The Onion of Mistrust

The relentless persecution unleashed by the state to enforce the insane rules imposed on peasants is only successful on television. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 31 October 2020 – When my neighbor Manolo assured me that the absence of onions in the market was the consequence of the confiscation against a private onion warehouse in the Mayabeque province at the beginning of July of this year, it brought to mind a book I read when I was 18, Logical Errors.

In the text, published in 1964 by Political Editing under the authorship of the Soviet academic A.I. Uemov, there is a concept that has stayed with me until today: “The link that the person establishes between thoughts may or may not correspond to the real relationship that exists between them.”

Indeed, it is difficult to relate with any degree of logic that the thousands of tons of the confiscated vegetable (valued at 47 million pesos) still have an impact on the lack of this appreciated ingredient making Cubans cry today, when they realize it’s nowhere to be found in their kitchens.

However, there is a real relationship between the act of confiscation and food waste. The 30 people behind bars subjected to police investigation is what is causing repercussions here because it is not a mathematical link but something that living beings of almost all species have learned through experience.

This old lesson teaches us that the feeling of trust takes time to settle into a sense of security, but distrust sets off alarms that immediately activate defense mechanisms against danger.

The trust we develop towards a person, a commercial brand or a government, is built over the years, but mistrust arises, like a warning flash, and it surges because we have been surprised by a suspicious gesture in one who had seemed a friend; or because of a slight change in flavor in the product that we had liked since we were children; or the breach of the promises with which politicians come to power.

Onion farmers must first ensure that their seedbeds are protected; a couple of weeks later, the seedlings need to be transplanted to furrows, but first the land has to be properly cleared, watered and care taken that the crop won’t be affected by weeds. Finally, the harvest will come. All of this has to be done standing up in full sun and not sitting in an air-conditioned office.

It seems obvious that to commit to planting onions you have to be convinced that the work you do will be rewarded with an adequate financial remuneration, in addition to a deserved social recognition. If product marketing involves restrictive rules that limit profits, it only remains to try to skip the rules or plant something else. When the rules, in addition to being absurd, include disproportionate punishment, the project will be abandoned.

The relentless persecution unleashed by the Cuban State to strictly enforce insane rules imposed on farmers is only successful on television programs, where the seized merchandise is shown, and in courtrooms, where sentences are handed down, but the distrust generated in producers leaves a sequel that translates into my neighbor Manolo’s apparent lack of logic. Yes, our food cannot be well flavored because of the police operation in Mayabeque.

The worst thing is that once trust is lost, the time it will take to regain it is incalculable. We will have to continue crying over the onions.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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