The Value of Working Together

Armando Chaguaceda

Meeting of activists and creators at the First Critical Observatory

HAVANA TIMES, April 10 —I recently did a little time traveling. I thought back to almost five years ago, when some of us crazies took on the task of “hooking up” a group of autonomous initiatives we’d been working on.

It was the spring of 2007 and our idea was to build an alliance of groups through which we would be able to share resources, experiences and eventually join forces for larger actions and increasing solidarity against the institutional censorship that was beginning to intensify.

As playful children from a generation that grew up watching Japanese cartoons, we decided to call it the “Voltus V Network,” after those five animated robotic assemblages piloted by young people under the battle cry of “Let’s come together.”

It was a nice idea, but it stopped short. I remember meetings in the Almendares Park and at the home of Luis Eligio, where we came together as mystics and poets, philosophers and free software lovers, impassioned ecologists and militant communists – people who were disenchanted with almost everything but were still confirmed dreamers.

The rush to build agendas and detailed organizational charts wasn’t enough to convince everyone of the need for unity though.

Someone said, “No, this is political, and I’m not going to have anything to do with it” (shortly after which they found themself sheltered in a nice niche of some cultural institution). Another irreverent voice said something similar but that person soon turned into — or they turned him into — a dissident in the making. Paradoxes of fate!

If I got anything out of that experience — which consumed several days of my energy and hopes — it was the need not to rely too much on rational factors in undertaking such efforts.

In a world of creators — where identities are as good as statements of principles, and affection more than programmatic documents — activism could not be dyed with the old colors of militancy, the very thing from which we fled after it touched our lives.

I learned that the reasons, actions and the trust that is born from knowing others — and sharing their fate — must all go together. This is necessary if we want to advance in the midst of an environment of shortages, weariness and censorship – particularly when we’re talking about Cuban sociocultural activism.

The statement being circulated by the Critical Observatory network (a sort of indirect legacy of those past ties and efforts) is an example of the difficult and imperfect — but beautiful — birth of trust.

Like any collective stance it isn’t a complete and consistent view of each of its makers, but it’s the sum (and average) of all our ideas and efforts towards a better country and world.

It is the fruit of daily and full discussion and debate, without taboos, hurriedness or hesitation, and where the opinion of those who are “inside” (capturing the subtleties and experiences of everyday sacrifices) have equal weight and respect for the viewpoints of those who are “outside” (enjoying a different perspective with greater access to information and less personal risk).

This is a position (of the declaration itself and of all the work all of OC) where the trees don’t hide the forest (or vice versa), to the annoyance of those who are determined to divide, label and point the finger at us.

It is a position in which I learn, every day, about the creativity, passions and struggles of those who include environmentalists, feminists, educators, anti-racists and libertarians, etc.

I even think that those who usually criticize our positions have found the lucid and respectful value of this initiative – at least that’s what was communicated to me by two messages that showed up in my email just 24 hours after posting the statement.

I was really glad that happened, because by denouncing all forms of exclusion, repression or censorship —  from the viewpoints and different speeds in which our experiences are born — we are taking another step forward to overcoming fears, “messianisms” and divisions.

With our actions, songs and words, we are building that open, plural, free and PUBLIC space that we deserve.

Like the official propaganda reminds us: “Hope cannot be blockaded.”