English (Editorials)

3 - In this hour of Cuba: bread or freedom?

This inconsistency, often unconcious, other times clearly assumed and in not a few occasions covered by the best of wills, could be found in the decisions of ordinary citizens in their daily lives as well as in the strategies and calculations of the ones who have any kind of power or influence. We could find this inconsistency even accompanied by a certain amount of amnesia and some double-standard manias, in the behaviour of some international observers and officials and in the behaviour of the ones who care about their economic and comercial interests above all and without conditions.

The “bread or freedom” manipulated alternative could be updated in other actions more subtle but no less deceitful: “political manouvers or human rights”. Or also: “the so-called “intelligent” strategies or growing justice”. Or even more, “advantageous stance or ethical and risky stances”. We state that such alternatives contain a trap difficult to perceive and more difficult to evade and overcome.

Behind those trick alternatives, deep reasons could be hidden. For example, an exclusive and amoral conception of politics, as if politics didn’t have anything to do with the rights of citizens; the will to subordinate and separate the human, civil and political rights from the inseparable economical, social and cultural human rights; a mania of calling intelligent strategies to the self-interested circumstances; a hemiplegic profile of justice subordinated to the dilemma of: “the money or the life”. A pragmatism with no ethics and no long-term perspective. These manouvers place us in the false dialectical position of being obliged to choose between the material dimension of the person and social coexistence and other human and social dimensions which are equally necessary, inalienable and urgent.

Some argue the criterion of “gaining time” with the purpose of not changing anything or consolidate themselves in power. They forget or conceal the fact that whenever a country is living any crisis in which any change in structures can change the nature of the system, prolonging changes and gaining time only lead to the worsening of the situation, the deepening of the crisis and eventually the door is open to chaos. Let us not think of a noisy, spectacular chaos only. In most of the occasions, as it happens in Cuba, the chaos is deaf, mute, blind. Infiltrations of bureaucracy in the social fabric. Also metastasis of ungovernability that silently spreads itself upwards, from family life to the upper echelons of power. We can confirm it all the time. Some times it has the style and the way of working of the well known economic Mafias. We feel that the social machinery is “stuck” and it only works accurately in the places where direct and punctual attention is received from “above”. We feel that there is a “macabre hand” that blocks the wheels of production, obstructs the channels of communication and putrefies the interpersonal relationships. Bureaucracy degenerates into absurdity.

For ordinary Cubans the daily life means prolonged agony with sedatives that have got labels of permissions to buy goods that, as we know, can be bought by any citizen in the world if he has the money. Calamity is accepted in our homes, schools, jobs and hospitals, parks and cities, freeways and airports, as if calamity were one more member of the Cuban family. Other times the sedative is stronger: denunciations, repression, expulsions, imprisonment and window closings; windows which gave oxigen and light to the ones who managed to look out of them. And the unease accumulates and the capacity for endurance of the human beings gets wild. The depth of the pool where we throw the reactions that we silence grows, and also the self-censorship that asphixiates us and the repression of our irrepressible wish of being simply “normal” in a world like the one of the 21st century. That is what eventually accumulates. That is what overflows itself, among clauses and digressions, in personal outbursts, in family desintegration, in leakages of social violence. Until one day.

Then we could ask ourselves: why does such a noble a people perform such sprouts of violence? Then, the well-off persons and the ones responsible for “squaring” the usual circle, will frown their brows and will hypocritically ask themselves: who has incited the people to violence? The guilty always live abroad or are the ones who think differently. Never in the known history of Cuba it happened, until nowadays, that absolutely all persons, organizations and disident or opponent parties inside the island are non-violent, pacific and in favor of gradual changes. However, it’s never enough to say that nobody has the right to play with fire, or manipulate or postpone the explosive components of society in an irresponsible way.

In times of crisis, “gaining time” at the expense of liberties, can fill the “pot” to the brim, make it blow; we might find catalysts that lead us directly to undesirable social outbursts, to sources of irrepressible violence when people can endure no more. That should be prevented by all means, through non-violent methods and initiatives for the serious and deep solution of conflicts. The “band-aids” do not heal and the sedatives do not cure.

