Focus Instead on the Pawns

A line of young men and women stand, dressed in white and blue and red and gold, arms stretched high while they chant – always the chanting. They have come in the hundreds, thousands – in the hundreds of thousands actually; seeking change. Renewal, reform – not violence or war; but a different way. A way that works for them too – a path that leads beyond the apocalypse to open spaces adorned with flowers and trees where their troubled hearts can beat freely. They have come to march – what else can they do?

Standing against them – an army. Men dressed in body-armor looking ever like the insects that crawl from under the earth after a storm. “Stand aside”, they say – to the “NO!”, a raucous cacophony from a thousand angry, bitter throats.

Guardia Nacional

Then the gas – little girls fainting. Little boys with handkerchiefs held defiantly over their noses and mouth; doused in vinegar to stop the tears. Running, screaming – batons falling in a sickening thunk upon heads and backs and legs.

How many times have Venezuela’s silent, quiet buildings looked down on this macabre dance; where before they had witnessed only carnivals and parades? A dozen? A hundred? Probably many more. Nothing changes – Venezuela’s exhausted opposition is fighting an old enemy, using weapons unchanged since the glory days of Chavez’s aurora. March, yell, speech, flee, die – in an endless looping spiral, while from the buildings now-vacant eyes have replaced the stares of the oligarchs as they gaze through broken windowpanes; hungry souls desperate for nourishment watching from the pinnacles of former power, wondering if this time they will finally be freed.

They won’t.

There’s a lesson Venezuela’s tireless opposition has yet to learn – the only lesson really. The nighttime raids, the torture, the seizures – they must all be enacted. Carried out by somebody. The fattened cream of the new elite – thick and rich – will not do this; they cannot. They lack the courage. They rely instead on those anonymous men standing, backs to the empty street behind and a tear-gas canister clutched firmly in their trembling hand. Will they throw the can? Will they fire the rubber bullet? Will they use the club? Will they advance?

Or will they stand aside?

That is the question – the real question. The only question – though seldom asked. It must be definitively addressed if Venezuela is ever to find her way out of this deep, dark abyss. There will always be corrupt judges issuing illegal rulings; corpulent legislators passing illegal laws; presidents issuing illegal edicts. This is not new; and will abide as long as their sway over those who wield the guns continues. When the guns are lowered – dictatorships fall.

Therefore the question these fearless marchers must ask themselves is, “Who is it that wields the guns?” Chances are they are not very different from those marching. They too hunger in food lines. They too face shortages of medicine for their ailing mothers. They too have daughters that have been raped – have wives who have lost work – have children who cannot afford to go to school. They probably do not enjoy watching the torture of those they took an oath to protect. They hate standing on the wall, facing inward when they know in their hearts that all good soldiers stand looking over and beyond to the enemies that lie on the other side of the expanses. They are not evil men – not most of them anyways. They are scared, angry, hurt. They are tired.

They are trapped.

Why then do they follow illegal orders? In their calculations, which for them are even more existential than for the marchers – for they are wholly dependent upon the fat finger of the overlord – they have made the decision that they must. Yet there is a silver lining; this decision is not once and done. Each time they stand, staring in the face of the next in the endless line of marchers they must make the decision again; and again and again and again.

If that calculus is changed – only once – the balance is forever shifted.

So for those who would win – ignore the oligarchs, bathing in cream and Champagne. The fat men who move pawns about on the chess board with one hand, the other clutched greedily around a sweaty wad of ill-gotten money. They are not the problem. They exist at the discretion of those they so readily deploy. Some of them know this – those who still make their abodes in this world of flesh and blood. Most do not; have forgotten that repression is still an individual act of an individual man. They are of no consequence. Focus instead on the pawns.

Then you will have won.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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16 Responses to Focus Instead on the Pawns

  1. Maurício Costa says:

    With all the respect you deserve, sir, I strongly disagree.

