HAVANA TIMES — The timely intervention of a reader in my post “The advantages of being poor (I)“, has triggered a seizure of thoughts in my head. The reader, who signed Octavio Lopez, says:
“The behavior described in the article on the difficulties with rice, is widespread in the population in dealing with deplorable conditions of all kinds that affect their daily existence. That has been the largest and most successful achievement of the ruling elite, having tamed the people, instilling, almost genetically, resignation to the disastrous situation in which it is immersed, without reacting or really doing anything concrete and effective to improve their living conditions, other than leaving the country.”
For starters, I agree with every word of the comment, even though it was not that discernment which led me to write the post. I recognize that irony is a slippery resource that can make us fall where we’d prefer not to.
But now I want to talk about this sensitive issue that people leaving comments (both Cuban and foreign) mention: What have we ordinary Cubans done to get out of this mess? Why don’t we protest the low wages, price gouging, poor product quality, deteriorating education or medical care, lacking public transportation, etc.? Why is the solution still a raft or a visa?
I find it curious (and I don’t mean the reader, Octavio Lopez, because I do not know if he lives in Cuba), that most of the forum participants comment from other countries, but are very lucid in their view of what would work, with concrete proposals, and speak of the need for courage. I have seen this in discussions on Havana Times and other sites like Diario de Cuba, which I also write for.
I assume that from a distance and with free access to information, the picture can be seen much more objectively and solutions seem to apply. However, as in sports predictions, I fear the reality is more complex than what a statistical analysis can provide.
That genetic resignation mentioned by the reader, which is no fatalism, but the consequence of individual and collective selfishness, is very tangible, and manifests itself much more than the rising impulses of nonconformity.
Everyone knows, for example, that complaining about such an overwhelming reality as the exorbitant prices or poor quality of food products is a useless waste of time, and there is no consensus on how to process this general dissatisfaction.
People are neither organized nor care to be. If you try to organize you are stigmatized and isolated, and worse: those who supported you in secret abandon you in public.
There are people who are afraid of losing what they have, but there are also many people who simply are not interested in lifting a finger to support a cause that is not their own, because they have found personal escape routes, or because the price of justice seems too high.
And to top it off, the existing organized groups are fragmented and must deal with government hostility and public indifference.
There are individual complaints that prosper, yes, but in the very long-term and at high moral and physical cost. The “established channels” (ie official), are practically a joke, no wonder people say the “Cuba says,” TV program should be called “Cuba does,” but what still doesn’t exist is an awareness that we can be the doers.
When a collective problem cannot be solved collectively, there is recourse to try the individual solution, or if that’s also not possible, obtain relief from a commentary, a satire … to radicalized politics, or exile. Defying the will of the sea or destiny (individual), is easier, it’s been proven, than getting an entire nation to agree on anything.
However, domestication is not only external, but internal. You can be free from the moment you decide not to cooperate in the things strictly dependent on you; not working for the state, not shouting slogans you don’t feel, not accepting benefits in exchange for political loyalty, not attacking others for their thoughts, expressing your truth in a space like this.
And finally: making adversity a motive to raise awareness is also an individual right, and a way not to cooperate with injustice, at least instead of sinking into total neglect.