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The phony liberators

When Hugo Chávez first became president of Venezuela in 1999, he seemed to be a champion of democracy, and in initial reforms he tried to introduce a more participatory style of democracy.

But that didn’t last, and when he publicly sided with political leaders whose main aim was to suppress anything resembling participatory democracy, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, he showed his true colours. Those who praised him for his initial championing of democracy have now become his fiercest critics, as he has clearly joined the side of the suppressors of democracy.

Noam Chomsky denounces old friend Hugo Chávez for ‘assault’ on democracy | The Observer:

Hugo Chávez has long considered Noam Chomsky one of his best friends in the west. He has basked in the renowned scholar’s praise for Venezuela’s socialist revolution and echoed his denunciations of US imperialism…

The president may be about to have second thoughts about that, because his favourite intellectual has now turned his guns on Chávez.

Speaking to the Observer last week, Chomsky has accused the socialist leader of amassing too much power and of making an “assault” on Venezuela’s democracy.

Perhaps this is yet another illustration of what was said by the Brazilian educationist Paolo Freire,

The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man, nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion (P. Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed, 1998, p. 29).

Unless the oppressed can get beyond this barrier, then even if they succeed in overthroring their oppressors, they will simply become oppressors in their turn, and hence phony liberators.

And George Orwell said much the same thing in his Animal farm.

There are some pictures of Hugo Chávez in which he seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to the late Eugene Terreblanche. Or Julius Malema.

Noam Chomsky

verbum ipsum says:

Noam Chomsky is, to put it mildly, a polarizing figure. For a particular species of left-wing campus activist he’s a kind of guru, someone who has penetrated the veil of illusion and seen reality as it really is. For certain conservatives and “serious” liberals he’s an ayatollah of anti-Americanism, a kind of ritual hate figure.

While A conservative blog for peace says:

Noam Chomsky: Apparently his criticisms are spot-on but he doesn’t offer a good alternative

To which my response is that the same could be said of Amos, and most of the other Old Testament prophets.

When Christians in South Africa sent out a four-page document called A message to the people of South Africa, which pointed out that apartheid was both a heresy and a false gospel, the government responded that they were so negative — criticising government policy and ideology without offering anything to put in its place.

So the South African Council of Churches and others set up the Study project for Christianity in Apartheid Society (Sprocas).

Sprocas produced six reports of about 200 pages each, cost an enormous amount in having commissions and preparing papers and writing proposals, and probably no one in the government read the reports, except perhaps the Security Police, to see who they could ban, detain, harass or persecute next.

The idea that you should not criticise evil until you can offer a practical alternative is a monstrous cop out.
——

Noam Chomsky is a linguist and political commentator who has been critical of US foreign policy in recent years.

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