The Rancid Taste of Old Age / Fernando Dámaso

In the Arab world new generations have made an appearance, demanding an end to autocratic governments entrenched in power for twenty, thirty, forty and more years, and democratic changes in keeping with the era of globalization and information without borders in which we live. From this side of the Atlantic, some governments are worried about the strongholds of apparent calm under the palm trees.

One symptom of this is the massive campaign just launched, calling on young people to participate in the activities of this April 16th (military parades, youth marches and the beginning of the many-times postponed Sixth Party Congress), because these mobilizations are always organized under strict control, where the workplaces and schools are assigned a number of participants, and meeting that number reflects on their respective administrators and principals (establishing meeting places, arranging transport, assigning places in the demonstration, meet-up points for the return trip, all well controlled through lists and names of the participants).

It’s true that no one puts a real pistol to your head to make you attend, but they utilize subtle pistols, such as: If you do not attend you may have problems at work or school, getting authorization to travel, and so on. We all know that spontaneity is conspicuous by its absence. In addition, for many of the happy fired-up participants their aspiration is to grab a trip abroad where they can stay and lead their lives in a more favorable environment.

This practice is nothing new: it has been utilized over the years by every totalitarian regime, be they of the right or the left. The difference with democratic regimes, is that the approval or disapproval of government management is determined at the ballot box and through the work of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. Here it is necessary from time to time to have an reaffirming event to demonstrate to the world that people support the current status.

If the call, rather than to march saluting the old leaders, were place the youngest people on the platform (reshuffling the generations), it would be a signal that something is changing. I’ve never understood why some leaders don’t have a retirement age, when it is established by law for all citizens. They could, in this way, rest from the arduous sacrifice of so many years dedicated to serving their country.

José Martí, the most intelligent of all Cubans, wrote: “All power, exercised broadly and over a long period of time, degenerates into caste. With caste come the interests, the high positions, the fear of losing them, the intrigues to sustain them.”

It would be appropriate for our leaders to pause at these wise words and review them. It is not with smokescreens but with effective measures that they must respond to the aspirations of citizens, including those of the youngest.

March 21 2011