In one of his songs, Silvio Rodriguez sings: They live very happily, incredibly, those who repeat the lesson like apprentices, those who don’t look beyond their noses.
Silvio speaks of being immersed in ignorance, without great aspirations, satisfied with an elementary life and accepting common day-to-day routine as if believing nothing else exists. “To coexist and be with so little” (or better said: believing that with so little) one can be happy, the mediocre person is not interested in exploring further on. Their radius of action becomes very restricted, as limited as their neuron fields.
While reading I discovered a relationship between Silvio’s song and a few passages by the brilliant linguist Noam Chomsky. His argument consists of a list in which he explains the “Top 10 Strategies of Media Manipulation.” It would be wise to write a full article on these, discussing each of Chomsky’s points one by one and to establish each’s connection with our situation here in Cuba.
This would demand extensive work, so for reasons of prompt communication I’m bypassing several of those points only to comment on two of the ten:
7. Keep the public ignorant and mediocre
Make the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used for their control and enslavement. “The quality of education given to the lower social classes must be as poor and mediocre as possible … (See ‘Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars’).”
8. Encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity
Promote the public’s belief that being fashionable is being stupid, vulgar and uneducated…
In Cuba: We’re a literate people, but not educated. We’re a well instructed people, but not cultured. We’re a communicative people, but not informed. The statistics on educational advancement in the country give the impression that the great majority of the population has a considerable level of learning. But this doesn’t go beyond appearances; the fact is that there’s not such an advanced level. Education here is high-sounding quantitatively more than qualitatively. We do indeed have many professionals, but large numbers of them are medicore.
This has been demonstrated in the evaluation exams (of Spanish) given to candidates for university admission over the past few years. The numbers that flunked have been alarming, especially when keeping in mind that these individuals seeking professional training were unaware of the most elementary orthographic rules. What’s more, problems in writing, style, calligraphy and interpretation were detected (elements that are characteristic of the most basic instructional levels).
One could cite other examples all day long, though I’m only trying to highlight the matter. People’s access to, knowledge of and capacity for operating in a technological environment — let alone their capabilities for handling the latest communication techniques — are completely insufficient in Cuba.
A culture of poor tastes thrives. From childhood people now delight in their preferences for vulgarity, melodrama, street talk, lackluster formal education, kitsch fashion, pretentiousness and the most prosaic reggaeton. On top of all that, these tendencies are spread and stimulated by the media.
The possibility of debate is nonexistent. The great mass of people wind up getting used to their tiny, eternally summertime world. In this way totalitarian systems persist, as their people don’t know anything beyond and don’t struggle to go beyond. In that way, their people “live very happily.”