Response to Elaine’s Irritation / Miriam Celaya

Elaine Diaz, photo from the Internet

Just as expected, the article I published in number 9 of the magazine Voces which I reposted in this blog caused stinging and irritation in more than one website, which always makes me feel good. Among those affected by the stings, blogger Elaine Díaz seems to honor me with her attention in a particular way. “Strange Attractor,” published in her blog La Polémica Digital (Digital Controversy), is the writing that flatters me. Some friends and readers informed me about her reference to my work, because — and here, following the example of our leaders, I must self-criticize — I’m not a regular reader of Elaine’s blog. This distinction piqued my interest and almost my liking for this young woman, who, I am told, is a professor at the School of Communication. Maybe that’s why she writes well, which, I’m sad to admit, is not always a quality that comes with our journalists and other communicators.
Elaine, I repeat, writes well, but does not always say it well. It could be because she may not read as well as she writes, or because my article made her nauseous, which she admits. Or maybe because, in her anxiety and haste to disqualify me, she neglected some odd little detail, such as the fact that the pioneer blog she uses as a reference (Murciegraphos), which I must confess I was not acquainted with, had not been updated since 2007, that is, before the blogger explosion in Cuba. Nor does it seem odd to me that some isolated blog might constitute a blogosphere, which is what my article is about. However, she shouldn’t deny that the increase of blogs, especially those that have remained on the Internet, which are updated regularly and which are among the ones that have provoked a virulent reaction from the authorities, is a phenomenon that took place after 2007. I propose historic examples that may illustrate my assumption: It is known that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World in 1492. However, archaeological finds attribute the Vikings’ presence in North America prior to the discovery date. Nevertheless, for all purposes, October 12, 1492 is the date that marks the discovery of America because Columbus was able to return to Europe and testify to the existence of land on this side of the Atlantic, and the Vikings were not, to my knowledge. Or maybe the Nordic Scandinavians were not very interested in the matter of discovering something, who knows. But, like it or not, Elaine, pioneer Karel’s “inconvenient” blog did not mark the beginning of the blogosphere, if not, I, just having found out about its existence, would advocate the right of giving it due recognition, and I would flagellate myself for not having known about it until today. Even Voces Cubanas came after the platform (early 2007), or even Consensus (December 2004), a collective platform.
Elaine conveniently omitted a piece of my post where I state that, at the time of the birth of the alternative blogosphere, “different people drew near, some of whom had long since been dabbling in online journalism or had taken their first steps in isolated blogs”. That is, the emergence of a blogger platform in itself did not negate, at any time, the prior existence of other blogs, although it’s true that, because there were doubts, I did not mention any particular one. 

I add that I could be mistaken in other facts, and I am willing to rectify those errors, if that’s the case. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough Internet connectivity to verify and correct them all soon. It would be great to have help from informed people such as Elaine… and also from others even better informed, because her investigations are a bit skewed. For example –using a funny and biblical parable – she assumes that Eve was born with the blog Sin EVAsion (January 2008), as inferred from this quote from her post: “The Cuban blogosphere began with Adam, just as the beginning of time. Eve was not yet born, Miriam. Too bad. It would take three years”. Yes, sorry Elaine, because Eve was actually born in 2005 for the daily Encuentro en la Red, probably a few months after your paradigm Karel. Under the pseudonym Eva I began to collaborate in the publication that year. Eva was born before Eva’s blog, unrelated to Adam’s rib. I think that, if Elaine wishes to correct my chronology, she should at least adjust her own, since she has such ample opportunities to do research. She should have prevented that error by just having been careful to read my blog’s profile before pouncing so zealously on me. I did not have (nor do I have) the intention of writing the history of the blogosphere, but to move some information around to complement the map that the U.S. academician Ted Henken put together, with facts and dates that the public was not aware of. That does not prevent the contributions of others, nor do I think that I’m worth such a waste of “revolutionary” energy in order to attack me. It might be indispensable now, and could be put to better use in the interest of “renewing the model”.
