Antonio Rodiles at an Estado de Sats event
While it is considered a construction of State Security by some extreme anti-Castro types, and a creature of the CIA by the Cuban government’s cyber-Talibans, the independent Estado de Sats project successfully works for the promotion of civil society and the transition to democracy.
Presumably the reasons that motivate both diametrically opposed interpretations of the Estado de Sats project have a common origin, not at all related to the “syndrome of suspicion.” I would be inclined to think they are of a narcissistic type. It takes only an average IQ to understand, in seconds, that if it really were an organization linked to espionage and subversion this would not be discovered by the delusional tantrums of an exiled writer in Paris, nor the abandoned neurons of a gray political commissar turned blogger-to-order.
On the other hand, if Estado de Sats were just a few guys with an exclusively digital presence –an argument, oddly, shared by the two extremes of the ideological spectrum: Zoé Valdés and Iroel Sánchez – what are they afraid of? Incidentally, the readers can look at the latest public activity of the project, and the Crocodile Smile show, to check for themselves whether the hundred people present have only a cyber-existence.
Heglian logic – and popular wisdom – teaches that the extremes touch, but also that in none of them is the truth usually found. It would be a shame at this point to resort to such trite and childish arguments, which demoralize those who brandish them, not those they’re directed against. The new game is rather predictable: the revolutionary bloggers are tasked to create opinion statements – false – to justify the intervention of the political police and the subsequent dismantling of the project.
In what head is there room for the ridiculous hypothesis that Estado de Sats is working for an American military intervention in Cuba? I read these things and I can’t stop thinking about the terrifying fear that dominates those who write or speak them. They aren’t even reliable when they try to summarize the facts: “The space Estado de Sats… on March 1st hosted the speech of the deputy head of the United States Interest Section in Cuba.” The part about “the speech” is pure manipulation – it was a panel where the whole world (public included) expressed their opinions. With this information Commissar Iroel moved the meeting forward two days (!) (surely because the loyal copyist confused the date of the meeting with the preparatory-orientation meeting in Villa Marista).
With his latest attack on April 7 – on the official government website Cubadebate.cu – this gray functionary made it clear what kind of person he is. Today the world knows of the so-called “Vote of Silence” operation, associated with the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, through which hundreds of opponents, dissidents, activists, sympathizers and even “potentially dangerous” individuals were kidnapped and incarcerated by State Security. Here is the version of the Commissar: “Trying to justify to their employers their failure to damage the papal visit, some of those present at the meeting of that Saturday [he is referring to the March 3rd event] alleged in front of Monserrate their supposed detention of a few hours.”
Both his deliberate and awkward lies as well as his delusions about military invasions are based on unfounded and irrational inferences that go too far. It’s like wanting to kill a fly with a missile: pure panic. Komrade Sanchez already tossed overboard his most deadly argument, and so he lost the game. What happens now if, thanks to Estado de Sats, the bombs start falling on Cuba? The official blogosphere is running out of ammunition.
All the rubbish he posts against those who commit the “crime” of thinking and acting freely is reduced to two accusations (positioning himself, as usual, as the prosecutor of others): CIA agents or mercenaries (which, for that matter, are the same thing). The lack of imagination and the limited arguments of the Revolutionaries is something even Raul Castro himself has been forced to acknowledge. It is painful to see how they deliberately try to confuse readers, how they try to pass off open-door meetings as conspiratorial acts, meetings which after being filmed on video are posted on YouTube.
As Ailer Gonzalez already made clear, the plot theory doesn’t work with Estado de Sats, which abides by the right to dialog with whomever it believes necessary, for which it neither asks nor needs permission from State Security. What the Cuban government jealously hides is the accelerated and irreversible loss of support among the people. The trained bloggers, maintained and equipped by the (only) Party can hardly help that. They don’t get readers either inside – for obvious reasons – nor outside of Cuba. There is nothing that makes sense left for them to say, nothing they have to defend. Lying and fabricating suspicions is their only recourse, which they engage in to the point of insanity, while hiding this nauseating amalgam – with no ability to change – that just spins and spins viscously and viciously around itself and that some continue to call “Revolution.”
The strategy to discredit opponents through slander and accusations of being enemy agents bore fruit all these years. Estado de Sats, supported by an open-minded and unprejudiced mentality, flatly rejects this appeal to intimidations and proposes to change the rules of the game.
Before addressing the favorite and almost exclusive argument of the Castro regime’s ideological battery, I am going to offer a little history, so the reader will know what exactly Estado de Sats is.
