The Invisibility Virus

By Ammi

HAVANA TIMES – In the past, I have wanted to leave Cuba because of hunger, poverty, a desire for freedom, but now I want to leave because of a disease that has taken over the island, it goes by the name: Indifference.

I have stopped feeling this sense of attachment, this enthusiasm that defined Cubans for being empathetic and making any cause their own, from a bit of salt for the neighbor in need, to the burning desire to accompany them to the hospital and track down a medicine they need.

I can’t say that this is a widespread ill of society, I have always heard my grandparents say that famous phrase of “there are still good people around”, it isn’t that this emotional numbness is stopping me from living my life and adapting to the space I live in. I’ve just got used to living in a country of simple people without any barriers or body fortresses, people who would hug you as soon as they met you.

This emotional coldness has come to stay in Cuba. It has come with a shield that protects the “I”, isolating it and hiding it in the darkest and most uninhabitable place of human existence.

In terms of social living, indifference is normally rejected. I believe it goes against the values of respect, solidarity and empathy needed to live in a society.

I need movement, I need to respond and for anyone who hears an emergency call to respond, a combination of emotions, an interaction that goes against taking a neutral position which brings us to a standstill, paralyzes us, where things don’t tend to change.

I want to leave Cuba because it has fallen into a slumber, it has fallen into a “medically-induced coma”.

My flag, my homeland, my national anthem sung by voices that are used to the same catchphrases without finding the resounding truth, hurt me too much.

I don’t want to see how our steps slowly take us away to nowhere, I don’t want to listen to what people say without understanding what they are thinking. I don’t want to hear words with deaf ears, while a woman is killed, while I see a child go hungry or a helpless animal. I don’t want to keep running into lifeless bodies, with scents and sounds but without an owner, like a full cemetery, but empty…

This ill is an undeniable global reality, but it has hit the Cuban people hard in recent times, and I’m afraid it has now become our culture.

I want to stop for a moment, in another place, realize what is happening around and inside me, not to become infected by this dying state of non-reaction. I can’t stand this lack of feeling being our feeling, while every step silently leads us towards an indifferent society.

15 thoughts on “The Invisibility Virus

  • About one thing we can agree Nick, apart from Boris and his school mates, there are insufficient ‘Gentlemen’ left to form a team.
    But your comment reminded me of the great Freddie Trueman, who when following taking his 300th test wicket, was asked by the BBC commentator in a plummy patronizing accent (could have been Arlott), “Well Freddie, how do you feel having taken your 300th test wicket.”
    Freddie was never one to waste words, his response was: “Bloody tired.”
    Another indication of the attitudes, is that we had a cricket coach at school – when he as a ‘Player’ was Captain of Yorkshire – Leonard Hutton. In 1947, I saw him open for Yorkshire against New Zealand. In the late afternoon, he carried his bat back into the pavilion having scored 247 runs not out. I never went to see another game – I had seen the best that cricket had to offer!

  • Mr MacD,
    When you state that someone objects to paying taxes “to pay for other people to raise their kids.” then you are getting close to what I am talking about.
    This would be a somewhat benign example, but you are getting the gist. This is prevalent all over the place and not specific to any British Class System or Little Englanders. People trying to get by on welfare in the USA would attest to this.

    Your reminiscence of a bygone era when people called other people ‘sir’ in pubs is hilarious. You definitely show your age with that one!
    Thankfully the U.K. has largely moved on from that era. No ‘Gentlemen vs Players’ cricket games anymore.

  • Oh Nick, if you are talking about the Little Englander syndrome, where anybody or anything that doesn’t fit into the mould is vilified, then I agree that it is commonplace. I recall the West Indians – churchgoers – who arrived to work for London Transport in the early fifties, to suffer awful abuse – particularly by the so-called “working class” and the religious right. There is no question that the UK class system was ingrained – and it appears is still in evidence. Vilification flowed all ways.
    I was under the impression that you were referring to vilification being directed at parents of larger numbers of children, for accepting various social programmes. At the time when my late wife and I had four young children, a young fellow who was courting a sister of my wife, and was proving successful in business, driving a BMW 2000, objected to paying taxes “to pay for other people to raise their kids.” My response was to ask that if he intended to remain childless, who was going to provide services for him in his old age? One interesting consequence was that he had to go looking for a new girlfriend.
    Regarding Boris – or alternative description Eton Prime Minister XIV – he obviously in addition to attracting Brexiteers irrespective of party affiliation, also attracted many of the cap-doffing bunch.
    I have described to non-Brits inquiring about the UK class system, two men meeting in a pub, who will somehow through that mysterious combination of behavioral pattern, accent and dress, end up calling each other “Sir” and “My man” – each recognizing the others “class”.
    As for your comment about Boris and the running tap – it almost led to a leak!
    I share your view about vilification.

