Birds and Spirits and Venezuela

April 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Not so long ago in a country torn by perennial political campaigning one of the candidates told the story of how, while praying in a small chapel, a  whistling bird flew around him three times. As he was looking at the photograph, which was nested among flowers, of the recently deceased president he understood the bird´s presence as a sign of approval – sent by the dead man´s spirit- of his intention to start campaigning for the highest office in the country. “He´s here with us now” “I knew immediately what the bird was trying to say”, emphasized seriously the candidate. The people surrounding him were listening intently. Here was a man not only sensitive enough to understand the language of birds, but also capable of transmitting further the message for the benefit of all of us. Even more, he was taking on his shoulders the responsibility of carrying on the will of the deceased hero.

Three times flew the bird around him. Like in a fairytale, realism and magic are forever intertwined in order to create a higher meaning. Is this the stuff of politics? It seems so, or at least, it seems like the present state of affairs is such that politicians or aspirants to the public sphere need to frequently resort to allusions to other worlds, spirits or evil/good dichotomies in order to explain or justify their actions (think of Bush´s “axis of evil”, Chavez “Smell of sulphur” in his famous UN speech, and so on). While such references would have raised many eyebrows, not to mention scorn in other times, the blossoming of this quasi-mystical understanding of reality seems to qualify the modern approach to the public. You may think these are just rhetorical tactics to reach the lowest common denominator in an audience, after all “intelligent” people don´t fall for these fairy tales. Maybe so. Yet, it is still unsettling that a discussion of the public should be built around these references, is this sustainable politics?

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