I am no stranger to colonialism. My very body is an amalgam of colonial violence, I am mestizo, I am a racial mixture of Amerindian, African, and Iberian blood. My wheat coloured skin, kinky brown hair, and Roman nose are kept together by a Basque surname.
I can only trace my history in one direction, however. I know the names of the conquistadors who came to Latin America, I know the history of my surname as members of the Spanish Imperial Army that fought against Venezuelan independence against Simón Bolívar.
But I can’t tell you the names of the indigenous women the conquistadors raped as concubines to give me my skin. I can’t tell you where the Africans they enslaved and transported to the Americas to mine silver and cut sugar cane came from to give me my hair. I know only my Spanish history, my Basque history. There is a sense of loss in that which is compounded by my displacement as a migrant. I know the dissonance that comes with being a colonial body.
The actions of men like Aziz Ansari, Louis CK, and Dan Harmon are not just disappointing, they’re dangerous beyond the monstrous harm they have already done to the women they assaulted/harassed.
These men have built their careers around creating content that is not just sympathetic to feminism and gender equality, but actively situates themselves as leaders amongst the men and within feminist creatives.
The harm that their actions have caused is social, they’re eroding the trust that feminists can have in allies, making it all the harder for the cause. Men who claim to be allies are the most dangerous of all; they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing of social justice.
Venezuela is currently as I write this in the midst of deadly political protest and repression from a number of actors. There are civilian opposition protesters, civilian Chávista protesters (loyalists to Maduro) as well as the police (GNB), the military, and los colectivos, government funded paramilitaries.
It’s nasty, it is ugly, gut-wrenching stuff to watch. I may go into detail in another blog post about what exactly is happening and why for Australian readers, but for now I want to focus on one detail that has left me beyond indignant of the whole situation.
Earlier this year I made the decision to change the direction of my thesis from guerrilla masculinity to looking at how the notion of el pueblo, the people, is constructed by Venezuelan Chavistas. I did this for two reasons, firstly because the situation in Venezuela has deteriorated and is only accelerating towards famine, but also because I want to know and understand my country at this highly political and philosophical level as well.
And the first thing that hit me, and with complete shock, was Western Academia’s fascination and love for Chavez. I mean, I always knew that leftists had a misguided hard on for el Comandante, but I didn’t think it extended to intellectual dishonesty.
Western academics love the late president Hugo Chavez, and that love extends to his heir Nicolas Maduro. It seems almost nonsensical, but academics are somehow the most blind of all the groups who write on Venezuela. They tow the party line with such dedication, you’d suspect they were actually paid by the government to write what they do…
In one of the world’s most respected academic journals, Latin American Perspectives, I read article after article from American, Australian, Austrian, and Italian writers about Western media being in cahoots to topple the revolution. About how the “far right fascists” of Venezuela’s “student elites” were ready to oust the president in a dramatic coup d’état given the chance. That they would somehow undo all the very “feminist” policies they have, drive the indigenous into ever greater peril and sell the nation’s resources to the “Empire in the North”, the United States of America.
As though Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro didn’t do exactly fucking that already, to not just the USA but China as well.
But what personally offended me most of all was the sheer love that they would write about los colectivos.
Two writers in particular, George Ciccariello-Maher and Cristobal Valencia (the latter of whom was sacked from the University of New Mexico after allegations of sexual misconduct with students) write about the colectivos with such romance, you’d imagined them as burly guerrilla fighters akin to Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Rough but just men who “protect” the working-class members of Caracas’ most dangerous barrios against gangs, drug dealers and the unlawful police.
A lie so romantically told you wish it were actually true.
Instead the night has been full of videos all over twitter of los colectivos doing what they have always done, riding around on motorcycles, terrorising the previously only middle class opposition with government funded weaponry. Reports of their murders are all over and people actively fear them for the organised paramilitary narcotrafficking criminals that they are.
But where then is the admonishment and denouncement of all of this from Ciccarriello-Maher and the misogynist Valencia?
These two American men made their careers off the books that they wrote romanticising the Venezuelan left (which is a misnomer, the “left” of Venezuela is sidelined, bureaucratised, and castrated, Venezuela is ruled by a narcotrafficking kleptocracy) but now when its heavy-handed repression is out and the country is on fire, they’re silent.
Silent, when the nation that you profited off burns with fury and stale tear gas. Your contributions served the same function as the tear gas the GNB throws at the people in the street, to obfuscate and confuse the situation.
Your exploitation of the suffering of the Venezuelan people made your fucking careers, and your silence is only proof of your cowardly intellectual dishonesty.
No mas dictadura.
People tend to hang out with like-people. They spend their time and energy on relationships with people who have the same interests as themselves, maybe it is political belief, art or culture; for others it is their experience as a minority that brings them together.
Regardless, people form communities and find their home with people that share things in common.
For migrants, often our social cliques revolve around our first culture. It’s just easier you know? We eat the same foods, speak the same language and listen to the same music. Our communities become a refuge from the surrounding culture and maintain that little bit of home which is missing from our lives.