HAVANA TIMES — Today, I want to revisit another thorny issue in Cuba: the process of cultural and social degradation that continues to spread across our cities and countryside. I am not the only one who’s noticed it – it is a rather recurrent topic of discussion down here.
The system established by the Castros (which I do not want to call “socialist,” out of respect towards socialism) deeply eroded the social tapestry and highly rich cultural heritage of the nation, strongholds that not even wild capitalism had managed to tear down. Below are the blows which, from my point of view, caused the most damage:
- The destruction of work as a livelihood, brought about by the measly salaries and a form of egalitarianism that rewarded the lazy.
- The destruction of values, customs and traditional practices through the implementation of a modernist development model (industrial, intensive and nihilistic).
- The destruction of political cultural and civil traditions through paternalism, a top-down administrative system, the prohibition of staging any kind of independent civic or economic activity (and meting out of punishment for those who dared do this) and the impossibility of participating in public affairs.
- The destruction of the country’s cultural heritage, common sense and systems of belief through intensive brain-washing. The great ideologues of the regime (Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others) spared no expense in this effort, which aimed to extirpate any residues of the old capitalist mode of production. That is how they sought to mold the New Man.
As a result of this, today we have a bleak social scenario characterized by: the profound atomization of society, a sterile civic and political environment, the cultural hegemony of the non-committed, alienated, political idiots or lumpen-proletariat (to use the Marxist jargon) and reggaeton musicians, reggaeton understood not as a voluptuous Caribbean rhythm that promotes carnal love but a narcissistic, individualistic, consumerist and violent attitude towards life.
Where is a nation like this heading? To a worse place, I can only assume.
In this cesspool, the Castros, the Communist Party, the new entrepreneurs and foreign capital can continue to turn the screws fearlessly, for the screw is going to continue to yield. It will be eons before a true workers’ movement, a popular protest movement or an uprising by angry people, arises in Cuba. Why? Because our sense of civic dignity, the people’s self-confidence, the capacity to organize in horizontal fashion and everything needed for a nation to set its foot down before its masters, was nipped at the bud.
How is all of this reflected in the daily lives of Cubans?
The daily life of humble folk has gradually become agonizing. Agonizing because the price of beans goes up every day and because of the breakdown of social norms. Anywhere you go, you have to deal with aggressors and con-artists of every sort.
Part of the violence and mistreatment endured by average Cubans comes from State officials, particularly those at the bottom. Bus drivers, store clerks, vendors at markets and cafeterias, health and education personnel, office workers who deal with the public and bosses at workplaces make up an army of shady characters who steal from us, trample on our rights and besmirch our dignity to the rhythm of reggaeton.
The worst part is that we’ve become used to this. Some (generally the old) see it as absurd and humiliating, and they endure it with the resignation of someone who suffers from a terminal disease. The new generations, however, accept it as part of the landscape, a landscape where the official (henchman of his own people) occupies a privileged position.
Today, the bulk of the ideological work isn’t carried out by boring and unappealing Party bureaucrats. The most effective ideological work is done by attractive and fashionable musicians. It’s no accident they fit so well into the system.
Reggaeton and salsa music play the important ideological role of showing us that “everything is A-Okay,” that we are happy here, that what we need to do is enjoy life. Indirectly, they look down on any reflective attitude or discontent with respect to daily reality, something that only “idiots” and losers do.
I would love to continue talking about these issues, but I’ve already gone on too long. I’ll spill my guts little by little.
Note: None of this contradicts the idea that the revolution was necessary and that Fidel Castro played a positive role at the beginning.