“Friendship is the greatest of the civic goods because if there is friendship
the civil confrontations will be reduced to the minimum”
(Aristotle: “The Nicomacheme Ethics”. Book IX, 1170)
“Convivencia” magazine is going to be four years old. Its name (living together) is a need and a proposal. But we don’t want to speak about us. We want to continue thinking and suggesting things for the present and for the future of Cuba always with our feet on this ground.
Looking at the Cuban reality many times confused and complex, we see an increasing danger and an increasing need: the danger of moving downhill toward violence; the need of putting an end to exasperation, moral discredit, physical and verbal confrontation and the confrontation of the media. All this is a breeding ground and a sure path for civil violence.
There is no real way or gradual reform if the warlike environment, the attacking language are not stopped dead; if the obsession to believe that the different ones are the enemies of the Nation is not stopped dead; because this bellicose attitude makes us believe that the essence of the maintenance of total power systems is the invention of an “enemy” meaning everyone who disagrees either inside or outside the country. The ethical validation of the changes whether they are cosmetic or structural is to eradicate confrontation, attack, public discredit among Cubans.
As long as those methods of confrontation and violence among Cubans who think differently and act peacefully are not abolished from above; as long as the disqualifying and aggressive language in the written press, television, the cyberspace is not banished; as long as it is not banished in workplaces, the Communist Party meetings, the mass organizations, in the neighbourhoods; as long as the condemnation acts are not banned in our streets we cannot grow in confidence or wait patiently and much less cooperate with the ones who repress others and incite the children of one same people to violence.
A Proposal that can appear to be naïve: Cultivating civic friendship.
Indeed, this could and should be one of the deepest changes that Cuba needs: to transit from being subjects to being citizens; to transit from being enemies due to our differences to living together as friends because we are the children of the same Nation; to transit from discredit to respecting discrepancy; to transit from confrontation among Cubans, women and men, to “civic friendship” which is another way to say “charity unites us”.
How can we speak of national unity whereas some resort to condemnation acts? How can we speak of increasing confidence if some Cubans violently repress other Cubans, women and men for thinking differently and expressing it publicly in a pacific way?
This proposal could seem not very political, not very effective, weak and not very defined. To think that this is a naïve proposal could be a reflection of the violent and aggressive mentality we are used to through the media, the harangues, the condemnation acts. However we are convinced that if there is not a change in mentality, a change in language and violent methods, the changes in Cuba can take an ethically unacceptable road.
A good gesture of change would be to reprieve and grant amnesty to the mentality of internal enemies, to that language and those methods of confrontation among Cubans just before the visit by the Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba. That is why we would like to cite what the Church Social Doctrine Compendium says regarding the dynamics between the fair claiming for human rights, the role of the State and the cultivation of civic friendship as the foundation of pacific coexistence:
“The deep meaning of the civil and political coexistence does not emerge immediately from the catalogue of duties and rights of the person. This coexistence is based upon civil friendship and fraternity… Civil friendship is the most authentic acting of the fraternity principle which is inseparable from freedom and equality”. (CF. Santo Tomás de Aquino, Sentenciae Octavi Libri Ethicorum”. lect. 1)
The French Revolution brought into the world the struggle for these three universal values which should be interrelated in an all-embracing and balanced way. The evils that the world has suffered after 1789 are deep down a result of an unbalance between these three values or the absence of some of them. Ultra-liberal capitalism has given priority to freedom of market above equality and fraternity and this has led to a visible detriment of them or to the absence of them in the lives of the majority of citizens. “Real socialism”, on the other hand, gave priority to a downward equality dictated by an authoritarian State thus leading to freedom and fraternity serious violations. An era must come when the mutual balance and the integration of freedom and fraternity should be the way for civic friendship and pacific coexistence both built with responsibility through the conscious exercise of citizen sovereignty.
The change in civic habitat: principle and foundation of all political and economic change.
Cuba is a nation that has suffered the evils of both systems so the change of age will not come if this change is not sustained on a change of concepts, mentality, language and methods so that the totalitarian egalitarianism does not kill equality, so that exasperation and violence don’t’ kill fraternity and so that freedom without ethics does not kill its two sisters at the same time: equality and fraternity.
