To March or Not to March… that is the Question / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

March of the Ladies in White through Havana. (EFE)
March of the Ladies in White through Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 October 2015 — The latest cyber-skirmish unleashed around statements made by Eliécer Ávila, leader of the opposition movement Somos+, about the #Todosmarchamos initiative, once again focuses first, on the need for restraint in political discourse and the importance of not allowing ourselves to be swayed by the provocations of those who pursue only ratings and drama from the comfortable security of their distant geographical locations, and secondly, on the inability to weigh things at fair value, whether by the so-called opposition leaders — regardless of their strategies, their ideological orientation or their political proposals, if they happen to have them — or by public opinion.

In this case, there are numerous myths contained in a sort of Theogony of the opposition, a mirage created and sustained from abroad in an absurd desire to hold on to an opposition epic — which should eventually replace the current revolutionary epic — which, like the latter, creates pockets of prestige and heroism, and even castes and lineages, depending on whether the new heroes are willing to bleed or get slapped on the head. It is a well-known fact that we Cubans are experts at repeating our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and shredding of vestments.

We Cubans are experts at repeating our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and shredding of vestments

If there is anything I agree 100% on with Eliécer, it’s the need for the independent press in Cuba to cease to be complacent with the opposition – sadly mimicking the stance of the official press towards the Castro regime — and assume from this day (during the dictatorship) the usual journalistic roles and functions in democratic societies. This includes questioning absolutely everything and everyone, desecrating any public figure whose effect should ultimately be to serve, not to rule. In this regard, here are some observations I propose that might seem unbearable to some extreme radicals. I suggest that the passionate stop reading at this point so they can avoid the usual patriotic tantrums.

I shall not vent my sympathies or personal differences on the opposition — not on a nonexistent «opposition movement» — an environment that I know by heart, since it’s been almost fifteen years since I delved into it. What I know or believe about anyone is completely irrelevant.

I have found many of the most honorable, honest, generous and dedicated people I’ve ever met in my life within the opposition, and also many of the worst and most harmful: ambitious, hypocritical, opportunistic, false patriots and, as Eliezer stated, some corrupt little characters who have made the «struggle for democracy» a way of life. Over the years I have come to understand that that reality is not unique to the Cuban stage or that it is bound by the geography of the Island. There are good and bad Cubans both in Cuba and in the Diaspora, there are those who live for Cuba and those who live from it. Note that I am merely reviewing the facts as a necessary and true evil. It is what it is, period.

There are good and bad Cubans both in Cuba and in the Diaspora, there are those who live for Cuba and those who live from it

Some people prefer to ignore that the Cuban dissidence is as varied in its composition from the point of view of human quality as any other social group. In fact, all the vices inherited from a corrupt and sick system are present in our sector, including atavistic evils, such as an autocratic government, authoritarianism and despotism. There is even what we might call an opposition gerontocracy, firmly clinging to old precepts and unchanging bad habits, incapable of evolving in the light of new scenarios.

When I travel abroad, I’m always surprised to hear someone, perhaps with the best of intentions, refer to dissidents in general, including independent journalists, as “heroes.” And what’s worse, there are characters who «modestly» accept the epithet, as if it were their true right. I will never support a leader who perceives himself as worthy of moral supremacy over the everyone else. In addition, such a prefabricated pantheon of heroes will only serve to cement many present and future ills.

Nevertheless, in those circumstances, and with those actors, we must continue to open the way for Cuban democracy. We optimists believe in the best of scenarios and, with the passing of time, many individuals and proposals will surface which will expand and diversify the options in the political and social milieu, thus covering all interests and including all the trends and options for citizen participation And we will need to learn to live with our differences.

Another one of the most notorious Cuban imaginary myths of all time is based on measuring the value of people by their willingness to «shed blood,» to be beaten in the streets or locked in dungeons. To march or not to march seems to want to establish itself as the moral question for future politicians. It doesn’t matter whether the event is repeated again and again with the same result, and the dictatorial power continues to not move one inch, or that one of those “common” citizens, the ones who are trying to get free from the Castro yoke, has joined in the martyrdom. It is known that no «leader» has attracted followers by becoming the scapegoat of a dictatorship known to be repressive and capable of the worst abuses.

To march or not to march seems to want to establish itself as the moral question for future politicians

It seems to be that what’s truly important is that the more marches and more beatings one gets, the more “courageous” one becomes, and that will get you a place of privilege in the select club of the anti-Castro titans.

But given that no Cuban «peoples» are willing to suffer the already traditional Sunday assaults, the organizers of this Antillean Via Crucis have not only summoned the other dissidents –including those who have been labeled a «naive» and even «traitors» for having acted in accordance with the US administration policy of détente — but they question the reluctance of those who do not abide by the summons.

And they see in this negativism, not the right of others to choose their own methods of resistance or their own path to work for the Cuba we want, but an alleged intention to divide the opposition or «to play into the hands» of the dictatorship. It would seem that if the Castro regime has not failed it is because some of us, whether absurdly or cowardly, have refused to march after attending church. Not believing in God, in the sponsors of the initiative or in their results, is secondary: a herd must follow the alpha male, who — in the purest Castro sense — will assume that those who do not follow him blindly are cowards and are against him.

Thus, Eliécer Ávila’s greatest sin was excessive transparency in a world of masquerades, forgetting that to ignore provocations is the wisest and most expeditious strategy that anyone aspiring for political leadership could employ. The sponsor of Somos+ wasted a great opportunity to keep his subtle silence.

There is no need to conquer freedom. Being free will suffice, though it needs to be done intelligently.

I, for one, while enjoying the privilege that my status as an opinion journalist grants me and my complete lack of commitment to leaders or parties of any political color, take the opportunity to join the commentary of a wise reader: there is no need to “fight” for democracy, practicing it should be enough; there is no need to conquer freedom, being free will suffice, though it needs to be done intelligently. It is impractical to continue implementing strategies that lead to the same result again and again… except when what we seek is that seal of pedigree that has been repeated so many times throughout our history.

In Cuba’s immediate future we will not hear that worn-out phrase that marked our lives and legitimized the rights of the privileged few over the rest of Cubans: «Did you by any chance fire shots in the Sierra Maestra?» It will be replaced with “Did you by any chance march on Sundays down La Quinta Avenida?” God forbid!

Translated by Norma Whiting