maria Corina Machado, who called bullshit on the whole sad charade before it even started.
Dialogue, monologue or guarimbalogue? Venezuelan political discourse peculiarities
I am not only a little preoccupied about personal matters but to tell you the truth from the start I lost any possible interest in the "dialogue" attempt last night at Miraflores. See, the regime is so predictable, such a rehash of old grievances that one could have easily guessed the discourse.
Last night it was my turn to stay over at the health center that the S.O. has been staying these days. Yes, even in functional high level health centers it is advised that a relative spends the night on a cot in the sick room. The S.O. having recovered somewhat from recent treatments asked me to put on the "debate" that was taking place in Miraflores. We caught it with Andres Velazquez intervention, which was passable. He was succeeded by Aristobulo Hernandez, Anzoategui current governor, and the travesty started. After a few minutes the S.O. found strength somewhere out of his apparent slumber to say "enough of this fucking idiot, turn it off".
Sponsored by UNASUR, last night was finally the first encounter on TV of spokespeople from the regime and the opposition. The regime must be feeling enough heat that it acceded to this highly dangerous show. After the absurd repression of these last two months, repression that has yielded no tangible result for the regime but nasty brutish backlash overseas, it needed desperately a picture of all smiling as if this were a normal country. With a lot of reticence the opposition agreed as long as a certain format would be respected and that could not be interpreted as the regime scoring a point. Maybe they should not have worried that much, the regime did a fine job of ridiculing itself in front of the national audience (it was a cadena) and in front of UNASUR sympathetic ears that must be having more and more second thoughts about validating further Venezuela's regime style.
From what I read the presentation of the opposition envoys were over all much better than the regime's one, if anything by showing that apparently the opposition is more knowledgeable on dossiers and country's problem than the regime trapped in a frozen mind set. It is amazing that people that have been 15 years in office seem way outpaced in delivery by an opposition that is constantly harassed and denied access to real data.
But that is not really the point. The point is that the regime pretends to have a dialogue without conditions. Whereas the opposition offers very reasonable conditions. For example it wants political prisoners to be released. The opposition does not mind them being judged but wants them to be judged in liberty until a sentence comes, like it happens to the very few corrupt and abusive chavistas that have to be sent to trial. Another request is that the constitution is followed. That means in practical term that it is not possible that the high court of 32 members has never a dissent opinion. That means that the offices of comptroller of the nation is given to someone that actually will control the expenses of ALL elected officials, be them chavista or opposition. And other such examples.
What does chavismo want? That opposition ceases all type of protests, recognize the primacy and mandatory line for Venezuela organization even if last April 2013 there was a an electoral fraud to hide that chavismo had lost a majority of the vote. The government has all and wants things to stay that way. Is dialogue, any type of dialogue and agreement a possibility?
Read it all HERE.