Taking a Break

By Armando Chaguaceda

The Cuban countryside. Photo: Arnaldo Labarada

HAVANA TIMES – I have decided to end this series of columns that I’m writing during quarantine, with this one. Because quarantine seems like it’s going to go on for a while, and nobody knows for sure when it will end or what will happen afterwards.

I’d prefer a kind of retreat, an intimate moment of reflection, from what lies on the horizon. Sharing with you some quick ideas about what forms my imperfect view of the world which I believe would be desireable to live in.

I am a modern, urban man and a member of what we call the West. This is my inheritance and my borders. My possibilities and my limits. This is where my view of the world comes from, mixing memory and fate. And I’m OK with not having the definite truth or answers for every challenge Nature or fellow humans throw our way.

I believe that the individual, community and Nature need to work in harmony. And that science, free from dogmas and tyranny, is the best way to achieve this. Both in its technical sense, so we can interact with our surroundings, as well as in a social sense, which is focused on explaining and anticipating human issues.[i]

During these times of terror and prayers for protection to the Gods or national leaders, governments need to be elected and auditable, but authorized and given everything they need to rule effectively (as long as they don’t change the law to stay in power indefinitely or to suppress the opposition). Citizens should have the basic right to express themselves in speech, at the polls and in the public space. This also means they need to take the time to reflect, to be responsible and in solidarity.

Over these past few weeks, withdrawing into quarantine has not only been the best way to protect me and my family; it’s also been a way to prevent infecting others, to take care of our elderly and sick, not overburden our health system and its hardworking personnel and specialists.

Ensuring the individual enjoyment of collective goods – work, health, food, safety – is a valuable purpose of society. Without the economic and institutional means to sustain them, any appeal to live the Good Life is just empty rhetoric. Therefore, the productive sovereignty and redistribution based on solidarity between classes, families, regions and countries, organized according to public health and sustainable development criteria, should be the heart of tomorrow’s economy.

I believe that the modern Republic (liberal and of the masses) is the best, understood and perfectible way forward – and many centuries of history have proven this. So, we can have a Government of Humans and an Administration of Things, avoiding the traps of possessive individualism and unappealable authoritarianism. 

I am tired of the middle class’ savage liberalism which continues to violate the healthcare pact, turning to leisure and lavish consumerism instead. Confusing any cautious and established limit of their rights to freely move and consume, in order to protect life of the community, including their own. I am reviled by the police officers that are dressing up badly as the protective father, trading off our safety for freedom. Without knowing (it’s more of a hunch) that it would be bad business if we earn some of the former, sacrificing all of the latter.

Great crises put all of the above to the test. There are no predictable endings, terrible or bright. But if we all take action and reflect, with humility above all else, we might be able to save ourselves and maybe even be somewhat happy. See you soon.







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Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

Armando Chaguaceda has 143 posts and counting. See all posts by Armando Chaguaceda

12 thoughts on “Taking a Break

  • Yes, my thanks also Circles.

  • Thanks Circles.

  • Resent. I had sent it to the wrong address.

  • Mr Circles R.
    Can you pleas provide Mr MacD with my email address.

  • No email address Nick

  • Nick, you failed to say whether that 50% of DNA lies in the skin or the edible part of the banana. Your comment reminded me of watching the monkeys carefully discarding the skin! So?
    As you correctly gathered, I think that Beveridge is little recognized for his talents and ability to not merely talk, but to take action. He managed to spur politicians to similarly and eventually take action. Without him, the world would be different. There may be a door, but it takes a key to open it.

  • Mr MacD,
    Re London Olympics: I seem to recall that the announcement of the Olympic award was followed the next day by a series of horrific terrorist attacks on the grand old capital.
    I recall being in Edinburgh during those two days.
    I have the utmost respect for Wm Beveridge but make the point that his report was eventually commissioned after many years of pressure from the British socialist fraternity. I was not previously aware of the AAC that you mention. Thank you for pointing this out. My respect for Wm Beveridge rises yet further.
    It comes as no surprise to learn that you have written comparing Fidel Castro to Adolph Hitler. I seem to recollect drawing parallels between Fidel Castro and the likes of George Washington and Winston Churchill in my comments on this forum.
    They do say that a human being has 50% of it’s DNA in common with a banana don’t they?
    If you feel the need to share this comparison with me then I shall receive it gratefully and respond accordingly.

