The Turpial, the Venezuelan  national bird in unencumbered flight- a symbol of freedom

The Turpial, the Venezuelan
national bird
in unencumbered
flight-
a symbol of freedom

When Don Giovanni sings Viva la libertá (Long live freedom), do not think for a second he means it. The only freedom he cares about is that to do as he wishes- no matter who gets hurt. Were not the great achievements of Antiquity, after all, built upon the backs of slaves? Thus, at the talk of freedom, consider: freedom for whom, to what end, and under which circumstances?

While growing up in Cuba, that pleasant weather prison, I  first experienced oppression within my family; later religion, school, communism and society did the rest. Stuck in the middle, I tried quite unsuccessfully to cope with it all.  Having survived compulsory education- with flying colors,  in spite of it- I learned to empathize with the plight of students. And the question is: can we realistically aspire to a free society while suppressing children’s freedom?

Many students suffer modern day slavery; they have no say  about their education. Since the desire or interest of the student is rarely taken into consideration, education remains for the most part a dis-empowering conscription.To the drudgery of school,  busy homework is added. Often the parents complete it. Test preparation takes center stage- who needs recess?  Students who cannot endure schooling withdraw or rebel. Either way, those who do not fit the norm are labeled;  prescriptions follow.  Medication may indeed be needed to survive the usual Prussian style schooling without climbing the walls or jumping out the window every fifteen minutes. General anesthesia administered before class may be the answer.

Even after restrictive schooling, under regular circumstances, most of us still manage to claim our measure of freedom by balancing our aspirations, needs and wants with those of others. How and by whom is our freedom encouraged, allowed, curtailed or impeded? Our precious individual freedom may  have to be defended at great cost even from friends, partners or associates. And how are we encouraging, allowing, curtailing or impeding other people’s individual freedom?

But what happens when people entrust their freedom to inept, corrupt governments? We could cite Cuba,  a small country with limited resources that has been ruined by 50 plus years of Revolution. And what about Venezuela, a country with resources to burn, after 17 years of predatory Revolution? With human rights violations left and right, individual freedom is at a low point. Violence rules. With The Central Bank operating as the government’s  petty cash box,  great part of the earnings from the oil industry have been squandered or embezzled.  Senseless nationalization and gross mismanagement have crippled the economy, bringing domestic production to a standstill, while critical medicine and food shortages made worse by hyperinflation create wreak havoc in daily life.

Some of the solutions proposed of late by the leaders of one of the richest countries in the world are: brushing one’s teeth once a day, taking three minute showers,  and growing food in buckets and bottles to help solve shortages. Brilliant!

After 17 years of Revolution, Venezuela can boast these indicators:

  •  “most corrupt country in the world” Transparency International (1)
  •  “lowest grade in freedom and democracy” Freedom House (2)
  •   “special prize,  low grade,  separation of powers and independence of  the Supreme Court (TSJ)  . Honorable mention, low grade in freedom of the press” Freedom House (3)
  • “most violent capital and country in the world” : EFE,  bad grade  ( Bloomberg) (4)
  •  Honorable mention: Eight Venezuelan cities made the list of the 50 most violent cities in the world population 300, 000 and higher (4)
  •  “highest inflation in the world” : Bloomberg Business July 15, 2015 (5)

Quite an impressive record! So next time you hear the old Viva la libertá rethoric stop and think: freedom for whom?

Most likely not for you…..

References:

1. http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/Transparencia-Internacional-Venezuela-corrupto-Latinoamerica_0_782921717.html 2. http://www.el-nacional.com/mundo/Freedom-House-Democracia-Venezuela-. riesgos_0_782921796.html 3. http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/HRW-poder-judicial-funcionar-Venezuela_0_782921719.html 4. http://www.efe.com/efe/america/sociedad/caracas-desplaza-a-san-pedro-sula-como-la-ciudad-mas-violenta-del-mundo/20000013-2820723 5. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-15/venezuela-s-772-inflation-means-default-may-come-a-lot-sooner