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Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

They Live Very Happily

June 7, 2011 |

Dariela Aquique

Foto: Elio Delgado

In one of his songs, Silvio Rodriguez sings: They live very happily, incredibly, those who repeat the lesson like apprentices, those who don’t look beyond their noses.

Silvio speaks of being immersed in ignorance, without great aspirations, satisfied with an elementary life and accepting common day-to-day routine as if believing nothing else exists.  “To coexist and be with so little” (or better said: believing that with so little) one can be happy, the mediocre person is not interested in exploring further on.  Their radius of action becomes very restricted, as limited as their neuron fields.

While reading I discovered a relationship between Silvio’s song and a few passages by the brilliant linguist Noam Chomsky.  His argument consists of a list in which he explains the “Top 10 Strategies of Media Manipulation.”  It would be wise to write a full article on these, discussing each of Chomsky’s points one by one and to establish each’s connection with our situation here in Cuba.

This would demand extensive work, so for reasons of prompt communication I’m bypassing several of those points only to comment on two of the ten:

7. Keep the public ignorant and mediocre

Make the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used for their control and enslavement. “The quality of education given to the lower social classes must be as poor and mediocre as possible … (See ‘Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars’).”

8. Encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity

Promote the public’s belief that being fashionable is being stupid, vulgar and uneducated…

In Cuba: We’re a literate people, but not educated.  We’re a well instructed people, but not cultured.  We’re a communicative people, but not informed.  The statistics on educational advancement in the country give the impression that the great majority of the population has a considerable level of learning.  But this doesn’t go beyond appearances; the fact is that there’s not such an advanced level.  Education here is high-sounding quantitatively more than qualitatively.  We do indeed have many professionals, but large numbers of them are medicore.

This has been demonstrated in the evaluation exams (of Spanish) given to candidates for university admission over the past few years.  The numbers that flunked have been alarming, especially when keeping in mind that these individuals seeking professional training were unaware of the most elementary orthographic rules.  What’s more, problems in writing, style, calligraphy and interpretation were detected (elements that are characteristic of the most basic instructional levels).

One could cite other examples all day long, though I’m only trying to highlight the matter.  People’s access to, knowledge of and capacity for operating in a technological environment — let alone their capabilities for handling the latest communication techniques — are completely insufficient in Cuba.

A culture of poor tastes thrives.  From childhood people now delight in their preferences for vulgarity, melodrama, street talk, lackluster formal education, kitsch fashion, pretentiousness and the most prosaic reggaeton.  On top of all that, these tendencies are spread and stimulated by the media.

The possibility of debate is nonexistent.  The great mass of people wind up getting used to their tiny, eternally summertime world.  In this way totalitarian systems persist, as their people don’t know anything beyond and don’t struggle to go beyond.  In that way, their people “live very happily.”

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  • JennyC

    Excellent post! Well reasoned and written – thanks.

  • Robert Airhart

    An interesting article. Unfortunately, these things are also true in most of the so-called “developed” countries. It is so sad.

  • Brenda

    Pleae keep in mind that Chomsky refers to media and the population outside Cuba. All education is indoctrination, but there is far greater literacy in Cuba than in the US or in Canada. In my country, Canada, (and in the US) we have “democracy” but the majority do not bother to vote. We have ‘freedom of the press’ but few bother to read. Apathy abounds and the majority are lulled into a consumer trance by endless striving for more. You will see.

  • rob

    im quite sure chomsky would be irritated if any of his writings on power/authority were being used as inspiration by cubans to rebel againts their government. the only critique chomsky ever offers is in relation to the u.s. or the “developed” and “capitalist” west. he can often be found giving an audience to the castro brothers, and occasionally even wears a cute little green fidel hat. so by all means dariela, take from chomsky whatever inspires you, but keep in mind he offers nothing in the way of criticism to your oppressors, only excuses.

  • rob