    As a latin-american, I’m daily stoned with the northern ignorance about the situation in South America. Ignorance for some, but only cynical politics for others.

    I’m brazilian. I’m latin-american. And I know that you, sir, reproduces the discours of the hegemonic northern media, that plays the governmental games based in economical and political interests. It’s inadmissible for your governments that “inferior” countries, that always occupied “the place that the manifest destiny” determined to the “backyard” of the empire, have willing or right to self-determination.

    You probably didn’t live the poverty. Then, I can say respectfully that you, sir, don’t know what you say.

    For exemple, you don’t mention the victims beheaded or shot by the violent and criminal opposition “manifestants” of “guarimbas”, during the attempt of coup in 2014.

    You don’t mention the coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002, when an order of execution against him was given by the coupists.

    You don’t mention the attempts of illegal destabilisation made by the “brave oppositon”.

    You don’t mention that the destocking of provisions was caused by:

    1) an historic state policy of dependency of oil, which wasn’t create by the left-wing government, but by the historic oligarchs, allied to US;

    2) There is right now several multinational enterprises that intentionally stopped their production to cause it, causing unemployment and product shortages;

    3) The northern coupist media frequently uses like pieces of propaganda photos of empty shelves that aren’t even venezuelian, but belgian or french;

    4) The “brave opposition” has an public pledge to overthrow the governement not through ellections, as democracy proposes, but by “soft coups”, disguised of a false legality;

    5) The justice acts selon constitution and in its defense, but is too much to some northeners understand it when this trivial routine is made by non-alligned justice;

    6) the false allegations of crimes that wasn’t happened to demonise independent governments.

    And most important, you don’t mention the venezuelan state to stimulate the economy and the national prouction, in order to fight the destocking.

    I don’t see frequently northeners appointing the abuses of their own governments. The interventions, the coup financing (executed by development agencies), the innocent killed by indiscriminate bombings, the colombian children raped by foreign soldiers, the threatening military bases around the world, the tortures in prisons installed in foreign territories to escape from legal obligations. And this facts are only a little part of countless abuses of central nations against the periferical ones.

    To classify governments as dictatorships is another tool to impose the northern rules to the oppressed people around the world.

    I don’t hate you or any other person for opinion. It’s a right that venezuelan government assures to its people as much as european ou north-american governments. If it isn’t true, you wouldn’t kwon that there is an opposition there.

    In my opinion you are victim of the unique speech, that denies the right ro contradiction and the proportionality.

    Hate don’t motivates me, but love and hope. Hope in a better world, in which people are not that susceptible to the alien hate. And in which people can use the right of speech constructively, within the respect of foreing souvereinty and self-determination.

    Northern coutries ar not owners of the world. And only northeners can change the violences made by their governments.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Heard it all before Mauricio – all those words don’t give the Venezuelan people bread, medicine for their high blood pressure or electricity to ward away the violence. Sorry, you guys failed. Admit it.


      • Maurício Costa says:

        First of all, there’s no place for cynicism in an honest conversation.

        Second, I admit the progressive governments failed if you write an article denouncing the participation of foreign governments in the coups d’État ongoing in Latin America.

        Third, You show a lack of knowledge and disdain for me and all Latin Americans, which are involved in the construction of a new society, a process that take decades. The incomprehension of it shows complete lack of honest qualification to comment our situation.

        Fourth, You can use your privileged nationality to pressure the enterprises of your country which operates in Venezuela to resume production and to give back the workers employments.

        Fifth, if you can’t give more than aggression, hysteria and cynicism, I suggest you respectfully to take care of your life and country, which has sufficient problems to be resolved.


        Liked by 1 person

      • Again, heard it all before dude. Not gonna bring back the food.


