INCLUSION: AN ESSENTIAL WORD IN CUBA TODAY.
The fundamental word in Cuba today should be: “to include”. Moreover, if there is a “shipwreck” of the structural changes in Cuba and there is only one word to be saved, one only action, one only change, we should lift on board the “boat-nation” the attitude of inclusion: we should raise it to the highest place in the “floating” Island.
Even more, we believe that the best “thermometer” to verify the structural changes in Cuba is the will to include, meaning to change the laws and decisions and guarantee the maximum inclusion.
Even more, we believe that the future of Cuba will be decided by the real capacity of the structures, the institutions, the laws and above all, the mentalities, to go from a manic exclusion culture to an active inclusion culture.
The true and deepest social, economic, political and cultural change means to remove from our reflexes, our models, ways to organize, perspectives of life, ordinances and regulations, governmental organizations, civil society associations and from the call of the political opposition, the survival instinct expressed by the exclusion of the different ones.
We understand that one of the main causes of the mania of saying “he is not one of us” has been to live in the confrontation culture. To live in the sytematic and omnipresent need to justify a totalitarian way of managing the lives of the citizens and bribing the souls of the ones who allow themselves to be recruited to serve the war culture, against all and against all who do not think or behave or obey and do not let temselves to be managed inside and out in a struggle in which no mercy is shown in the island-isolated and in the whole world.
It’s living for protection. It’s the existence justified by the struggle and not by the pacific and supportive living together which is granted only to the ones who “join the crew”. This existence embraces the mind, the heart, the finances, the press, the interpersonal relationships, the shattered bosom of the families, the bowels of the divided nation and above all, this exclusion- culture-mania expresses itself in the language. So when we read something or listen to something it’s easier to answer ourselves the question: “against whom are they talking about?” than “what are they talking about?”
The exclusion mania spreads all over, it sticks to the “marrow” of the structures, it sails through the “sap” of the enterprises; it flows through the arteries of the media in uncontrollable torrents; it penetrates imperceptibly but with the effectiveness of a goalkeeper, in work environments, in academic, scientific and religious institutions.
Very often, the first topics dealt with in the meetings, projects or organizations are who will be the ones to are to participate and who will be excluded, and they deal with the purposes and contents afterwards. The deep cause is the sectarianism and mistrust which have been introduced during decades by a supposed necessity to defend ourselves though very often we don’t know what we are defending against. Defence and exclusion seem to be synonims. But as a matter of fact, if we are to defend ourselves, the best way would be to include the greatest quantity as possible of proposals and organizations, because the true strength of a work lies in the capacity to accept, summon and combine the diversity for a common purpose. Then, the ones who accomplish a greatest degree of inclusion in their projects will be ethically and practically stronger.
However we can distiguish and make conscious some kinds of inclusion that abound in our country:
- To include only the ones who support something or someone is inherent to the sides, the parties, the factions or sectors of society. Then, this faction cannot say that represents or speaks or behaves on behalf of everyone. This faction should acknowledge and respect the others.
- There is a kind of inclusion of the ones who support a project in general, but the included are asked to be unconditional; they are asked not to disagree and they are treated as traitors or unfaithful if they dissent. This is an attitude typical of sects or fanatical groups which demand the whole soul and life. Such groups become cysts, fossils that eventually cause serious damage to the social body or its institutions.
- To include everyone only for implementing assignments and to be instruments or parts of a work but not counting on them for the organization, choices and planning; not counting on them for evaluation and change of purposes, strategies and tasks of the project or group. That is a partial and manipulative inclusion, especially if it is said to be inclusive.
The nations and groups of the civil society in the whole world struggle for inclusion and against exclusion of any kind. That fight is one of the fundamental features of the progressive socializing ideas and actions. Supposedly, a country that wishes a project of democratic socialism must be the most inclusive of possible models. Or, at least, a country that changes in such direction more than any other country. Then, why does the Cuban government allows and stimulates in its speech and its actions the exclusion in our society?
