Towards Socialism in the 21st century
I wondered if my newfound farmer friends were “Chavistas.” Hugo Chavez’ grinning face and upthrust arm appear on almost every wall and billboard, with the words “Yes, there is a revolution!” He died in April, but like Vladimir Lenin, he seems determined to preside over his country even from the grave. His hand-picked successor’s face (Senor Maduro) also appears on election posters everywhere, even though the election took place three months ago. The slogan is canned and never varies: “I swear to you, Chavez, that I will vote for Maduro.” I heard it was a close race, but I’ve not seen one trace of the opposition. I guess there is no opposition. Meanwhile, Venezuela, after a decade of socialist government, and sitting atop fountains of petroleum, is still depressingly poor.
Venezuela languishes in the grip of socialism the way America languishes in the grip of consumerism. “The Party” dominates every public venue and every bit of the national imagination. Hugo Chavez dominates Venezuelan billboards like Taco Bell dominates billboards in the USA. Even the rarely-seen ad for a restaurant or hotel will have “we stand with Chavez” on the bottom—and his grinning face. Just when I thought I could not take one more depiction of Hugo’s grinning visage, I turned a corner and saw, painted on a wall two blocks from the convent, a sex ad. Actually, it seemed to be government promotion for Sex and Birth Control training, complete with some crude drawings (Hugo’s face did not make an appearance).
It became blazingly clear to me: birth control is all about control. Of course, we all knew that. But what I realized is that contraception is about government control. What stronger leash can the government tie around people’s throats than control of their sexual appetites? “Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power [contraception] passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law….” Who wrote that? Pope Paul VI wrote it 45 years ago, in Humanae vitae #17. For a citizenry addicted to sex-on-demand, government-sponsored birth control programs wield immense power, power to shape society into its own image and likeness. It has only to convince its citizens that birth control means that they control their sex life, when in fact folks accustomed to sex-on-demand cannot control themselves. In steps the government to help bring a little control into the situation. Soviet Russia famously did away with religious sexual disciplines and began doling out free birth control and abortion. Within a generation of state-controlled family life, society began to unravel.
The Venezuelan government’s control of its citizens is crass and obvious. Every two or three miles on the main roads cars must slow down for a “government inspection,” a quick review by scowling soldiers wielding machine guns. The U.S. government’s control of its citizens is less obvious, and less advanced, but certainly using some of the same techniques. Forcing birth control programming into national health care is certainly one of those strategies.
I don’t know whether my farmer friends are Chavistas or not. I don’t know whether they have bought into the government’s birth control plan, or whether they have kept true to their Catholic faith (I assume they are Catholic because, when I identified myself as a Catholic priest, they smiled broadly and offered me two big lemons from their trees). I don’t know whether these two farmers are still believers in God, or whether they have given up God for the government. I’ll have to ask them on my next hike, but I suspect that honest people in this beautiful country trust God, and His laws, more than Hugo Chavez’s socialist government. Let’s try to keep “In God We Trust” part of the American dream.