Cuba is starting to come out of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will have to learn to live with a new viral disease which may become endemic. However, what we cannot get used to is to calamity. Too many years of social and human experimentation have gone by leaving in their wake very difficult to overcome anthropological damage. It has been proven beyond a shadow a doubt that doing the same thing –which some call continuity- one will get exactly what we have suffered through during the last 60 years: living from crisis to crisis. To subsist is not to live. We are talking about a precarious existence which is beneath what the Cuban people deserve.
To blame others, before recognizing and changing oneself, applies equally well to relations among people as for those established among States. In the case of Cuba various methods and means have been tried: confrontation between the governments of the U.S. and Cuba has not yielded the desired results. The thaw and rapprochement between them, neither. Once again we go back to formerly utilized methods, disappointed with the trial and error inherent to both paths.
In order for change to take place what is needed, in the first place, is willingness to change. To make a change in policy one needs to listen and respond to the real needs of the citizenry. It is impossible to live in a country that narrates Plans, Guidelines, and Measures. This is the country that a group of people have designed, yet it is not the real Cuba. The real Cuba is at the dinner table, at the children’s schools, at the universities of the country, at the “lines” to get food, at the lack of medicines, at the transportation crisis, at the lack of water and electricity, at the social differences that reappeared when egalitarianism failed. The real country is also found in the violation of laws by the same group that implanted them or by their agents. A country where laws are violated is on its way to chaos.
The real country is to be found in increasing violence, polarization that has become rooted, in this epic language of “battle,” “struggle,” “bastion” and “trench.” In this culture of belligerence, rather than fraternity, our children and youth are being educated, while adults stick to their ways, and this manifests itself not only in language and attitudes but also in what is worse: mob actions and punitive judicial sentences which have made their comeback to make people live in fear and suspicion again. Where there is paranoia and distrust of everyone by everyone, where repression and threats are on the rise, one has a sick society at hand. And that should change.
But it must be said: the real Cuba is also as well in the entrepreneurial character of Cubans, in their yearnings for progress and well-being, in their wish to have their own business or to provide services to be able to create wealth with their own efforts, and not having to live from the remittances of r family members who work hard in any part of the planet where the fruit of their work allows them to support their own family as well as their loved ones in Cuba. This is another proof of what is possible when “feed the chicks culture” is substituted, from dependence on State paternalism, to freeing Cubans to develop their talents and abilities.
The real Cuba resides, in the sense of family, so beaten down, but still surviving. It is also in the noble and simple will of our people, in their close and brotherly way of life, in their manifest wish to help those in need, in search of social justice, to reject abuse against the defenseless, of sharing with foreigners without xenophobia, or discrimination.
The real Cuba lies in the creative drive of Cubans, in their honesty and clear thinking that our parents and grandparents taught us, which is being lost. The real Cuba lives in the love Cubans have for what belongs to them, for their people, for our own culture, for the Nation, even when living outside the Island as inside Cuba; because another part of our reality is that the Cuban nation is one made up of two lungs: those of us who live in the Island and those living in the Diaspora, be it the historical exile, or the massive exodus of Camarioca, Mariel or the rafters, or be them emigrants seeking the economic security that cannot be found in their Island. We are equally Cuba.
The real Cuba is also the one that expresses its spirituality in the Catholic religion, invoking Our Lady of Charity, or the syncretic African religions mixed with Ochun and Yemaya, or those that live in Oriental mysticism and even those that from their agnosticism or atheism do not disregard the cultivation of their spirituality.
Therefore the real Cuba is that stew, everything mixed in, everything nuanced, all in process, in process of gestation it all. That real Cuba does not look like an Island under breaking point measures, or unfulfilled production plans, or top-down campaigns coming again and again as in the ancient Greek theater whereby problems would be solve by bringing down to a desperate scene a deus ex machina1 that ancient saving mechanism, become Messiah, who, as if sent from the heavens would tie all loose ends and cut all Gordian knots.
The solution is wont to come from the top, from the outside, ignoring that the best and most efficacious solutions are those that emerge from the bottom, from citizen participation, from personal ingeniousness, from a popular matrix, from inside the Island-Nation and its Diaspora—which loves and works, each in their own way, for the material, moral and spiritual progress of Cuba.
Doing the same over and over again no new results can be expected.
The highest authorities in the land have stated it: doing the same thing we cannot obtain different results. Social experiments with human beings, trying to invent a model on the backs of the suffering of the people, especially of the most vulnerable ones, is ethically unacceptable, in addition to legally punishable.
