Shopping, Reggaeton and Solidarity

Dmitri Prieto

Recently I saw a program on Cuban TV showing how people died in Turkey from an illness called silicosis. It’s something caused by silicon dust, which is found in grounded sand. Such a material doesn’t come from deserts but through sandblasting (as its name implies, blasting sand with compressed air to clean surfaces).

My father, who’s an engineer, told me that here it’s not exactly the cleaning that’s the problem. Rather, sandblasting is used to artificially wear away the surface of denim to create jeans that are “in style.” For these pants and jackets to be trendy and sell well, the material needs to look worn.

Notwithstanding, the process of creating these can lead to silicosis, which destroys people’s lungs and brings about a painful death.

Watching the TV program, I was immediately reminded of the thousands of teens and younger people who you run into daily in the streets, on buses and at public tourist resorts while wearing those jeans along with glittery T-shirts. These are the youth who sing and dance reggaeton, and they buy those jeans in “dollar stores” here in Cuba.

Do those youths care that people died in Turkey?

Do the managers of chains of Cuban dollar stores care?

We’re already familiar with the depersonalized perspective of capitalists and transnational monopolies; in fact we’re familiar with the whole ballad of globalization.

But…in practice? In daily life? Today? Here? Now?

What’s with that?

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

8 thoughts on “Shopping, Reggaeton and Solidarity

  • I really don’t understand the logic behind Julio’s comments on capitalism. He’s proven to be acknowledged of the thesis of exploitation of surplus value and *still* advocates for it!

  • Marina,
    When I read the article I had the impression that the article was critical of what they called in Cuba capitalism as if concern for people’s health was a foreign concept to socialist countries. I placed an example where It is obvious that Cuba as a socialist country care very little about selling and spreading cancer producing products. In similar fashion or even worst than the one example that Dmitri shows in his article pertaining to another capitalist country. My example also shows that they care much about making money just like any other capitalistic society.

    It was not my interest to attack Dmitri’s statement I was just saying that socialism have the same issues because it is also capitalism under a different name. But was also pointing they have as society even bigger issues when they are not free to express or be critical of the issues they have.

    Furthermore, at this time with current technology I do not think is possible any other economical system as efficient from the economical point of view than some versions of capitalism are. What Marx and Engels and many others seem to have failed to notice is that economical systems can only change depending on technological advances. Capitalism came about due to the industrial revolution technology. When the new technology for a new social system emerges it will come about. In fact I think some of that technology may already be here. The internet. Those that resist it are the ones that are trying to persist in the old ways of production. (See list of permitted self-employed work in Cuba, it looks medieval)

    Cuba’s style of capitalism is Monopoly. Unfortunately monopoly is the worst type possible. Just imagine a huge corporation owning everything including the army and the police and the secret service. That’s Cuba.

    As for the use of the comment sections I believe that as long as we are discussing the topic in question we should be free to talk anything. I do not own this site but that is what I feel it should be.

    I am really grateful to Circles Robinson for having this site and also for allowing me to post my comments even when at many times I am at odds with the writer’s statement. Not all the time. Some times I will agree completely and some times partially. I do like reading opinions different that mine precisely because I like to learn from someone’s else point of view. One can never assume to be right. It seems Dmitri for example agrees with some of my statements or all of my statements as he writes

    “Your discourse is like trying to convince a fish that he/she ACTUALLY lives in water”

    Best to you Marina

  • This conversation thread is a bit odd to me. I have found Dmitri’s writing on Havana Times to be some of the most thoughtful, profound, insightful and critical, both of things within Cuba and yes, for sure capitalism globally, whether that be in the US or anywhere else in the world.

    I too am incredibly critical of capitalism. More than just critical in fact. It is a system based on exploitation and oppression, and I would like to see us create alternative social relations to those produced by capitalism. And, I am happy to engage this issue, however, I would rather not do it as a response to the writing by Dmitri about Cuba. More generally, I do not feel the comment sections should be used as a way to lecture the writers. Engaging in productive dialogue is great. Please, to all who write comments on the HT site, don’t make assumptions about those writing articles, and please do not lecture.

    Dmitri is a powerful writer, thinker and activist who has brought so many of us incredibly profound insights into Cuba today.


    In Solidarity,

  • Dmitri, I am sorry if what I wrote offended you it was not my intention and I am sorry for pointing at the obvious but some times it seems like people in Cuba are sleep and do not see things happening to them.

    People seem to be complacent of even the things they do not seem to agree with strongly and accepting what should be unacceptable.

    I am not sure why what I said made you answer like you did but I do not think I was disrespectful towards you.

    You are probably better informed than most people in Cuba and I am sure you know what I am talking about. I am not acting as agent provocateur since I do not work for any government or person what I write here is out of my own will. Neither I am trying to incite you to do anything. My reason for writing is because I like for people who read here to also have another point of view.

    It seems to me that some of you view capitalism as an issue and my news for you is that there is no other economical system other than capitalism. There is many variations of it. As I explained what you call socialism is nothing but a extreme form of capitalism. With even worst type of exploitative behavior by a ruling class.

    I think I do have the right to speak my mind and I will not be silent. When I see lies and injustices committed by those who claimed to be a better choice.
    I am sure there is many that think the same way I do. I also do believe strongly on Voltaire’s I may not agree with what you have to say but will defend your right to say it.

    We do not have to agree. We can agree to disagree. That is normal on any society but yours, where dissent and disagreement is taken as treason.

    Best to you Dmitri

  • Understood. Your discourse is like trying to convince a fish that he/she ACTUALLY lives in water. I really didn’t realize thinks were SO bad. Probably, gov’t propaganda made me very stupid. Now, you tell me that we ‘literally become slaves of the all powerful state’. So, Julio, thanks very much both for such a ‘piropo’ and for such a very useful info. And just before telling me that I ‘literally’ became a slave, you said that I obviously can’t do anything to make this place better, coz ‘Only the elite at the top can change things’. Sorry, Julio, we have too many annoying bureaucrats here in Cuba (and there in the US!) to spend time in reading offensive, passivity-promoting imported commonsense. We don´t need somebody granting us ´rights´ to protest (speaking of slaves, did Spartacus ever have ´rights´?) as we don´t need capitalism (are Iran or Bahrain socialist?) to be able to change things. Or should we rely on your rationale to devise an effective participatory, anti-bureaucratic strategy? (What would you suggest us? To become part of the top elite as the only available choice, according to your logic?) So do us a favor: at least try to respect us, and please stop acting like an agent provocateur. Best, Dmitri.

  • Dmitri, My point is that socialism is just like capitalism or in fact my point is that socialism is worst than capitalism.
    At least in capitalism you have the right to protest all you want and some times you are able to change things. But in Socialism not only you can not protest you also have to pretend you like it. Only the elite at the top can change things.
    I have written many times here that what the Cuban regime calls socialism is nothing else than State monopoly capitalism probably the worst type of capitalism possible. It is the worst because it does not let the people participate. They literally become slaves of the all powerful state.

  • Julio, no one cares. It´s the way the system work. Until social protests arise. Exactly what I say. What´s your point?
    PS. However, tobacco products usually have signs like ´smoking kills´. Both in Cuba and around the world. I haven´t seen anything like that on jeans. But I am sure that if they invent such signs, many youngsters will consider them ´chic´.

  • Dmitri how about this one.
    Do people cultivating tobacco on Cuba’s Eastern province care about any of all the people dying from cancer from it?

    Horror, Dmitri, Cuba is a socialist country and they care less. They care about making money as much as they can make. So what do you think? Love to listen to your response.
    Best regards

Comments are closed.