Young Rebels vs. ‘Ni-no’ Youth

Daisy Valera

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — I don’t know how many times a police officer has beaten or dragged in Pablo this month. I don’t know if tonight he’ll sleep under a roof, in the Plaza del Sol or in jail.

I fear for his agile hands, and for his voice that cured my allergy to the Iberian accent.

Pablo, 22, is part of “Okupa” movement in Spain. He isn’t studying political science anymore. Instead, he plays the violin in the Madrid Metro in exchange for a few euros daily.

He’s one of my “ni-no” friends from across the Atlantic: neither studying nor working.

He perfectly fits the portrait painted of the rest of the world by the journalists who write for Cuba’s youth newspaper:

Unemployment remains relentless in Greece.

Youth are outraged over unemployment in Lisbon

7.26 million young people in Mexico are neither studying nor working.

In Germany only 22 percent of young people have succeeded at obtaining an educational level higher than their parents.

These descriptions continue on, with a long “etc…”

The Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth) newspaper skillfully reveals international misery, but when it comes to talking about the island, it seems to be directed to a special category of young people: young supporters, young idealists…young “rebels.”

These are the only ones who celebrate International Youth Day.

These media professionals nod with satisfaction when they read that an official of an international organization “assessed the role of the Cuban government as being very positive in relation to the country’s youth.”

Photo: Irina Echarry

They even included an interview with someone from the Center for the Study of Youth who talked about how young Cubans should have freedom of creative expression and making constructive criticism, though they don’t seem to perceive the impossibilities hidden behind those adjectives.

The newspaper tiptoes around silently when it comes to any problems (with limited exceptions) and almost convinces us that Cuba is a paradise for young people.

In Cuba there are no “ni-no” youth!

The exclamation is a lie apparently trying to give birth to silence, since silence is what marks the disconnect between the official press and the more than two million young people on the island.

I myself have more than five ni-no friends.

Some have decided not to work because the wages are too low, while others are still holding onto dreams that are impossible these days – like making a movie, building a telescope, starting a bohemian coffee shop…

The press dares to say that there are jobs available…in construction, agriculture and education.

They promise that the Cuban Communist Party’s “economic guidelines” will create jobs in the near future (forgetting to note the date).

They tell us that the state guarantees three years of employment for university graduates, but they fail to mention that after that time one can find themself on the street condemned to the few existing legal opportunities for self-employment.

No news appears about the number of young Cubans who are unemployed.

Perhaps tomorrow Pablo will be out there loudly defending his rights in front of Spain’s Moncloa Palace.

But some of my friends on this side of the Atlantic will have no other alternative but to become ni-no-no youth (neither studying, nor working, nor staying).

 

 

 

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.


7 thoughts on “Young Rebels vs. ‘Ni-no’ Youth

  • September 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm
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    As I wrote in my comment to Daisy, you wrote that “many young people in the US … are deciding rather than just sit at home, to start a small e-business”, ignoring the record high unemployment currently in the US, especially among the young. Small e-businesses don’t seem to be doing the job.

  • September 19, 2012 at 8:48 am
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    My friend is a Okupa so he doesn’t live with his parents. He plays the violin in the subway, teaches violin and make crafts for living.

  • September 19, 2012 at 8:43 am
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    It seems that both countries are in a bad situation. Sorry that I’m not happy for being a little better in Cuba. Thanks for your comment.

  • September 17, 2012 at 7:45 am
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    Dear Daisy,

    Thank-you for filling in the other side of the story that official Cuban media does not supply. This is the reason I read Havana Times, to fill in the blanks. I have to do the same for my country’s media where I also have to use the internet to fill in the part of the picture our elites are loathe to give us, or tell to us carefully.

    As an example, most of the points that journalists wrote in Cuba’s youth newspaper that you bulleted – outraged youth in Lisbon over unemployment, millions of young people in Mexico who are neither studying nor working , only a fraction of young people in Germany doing better educationally than their parents – go unreported in media here.

    I find there are several differences between assembling a fuller picture of Cuba and a fuller picture about what is taking place in Canada and the rest of the world as reported by our corporate media.

    Cuba has one main source of propaganda – the government – and it’s one-sided nature is clear to all. There is no attempt to disguise this nature. In Canada and the US, propaganda hits you from the time you get up to the time you go to bed, assaulting you from all directions from corporate and government sources.

    The sources are the same really, as corporate media acts as the mouthpiece of government most times instead of holding it to account as it should be doing, so in effect we have the same situation as in Cuba with its state media.

    Wherever you go, whatever you watch or listen to in your home, on the street and in public places, propaganda that tries to sell you everything from ideas to consumer goods is constantly in your face.

    Besides this saturation factor, that has major significances, there are two other significant factors – the propaganda is not selling what is good for all, but what is profitable or advantageous for a few. Whether it serves the common good or is even healthy or not harmful are not important. Also, every effort is made to disguise that it is propaganda in order to make it more effective.

    The saturation factor results in a desensitization process. You close off to new information due to system overload. This serves the interests of the elites quite well. Sensationalism and repetition are used to push through your shutdown state. The more money you have, the more resources are at your disposal for disseminating selected sensational material and for repetition.

    The selective nature of the sensationalism is illustrated by the sensational stories and pictures of Jewish Israelis killed by suicide bombs, for example, that commonly appear in western mainstream media, while equally graphic and sensational photos, in far greater number, of Palestinian civilians killed in Israel’s attack of Gaza are missing. This is only one example of many other examples, not as obvious sometimes but ubiquitous in number.

