From mansplaining to Venezuela-explaining, a quick essay on how to avoid acting like an asshole
First: the point of this essay is (beyond any political position) to state that any person with an outside perspective on something (like some country’s politics while living in another country) explaining to an inside person (who lives inside the country the outsider is blabbing about) why they’re wrong about their own posture on the face of their own reality is, in fact, acting like an asshole.
If you’re interested in this particular subject, please keep reading. If not, here’s a link to some kittens pictures. Let’s start with some basic definitions: according to UrbanDictionary.com, a mansplainer is often defined as
“ A man whom by virtue of the authority and privilege vested in him by society feels entitled to preach or explain how the world works. Bonus, if he is speaking to women, whom he perceives to be naive and ignorant, about problems and concerns with which women have real life-every day experience, and the man has NO fucking clue what he is talking about. This is usually done in a patronizing insensitive manner. “
In a cultural parallel, an outside-explainer and a Venezuela-explainer are people who live outside Venezuela and feel entitled to explain what’s happening inside the country. Bonus, if they are speaking to Venezuelans whom they perceive to be ignorant, about problems and concerns with which Venezuelans have real life-every day experience, and the outsider has NO fucking clue what they are talking about. This is usually done in a confrontational manner through social media.
How can we identify an outside-explainer and particularly a Venezuela-explainer?
Outside-explainers are people who:
- Live outside a particular context, or situation, yet claim expertise on it without ever having been inside it.
- May have visited that context under special conditions. They later use that limited experience along with second-hand information (such as statistics, reports, and news) to claim absolute knowledge and state their opinion as absolute truth.
- Make assumptions about the people that are actually inside the context they claim expertise over.
- Wave those assumptions as arguments to disqualify people inside the context whose inside-views contradict the outsider’s opinions.
- Tell people inside said context they don’t know what they’re talking about. To alter claim they know more than them.
Venezuela-explainers are a subgroup of the outside-explainers. They claim expertise over the current Venezuela socio-political situation even though:
- They currently don’t live in Venezuela.
- They may have visited Venezuela with come frequency in the best of cases. Or they may have visited the country sponsored by the Venezuelan Government in the worst of cases.
- They usually showcase their visits to Venezuela as undeniable proof of their knowledge. In some cases, they also use the fact they have some relatives living in the country to justify explaining others something they haven’t experienced.
- They normally support the Chavist Venezuelan Government under the flag of the international leftist movement.
- They tell every Venezuelan who calls on their outside condition (and happens to speak English a little too well to their closed-minded idea of a Venezuelan) that they’re too privileged to understand what’s really happening in Venezuela. (1)
Outside-explainers and Venezuela-explainers are, again, people engaging in general assholic behavior.
If you want to avoid this, the following practices are a quick formula on how to avoid acting like an asshole:
How to avoid acting like an asshole
- Avoid claiming expertise on things external to your prolonged direct life-experiences. Especially, if the only information you can quote is books, news, Sunday visits, statistics or a few second-hand sources.
- Approach people living inside the context of your interest (like a Latin American country politics) with honest curiosity.
- Try to not make assumptions or generalization about such people.
- Respect the insider’s view, even when it contradicts your own opinions.
Now, if you want to see some examples of how outside-explaining can make someone sound like an asshole, keep reading.
How assholic can an outside-explainer be?
Imagine there’s a woman at a public place. She’s a little bit outside the feminine woman stereotype build by the media. She has short hair, and she is wearing a t-shirt and some sweatpants. She’s talking to her friend and saying: “Oh god, period cramps are killing us women”. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a man pops up and says:
“Your period cramps can’t be killing you, women. I’m a period cramp expert. I’ve read the statistics, I’ve seen the news and in fact, I’ve been inside a woman several times. I can confirm everything pro-period cramp advocates say.”
“I even have people inside a woman and visit them often (2). Bad-mouthing the period cramps is just a way to feed the big pharma propaganda to sell us analgesics as the only viable way of pain treatment.”
“Plus, how can you even know what being a woman is more than me. You have short hair, a t-shirt and sweatpants, you must be an alienated tomboy.”
Well, it is fair to say that guy is acting like a total asshole. I hope you agree with me on this. If his attitude seems totally okay with you please stop reading this, go see some kittens.
Now, for the ones still here, let’s replace some words on this script, and see how something interesting happens. Particularly, we’ll replace -woman- with Venezuelan, and -period cramps- with Chavist Government.
