The Good Intellectual / Yoani Sánchez

Lost in the metaphor, the good intellectual avoids approaching the reality through which the universal will make his work more transcendent than the local. He hides, in some symbolic passage of his theatrical script, in the parable of a verse, or in the barely visible little figure in the corner of the canvas, that dose of criticism that later will allow him to boast that he “never remained silent.” He knows censorship very well, the simulation and fear that corrode your work, but he responds angrily to whomever reminds him. What do you want? That I go work in construction? He spits at anyone who criticizes his excessive concessions. He prefers to address the erotic rather than the political, the past before the present, to recreate the classics rather than his contemporaries. Once his name was on the black list, and the gray list, but now they honor him and give him medals. He has Internet access from his own home, and for a few years now has enjoyed an all-expenses paid weekend at a hotel in Varadero.

The good intellectual has a file at the United States Interest Section, in hopes of a visa, but he went that day in hat and sunglasses hoping no one would recognize him. He lectures and makes the rounds of the universities in the “Empire” while trying to modulate his speech, there and here, lest it be outdated in one place and too liberal in the other. When foreign delegations come he likes to be close by, bring home some visitor, play on their emotions a little so they’ll offer him an invitation to any place in the world… because at the end of the day, “no one can live here.” He has a satellite dish well hidden in the last room, but speaking with his colleagues he pretends he saw the national news last night, or the Roundtable last Tuesday. A friend passes him copies of those prohibited pages he would never have dared to enter from his own computer.

The good intellectual is very quiet while waiting for a response to his exit permit, and when he returns he behaves well so they’ll authorize his next trip. It seems that every kind of activism or obvious political positioning is for those who don’t have his talent of the pen or the brush. He looks over his shoulder at those who waste their time in discussions of “reforms,” “changes,” or other fleeting trifles. But when he takes a couple of drinks he wonders if he has scaled the artistic heights because of his real talent, or because of the massive exile of those who could have been his competitors. Saved in a some drawer is that song he composed with his guts hanging out, that poem where he got totally naked, or that screaming mouth he once painted. Because a “good intellectual” is never discomposed, never involved in social passions, never lets himself drift into the street.

15 February 2012