Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 14 April 2021 — The controversy is useful: there are recent high-octane videos circulating in the social network where we can hear certain activists, or rather another chorus of Habaneros (people from Havana), who rant and rave in the street, hurling insults at the police and at (Cuban president) Diaz-Canel himself, and every day we come across more YouTubers reaching a crescendo in spraying around comments featuring our extensive vocabulary of swear-words. Resulting from the commotion generated in the media, Estado de SATS (Cuban discussion forum, supposedly named after Scandanavian expression meaning the moment just before the curtain rises), has proposed a debate on “Civility versus vulgarity”, and the controversy is increasingly heating up between contributors about the validity of this kind of protest.
Trying to define my position in this matter, my memory drags up the diva of Neo-Castrism, Humberto Lopez, when, in the Cubavision National News, he vented his rage against one Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara who posed nude in front of the cameras recently installed by the political police a few metres from his balcony. It was very shocking to see this sourpuss clown of officialdom asking millions of Cubans if “that is the way the opposition want to debate”, when everybody knows that for decades the cowardly government has evaded all direct confrontation with the opposition and has never dared to expose itself to public debate.
It’s surreal to see how the heartless bastards who disrespect my people, in an olympic outpouring of cynicism, try to make out they are the defenders of decency. But, in defence of little Humberto, it has to be said that in many cases we made it very easy, although at the very least it served to confirm one more time the old Castrista killer tactic: delegitimise and slag off whatever message of vindication by alluding to the “vulgarity” of the messenger.
From this, we need to draw an intelligent lesson: Castroism, like an old sea-dog, knowing a lot about the ocean of possibilities of manipulation, will always make us pay for any error and with vicious impunity will go for the jugular every time we try to take a shot.
While we are on this point, I would like to clarify something: everything I write here is from the point of view of conciliation of all parties, if I can. More than 60 years of outrage have caused still-bleeding wounds and left tracks in the psyche of my people, and so, in this controversy, whatever stinging reaction comes up is understandable.
I understand that in the face of this despotism there is an accumulation of feelings of impotence and frustration which would make even Teresa de Calcutta lose it, but, just the same, I hope my position is understood to be valid and urgent because this is a big deal for our nation. If, with my tone, I offend against any sensibility, I excuse myself in advance, above all if my humble apology touches the heart of any brother passing sleepless nights over the liberty of my people.
Our political situation got more complex with the deepening of the irreversible social and economic crisis of the Cuban regime. Right now, there are visible and invisible factors interacting because of the eruption of the social media, adding their new dynamic. In this context it is clear that some people consider protesting is valid and that the more insults you throw in per second the more patriotic you are.
This is a troubled world we are dealing with, where there is an absence of any civic proposals and where almost never does anyone propose a concrete way out of the crisis we are living through. In fact, either they avoid expressing themselves in political terms, or, alternating between naiveté and “prudence”, they end up claiming they don’t consider themselves to be the opposition, and they are only bursting with rage from their position of common indignation, as if that made any sense in a totalitarianism like Cuba.
Those who praise such spontaneous and visceral outbursts – no doubt sincerely – where all that can be heard is barren and boring, and therefore useless, rather than argument which is disruptive and coherent – thats to say, politically useful – supported by “traditional” Cuban opposition, whom they oppose, are opting for a path which is sterile and gets us nowhere. Doing this is just a marginalisation, which is seen as an end in itself, but simply shows ourselves to the world as naive, superficial and grotesque – remember, my friends, that, for good or ill, time rushes by, and all that is happening is that we are handing ourselves over on a silver platter, because that is the image of all the Cuban opposition as a whole which the opportunist government ideologues are trying to construct in the collective public imagination.
These ideologues, don’t forget, have their next congress in a few days and have made it known that they will, with the worst of intentions, review government policies regarding use of the internet. No-one should be in any doubt that they have noted and will refer to these eloquent examples, to clothe with legitimacy the escalation of censorship, and strengthening of the legislation against the “offences” associated with the “inappropriate” use of social networks.
History has shown us that wars – and this one is no exception – are not won by the just, but by the smart. Courage is not enough; the fight for the freedom of a people cannot be reduced to a matter of bravado, no matter how much frustration or rage is weighing down on our backs. There is evidence that marginalisation never opens the way forward for any people, but rather, totally cynically, the common enemy of our liberty uses this point of weakness to conceal its dagger, and we have to put up with them perfuming their guarantee of public spirit, which is an insult to us, and so the equation doesn’t stack up, and that is when we will recognise the sad reality: that we will have placed in their hands a formidable weapon which will be mercilessly turned against us, which is an inexcusable aggravation, an act of self-harm lacking any logic in the context of this rigorously ideological war.
