Venezuela: Politics From the Toilet

I have to admit the title seems misleading, kinda like politics. I am not writing this from one of the main “chairs” of my house. We’ll need another article for that.

The topic that I wanted to bring to the table, or to the toilet, is that of politics. How come? Well, politics are now what we have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Venezuela. It is almost impossible to say hello to someone in the elevator without mentioning how they are doing in the middle of this political and economic battle. We do not talk about the weather anymore; we talk about Maduro, about Diosdado, and about the Constituyente. We talk about leaving the country, about having two or three jobs, about how expensive such and such is.

I do remember my parents used to say that Chavez got everybody talking about politics and before him, nothing was interesting enough to be mentioned. Now we do not know how to talk about anything else but.
.

Any Topic = Politics

You are buying something at the corner store; POS is quite slow nowadays. The owner starts telling you how banks don’t work anymore. Ever since the government started touching them they just don’t work properly, it is like the myth of King Midas and his golden touch, but instead of gold, we get shit.

You are playing a board game in which you have to mention three things under the selected category. “Name 3 brands of toilet paper” is the task. Somebody mentions that you may not know the answer because it’s been a long time since we had different brands of the same product in the country. Toilet paper especially has been missing from the supermarkets so many times you do not remember the labels anymore.

You are cooking and picking a plantain to slice and fry. It is not maduro (ripe) yet. Your mom yells she wants nothing to do with that word in her house, she laughs and at the same time tells you to cook that green plantain anyways.

The Throne of Politics

The doors of public toilets have always been a great place for messages, love stories, sex ads and more. Texts and drawings crawl from the lower corners of the door and reach the top; they are endlessly trying to conquer that spot in the center where the user gazes when doing his or her business.

In our toilets there are thousands of messages, politics included. A few years ago the notes were about how great Chavez and how beautiful the revolution was. Long texts about feeling patriotic and “recovering” the motherland from the hands of the powerful. But now, the same doors tell you a very different story.

People are sad about what happened; they want to leave the country, they curse the day all this started. Others reply, they are grateful the other one is leaving, “people like you don’t deserve this country”. They attack each other over the idea of leaving, For some, it is an act of cowardice and treason, for others, it’s bravery that moves them away.

There are still love stories, heartbreak stories, and some humor. But politics have taken some space even in the weirdest places, the door of a public toilet at a university. I have talked to some male friends, and they tell me their doors are still a place for fun and sex jokes, no politics. What is it then that lead women to write all these political comments on their toilet doors? There may be another article about this issue alone.

Breaking Bonds Through Politics

There are family members and friends that don’t talk to each other because of politics. Some people split up, some people divorce, some others stay together but fight all the time. I know of a wife who wished her husband to die when he could not find the medicines he needed, she said that since he voted for this government to rule, he should face the consequences and die. I still want to believe she did not mean that.

The thing is that there is no neutral point of view right now. If you are not against the government, you are with them. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke). The incredible detail here is that both, pro-government and anti-government groups, firmly and sincerely believe the other one is the evil side.

So, if you want to keep a friend, don’t talk about politics unless you know they are “on your side”. If you want to spice up a conversation, talk about politics and set everything on fire. If you want to be exiled from your in-law’s house, talk about politics. If you want to be taken as a selfish person, don’t talk about politics. Does this look confusing? It is.

And if you want to talk about politics anonymously, write on the door of a public toilet.

About Isabel Matos

Isabel is a Venezuelan translator that struggles to find a voice and to prosper in today’s political turmoil and tension. She is also an undergraduate English teacher and is currently pursuing a Master’s in English as a Foreign Language. Translator, teacher and always student, she is interested in how language shapes reality and how women and men negotiate power through discourse.

All Articles