We who live in Cuba, and also the ones in today’s interconnected world that wish to overcome the nostalgia of a project that no longer exists and intend seriously to abandone the blindness caused by ideologies and take an honest look to our real and daily situation, don’t need to investigate much to realize, at least, some of these kinds of exclusion which we will briefly enumerate:
- Economic exclusion: In Cuba today, the State is the only employer, the only one that is allowed to create enterprises strictly speaking, and the only one that is able to establish and implement the domestic anf foreign trade. The Cubans citizens only have access to a most limited list of the so- called “freelance jobs” which are established and closed by the State, when it considers appropiate, without discussing any regulation. The great majority of Cubans are excluded from the economic initiative, from the small, medium and big enterprises management. We are excluded from private property even in the most insignificant things such as the impossibility of selling or buying the houses and cars. Even more, to progress economically in an industrious way, earning money and developing those microenterprises is viewed as a crime, it is pursued in every neighborhood, it is punished by confiscation and prison. The underground market, the black market, the lack of wholesale trade and the total blockade to the access of citizens to raw materials, tools, basic means and properties, places the whole society in the most absolute exclusion, in the humiliation of illegality and in the total defenselessness before the State which like the Sword of Damocles hangs over the enterprising persons. Last but not least: We Cubans, men and women are excluded from receiving the entirety of our wages in the hard currency in which almost all the necessary things for life are sold. The double currency is one of the most aberrant, humiliating and unfair economic exclusions. It is a real insult to the dignity of Cubans. It outrageously divides society and make the majority of persons who receive remittances from their relatives and friends who work abroad dependent on them. The economic inclusion will be a sign that will show the real will of the Cuban government to change. Even the very ones who hold marxist ideas think that this is the change that will create the basis for the other changes. How is it possible that a country with this root injustice can call and consider itself socialist? The long list of economic segregation brands with the red-hot iron of the feudal economy a society that lives in the western hemisphere , in the Caribbean Sea and in the 21st century. A society that asserts, besides that it has got the most perfect model, that intends to insert itself in today’s international relationships and erradicate the injustice that remains in this globalized world. If this were so, the Cuban citizens would enjoy all the economic, social and cultural rights acknowledged in the Covenants that the Cuban Government has signed this year in the United Nations. This is a structural change that Cuba needs and we should undertake all of us together. For this: the economic exclusion must stop.
Political exclusion: In Cuba today, in its political Constitution, supreme law of the Republic, exists, still in the 21st century, an article that establishes with all clarity the following : “The Communist Party of Cuba, Martian* and marxist-leninist, the organized vanguard of the Cuban nation, is the higher leader force of the society and the State, and organizes and orients the common effort toward the highest ends of the construction os socialism and the advance toward the communist society”. Besides, in this very text of the Constitution currently in force, the door is open to the violence of the armed struggle, if there is not another way to assure it, as a constitutional right in order to sustain this project of political exclusion: “All citizens have the right to fight, through all means, including the armed struggle, when other means is not possible, against anyone who intends to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution” (Article 3).
This very Constitution is systematically violated in other points that we will see further, but regarding one specific point we’ll mention, we can say that the experience goes beyond and more, the most meticulous implementation of this constitutional precept: we all know, and we can prove this every day, that in Cuba exists the old concept and model of the “proletarian dictatorship”, which excludes not only other political parties or the formation of free trade unions or the activities of civil associations, but it excludes the access to jobs, even non-executive jobs to persons who express the slightest political discrepancy strictly speaking. You can disagree on adminsitrative matters, whenever you make clear that there is a negligence on the part of some local of intermediate or even national official, only if it is a personal flaw, when somebody falls from favor, but you should never assert that the flaw is something inherent to the project, to the system, to the economic or political model. Whoever insinuates it, even with most respect to the persons from the government, is expelled from the school or workplace, socially discriminated, defamed in the mass media, using a trench language, a concept of warfare and an explicit exclusive and defamatory will.