One day in 2010 Antonio G. Rodiles came to my house, presented himself and put forward an idea that, in addition to being utopian, fascinated me: a scientific-cultural event produced by ourselves, an idea that already had a name. As everyone does, the first thing I asked was the significance of that phrase, as cryptic as it was seductive. There is no deceitfulness in this as it is intended to show the sick mentality of the “cyberwar.” What the term means – related to the moment when the actor is about to go on stage – has been explained more than once. Nor was it cooked up at the University of Florida, another of the inventions of the official bloggers. The name was a happy suggestion of Esther Cardoso to Evelyn Quesada, Antonio G. Rodiles and Jorge Calaforra (ex co-director and co-founder of what at that time was just an outline).
The Gaia House event in Old Havana, already under the surveillance of State Security, was a complete success and, at the same time, constituted the founding act of an independent Project. I had the distinct feeling of having participated in something unprecedented and, when it was all over I went up to Antonio and said, “Well, it’s over. My part is done here.” To this he answered, “Listen, it starts now. Next year we’ll do another and so we won’t be inactive all that time, we can plan smaller meetings every 21 days.”
We were all happy with the encouraging results we’d gotten, but what for me was the closing ceremony of a unique scientific-cultural event, for Antonio G. Rodiles and Jorge Calaforra was something else: Estado de Sats had been born. These two people, whose courage, humanity and intelligence are beyond all doubt, had not only coordinated that complex and monumental program with the group OMNI Zona Franca and their production team – which is now also the team of Estado de Sats – but covered all their expenses with money from their own pockets. At least I have no knowledge that anyone else is providing financial support.
That’s why they accuse the project of receiving funding from foreign powers, following the worn out script of the political police, they need to receive a definitive lesson: considering that we aren’t conspiring, but rather exercising our legitimate right in an open and transparent way, and knowing that these trite accusations are nothing more than tools of manipulation, demonization and destruction of whatever falls “outside the Revolution,” we invite all independent projects and opposition groups, to manage openly, before the eyes of the world, economic support and invitations to travel from as many academic or cultural institutions, foundations, NGOs, as they can contact. What’s more, we maintain that each one of these non-institutional non-governmental spaces should have a representative or manager of promotion and fund raising.
It’s simple. “Whoever doesn’t want soup, give them three cups,” or if you prefer the original of the ancient wisdom: “Like cures like.”
Historically, the regime has threatened, stigmatized and humiliated dissent with these sordid allegations. The Cuban people, ordinary Cubans, should know that this is the way State institutions function: with money and budgets, through exchanges with the exterior and collaborations, donations, etc. It turns out that if the State receives help is it all about the “solidarity of friendly countries, governments or institutions,” but if a group of people receives help, however small it might be, that doesn’t respond to the interests of the government and operates outside institutions, the donation is turned into an issue of national security in the manner of “financing by a foreign power.”
Note that this perverse approach admits the possibility of non-foreign nations (Venezuela?). Such nonsense arises because it is not a logical argument, but a biased construction aimed at sowing a sort of phobia of the United States in the minds of the people. Nobody remembers any more that, indeed, a foreign power like the USSR financed the Cuban government for 30 uninterrupted years.
With Estado de Sats the stigma is over. We call on all Cubans to engage in, as a legitimate right, their own independent project of thinking, activism and free creation, seeking help from the entire civilized world and from Cuban exiles themselves, who should not be allies of the government but rather of those who fight within the Island by holding their heads high. There is no reason for Cubans to be ashamed – nor to ask permission – when it comes to freedom and Human Rights. As long as the money doesn’t belong to spy agencies or narco-traffickers, it doesn’t matter where it comes from as long as the path is legal and the destination honorable. Cubans must know that there are other more worthy ways to act – and also to effect change – than hustling and betrayal, the only things on offer from the Cuban government today.
Given that institutions overwhelm the individual and that, in particular, those of an academic and cultural bent exclude young recent graduates, besides being a source of corruption and the primary immediate obstacle for the development of civil society in Cuba, Estado de Sats aspires to be an alternative space, where all the excluded who want to express themselves converge.
The case of Abel Prieto, the former Minister of Culture, supports two equally plausible interpretations. He could have been promoted, as his new post is closer to president Raul Castro; but he could have been dismissed; a minister amasses resources, but an advisor only advice. The bureaucracy concentrates power (money). When you head up a State institution, you manage a part of the State’s budget, which also means that those individuals with a certain share of power will make every effort to manage the lion’s share not to the detriment of the ruling class but of those who depend on the way they themselves redistribute this money in the institutions (including the ministries, of course).
