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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Autonomy Blacked Out on Cuban TV

May 17, 2012 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — Late this past March, I was invited to talk about the theory of autonomism on TV. For some reason the directors of the program “El Triangulo de la Confianza” (The Triangle of Trust) thought that they would be allowed to air such a program.

I’m not going to discuss here the dark threads that tie together the Cuban system of censorship, since the subject is too recurrent and everyone (both inside and outside the media) recognize that truth as being larger than a pine tree.

The truth is that the program was recorded without a hitch, and with a moderate approach taken by the guests and the host.

However, though the program was announced, it was never aired on the Canal Habana network or any other channel.

It’s worth mentioning that the attitude of the crew that directed the show was very accommodating at all times, so I can only thank them.

However, I would like to discuss some of the ideas about autonomism that I’ve been considering lately.

I’m also doing this because I didn’t express hardly any of them during the recording due to my being a little nervous in front of the camera (my mind went blank something like three times).

The thing that worried me most was a certain notion of “autonomism” that generates an ambiguous position regarding what is known as “emprendimiento empresarial” (entrepreneurship).

Thanks to a call to a friend, I was immediately able to remove any doubt concerning this.

Unlike a corporate-owned or individually-owned enterprise, autonomism doesn’t turn interpersonal relationships into business relations. On the contrary, early on there are efforts made to avoid the ruthless imposition of the market’s logic (profit at any cost).

Of course this concept recognizes the role of the economy, but it neither assumes it to be the determining factor nor does it isolate the economy from other social processes and constructions.

Therefore autonomism can be seen as the ability of society to organize itself in a unified manner, not in an instrumental fashion with respect to others, but generating a horizontal flow in terms of relationships, decisions, knowledge and the production of goods.

What immediately comes to mind is this idea that to reach effective autonomism, we must promote a process of cultural decolonization that allows us to detect the “traps” we fall into in daily life.

This process of decolonization implies, as Castoriadis noted, the questioning of institutions and the meanings established in societies. “Everything is constituted to making such questioning impossible and inconceivable,” said the Greek libertarian socialist in 1986.*

That is why the self-transformation of society, through endogenous agencies and processes that are not subject to the dominion and control of separate entities (i.e. a party or state), is usually so frowned upon.

What now comes to mind is a teacher who was serving as a juror at a symposium recently. She was shocked to hear my idea that included “peripheries” (the grass roots) as legitimate sources of knowledge. “The periphery is chaos!” she said, fanning herself in fright.

Accustomed to extra-social sources or “simply inherited rules” to determine and impose some level of organization, we forget (or they make us forget) our capacity for self-government and self-management.

Autonomism, of course, passes through the construction of true citizenship, the promotion of liberating education, and the democratization of social structures: three things that are lacking to a great degree on this island.”
—–

* Referring to the essay “La cuestión de la autonomía social e individual,” written by Cornelius Castoriadis in 1986 and published in Nº2 de Contra el poder in Madrid, June 1998.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    Isbel noble desires for Cuban society are admirable. Merriam-Webster defines “autonomy” as “the quality or state of being self-governing; especially: the right of self-government.” Conversely, “anarchy” is definded as “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.” A society which desires to exist autonomously will find themselves quickly devolving into anarchy. Unfortunately it is human nature. The correct path is limited government designed to maximize the best talent, the most useful resources while focused on individual initiative. Wait, we already have that, its called capitalism.

  • http://hugi1959uk@yahoo.co.uk Hubert Gieschen

    Sadly the time has come to disagree with Moses. Chaos is the word that should be used when the word anarchy is being misrepresented. Anarchy is not lawlessness but order by self-organisation (Grady, would that ring a cooperative bell with you?), Chaos on the other hand is disorder.

    Splitting hairs aside the main point is that Cuban society could only benefit from Isbel (with whom I frequently disagree) appearing on TV. There will be a time when it will happen.