The moon is blue, so I shall defend a socialist prestige cultural project. East Germany had its shotputters, the USSR its grand masters of chess, Venezuela has “El Sistema” – a much lauded system of musical education. Now, however, there is a discordant note:
Author exposes ‘tyranny’ behind musical miracle for poor children
Over 40 years, El Sistema, Venezuela’s music education system, has given a million children the opportunity to play in an orchestra, enriching, they say, the lives of youngsters from the barrios.
Its methods have been emulated in 60 countries, notably Scotland, where a Sistema-style operation was pioneered on a tough housing estate in Stirling with support from the classical violinist Nicola Benedetti.
The mood music has changed, however, with the publication of El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, by Geoffrey Baker.
Aghast at the book’s claims of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism within Venezuela, a Conservative politician has questioned whether El Sistema should extend its reach any further. Yesterday, Alex Johnstone, MSP for North East Scotland, said that plans for a Sistema orchestra in Dundee must be halted while the claims are investigated.
“This book gives the impression that the system is much more authoritarian and intolerant than some were letting on,” said Mr Johnstone. “Not so much a new idea, as back to the Victorian habits of teaching piano by rapping them across the knuckles.”
Corruption, mismanagement and nepotism in a socialist show project would astound me only by their absence. But authoritarianism is the norm when teaching children to play musical instruments the world over, and has been since forever. The exception is the namby-pamby modern Western middle classes, and not all of them. The common opinion of that portion of mankind that gives music lessons or pays for them is that you won’t be going anywhere until you have done your quota of scales, sweetums, and if your name is Wei or Xiuying, these days that quota is likely to be big.
Do not misunderstand me. I like namby pamby. I’ve been uncomfortable with compulsion in education for decades now, and if not convinced that it can be dispensed with altogether for the very youngest children, am certainly convinced that it can be phased out at a far younger age than most people think. In most contexts I am convinced that education without force is immeasurably better education.
But how do you get them to practise – or don’t you? Given that it takes unfailing hours of daily practice to make a great player, and that for most instruments the great players invariably start young, would the price of freeing children from the slavery of music practice be no more great classical musicians? If so, would it be worth it?
Progressive Venezuela has rediscovered the benefits of Emperor worship:
“Venezuelan Socialists rewrite Lord’s Prayer: ‘Our Chavez, who art in heaven'”
No doubt, like Claudius, the Divine Hugo will be worshipped by the more gullible among the British tribesmen. As Seneca wrote in the Apocolocyntosis,
Is it not enough that he has a temple in Britain, that savages worship him and pray to him as a god, so that they may find a fool to have mercy upon them?”
Venezuela enters the high farce stage of its development.
In a move that will no doubt help further the Venezuelan government’s aim of establishing a socialist utopian republic, President Nicolas Maduro announced this week that grocery stores will soon begin the mandatory fingerprinting of customers. The peculiar initiative, which could be implemented by the end of the year, is meant to help combat the hoarding and smuggling of government-subsidized goods.
Is this not truly epic? Is not socialism stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?
Raúl Castro’s daughter first lawmaker to vote ‘no’ in Cuban parliament.
Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, has given an unprecedented “no” vote in the Cuban parliament to a workers’ rights bill she felt didn’t go far enough to prevent discrimination against people with HIV or with unconventional gender identities.
None of the experts contacted by Associated Press could recall another “no” vote in the 612-seat national assembly, which meets briefly twice a year and usually approves laws by a unanimous show of hands.
One pretty hand among that multitude could safely, even profitably, remain at rest.
Let me get this straight. The World Cup is being held in Brazil. Prior to this tournament there was a ban on consumption of alcohol inside stadia in Brazil, but FIFA insisted that the ban be overturned because one of their sponsors is a brand of beer and their contractual relationship with the brewer of this beer required that it be on sale inside the stadia during the World Cup. Fans at these matches have apparently been buying this beer and getting unbelievably drunk. The impressive cogitative processes operating in the brains of senior FIFA officials are now just starting to deduce that there might have been a reason for this ban in the first place.
Soon, Russia is authoritarian and corrupt. Also, it is hot in Qatar in summer.
… Wrongly, for Castro is no Louis le bien aimé. The French royal personage whose mode of life was closest to that of Comrade Fidel before senility overtook him was Marie Antoinette, who played at being a milkmaid and a shepherdess in the Queen’s Hamlet built for her in the gardens of Le Petit Trianon. As the Queen found refuge from the demands of court life by milking cows into buckets of Sèvres porcelain in the company of her dear friend and confidante the Princesse de Lamballe, so the First Secretary
“enjoyed a private island, Cayo Piedra, south of the Bay of Pigs, scene of the failed CIA-sponsored invasion of 1961 . . . a “garden of Eden” where he entertained selected guests including the writer Gabríel Garcia Márquez, and enjoyed spear-fishing.”
Sharing that simple pleasure, they talked about books and the nature of absolute power.
