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From Paris to Caracas: Our Shared Battle for Civilization

By: Contributor - Jan 13, 2015, 9:22 am
Free-speech supporters show solidarity with the legacy of <em>Charlie Hedbo</em> and mourn their tragic passing.  (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/valentinacala/16037889328/" target="_blank">Valentina Cala</a>)
Free-speech supporters show solidarity with the legacy of Charlie Hedbo, and mourn their tragic passing. (Valentina Cala)

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By Daniel Álvarez

Francis Fukuyama called it The End of History and the Last Man. Others, a little bit less pretentious, said that liberal democracy had become the only possible form of government for the world.

This was, of course, the early 1990s. After the collapse of the Eastern Block in 1989, some triumphal voices claimed victory for western democratic values against not only communism, but all totalitarian and autocratic regimes that undermined the basic freedoms and liberties of those under their claws.

Yet, where the old anathemas had fallen, new ones started to rise — from Islamic states that imposed draconian conditions upon their people to new, unprecedented non-state actors such as Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and smaller groups that threatened to attack what they called western civilization by whatever means they could.

At first, the reaction from members of democratic societies was to underestimate and minimize such developments as rhetoric or empty threats that bore no real menace to their countries. But as time passed, it became clear that this wasn’t about hollow promises of destruction, but of a growing and dangerous enemy that sought to destroy the very fabric of our civilization. Coupled with this, former democracies started to show symptoms of increased authoritarian and even totalitarian deviations.

In Latin America, Venezuela led a new wave of populist autocracies. In Eastern Europe, the nascent Russian democracy was kidnapped by a new autocratic leader who sought to restore the former “glory and order” not only of the Soviet Union, but of the Tsarist Empire itself. The free world saw how the promise of a new era, united by love of democracy and freedom, had fallen to one in which manipulation and lies were gaining momentum as tools for the ultimate control of entire nations.

In such a new world, all weapons have become valid and accessible to those who seek the destruction of the freedom they hate. The most offensive one, terrorist attacks, is aimed not only against the military aggression that serves as the leading excuse, but at the very basic values shared by western democracies. Fear among citizens is the tool to create doubts about the usefulness of freedom against security encroachments and the very existence of their liberal nations.

The cowardly attack on Charlie Hebdo is a prime example of this. Its aim is to destroy not only a weekly satirical publication, but to make the French doubt their openness as a society with free expression, in the face of the increased security cost attached to it. This is the kind of reasoning behind most of the terrorist attacks, and in some cases it has been successful. Aren’t the xenophobic parties and rallies becoming increasingly bigger all over Europe?

Coupled with this, those governments that seek to control their citizens’ freedom have become even more emphatic in their efforts to do so. In my country, Venezuela, our government doesn’t spare any effort to control all spheres of public life, even if it means forming alliances with the fundamentalist Ayatollahs, the despotic Gaddafi, and even radical Sunni movements all over the Middle East. In alignment with Moscow and Habana, Caracas has become part of that global network of states and non-state actors against the core values of western civilization.

In this scenario, not only the victory but the very survival of freedom depends on every irreverent libertarian act we do as citizens. From the use of a cell phone as a tool of amateur journalism to the powerful protest of those who dare to stand openly against authoritarianism, these are the battles we shall wage to sustain that which makes us different and, specifically, free. In this context, the victory of Venezuelans will be that of the Iranians, the Cubans, and even the French, since we all are facing the same attack on freedom, albeit with different faces.

Let’s assume our role then; it is in our hands to safeguard our freedom. Victory will be our common heritage, and the basis for a new world that can finally claim its freedom, once and for all.

Daniel Álvarez is youth coordinator with the Vente Venezuela movement for liberal democracy.

Edited by Fergus Hodgson.