  • Mr MacD,
    Thanks for clarifying what you see as a key difference between conservatism and socialism. Most interesting.
    It is also interesting that you refer to ‘Right to Buy’ which you have attributed to Prime Minister Thatcher. Whilst it was a Conservative Government who rolled out this scheme in the 1980s, you may be surprised that such a scheme was first mooted in a Labour Party Manifesto as early as the 1950s. According to my recollection it was actually first trialled by the Labour Party on a relatively small scale. But you are correct that the scheme was one of the key aspects of 1980s Conservative Policy.
    Results were mixed. From my own point of view I think it was a great idea but with certain flaws. I know various people who benefitted greatly. I know of various property speculators who benefited even more greatly as they gradually hoovered up a lot of these properties for what was, relatively speaking, mickey mouse money. Urban Local Authorities were appalled by the fact that they were not permitted to plough the proceeds back into building affordable housing and such housing stocks were therefore depleted. There are various parts of the U.K. where there used to be affordable housing but it’s simply no longer available. This is one, but not the only factor, leading to the homelessness problem which U.K. cities have to this day. There are often cases where Local Authorities have a statutory duty of care to provide housing for someone vulnerable. And there are cases where, in order to do this, these Authorities have to pay extortionate rent to Property Speculators to rent back the very same properties that they sold off in the first place.
    A curious paradox wouldn’t you say?
    A good policy but with some bad caveats.

    I note that you say that the Tail Wagging Government Advisor previously worked for the opposition party. Really? I think you may wish to check on that. He’s done various things but I don’t think that has been one of them. He had a mysterious period in Russia. He ran the Brexit Campaign (beneficial to the Russians?). Now he runs the Government.
    There is a saying in the UK which goes: ‘Boris couldn’t run a tap’.

    Mr MacD, if you are seriously suggesting that the type of vilification I mentioned doesn’t occur, then you are incorrect. Typically, it is most often directed at single mothers, minorities, immigrants, other people in vulnerable situations etc. It is vile.
    It would surprise me if you had ever been subjected to this type of vilification. I am very pleased to learn that you have not been subjected to anything like this.

    In fact if anyone vilifies you for any reason whatsoever Mr MacD, just give me their contact details and I shall give them a very stern dressing down……..

  • In 1950, I was working 48 hour weeks on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland as a teenager. When my ‘keep’ had been deducted, I received 3 pounds, seventeen shillings and sixpence per fortnight (two weeks). In January 1951, I received an increase of six shillings per week. The good news in 1951 was the defeat of the Labour Party and with it the end of food, clothing and footwear rationing.

    Now I don’t know Nick where you would place such an occupation with such remuneration on your “social/economic ladder”? Perhaps you may do so?

    You obviously relate political opinions to earnings and your social/economic ladder. In response, I can only remind you that for some, political views are based upon what is best for society as a whole, and that as an illustration, the repeated success of Margaret Thatcher in open elections was based upon the improved conditions for those “toward the bottom of the social/economic ladder” and in particular when she converted municipal tenants into becoming property owners.

    Boris Johnson received his astonishing majority largely as a consequence of voters in industrial England. If I had been a voter in Britain at that time, I would have voted Liberal, recognizing the buffoon and his pandering circle for what they are. It is noteworthy also that the tail wagging advisor to whom you have referred, was hired away from his previously Labour Party engagement.

    Regarding numbers of children, both my maternal grandparents were the oldest of eight children. Both left school by the age of twelve. They had six children. By dint of parental hard work, and at a time in the UK when only 2.8% of the population received university education, five of the six children became university graduates.

    You Nick make assumptions – frequently incorrect.

    At the heart of the difference between conservatism and socialism, is the belief of the former in the principle of freedom and individuality, and in the latter a dogma that the State should be the ultimate authority for the whole of life.

  • Mr MacD, People are not subject to the vilification that I mention because they have four children. Or five children. Or more. That’s surely a deliberate misinterpretation.
    People are subjected to this vilification if they have children and struggle. That is to say, people toward the bottom of the social/economic ladder.
    Mr MacD, you provide HT readers with a very generous quantity of often interesting comments. There has never been any hint in any of these comments that you have ever been toward the bottom of any social/economic ladder.
    I strongly suspect that sometimes you disagree with my comments simply for the sake of disagreeing with my comments. Which causes me to chuckle heartily.
    Are you seriously suggesting that the vilification that I mention does not occur??
    If that’s what you’re actually suggesting, I would find that totally hilarious.

  • “If someone in places such as the UK or the USA has four children and struggle in any way and are in receipt of state support then they are subject to tirades of abuse from right wingers.”

    A typical Nick declaration based upon his usual political convictions. Blarney!

    As I mentioned, I just happen to be the father of four children, all born in the UK and all attending school in the UK. We as a family benefited from various state supports.

    I can accurately report that we never received tirades of abuse from anybody regarding the number of our children – not even from imaginary right wingers!

    I can also say that I had many long discussions with a prominent socialist Minister of Education, regarding the assault made upon the Grammar Schools during her period in office, when I was defending the right of all academically gifted children to that form of education irrespective of parental income. She had but one daughter but later and oddly, selected a well-known academic school for her education.

