It Isn’t Cowardice, Its Alienation

Cuba compared to Venezuela

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — We Cubans are living in a state of naturalized humiliation which we aren’t usually conscious of. In our understanding of ethics, with a strong patriarchal influence, we understand badmouthing someone’s mother, getting slapped, getting our asses touched or being called a queer to be very insulting; worse still if this happens in public. However, we accept being “a stock of people who bend over” (to say it in their own words) before the attacks of the Great Patriarchy and its erotic tentacles.

One would think that countries which share our same cultural origins would be at the same evolutionary level of moral consciousness more or less. Thank God this isn’t the case.

Cuban youth idols.

For two months now, Venezuela has been proving that Human Dignity, in the Western and modern understanding of the term, continues to hold its mobilizing potential in the degraded Caribbean region.

I am very glad, and at the same time very sad to see just how far we are in Cuba from such a goal.

Venezuela is on the brink of a civil war right now: dozens of deaths, thousands of people injured, opponents being sent to trial in military courts, looting, widespread poverty… And meanwhile, what can we hear the most in Cuba? Well, nothing else but the latest difficulty or trending reggaeton song.

On June 7th, Neomar Lander died. Hit by a PNB (Venezuelan National Police) projectile or the victim of a bomb that he was carrying in his backpack? For the purposes of my analysis, it doesn’t really matter. The striking thing here is the fact that a 17 year old boy (and there are many more like him) is moved by abstract and universal values such as Freedom, Dignity and Reason, and also manages to ground them in concrete actions which put his life in danger. Cubans his age also put their lives on the line, yes they do, to have a good life in the US or to defend “their manhood” in the neighborhood.

Here in the US (where I have also landed), I have a couple of 20-something year old friends, a Venezuelan and a Cuban girl; I talk to both of them nearly every day. The Venezuelan woman is up-to-date with the conflict in her country, she cries when she hears the bad news and about the deaths, she knows all of the different people involved’s standpoints and longs to return as soon as she can to contribute her grain of sand to the cause.

Venezuelan hero.

Meanwhile, the Cuban woman studied in a school founded by Fidel Castro during his Battle of Ideas, she doesn’t want to know anything about political swine and hopes to be able to enjoy the benefits of having dual residency because she didn’t enter this country as a dissident. (She was accepted as a Political Refugee at a border crossing point).  Is it an exception or the rule?

I would say that when you listen to Cubans talking about politics, generally-speaking, for or against it, they sound hollow, like they are repeating phrases they’ve learned by heart. Venezuelan people however, Chavistas from before or anti-Maduro supporters now, speak with words that buzz, that move you, drawing you in like only a living tragedy can.

And what can you say about comedians? The star comedian of Cuban emigres, Alexis Valdes, only fools about with this or that, that’s the joke of it. However, on the other hand, the conflict in George Harris’ country, Venezuela, takes center stage in almost all of his shows.

If Maduro manages to introduce the Cuban-style Constitutional Assembly he is imposing, it’s very likely that he’ll achieve a similar regression of people’s political and moral conscience in a few years. And he will try to do this, under the guidance of his teachers, because this has proven to be an efficient way to lock in the system and make it irreversible.

My humble advice to the Venezuelan people is that any Venezuelan with a little bit of consciousness and concerns for the future, rise above their differences and join forces for an emergency: to rescue convalescent political life from thermal death.