The fates put me in front of a television at the exact time Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was addressing the United Nations. Live and personal, Chavez took it to Presidente Bush in a history making speech. I was in awe.
Holding a copy of Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States by Noam Chomsky, Hugo Chavez recommended the gathered assembly of world representatives read "…an excellent book to help us understand what has been happening in the world throughout the 20th century, and what's happening now, and the greatest threat looming over our planet."
Chavez also suggested "…the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is right in their own house."
I read Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival in hardback, and agree with the educated assessment of President Chavez. Every American and, more importantly, every Californian should read Hegemony or Survival. Like Jared Diamond's Collapse, and Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, Hegemony will change the way readers view the world.
The most criticized part of the Venezuelan presidents speech was his repeatedly referring to George W. Bush as the devil. "…from this rostrum, the President of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world."
Where I agreed with Hugo on the intent and content of 95% of his remarks, I would be the first to admit, George W. Bush is not the devil.
A simple-minded corporatist? Maybe. But certainly not the devil. The devil is a mythical fabrication. George W. Bush, and the corporate capitalist hegemony promoted by his administration are very real, and should not be trivialized with bad metaphor.
Chavez was wrong to play the devil guard. Undermining the validity of rest of his comments, calling Bush the devil only served to mar the diplomatic impact of his otherwise well reasoned statements.
Chavez was right to denounce U.S. imperialism and the use of military force to advance America dominance around the world. He was also right in acknowledging the impotence of the United Nations to check American aggression. President Chavez also correctly cited "The hegemonic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species."
The devil is the details, not the Dubya.
Californians would be wise to separate the message from the messenger. Californians would also be wise to pay attention to the message within the message. The world is changing, and the United States is no longer viewed as a benevolent superpower. Was anyone surprised by what Chavez said? Of course not.
A clever statesman, Hugo Chavez, made history by stealing the media focus away from George W. Bush, and his latest boogeyman Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Using the same style as the devil he denounced, Chavez called Bush out. Perhaps that was his goal all along.
The wit of "it smells of sulfur still today" was rhetoric well spent, because history was listening even if George Bush's America doesn't. The Chavez speech is now part of the Bush legacy, so much so, I'm sure he will get his own room at the Presidential library in Crawford.