It is true that during the latest weeks many persons have welcomed the lifting of some of the absurd prohibitios that used to violate the rights of Cubans in a sytematic way. Others perceive as inaccesible the exercise of the acknowledged rights and some become indignant when they witness that the simple acknowledgment of an inviolable right is now welcomed as a gift. Rights are rights and nobody could or can grant them. Anyway, rectiying is a wise thing and we are glad, but we should clearly say that permissions do not grant freedom, rather permissions reaffirm the fact that we have to wait for the handouts from the ones who had become the owners of our whole lives. The laws and the institutions, the exclusive structures, are the ones that must be changed.

It belongs to a feudal dynamics the fact that the people has to wait, (away from the decisions and not knowing until when or how), for a happy morning in which a new “resolution” appears or maybe a simple “giuidance” that illegally abolishes the situation which had been formerly imposed, not established by laws freely discussed or accepted. And the last straw is that some press releases announce other press releases where dates and ways will be said, as if we were naughty children who are to be cared of in their excursion to freedom.

Where is our too mentioned political culture? Where is our civic maturity if everything has to be done by excessive secrecy, surprises and teaspoonfuls? We do not believe that the solution in Cuba should be the “all or nothing” dynamics. We believe that graduality is the best way, but with the participation of all persons, with no secrecy. Why do other countries with apparent civic illiteracy are able to discuss the most serious social matters on the streets, in Parliaments or in the media without fright or exasperation, without disorder or chaos? Is it a backwardness of the State paternalism? Is it underestimation of the ability of our people to face changes in a pacific and disciplined way? Or is it that deep down there is an antidemocratic concept that everything should be done in closed offices, by hidden mediations and in official organs because everything will flow better that way? Of course, without the nuisance of the concious participation, the criticism and the discrepancy, the dictate “comes down” more fluently. Apparently. The problem is that in the medium and long run, nobody commits himself seriously to the matters he has not thought about, developed, questioned or evaluated. He who lives will see it.

It is an insult to the Cuban people that there are journalists and press media heading their reports by saying that one person has given a permission to a people. Even if it is an exact reflection of reality. With all respect, we hope, at least, that they do not consider normal what in their own countries would be an affront. We hope that in every news report they specify that those changes are not the structural ones , that those are not democratic methods but “gestures” and “signs” of the absolute dependence of our daily lives which hang from an all-embracing power that grants or removes permissions according to its benevolence or convenience. A country must be characterized by proposals, not by prohibitions.

We have been hearing too often the following opinion said by persons with certain authority: “When the Cuban people has more food, clothes, houses, transportation... everything will be back to normal and fixed”. If this concept establishes itself, we will have lack of liberties for more than 30 years.

It is a lack of respect for the dignity of the Cuban people to state such criteria which limit the aspirations of the people to material things, to consumerism, hedonism. The remark that if the people becomes “accommodated” it will be quiet about the political aspect is a lack of respect too.

The ones who really love us as Cubans, please, do not assume that what we need are the “pots of Egypt” or the “plate of lentis” or the “carrot of the rabbit”. Don’t be deceived; if Cubans are the same as the other peoples on earth, not more, not less, then, when we are given bread, we will demand to earn it with our independent work; when we have the bread earned and not granted by a government we must be grateful to, all our lives and for everything, then we will demand liberties; and we will not demand one thing now and the other thing later but all of them together, inseparably united because we know very well , from our own experience, that man lives not only on bread and not only on DVDs, computers, cell phones... man not only needs to stay in the hotels of his own country, travel freely or have a unique valuable currency or more viands and vegetables, more meat and milk, more dresses and shoes, more houses and buses, not even more medicines or TV sets or the frightened free access to Internet... All this is good, they mean rights; they are enjoyable one day, but the following day we grow tired of them if we don’t have freedom. Those things arise and increase in us the insatiable thirst of being more, of knowing more, of growing as persons. If some do not think, want or experience it like this- we know them- the whole people cannot be judged the same way. Once more, the exception proves the rule.

Or else, why do thousands and thousands of university Cubans leave? Why do the ones who leave are the ones who have got more material things? Why do the sportsmen that may travel escape? Why do ballerinas and TV presenters who are famous here and some times have a better life than the others stay abroad? Why do some who once had certain rank and shared certain responsibilities defect? They once enjoyed the feeling of power and yet defect. The answer is that a great part of them leave because every person always yearns for freedom. And together with it, the possibility to educate ourselves for a different way of “having”, more supportive; to “be able” in a responsible and helpful way; to know, in an open and pluralist way and used in our effort to get our daily bread. This kind of “having”, “being able” and “knowing” would qualify us to keep striving for greater degrees of freedom, opportunities for all, honest personal and family progress, without the fear of being confiscated, seized, arrested, pursued, denounced. Without this kind of responsible freedom we will never be happy, although we manage, miraculously, to surpass all the economic indicators of Japan and Sweeden, Chile and Brazil, Canada or the United Arab Emirates.

