A corporation – or rather let us call it an incorporation, for I am speaking generally and do not want to provoke those associations of a legal, social and moral character that the former carries with it – is an ingenious device.
The incorporation collects together diverse skills, knowledge and, most importantly, money in the pretext of constructing an industry concerned with a specific production. This is a special kind of fusion of many individuals’ money into a unified being with its own discernable agenda, character and methods.
These individuals are only beholden to the varied entities to which they have pledged their incomes and the diverse structures and apparatuses that support said entities. This organizational magic has worked so well that other strategies of organizing human potentials – and the money that is the cipher for those potentials – have receded into the background of history. So the nation-state, with its worn claims on a coherent history and its need of supra-personal pathos, seems an antiquated relic of the last century — quaint but harmless, like a penny-farthing.
However, perhaps the dustbin of history is rather too full for the stinking heap of nationalism. Maybe, like a block of cheese just starting to turn, one need only trim off the mold, air out the container and look at the “nation” with a fresh eye to see the delicious morsel contained within. From all appearances, the people of Venezuela seem to be holding a dirty knife and a full tray of tasty cheese.
In a nation deeply divided by a decade of semi-socialist politics, the nationalization of industries and the heavy control of state media, not to mention a nation in which, over the past year, the opposition seemed on the brink of victory, President Hugo Chávez and his supporters cemented their position at the head of the country with a sweeping victory in a referendum to erase term limits for elected officials.
Fifty-four percent of the voting public agreed that Chávez should at least have the electoral opportunity to see his “21st-Century Socialism” past 2012, when his current term is up. What many are calling a mandate on socialism could also be a mandate on the nation, a rousing vote in favor of the national myth in the face of fracture and, some would say, doom-laden reality. Just as we citizens of the United States came together in a brief moment of clarity and elected to embrace the indefinite hope of a new national consensus in the fall, so too did Venezuelans decide that they would give their nation, in all its glorious contradictions, their full support.
Of course, things might not go well. While Chávez has pumped billions of dollars into social programs for education, health care and employment schemes aimed at the poor of Venezuela, as well as reached out not only to other nations of South America but also to the poor in the United States (offering free heating oil to those who could not afford it), he might not be able to do so for long. These programs, which have brought him so much support among the working classes and populists, have largely ridden in on the coat-tails of unprecedented oil wealth. Holding one of the largest oil reserves in the world has allowed Venezuela to embark upon social infrastructure programs and socialist projects beyond what would otherwise be modest means. But now the price of oil is falling along with the rest of the world’s economy, and Chávez might not have the fiduciary muscle to finish his ambitious agenda. But at least the people seem to want him to try.
One could excoriate the voters of Venezuela for not seeing how a corrupt dictator was manipulating them, pulling the wool over their eyes in order to entrench his power in an oil-rich state. But why do that? The people have spoken. In these last years of trying to export democracy around the world by blasting it out of rifles billions of rounds at a time, of being told that purple-stained voting fingers are the mark of political progress, we should all embrace the decision made by Venezuelans. A nice gesture would be some kind of cooperation, such as not having our leaders back a coup to remove their democratically elected leader from power because he wants to nationalize industries that nominally call the United States home (or at least bribe our officials to protect their profits).
If we are to be a nation, then let us embrace our national myth, which was summed up best by the Three Amigos: “Wherever there is injustice, you will find us. Wherever there is suffering, we’ll be there. Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find … The United States! Huh!”
In this case, El Guapo seems to be doing alright by the people of little Santo Poco. And really, a charismatic leader willing to nationalize industry and pump billions of dollars into health care, education and other social projects? We could really use an El Guapo of our own.
Brock Cutler is a graduate student in history. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.