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.
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.
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.