Cuba and the Rescue of Lost Values

Dariela Aquique

Cuban junior high school students.
Cuban junior high school students.  Photo: Juan Suarez

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?

Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

11 thoughts on “Cuba and the Rescue of Lost Values

  • May 4, 2014 at 1:22 am

    If a visitor goes to the theaters in Cuba, he will find a common denominator in every single play: the director has to insert a condemnation to the USA, even if it the play has nothing to do with politics, was written in Europe 200 years ago or it is about love, music and dancing.

    But the visitor will be also annoyed to see in many plays male actors naked in the middle of the stage and shaken their penes in front of an audience that can only wonder why is that needed.

    Very disgusting… shame on the Cuban politician for sending the Cuban culture to such an low moral level.

  • March 22, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Plenty of evil has been committed in the name of religion, but you have to admit, at least as much evil has been committed in the name of atheism.

    Furthermore, it must be pointed out, the very term you used, “evil” has no meaning to an atheist. Evil is by definition a concept of religious belief.

  • March 21, 2014 at 11:43 am

    The key word is ‘moral’ actions. As an atheist, you set your moral compass based upon personal experience. A Ugandan may see his strong anti-gay beliefs as moral. A child raised by gay parents in New York is likely to believe something different. True Christians should configure our moral compass to the teachings of Christ. As an atheist, you are unable to interpret what a Christian considers moral as you do not share the Christian perspective. As you comment suggests, you are prone to misinterpret because you do not fully understand. Faith in Christ is manifested by works, but works without faith is worthless. Sounds like gobbledegook to you I’m sure. Since you have neither a heaven or hell to send me to and you are not assigned the responsibility of deciding where I will go, why waste you time suggesting that you know? I would be more concerned about my own eternity if I were you.

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