Sixty years of anthropological and cultural experimentations should have been sufficient and convincing to recognize their inefficiency and results, exactly the opposite of what was intended. We have all been responsible, although not in the same proportion. Then comes to mind that Latin proverb by Cicero engraved on the walls of the Great Hall of the University of Havana to the right of the presidential desk: “Cuiusvis hominis est errare, nullius nisi insipientis in errore perseverare”2 (“Anyone can be mistaken, but only a fool perseveres in his error”). Or this wise proverb which completes the previous one stated by Seneca, the Younger: “Errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum et tertia non datur” 3 (“To err is human, persisting in it is diabolical, and there is no third option.”)
In addition to recognizing a mistake, which every person, every system and political, economic or cultural system carries within itself, precisely for being human and fallible, the most important thing is to not persist in the error, rather to rectify in time, in a truthful, deep and rooted way, and not like in the Leopard by Lampedusa4, nor the cosmetic changes which Varela called “political masks.”
We are referring to real change: structural, systemic and urgent but orderly, peaceful; but for it we need political will, the will to change and to overcome the fear of change we all suffer to a lesser or greater extent in proportion to the amount of power, ownership or knowledge that we possess. The father of Social Psychology, Enrique Pichon-Rivière (1981) described the fear of change in a very clear fashion:
“Anxiety appears when the first indications of change emerge,” and more precisely, “in all learning situations expanding the notion of learning situation to any process of interaction, to any sort of manipulation or appropriation of what is real, to any attempt to respond coherently and significantly to the demands of reality (adaptation), generates in the subject two basic fears, two basic anxieties which we have characterized as fear of loss and fear of attack:
Two proposals to aid in overcoming fear
In Cuba, fear, perhaps –next to the hegemonic possession of power by one party– is the main cause for the paralysis represented by continuity. To overcome the twin paralyzing fears described by Pichon-Rivière two alternatives could be proposed:
These are but two ideas, two proposals so as not to remain in futile complaints, to not survive hopelessness.
Perhaps it could be a good title for the 118th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba. Cuba requires structural and systemic changes now, and for it we should come to an agreement among all Cubans, without exclusions, to achieve these two dimensions of a peaceful and orderly transition:
Poise, moderation, stability and security within Cuba and in the region.
Avoidance of attacks, retaliation and violence, through justice, magnanimity and reconciliation.
We are convinced that in the real Cuba, the one including Cubans in the Island and in the Diaspora, we have the skills, talents and nobleness of heart required to give to the world an example of change and transition worthy of the legacy of Varela and Martí, who placed these pillars as the ethical basis of the Cuban nation: Love, Truth, Virtue, Inclusion and Humanism.
That is why we would like to end by citing the Apostle of Our Liberty, whose triumph over death we celebrated last May 19th. These foundational texts have inspired our proposals:
“We need to melt, with the warmth of love, mountains of men; we must stop, with sudden edification, colossal greed; we have to extirpate, with unshakable hands, corrupted roots…”6 “Today, more than ever, temples of love and humanity are needed, which will loosen all that there is of generosity in men while binding all that within them is crude and vile.”7
Let us break loose the real Cuba.
Pinar del Río, May 20, 2020
118th Anniversary of the Birth of the Republic of Cuba
1https://blog.lengua-e.com/2015/deus-ex-machina/: The Latin expression deus ex machina means “a god from a machine” although we could translate it as “a god that comes down by crane”. This was the way out that Greek and Roman playwrights would utilize when a play became too complex and they didn’t know how to resolve all its complexities: a god would descend on stage from on high by means of a pulley, taking care of all the loose ends.
2Socrates. (470 B. C. – ib., 399 B. C.) “Anyone can be mistaken, but only a fool perseveres in his error”
3Lucio Anneo, Seneca (4 B.C. – 65 A.C.): “To err is human, persisting in it is diabolical, and there is no third option.”
4The Leopard (original title Il Gattopardo) is a novel written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, between the end of 1954 and 1957.
5Pichon-Rivière, E. (1981) “El proceso grupal. Del psicoanálisis a la psicología social (I)“, Ediciones Nueva Visión, Buenos Aires, 1981, 6th edition. p. 52, 169, 181, 210. Cited by Pablo Cazau in Diccionario de Psicología. based on the ideas of Melanie Klein.
6Martí, J. Speech given at the Club de Comercio. Discurso pronunciado en el Club del Comercio, in Caracas. Venezuela. Marzo 21, 1881. Complete Works. Centro de Estudios Martianos. Karisma Digital. Havana, November 7, 2001. Tome 7. p. 285.
7Martí, J. La Nación. New York. September 5, 1884, Complete Works. Centro de Estudios Martianos. Karisma Digital. Havana, November 7, 2001. Tome 10. p. 80.