Óscar Reyes-Matute
Philosophy, kabbalah, screenwriting...

Exile and Redemption

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I live in a country with a dire humanitarian crisis. Around me I see hunger, death, fear, and we are ruled by a failed state.

But as a philosopher, political scientist, and above all a student of Kabbalah, I cannot avoid to compare the situation in the land where I was born, Venezuela, with my spiritual land: Israel.

In Venezuela, in the last ten years, 6 million people have emigrated. And many of my friends, academics, journalists, intellectuals, predict the end of the nation.

Since I do not see a civil war in the style of Yugoslavia, I tell them that it does not seem to me that this nation, (which generously welcomed the Jews who escaped from Germany during World War II) is going to split into microstates, let’s say, like the provinces that made us up before Independence: Maracaibo, Caracas, Angostura.

Six million emigrants! – they insist – Six million! That is enough to end any nation!

That, I tell them, is the number of Jews killed by the Nazis during the Shoah: almost half of the Jews in the entire world. There was no National State, they had no land, they only had a magic book – Jorge Luis Borges dixit – and here they are, alive, with a Nation-state that is the most powerful in the Middle East.

But will Venezuelans have the resilience that Jews have shown for millennia against all the empires that have seen the sun under the earth?

This is a local question, but it is also a global one: can nations with authoritarian governments collapse if their population desperately flees towards the political economic centers of prosperity like the USA and the EU? What is remaining of their identities, of their languages, of their split families?

Translated to Venezuela, these questions are of the type: Will Venezuela disappear, like Yugoslavia? Will those six million exiles gradually cease to be Venezuelans, and also their children and grandchildren? Who are the Venezuelans, the outsiders or the insiders? What do they have in common? What will they be like in twenty years? What would a post-apocalyptic Venezuela look like?

Sociologists and political scientists gain likes arguing that the republic has been destroyed. And that is very serious (I mean “being for gain likes”, of course), but from another point of view, the answer is another question: How many republics have we built on this territory and with this people?

Praphrasing Ecclesiastes, everything is vanity, Republics go, Republics come, but the earth remains forever.

I do not know if we should continue to think that the institutional building is equal to a nation, or a people. Perhaps a certain institutional building has helped us to become what we are, and another one has destroyed what we value most in economic, social and political life, shifting the benefits of the model to another sector, another neighborhood, or towards a government accused of trading arms with Iran and harboring Hezbollah leaders.

But when seeing an institutional building in front of another one in a diachronic way, we realize that they are contingent. Since the colony, from Bolívar and Páez, there have been dozens of institutional buildings in Venezuela.

When I took the account years ago during my academic exercise at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, we had an average of one Constitution every seven years from Independence, from 1811 of the CE, to 2000 of the CE, with the current one.

Already in 2021 of the CE we have a deficit of three Constitutions to maintain our historical rhythm of political legal production.

Constitutions, for us, are like parliamentary governments in Israel or England, they rarely last a decade.

In other words, the institutional building is very important, but it is not everything. How do peoples survive despite these catastrophes?

We Venezuelans, from what shall we support ourselves as a people? Starting from our favorite dish, arepas, and because we are cool, bold and enterprising people?

Every emigrant, Mexican or North African, is one, or dies. If he or she emigrates, it is because he is audacious, it is an impeccable syllogism, unless she is kidnapped by a prostitution mob at one mall in Las Mercedes, Caracas, and that is certainly against her will.

Will language and identity hold us together, like the written Hebrew for the Jews?

Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world after Mandrin Chinese, but I’m not so sure.

Will we stop speaking that Spanish that enchants those who hear it for the first time in a soap opera? Assuming soap operas will be made again someday in Venezuela. I would love that, it would be a possible source of work for me as a screenwriter, but …

I have a friend in Petak Tikva, Idit Kazez, in whose family Ladino was still spoken, and to support it, she watched Venezuelan soap operas in Spanish. And before the brutal emigration of the last years, you went to Spain and they adored our accent, so soft and melodious.

Nowadays it is a dangerous accent, if they hear it in Colombia or Peru, they can lynch you. Those are countries to which we brought the Independence of Spain, to which Bolívar liberated in the XIXth Century, and whose migrant populations came to this land in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

In those years, they were fleeing from the communist guerrillas, the paramilitaries, the drug lords war, the poverty, and we received them with open arms.

My father, old Jorge Reyes, is an example of that. He came to Venezuela as a modest printer from Cúcuta in the mid-50s, and built a family in which bread and education never lacked.

I believe that Spanish will serve us in what remain of Venezuela after the flood. We’ll continue speaking an increasingly poor Spanish -it is not our privilege, the same happens in Mexico and Spain- due to the illiteracy of the new generations and the preponderance of English.

But, will Spanish be useful to us in Australia? It will be the language of David Alejandro’s parents, who has just been born there, or perhaps the forgotten language of his daughter Anthea’s grandparents. She will be born in Brisbane, in 2050. It will be like Ladino in the mid-16th century in a Sephardic family emigrated to London.

Rome, Macedonia, Persia, Egypt, the Third Reich and the USSR, have disappeared.

What makes us believe that it will be different with us?

However, my spiritual great-grandfather, Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), already said something about the last century:

“Hence, I hereby propose to the House of Israel to say to our troubles, “Enough!” and at the very least, make a human calculation regarding these adventures that they have inflicted us time and time again, and here in our country, as well. We wish to start our own policy, as we have no hope of clutching at the ground as a nation…” (Baal HaSulam, Exile and Redemption) (1)

The flood lasted 40 days. After that, when the rainbow appeared, a new covenant was sealed with Noah: The earth and Humanity would never again be exterminated, at least not by the hand of the Creator. If we do it by ourselves, that’s another thing.

The Abraham, the Moses, the Ben Gurion would come later to turn that pact into a new Nation.

I am sure that the Venezuelan Moses and Ben-Gurion are already walking on this land, more relaxed and lighter than the Jewish Patriarchs, and that from the exile we will reach the redemption.


About the Author
Óscar Reyes-Matute (Matu / מאתו), lives in Caracas. He's a philosopher graduated at Andrés Bello Catholic University, with a Master in Political Science at USB. He has been Fulbright Visiting Scholar at NYU on American Studies, and professor of political philosophy at UCAB and UCV. He has published academic papers in universities of Venezuela and Europe, and articles in several newspapers. Since 2008, he is dedicated to study Kabbalah at the Bnei Baruch Institute in Petaj Tikva with Michael Laitman, while works as writer of cinema and television screenplays. He's liryc tenor. Be aware, after a glass of wine, he suddenly can start to sing "Nessun Dorma!"
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