Very simply, this is where corruption is generated. And not only because the bureaucracy blocks those resources from reaching their objective and the money from making it into the pockets of those below, but because the elite itself tolerates the bureaucracy because they know that not all the money that should filter down does so. In short, I steal because you steal and you let me steal to be able to steal as well.
In the dynamics of corruption the injured party, as always, is the worker, the simple individual whom ideology has turned into a zombie – or, what amounts to the same thing, a “Revolutionary” – whose purpose is to justify and defend the status quo, that is, his own oppression. Corruption comes to the Cuban government by two paths: cultural and political. I don’t believe there is a single Latin American country where corruption can be considered a second-order phenomenon. Likewise, all the Eastern European socialist countries generated a pattern of corruption similar to Cuba’s.
In Cuba, both cultural and academic institutions are in a process of deterioration and not only materially. The level of students and teachers is plummeting, and of particular concern is the degradation in higher education with the colonization it’s been subjected to by the hordes from the “Enrique José Varona” Higher Pedagogical Institute. These types of schools of education – modeled on the Soviet system – never were, properly speaking, universities. In the former USSR the difference was very clear.
Strictly speaking, a graduate in Education, with a B.A. degree in that subject, is not prepared either for research or for teaching at a higher level, but only for teaching at secondary level (senior and junior high schools). By a decree designed only to give more power to Miguel Díaz-Canel – one of Raúl Castro’s protégés who has risen meteorically to the highest positions – they converted the “Centers” into “Institutes” and the institutes, in turn, into “Universities.” The old – and not so old – professors of the Havana Pedagogical Institute, with their inherent mediocrity that prioritizes the political-ideological over academics, dominate higher education in Cuba (both with regards to management and to teaching) and spread like a plague over the research institutes.
From the beginning, at my suggestion, Estado de Sats conceived the possibility of developing at least a multidisciplinary group that could undertake science beyond the reach of the (only) party and without any ideological compromise. I’d talked beforehand with Antonio and it was recorded in the final paragraph of my presentation at Estado de Sats in Casa Gaia:
Recommendations: Due to the special situation that exists in the county, take steps through the creation of sui generis Think Tanks structured not as institutions but as small NGOs of advanced studies, to fill the vacuum in thinking through the production (and publication on the Web) of original ideas and policies, initially educational, which can form the basis for the recovery of Cuban universities and their competitive spirit.
It is, undoubtedly, an ambitious plan with innumerable difficulties facing its development. For now, it remains dormant within the well-known analysis space, FORA.
The famous Plato discovered the reality of some entities that have two notable characteristics: being general and immaterial. If the philosopher was asked about sensitive things (at the level of the individual) he responded: they only exist by virtue of participating in the general abstract idea. So, we recognize a flower to the extent that it incarnates the general idea of “flower” and the first will be more beautiful and perfect the more it approaches the second, that is, its eidos or archetype.
So far so good, but the problem starts when we try to transfer this reasoning to the human being. Man does not fit, nor can he ever dissolve himself ―according the Castro’s totalitarian experiments― in the Revolution; only a Revolutionary fits within it. Therefore, the reduction of the total diversity of the real human being into only one of his accidents, is an anthropological injury (mutilating and lacerating). The same can be extended to the notions of Homeland and Nation. Many Cubans on the Island – including the critical left – are still living their lives dominated by these abstract ideas.
Until last year (2011) I lived in Cuba. Those who know me know that I did so as if I was a “citizen of the world”; and so I also wrote my texts, not from Havana, but situating myself mentally in the Swiss Alps. And although I paid some price for it, obviously, I never censored myself and I wandered through the city – and through the University itself – as a free soul. I think Emilio Ichikawa has already emphasized this feature of my personality: I learned to live freely in the most stifling oppression. The immediate impression I had on meeting Antonio G. Rodiles was of a person exactly like what I just described. We agreed on a rarely shared point, and on that basis, I enrolled in the project.
Estado de Sats is situated beyond everything that can be considered a limit to the full development of human individuality (personality): beyond the flags, the causes, the crowds, the revolutions, the patriotic and doctrinaire ideas. All these abstractions embraced, in one form or another, by the Communists, Fascists, Marxists and patriots of every stripe, we trade for the uniqueness of one life.