Then Elaine complains about my proposal, when she even classifies herself within the taxonomy: “I’m touched by the blogger who was born under protection, who has posts dictated to her over the phone, the a-critical, a-neuronal blogger who is an imbecile and is in favor of the regime for a few hours of free internet and a salary that fluctuates between the ridiculous to the inadmissible”. The truth is that I never said all that, though I admit that her assessment does not wander far from my evaluation. But, in this respect, it provides more details than I did, is delightfully explicit, although, considering her youth, she shows an inexplicable amnesia. Because I remember (how can I forget!) as part of a select cast of the TV show “The reasons for Cuba,” in which a number of alternative bloggers, including me, are accused of being cyber-terrorists, mercenaries and traitors, although, as usual and as it turns out, impossible, evidence of such charges was not provided. Elaine cannot ignore that putting the powerful machinery of the media, the government monopoly that she defends so much as a function of fabricating a false case against other Cubans is usually a preamble for a history of long jail sentences and constitutes a criminal act of which I declare her an accomplice. Did someone, beyond conjectures, perhaps show her concrete evidence of our “payments” at the service of a foreign government? Perhaps it’s enough for a journalism professor that the authorities summon her to offer herself to do their dirty work? And she still denies she is “official”? In Cuba, under a dictatorship, this is a rhetorical question. Moreover, after this, I don’t know if she has the right to be included in the category of official blogger “light”.
However, I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt: there are some that say that Elaine was used by the political police, that her statements were conveniently edited, and that she had no idea that they would appear in the program of reference. For my part, when I want to enjoy a mix of talent and naïveté, I prefer attending a performance of The Little Beehive (no sarcasm, those kids are great performers), provided that it is not a work of tribute to the five spies or other similar atrocity. But if Elaine had really been manipulated, shame and journalistic ethics should have compelled her then to publicly denounce the media maneuver. So far, she has not done that, so there are only two options left: either she shares the “reasons” for the mentioned TV show, or she might have her own private “reasons” to not contradict her obligations. Mystery surrounds Elaine, perhaps until everyone is able to enjoy better times. Isn’t that right, Elaine?
A few months later, she was discretely invited to a twitter encounter that was held on July 1st, 2011 at 23rd and 12th Streets in Havana, enthusiastically embraced by some alternative twitters (Orlando Luis, Yoani Sánchez and Claudia Cadelo among them) who were quickly rejected from the original show. A dividing, clearly defining line should be drawn between her (them) and us. It all became official, rigid and exclusive, demonstrating that ideological barriers are imposed by official bloggers-subordinated to the government, not the independent bloggers and twitters, who answer to no one. What are we talking about then, Elaine? Along the same line, I remember the first blogger contest “Una Isla Virtual”, Elaine Díaz was awarded a prize she rejected, a mere certificate recognizing her work in a blog. It was a “contaminated” acknowledgement, not because she said so, but because her benefactors did. More than once, a hand has been extended from the alternative blogosphere, and she has refused to take it without providing reasons beyond the same old official rhetoric. Free? You, Elaine?
And this makes me land on another of her “arguments”. Elaine states: “There is little time left for those who believe in Socialism (the capital “s” is hers, of course) in a sublime act of honesty or ideological suicide or simply because they democratically and sovereignly feel like it”. Actually, she completely lost her muse in this respect, because the same statement can be applied to her in reverse. Why can’t I selflessly be against socialism and against the Cuban government (which, incidentally, are not the same thing), for an honest act of choice, without being paid for it by a foreign government? I am neither socialist nor Marxist, but that does not make me a mercenary or an annexationist (my apologies to those who choose to be). At any rate, I have friends who are avowedly socialist and they are dear friends. Other friends of mine, as dear as these, have liberal, demo-Christian, and even anarchist leanings. I do not subscribe to any ideological bias or base my friendship on ideology. Others don’t find it easy to define me politically either (anti dictatorial is the name that comes to mind to define me in some manner); but just the same, I allow myself the right to have political opinions and to criticize whatever I “democratically feel like” I declare that I am interested in politics, though it is not the axis around which my life revolves, because I prefer to choose the political program that closest to my own interests than to tamely permit that others make policy and decisions for me. The Cuba that I dream of would not exclude anyone because of her political ideology, and that includes socialists, Marxists or whatever it’s called in the fictional theoretical literature. Is that clear to you, Elaine? Or will you need many more spoonfuls of this aloe tonic?
