(Article changed on March 11, 2013 at 17:31)
It is a common saying, virtually the world over, that the good die young. The passing of Hugo Chavez, cruel and heartbreaking though it is, is a perfect case in point. Note that an entire stable of vicious war criminals, untried and unaccounted for, a great many living comfortably in the United States, sometimes occupying high offices long after their crime spree has been over,
When the news came that Hugo Chavez, lately under
I was with my son near a dollar store when suddenly I remembered having just read about Chavez's death before I left work. The news had drained me, and filled me with a wearying emptiness, knowing that the world had become that much poorer, that much bereaved of a valiant fighter, that much more in need of a rare, virtuous leader stepping up to raise up the lot of humanity, and bring the terrorized, looted, droned and bombed innocents of the world dignity, hope and the promise of a just world. I recall telling my son, I really believe Chavez's influence will only grow stronger in a world without him; he will now be larger than life. Of course nations have heroic and larger-than-life figures- great thinkers, writers, artists, musicians, philosophers. But in at least 30 years, I cannot think of another leader in this world that stood so far apart, so much higher, so much more fearlessly, above anyone else. Chavez and Venezuela became synonymous with courage, with the will and commitment of a people to put a stop to imperial rampage, to end the vertical build-up of plunder and loot, to smite the mighty, the crafty, the wily and cunning purveyors of malice, menace and plunder.
I hope, I told my son, that Venezuela and a great part of South America will deeply and appropriately mourn Chavez's passing, memorialize him as the treasure that he was, and then resolve to be united in their effort to keep the plunderers and marauders from the North and the West from invading their shores or enslaving their people again.
Chavez clearly had many admirers in the thinking world, and tributes
I remember thinking, when I read the word Hope placed in Chavez's context, how a purely deceitful peddler of hope (who had the audacity to write a book about it), has become (some might have predicted this) an expert drone-assassin while maintaining "kill lists," and approving extra-judicial murders -- all the while, through purely Western connivance, going around with such fraudulent and inhuman laurels as the Nobel peace prize. These awards have long served as Western tools for selective and sharply biased recognition (in the manner of mutual admiration societies), rather often in gross miscarriage of what such an award even stands for. A Nobel peace prize for a drone-assassin and a clinical executive murderer is difficult to imagine even in an Orwellian world. As far as I am concerned, when I look at Hugo Chavez and the shamelessly touted "leader of the free world," I honestly feel that a hundred Nobel prizes will not sufficiently honor what Chavez spent his entire adult life attempting to do for oppressed and tyrannized humanity. In grossly unworthy hands, such awards are revolting and sickening. But then this has been the way of the mighty and the vaunted throughout history.
Tariq Ali remembers Chavez with great warmth ( http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/07/hugo-chavez-and-me/ ). He recalls how Chavez spoke impromptu to his people, sometimes for hours, filling his speech with homilies and poetry. Imagine- a leader who recites poems, speaks of his motherland and her people, and touts the ideals of his political mentor, Simon Bolivar.
For at least the past 12 years, marking the passage of the human world into a grim 21 st century, I have frequently felt that despite the war-crimes-infested oligarchic duopolies in Washington, and the immeasurably inhuman criminality of those gangsters, all was not lost for the world. The main catalyst for that hope, without the slightest doubt, was Hugo Chavez.
When the 21 st century arrived, despite all the great progress of science, whereby the tireless intellectual work and dazzling discoveries of the men and women of science and the toil of rationalists were meant to move the world to a higher plane of human cooperation and brotherhood, I actually witnessed a steady regression towards stone-age mentality and unfettered barbarism in a world with incredible technological gadgets and tools of communication. A highly dim-witted but pathologically psychotic individual was "selected" to lead a deeply xenophobic government enabled by purely judicial fiat. "Us vs. Them" became the codeword for launching a rampage of criminal aggression upon people in distant lands. Science was ridiculed and creation museums and the like began springing up even near where I lived. The newly selected criminal gang saw a great opportunity to implement the nefarious Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a shady document engineered by Wall Street operatives to exert full spectrum dominance upon the earth and its resources, and utilized a manufactured mass hysteria in order to justify mass extermination, torture, kidnapping, disappearing, carpet bombing, bunker busting, depleted uranium shelling, occupying, denigrating, demonizing, and now (since the time of the other half of the duopoly), drone-killing. These "civilized" acts of Western benevolence, which have gone on for better than 5 centuries, have been rampant unabated since the advent of the new millennium. This overarching civilizational crisis (reminds me of Rabindranath Tagore's last prophetic work, Crisis in Civilization, written in his very last year (1941) while Europe was beginning to engage in one more of its great tradition of war games, WW2, which continues to generate great mileage in the military folklores of Europe's most successful and dominant surrogate, the United States) appalled great thinkers and public figures, including Harold Pinter, Howard Zinn, Kurt Vonnegut, Gore Vidal, Nelson Mandela, Studs Terkel, Hunter Thompson, Noam Chomsky, and a virtual Who's Who of intellectuals around the globe.