    One of the attractions of traveling in Cuba is the refreshing break from propaganda overload it offers. The government propaganda stands out due to there not being any other and because it is not disguised. It is clearly based on principles intended to benefit everyone. Capitalism disguises what it stands for, that it is based on self-interest and greed, for obvious reasons.

    Comparing Cuban government propaganda with the propaganda I have to deal with in Canada, Cuban propaganda appears incredibly unskilled, almost childlike in its honesty, in straightforwardly presenting its one-sided story. Capitalism, spending billions to propagandize its people, made necessary to disguise its true nature, has developed highly skilful and devious marketing techniques in support of whatever elites want to sell – both goods and ideas.

    Should Cuba ‘grow up’ and become more skilful at propagandizing its people? Currently it is fighting an opponent bent on the destruction of its government that won’t be happy until Cuba becomes part of the American Empire, with both hands tied behind its back by not playing the same dirty game.

    I believe in the aphorism, “you can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time”, but sometimes I wonder if we have not become so knowledgeable of what makes humans tick – knowledge the marketing profession freely makes use of – that we may have reached a point where all of the people can now be successfully manipulated all of the time.

    In that case, we are not humans but ant colonies. It’s not the world I want to live in so I choose to support the Cuban ideal over cynical and self-serving capitalism.

    As a technique of disguise, corporate media here will report things the establishment won’t like, giving the impression it is ‘balanced and objective’. But these reports are by far in the minority, they pull their punches and are ‘balanced’ with the official line, no matter how irrational or unethical it is.

    For example, Granma has just printeded two articles – one by Noam Chomsky – “Hiroshima’s Shadow – and one by an author writing in Counterpunch, a newsletter with a miniscule circulation – “Assassination Nation” about the 50-year history of US assassination programs, with the use of drones being the latest. Both articles stand little or no chance of appearing in corporate media here. Few people will read them, yet they are readly available to 11 millions Cubans.

    This is the perspective I brought to the table when reading Daisy’s essay. She writes, “The newspaper tiptoes around silently when it comes to any problems (with limited exceptions) and almost convinces us that Cuba is a paradise for young people.”

    Here, media mostly avoids dealing with problems outside of noting they exist. Millions of people losing their homes in loan fraud, bailing out the bankers, high unemployment, are reported but coming to terms with why it happened or addressing solutions are conspicuously absent except in an occasional article or two with no follow-up and with minimal coverage of the Occupy Movement lest it become too threatening.

    Media here does not try to convince us that Canada is “a paradise for young people”. General unhappiness is a norm that Canadians have accepted for quite some time so there’s no need to sell a paradise. Cubans obviously still have hope that the ideals their country is based on will bring them happiness. Canadians have too many examples that show capitalism will never result in happiness for its citizens.

    Daisy writes, “The press dares to say that there are jobs available…in construction, agriculture and education.” It’s not much different here. There’s an immediate example if you look at what ‘Moses’ wrote. He, or they, are American capitalist propagandists selling capitalism, typical of corporate mediaspeak propaganda.

    He writes that “many young people in the US … are deciding rather than just sit at home, to start a small e-business”, ignoring the record high unemployment currently in the US, especially among the young. Small e-businesses don’t seem to be doing the job.

    Daisy writes, “They promise that the Cuban Communist Party’s ‘economic guidelines’ will create jobs in the near future (forgetting to note the date).” Listened to any of Obama’s speeches lately? Recovery dates are conspicuously absent or sufficiently far in the future to render them meaningless.

    Daisy writes, “They tell us that the state guarantees three years of employment for university graduates…” Canadian graduates would kill to have such a guarantee. They find themselves “on the street” the day after they take off their cap and gown, and have, on average, a $27,000 debt to pay off – two million students with a debt totaling $20 billion.

    Daisy writes, “Some have decided not to work because the wages are too low, while others are still holding onto dreams that are impossible these days.” Working for low wages in occupations you did not go to school for and living at home as what you make won’t cover the rent and food is common here after graduation. It’s occasionally written about in the corporate media and the subject dropped, with no solutions ever offered or possible.

    Again, thank-you Daisy for providing me with a perspective on a subject that Cuban official media is only offering a partial story for. I hope I have provided you with a perspective on what exists outside Cuba in the capitalist world that you won’t get from ‘Moses’ or other American propagandists who have something to sell – for their benefit, not the benefit of the Cuban people.

  • September 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm
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    I had a business partner who said to me once, “the biggest professional mistake I ever made was when I finished college I accepted a job instead of creating one”. I am not familiar with the process involved in starting a business in Brazil but many young people in the US, in your situation, are deciding rather than just sit at home, to start a small e-business or something with low start-up costs. Cubans are obviously doing the same thing. The worst thing that happens is that you fail and end up having to look for a job….exactly what you are doing now. But if you succeed….?

  • September 14, 2012 at 10:42 am
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    Hi Daisy,

    I’m myself a ‘ni-no’ since I graduated in 2009. I couldn’t get a job… but I’ll hopefully pursue a Master’s degree next year.

    From your friends’ perspectives, there’s a difference between the Cuban ‘ni-no’ and the European one: choice and dreams. Pablo plays violin in the subway. What do your friends do so? Live off their parents like myself?

    The press in my country say there’s a lack of ‘qualified workforce’… I laugh every time I see this bullshit. I keep sending my CV to several companies but seldom get a reply for a job interview.

    I don’t know where’s the line between my responsibility and the choice of the employers…

  • September 14, 2012 at 9:27 am
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    “Plaza del Sol” doesn’t exist in Madrid. It should be Puerta del Sol. If Pablo (Pablo who?) has told you the Police beat or drag him or he’s even sent to jail for sleeping on the street, it’s just because he feels you know nothing about Spain.

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