Knock knock… who’s there?… close the ramparts! / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo.

A joke in the popular repertoire about that mischievous child, Pepito, has the little boy enjoying some candy without offering any to the anxious eyes of a friend. When he finishes it his friend complains, “ehhh… you didn’t give me any!” to which he replies, unmoved, “ehhh… you didn’t ask me!

This scene reflects in good measure the citizen-government dynamic pre-established in Cuba. Here political institutions and the government have always followed a policy of distancing themselves from any opinion or initiative that comes through any “channels” other than the official ones, which means: Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Woman, the national “unions” subordinate to the Confederation of Cuban Workers, and the political organizations which are only the Communist Party and the Young Communist Unions without forgetting, of course, the assemblies of accountability of the Local Organs of Popular Power.

But it happens that every opinion spilled there is automatically poured away if it is too uncomfortable, being processed to the municipal level only if it is “permitted”. Once there, it is censored, and passes – although “cautiously” sweetened – to the provincial level, and so the cycle is repeated until the central level.

In short, the words that come from the worker, activist, homemaker, student or voter that reach the end of the road, often mediate the distance between the person who utters them and the rings of Saturn. These “opinions” often get embellished and seasoned with the whole palette of the culinary-imaginative spices of a long chain of bureaucrats only interested in maintaining their status, and therefore, afraid of the rebuke from power in the event of a slip.

Decanted in this way, the Cuban government evades its responsibility to give us a direct accounting of the consequences of ill – often bad – economic and social management. This chronic unwillingness to listen sincerely to the people has led finally, in the ordinary citizen, to a lethal mix of helplessness and apathy, social indolence and civic irresponsibility, products of a belief that it’s not worth pulling teeth. As disastrous consequence everything stagnates, the leader scams us and the voter waits, the worker shuts up, and the editor censors: simulating everything as if nothing happened.

All this implies an absence of alternative mechanisms which the citizens could avail themselves of to defend their aspirations and proposals. Without a press that questions and reports an atrocity, without a judiciary to judge and condemn the untouchable corrupt, without a union to prevent the abuse of its “affiliates”, very little space can be left to aspire to a society in which some kind of civic pressure can be brought to bear against the irresponsibility of its leaders.

The average person today – carrying the most rudimentary sense of citizenship – has reached such a degree of moral poverty that he usually does not even question the reality that surrounds him, like all self-respecting totalitarian schemes, this eventually annihilates the critical sense of the most inert.

But something mysterious in human nature, no people, including us, can live only in shadows. There will always be a small sector, a repository of dignity, that do not shrug at the infamy, do not simply resign themselves to seeing their rights trampled. Of course, among Cubans of all political and ideological trends there are ethical people, willing to take risks, and power knows it.

So they take care to remove every germ of worthy initiative, to truncate from the time of hatching any seed that is a suspected carrier of a potential change. They have all the time and resources of the country can squander at will. If meanwhile civil rights are massacred, if the economy is ruined, if morality is a hotbed of that part of the people, that’s not a problem for power, because the issue comes down to their keeping everything under control, and for this they use an all-embracing and unhealthy repression.

For all these reasons the design of the system is conceived not to listen. The mission and ultimate goal of each and every one of the official structures – far from any genuine desire to channel the people – is to act as a retaining wall to prevent all that tide, with its huge burden of indignation, hopes dashed and frustrations, from surging and in its fury devastating the privileges of power.

Pepito and his friend will already have become men and surely will share more of a candy together. How to know if today they are among the dignified or the fakers? Are they among those who despite everything believe that you can touch the sun and who are fighting for their ideal to counter the storm, or among those who believe that dreams are dreams and thrive in the shadow of a lie then … to throw stones in the sun? For these the star shines too high, and after all is very true that you can burn your hands in the attempt.

January 31 2012