Hugo Chavez: Failed Messiah

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When we last heard from Clif Ross, Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship seemed to be on the brink of collapse. Months later, Nicolás Maduro has managed to cling to power throughout the blackouts and riots that have darkened a country with so much natural wealth and potential for prosperity.

Clif, a poet, film director, and former Bolivarian revolutionary, lost many of his former “comrades” when he conclusively rejected socialist ideology once it became impossible for him to ignore its failure in Venezuela. His memoir, Home from the Dark Side of Utopia: A Journey through American Revolutions, documents this conversion and was the subject of Bob’s discussion with him back in January. However, that conversation left little time to dig into the current situation in Venezuela, which is deteriorating more and more each day.

Since January, Clif published a lengthy mea culpa of sorts in Quillette, documenting how he “had drifted — at first gradually, but then definitively — into the camp of my former ‘enemies,’ persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes.”

The article was publicized by Jordan Peterson and others whose praise further eroded whatever remaining sympathies the hard-left may have had for Clif. Despite the adulation from conservatives and libertarians, Clif remains an independent thinker who won’t be pigeonholed into any ideological camp.

Neither left nor right, Clif’s worldview is rooted in more nuanced theological and philosophical ideas. He subscribes to Thomas Sowell’s view, laid out in The Vision of the Anointed, which pits the unconstrained, or utopian worldview against the constrained, or tragic worldview. The latter assumes that people behave in their self interest, and that governments should not be too ambitious in trying to change human nature.

Clif returns to the show this Sunday with producer and guest host Charlie Deist to pick up where he left off, discussing the similarities between Bolivarian socialism and other versions of “Apocalyptic Utopian Messianic Millenarianism (AUMM)” seen throughout history.

When the tragedy in Venezuela is viewed through the lens of mankind’s religious yearnings, Hugo Chavez emerges as a kind of false messiah — one anointed by himself and his followers to usher in heaven on Earth (paging Dr. Muravchik). When the ailing Chavez failed to bring about the promised socialist utopia, he hand-picked Nicolas Maduro as his replacement in an alternative form of apostolic succession. The remaining true believers are scrambling to resuscitate the failing revolution, accusing the opposition leader John Guiado of being a puppet of U.S. imperialists, and calling the popular protests an illegimate coup.

Charlie and Clif discuss the “synoptic delusion” of socialist dictators, which leads them to believe they can steer markets and society through centralized control.

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