Everybody knows that in Cuba you can hold different political ideas but they must be buried inside the bone marrow or else, all the State machinery falls upon you until one purpose is fulfilled: you are marked and excluded. He who wants to know... knows it. That means, in the language of ordinary Cubans: “don’t point out to yourself because it harms you”. And when a minority of persons decide to express what they can repress no longer inside them, there is no respect for the rights of those minorities and for their civic existence: they are declared non-persons, they are excluded from all public acts; the persons who acknowledge them are “frozen” into a political “limbo”; in practice, they are forbidden to receive visitors, who are taking the risk of not being received by the government authorities. They are classified as “worms” ** and mercenaries at the service of a foreign country. Everyone knows that the real opponents and dissidents in Cuba are Cubans, men and women, who think differently; they are honest and speak the way they think and behave pacifically according to their consciences and not according to the orders of a foreign boss. A mercenary does not dare sacrifice his life, his prestige, his family, his liberty, so generously as real patriots do. We all know, but particularly the ones in power , that the authentic dissidents love their Fatherland, at least, the same way that the ones who denigrate them do. And we all know that they do, say and think the way pacific opponents in the whole world do, say and think and the same way pacific opponents in Cuba did during all the stages of our history. How is it possible that they are excluded in their own country, in a radical way, sometimes with verbal and psychological violence and even physical violence, even before they have a single opportunity to prove with facts and with transparency the honesty of their lives, the validity of their proposals and their incorruptible love to Cuba and to citizen and national sovereignty? Even the very Cuban government knows that inside the Island and abroad, there are authentic patriots with such characteristics and better ones, who dissent, propose and work for the change toward a greater democracy in Cuba. And many know that the best thing would be to open spaces for their organized, lawful and pacific participation; to create the legal framework so that they can show their honesty, their love to Cuba and their contribution to its progress. We all who have thought it, without clinging to economic interests or political powers, know that Cuba would benefit. In the first place, the Cuban citizens would enjoy all the civil and political rights recognized in the Covenants that the Cuban Government has signed this year in the United Nations. Besides, Cuba could implement a full insertion with equal conditions, in the community of nations where its best friends and allies are. This is another structural change that Cuba needs and we should attain it all of us together. To achieve this: the political exclusion must stop.
Social exclusion: Is a result of the two former exclusions and the result of the total defenselessness of the citizens that decide to exercise the sovereignty that is inherent to them precisely because they are citizens and not subjects. The mental and real subordination culture must change in Cuba. The blockade to civic initiative and to the right of citizens to create non- governmental organizations must stop. The height of this is that the very word “citizen” is systematically used in a pejorative way by the police officers to identify the Cubans, men and women, who are excluded from the official category of “partners”. This can be considered a minor detail compared to the social appartheid we Cubans are experiencing. But it’s a sign of the social gap which combines the worst of capitalism with the worst of socialism, the worst of market economy and the exclusive monopoly of the State with the civic illiteracy, the paralysis of fear and the blockade to information and communication.
Cuba is an Island in the media and Internet manipulation as well as in the geographic aspect. It is necessary to board a plain or a ship in order to have access to the world life and most incredible: in order to learn what is happening in our own Island. It’s the self-exclusion that we imposed to ourselves due to the lack of information or to the Manichaean manipulation of every channel of the media: the outer world is all wrong; whereas within the city walls, up to the ends of the Island, all is good. Otherwise, please try to watch one broadcast of the National Television News or the so-called “Round Table”, in which we receive an explanation, attacks included, about the cables coming through Internet and from the foreign Press from which the great majority of Cubans are excluded. This is the height of the official openness about exclusion: the information appartheid. Four or five persons, almost always the same ones, have the “privilege and the mission” to interpret, comment and, if necessary, clarify, denounce and amend the news, images and sources of information from which the rest of the eleven and a half million Cubans are excluded in fact. There is no possible way to invent a more paternalist way of excluding people from information or a more disdainful consideration about the capacity of Cubans for:
1- Gaining access by themselves to the most plural sources of infromation, included the free access to Internet in a way they can finance it.
2- Choosing, with their own ethical assessment, what to read and learn and what to reject and denounce.
How is it possible the exclusion from this elementary right of ethical discernment of a people which is considered to be the protagonist of a comprehensive culture? If we are, then there are two questions: is it lack of confidence about the capacity to choose and interpret the information by ourselves? Or is it that precisely because we are capable of doing it well and because we have the education and wisdom to do it, we are being kept away from the truth or part of the truth? Or is it both?
With the access to hotels and other forbidden goods, the apparheid for citizens has not stopped. A few days after the lifting of those prohibitions, a “higher confidential guideline” re-established another variant of the same appartheid: the Cubans who live in their country are not allowed to pay with credit cards, not even through the touristic agencies that grant prodedures and prices to foreigners and Cubans who reside abroad- They have to make the reservation at the hotel desk, pay cash and only at the highest rates that can exist. These humiliating exclusions would offend any citizen in the world, but not the tourists who come to Cuba. They turn their eyes to the “mojito” ***, the maracas and the mulattas, with the new touristic and sexual racism which offends and denigrates the best of the culture and the identity of the Cuban people.