Two individuals from very different backgrounds and contexts stand out in my mind as valiant, moral warriors against the latest imperial rampage. One of them is the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose integrity and steadfastness vis-a-vis morality and the human cause has consistently impressed me. Even more than Nelson Mandela, I believe Bishop Tutu has placed the gravity and power of his office and his personality on the line for cause after cause dealing with racism, bigotry, exploitation, profiteering, warmongering, war crimes and the arrogance of the mighty. Bishop Tutu's integrity and consistency have set a standard for the religious, academic, political, technical and business leaders of the world to follow. The very paucity of such enlightened and awakened individuals worldwide is a sobering measure of two things- (i) the lack of sufficient moral courage among human beings (I am excluding the uplifting examples of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, of course), including even those in great positions of power and prestige; and (ii) the overwhelming success of the imperial propaganda machine. It is the latter, in fact, that permits the gross violations of human rights and the carriage of reprehensible war crimes by imperial powers- because all the while when committing such crimes of death and destruction, they put on the cloak of being moral leaders, and upholders of democracy and so forth. Along with such well-honed propaganda, they also apply the twin tools of fearmongering and demonizing.
The other individual, one who I believe gave the whole world reason to believe that there was still hope in the world that humanity, human values and decency would survive, was Hugo Chavez. Rarely does a leader of this caliber come along- one who stands up with courage and conviction against ruthless tyrants from the Orwellian world, and strips them naked for the world to see. Who can ever forget Chavez at the UN a few years ago, pronouncing, after the dimwitted, malicious "leader of the free world" had left the podium, that he could still smell the sulfur. The reference to the devil was clear- and never were words more true ever uttered. The heartless executioner (whose passion for executions is well known) had directly and remorselessly caused the deaths of millions of innocent human beings, all the while strutting his empty and pathetic machismo like a deranged cowboy from the gun-slinging Western movies.
Chavez's immeasurable charisma helped forge alliances with his South American neighbors, and gave rise to anti-imperial movements and governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and several other countries. Chavez forged friendships with rising political leaders in these countries, including Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, and also extended hands of friendship with Cuba and the highly vilified Fidel Castro.
Peace, justice and human rights for the poor, the exploited, the downtrodden and the enslaved of the world- these were the platforms that shaped Chavez's work. In uttering his allegiance to these, Chavez was much like the greatest of all socialists, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whose endorsement and advancement of socialist values are enshrined in all the holy books. He rushed aid to the victims of Katrina in the imperial headquarters almost faster than their cowboy leader was finished golfing and other inane activities. He provided heating oil to poorer Americans during the harsh months of winter, perhaps to show the imperialists that his humanitarian work was far-reaching and non-political.
Now that death has laid its icy hands upon this valiant warrior for the poor and the terrorized, I observe the intense hatred being spewed relentlessly in the Western mass media. The demonizing and the vituperations are of a very high order- and what I find particularly saddening is the extent of such bile coming from many ordinary Americans, who have been successfully programmed to swallow the official Kool-Aid from Washington, quite often to their own detriment. When people cannot see the hypocrisy, inhumanity and fabrications of their politicians, and how their actions enrich the filthy rich, and drive the rest of the world to dire poverty and desperation- well, that people becomes a lost cause. The very same Western allies impugn this very characteristic to the success of the Nazi propaganda machine in hoodwinking the Germans during their last major warfest.
Chavez held up a beacon of hope for the world, and the need for his kind of moral courage, and the feistiness to back up what he stood for, is greater than ever. Many of us from Asia have often felt that non-Western nations of the world (and maybe some Western ones driven by decent and restorative impulses) need to form lasting alliances in order to counter the imperial rampage, and thereby protect human civilization and the earth itself for ages to come. May Chavez and the power of his convictions grow from strength to strength and provide the world with succor in fighting injustice and war until that ephemeral day when those evils no longer exist.