A Meeting of Two Worlds / Reinaldo Escobar

It’s been many years since I saw an Australian film whose title I chose for today’s post. It told of a romance between a white city girl, lost in the middle of the desert, and a young native. I don’t agree with how the story ended, but I haven’t forgotten the distress of those characters in having to interact with someone so different.

Last Friday, the 18th, the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) for the upper floors of the building where I live invited all residents to attend the discussion of the Guidelines for the VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party. The summons emphasized the need for Party members and members of the Young Communist League to attend. I was the first attendee to arrive at the 10th floor lobby where the meeting was to take place. The only ones there were the CDR president, the Party head for the zone, and two instructors from the Party Municipal Committee. Bit by bit more people came, eventually making up a group of thirty.

I will not try to recount my contributions here, which were few and moderate, nor the combative spirit with which they were energetically rejected, as if they were attempts at provocation. I am obliged, however, to say that everything transpired without violence, civilly, one could even say in a democratic spirit. What I wish to relate is the sense of a “meeting of two worlds” that characterized the two-hour meeting.

I must confess I was surprised by the vehemence with which a young man demanded to add the concept of “free” to education, in Section 133 of the Guidelines which touches on this point. He was vividly disturbed, fearing that this accomplishment would disappear. I was seized with a strange feeling seeing a neighbor worry about Guideline 162, which provides for the eventual elimination of the ration book that, to him, “guarantees a minimum every month,” and I was absolutely sure that neither the uniformed officer from the People’s Revolutionary Army (FAR), nor the one from the Ministry of the Interior dressed in plain clothes, were faking it when they invoked the irreversibility of socialism in Cuba.

I wonder how either of these people would feel if they accepted an invitation to the regular gatherings we have from time to time in our home, or in that of other friends, to discuss alternatives and possible scenarios for change in our country. What would be their astonishment to see the ease with which we talk about a possible transition and the unviability of socialism in Cuba.

No one should be unaware, much less deny, that on this small island there are at least two worlds coexisting, each convinced of its prevalence over the other, its numerical or moral superiority. The first to understand this reality should be our leaders who continue to insist that all opposition is mercenary and pro-imperialist, and that all those who are against official policy are enemies of the fatherland, anti-Cuban. But nor are we who distance ourselves from the official doctrine entitled to believe that on the other side there are only opportunists or thugs in the pay of the dictatorship. This is the time to realize, if we really want to find a solution to our problems, that we need civilized dialogue.

This dialog, of course, will be impossible as long as difference of opinion is not decriminalized and that step must be taken by those who govern.

21 February 2011