If the readers wish to evaluate by themselves the reality sorrounding us they can compare the letter of the following precept of the present socialist Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, with the every day experience of each of us:
Article 43.- “The State establishes the following right conquered by the Revolution for the citizens, without distinction of race, color of the skin, sex, creed, national origin or any other detrimental aspect to human dignity:
They gain access, according to merits and capacities, to all the State positions or jobs, in Public Administration and production or service branches; they are promoted to all hierarchies of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and Security and Interior Departments, according to merits and capacities; they earn equal wages in equal jobs; they enjoy education in every educational institute in the country, since elementary school until the universities, which are the same for all; they receive assistance in every health institution; they live in any sector, area or neighborhood in the cities and they book in any hotel; they receive services in every restaurant and the rest of facilities of public service; they use, without separation, the sea, railway, air and motor transport; they enjoy the same seaside resorts, beaches, parks, social clubs and the rest of culture, sports, recreation and rest centers”.
We believe that in Cuba it would be better if this could be accomplished with equal opportunities. This is another structural change that Cuba needs and we should negotiate all of us together. To attain it: every social exclusion must stop.
If that reality we have tried to portrait, broadly speaking, coincide with the living experience of the readers, personally or somebody else’s, then we should not be satisfied with the useless and fruitless complain.
As long as these three exclusions don’t change in Cuba, or at least, we don’t start changing some of them, we can say with certainty, that no fundamental thing has changed in Cuba.
For this, we must make proposals. When facing every exclusion experience, let us learn to conjugate the verb “to include”:
I include in my life the consideration and respect to all persons regardless of sex, race, sexual preference and philosophical choice. I include in my mentality, in my attitude, in my decisions and in my human relationships a plural, diverse, multicultural understanding of the world, of politics, of economics, culture and religion.
You include in your life, in your relationships, in your way to lead, to summon, to organize, to legislate, to talk, to reflect, to define, to disagree, to work, to believe, to live together... the widest diversity, the most flexible tolerance, the most inclusive participation and the most respectful manners and language, by using proposals.
We include as a Nation all Cubans, men and women, even and especially if they think differently and hold opposite ideologies, if they have different political options, if they profess another religion or wish to experience the same religion with diverse shades and commitments. We should include diversity, pluralism, the respectful incorporation of minorities and the pacific living together of the opponents in ideas, culture, religion, and political manifestos, as the Founding Fathers of the Cuban Nation always wished, since Varela until Martí. We must also include the international community with no fundamentalisms of ideological blocks, which are a late resurrection of the cold war or the oppresive totalitarianisms.
You include, you, the ones in power, the ones who exclude persons from knowledge, the ones who do not stimulate the being, the nations in the world that give priority to commerce and geopolitics and not to human rights and the rights of peoples; you, our compatriots from the Diaspora, whoever share the nostaligia, the dreams and the work for a free Cuba, prosperous, included in the community of nations equally treated and appreciated, please include the ones who still do not have power for decisions; share the knowledge with no blockades or fake elitisms. You, nations that live in democracy, include Cuba in the list of nations that wish the same things you wish and work for in each of your country: freedom, the shared bread, social justice, human comprehensive development and the supportive and pacific interdependence among nations. Why don’t you defend and work in Cuba for better ideals and projects which you defend and promote in your own countries?
All in all, we believe that the main indicator to evaluate the changes in Cuba is the inclusive character of the reforms. It means, the participatory and democratic character of the social project we wish.
And if the grammar of inclusion fails, let’s carry out a new civic literacy campaign: the only pacific way of learning to conjugate, all of us, the verb “to change”.
Pinar del Río, May 20th 2008-07-05
106th anniversary of the Republic of Cuba.
*Martian: It comes from Martí (José), a Cuban patriot who lived in the 19th century considered the Apostle of Cuban Independence.
**Worm: The way a person who doesn’t like the communist system has been called after 1959 in Cuba.
*** Mojito: Typical Cuban drink.