CARACAS, Saturday January 26, 2013 | Update
INTERVIEW | Roberto de Vries, psychiatrist

De Vries: Opposition failed to prove that 45% is no peanuts

"Dissenters let their rival overwhelm them"

The psychiatrist advises Chavezism that if it is to remain, it ought to seduce the excluded majority (Photo: Oswer Díaz Mirelles)
Saturday January 26, 2013  12:00 AM
Psychiatrist Roberto De Vries is afraid that a socialist-communist model will hardly succeed in a hedonist society. Natural differences further complicate the predominance of the group over the individual.

- The Venezuelan government tries to strengthen, based on propaganda, the pretension that all of us are happy here, no matter violence and lack of public services. Propaganda aired on state-run TV channel VTV and posted on billboards is based on international studies.

- The quest of supreme happiness forms part the blueprint of President Hugo Chávez; that is not reprehensible.  What is the happiness they want should be conceptualized though.  (...) For me, what those studies measure is that Venezuelans are pleasant and joyful. However, based on my research, not even 60% can define the meaning of happiness. In default of a definition, how can they feel such happiness?

- So, who are Venezuelans?

- Venezuelans are fun, drinking and sex –a mixture of pleasures and joy. We celebrate. Venezuelans love to celebrate, yet they are not necessarily happy.

- Is socialism feasible in a society with individuals who define themselves based on pleasure?

- Utopian socialism and any such kind of theories have failed because human beings are unique and unrepeatable; otherwise we would become ants; I do not to want to be an ant.

- This, for some would be counter-revolutionary, because the premise is to erase individualism for the sake of collective happiness.

- Every time I see a mall and the people we are, I ask to myself: Is this society prone to such a scheme? This means full repression of individualism, and a longed-for freedom stems from there. As a matter of fact, humans are biological, psycho-emotional and socio-cultural beings. Because of that very nature, one wonders if that system has any sense.

- In Venezuela, "I am better than you" is predominant.

- Whenever you have psychological processes involving low self-esteem, there is an expression of over-esteem; taking a defensive stance for nobody to dig into me. So, I demonstrate, instead of showing.  There is a very vulnerable self-esteem here. This results in over-esteem and, from that, domination.  I demean the other one because he/she threatens my value. (...) We outlined a psychological map that changed last year. A new Venezuelan from the psychological viewpoint has emerged after more than 20 years.

- Who are we now?

- Regarding assets, we used to be attractive, nice and pleasant. This changed last year. Now we are entrepreneurial, smart and adaptable. Shortcomings include short memory, low dependability and low perseverance. Add to this low tolerance, which is the inability to share with others. A combination of assets and shortcomings will produce a Venezuelan consistent with a psychological stage of our theory: a selfish, egocentric Venezuelan, a person 20-30 years old; the United Nations call it the generational bonus. Venezuela is a country of young adults. Whatever the ideology, we must realize that this is a good timing to develop and go ahead.

- Is the new man selfish and egocentric?

- New Venezuelans are selfish and egocentric, self-centered. Good news is that they have become entrepreneurial and the country's way to development probably resides there. Either a leadership of Chávez, or (Vice-President Nicolás) Maduro, or (Congress Speaker Diosdado) Cabello, or whoever for the opposition, they should understand that Venezuelans are in a stage of entrepreneurship.

- Is it submission or prudence the fact that the opposition refrained from marching on January 23 (the day that marks the end of the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez in 1958)?

- The opposition had high expectation of winning on October 7 (the Election Day of the Venezuelan president) and lost. The opposition lost, yet with 45%. Deception propped up and they (dissenters) behave like a child in refusing to vote on December 16 (the day of the gubernatorial election). Defeat in 20 states occurred and failures are paralyzing. I think that no leadership was established to show, for instance, that 45% is no peanuts; it is not a majority prevailing over a minority, but two majorities. There was a failure here. In my opinion, leadership was mismanaged. There is a struggle for power and that struggle makes you feel a loser without a superb self-esteem. The opposition has not realized that it comprises 45% of Venezuelans and lets its foe overwhelm it.

- It is a tough struggle given the foe's characteristic features...

- A struggle between a majority that feels included and another majority that fees excluded -the opposition- takes place here. (...) Chavezism has two choices: either seducing the excluded majority, which they are not doing, or, following suit with President Chávez, seeking to keep a polarized country, an outspoken opposition. The opposition, for its part, has the choice of reinforcing political parties by way of a confederation of parties or blocs. Five million people committed to parties could make the difference in the country.

Translated by Conchita Delgado
Is protest over?

That political protest in Venezuela has lost momentum seems pretty obvious: people are no longer building barricades to block off streets near Plaza Francia in Altamira (eastern Caracas), an anti-government stronghold; no new images have been shown of brave and dashing protesters with bandanna-covered faces clashing with the National Guard in San Cristóbal, in the western state of Táchira; and those who dreamed of a horde of "Gochos" (Tachirans) descending  in an avalanche to stir up revolt in Caracas have been left with no option but to wake up to reality.

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