HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s unpopular Round Table program, hoping to broaden its audience some, I imagine, has been airing a number of discussions on a weekly basis. Titled Sobre la mesa (“On the Table”), the segment focuses chiefly on social issues.
Recently, the segment dealt with current efforts at rescuing lost values in Cuban society and tried to analyze the deterioration of social conduct and the many expressions of social misconduct, impoliteness, indecency, vulgarity and other such phenomena that abound today.
Days later, my friend Alfredo sent me Devaluacion (“Devaluation”), an excellent post written by Yoani Sanchez, published on her blog Generation Y on March 7. Sanchez shrewdly diagnoses the real causes behind our current and disastrous situation, and I fully agree with her analysis.
I will quote some of her comments, adding my own points. I imagine readers will add their own, and so on and so forth.
Sanchez says: “(…) they also targeted religion, overlooking the fact that its different beliefs were also a means of conveying part of the ethical and moral values that have shaped human civilization and our own national traditions (…)”
We Cubans have traditionally been religious people. Since the first years of the revolution and until a long time afterwards, a declared intolerance towards religion prevailed in Cuba, such that no real freedom of religion could be spoken of.
The system and its dialectical materialism were in opposition to the idealist propensities of any religious creed. This even restricted the access believers had to certain university careers and social organizations.
It cannot be denied, however, that formal education and an interest in culture in general, vital to the healthy development of any society, are promoted at church or religious institutions. Nor can it be denied that these institutions encourage fraternity, mutual aid, respect and love towards others, and that young religious people are always better behaved in terms of social conduct.
So, who is to blame for having thwarted the growth of religious communities for decades?
Let us look at another point. Yoani says: “(…) they made us denigrate those who were different, insult the presidents of other countries with obscenities, mock historical figures from the past, stick our tongues out or make offensive gestures as we passed a foreign embassy (…)”.
I myself cannot recall more shameful public displays of vulgarity than those encouraged by the country’s leadership. In Santiago de Cuba, to give an example, people are allowed to stage conga lines during festive days or when the local baseball team wins the National Series.
In 1979, however, when former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza (who died in 1980 while in exile in Paraguay) was overthrown, people were instructed to make conga lines down all of the city’s streets and to frenetically sing a ditty, which was something like: “Listen up, Somoza’s fallen, the guy with the rottin’ dick.”
To hurl insults and curses at people and physically attack them, as the masses were asked to do during those infamous retaliations of the 1980s, perpetrated against those who wanted to leave the country, is an indication of where the loss of ethical values may have actually started.
We are talking about a country that forbade The Beatles because of ideological reasons and promoted any seventh-rate crooner on the radio and television merely because they wrote revolutionary songs; a country that offered people a university education on the basis of their attitude towards the system and not on their real talent or intelligence. The list is endless – I’ll leave in the hands of commentators.
Now, the blame is being laid on families and schools, and we are told we must embark on a crusade to rescue our lost values. What are we talking about here?