I too, like many other Cubans, am self-taught on many issues, but that does not make me reluctant to take training courses and skills from someone who masters certain disciplines. In fact, taking free training is part of self-learning and depends, among other things, on the student’s interest. Did Professor Elaine know this? Hence, I decided to take the free course offered by the Yoani of Elaine’s sorrows, and I will always be grateful to that friend’s generosity for sharing her knowledge with me (and with so many others!) And I am grateful to everyone who ever provided me with some sense. I cannot mention all of them, there are too many. This is a group almost as large as my own ignorance, of which I become more aware the more I learn.
Let me re-emphasize the idea that a blogger is the highest example of freedom of expression. Elaine’s theoretical gloating when referring to emerging personal maps from 1995 to today and her impressive Jorn Barger and Justin Hall quotes, as well as the fact that users use blogs “for journalism, the compartmentalization of recipes, writing romance novels or for whatever they fancy” does not deny the principle of freedom of expression, but quite the opposite. Since when should free speech be limited to merely the political? Why wouldn’t it be freedom of expression for a cook to exchange recipes with other colleagues throughout the world or a novelist to publish his literary works in his own blog? This girl has such a narrow concept of freedom of expression! But I’m not surprised by her mental parochialism: she has been conditioned to political compromise. Not me. I believe that freedom of expression is a wide and universal human right, not a political exercise.
The “truth about Cuba” is not, in fact, what Elaine or I say. Indeed, one cannot capture our reality in a few paragraphs, which seems to be my only point of convergence with the intellectual barricades. As a Cuban, I merely present my own experiences and perspectives. I have no masters, whether native or foreign. All my readers know I am not a complacent scribbler (I add that I’m also not “complacent” because every post I write I consider to be imperfect and incomplete). But Elaine cannot deny that, in my condition as a free, dissident and rebellious citizen, I must face demons that she does not. Others consider that a disadvantage. I feel it is an advantage and a privilege: I do not commune with dictatorships. The truth about Cuba, as she proposes, is not yours or mine. For now, I say the truth about Cuba is more about the number of exiles and dissidents, the meager pockets of ordinary people and the rampant corruption, the official statistics about the banana or fresh milk production or the eternal promise of renewal of the same government for almost 53 years. I remind Elaine that I’m almost 52.What is new for her is ancient history for me, though I have never felt I am “retro” like other people of my generation. I don’t pretend to have the ability to guide young people. I’d rather feel like I’m always “on the go” learning, sharing and creating, which is the best way to stay alive. I accept, unlike the generation of olive green octogenarian tycoons, that my half-century does not grant me any generational privilege. It would be like admitting that I have more rights than my own children, which I refute. Ultimately, my key word is “family”, not “revolution.”
I does not seem that those in the lead were not too far ahead when Voces Cubanas arrived, if indeed they were there at all, which, in addition, is not all that important. We and Club Cuba Blogs or Cuba Bloggers are also not “peaceful neighbors” of the same tenement slum, as claimed by Elaine. Although, if truth be told, the alternative blogosphere has been able to learn how to receive as a compliment the not-so-peaceful stonings from such neighbors, so we do not consider ourselves as victims, which does not negate that they constantly throw stones at us.
I can truly thank Elaine for her oblique but undeniable reference to my never-humble person. Maybe if she had been less bilious she would have seemed more authentic to me. What can we do! But, without a doubt, Elaine writes well, and a well-written piece is always appreciated. Hopefully, with time and experience, she might become better. Ah! I almost forgot a little detail: I don’t like humility. It reminds me of Isaura the slave, Uncle Tom, Liborio and many other characters whom I would never, under any circumstances, wish to be. I’ll gladly leave the monopoly on humility to Elaine, since she considers it a virtue. I hope she enjoys it.