May 30, 2006

In the image of the supreme leader

The Washington Post reports on how Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is molding "future Chavezes" at the new Bolivarian University of Venezuela.

The government has already built a network of health and education programs. But Chavez has promised more, and to keep those promises from souring into disillusionment, officials acknowledge they will need a lot of industrious bodies, all tuned to roughly the same ideological wavelength.

Thousands of students expected to staff free public health clinics as physicians will get their diplomas at Bolivarian University. So will social workers slated for neighborhood literacy centers, and journalists whom the government believes are necessary alternatives to an opposition-controlled national media.

Of course! The "same ideological wavelength"! Do socialist/communists have it any other way?

The government's political opposition, a group increasingly relegated to the sidelines of Venezuelan public life, sees the university as a thinly disguised propaganda factory that takes advantage of the country's most vulnerable citizens.

"Unfortunately, the government is using education as a political tool," said Julio Borges, an opposition leader running for president against Chavez in December's elections. "The Bolivarian University is just another vehicle, a bridge, to politicize the population."

Of course it is, Mr. Borges. But what did you expect? As I noted here, up until Chavez became president, not much was done to satisfy the [poor] masses of your country. Now you're stuck with a budding Castro, Hugo Chavez, who has recently proposed that he be allowed to continue to run for president (despite constitutional prohibitions) until the year 2031.

(By the way, some leftists have "corrected" the story on that, such that it is, stating that Chavez "just" wants to allow the public to vote on dissolving that "little" constitutional provision allowing only two presidential terms -- which would, of course, allow him to be pres. until 2031 or whenever, actually. This is predicated, Chavez says, on the opposition refusing to participate in elections. My post here clearly points out that it wasn't clear at the time of the initial report if Chavez meant "a legally binding vote to eliminate limits on re-election or proposing a plebiscite." Either way, it's pure democracy in action, folks -- just allow the majority to vote on a change to the constitution, and so it is! Can you imagine for just one second, these same leftists' reaction if President Bush (if he commanded much better popularity from the American public, that is) proposed a national referendum on repealing the 22nd Amendment? DICTATOR! KING! MONARCH! Hell, they're calling him that already without him proposing something so nutty! Yet, when Hugo Chavez takes advantage of the "tyrannny of the majority," it's merely "the will of the people.")

As Edmund Burke said about such a government: "Being ruled by the occasional will of the people, which is democracy, is to replace the rule of wisdom with the rule of wishes, and inevitably obtain social decline."

Back to the article:

Alejandro Padron is like a lot of the students here: 19 years old, from a poor family, who grew up loving sports more than books and never really thought of his long-term prospects until faced with the drab inevitability of a service industry job. He said he took entrance exams for the Central University of Venezuela, and -- like most of his friends -- didn't make it. He watched as some of those friends paid fees to take the tests over and over, and began to resent the hopelessness of it. College in Venezuela, he decided, was a racket only the rich could beat.

"You begin to invest in something you'll never have," he said. "Then you realize that it's just another way to keep you enslaved."

You see, it's society's fault that Padron (which means "godfather" in Spanish, by the way ... thanks Hube!) that Padron "grew up loving sports" over education, and, hence, had to settle on a "drab" service job as a result. And, since he couldn't get into college (again, because of his choices), he's "enslaved." But Chavez is gonna change that little paradigm:

There was no question about getting accepted at Bolivarian University, because everyone gets in. It doesn't matter if applicants spent the past 11 years in prison for murder -- as did a 49-year-old law student who said he is eager for a second chance -- or if they're foreign tourists interested in social activism in Venezuela. Inclusion is the golden rule here. So Padron enrolled last year and decided to major in politics.

Hope they have a gazillion remedial courses. Take Padron, again:

But when classes started, he had second thoughts.

