To become a citizen (man or woman) is an achievement of the conscience and the will. It is a right and a duty. It’s the foundation of cohabitation and politics of our time.
In times of slavery there were owners and slaves. During feudalism there were lords and servants from the glebe. During absolute monarquies, there were kings and subjects. When the world left behind these relationships of subordination and exploitation among persons, the Republics emerged. Republic comes from “res-pública”, that is, people’s thing, in which all persons are equal before the law. The “cívitas” emerged, that is, the city of all citizens, equal before the law. And the relationships of subordination of some to others became out of the good and the law.
The nations have been organized since then, according to a social contract in which the citizens choose other citizens for a certain time and for a specific purpose: to serve the nation and administrate its progress and also to guarantee an ethical and legal framework which guarantee all rights of all persons so that they can carry out all their duties.
In this kind of social organization there are no kings or lords, or leaders or messiahs. There are no subjects or vassals. The State is not afraid of its citizens and the citizens are not afraid of their own State which has been chosen to take care of them, not to pursue them, or harrass them or to hinder their freedom or exploit their lives. The State is not the absolute sovereign over its national “subjects”. Each citizen is the sovereign who chooses, controls, evaluates and revokes the State ones who are at the service of persons.
If we accept this development of the social cohabitation through the centuries, we could ask ourselves: is this the case of Cuba? What kind of social pattern are we living in?
Cuba, its way of life, seems more like a hereditary feudal society than a modern State. It is true that no country has been able to give itself a perfect social pattern or anything like that, but as Winston Churchill once said: “democracy is the worst of governments, with the exception of all the others”.
More than the 70 percent of the Cuban citizens have been born under the same government which maintains itself for more than half a century. And many more Cubans who were born after the elections of 1948, (the last democratic elections in Cuba), have never been able to live that real experience during the last 61 years.
Due to this simple and tragic reason, Cuba, that is, each Cuban, man or woman, needs to know what sovereignty of every citizen is. They need to become aware of what it means in each of our daily lives; to make the decision to exercise the part that corresponds to us and make a contribution so that the others can know, appreciate and get involved with their own personal sovereignty and the sovereignty of every citizen.
The personal sovereignty is reached when each man and woman is able to choose his set of values; when he is able to freely educate his conscience; when he is able to consciously implement his fundamental option; if he can be consistent with his life project and manages this way, to take and to be in control of his existence. In other words, the personal sovereignty is to choose the determining values in our lives; to turn them into virtues, which means to live a value in a hard and some times heroic way, and penetrate, with the force of those virtues, all of our attitudes.
It was the priest Félix Varela, father of our nationality and our culture, the one who first taught us to establish this root relationship between the personal sovereignty and the society we were born and we live in: “There is no Fatherland without virtue, or virtue with mercilessness”.
If we paraphrase this Cuban man, who was the first that taught us to think as Cubans, we could say: “There is no Fatherland without sovereignty of all citizens. There is no sovereignty for all citizens without personal virtue”.
This is perhaps one of the reasons why we could give an explanation (with pain and sadness), to the following situations:
- many Cubans, men and women, leave their Fatherland, not only for political and economical motivations which are the same cause in Cuba today, but because they feel in their own flesh the lack of spaces and opportunities to exercise their sovereignty as citizens and to be able to be and be involved with their own project of personal life. About the ones who leave: do they abandone their Fatherland or is it that the Fatherland, land of opportunities and soil to cultivate the sovereignty, has been kidnapped and obliged to abandone its Children in the privation and social anomy?
- such a closed system, so authoritarian and paternalist has been supported, endured, defended or rejected because it suffers from a subject complex with a childish development of civics, and it’s been already a period of 50 years. The anthropological damage caused by that totalitarian paternalism has castrated the “vir”, the force of the soul of many Cubans. This is the cause of the national lethargy that all of us experience some way or another. Such “intimidation” has nothing to do with prudence and much less with common sense. That is what the parents of this lack of “vires” try to make us believe. Without personal virtue there is no sovereignty of citizens. Is it civic childhood or ethical adolescence? Is there an excess of dependence or lack of morality?
- a preference for the foreign things in the conscience of Cubans has arisen, almost imperceptibly. They are dazzled by the foreign element, they are appallingly attracted to a kind of consumerism by default. Is it only the attraction for the foreign thing or is there a deep desire to live in a land of sovereignty and freedom that comes to the surface? What would happen if that land were the Fatherland?