    As a consequence of their personal endeavors and state support, the two older children both graduated from university with Masters degrees. The two younger ones graduated from Canadian universities.

  • Manuel, like so many armchair Bolsheviks, makes the unjustified assumption that but for the US embargo, Cuba would be an socialist economic success. Really? Like China? Like Vietnam? These countries are far from being ‘socialist’ countries. Authoritarian State Capitalism at best. The truth is given the size and underdeveloped infrastructure in Cuba, economic success even under the mist lenient capitalist system is at least a generation away.

  • I have enough Mr MacD. Thanks.
    And I have every sympathy with Ammi’s ‘plight’ as you refer to it – as I clearly stated in my comment.
    I read Ammi’s articles with great interest. They are very well written and do all seem to have a similar take. She seems to have replaced Good Old Elio who’s articles had pretty much the polar opposite take.
    I personally think it is great that Ammi is a mother of four. The birth rate is worryingly low in Cuba. I wish Ammi and her children all the best.
    The Cuban State makes certain provisions for children: healthcare, education, subsidised foodstuff to an extent.
    Capitalist countries at the bottom of the ladder would provide far less state provision. Capitalist countries at the top of the ladder may well have much greater provision in the form of support, welfare, benefits etc.
    My point is this:
    If someone in places such as the UK or the USA has four children and struggle in any way and are in receipt of state support then they are subject to tirades of abuse from right wingers, Conservatives, right wing propaganda/media, press, commentators, radio shock jocks etc etc etc…. This type of ugly criticism is also rife on social media. Unfortunately It’s widespread.
    The ultimate insult is to say that the object of their abuse is wasting tax payers money and ‘shouldn’t have had four kids’.
    This is common in the U.K., the USA and I reckon that this even occurs in the wonderful and virtuous expanse of Canada.
    But if someone wants to suggest that this type of criticism is not widespread or does not occur, then they simply ain’t being honest about the facts.

  • So, here we have a good ‘ol anti-capitalist boy (don’t call me socialist – ) actually agreeing with the good ‘ol capitalist boys.

    But, to excuse or ameliorate any guilt by association, Nick suggests that capitalist countries are guilty of greater levels of cruelty. It is the same old, same old, weary, worn out excuse for the excesses of the Castro communist system – things are even worse elsewhere!


    Dishonesty Nick is when you not very subtly, suggest that “the good ‘ol pro capitalist boys” would hold Ammi responsible for her plight, by having four children. That is an endeavor by you to endeavor to excuse the Castro regime for a plight suffered by millions of Cubans, irrespective of family numbers. I speak as the father of four children! How many do you have Nick? Are you actually able to absorb the reality of Ammi’s plight?

  • Ammi’s got the sympathy of all them good ‘ol pro capitalist boys.
    Sympathy that I would most definitely also share. Without a doubt.
    But despite my every sympathy I would say this…….
    In the perhaps crueler reality of Capitalist countries what would some of those good ‘ol boys say ??
    They would say this:
    If you ain’t got the dough ray me then don’t have the four kids.
    That’s how it works in the Capitalist alternative.
    And if some of those good ‘ol pro capitalist boys dispute the sad but true facts of what I’m saying then they’re being dishonest with themselves.

  • Manuel, you know perfectly well that Cuba is not a “socialist nation”. Cuba cannot prosper because it is a dictatorship pursuing the Stalinist form of Marx/Engels/Lenin. The “nation” has never voted in favour of communism.

    Sycophants prefer to forget that a declared purpose of communism was (and still is) world domination.

    Ammi does much more than your dismissive view that “She writes a nice blog”. She is a resident Cuban with children, not only has the courage to expose the consequences of the oppressive regime which has been imposed upon her, risking like other Cuban writers the possibility of imprisonment, but permits we observers to understand and perhaps to a degree, share her pain.

  • Ammi: I believe I understand the emotion you express. I see it in some of the members of my family in Cuba.

    I will not assign blame. Nor, can I offer any realistic solutions. I can only tell you that I understand your pain.

  • She writes a nice blog. But with an embargo in place, sanctions, and financial strangulation at a global level what can you expect ? The powers that be can’t allow a socialist nation to prosper in Latin America. It’s just that simple.

  • Castro communism in Cuba has crushed all expression of individuality! It’s very purpose is to instill a mindless conformity. Cubans are unable to influence the political direction of their country and consequently their way of life. Theirs is not to question why, theirs is but to do…….and mentally die!

    Oh, there may be brief moments when the lovely Cuban music plays and perhaps with the aid of cheap rum, brief periods of relieve or even oblivion occur, but then inevitably, the harsh reality returns

    Ammi is describing with obvious pain and distress, that the consequence of a lifetime of constant indoctrination, repression and trying to exist under the power and control of dictatorship based upon concepts initiated in 1867, is indifference within the society to which she belongs and to which she would like to be able to contribute.

    Why hope. when nothing can change?

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