    • Andrei says:

      And you, Mauricio, are repeating as a parrot all the excuses the Venezuelan government constantly says to deny their failure. Have you lived in Venezuela to say everything you write here is true?. The government prefers to have people struggling everyday to bring bread on their tables (if they manage to find it) than admitting they are a complete mess, and that’s a fact. Is in these cases that I say: worry about your own country (that is also going through serious problems) instead of defending the indefensible in Venezuela


      • Maurício Costa says:

        The aggressive behaviour is a major indicative of autoritarism. I could call you parrot of the establishment, but I will not. It’s against my beliefs. But you, you are as autoritary as you thing Venezuela is. Study, please. Don’t be naive.


      • Andrei says:

        Calling me naive and ask me to study about a situation of MY country that my relatives, friends and I have to deal with it every single day? You are bold my friend! Maybe that is the problem, you live inside your books in where Venezuela is presented as an Utopian land in where the government party is the poor lamb suffering all the onslaughts of the private media, the imperialism, the opposition, the economic war, cybernetic war and on… I invite you to live on firsthand the marvelous 21st Century Bolivarian Revolution for a month or so.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maurício Costa says:

        Your country is effectively submitted to the effects of imperialism. It’s sufficient to see the criminal decree from USA which considers Venezuela as an manace. This disproportionate mesure is articulate with the frequent manaces of military intervention in “your country”, in case of “humanitary crisis”. Coincidentally, the multinationals are causing the destocking stoping their productions. The “bachaqueos” enhance the process, cause the people involved with this criminal practice dedicate themselves to buy the supplies in the governmental markets to sell in the parallel with absurd prices. The suffering of the people in Latin America, our Great Nation, is resulting from foreign intervention, and history, dear friend, documented and still documents these interventionist abuses. Read is utile, but read trustful documents.
        I don’t deny the suffering in ALL LATIN AMERICA, but is necessary to observe the REAL CAUSES of suffering. We were, and still are, treated like colonies. It’s a fact. And it can’t be denied for you or any person. It’s historic. It’s still a reality. And NWT, CNN, Globovisión are not trustful. They have clear interest in the venezuelan chaos, as well as the government of their country.
        It’s not a mere coincidence that all the principal economies, which are governed by progressive governments, are in a deep crisis, which is used to justify a coup, instead of ellections. And terrorist attacks to eletric centrals and to simple citizens plunges the latin coutries in a fratricide war that which mainly benefits the foreign intervention. The oil, the natural ressources, the wealth are what the want. And if it’s necessary to blow the country, they will do it.
        If you think the chavist gouvernment has to be replaced, you have to defend ellections, not a coup. You have the right to be angry about the government in your country, but the democracy has to be respected. If the major part of the people decide that chavism has to continue, it’s necessary respect it, in the same way that the government have respected the results of legislative elections.
        Probably you’ll say that the government don’t respect the decisions of the Assembly. But an Assembly which declares in the first session that its objective is to promote a soft coup finished any chances of rational and balanced dialogue.
        You’d say: but the referendum? Why the government don’t authorize it? First of all, the authority is CNE, not the president, to call aa referendum. Second, a referendum, to be called, has to respect some requirements, among which original and unique signatures of live individuals born in Venezuela or citizens of the country. And the information is that the opposition has presented false signatures, signatures of dead people, signatures in duplication, etc.
        You’d say: this information is false. I’d say that the objective of oppositon has been achieved: put in doubt the credibility of the election authority. That’s the same tactics when we consider the violence. Criminal gangs which causes public disturbs and violence, justify the repression of police authority. It’s true in any part of the world. But in Venezuela is an dictatorial repression.
        Well, I could write for hours to indicate the inconsistences of your arguments, but I can’t. I am following closely the situation in all Latin America and I am firm in my convictions.
        As I said to another participant of this debate, I don’t claim the property of the truth. But I invite all of you to search variety in the sources of information. And I let a tip: A communication vehicle which don’t accomplish the basic journalistic obligation of listen all the sides of a fact, with proportionality and the right of reply, isn’t an trustful vehicle.
        I wish you the best.


