Criticism: Constructive or Complacent? / Yoani Sanchez

Revolutionary Vigilance, a Permanent Task

He raised his hand at the meeting. The director had told them “don’t hold back,” so he took advantage of the chance to say what he’d remained silent about for months. He started with the very low wages paid to public health workers. Then he talked about the dirty bathrooms, the water shortages, that the only sterilizer was broken, the leaks all over the hospital. He continued with the heat in the waiting room packed with patients and the lack of surgical instruments. He finished up with the exclamation, “it’s more than anyone can stand,” which plunged the room into a heavy and uncomfortable silence.

At the end someone approached him to say that his criticism hadn’t been constructive but merely a catharsis. So he didn’t speak again at any other meeting.

Behind the argument of looking for opportune and uplifting criticisms, hide those who in reality do not want any kind of criticism. For them, being proactive means bowing and preceding every statement with a flattering phrase. One should never, according to these encouragers of applause — question the system, much less the inefficiencies that don’t allow it to function. Being “constructive” amounts to not calling to account the current leaders of the political process, much less questioning the ideological model. One also needs to show a blind faith that everything will be resolved with “wise leadership” at the highest levels.

If someone deviates from the script of tolerated criticism, the disqualifiers will rain down upon them. Chip on the shoulder, whiner, crybaby… will be the first insults, although later it’ll move on to the already hackneyed “CIA agent,” “counterrevolutionary” or “enemy of the nation.” Their observations will never find the opportune moment, because they don’t include submission or self-blame.

Criticism doesn’t need a name. It doesn’t need to be classified as “constructive” or “destructive,” but it should be delivered with total rigor, regardless. Like rubbing medicine on a festering sore, criticism hurts, it makes you cry, it’s torture… but it cures.

5 March 2014