Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hugo, Haggis and Hogmanay

We are not only approaching Hogmanay, the new year taken so seriously by Scots, Russians and others, we are also approaching Burns Night, when wannabee Scots such as myself use the occasion to drink dangerous amounts of Scotch whisky and plunge daggers into Haggis while reciting verses from the immortal Rabbie Burns. Wordsworth was never this much fun.

I join in on the strength of a Scottish great grandparent, a partiality to a drop of malt, and a positive love of haggis - a spiced pudding of sheeps' entrails, lungs and blood mixed with cereal and boiled in a sheep's stomach.

Apart from such obvious culinary attractions, Rabbie Burns wrote one of the most pithy lines that every writer about international affairs should have carved on their desk.
Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel's as others see us!

It is a telling warning against double standards, and nowhere is this more potent than in the case of Hugo Chavez where even the most urbane of American commentators show the pervasive effects of wall-to-wall invective from the right. BusinessWeek's Geri Smith wrote this week, in an otherwise fair article, "What's worrisome is that Chavez, though democratically elected, has consolidated his grip on power by packing the Supreme Court, electoral council, and Central Bank with his followers."

Now let us see ourselves in the US as others see us -indeed as many of us see ourselves when our minds are not befogged by 24 hour cable diatribes. Hugo Chavez, a veteran coup leader, clearly has an authoritarian streak, but let us pause to consider another President we know all to well.

George W. Bush was originally elected in a dubious election where the Supreme Court, acting as the electoral council, had a partisan majority, created in part by his father, which koshered the exotic voting customs of the state where this brother controlled the electoral machinery. And not content with that, George W. Bush is busy trying to pack the Supreme Court to make it even more complaisant.

Alan Greenspan, the veteran poodle Bush reappointed as head of the Central Bank, has never found a Democratic deficit he can applaud, nor a Republican one he can condemn.

And as for authoritarian! Does breaking the constitution on habeas corpus, defying legislation against domestic spying, and organizing third party torture sessions across the globe qualify?

Chavez, as an ex-military man appears too often in military garb, but then so does George W. Bush whose own military career ended up in ignominious war-time desertion from whose consequences he was saved only by his plutocratic and nepotistic connections.

Chavez also currently stands accused of supporting the election of the first indigenous President of Bolivia ever. Unlike, of course, all the electoral assistance from the US to the various rainbow revolutions in the former Soviet Union and Lebanon.

The old principle of "My enemy's enemy is my friend," is a very dubious one. Some of those people who US money helped overthrow richly deserved their going, and based on Chavez's previous record I will not go overboard in my support.

He is blessed with some very stupid enemies, however. Between the opposition's stupidity in not contesting the elections, Pat Robertson's incitement to assassination, and George W. Bush's chronic inability to understand that good works can lead to good friends, Chavez has some world class idiots ranged against him.

But one cannot help admiring someone who is putting oil-money to good use at home and abroad. The cries of "unfair" are actually pretty rib-tickling. Imagine the low cunning of helping cash-strapped developing countries lower their debt burden: the fiendish Machiavellianism of extending health care and education to people at home and abroad who have never had it! Imagine the diabolical duplicity of supporting the election of people in other countries who want to do the same. Just consider the chutzpah of helping poor people in the richest country in the world survive the winter with cheap heating oil.

Whatever reservations I have about Chavez tend to disappear in the face of such praiseworthy deeds,

In fulfillment of the Burns' suggestion of seeing ourselves as others do, I often suggest to diehard nationalists to substitute the names of their own country and tribe with the enemy in their declarations, and see if it makes as much sense when reversed. Somehow, the equations of sacred rights, divine promises and historical destiny never seem as self-evident when they are reversed in this way. Every argument raised for regime change in Venezuela applies with equal and more force to the wannabee Caudillo from Texas currently in the White House.

And by the way. Happy Hogmanay.

3 comments:

SillyBahrainiGirl said...

cheers ;)
Season's greetings Ian !

Phoenix Woman said...

Ian, about the one good thing we can say of the invasion of Iraq is that it's made it impossible for Bush to send troops into Venezuela.

arthurdecco said...

Mr. Williams,

I don't know how I got here but I'm glad I did. You write well. It helps that you have insight but that's not the all of it, is it? You have a gift.

"But one cannot help admiring someone who is putting oil-money to good use at home and abroad. The cries of "unfair" are actually pretty rib-tickling. Imagine the low cunning of helping cash-strapped developing countries lower their debt burden: the fiendish Machiavellianism of extending health care and education to people at home and abroad who have never had it! Imagine the diabolical duplicity of supporting the election of people in other countries who want to do the same. Just consider the chutzpah of helping poor people in the richest country in the world survive the winter with cheap heating oil.

Whatever reservations I have about Chavez tend to disappear in the face of such praiseworthy deeds,"

This is as good as it gets! Thank you, Mr. Williams. I'll be back to read more.