HAVANA TIMES — The logic of control and exclusion of the Cuban government seems to be alive and well. Now, after a live performance by Cuban singer-songwriter Roberto Carcasses, where the artist dared accompany the legitimate call for the release of four Cubans currently imprisoned in the United States and the lifting of the embargo with demands for change on the island, the allergic reactions of some enthusiastic government supporters are mind-boggling, to say the least.
In the worst bureaucratic style, they are accusing Carcasses of expressing his ideas “at the wrong place and time”.
It’s as though official calls for public date, the subjects discussed in those spaces and the structures established to carry out such exchanges were not designed to operate as a chain belt for conveying ideas in only one direction: from the top to bottom.
These are issued as orders handed down to the population from a command post, supposedly after the public makes its opinion known to those above. This as though Cuba knew a horizontal system of debate, among sectors of the population connected by a vibrant and autonomous media.
Boldly displaying their double standards, those who would censor Carcasses today are the same people who applaud anti-establishment artists of the ilk of Calle 13 or Pussy Riot when they use any stage to make political demands, frequently with considerably more vigor than seen on the island (to the satisfaction of yours truly, I might add).
These guardian angels / demons are now telling the artist he has been “opportunistic”, forgetting he has expressed these same views on previous occasions and that the work he has been doing with fellow artists is a form of artistic experimentation that represents a search for greater autonomy, within a State-centered society that is politically dominating and culturally stifling.
Blatantly, almost insolently, they forget that a restricted freedom is no freedom at all, and that this is something expressed, almost a century ago, by a German communist who died for her ideas of justice and a truly democratic government.
Now that the musician has been punished and, as was to be expected, removed from all official institutions and billboards (which, in Cuba, is tantamount to disappearing from the country’s cultural map), developments once again bring to the fore a medullar problem which has existed for decades namely, the Cuban State’s fear of any kind of autonomy.
The problem, folks, is that these are the State officials who decide – on the basis of both law and force – who is and is not a person, and what is or is not a proposal, worthy of the appellation of “revolutionary.”
This holds for all forms and contents of every imaginable criticism, suggestion or initiative, made at a student debate, a public gay-pride activity or during the planting of trees in an empty lot.
These three examples are not accidental or metaphorical allusions: they were real initiatives, undertaken by Cubans committed with a happier, fuller and freer life, in the here and now of their homeland, Cubans who were not receiving funds from the CIA or the US Interests Section, initiatives dismantled by Cuban State agents in recent years through a mixture of preventive, punitive measures and brutal pressures.
Much remains to be said about this incident, which will likely be a topic of discussion for some time now. Or maybe not. Perhaps the repressive apparatus, relying on the indifference of the artist’s peers, will wear the singer down, contributing to the hemorrhaging of talent which undermines the country’s future more and more every day.
Incidents of this nature have at least one positive side to them, that of making us understand something more clearly: if that which we call the Cuban revolution is, as I believe it is, a contradictory legacy of myth and fact, censorship and resistance, oppression and freedom, something stemming from the authentic will of the people and spuriously administered on its behalf by State functionaries, we have to decide which side we stand on, particularly when, hiding behind the lyricism of the yellow ribbons that decorate the city today, we can discern, in all its crudeness, the strings that hold the best hopes and dreams of the nation.
Conservatism and right-wing ideology continue to gain ground, unchecked, throughout the country, along with State censorship and a market logic that subjugates all artistic creation.
It would be magnificent if, within the coordinates of the revolution (understood as a legitimate promise of social justice, democracy and sovereignty, people were to speak up when faced with ridiculous and atrocious situations like this one.
If, however, silence is chosen and people continue to make excuses, as they have done for so long, then there is no longer anything we can do, save leave the comfortable and naïve domain of utopia to settle completely in the land of complicity and cynicism.