De-Generation, On the Occasion of Fidel Castro’s Birthday

Erasmo Calzadilla

Come to Varadero where there is plenty of money / The national anthem / I want to spend a million with you.

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.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

13 thoughts on “De-Generation, On the Occasion of Fidel Castro’s Birthday

  • August 21, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I agree with your sentiment Caterina and also hope that it does not end up like the US. There are fortunately other alternatives and Americans would find it difficult if not impossible to destroy the unique culture that is Cuba.
    But, it is not necessary to continue to deny Cubans freedom to enjoy liberty and sufficient income to afford to shop and enjoy entertainment.
    At the moment there is a media created conception that change is taking place within Cuba. That myth is justified by comments about Havana.
    For Cubans, although they continue to have hope as they have for fifty six long dreary years of Socialismo, there is no change. The infrastructure of the country continues to deteriorate, the leaking public water supplies continue to run down the streets, the converted trucks which serve as buses continue to belch out black smoke, the schools and hospitals continue to crumble with broken door handles and windows. The daily endeavor to be able to feed the children has not changed.
    Raul Castro Ruz has made it abundantly clear that there will be no change within the administration responsible for the mess and that in selecting the next President Diaz-Canel, he chose one who would adhere to his communist views.
    Dictatorships are ugly and Cuba’s is no exception.

  • August 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Wow! Of course I have little idea how life really is in Cuba but if you think social fabric has changed just wait until all the Americans arrive to exploit Cuba. I hate to think of Cubans becoming like our consumerist society raised on mindless shopping and endless entertainment. I am totally fascinated by Cuba and wish it would not end up like us.

  • August 14, 2015 at 10:33 am

    American R& B is way better than reggaeton, but that’s just my opinion.

    However, here’s one good reggaeton number from the dissident Cuban band, Porno Para Ricardo: ESTE AÑO SI SE CAE”

  • August 14, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I largely agree with your comment here.

    First of all, Erasmo’s essay is very good, pointing out how politics in Cuba has shaped social values, mostly for the worse.

    I disagree that the US won’t lift the embargo. It’s obvious that Obama and many of his backers want him to. There is opposition, but they will prove too disorganized to prevent it. Sooner or later, Obama will get congress to lift the embargo. That’s my prediction, anyway.

    I do agree with you that the US government today is not interested in encouraging any sort of democracy in Cuba (however one choses to define the concept, and let’s leave aside our argument on that point, shall we?)

    In his speech in December when he announced his new Cuba policy, Obama made noises about promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba. But he has done nothing to back up that talk. As we have seen, oppression of dissidents has only gotten worse. John Kerry won’t even bother to meet with Cuban dissidents today.

    To go by the evidence, the Cuban economy will remain in the hands of the regime monopolies, US business will get in on the action, US tourists will visit Varadero & and the Cuban people get nothing.

  • August 13, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Why in my mid sleep paranoia do i even imagine you two are one and the same. I guess I need to go back to red wine vs. white!

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