It pains me to have to dissent with one of my teen idols, I the teen, Roger Waters my idol.

From my post-boarding school days in Ramsgate, Kent, to taking the TTC in Toronto from St.Michael’s Choir School to my home in the suburbs, Roger Waters is so ingrained in my life, that if it weren’t for The Wall, I might have fallen through the cracks.

With every slide of the guitar and words that resonate in me like An Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen or Pike by Ted Hughes, the music and lyrics of Roger Waters were a constant companion from the moment I discovered the Walkman to the neatly stacked Pink Floyd collection on my stand-up piano. And while my classmate Marc introduced me to Robert Smith of The Cure, and my Polish neighbor to Bruce Springsteen, no musician has had such staying power in my life as Roger Waters.

When Roger Waters came to Toronto with his tour The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, I queued up in the snow squall at the corner of Yonge and College to make sure I had tickets to see him play for two of the three concerts he gave in Maple Leaf Gardens. From the moment he picked up a red phone and asked the audience: “Is there anybody out there?”  I knew it wasn’t an ordinary question, but one that summed-up my inner state of existence, for I stammered, and badly. The Wall eventually did come down in my life when I took speech therapy, and in my other life, as a photojournalist who covered the events in Berlin on Nov.9, 1989.

The statement by Roger Waters questioning the motives of Richard Branson’s Venezuela Aid Live concert was extremely unnecessary given the fact that three million Venezuelans have fled their country during the last several years, many of them now in Colombia, desperately trying to eek out an existence playing music in parks, delivering fast food, and sadly, begging for food. When they get up every morning Roger, they are forced to look into Every Stranger’s Eyes.

I expected more from an artist who composed what I consider to be one of the great masterpieces of music – The Final Cut. So, Roger when you write that “a group of anonymous Latin-American meatpacking glitterati” should join Brezhnev and Nixon at the Fletcher Memorial Home, why are you leaving Maduro in the Miraflores Palace?

He seems to fit the bill perfectly as a candidate of the home of “Incurable Tyrants and Kings.”

I appreciate you have friends in Venezuela who tell you that there’s “no mayhem, no murder, no apparent dictatorship, no mass imprisonment of the opposition, no suppression of the press.” Now, my question to you, Roger “is there anybody out there?”

Maybe you dialed a wrong number, as my friends in Caracas  – the very few who didn’t lose everything to Chavismo by expropriation – are terrified of police brutality, rampant crime and forced disappearances by the National Guard, and if Branson has a “bleeding heart” maybe yours has become comfortably numb.

You see Roger, before I learned the lyrics of Mother, I was lying next to my mother in an incubator at the Clinica Caurimare in Caracas, the place where I was born. I have stayed in touch with Venezuela since I left in 1974, through childhood friends and new ones, and I can tell you that there’s no shortage of conversation of a regime that has institutionalized food lines and mocks the hungry.

Just last week my computer techie José was frantically trying to transfer the equivalent of US$75 to his family in Caracas to help cover the funeral costs of a relative. According to José, the money he was able to collect from fixing hard discs amounted to two months of his father’s income, meanwhile, Granny was lying in a morgue that didn’t have electricity.

Not everyone is starving in Venezuela, I give you that. During a pro-Maduro rally in the city of Merida recently, summoned by master henchman Diosdado Cabello, the whiskey-fed Chavistas filled the camera frame gloating – and bloated – like those Generals in the Fletcher Memorial Home who “polish their medals and sharpen their smiles.”

The problem with Venezuela, Roger, is that crassness displaced decency. If humanitarian aid can alleviate hunger in one school, or old age people’s home, isn’t this worth defending, instead of a social media tirade that belittles your words, given to humanity from the Dark Side of the Moon, and green pastures of The Gunner’s Dream.

And I close with a verse from your elegiac song of a fighter pilot who meets his end in some foreign field, and which speaks volumes of what the people of Venezuela need most at this historical juncture, with or without music:

“A place to stay, enough to eat [..] to speak out loud, about your doubts and fears, and what’s more, no-one ever disappears.”

  • Son of Efreet

    Bernie is right for desiring that food and medical aid be allowed in, but it is wrong to threaten a tightening of sanctions if Maduro refuses the aid. To tighten the sanctions will only hurt the people who are currently suffering even more. It causes me to speculate that the aid is not being offered strictly for humanitarian reasons. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

  • kathlenow

    Maduro is the legitimate democratically elected president of Venezuela.Guaido is a traitor inviting foreign intervention even invasion to take over Venezuelas natural resources.Both he and Bolton have announced their intentions of taking

