martes, 10 de abril de 2007

Do not think about May

One day, not long ago, my mom made me sit on the couch, with a very serious look, on her face. Then, she asked me to look for another life abroad. “You are the only one of us who can leave” – She said – “And you might have to do it eventually and send us some money back.” If, some things I cannot say in order to protect my identity happen, I’ll have no choice but to pack my stuff and leave.Sometimes I don’t even think about it. I know it will happen someday, the trouble is, that could be tomorrow, or could be in one or two years. We can spend a few months without talking about leaving, and one day, something happens and that horrible conversation comes back like a ghost in our lives. Next day life goes on, one must go to the university, to work, to have some drinks with the friends.
“Right now we are ok, we are working even if we don’t get enough money… right now, we are living. But for doing that, one only can think about today, cause if I think about tomorrow, I might stay without doing nothing and die”.
The father of one of my friend’s works for an oil company, which now, thanks to the Chávez measures about nationalization, belongs to the government. “He doesn’t know what to do” – My friend told me – “We don’t know what’s going to happen. He is looking forward to be transferred to some other country or stay working for PDVSA (the state oil company) but are they going to pay him enough? Are they going to pay him at all? Or maybe they do pay him as they should, and some day, sooner or later, they let him go without a job. Because with this government, you never know what’s going to happen”
No one could know that better than my aunt. She works at RCTV, the oldest TV Channel of Venezuela. From one day to another, the government announced the closing of that channel next May. The reason's are? The same speech you always hear on the government side; “Imperialism, fascism, coup supporters, they don’t tell the truth;” And one of the reasons? Because it’s the only opposition channel with a respectable rating among the lower classes that remains. The rest are all now, government or government supported channels; even the ones that used to be from the opposition originally, in the early days of the revolution.
Last week in class, we discussed about the RCTV (the opposition TV channel with the largest audience in Venezuela) closure. “But you must admit that RCTV is a channel of very low quality” – A classmate told me. The poor excuse of being ignorant of politics I usually heard: “It’s a bad channel, I don’t watch it anyway, so what difference is going to make?” And my answer will always be the same “Maybe it is a bad channel, I don’t watch it either, I got cable. But that’s my middle class standard and what about the ones who do watch it? You are taking them away that choice because you consider yourself smart enough to know what those viewers should see and should not”. But that doesn’t matter, I’m not here to defend the quality of RCTV, I’m not a mass media critical.
The problem is the Venezuelans, that as soon as June of this year starts are going to lay on the couch, take their remote control and pass from one channel to another and every single channel (except an only news channel with very low rating, a music and a sports one) is going to tell them the government version about things. It’s going to tell them that the “Misiones” (government social programs) are working; the indicators are the best in the world and so on. And the worse part, is that these people are going to believe it because without RCTV; they don’t have any point of comparison any longer.
Many could say now, that the people don’t believe those crazy things Chavez says. Think it twice.
A professor told me a story a few weeks ago: I was giving a speech about social responsibility on a very important Venezuelan industry the other day. I was talking about the importance of not leaving the “poor issue” only to the government and the responsibility industries have with their communities and all that. Because on these days, the government doesn’t have enough to keep the welfare state… At the end, I asked if there were any questions; and a worker raised his hand and asked me: “I don’t understand why in Venezuela we have to worry about social responsibility, if our PIB it’s bigger than China, the government has enough for taking care of the people…” – My professor could not believe his ears – “Bigger than China? Are you sure?” – He asked to the worker – “Well, I saw it on TV”… People can believe almost anything here, specially if they don’t have another point of comparison. Specially, if the government closes RCTV.
Nevertheless, its well known that all knowledge comes from comparison. And closing that channel, no matter how bad the quality is, is a quick way of leaving the people into a dangerous state of ignorance. It’s the best way to make them believe everything, even that our economical grow can be compared to China. It’s the way to give themselves permission to talk even, in the name of the truth, like the adds the government made about the RCTV close, and that now filled the streets of Caracas says: “Renovar la concesión a RCTV es renovar la mentira” – “To renew the concession to RCTV its to renew the lie”. Is the best way, not to keep the Venezuelans mouth shut, but to prevent those mouth are ever going to open.
And that, happens all of the soon. We have heard of menace about closing TV channels. We have imagine years ago, on 2002, a Venezuela without opposition channels. Its 5 years later when we actually see it; and took us almost off guard, because like my mom say's, if you live in this situation thinking about what future might bring upon you, you will die of desperation. My friend's father could be perfectly fine with his job, and now worrying about nothing. Like I could be writing this and worrying about nothing. Because nothing has happened yet.
Or perhaps, we have to look ourselves in the mirror of my aunt, the incarnation of our worse fears, the result of the constant uncertainly that we live into since Chávez came to power. She will lose everything she have worked for in a few months. The building, her friends, and the life she loves. And she stills smile to me and say's, when I ask her... worried: “How are you?” – “I’m working and I’ll be fine…. As long as I don’t think about May”.

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