A Matter of Interpretation

Dariela Aquique 

Chomsky questions totalitarian regimes, without specifying which. Photo: Wikipedia.org

As Antoin de Saint-Exupery said in The Little Prince, “Words are a source of misunderstanding,” and those of us who write are prone to be interpreted in various ways.   Literature of any genre will be deciphered by the readers according to their own visions and interests.

In one of my published materials (“They Live Very Happily”), what caught my attention was the variety of observations raised, especially by Anglophone commenters.

For example, a Canadian pointed out to me:

– “Keep in mind that Chomsky is referring to the media and the population outside of Cuba” (something about which I’m totally aware).

– He also commented that all education is indoctrination, but that there is a much higher literacy rate in Cuba than in the US or in Canada – his country (something I haven’t completely confirmed, but which I don’t question.)

– And finally, he wrote asserting that in Canada (and in the US) there is “democracy,” but the majority of people don’t bother to vote; likewise, they have “freedom of the press” but few people bother to read.  Apathy is rampant and the majority of people remain dazed in a consumer’s trance endlessly pursuing the accumulation of more and more. (This last point actually turns out to be far from the purpose of my writing.)

In no way am I trying to make a comparison between those commenters’ societies and ours here in Cuba.  I’m only talking about the situation here and establishing analogies with Chomsky’s writings, because though he writes referring to other situations, they do hold approximations about life here as well.  Chomsky is a point of departure to illustrate how all societies — whichever ones in question — are unable to escape the media manipulation exercised by the dominant classes.

I’ll allow myself to reintroduce an excerpt from another one of my writings: “The mediocre person isimmersed in ignorance, without great aspirations, accommodating themself to a rudimentary life, accepting common day-to-day routine, as if believing that nothing else existed.  Coexisting and being with so little (or better stated: and believing that with so little) they are happy.  They are not interested in exploring further on.  Their radius of action is tiny, it becomes as limited as their neuron fields…” 

I underlined the words “mediocre person” and I believe — dear commenters — that mediocre people exist in all societies and that they have always existed.  It’s only that they fall prey more easily to manipulation and to those who can impose their ideologies and ways of life without running into resistance.

Another commenter said: “I’m quite sure that Chomsky would be upset if any of his writings concerning power and authority were used as inspiration for Cubans to rebel against their government.  The sole criticism that Chomsky sometimes makes is in connection with the US or development and western capitalism.”

I really don’t care a whole lot if Chomsky gets upset.  Any published idea ceases to be the possession of the person who wrote it and becomes a part of the universal patrimony of human thought.  Expressing my points of view regarding certain topics in our social context doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m fomenting some rebellion against the government (although people always want to see things like that, which is something else I don’t care too much about).

Chomsky questions totalitarian regimes, without specifying which.  I believe there is totalitarianism exercised by all supremacist oligarchies.  Their foundation is economic and as a consequence they generate patterns determined in their society.  In addition there is another type of totalitarianism that is exercised by political rulers, and its foundation is social.  These rulers impose not only a system but an ideology, where it doesn’t matter if it’s erred or if it’s what the population wants to believe.  It’s the one that’s established!

If Chomsky is on the left and he sympathizes with socialism, that has nothing to do with his arguments resembling our truths.  On the other hand, a while ago I read an article in the Juventud Rebelde newspaper (which is part of the official national media), criticizing “Yankee imperialism” using the writings of George Orwell, someone considered by many people to be an anti-communist.

That’s why my friends from wherever in the world, writing is a delicate occupation that like a great river can have many tributaries.  The passageways of words are immense and indefinite, if — in the end — everything is a question of interpretation…


3 thoughts on “A Matter of Interpretation

  • while chomsky’s writing and analysis of the current state of the world is excellent, his belief or hope that the state will fade away is unrealistic in my opinion. the state was supposed to fade away after a perfect society and the new socialist man were achieved by communism. states don’t fade away and people will never be perfect and altruistic. chomsky believes that if africa hadn’t been colonised then africa would have industrialized. tribal people all over the world have a different attitude to work and many other things. cubanos often put in long hours like filipinos but they don’t do constant and intensive work like in car factories and electronic factories need a lot of intensive concentration. it’s a cultural thing which is hard to change.

  • Noam Chomsky is what he calls an anarcho-syndicalist which in plainer language means he believes in a worker controlled society in which the need for a formal government is obviated by the democratic participation of the society in decision making from the bottom up. This, of course, is a FUTURE state that stands on the shoulders of a successful true (democratic) socialism: the interim step between exploitive capitalism and the utopian communist ideal.

    Chomsky defends Cuba in his writings but at the same time quietly chastises the leadership for its lack of democratic rule. He realizes that the U.S war on Cuba is a war to so immiserate the population that they will overthrow its socialist economy.

    He IS a citizen of the United States who for several years lived on a kibbutz in Israel (he is of Jewish ancestry) and who now roundly condemns the criminal state of Israel.

    I , like Hugo Chavez at the U.N., highly recommend all his political writings ( well over 50 books) as well as the many You Tube videos in which he is featured. “Manufacturing Consent” a book he co-wrote with Edward Herman is a must-read for those who seek to understand how the U.S corporate media propagandize the U.S public.

    There is no more articulate and accurate critic of the abhorrent U.S foreign policies and of the U.S media than Noam Chomsky.

    He is a hero of democracy and human rights.

  • Those who said Chomsky would disapprove are incorrect, although Chomsky would not refer to people as mediocre – he might refer to them as vulnerable and easily manipulated. Chomsky is aware of the propaganda within Cuba and disapproves of it. He would approve of standing up against corrupt authority, which the honest know exists within Cuba, just as it does everywhere else.

    Here is one thing Chomsky has said regarding Cuba, and I hope you will agree:

    “No one familiar with US practices in the region or elsewhere can possibly believe that the goal of intensive US terror operations against Cuba and harsh economic warfare was intended to “bring democracy to the Cuban people.” That is just propaganda, unusually vulgar in this case.

    The actual reasons for the terror and economic warfare were explained clearly at the very outset: the goal was to cause “rising discomfort among hungry Cubans” so that they would overthrow the regime (Kennedy); to “bring about hunger, desperation, and overthrow of the government” (Eisenhower’s State Department). The threat of Cuba, as Kennedy’s Latin American advisor Arthur Schlesinger advised the incoming president, is that successful independent development there might stimulate others who suffer from similar problems to follow the same course, so that the system of US domination might unravel. The liberal Democratic administrations were outraged over Cuba’s “successful defiance” of US policies going back to the Monroe Doctrine, which was intended to ensure obedience to the US will in the hemisphere. To a substantial extent, US terror and economic warfare has achieved its actual goals, causing bitter suffering among Cubans, impeding economic development, and undermining moves towards more internal democracy. Exactly as intended.

    Of course, the US is entirely isolated in the world in maintaining the embargo; at the UN it can only garner support, reflexively, from Israel and a few Pacific dependencies. But the policy persists, and in fact became harsher under the Democrats in the 1990s in order to cause Cubans to suffer more after Russian assistance evaporated.”

    Misinterpretations are disheartening.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” I’m not sure if I agree, but I do understand the frustration.

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