On the 29th of January, 1993 the Civic and Religious Education Center (CFCR) belonging to the Catholic Diocese in Pinar del Río was being created. Its two purposes were:
- 1.The ethical and civic education based on the values of Christianity for all the citizens who wished to receive it regardless of creed, philosophy or political choice.
- 2.The reconstruction of the civil society fabric in Cuba.
On the 3rd of January, 1994 the Socio Cultural magazine Vitral was created and it was the means of expression of the Center because we believe that moral and civic education entails independent spaces to express the ideas and contribute to public debate. That’s what Vitral was.
On the 15th of October, 2007 the Convivencia Project was created and it is considered the heir and continuator of the work of ethical and civic education, based on Christian inspiration, though no denominational, of the CFCR which had been shut down that very year. The Socio Cultural magazine Convivencia continued the service of being a plural space for freedom of expression and debate of ideas; always without discrediting anyone and giving priority to constructive proposals. These works have continued the legacy of the CFCR and Vitral up to now.
Twenty years later
After twenty years of starting this service of ethical and civic education with many difficulties and lack of understanding, we are glad the highest administration of the country has acknowledged in the recent session of the National Assembly of Cuba that the education and the observance of civic regulations are more and more necessary and urgent in the present Cuban society and also the passing on and cultivation of moral and ethical values; we are glad the participation of all in this task has been claimed. Time puts everything in the right place.
Convivencia project will continue making its small contribution to this necessary and urgent civic and ethical work.
The Cuban national press has already echoed this need in an open way, for example, in Granma on Tuesday, the 9th of July, 2013. At the same time, in Guerrillero weekly in Pinar del Río, on Friday, the 12th of July, 2013 the problem was dealt with two complementary perspectives: in the article Del lenguaje “apertrechado” y cubanos “belicosos” by the young journalist Mayra García Cardentey and in the article No es tiempo de ceremonias by the experienced journalist Ramón Brizuela Roque. Both articles dealt with the root cause of the problem; only there is a phrase in one of them that could hurt the beliefs of some Cubans and it says: “Yes, it’s true that we disappeared the subject matter Moral and Civic Education; but let us be honest, do you believe that today’s problems would be solved with some classes, several sermons or the Ten Commandments?”
Not only with that, respected journalist but also with that. And those are not trivial educative means at all; in the case of the Ten Commandments from the Bible, it’s a thousand-year-old contribution which has been an inspiration for millions of honest persons and believers. But we agree with You that it is not enough, as it is written in the continuation of your article: “It is really hard to believe; something more than humanist speeches, lections of decency or educative talks in the neighbourhoods is necessary; the solution is not to campaign; education starts in the cradle and ends in the tomb”. That’s the way it is. We believe the solution lies in education and not in reprimand or repression, at home, in the house, at work or in society.
Causes of the problem
Now and again we wish to remember the causes of this social indiscipline, this corruption of the body and the spirit and this anthropological damage which are the bases of all moral and civic deterioration.
In this sense we believe it is necessary to go, as usual, to the root cause of the problem, to its deep grounds, in order to be able to find a proper remedy for the “social disorder” and the “anthropological damage” that we had already announced and studied in Vitral magazine, in Editorial number 48 of March-April 2002, more than ten years ago and in Editorial number 74 of July-August 2006 respectively. Exactly 7 years ago. Convivencia wants to publish in its pages the appeals of alert made at the time, much before the complaint; for 20 years we have been trying to heal a reality that has now been publicly acknowledged.
Some causes of the ethical and civic illiteracy and the consistent anthropological damage should be taken into account (cf. Editorial number 31 in Convivencia magazine of January-February 2013 issue):
- 1.The disintegration of the family and the change in the educative environment from the homes to the schools in the country and the “schools to the country”, that is, the mobilization of children, adolescents and young people away from their parents and grandparents for long periods of time and transferred to camps which had and have dreadful material and moral conditions.
- 2.The proscription of religion and its spaces of education during decades, even in the Constitution of the Republic where atheism was declared to be a choice by the State and religion was classified as “an imaginary reflection of reality”.
- 3.The disapproval of attitudes of decency, of the right language and very well-mannered persons by saying that all that was the backwardness of “capitalist bourgeoisie” or affected persons.
- 4.The abolition of the contents of moral and civic education (not only the subject matter under the same name) from the whole national education system which is only one in Cuba and it’s ruled by ideology and it uses militarized or combative language and stances as attitudes to be internalized and spread.
- 5.The impoverishment and the consecutive economic crises, taking into account that material misery favours (though not always and not everywhere), environments of moral misery, corruption, robbery, indiscipline out of the social regulations as well as uncivil and vulgar behaviour.
Proposals for solution
There are other causes but those are the sources. We mustn’t stay in the useless complaint and as usual, we propose some solutions to this fundamental problem, that is, the moral and civic deterioration in Cuba:
- 1.The reconstruction of the Cuban family and the home environment. Home is more than house; it’s more than sleeping and eating together. The home is the first and last school of education for values and virtues.
- 2.The reconstruction of the human person so that he should think with his own brains, educate his heart and his emotional intelligence, strengthen his will, feed his spirituality so we can learn to live in truth, freedom and responsibility.
- 3.The reconstruction of civil society fabric which is a school and workshop for pacific socialization in fraternity, justice and solidarity, civic-mindedness and coexistence.
- 4.The deep reform of the educational system, of the Cuban school so that it should be free, plural, civic, deeply ethical and humanist, non-partisan and not repeating only one exclusive ideology. A pedagogic, participatory, liberating and virtuous school. This system not only would include the necessary non-sectarian subject matter Moral and Civic Education but the whole educational process should be impregnated with the values, virtues and attitudes consistent with the matters taught and with the cultivation of the human spirit.
- 5.The acknowledgement and the promotion of freedom of consciousness which is the origin and the foundation of every promotion of human rights; and its corresponding rights to freedom of expression, association and inclusive pacific action.
- 6.The acknowledgement and promotion of true, full, respectful and plural religious freedom which is not only freedom of cult but freedom for the believers to think freely, act consistently with their creeds and according to different economic, political and social options. It is the freedom for every Cuban to heal, enrich and strengthen the Nation’s Soul so that Churches and other religious denominations can make their contribution to humanist education, to the cultivation of ethical values and civic virtues in a free and responsible way and not only regarding sexual behaviour but a holistic and dignified demeanour; and make their contribution to reach the same right for agnostics, atheists and indifferent ones; this is a characteristic of the modern, non-denominational and pluralist State of Rights.
- 7.The acknowledgement of full freedom for the development of the economic initiative of every Cuban so that all of us can contribute to the creation of wealth and the decrease of material and spiritual poverty.
As we see, it’s not about taking some disciplinary, repressive “measures”, not even plans for formal education. It’s about a true spiritual revolution. That is, give primacy to the spirit over the matter, to education over repression, to ethics over technique, to civics over ideology, to the Nation over one Party.
This could be a program for life and changes that the whole Nation can seriously set out to implement. Convivencia perseveres with its small contribution, faithful to the spirituality and the ethical and civic ends of twenty years ago. Just as on the first day.
Pinar del Río, 16th of July, 2013.