"My first day was frustrating, because I saw a lot of people who were already ideologically formed -- you know, Lenin and Marx," he said. "I was like, 'What is that? It must be a religion.' " But he soon made friends with a tight group of young students, all frank idealists who said they were fully committed to the Bolivarian Revolution, a model derived from the legacy of Simon Bolivar, the South American liberator. Whatever political commentary Padron can offer today, he said, he learned "with the help of my comrades."

That's just what Chavez wants -- someone in college who knows virtually nothing about his chosen field of study. Why else wouldn't he be "fully committed" to the Bolivarian Revolution -- when he knows nothing otherwise?

"The goal of Bolivarian University is to form 'the New Man,' " said Padron, dropping a term coined by another revolutionary, Guevara, to refer to someone who is selflessly dedicated to bettering society. "The New Man is not a technocrat, but rather is proficient in various fields -- professional and technological -- and is completely focused on his community. He is a humanist."

And, if Padron gets truly educated, he'll realize the New Man is a sad joke -- a Utopian ideal that can only be imposed through force. And, if Padron gets educated, he'll realize that there will be differing degrees in which his "comrades" believe in the New Man philosophy. Those who believe in it less will ... tend to do less work, while those who believe in it more will ... do more work. But in the ultimate egalitarian society, how is this inherent unfairness dealt with? Answer: It is not. All will get the same despite motivation and results.

The Caracas campus's library, in the basement of the main building, holds a generous collection of political texts, the vast majority from Latin American authors aligned with Chavez's socialist vision ... The American author with the most titles under his name in the political section is Michael Moore.

Good luck with that indoctrin, er, uh, "education," Padron.

The students said they respected U.S. founders and activists such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X but professed bafflement at what, in their view, was the apathetic regard for the poor at the root of free-market capitalism espoused by the United States.

"In the 21st century, it seems as if the people in the United States are asleep," said Cesar Trompiz, 19, a law student and a friend of Padron's. "It seems like they don't even know what's going on in their own country."

Apathetic? Padron's [re]education is well under way, it seems. I'll bet Padron nor any other Chavista -- not to mention any Castroite -- can adequately answer why so many wish to ENTER the country which is "apathetic" to the poor (gee, just take a gander at the current immigration debate!), while people are fleeing Venezuela (and Cuba, which coercively keeps people in). I have never heard a committed socialist/Marxist/communist answer that very simple question.

The poor in the United States, Padron, live extremely well by planetary standards. And just because the government isn't involved in all levels in assistance to them doesn't mean people are apathetic. But then, we are hearing this from one who's majoring in politics and didn't know who Marx and Lenin were.

That won't happen to them, the students said, noting that they value community service over individual comfort. They're not sure exactly what they will do after graduating, but their jobs probably will be somehow connected to the public sector.

Gee, you think?

Critics of the university, however, wonder how the flood of Bolivarian graduates can be absorbed into the Venezuelan economy.

"When they get to the job market, I think they are going to be even more frustrated than they were before they got to the university," said Evelyn Rousseo, a retired high school principal in Caracas. "I think the long-term effect on the students is that they are going to feel deceived, that it was all a big lie."

When you get one side of the story and are indoctrinated, that's usually the way it turns out.

Sosa and other students said they would be free to protest against Chavez's government if they chose to, but they haven't chosen to yet. There is no sign of an opposition presence anywhere at the university.

Don't count on that, Mr. Sosa. And no opposition presence at the university? That's a surprise?

University administrators say that absence does not represent an absence of democratic principles. Temir Porras Ponceleon, the vice minister of higher education and the vice rector of Bolivarian University, said those who make up the political opposition in Venezuela today are like those who defended a return to a monarchy after the French Revolution. The political system underwent a fundamental shift when Chavez took power in 1998, he suggested, and the opposition must adapt.

Keep that French Revolution analogy in mind, Mr. Ponceleon. You may be more right than you'll ever know.

(h/t: Phi Beta Cons and Hube)

Posted by Felix at May 30, 2006 04:15 PM | TrackBack

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