It’s not just me saying that, but history has demonstrated it. We recall not only the exemplary struggles of Ghandi, and Mandela, Luther King and Walesa, but also poking around in our own rich patriotic ideology with its roots down with the precepts of Padre Valera, and way up to the heights of Jose Marti, as well as dispersed throughout many thinkers, creators and activists throughout the 20th century; don’t forget that the pen sleeps alongside the machete, because in the beginning is the idea, and that is what calls us. It is essential that we make no concessions in this epic struggle, so we don’t get wrecked because we didn’t avoid trivialising our fight with pointless and directionless shouting.
Although shouting is always better than keeping quiet, and with everybody fighting against the Castroist absolutism every grain of sand counts, I could never imagine Jose Julian Martí naked against the Spanish courts during his exile in protest against colonialism; and I really have not seen, nor can I recall one example of a world-class hero in the last hundred years who achieved civil rights, set people free or defeated empires throwing boxes of pineapples. What has freed people up to now – without exception – has always been the energetic flow of ideas fermented groups of thoughtful people which then clearly pointed the way to go so that the people could rush forward.
Victories were never achieved by producing vulgarities, no matter how much empathy we have for the pain felt by the dispossessed. We have no reason to accept vulgarity, or to suppose that living in an era in which victimisation is fashionable it is best to sign up to the “humble” faction to go with the flow, just because “that’s the way we Cubans talk”, because its easier, or because we lack character, and get to the point of being the negation of the firmness of principle or spiritual elevation, to the point of accusing the “other opposition” of frivolity, when their capital sin is nothing other than defending with steely tenacity coherent proposals for opposing a ruthless common enemy – an opposition which, let us not forget, has sacrificed all in the trenches.
The war cry of Osorbo (Cuban rapper) is not more authentic just because it is spontaneous of visceral, or because he he came from a modest home in San Isidro, than that of Antonio Rodiles (Cuban political activist) just because he comes over as more thoughtful in Estado de Sats (forum for debate on social, cultural, and political issues in Cuba) from a “chic” location in Miramar. It would be counterproductive to try to parameterise, when both messages have the same intention – expressed in different frequencies but on the same dial as far as all our sufferings are concerned – and when both are, in their different ways, authentic war cries.
Any confrontation within the Cuban opposition which does not end in an embrace against the common enemy is senseless and is music to the ears of the dictatorship. But, look, it isn’t that both authentic cries have equal range. The main point here is not asking ourselves whether both are sincere claims – I don’t doubt that at all – but which of these two ways of understanding civic responsibility – different only in form, not content – is the more strategically useful in fighting against a dictatorship which has clung on through 60 years of terror. Which of them is realistically destined to help us reach our longed-for achievement of a Rule of Law? That, and nothing else, is the question.
To close these reflections, above all for those who are not yet convinced, I will just put one question: why is it that a propaganda machine as efficient as the Cuban Communist Party’s has never dared to publish a page or a fragment or any article or to transmit even 30 seconds of video of any criticism or civic proposal out of the mouth of Eduardo Payá or his daughter Rosa María Payá, or Antonio Rodiles, Coco Fariñas, Dagoberto Valdéz, José Daniel Ferrer, Reinaldo Escobar or Yoani Sánchez – from whom you have definitely never heard a bad word – but if any member of this new wave hurls any swear words, they rush to put out lengthy reports in the national chain which take up a good part of their news about whichever is the latest flunky mouthing off?
The answer is very simple: Castroism knows that its mortal enemy, with the potential to wipe it out, is a long-term proposition that avoids the ghettos and the tribalisms, and which advances arguments like punches in firmly denouncing at the right time so as to dissect and analyse the regime in all its cruelty and greed. The fight against the most treacherous dictatorship which we are living with is not a task for sprinters, but a long-distance race in which it is not worth wasting energy in senseless outbursts, because it is constancy, firmness and clarity of purpose, and nothing else, that finally define the guidelines for victory. Here the thoughtless guttural scream, no matter how emotionally justified, is born condemned to be extinguished, without ever having seen off the despot oppressing us.
True people are made from men who are the way they actually are, not the way they ought to be. These are the oxen who have to pull the plough; these are our drills and with them we will build the house, and a war cry emitted from the throat of a patriot will always be a good cry to shake up the tyrants, whether uttered from Miramar or San Isidro, but we have to keep in mind that to succeed in our main objective, and to work for our liberty, anger is not enough.
Translated by GH