Same mental exercise:
Imagine there’s a Venezuelan at a public place. He or she is a little bit outside the regular Venezuelan stereotype build by the media. He or she speaks English, is well dressed and has a well-paid job. He or she is talking with his or her friend and saying: “Oh god, the Chavist Government is killing us Venezuelans”. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a non-Venezuelan person pops up and says:
“Your Chavist Government can’t be killing you Venezuelans. I’m a Chavist Government expert. I’ve read the statistics, seen the news and in fact, I’ve been inside Venezuela several times. I can confirm everything Pro-Chavist Government advocates say”
“I even have people inside Venezuela and visit them all the time. Bad-mouthing the Chavist Government is just a way to feed the Neoliberal propaganda, to sell us Capitalism as the only viable way of social organization.”
“Plus, how can you even know what being a Venezuelan is more than me; you speak English properly, are well dressed and have a well-paid job. You must be an alienated bourgeois.” (3)
Is this person acting like an asshole? Me, Manuel:
- a somehow decent English speaker.
- properly educated.
- with a well-paid job.
- brown-skinned Venezuelan.
- who was raised in a low mid-class family on a small Venezuelan town.
- who left the country to keep sustaining my whole family.
Today, mid-October 2019, you could flip this script with: -every non-Chilean explaining the Chileans the truth about the Neoliberalist Piñera Government. -Or every non-US citizen explaining to a US-citizen the truth and Trump Politics. and it would be literally the same, an asshole thing to do.
The problem with being an explainer has little to do with the subject explained, and a lot with our personal opinions. If we don’t live or have lived inside something for most of our life, our opinion is probably a general assumption.
Historically, an outsider assuming stuff and explaining to insiders how they are wrong about their reality is an assholic thing to do that no one, except for other assholes, called for.
Where does the crave to become an outside-explainer come from?
The temptation of being an outside-explainer can be traced to the false (and self-centered) belief that being outside something, somehow gives you an elevated, impartial and holistic perspective over that particular subject (It doesn’t).
This “being outside provides a better view” idea normally brings along the certainty that statistics, books, and reports about some humans reflect reality better than the actual humans. This idea, plus thinking that rubbing against something with some regularity gives a person some sort of expertise over it, is a magical asshole-making-formula.
Sure, by gliding over something, slightly touching it and reading about it we can get a picture of it. But we’ll never truly experience it by doing that. Thus, we can’t explain this thing to someone who does.
As an alternative explanation, outside-explaining assholic behavior comes hand in hand with actively ignoring or disregarding everything that doesn’t fit a particular and partial point of view — no matter what. But that would be closer to being an actual asshole than just acting like an asshole.
To take into consideration possible extreme consequences of this position, we could make the argument that some particular situations are toxic, dangerous and should not exist. But even in these extreme cases, our outside view still can’t top the insider’s perspective relevance.
We’re not inside it, so we don’t truly know how it is inside it, period.
So please, regarding any subject: instead of explaining the insiders their reality, we should ask them kindly to explain to us their perspective. If we want, we can ask for ways to help, support or offer good old respect.
Assholism knows no politics, gender, religion or nationality
Being an outside-explainer is something that has no particular political position, skin color, gender, nationality or religion. Outside-explainers first decide to be assholes and then pick something to outside-explain.
In the particular case of Venezuela-explaining, the assholes are (more often than not) first-world countries residents with leftist political beliefs. They enjoy telling regular Venezuelan citizens that Chavism, socialism, and communism are the greatest things ever from their iPhones. Sipping Chai-Lattes while using Starbucks wifi.
In the case of October 2019 Chile-explaining, is liberal economics minded assholes telling actual Chileans citizens that they’re just throwing a fit about paying a higher bus fare.
Both are equally outside, most likely equally wrong and equally assholes.
It really doesn’t matter if we agree or not with the insider’s particular views. Because the information an insider can deliver simply comes from a way more valid source than big statistics, news, documentaries, and any month-long US dollar fueled visit(s) to Venezuela (1).
Let’s make an effort not to be the asshole in the conversation and just accept that we don’t know better than someone who lives through something. A non-rape victim can’t explain to a rape victim how rape feels. A non-child abuse victim can’t explain to an abused child how child abuse feels. A non-Venezuelan can’t explain to any Venezuelan how is it to live under the Chavist Government.
A final note with love to all Venezuela-explainers
In the name of every Vennie ever: Foreign leftists, we’re ok with you supporting communism, chavism, socialism and all these ideal “-isms” you don’t actually live under or have ever truly experienced.
But please, stop explaining to us the truth about Venezuela from your iPhones. You are not Venezuelan. You don’t live in Venezuela. It doesn’t matter how much fun your last visit to Los Roques was, or how much Venezuelan TV or media you consume.
