April 21, 2018

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

Source: Bigstock

His constant appeal was to resentment, the most sustainable of all emotions (it can last a lifetime and, being easily transferred, is heritable). Barrera in his novel certainly does not pretend that Venezuela was some kind of paradise before the advent of Chávez, with its abyssal difference between the rich or even moderately well-off and the poor, or with no reason for anyone to be discontented. But Chávez’s resentful charlatanry, his patent medicine salesmanship of quick political and economic solutions, was a disaster for his country from which it will take generations to recover.

Resentment is an emotion that is much underestimated in importance. It is what makes the world go round; or rather, it is what makes people try to stop it going round. There are certain sour advantages in, or rewards for, it. Resentment allows a satisfying and complete explanation in advance of all your failures, the comforting thought that personal effort is pointless or superfluous because the world is so unjust that nothing you do can make any difference to your situation, for which you are therefore not responsible in the slightest. You can therefore do nothing while feeling morally superior to the world as a whole. I doubt that there is anyone who has never experienced or been tempted by resentment.

Unfortunately, it also promotes a special (and worst) kind of fatalism, namely fatalism without acceptance or contentment. I have nothing against fatalism; it is sometimes very necessary and even virtuous. But fatalism without acceptance of fate is a terrible state of mind.

Resentment is also the nourishing broth in which demagogues like Castro and Chávez grow and thrive. The worse they make the situation, the better their explanation for it. We were right all along, see what they are doing to us! Since resentment is self-reinforcing, the demagogues are always sure of at least some support, however obvious the disaster they have wrought.

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