What is Hollywood, you ask, dear children? A quorum of whores babbling endlessly on about fucking while the bordello is razed for a penny arcade -- Paul Bern

Saturday, July 31, 2010


“Cinema should not only be profitable, it should be profitable enough to allow the government to cease the production of Vodka.” 
                                                     -- Kossior, in his incarnation as Soviet Film Executive

Everyone should read Coronil’s interesting book on the cultural anthropology of the Venezuelan state and its’ mythic relation to Oil. It’s called The Magical State. The quotes below are from a lecture, elaborating on some of the points made in his book, bringing the story, as it were, up to date with the fascinating contradictions of Chavismo.

In Crowds and Power, Canetti describes in detail the strange process by which the mental ambient or weather of the leader, his paranoic state, begins to infect and consume the infrastructure of the whole country. The paradigmatic oral-tribal leader, Hugo Chavez, who governs through an incantatory stream of words, is an interesting variation:
Coronil: “I want to explore one aspect noted commonly and constantly in Venezuela but seldom analyzed: not just what Chavez says, but the fact of his saying it and his saying it so repeatedly. I want to explore what seems his formidable verbal production, for some his extraordinary pedagogic presidency, for others his verbal incontinency or verborrea--his production or overproduction of history through words. How does this proliferation of words relate to the transformation of the world?

For those who are unfamiliar with Venezuela, let me just say that Chavez speaks publicly a lot, as far as I know, more than any political leader on earth, ever. According to those who like to count, he speaks an average of 40 hours a week, a full time job. He has spoken now for more than a year continuously, 24 hours a day. He does not hold regular cabinet meetings, like previous presidents, where technical reports are presented and discussed carefully and in private; his method is to convoke the nation to weekly meeting, his Alo, Presidente! where policies are defined and proclaimed --- sessions which have no time limits --- one knows when they start, but not when they end--some last more than seven hours.”
The French have a lovely expression for bullshit – they accuse someone of ‘making cinema’. Chavez is engaged in making cinema with his words, with the force of ten film studios, ploughing the seas, in a heroic, and farcical performance. He is Bolivar. He must keep talking until reinforced by a phantom army of images that never come. This performance is literary primitivism – he’s better than Rómulo Gallegos, better than Roque Dalton, better than Ahmadinejad, better even than Bolaño and Fidel and Che -- it’s an epic novel, a new history, but completely improvised. It’s like one of those endless radio dramas in a Lav Diaz movie, where every scrap of actuality is seized as poetic material. But the inescapable fact is that it is a solitary, oral performance.  

Desarrollo Poetico

We can even theorize that the whole world exists for Chavez to articulate his never-ending story.

This over-production, this surplus-ideology must go somewhere. There needs to be a constant neurotic engagement between the leader and his friends & enemies. It is probably impossible to dream, or to sleep without hearing the voice of Chavez. Coronil notes that the State Department of the United States has a whole team of Kremlinologists and a mainframe that takes down this amazing production, so that they can perform an elementary literary criticism on the work. And this monotonous, neurotic obsession between lover and beloved without respite, without intervening images can only lead to mutual exhaustion and drinking. But people should only get drunk on the poetic effluvia from the Presidente. No other intoxication is possible.
Coronil: “Last week I read an article in the Venezuelan newspaper Tal Cual about a meeting with Chavez and leaders of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV). One sentence jumped at me: he told these leaders that they should be disciplined and forget personal projects and vices -- that they should not like whisky, but be ready to die for the nation. I found this juxtaposition remarkable, this bringing together the demand that they don’t drink whisky, and be ready to die for the nation.

For those not familiar with Venezuela, Venezuela is the first consumer of whisky per capita in the world. Under Chavez regime, it has become quite common for leaders not just to drink the already expensive 12 years old whisky, but also the much costlier 18 years old. What Chavez demanded from his leaders was something that everyone knew was not possible — not that people would be ready to die for the nation, because this was imaginable, but that they would stop drinking whisky. Yet, people accepted this and applauded Chavez. What to make of this disjuncture between what Chavez says and what is, between representations and reality? Even if we accept that people understood “whisky” as a general metaphor for vices, and “dying” for the nation as a metaphor for working hard for the nation, what to make of this manner of presenting alternative codes of revolutionary conduct?”
What of this strange prohibition: is it Chavez’s own secret desire to drink, his refusal to do so, projected into the people? Or does he feel his own interest in the national epic – which is after all HIS national epic, flagging…?

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