EspañolWe are all Mónica.
I am not just saying it because we love her but because, just like her, we can get killed.
Spear’s homicide is particularly tragic because it enables us to finally put a familiar face to the 170,000 murders that have happened in Venezuela in the last 15 years.
There is now a face representing a dark problem. One always seen through the lens of statistics, but never identified with an image. We now know that murder can reach us all, even beauty pageant queens like Mónica.
Figures and numbers come alive as one learns that Spears and her husband were shot refusing to give into their attackers. They come alive upon knowing that a five-year-old girl was shot in the leg, and will spend the rest of her days as an orphan. They come alive because of something that makes headlines today, but will affect her for the rest of her life. It is awful to realize that numbers only come alive when somebody dies.
To be honest, when I think about this I lose some of the hope I have for a better country, even if I will never stop fighting for it. It is really discouraging to think that there are systems supported by 30, 40, or 50 percent of the population – or whatever number it takes to win elections with slyness and cheating – even though 100 percent of them are victims of crime and insecurity.
But then I think about this reality where, for many of us, inflation, shortage, and unemployment are worse problems than insecurity. In a way it makes sense, because every day we are victims of inflation. Every day we suffer from having useless jobs and seldom do we find all essential products readily available. On the other hand, terrible as it may be, we feel that insecurity is a manageable problem, one that we can deal with by not going out at night, by being careful, or just by thinking that the chances of something happening to us are slim.
But let us not forget the meaning of human life, empathy, and solidarity. It does not make sense to think “it won’t happen to me.” The thought implies that we just care about our own existence, other peoples’ lives be damned. As long as it is them who die and “it doesn’t happen to us,” we assume things are great.
Anyone with a conscience, and a minimum sense of fraternity, would know that not matter how much money they have made thanks to the buddies at CADIVI, no matter the benefits they receive because of the missions, no matter the reason they are doing well or how included they feel in the big narrative, they have to be aware of the 175,000 people that have been killed. They have to know what it means: orphaned children, complete futures erased, entire families broken. With this said, citizens don’t have another option but to withdraw their support for a system that fosters this.
But these days, we Venezuelans are not conscious. We act like isolated individuals, caring only about ourselves, pushing others aside, and overstepping precious but rarely applied rules. There is no nation here, no collective, no homeland, there is not anything. There are individuals, anomie. Anomie is used in sociology to describe societies without rules and clear norms. One without values and “little or no moral guidance at all for individuals.” Yes, our society faces a terrible anomie.
These days, it is perfectly rational to act like a complete idiot with the society, institutions, and incentives we currently have. With the State handling discretionary funds, ignoring the norms, trust levels at their lowest, and cunning behavior being rewarded, how could we act otherwise?
This individualism looks to de-socialize and is exactly what we need to change. We can only achieve that with values, principles, conviction, and the rule of law. Meaning that we have to be irrational; passion lies opposite to reason. Passion (of the good kind) translates into politics as a love for the country, or at least what Montesquieu would say is the main virtue of a republic. We need to be, and more importantly need to demand, true republicans.
Machiavelli once said (paraphrasing) “a subject first forgets the death of a brother, rather than the king messing with his pocket.” The pocket represents what we own: property, money, the future. The brother refers to the outside: the others, the country, the law, the nation.
As long as we care more about our pockets than the lives of others, we will never thrive as a society. We will keep on going, living, taking advantage of the opportunities that may arise once in a while, focusing on our own futures until the day death will not come to our neighbor, but to us.
After all, we are all Mónica.
This piece was originally featured in Zoon politikon.