Tuesday, May 22, 2007
In an irony so blatant only generations of "Progressive" education could hide it from the general public, Hugo Chavez -- the man who has essentially transformed Venezuela into a giant plantation -- is backing a film about Toussaint Louverture, who led an 18th-century slave revolt in Haiti.
President Hugo Chavez hoping the historical epic will sprinkle Hollywood stardust on his effort to mobilise world public opinion against imperialism and western oppression.To summarize: A studio operated with funds expropriated from Venezuelans will make a film about a man who joined a slave rebellion -- in the name of rousing world opinion against the only civilization in human history, the West, to have abolished slavery!
The project could mark a breakthrough for Villa del Cine, a new government-funded studio outside the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, which is part of Mr Chavez's effort to combat what he sees as American cultural hegemony.
Toussaint Louverture is a towering figure in the region's history. A freed slave of African descent, he led thousands of slaves in successful campaigns against British, Spanish and French troops before being betrayed, captured and exiled. He died in 1803, just before his followers succeeded in establishing the island's independence. William Wordsworth wrote a sonnet about him.
Glover said he wanted to educate the US about the story. "It's been essentially wiped out of our historic memory, it's been wiped clean." [bold added]
To top that off, the black American director who plans to help him is not just oblivious to the irony, but is showing through his own actions so far that something more fundamental than Louverture's story has been "wiped clean" from our "historic memory": the difference between freedom and slavery.
It may be true that most Americans do not know about Toussaint Louverture, but I would wager that just as many are unaware that it was largely through the efforts of the British Empire during the nineteenth century that slavery -- a nearly universal practice all the way up to that time -- was essentially abolished throughout the globe. Andrew Bernstein makes just this point in The Capitalist Manifesto:
The capitalist countries, under the self-same liberal principles that had given rise to their systems of political/economic freedom, led the global campaign against slavery. Britain, one of the world leaders in implementing laissez-faire principles during the early 19th century, conducted a global campaign to first stamp out the vile trafficking in human flesh and then to wipe out the institution of slavery itself. "The impetus for the destruction of slavery came ... from a moral revulsion against slavery which began in the late eighteenth century..." Religion was not unique to the 18th century. The Enlightenment was. (269) [bold added]The notion that the story of Louverture's struggle for freedom is somehow an indictment of the West is possible only by a massive dropping of context, including not just that it was the West that abolished slavery in the first place, but that there are some, like Chavez, who want to bring it back, only calling it "freedom" this time.
Yes. Slavery was once practiced in the West, but this was a massive contradiction to the Enlightenment principle that men should enjoy the freedom to pursue their own happiness. In fact, it was eventually this better principle that won out.
Far from helping us to remember this important aspect of our history, Chavez would prefer, in a sense, to re-enslave Louverture in the service of his desire to promote the fiction that slavery -- and not freedom -- is the defining attribute of western civilization and that, by implication, the universal slavery of socialism -- in the forms of massive theft, censorship, and oppression -- somehow represents freedom.
Whatever the merits of this film, Chavez hopes to confiscate them in the service of his own anti-freedom crusade just as any past slave master would take the fruits of others for his own enrichment. The circumstances of this film's production represent a grave injustice to every slave who has ever fought to break his bonds, and to everyone in the West who worked tirelessly and sometimes against overwhelming odds to end slavery.
What would Danny Glover call someone who yanked a piece of black history out of its context for the express purpose of distracting people from the vital lesson it could teach everyone about freedom? "Uncle Tom" would be too good for such a person. And yet, this is precisely what he is about to help Hugo Chavez accomplish. Look in the mirror, Mr. Glover. And then tell the slave-driver who likes to be called "el comandante" to put down his whip or go to hell.
Today: (1) Minor edits. (2) Corrected a factual error.