    Mr Circles R, you would be more than welcome to provide Mr MacD with my email address if you should so choose. Thanks.

  • Few ideas are actually new Nick. But although various people favoured some form of medical services for all, it was a consequence of the Beveridge Report that all parties in the House of Commons voted in favour of it in 1942. I agree with you that Churchill personally was opposed.
    I also agree that it was used as a template in many other countries, some of which like Canada did not have socialist governments but recognized the merits, and you doubtless record it was a centre-piece for the opening of the 2012 London Olympics. (As an aside, years earlier I was in the Champs Elysee close to the Arc de Triumph where a media platform had been built, when the award to London was announced, it stunned the large crowd into silence as everything was prepared for the celebration of the award being made to Paris. As an English speaker, I kept the silence also!)
    As I think I mentioned previously, my admiration for Beveridge includes in particular his recognition of the plight of German scientists – in particular the Jewish ones, but also others, who were dismissed from the Universities, other research and educational establishments in April, 1933. All too few recognize that his subsequent actions changed the history of the world. Beveridge was in Vienna at that time, but returned immediately to London. There he gathered together some forty prominent academics and on May 22, wrote to the then august London Times announcing the foundation of the Academic Assistance Council. That name was later changed to The Society for the Protection of Science and Learning. Eventually over 2,500 refugee scholars and scientists registered. The society was funded by donation with many British scholars giving a percentage of their salaries. The names of those refugees are staggering, particularly those of the physicists including some who had won the Nobel Prize. Albert Einstein was one of those who wrote to the Times giving formal thanks to the then AAC. Those scientists were responsible for more than just the British nuclear programme which was transferred along with the scientists to the US in 1942, because testing required more space, and was re-named The Manhattan Project.
    Some time ago I wrote an article giving far more detail and making some comparisons between Hitler and Fidel Castro, but as I said previously, Circles chose not to use it. My offer to send copy by e-mail remains. But I do have concern that Beveridge has not been recognized for more than his Report.
    Oh, to please you, John Maynard Keynes was one of the forty academics gathered together by Beveridge.

  • Armando

    I enjoyed reading your articles and hope you enjoy your break from writing

  • Lots of nice ideas for the future of humanity in Cuba but I do not expect they will result in getting out of the mess Cuba has been in for 60 years.

    Best of wishes in you self imposed period of isolation.

  • Mr MacD,
    You appear to be oh so gently twisting history once again to suit your political viewpoint.
    You are correct to state that The Good Baron Beveridge was a Liberal but he categorically did not introduce ‘the concept of a national health service’ to the U.K.
    The concept was introduced by early British Socialists (such as the Webbs). It was part of the largely successful effort to replace well-meaning charity with solid and concrete ‘Rights’.
    Around a quarter century later the socialist Labour Party incorporated the concept into their core policies. Quite naturally, the prevailing Conservatives of the era (including the likes of Churchill) flatly opposed healthcare becoming a fundamental ‘Right’. They held the opinion that healthcare should be an affordable norm for the rich and dished out as charity to lucky members of the poor.
    The Good Baron Beveridge, or plain old William as he was then known, was commissioned to produce a report regarding the potential introduction of a comprehensive Welfare State (which included healthcare recommendations) by the National Unity Government during WW2.
    Where you are correct Mr MacD, is to say that a National Healthcare Service based largely on Beveridge’s report was introduced by a Socialist British Government.
    Needless to say, it’s introduction was fought against tooth and nail by the prevailing British Conservatives.
    The model that was duly introduced has subsequently been used as a template throughout large parts of the world. Throughout large parts of the world (with certain notable exceptions) universal healthcare is now regarded as an inalienable ‘Human Right’.
    Right now in the Corona Era NHS staff in the U.K. are, according to public opinion polls, way more popular any two-bit politicians, vacuous celebrities or overpaid sportsmen. Tragically, a disturbing number of these healthcare professionals are paying the ultimate sacrifice for their diligent work in helping others.

  • “middle class savage liberalism which continues to violate the health care pact.”
    It was William Beveridge who in his report during the Second World War introduced the concept of creating a “national health service”. Following the second World War it was a Socialist government in the UK that implemented Beveridge’s recommendation, creating the world’s first National Health Service in 1948. Other countries duly followed suit including for example Canada, which has never elected a socialist government.
    William Beveridge was a Liberal, not a Socialist.

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