‘Supreme Social Happiness,’ &c.

Venezuelan flag mural in Hugo Chávez's home town of Sabaneta.



It has been a theme of this column: The Venezuelan government may be clownish — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous and oppressive. In 2009, Hugo Chávez canceled Valentine’s Day, or postponed it: The holiday interfered with his political plans. The world could laugh at this. But dictatorial whimsy isn’t a laughing matter for those who have to live with it.

Now the government, under Chávez’s successor and likeness, Nicolás Maduro, has created a ministry of Supreme Social Happiness. (For an article about this, go here.) Again, we can roll our eyes and laugh — and why not? A government like this deserves to be mocked.

But, once more, lots of people have to live under these clownish wreckers.

Last week, Kevin Williamson forwarded me an article about energy boomtowns. One problem, as an acquaintance of his summarized, is “Too much alcohol, too few women.” That may be a problem with China as well, frankly.

Speaking of China, I commend to you an article by David Feith in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about the “21st-century romance between America’s universities and China,” as the author says. More specifically, it’s about the firing of Xia Yeliang, a professor at Peking University. He was too liberal — i.e., too freedom-minded — for the Communists’ taste.

Did the American universities stand with him? That’s a pretty good joke. American universities, whose collaboration Beijing craves, have more leverage than they know. This is a theme of a piece I wrote last year. American universities almost never use their leverage: They would rather tiptoe around the Communists, when they’re not in full embrace of them.

But listen: There is one university that has stood with Xia, and for principles of freedom (academic or otherwise): Wellesley. Yes, Wellesley. As David Feith tells us, the college in Massachusetts has offered Xia a home, or at least a temporary perch.

Rubbing my eyes, I salute them.

I’m so glad Alan Johnson has written this article: It means I don’t have to. Angela Davis, the American Communist, has given a prestigious lecture in London. The title of that lecture was incredibly insulting: “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.” Yeah, her enemies would know.

Johnson reminds us of Davis’s devotion to the crushing out of freedom all over the world. In the course of his article, he quotes Solzhenitsyn — comments I never knew the great man gave. In the summer of 1975, Solzhenitsyn said, “In our country, literally for an entire year, we heard nothing at all except Angela Davis. We had our ears stuffed with Angela Davis. Little children in school were told to sign petitions in defense of Angela Davis.” Etc.

Accompanying this article is a picture of Davis with Erich Honecker, boss of East Germany. Each is beaming. As well they should have been: They were birds of a feather, and still are, in spirit.

I enjoyed a comment by Robert Wargas, writing about the man who will evidently be the next mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. Wargas says, “The only thing a socialist hates more than poverty is affluence.”

In a recent column or blogpost — I forget which — I made a remark about toting up. Let me tell you what I mean: Alice Munro wins the Nobel prize, and we hear how many women have won it. A black actor or actress wins an Oscar, and we hear how many black actors or actresses have won one. You know: toting up. Such an accounting is perfectly understandable, and interesting, in the early days. But after the tenth one, twentieth one, fiftieth one? When do you stop?

One of our sharpest readers — a fount of wisdom and wit — says, “The practice of noting how many women have done this or that will end on the day they stop telling us we can’t smoke on airplanes.”