Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society, the level of democracy and the level of income per household. continue reading

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup’s global survey. For example, the “life’s staircase” question: “imagine a staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top). The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are currently at right now?”

“Social support” means having someone that you can rely on during times of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry, sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico (25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included 155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone, whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the “staircase of life” was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer “where is the staircase to even begin to climb it?”

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America, with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100% reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades, emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections. At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator’s note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate. 

Fidel Castro’s Battle of Ideas… Political Pantomime / Somos+, Roberto Camba

Anti-imperialist Tribune in Havana, in front of the then United States Interest Section (now the US Embassy)

How much truth can a man take?
Friedrich Nietzsche

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 12 September 2016 — They say it began with the fight to return the young rescued rafter Elian Gonzalez from the United States to Cuba. Really it was much earlier, since the strategy never changes: silence and ignore the adversary, incessantly repeat lies until it is almost impossible to distinguish the truth.

To define, to communicate that the assault on the Moncada Barracks was a revolt of sergeants, to publish in Bohemia magazine in January of 1959 that the Revolution was green like the palm trees and had nothing to do with the Soviet Union, or to when the United States invaded Granada in 1983, are examples. And yet, “Revolution… is never lying,” say the propaganda billboards. continue reading

By monopolizing all the media immediately after 1959 and creating their own education program, the arsenals of weapons were entirely under their power. The enemy could have ideas, but could never express them publicly.

With the Elian Gonzalez case they started the Open Forums and the Roundtable TV shows… all caps. I never understood that these manifestations of the Battle of Ideas transmitted to the Cuban people were just about ensuring their overwhelming support for the Revolution. Where was the battle? Who was the enemy? Why do you line up the “canons” facing your own soldiers?

The speakers at these “Masses” didn’t have to think, they just recited the Revolutionary “creed” from memory. On the Roundtable show the soldiers didn’t have to face the enemy, only their colleagues on the other side of the table.

Cuban TV studio during the filming of the Roundtable show.

The concept of “Round” itself symbolizes the endless and monotonous. Like in Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” the topics of each day of the week were identical: “The King walks through his circular courtyard.” There is nothing new in a vicious circle.

All Communist regimes have curtailed freedom of expression. The only explanation for this is that it is in the ideological arena where they are most vulnerable. Therefore, they continually reject dialogue with the opposition, they refuse to share “the same room” with its representatives during the Americas Summit in Panama, so they hid the people of the “Varela Project” and discussions with Edmundo Garcia were only broadcast in Miami. Ultimately, former vicepresident Ricardo Alarcon ends up looking ridiculous talking to Eliecer Avila, then a student, as do the Castros at press conferences. They find having interlocutors uncomfortable. They learned monologues, not dialogues.

They arm the “fighters” of the Rapid Response Brigades for an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White. They shout a lot so they don’t have to hear the voices of these brave women. If there are not enough people they bring an orchestra, they set up a “Street Fair” with screaming kids or hold a “Carnival.” If the Ladies in White continue to express their ideas they force them into a bus and take them away.

The “Battle of Ideas” is a paradox. There is no “battle.” They only fight when they have previously “killed” the enemy. The other army is not allowed to shoot. Only then they can win the battle. In the Cuban Constitution there is only freedom of speech and of the press as long as they “conform to the aims of socialist society” (Article 53), which is another way of creating the crime of “enemy propaganda” (Article 103 Penal Code).

The “Battle …” has now moved to the digital arena. The “soldiers” of the University of Computer Sciences and State Security must comment on the articles of the official media, and of those refugee challengers in the only place that the state can not fully control: the internet.

Compare the comments on the articles in the official sites such as “Granma” or “Cubadebate” with those of the independent sites such as “14ymedio” or “CubaNet.” In the articles themselves, it seems they are speaking of different countries. Censorship makes the difference. The “soldiers” don’t get medals, they get toiletries and free internet access. In the land of those with nothing, nothing is an incentive.

The idea is not even new. Putin learned it in the KGB and used  it extensively as revealed by the newspaper The Guardian. The difference is that Putin pays his trolls better. Like any war strategy, it has a weak point. The “soldiers” — allowed to surf the internet to promote the Revolution — are exposed to the enemy’s “weapons.” Eventually they will contrast these ideas with those they’ve been inculcated with and with the reality they experience. And they will learn the truth … and the truth will set them free.