      • Andrei says:

        Venezuela is submitted in the effect of the imperialism… and of a FAILED socialism (And don’t tell its failure is due to international pressure). “the multinationals are causing the destocking stoping their productions” what a coincidence that the only products you find on the shelves are the ones from the “conspirators”, Did you know the government nationalized a great number of food businesses and just a few of them produce something? Just talking about pre-cooked corn flour, P.A.N. is the brand you find in private and government supermarkets, the rest are just absent, What happened? Let me tell you, people who were put in control (By Chavez) of those businesses stole the money and they don’t produce anything nowadays, then by your logic, the Government is destocking products too! and not only food products. “The bachaqueros enhance the process”, I agree with you, this is a cultural problem and a consequence of the anarchy we are living, something that we need to deal with and very soon. Just a tip: most of the bachaqueros buy from private supermarkets not governmental, they buy products with regulated prices (A fake price imposed by the government by the way).
        “Is necessary to observe the REAL CAUSES of suffering” that according to you are for foreign intervention in all Latin America and not by wrong policies, again, what a coincidence that Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina are not as in bad shape as us. “NWT, CNN, Globovisión are not trustful” well, neither Telesur, VTV, TVES… I am not denying the private media in Venezuela and Internationally have their own interests against Maduro’s government, but come on, Do you really believe in the fantasy land VTV sells every day?.

        I can continue my friend: “Terrorist attacks to electric centrals” Do you know when was the last time the government did maintenance of infrastructures? Have you seen the actual shape of avenues, streets, power plants, government buildings, airports, etc. “The wealth are what they want” Chavez and Maduro’s families want it too, or haven’t you seen the pictures of their relatives enjoying in the Imperialism and travelling around the world drinking 18+ whiskey? What a great socialist example.

        The CNE may work for the interests of the Government, 4 out of 5 deans express direct partiality with the government (the last one is inclined with the opposition) and its president has been seen wearing symbols related to Maduro’s political party on TV!, in fact, after the 2006 elections, the until that moment “Impartial” president of the CNE Jorge Rodríguez was named Vicepresident of Venezuela by Chavez, what a coincidence, isn’t it?. “And the information is that the opposition has presented false signatures, signatures of dead people, signatures in duplication, etc.” Yes the information from VTV and government media, not reliable. Again, I invite you to Venezuela to start asking in the streets if people are happy with this government and you will be surprised, it is clear they may loose the referendum, If that is how people feels, why not do it,? If Maduro wins he will emerge stronger, don’t you think?

        I can write for hours too! So, I also recommend you to study a little bit more about what is happening internally and don’t believe everything the pro-government media says. I invite you again to live in Venezuela for a couple of months (But don’t bring dollars you can exchange in the black market, find a job here and try to survive with your salary) and get information on firsthand. If it is too risky, then keep enjoying the magnificent 21st Century Bolivarian Revolution from distance.



  2. Pingback: The speech of absurd – NOTRE SUD

  3. Maria Cuthbert says:

    to Mauricio Costa. I remember my grandmother railing against the dictatorships of her youth in Veneuzela. I am 69 years old. Nothing has changed…..

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Kathy says:

    So, who tells the truth? The ones who live through this, or the ones who wont pump the oil? The soldier, or the peasant?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maurício Costa says:

      I won’t claim the truth. I will invite you to search more sources of information, beyond of the mainstream media.


  5. Carlos says:

    I Born in Venezuela and live here in Venezuela since 1974. I think that the principal cause of this crisis is the corruption in all levels. Much money has been stolen and when the country received big amounts of dollars never there was a plan for better the conditions of people for better education and find other forms of generate incomes oil apart. The government is the principal responsible of this terrible crisis.

    In my personal case, my incomes not enough for food. Basically there is hunger in Venezuela. No medicines and other products. Here, the majority, we are in danger situation. Venezuela is in the limit, near to social explosion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. stevetravel04 says:

    Being opposed to failed socialism doesn’t mean we are in favor of some other form of dictatorship.


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