Think about how assholic would it be if we, the Vennies, explained to you why you’re wrong in your view about your own country’s socio-political situation while we’re still living in Venezuela.
Extra assholizing our attitude by stating that we totally know how wrong you are because we visited the capital of your country.
Now try to understand how you, a non-Vennie, look equally assholic while engaging in Venezuela-explaining and telling us that under your assumptions we’re not qualified to understand Venezuelan reality.
While at it, consider how your assholeness level will increase when having visited Venezuela, and walking around Caracas is the strongest part of your argument (if not, your only argument).
This is called empathy.
You’re not Venezuelan, you can’t explain Venezuela to us. Period.
And stop assuming that every Vennie who can speak decent English is rich and white, that shit is racist.
(1) Normally the Venezuela-explainer who visits Venezuela seems to miss the fact that Venezuela is bigger than Caracas. Also, the situation inside the rest of Venezuela is generally worst in every aspect regarding public management, basic services, food availability, etc.
The reason why Caracas is a doing little bit better is that Caraqueños are too close to the presidential palace. If the government made the Caraqueños live through what people experience daily on Maracaibo or Maturín the Caraqueños would probably burn the presidential palace with the government officials inside in about a month.
(2) Yes, the “I have people inside a woman and visit them regularly” phrase was the hypothetical assholic man using the fact of having sex with a woman pregnant with his children as an argument to reinforce his self-proclaimed expertise about womanhood.
I compared it to using the act of visiting relatives in a foreign country as an argument to reinforce self-proclaimed expertise over that country’s politics.
Not far-fetched if we think about it
(3) The “You speak English too well and therefore you must be white or from a high social class to understand the real Venezuelan reality” is a commonly used argument by Chavist Government supporting Venezuela-Explainers in the face of a Venezuelan who calls on their propaganda bullshit.
I have been several times pointed in social media as a “little bourgeois that’s afraid from the dark-skinned, poor and indigenous” by people who can only see on my profile that I’m an artist and speak English decently.
This “you’re a privileged alienated little rich boi because you draw and speak English” thing normally happens when I point to their outsider’s condition while they engage in loud Venezuela-explaining and propagandistic efforts.
In their defense, you have to search a little deeper to find pictures of me and figure out I’m brown and come from a low-income background. I’m guessing that people living under lowkey racist assumptions can’t see a brown, bilingual, self-taught artist, lower mid-class Vennie behind decent grammar and pretty drawings, it does not compute.
Surprisingly, the “too good English for a true Vennie” argument contradicts one of the basic statements of the foreign Chavist Government defenders. The idea that the Chavist Government gave us all Vennies superb free high-quality public education.
By assuming that anyone who speaks English a little too well can only be a white high-class rich folk, they’re stating that the public Venezuelan school system and general Venezuelan social context under Chavist Socialist policies couldn’t have possibly created a brown non-high class decently bilingual person.
Normally, this “tu Inglés mucho Bueno para tu ser verdadero Venezolano” argument is backed up by the fact that most foreign English-speaking citizens (especially in the US) don’t know any other language than English, even if it was a mandatory subject at school for many.
How could a first-world English speaking inhabitant have missed learning a language that most probably didn’t need to increase his or her life opportunities while South-American Spanish speaking citizens picked up good English as a skill that would literally multiply his or her life opportunities by 100 times? A truly incomprehensible and unfathomable mystery indeed.
Well, not that unfathomable. The answer to why brown, poor and middle-class Venezuelan and Latin people who can speak decent English (to some first-world citizens surprise) exists is simple: Most relevant entertainment media, industry trade, and most of the economically relevant Internet sites are in English, poor and low middle-class Latin America people that learned English did it because we needed to.
The average US citizen just didn’t need to learn Spanish and that’s okay. What’s not ok is assuming that all middle and lower class Venezuelan people can’t learn English just because you haven’t learned Spanish.
Implying that there’s no way that a brown folk from Latin America accomplished something like learning another language, just because you couldn’t on a first-world country, is truly a peacock-like display of assholeness.
Finally, regarding the “too white to be truly a Vennie” argument, this is just a simple misconception about skin color demographics in Venezuela and the projection of (normally US-based) local racial prejudices.
Even though there still is a significant difference among whites and browns across social classes. We Vennies are far more mixed than the US. Simply because the rest of the world is not the US.
There are brown people with money and poor white people all around Venezuela. We are all suffering daily because of the so-called Chavist Government love.