    • Bill

      At the 2015 parliamentary election, the MUD won 109 of the 164 general seats and all three indigenous seats, which gave them a supermajority in the National Assembly and the ability to regulate the actions of Maduro; voter turnout exceeded 70 percent. It was an unambiguous rejection of Maduro and his party.
      It was immediately after this huge loss by the PSUV that Maduro began his coup d’état, stripping away the constitutionally mandated power from the national assembly, who were the lawmakers directly elected by the people, and unconstitutionally concentrating all power with himself and party loyalists.
      In a telling quote, on December 2015, the newly elected pro-government assembly member Hector Rodriguez said “We took a beating in the elections. That will force us to change and to do things in a better way, But we will be here to defend the country and the Bolivarian (Socialist) Revolution,”.
      Before the opposition could be sworn in and take control of the NA, the lame duck Maduro legislators populated the National Electoral Council (CNE) with Maduro political supporters, Efforts by the new NA to reverse this illegal move were stonewalled by Maduro.
      On December 30 2015, The Venezuela Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) suspended the inauguration of three opposition MPs who were due to take office following legal challenges by the governing socialist party of President Nicolas Maduro.
      The suspension removes the opposition coalition’s super-majority which gave it extensive powers to challenge President Maduro. Among them is the power to remove Supreme Court judges, appoint key officials such as an independent attorney general, and passing constitutional amendments subject to ratification by referendum. The opposition called the challenge a “judicial coup”.

      The Venezuelan opposition pursued a recall referendum against President Maduro, presenting a petition to the CNE on 2 May 2016. By August 2016 the Council was setting a date for the second phase of collecting signatures, though it made the schedule strenuous, stretching the process into 2017 which made it impossible for the opposition to activate new Presidential Elections. On 21 October 2016, the Maduro populated CNE suspended the referendum only days before preliminary signature-gatherings were to be held
      March 30 2017 – The Venezuela Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) stripped the country’s National Assembly of its constitutional powers. The court ruled that all powers vested under the legislative body will be transferred to the Supreme Court, which is stacked with government loyalists. On 31 March 2017, pro-government Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz stated on Venezuelan state television while holding a copy of the 1999 Constitution that the TSJ’s ruling was a “rupture of constitutional order” and that it was her “duty to inform my country of my deep concern over these events,”
      After waves or rising violent protests, on 1 April 2017, the TSJ reversed its decision, thereby reinstating the powers of the National Assembly.
      Having failed to take over all powers In April, Maduro called for a Constitutional Assembly (CA) that would draft a new constitution that would replace the 1999 Venezuela Constitution. The members of the CA would not be elected in open elections, but selected from social organizations loyal to Maduro. Even judges of the TSJ began to speak out against this move as unconstitutional, but the head of the Maduro formed CNE, Tibisay Lucena, officially approved Maduro’s proposal and scheduled elections.
      The CA would be made of 545 members – 364 of which would be chosen by municipal governments and 181 drawn from workers groups (79), retirees (28), communal council members (24), students (24), peasantry (8), fishermen (8), the disabled (5) and businessmen (5).
      In the days leading to the election, workers of state-owned companies were warned that their jobs would be terminated the following day if they did not vote in the election. Furthermore, each worker was required to take another 10 voters to the elections, which would be tracked by the authorities. Management workers of state-run entities were threatened with being fired as well if they or their employees refused to vote. Many public workers remained conflicted due to the threat of being fired, knowing that their job benefits from the government would be cut and that their identity could be revealed in a similar manner to the Tascón List incident during the Venezuelan recall referendum in 2004. More than 90% of the workers did not obey the Bolivarian government’s call to participate, which led to massive firings following the elections
      Following the elections of the CA, Maduro vowed to pursue the opposition “with the virtually unlimited powers of a constituent assembly”, vowing that opposition officials would be jailed, the opposition-led National Assembly elected in 2015 would be dissolved and that the Public Ministry of Venezuela headed by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, who broke ranks from Maduro’s government, would be restructured.
      On 5 July 2017, colectivos and supporters of President Nicolás Madurostormed the Palacio Federal Legislativo on the Independence Day of Venezuela, assaulting many members of the opposition-led National Assembly. At least 12 opposition legislators and their staff were injured as a result of the attack.
      Maduro banned, arrested, or forced into exile opposition candidates from standing for elections, consolidated power in unconstitutional bodies stuffed with political allies, stuffed the election commission with his political supporters, etc. It is clear that Maduro staged a coup, rigged the government to usurp the will of the people, and is an illegitimate ruler that needs to step down for the good of the country.

  • David

    Roger Waters should immediately fly to Venezuela so the hungry people can eat him. It would be a great service to both sides of the conflict.

    Caution: toxic self-loathing leftist Westerners should always be tested for mad cow disease before consumption.

  • You´re taking it a bit personally me thinks. there is merit in the critique of live aid, which may or may not have to do with the suffering of a group of people. 33 years ago, Live Aid sang the pathetically paternalistic song “Do they even know it’s Christmas” and has been the epitome of the white saviour complex ever since… take it easy man, afterall “we’re only ordinary men”

    • Greta O’Connor

      He’s Venezuelan. Of course he’s taking it personally. And Waters is certifiable.