The cultivation of civic friendship could be a door to guaranteeing the other changes. So states the father of contemporary Christian humanism, Jacques Maritain:
“If society structure emerges, above all, from justice then the vital dynamism and the internal creative force of society emerge from civic friendship. Friendship creates the consent of wills demanded by nature but freely carried out and found in the origin of social community”. Civic friendship “is the encouraging force of society”; Aristotle knew this well. Justice and Law are not enough; they are indispensable pre-required conditions”. But justice and civic friendship require inclusion and equal opportunities for all citizens: “It’s for friendship to use the already existing equality among men, in an equal way. It’s for justice to carry equality to the ones who are already different. When this equality has been reached (through civic friendship) the task of justice is carried out” (Jacques Maritain. Los derechos del hombre y la ley natural, p. 43-44)
Even Marxist philosopher Agnes Heller states this the same way:
“In the best possible socioeconomic world the good life depends exclusively on the existential choice and the fundamental choice made by the individual… the goodness of every person includes the virtue of justice and the exercise of this virtue in the public sphere, in achieving public happiness. Empathy, sympathy, the willingness to help, to comfort and advise others, magnanimity, forgiveness; all of these are virtuous attitudes and acts that are beyond justice… citizens of the present world, we have arrived to the conclusion that it is not possible to be honourable if we don’t go sometimes beyond justice” (Agnes Heller. “Más allá de la justicia”, p. 343)
That is why we consider that the structural and substantial reforms in Cuba will not be deep and lasting and will not reach the purposes of freedom, justice and peace if the atmosphere among the diversity of Cubans is not changed. It is necessary and urgent the change in civic habitat and going from a society which is falsely united to a society that can look itself in the mirror and recognize itself the way it is: diverse, soundly disagreeing, stubbornly inclusive. It is necessary to go from a climate of “necessary enemies” inside the same national community to a new air where all of us can breathe without the need of turning into traitors or enemies the ones who think, act or believe differently and pacifically. It is also necessary that civil society banishes the disqualifying mentality, language and methods to support its proposals. Without this change in civic habitat we will not reach the other changes that the majority of the Cuban nation longs for.
Let’s see two examples, using our capacity to see the future, supposing we have not lost it:
1.Economic reforms or changes in Cuba.
A vision of the future: let’s imagine that those changes which until now have not modified the essence of the centralized socialist system, would transform gradually the State paternalist economy into a market economy liberating really and effectively the productive forces of the whole society and releasing the enterprising initiative of Cubans, women and men, from here and the Diaspora.
Some positive results: The economic laws start being respected, the self-managed productive forces are untied, the market produces results, and the life of Cubans, women and men, can have a sustainable meaning and they stay in Cuba. Every person can freely choose his family, economic and professional life project. Initiative and private property guarantee a more prosperous life and prevent paternalism and State totalitarian control.
Negative limitations and dynamics: If civic friendship is not promoted the economy turns dehumanizing inequality. The market economic laws, without the necessary regulations reached by consensus can turn the Cuban society into a ferocious jungle. If freedom is not well used man can turn into a wolf for man as the State has also become. The savage competence without humanism can maintain and increase the climate of hostility, exasperation and ruthless attacks among Cubans. The insatiable and soulless career for markets and profits can create a climate where people cannot live; just as it is now but with different signs and colors.
Proposals for an economic change as human as possible: The promotion of civic friendship through an education system that cultivates fraternity and solidarity among Cubans, women and men, as most of our people has shown inside and outside the Island, can moderate, regulate and create a climate of civic coexistence that helps to build, among all of us, an open and efficient social market economy being subsidiary and supportive. Other more specific proposals could be: the promotion of the ethical banking, the enterprises with social responsibility, the small and middle enterprise, cooperatives of all kinds and the conscious taxation as a way of responsibility toward the common good; in a word, to educate for freedom with responsibility.
2. Political reforms or changes in Cuba.
A vision of the future: Let’s imagine that, using common sense and responsibility over the life of citizens and in order to prevent increasing violence and poverty, the political changes start and put Cuba in the place of modern nations; the stable legal framework that recognizes and protects pluralism which is inherent in every society, is created; the three steps of a political change are taken: the steps that place the sovereignty and the independence of Cuba and Cubans on a par with the globalization of solidarity and prosperity, that is: One: the acknowledgement and the legal protection of diversity through the decriminalization of discrepancy. Two: the acknowledgement and the legal protection of the inclusion of all pacific political proposals that accept the democratic alternation limited by the sovereign will of citizens. Three: the acknowledgement and the legal protection of the civic and political participation “with all and for the benefit of all”.
Some positive results: Cubans, women and men, will be able to enjoy civic and political freedom guaranteed by a stable legal framework: We would have independent tribunals, a civic space for debates, discrepancy and consensus and the ones who have vocation will be able to be nominated by others or by themselves in order to make the political power to be a true public service. The multiparty system will exhibit the diversity of our nation and its multicolour soul on the streets and in the squares. Cuba will stop being a nation in the depths of simulation and fear and will adopt an exposed and transparent way of life.
Negative limitations and dynamics: Without civic friendship politics turns into a dehumanizing battlefield. Government programs are not discussed but private lives of politicians are under attack. Power is not hold to serve but politicians would use the others to climbing up to power and dominate. Electoral campaigns would turn into battles to cause the loss of prestige of the different one and to reveal inside information about his management or his party. The practice of obtaining votes with promises of government posts, populism and leadership will help to strengthen the belief that politics is “something dirt”. Bad doctors don’t make medicine to be considered something dirt.