We understand that the nation is made for man, and not man for the nation. Consequently, we are not interested in “the ground our feet tread upon” – as José Martí said – nor in hatred, resentment, nor in some concept of “Humanity,” but in the comfort of those footsteps on the wiry grass (with a lower-case g or capital G) which illuminates and kills. Individuals will exist, even if Cuba no longer exists as a nation – that is whether or not they are “Cubans” – and what demands our attention is not the word that defines a place of origin, but the human condition to be free, or to not be at all.
In fact, one of the present barriers to freedom is nationalism, a preferred tool of domination that has spawned the modern dictator. Of course we are profoundly moved by patriotic matters, but we acknowledge that they are ancestral impulses. In another perspective, “my country is where my children eat,” according to the succinct definition of a mother (singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat) which demolishes half the edifice of modern political science.
The individual cannot be free under the paradigm of sovereignty, which relates solely to nations. A sovereign individual can only be the king, but the king is not strictly an individual, he is a monarch. Nor is a sovereign people a guarantee of individual freedom; freedom is individual or it does not exist. Hence our renunciation of nationalism. Just as they once emerged, nation-states are now beginning to blur within the new reorganization of the world order.
Poor are those who construct their thinking within nationalist strategies, which today is like returning to feudalism. Particularly with regards to the theme of reconciliation among Cubans, Estado de Sats evades the polarization of nationalism/anti-nationalism and places its bets on the post-national. Cubans must end the primitive worship of symbols if we don’t want to continue living in the past. At the end of the day, it only adds fuel to the Castro regime’s fire where they forge the darts of “plattismo” – that is, calling forth the boogeyman of the Platt Amendment – annexationism, and other ridiculous memories dedicated to the destruction of the other.
Anyone advocating the post-national cannot be an annexationist, it would be a contradiction in terms. Rather the question is: by what right can a government that excludes its own nationals (inside and outside the country) from economic and political affairs, while it opens its doors – with the logic of a hooker – to foreign investment, accuse anyone of “plattismo”? What kind of nationalism is it that, on behalf of the foreigner, has deprived Cubans of their most elemental rights to the point of destroying their self-esteem?
The new concept of resistance
The reality is quite different from the cynical and crazy idea about the supposed CIA funding put forward by pro-government bloggers. The Estado de Sats project is faced with a difficult economic situation, but it does not stop. With all its limitations, Estado de Sats has managed a scope and internal visibility never before recorded in the dissent. We are connected in Cuba with intellectuals, artists, academics, activists, dissidents, independent and alternative projects, bloggers, etc. Today we can say that SATS is the window of Cuban civil society.
A hundred people regularly attend its meetings and then disseminate the videos copied onto CDs and flash drives throughout the country. Its outreach is channeled through blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TV Marti and Radio Marti, as well as in digital versions of well-known European and American newspapers. Our work’s media edge has been taken advantage of by some of the “enlightened” on the outside who have assigned themselves the task of teaching, through their computer keyboards, how to fight against the Cuban regime.
The fundamental mistake shared by not a few authors of these “rightist” and extremist posts who seek to guide the internal dissidence from exile, is that they have an outdated image of the dynamic opposition and lack direct ties with the resistance on the Island, the only ones capable of lending some credibility to what they write. In the best case, such gaps are supplemented with unnecessary rhetoric, loaded with false profundity, long and drawn out citations, displays of historic erudition and conceptual diversions that can only make us laugh; in the worst case they are filled with authentic videogame proposals which must be executed by real actors to overthrow the current government. For the real dissidents, on the other hand, it is becoming clear that situated at the point of confluence of art, thinking, and ordinary Cubans, Estado de Sats has opened a true breach in the armor plating that separates the people from the active opposition.
Who, ultimately, is behind Estado de Sats?
Only our dear friends Transparency and Freedom, whom the Cuban repressors are determined to ignore. So, our next guest could be the chief of State Security, or the U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. The whole world will be a witness should the first decline the invitation and the government refuse a visa to the second. This is why, to my way of thinking, they repress us but they tolerate us. So our detractors will have to pull together the intelligence to understand, at least: 1) on the other side of the video screen there is real opposition activity in a physical space; 2) if they continue to tie us to State Security the only reason is because the truth doesn’t interest them, nor are those from the ruling party interested in finding out our relationship to the CIA.
The doors of Estado de Sats are open; visit us, this will be the best way to come to know us.
Originally published in PenultimosDias.com.
29 May 2012