Can’t Form an Opinion On Venezuela Dictatorship, I Have Not Yet Traveled To
I have stated before that it is a prime folly to speak as if you know anything about a country that you have never been to. I try to follow this rule, but it is difficult: every traveler seems to hold places in the world in which they hold no interest in going to, places they find awful based not on experience but hearsay, news media projections, or from books.
The one country in the world I have no interest in is Venezuela.
I want to go to pretty much any country in the world. I seriously would not balk at the opportunity to go just about anywhere, except Venezuela. I have no taste for the place, but my angle is based on sources of information far from the source.
From what I can gather on Venezuela, the county seems like a typical old time Latin American dictatorship.
Perhaps it is:
It is illegal to criticize the government in the media.
Radio stations are not permitted play lists that are not mostly “traditional” Venezuelan music.
The Family Guy cartoon is illegal.
Toy guns are also illegal.
Video games are also regulated by the government.
Israelis are illegal.
The Ford Explorer is too.
Halloween is banned by a government edict.
And so are goods from Colombia, Coke Zero is also forbidden.
Oh yeah, and don’t pack your golf clubs for a trip to Venezuela — golf courses are likewise outlawed.
This is a dictatorship, but it is the special sort of dictatorship that does not only rule with supreme power but also uses that power to control the self determination of its people on a personal level. Some dictatorships rule for their own gain and they leave their people, more or less, alone. Most countries are like this. But there is a special kind of dictatorship that seeks to mold the character of their people by coercion and through force of law. Venezuela seems to be such a country.
I have never been to Venezuela, and now matter how hard I try I do not want to go.
Without oil, Venezuela would be just another Latin American dependency state trading autonomy to first world countries for handouts — they call it humanitarian aid.
I wrote this entry in a huff. I am unsure where this huff came from, but it arose none the less, and I recorded what came out of it. I then read what I was working on, and realized quickly that it was silly: I was talking about something I have no idea about. I have never been to Venezuela, I know nothing about the country.
I must admit to myself that I have not yet earned to right to have a strong opinion on Venezuela, everything I know about the country is base on surface level hearsay, there is no depth to my opinion, I cannot state experience and observation as my source, I must claim to have received my opinion from an outside source.
What comes in through the front gate is not family treasure.
I listen to a lot of people talk about the world, about politics, about places they have never been to, about people they have never meet. Just as I did above about Venezuela above. Like me, these people take their information from the news, from the internet, from hearsay, and they formulated opinions that they truly believe — they construct a truth. Sometimes, we even argue this truth with others, trying to topple one flabby notion of “what is going on” with another — we match hearsay with hearsay and may the man with the loudest voice win.
It is amazing to me how we tend to believe the first thing we hear about a place, a people, an issue as being the pinnacle of truth. As a man often grows up to take the world view of his parents, it is easy to take the first source of information we com upon as being unalieanatable truth and all other contrary information received subsequently as being incorrect.
Though all sides of the coin are not often based in reality, they are reworkings of truth at best, misinformation constructed by interest groups at worse, that often lay the groundwork for moot arguments such as the one I tried to start above.
It is a difficult notion to accept that the information you carry in your head may not be correct, that you are just as prejudice as anybody else, that you are full of shit. I am full of shit about Venezuela, I have based my opinions off of information delivered by news media outlets with biased perspectives, by a news media that seeks to entertain people enough to keep them reading into the next advertisement, the news media who strives to make people feel as if they really know about a world they have never experienced.
Perhaps I am a part of this media, perhaps this is the effect of Vagabond Journey, but I truly try to follow one rule when forming opinions on places, on people: I don’t talk about places I have never been.
All media will be biased, though I want readers to know where my bias comes from, I want them to read of the experience that created my bias, so that what I write comes off as honest. There is a stark difference between publishing honesty and publishing truth. Truth is like one of those holograms that shows a different image based upon the angle of your perception — there is no seizing it — while honesty is stating where you stand, and what you see before you, and leaving it as that.
I don’t wish to admit my bias, I strive to show it.
If I have been to Venezuela I could directly confirm if there are no golf courses, I could turn on the radio to see if any music played besides traditional Venezuelan music, I could ask people if they have ever watched the Family Guy cartoon, I could look in the markets for toy guns, I could gauge if people really feel pensive about talking critically about their government, I could ask people if they felt they were really living under a bloated dictator. I could find out about Venezuela for myself, and publish this information as coming from myself.
Maybe what I wrote above would play out to prove true, maybe not, but maybe I would be able to see these restrictions on individual liberty in the context within which they were formed. Maybe these rather odd seeming laws make sense in the context of Venezuela?? The only way to find out would be to go there.
The power of personal observation is strong, the opinions gained from experience are the only ones I feel as if I can call my own. If I state an opinion about something that I have experienced then that is my opinion, if I state an opinion that I read in some newspaper then I am regurgitating the opinion of someone else — and I therefore become an agent spreading what another person says they see in the hologram, and not what I observe myself. I would be writing dishonestly.
Reading newspapers, reading about places is good: it gives you a place to work from when visiting a country, it gives you ideas, theories to test in real life. When I go to Venezuela, I will have a lot to work from, I would go there to discover if the hype I wrote above is true, I would experience the country, talk to people, and form an opinion that would be my own.
My opinion could still be wrong, incorrect, off base, but at least it would be mine, and mine alone. I can accept honestly spouting off my own untruths, I can accept being corrected, or reworking my view of a place — though I do not want to do this leg work for the opinions of others. We live in a world where there is a massive amount of information everywhere, a true blitzkrieg of opinions at every turn, and I have observed that it is normal for modern people to think they know all about the world just from reading about it. It is amazing to me how ignorant this endless supply of information leaves its recipients.
People who think they already know about something can’t learn. It is unbelievable when I hear people speaking with iron wrought words about places they never been, just borrowing the opinions of others, and arguing for the sake of truth.
“Education just serves to make people stupid,” my old friend Steve-O in Japan would always say.
If I read the above information about Venezuela and believed it to be true, rather than using it as a guide to test its validity, then I would be gravely ignorant indeed — I would be vastly more blinded to the country than if I knew nothing about it at all. So much of what is written about the world needs to be taken in context. Out of China, a lot of what goes on there seems insane, but when it the country it often makes a little more sense — but I only know this from spending a lot of time there.
Cultures are just perpetual interplays of context, action symbols than run flush in their intended place. You truly need to know the backdrop of a place for anything there to make sense. The popular media feeds off of hype, it is how they keep their readers, it is how they make their money. By stripping a story from its context — or placing it in a different context — hype can easily be created, people will read the article to tell their friends just how doctorial Venezuela is, they will read to confirm their own smug version of the world.
When I read of the above Venezuelan laws, they made no sense to me, they seemed extreme, ridiculous, but, then again, I have no context of the country to fit this information into, any opinion that I could form would be out of line, misplaced, the ramblings of a man with his head in a box musing about the world with out. The world is vast, cultures need context to make sense, governments and politics never make sense — to skim a few layers off the top of a story to throw into a 500 word article is a good way to regurgitate the fairy tales that get people talking.
The piece that I read on Venezuela got me talking, it also made me my own fool.
Never talk about places you have never been
Filed under: Politics | Geopolitics
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