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Venezuela's Revolution and the Pinocchio Effect

By Gustavo Coronel

December 30, 2003 - The Pinocchio Effect is usually defined as that group of facial changes that take place in a person when he/she lies. In the story by Collodi, Pinocchio’s nose grew every time he told a lie. Medical literature has actually described physical signs of lying: blushing, nervous twitching of the nose and mouth (as in Tourette’s syndrome), increase in blood pressure and several others body changes. I think this definition of the Pinocchio Effect is a valid but incomplete interpretation of the Pinocchio tragedy. We have to ask: Why did Pinocchio resort to lying? The tale by Collodi, as it often happens in other “children’s” tales like “The Wizard of Oz,” is more a drama for adults. In the tale, Pinocchio is born without a mother, made by a “father”, not as a real child but as a wooden toy. He has no normal childhood, receives no affection and no maternal care. He is a wooden toy, which yearns to be a normal boy, in flesh and blood. To compensate for this unfulfilled yearning, Pinocchio resorts to lying. This is his real tragedy. Pinocchio is a toy desiring to be a human being.

In modern sociological terminology, Pinocchio would say today that he “feels excluded, that he does not belong, while he yearns to belong.” I think this is what the so-called venezuelan, “bolivarian,” revolution has been mostly about. This “revolution” has been an attempt at converting “wooden toys” into normal boys, excluded venezuelans into normal citizens. In this sense there would be no fault at the attempt. I would consider it a rather noble one, if it had been properly executed. But this is not what has happened. What has happened, and is currently happening, is an inept attempt at redefining who is the boy and who is the toy. Instead of trying to include the previously excluded venezuelans into a harmonious society, the “revolution” has resorted to redefining the criteria for social inclusion and exclusion on the basis of class resentment. As a result, venezuelan society is now as divided or more divided than ever before: “oligarchs” are now excluded of the revolutionary “paradise,” while the poor are decreed to be the new included. In reality, therefore, nothing positive has been accomplished. Venezuelan society remains as divided and unequal as before, with an added horrible component: Hate.

In the face of this social and political disaster, the leading Pinocchio of the “revolution” has resorted to lie on a systematic basis, just as the original Pinocchio resorted to lie to compensate for his tragic feeling of exclusion. It is now very easy for venezuelans to see when Chávez lies, as he talks non-stop on national TV. His mouth and nose furiously twitch, his eyes no longer look at the audience, and his voice swings up and down in synchrony with his lies.

In Chávez, both sides of the Pinocchio Effect are evident. The story of this venezuelan Pinocchio, however, is not one for children but a horror story that not even Stephen King could have dreamt of.

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