Proposals for a political change as human as possible: An ethical and civic education for public life can instruct citizens to be fraternal and make proposals. We have to be sure of the conviction that all of us are human and thus perfectible, fragile; we have our limitations and we can make mistakes. Civic friendship is something that would allow political freedom to be lived the way it is lived in those more civilized countries where going into politics is not to learn how to bite and discredit the adversary but to learn how and with what resources one can run a country the best way possible; to serve people of one’s country better; to become a part of this world which is increasingly interdependent and above all, learning how to take care of citizens and have their lives and dignity as the supreme value; to contribute to the prosperity of the country; to learn how to be subsidiary and supportive with the most vulnerable ones in the accomplishment of the possible personal happiness and the attainable common good. In a word, it’s about educating so that one politician would not be, by definition and in action, the enemy of the other politicians or the enemy of his people but the brother in the common cause which would be the national welfare, the international peace and cooperation.
What do we understanding by mentality change?
These two examples could help us realize that the proposal of educating for civic friendship and for pacific coexistence is not a “kind” proposal or a sentimental or a pseudo-religious proposal or even a naïve contribution. What we are proposing has a strong anthropological dimension in a world that has reduced the human person to a machine that produces or consumes or on the contrary he has been reduced to being a defenceless and faceless mass. That is why many people discredit the inhuman market or they don’t believe in politicians anymore, they don’t believe in parties anymore or what is even more serious: they don’t believe in democratic institutions anymore. This is the worst scenario for the future of every nation. We understand as mentality change the fact that every civilized country must have economic laws and must believe in them even if they are limited by nature. They must be regulated by finding the irreplaceable connection between ethics and economics. On the other hand, every civilized people should have democratic institutions which have been universally proven; people must believe in them including political parties and politicians as servers of the nation although they have limitations and make mistakes because they are human and the institutions are human work. We have to add dignity to the institutions by cultivating the inalienable relationship between ethics and politics. That is, to put the common good above the class struggle. It is necessary to remember this paradigmatic phrase by Senator José Manuel Cortina who was born in Pinar del Río. He said it during the Constituent Assembly in 1940:“! Parties, stay out; Fatherland, come in!”
Everybody would ask themselves why and how. We remember once more Father Varela, founder of our culture and nationality. He responds to these questions by pointing out the need of creating opinions which is the fundamental work of the press and the civil society; and at the same time, the need to achieve that everybody perceives that the moods agree:
“¿What’s the purpose, you will say to me, of talking so much about parties? In order to show, dear Elpidio, that no matter how just a cause is and how sacred its object is, the cause will be inevitably ruined if heartlessness prevails; and because the human race is necessarily made up of parties it turns out that heartlessness which is the enemy of virtue, arouses distrust in the people and prevents their happiness. Only an internal bond can unite men when they cannot be submitted to the external bonds. Then the confidence of one party is not set up upon any other basis than the feelings of justice, good sense and honor and the one who professes some principles assumes that the others profess the same principles (…) and I say to the to ones who are always saying: “¿who sticks his neck out?”: ¿Is it necessary to stick the neck out…? Let the opinion be formed and it will suffice… and let everybody perceive that the moods agree and then… !Once bitten twice shy!” (Cartas a Elpidio. Sobre la impiedad. And El Habanero)
Let’s say it once more; there is some effective and safe ways that would lead to the changes of concepts, mentality, methods and economic and political system that Cuba needs. They are among others: to create the internal bond which is civic friendship; to uplift confidence by expecting good faith and honor on the part of other parties and not consider them enemies, traitors or mercenaries; the creation of diverse opinions and by consensus and a systematic ethical and civic education.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to change the concepts of class struggle for the concepts of civic friendship.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to change the proletarian dictatorship for participatory inclusion and for the exercise of the sovereignty of all citizens.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to change the need for an external enemy or internal traitors or mercenaries for the mentality that all of us are Cubans, women and men, united in diversity.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to change power as a paternalist and messianic domination for power as a selfless service, with alternation, limited and submitted to the will of citizens.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to change the condition of living in fear and paranoia (these feelings are justified by denunciation and violent physical and psychological repression) for the condition of living in trust, solidarity and civic friendship.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to leave behind the militarist environment, the warlike memory, the cultivation of confrontation as a method of life and implement a pacifist civil style, for coexistence in peace and tranquillity.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means to stop living with the political simulation masks and the mask of opportunism in order to adopt a transparent way of life which would show a commitment to the nation and not a commitment to one of the nation’s sides or parties.
To change mentalities and attitudes in Cuba means also to change the hostility, the discredit and the attacks among the different parties of the opposition and among the different groups of the civil society for the respectful and open dialogue about the better future for Cuba.
We know that to propose this change could be considered subjective or spiritual. But we know that each one of us Cubans, woman or man, are and will be fully human thanks to that spiritual dimension. One day we will see more clearly how costly has been and can be to underestimate, disregard or even repress an intangible, boundless but absolutely real and necessary spiritual dimension which is the Nation’s soul.
To cultivate civic friendship and pacific coexistence means to redeem and grant fulfilment to the Nation’s soul and the soul of every one of us Cubans, women and men.
If this change is not taken as basis and principle no change will be full, stable, deep and human.
Pinar del Río, January 1st 2012