Monday, July 30, 2012

Guns, cinema and politics

Sometimes life just comes up and slaps you in the face with irony doesn’t it? Unfortunately this week that slap  reverberated  around  a Colorado cinema at about midnight, where, tragically, a lone gunman opened fire on an unsuspecting audience watching the latest Batman film. Where is the irony in this incredibly regrettable event, I hear you scream? Well, let me explain.

The neoliberal governments never tire of telling the world how dangerous Venezuela is. Be it through their mouthpieces in the Human Watch Committees, the UN, the capitalist press, or directly through Hilary Clinton, Alvaro Uribe, or Mitt Romney. The British neoliberal government even warns off tourists in their “advice to travelers” in their Foreign Office website, which uses the words “drug traffickers”, “illegal armed groups” “risk of kidnapping” and “criminal activity” all in just the first bullet point.

This political propaganda, which is not without its own, particular, destabilizing motive, is repeated and sensationalized by their puppets here in Venezuela: by Capriles, Globovision, or El Nacional newspaper. Like magicians producing rabbits from their imperialist top hats, they show off unproven statistics  to  the  world,  of  murders, rapes, express kidnappings, prison riots, and robberies, of how you are more likely to be shot here than in Afghanistan or Palestine or Iraq. At their local meetings all they talk about is “so and so” who knew “so and so” who maybe knew “so and so” who saw a man get shot. It is implanted into their minds. Isn’t Venezuela so very dangerous!  It  must  be  Chavez’s  fault, they conclude.

Violent crime is something which has been openly and publically recognized by the selfcritical Chavez and his government as a problem which is yet to be solved. Without conceding that the problem is as big as the opposition’s myths and spin makes it seem, Chavez has recognized it in its cultural and historical context. After providing comprehensive solutions to the health, education, university, economic, alimentary, productive, and agricultural problems faced by the country in 1998, the Revolution has failed, for now, to resolve the gun crime problem, which has elevated itself to be a key issue in the upcoming elections. This is why we have seen such dramatic changes in the last year on this issue.

Venezuela is well on its way to completely disarming the entire civilian population. A recent disarmament law closed all commercial gun shops, and centralized military and police gun contracts under the Interior  Ministry’s  control.  Since 2003, 280,725 guns have been decommissioned or destroyed, and high profile actors and sportspersons are being used to promote educational campaigns against gun ownership, which  can be seen on all the TV channels and in numerous public places, such as on the Metro of Caracas. This is complemented by reform of the prisons, of the police forces, and the judicial system. It is only a matter of time before arms which are still held with a valid permit are declared illegal too, as the socialist government pushes towards a society where law enforcers are the only ones armed.

In the US, which is yet again mourning the victims of a seemingly random shooting in a public place, gun ownership is not just legal, but considered a fundamental right, especially in the south, and is enshrined in the Constitution. Apart from a police background check, there are very few checks done, and the sale of guns is often instantaneous. Forty-nine of the 50 states have some sort of law allowing concealed weapons to be carried in public. In 2007 there were 31,224 firearm related deaths, and 75,684 nonfatal gunshot injures reported in 2000.

Eleven armed assassination attempts on US Presidents, and recent tragedies such as the Columbine School massacre (1999, 13 dead, 24 injured), the Beltway Sniper attacks on a highway (2002, 10 dead, 3 wounded), the Virginia Massacre in a technological institute (2007, 32 dead 17 wounded), and the Tucson shootings in a parking lot (2011, 6 dead, 13 injured)  only  go  to  prove  the problems of such a liberal gun policy in such a violent country. In Colorado State, gun controls have amazingly been loosened since the tragedy of Columbine.

However, gun controls alone don’t eradicate violent crime. A gun doesn’t fire itself. It is a point which is recognized by Freddy Bernal, President of the Presidential Mixed Commission For Arms and Munitions Controls in Venezuela: “the new (disarmament) law won’t resolve on its own the problem of the criminality and violence”.  He  went  on  to  state that “a law isn’t a magic wand, but that the complex problem of criminality and violence is being taken on by important forces in government”.

Social exclusion, paranoia, desperation, a bunker mentality, a “dog eat dog” society, and the inability to solve personal issues, are all complemented by the promotion and glorifi-cation  of  violence  in  the  media, soap operas, music, video games, hunting, and other cultural aspects more commonly associated with capitalist rather than socialist societies. As Rod Dreher, senior editor at The American Conservative puts it: “Evil or insane people will always find a way around the laws. The idea that stronger anti-gun laws would meaningfully discourage thugs in the US inner cities from acquiring and using weapons is risible”.

Mr  Dreher  goes  on  to  explain how “guns are inextricably woven into the American psyche”, which leads us back to  the  irony.  It  is  wretchedly ironic that US authorities, consistently criticizing Venezuela for its gun crime levels, are unable to address their own gun crime problems which have been painfully highlighted this week. The inability of neoliberals to recognize the huge advances being made against gun crime in Venezuela are ironic, and they only show their lack of commitment to do the same and protect their citizens in their countries.

Yet again, Venezuela is posing a dangerous threat to the USA, the threat of the threat of setting a
good example