A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Richard III and Hugo Chavez


At the start of Richard the III, he's still just plain Richard, though he's a step closer to the throne than he was before, having killed the last king, Henry VI, with his own knife at the end of the preceding play (Henry VI Part 3). That act brought to a close the War of the Roses, successfully for the York partisans, ushering in a long hoped for era of civil peace.

But Richard's murder of Henry VI has made not Richard but Richard's brother Edward king, with, indeed, another brother and a couple of children still ahead of him in line. Well, I became impatient this holiday weekend when the car ahead of me in a left turn lane stalled out – twice – each time the little green arrow became illuminated. So it's not as if we can't relate to Richard's impatience. But what Richard is impatient with is peacetime, pleasure and prosperity (son of York refers to Edward – making that a pun on the word "son"; loured means scowled; arms refers to weapons; measures means dances):

Rich: "Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this son of York,
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures."

Prime Minister Hugo Chavez of Venezuela doesn't much like peacetime either, and has been picking a fight with Presidente Fox of Mexico in recent months. He recently succeeded in scuttling a Latin American summit on trade, and reports are now emerging that he is using his $50 billion dollars in annual oil revenue to finance further steps down the road he has already chosen, a road that opposes not only free trade but also press and other freedoms and ultimately, perhaps, Venezuelan self-government.

Indeed, Venezuelan involvement in domestic Mexican affairs, starting with the rumored funding of Silva de Lula, the leftist opposition candidate, and expanding to espionage and even weapons purchases within Mexico, are documented in a lengthy recent report. One detail that is both frightening and bizarre is that Chavez's private security detail is made up entirely of Cubans. Moreover, the main opposition party has just withdrawn from participation in upcoming elections, based on its recognition of fraud instituted by the regime. I will let Richard's complaint about his physical "deformity" (but we properly say limitations today) stand in for Chavez's moral deformity:

Rich: "But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;
I that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wonton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them –"

The holocausts of the 20th century have burdened us with a knowledge of the pattern of effects that follows when an entire society falls prey to an evil regime. Up until the 1930's, thoughtful men and women in civilized societies could be excused for not recognizing exactly what it meant to have large Russian estates and small Ukrainian farms "collectivized" by force, or to have Kristallnacht or the fall of the Reichstag occur in Germany. Never before had evil men had at their disposal the full might of a modern, industrial bureaucratic state.

But we do know now. We have seen before the steps that Chavez is taking today in Venezuela (and Mugabe in Zimbabwe; deserving of its own future bardseye post). We have seen before the step-by-step moral regression, taken like a series of stiff drinks to prepare a regime to perform that which perhaps was unconsciously intended all along.

"And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days..."

And with this added knowledge comes added responsibility. I gave thanks on this Thanksgiving for the long list of freedoms that are granted to me in this society, a list that the greediest child - if he were a freedom-loving rather than a toy-loving child - would blush to show Santa. That in many societies such freedoms remain unknown is somber news enough, but to see emerging freedoms in emerging societies suffocated like Richard's two young nephews in Act 4 is far more humbling for a world that should be pledged to moral advancement. I will end with Richard and Chavez announcing their plans to divide the emerging Latin American democracies from the global opportunities that await them (We will let Clarence and the King stands for Latin America and the World):

"Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophesies, libels, and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the King
in deadly hate the one upon the other...".

P.S.: Here a recommendable post from the always recommendable polliticalteen.

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