I’m always curious why the killing of millions of kulaks by Communists is shrugged off as the price to be paid for the glorious socialist ideal, whereas Pinochet’s killing of thousands of avowed Marxist revolutionaries is the most eeeevil thing that ever happened.
When I was in Chile back in 2005, I asked a middle-class woman why Pinochet remained a revered political figure by all levels of Chilean society. After all, didn’t he cause the deaths of poets and folksingers? Her answer: “Those poets and folksingers owned AK-47s.”
The most confounding thing for the Left is that Pinochet was loved by common people, more so than the elitist and aloof Allende. I saw for myself that the general’s house in Montevideo (a small, modest bungalow in a working-class neighborhood) is a shrine — women passing by will make the sign of the cross, or place tiny bunches of flowers on the sidewalk in front of it. And they’re not just old women, either: they’re of all ages.
And the Chileans still drink toasts to Pinochet as “the saviour of Chile”. But of course, to the Left all these people count as much as the Russian kulaks.
– Kim du Toit, in a comment here on Samizdata.
He also maintained homes in Colombia, Barcelona and Paris and continued to keep up his friendship with Fidel Castro, who gave him the use of a villa in Havana. During García Márquez’s frequent visits to Cuba, Castro would call on him as often as twice a day; the two men went fishing together, and talked about books and the nature of absolute power.
– from the Telegraph obituary of Gabriel García Márquez
That rough diamond of the Labour party, ascended man of the people John Prescott, has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream, courtesy of a holiday to Cuba “provided by” Journey Latin America.
Rum and cola in hand, he does the online equivalent of showing the neighbours his holiday slides, by regaling the Guardian audience with a matey account of his adventures: John Prescott leaves the 21st century behind in Cuba.
He and his son, also along for the ride, had a fine old time. A moment of embarrassment over the right amount to tip provided an entertaining anecdote:
As a tourist, you must use a special tourist currency – the CCP, Cuban convertible pesos – while locals use Cuban pesos or CUP. It’s not really too hard to work out, but it did manage to get me in trouble when tipping. I left the equivalent of £15 in convertible currency for the chambermaid, who immediately threw her arms around me to express her appreciation. I then learned that she earned only £30 a month, and was suddenly fearful that the embrace might provoke comparisons to the French politician and the American maid.
Down in the comments, this fisking by ‘brituser’ fails to enter into the holiday spirit. What a grinch! I have quoted only some of it; do not on any account read the rest. Prescott is in italics, ‘brituser’ in bold.
I rarely take holidays, so the concept of the trip – to remove myself from the distractions of 21st-century life – was an attractive one.
What an interesting way of describing everyone around as incredibly poor. Would you have wished that on your constituents?
Many cities become so valuable to business that residents are pushed out of the heart of them. Here, however, people are king
In other words there’s no office jobs here. Look outside Havana and you’ll see 20% of the population working on the land in back breaking work in intense heat. Or rather you wouldn’t because you’re too exhausted from sitting on sunbed. You wouldn’t wish that on the UK population would you?
I realised I am built to rush, rush, rush, argue, argue, argue, but that’s not the mood of Cuba.
Something to do with the fact it’s a Communist dictatorship and you know if you say something you’d be rushed off to jail-no freedom of speech.
I rarely take holidays, so the concept of the trip – to remove myself from the distractions of 21st-century life – was an attractive one. It also turned out to be easily achieved
The trip was provided by Journey Latin America-Yes if was a freebie, despite the taxpayer paying a fortune in salary to you. You have registered the bribe-sorry holiday?
With another rum and cola in hand and the air full of cigar smoke,….. I felt as though I was experiencing the Cuba that I’d imagined all those years ago.
Or the UK before you banned smoking in public places. I thought it was supposed to be a health measure. Don’t you care about cuban workers and second-hand smoke?
They live life at a far more relaxed pace there, which is why it’s the perfect place for a holiday.
In other words nothing works. With my western money I can act and feel like a millionaire.
Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world. When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target’s reputation.
American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not ‘surveillance,’ it’s ‘data collection.’ They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement – where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.
– Edward Snowden
These ten quotes by Che Guevara are getting quite a mention around the blogosphere, and deservedly so.
David Thompson includes a link to them in his latest clutch of ephemera. Instapundit linked to them. And now I’m doing it here.
This is exhibit number five of the ten, picked pretty much at random, to illustrate the atmosphere of these ghastly pronouncements:
To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.
This posting is now at the top of this long list of Che Guevara postings here, but will surely sink downwards in the future, as we all continue to point out what a monster this man was.
That’s the counterintuitive thing about totalitarian systems. They herd people into Borg-like collectives, yet every individual is savagely atomized.
I never felt so alone in my life.
– Michael Totten writes about the “total surveillance police state” that is Cuba.
It isn’t “counter-intuitive” to me, and probably not to Totten either, but I guess it still is to many. I worked out long ago that totally nationalising society totally destroys society, and that the greatest freedom of a free society is the freedom to choose what company you keep, both when you work and in your time off working.