Poverty of Language / Fernando Dámaso

From what I hear on the radio, see and hear on television and read in the newspaper, I’ve come to the conclusion that Cubans, at least those who have some role in these media or who are interviewed, have stopped thinking and devote themselves to repeating old slogans and common phrases, particularly those that have been said by someone important. It’s the syndrome of inability to use their own heads and, at the same time, of self-censorship, taking care not to overstep the established boundaries.

Like catch phrases, every time they say or write something, they use the well-known “as the compañero said in his speech,” and so on. It’s like a protective shield to avoid disgracing oneself, by saying or writing something that hasn’t been authorized. The original responsibility is transferred to the compañero in the speech, and it’s assumed that anyone who speaks or writes only has to reaffirm because they are unable to think for themselves. The slogans are incorporated here, although they don’t contribute anything important, because they sound good to receptive ears, trained by years of media manipulation.

When someone, tired of hearing and reading nonsense, or by mistake, says or writes something interesting that goes beyond the ordinary, it creates a scandal and is softly whispered, “Did you see what he said!” or “I think the same myself.” There are those, more dogmatic and fearful, who add, “They’re going to make him pay for that!” Unfortunately, these different cases are rare, and it’s very difficult to hear or read anything truly interesting, to not be demonized in the alternative media.

For many people, especially leaders, officials and journalists, they will find it very difficult in a democratic society to overcome years of repetition of slogans and ideas of others without exercising their minds and developing their own opinions. They coud even fall into a depression, finding no words left to use, weakening their lexicon. They might even have to wait for the list of approved words and–why not?–the list of those forbidden. Habits, over time, become the law!

Let us hope that in new times, they will be different, and freely use all the richness of our language, without straitjackets or guidance from above. Receptive ears also will be different, having grown civilly, and will not be shocked at the truth, but will demand that it be said.

May 12 2011