It will always be the other way around. As Amartya Sen, Nobel prizewinner in Economics has stated in his classic work, “Freedom and Development”: “There will be no sustainable and true development without freedom for all. And such responsible liberty means to lift all the embargos which are ethically unacceptable: the ones abroad and above all, the inside embargo to the initiatives of citizens, persons and enterprises, which need to progress.

That is why we consider that any model, norrowly brought or meticulously planned, won’t reach what the free protagonism and creativity of Cubans can reach. For example, the Chinese model cannot be exported to a western country like Cuba which experienced -though in a limited way- democracy and personal, family and business initiatives. And this experience, still lies in the cultural memory and the political ideas of the country, in spite of everything. Moreover, the Chinese case is the case of the Chinese government and not the case of the whole Chinese people. How can someone think about imitating one country, if we bear in mind the enormous difference in cultures? If we are to imitate, why the Chinese model and not the Brazilian or the Argentinian ones, closer to our idiosyncrasy and inside our natural region? Why do we have to look for something in the thousand-year-old Iran or the industrious Vietnam, if we can find something closer and more suitable in the Chile that grows beside us without fuss or censorship?

To sum up, why the good things that are recognized by the official speech and by the press in other countries are a crime in our country? Or on the contrary, why the things that are legal and recognized in our country as the best solution to protect Cuba from evil, are flagrant crimes that violate the most essential human rights in any other country, culture or latitude? There must be something wrong, or something wrongly taught and more wrongly implemented, if we evaluate that the whole world is wrong and only one country becomes a bastion of (what the present rulers consider) what is considered as the best of projects which even the closest allies recommend, in a low voice, to reform or change. The ancient have alraedy said: “perfection is the enemy of goodness.”

Well then, as simple citizens as we are, we would like to share some simple ideas as the following:

One, do not think of Cuba as a country that can be “normalized” only with food and material things.

Two, we Cubans should not get used to calamity and should make arise in one another a critical conscience of proposals.

Three, we should not fall into the trap of confronting bread with liberty. Let us learn, once and for all that bread becomes scarce and rancid when there is no freedom, and freedom without bread is an injustie and an illusion.

Four, only the responsible freedom and a wide opportunity of initiatives for all, is a source of material progress and holistic human development.

And five, no one will come to do for us what we Cubans need: Every country has the government, the present and the future it deserves and it builds for itself with its own effort.

We are, and we should be “the protagonists of our own personal and natioal history”- the most important and currently in force recommendation from the Pope John Paul II during his visit to Cuba. International solidarity is a complement to this protagonism, open to the world. The paths, the strategies, the sceneries, the palace caprices and the imported models can vary but what is true as a stone is that Cubans, all Cubans, from here and from there, but mainly Cubans in here are the ones who must think about the changes we need, choose the paths that correspond to our history and culture; prepare the sceneries that favor the pacific reforms; unmask the own and others’ caprices, materialist or spiritualist; and do and consolidate the new project of a country that will never be kidnapped by only one exclusive part of its Children so that the rest of the landfellows have to pay the freedom at the bread’s expense; much less will we be obliged to thank for the crumbs of the old bread at the most high and unpayable cost of our personal, social or national freedom.

We are sure it is and will be possible. We are sure that we Cubans, men and women, have got the values, the knowledge and the generosity that these options require. We are sure that the ones who have to give up will do and will not wait for the chaos to oblige them; we are sure that the ones who will have to receive, will do it without humiliating the ones who have given up, without climbing up again onto the “roof” of the Republic. Many countries with the most varied systems, left or right wing systems, have been able to do so; countries from the most dissimilar cultures and from all Continents. What makes us think that Cuba cannot make it with the support of all its Children? Or is it that some, or some of us have a low appreciation of our country? If the others have made it, we can make it and make it right. We believe it and that’s what we live and work here for. It requires effort and improvement. But above all we need to be inclusive and optimist.

Cuba will accomplish it.

Pinar del Río, april 10th 2008.