-This could be, above all, one of the reasons why Cubans, men and women, from all geographic and ideological shores have not had the necessary personal virtue to renounce their own projects, even when they are legitimate and pure, in order to serve the common good of the Fatherland. The leadership, the exclusive prominence, the sectarianism, could find their root cause in the lack of this “inner ethical force” that is needed, not only to denounce what we consider bad, but to renounce what we consider good in the interest of a greatest and more inclusive good. More personal virtue is needed, and more sovereignty of the citizens, in order to put aside or postpone for a while or forever what we have rocked as “good and ours” to give way to a common work and dedicate ourselves to it. A common work which we consider “good” so far but we consider it to be “of others”, because my personal sovereignty has a limit in the contruction of the sovereignty of the others. A limit imposed by the others’ parcel of freedom, and what is more virtuous: a limit bestowed, offered by the generosity of giving, in order to build the Fatherland where there is room for everyone. How is the Fatherland going to belong to everyone if each one of us don’t give one parcel of our “land” to live together with the other persons, putting up with them or tolerating them, and above all, working in a national project in which the Fatherland may belong to all of us and all of us may enjoy all the rights? How to ask this from the others if we don’t start from our small Fatherland? How to believe that we are going to arrive all together if we don’t manage to start all of us together?
Cuba needs an era of sovereignty for every citizen. Sovereignty for everyone to handle his own life and make a contribution to the improvement of the life of others and the life of his community with solidarity.
Sovereignty and solidarity. Freeedom and responsibility. To demmand and to offer. Give-and take, starting from an ethics of minima, which means to believe that we can give space without granting principles. Which means to believe that we can renounce something good in order to get something better. Which means to believe that the essential we are looking for is not inseparable from the circumstantial of the ways and methods we are using to find it. The ethics of minima is not the minimum of ethics to reach the maximum of decision power, of planning, of implementation, evaluation and exclusion of the different ones.
The ethics of the minima is to have the virtue and the sovereignty and the personal and group security, alternative or official, in order to recognize that if all of us say that we love Cuba; if all of us say that we want a Fatherland for everyone; if we all want human rights for all of us; if we all want a holistic human development for all of us; if all of us want sovereignty for Cuba, then it seems that it’s not enough for us to say what we want, because we have been doing that for 50 years. Maybe it is necessary to make coincide what we want with what we do more consistently and watch the way we do it.
How can we expect self confidence if we don’t have a minimum of confidence in the others?
Why do we have to wait for Cuba to change to be inclusive if we exclude now even the ones who want to reach the same aim, but with different methods?
How to say that Cuba is the Fatherland of all of us if we discredit the ones who don’t think the way we do and we brand them as enemies of the Fatherland?
How do we want the others not to condemn us if we go through life condemning the thought and the acts of the different ones even when they are moderate?
How to structure a dialogue with the others in the big things if we don’t manage to dialogue and negotiate the small aspects with our closest ones?
We trust all Cubans, men and women, specially the ones who are leading, from one side or the other, these historical moments the nation is living. However, we call upon them to cultivate a minimum more of trust, and offer it to Cuba.
We believe that deep inside all Cubans from every shore, there is the desire of inclusion and dialogue, but there are many wounds and it is necessary to heal and stand up over the historical memory which only makes sense if it is a pedestal to overcome prejudice, revenge, almost always hidden behind the curtain of mistrust. However we must take the first step toward inclusion and dialogue, not of all with us, but of all with all.
The sovereignty of every citizen and spaces for us to meet in equal conditions. As the Fatherland “is not the grass stepped by our soles”, there is no Fatherland without sovereign daughters and sons. And there will be no Fatherland without an atmosphere of trust, inclusion and common tasks. That’s what Varela and Luz, Céspedes and Agramonte, Maceo and Martí did. If they had not given in, agreed; if they had not learned to be sovereign and inclusive; if they had not tolerated and forgiven...
Let us place virtue above mean interests. Magnanimity above human miseries.
Let’s place Cuba above our heads so that our ideas don’t exclude us. Let’s place Cuba also above our hearts so that our feelings and resentments don’t separate us. And let’s place Cuba above our willful projections so that we can learn to build the national space where there may be room for all the good and diverse projects of our serene and magnanimous wills.
Cuba deserves it and so do we, its sovereign children, here and there, ones and the others can offer that to Cuba.
Pinar del Río, January 28th , 2009.