Thursday, August 25, 2005

What Really Worries me...

A few days ago several blogs linked to a story that was in the Dallas Morning News. While the story was important because it's more support for those of us who argue that Cuba isn't the little communist paradise that a lot of the mainstream media paints it to be, there's a troublesome aspect to the report. Edgar Lopez, a dissident, is quoted in the story as saying:

"Young people aren't interested in political discourse," he said. "Ninety percent of them want to abandon the country."

This is worrisome to me, because the people are so beaten down that they have no hope for a free and democratic Cuba. They don't believe their country can offer them any opportunity. Instead of fighting for their country, their focus is on coming to the US. Another quote from the article:

At the risk of being devoured by sharks, Juan Carlos is secretly preparing to escape Cuba by boat.

"I've had enough," said the 32-year-old cook, who earns less than $15 a month. "When I get home from work, there's no electricity, no water and no gas. I swat mosquitoes all night, then get up at 6 to go to work again. If you were in my shoes, I guarantee you'd leave, too, even if you had to climb into a bedpan and paddle to Florida."

It's a shame really that this is happening. These young Cubans are the ones who really have the power to change things. They have lost hope. That's how devastating these 46+ years have been on the collective Cuban mindset.

I wish I could report happier news but I feel that the Cubans on the island have been pummeled into pretty much accepting anything. Their efforts are centered around conspiring on how to get materials to build a raft or pay their way across the channel with smugglers instead of focusing on how to resist the diabolical regime.


Tremenda Trigueña said...

Condu, it is very similar to the system that was used to keep slavery going in this country for hundreds of years. If you see the people who DO resist get their limbs cut off or worse, they are lynched or put in front of a firing squad, you start losing hope of being able to change things from the inside. Castro has broken his people down so consistently that they have what is referred to as the "house slave" mentality.

Julio C. Zangroniz said...

Esteemed Conductor,
I think it's pretty obvious that the vast majority of the people in Cuba are in a "survival" mode... they merely try to get through each day, one day at a time.
For most of them, there's simply no other way to get by.
Don't lose hope, my friend. Cubans on the island probably love freedom as much as you or I, and, given a glimmer of hope, they will rise to make it a reality.
But it's a sad fact that the dictatorship won't allow them even that glimmer of hope... witness the recent incidents of brutal repression at the hands of the "rapid response" bullies. The latter, incidentally, will have to answer to justice for their actions and abuses.
La hora cero llegar'a pronto... and Cubans, both in the island and outside, will embrace freedom once again.
Don't give up hope.

Howarde said...

In Russia and behind the Iron Curtain, for years the shortages of food kept the people standing in line for hours, and the humiliation when they were just a short way to the door and the store ran out of milk or bread, kept them too busy trying to find food to think about rebellion or any other form of resistance.

Yes, and like Patti Hearst, one finally breaks down and joins the opposition in order to gain a little bit of approval and perhaps even some favoritism.

What is more of a shock to me than anything else is how, after seeing the man hold onto his tyrannical power for 46 years, you don't hear a single voice in Hollywood question the justice of it all, and they continue to visit the best regularly.

Howarde said...

whoops....beast, beast, beast. I have to learn how to spell.

gansibele said...

Recently, while talking to some friends, it dawned on me that one reason people that didn't live in Cuba struggle so much to comprehend the mindset of Cubans, especially those born after the Revolution, is that they attempt to analyze it using American (or democratic) political principles.

Having been born and raised in Cuba (left when I was 22), i get asked that question a lot (after "what's going to happen after castro dies?" don't I wish I knew). "Why don't people rebel in Cuba if the situation is so dire?" The short answer is, they don't rebel because they don't even know it's a possibility. Here you grow up with the conviction that you can make a change. It's in the blood of the American system. Maybe only 50% vote and only 10% are actually actively involved (running for office, etc), but the rest of us know the possibility is there. We also know, and are used to, having political and social freedoms, and seeing those freedoms being applied constantly.

First you have to understand that the social structure and institutions of communism were pretty much carbon copied among all the former communist countries, including Cuba. That gave it legitimacy among the minds of those growing up in the system. After all, we were not an isolated experiment, we were an unavoidable process for building a more just social system that would eventually spread to every country in the world. Everybody else was WRONG. That was the worldview we grew up with.

Second, there are no "politics" in Cuba as we understand them. The whole idea of politics is a discourse, an exchange of ideas. Communism is dogmatic and unmovable, there's no built-in mechanism for debate, dissent or change. The principles are different. It's closer to a religion than to a political system (in the sense that you can't argue with the rulers, or change the Communist constitution, much like you can't argue with the Pope or change the Bible - and I'm not attempting here to attack religion, just making a parallel). A young person in Cuba doesn't think his opinion doesn't count - he doesn't EXPECT it to count. Everything has been preordained for him, all he has to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. It's not that you "learn" not to make waves, is that you never thought you could make waves on the first place.

Now imagine you grow up with such a mindset, and then add on top of that the constant persecution, vigilance and the realization that the few who attempt to change things are quickly suppressed - would you try to rebel? Or would you rather concentrate on survival and eventually leaving the country as the only alternative?

This is why I believe that the "pressure cooker" theory doesn't work and is cruel. All Castro has to do when he's feeling pressure is open the spigot and out come the rafters. You could anchor the whole Coast Guard fleet around the island, and people would still attempt to leave rather than confront reality.

There are, of course, people who know there's a different system out there. I remember for me it started with trying to get books and music that were not available in Cuba (understand though, that I stopped caring about the fact they were forbidden the minute I got my hands on them. In other words, as long as I could listen to the music, I didn't "politically criticize" the ban) then Radio Martí, then I was lucky enough to land a job were I had access to US publications. You can't imagine how much of a shock is to see a cartoon on the NYT making fun of Clinton. But most of us, whenever we discussed the possiblity of change, like Solidarity in Poland, ended up concluding it was futile. The people would never get behind such a movement, no matter how bad things got. Your typical Cuban, when he meets a dissident thinks: "this guy may be corageous and all, but he's a fool. No hay nada que cambie esto" and walks away.

We didn't "lost" hope. We didn't have any hope to start with.

The most daunting task of rebuilding Cuba will be training a whole country in the principles of a democratic society.