Tackiness Is the Opiate of the People

Erasmo Calzadilla

Mother's Day Flowers in Cuba.

Insults will rain down on me when I make public what I think about Mothers Day and everything that has to do with it.  On that day my ears become repulsed by cheap poetry and my eyes dazed with the blinding colors, especially the day-glow plastic flowers.

I’m going to say what I believe, and without reservations:  Tastelessness and melodrama (as well as the fanaticism around sports, patriotism etc.) are expressions of immaturity.  These must first be cured before advancing toward another condition that is more human.

I don’t think the cause of this tremendous fixation for the tacky among people is in politicians or the producers of consumer goods, although both know very well how to use popular kitsch to their advantage, and they do everything possible so that it never disappears.

Rather, the reason is to be found in the political-economic order, especially in the concentration of capital, where millions of people are maintained and treated like simple sellers of labor power.

From this point of view, the redistribution of property —and with it the power of decision over one’s own life— will make people necessarily more intelligent.  They will turn off their Brazilian and Mexican soap operas for good.  It will be no different in Cuba.

But for such distribution to occur and be lasting, people will have to want it, struggle for it and maintain it.  It cannot be a gift from any political boss, which none has or will ever give.

Now, for such a revolution to be desired, it’s first necessary to get over our immaturity.  In this way our problem has become like that of the chicken or the egg.  Complicated isn’t it?

I will continue loving my mother and grandmother, loving them the same or even more, though they’re rabid fanatics of telenovelas.  Every Mothers Day I will try to be with them at home, giving them affection (not more than usual), behaving well and eating all my dinner on time, which makes them happy.

Such will be my anti-garish gift and my modest contribution to the movement for an anti-tacky world.

3 thoughts on “Tackiness Is the Opiate of the People

  • Granted, every day SHOULD be Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day, etc.; still, we never do enough for our mothers, wives, or lovers; hence, to assuage our GUILT, at least partially, we purchase cards containing bad verse. At least now I have arrived to the point of only purchasing blank foto-cards and writing my own messages. Still, can we blame it all on the political-economic order? I don’t think so. Within everyone resides certain weaknesses for kitch and tackiness (mine, for example, are “B” horrer and science fiction films like “Chuky, El Muneco del Diablo!” Also, I sometimes purchase those artificial flowers–they never die, though they need to be dusted occasionally and, after a few years in the sunlight, tend to fade and must be replaced–but not nearly as often as the flowers I have forgetten to water!

  • “I’m going to say what I believe, and without reservations: Tastelessness and melodrama (as well as the fanaticism around sports, patriotism etc.) are expressions of immaturity. These must first be cured before advancing toward another condition that is more human.”

    I agree. Consumer capitalism has cheapened Christian holidays like Christmas, as well as Cuban Communism, like the privately-manufactured shirts sold here with Che on them. And yet it is the fanaticism with which people approach these superficial behaviors that makes it such an interesting problem. And mother’s day really fits in. Every day should be “mother’s day”, every day should be may day, and every day should be Christmas, and it should not be based on tacky cultural assumptions. Am I only in love on Valentine’s day? Why make something of virtue ritualized and superficial?

  • I don’t think that power over one’s life decisions in the West has made people more intelligent or less addicted to soap operas. There are stupid people everywhere. What is required is a realisation of what is important in life versus what is not, which I agree is a maturity thing, the maturity to realise what makes a positive contribution to society versus what does not. Many people, in Cuba or elsewhere, are not willing to be civilised, to be positive, to work hard for the benefit of people other than oneself. Which is actually what many (not all) mothers instinctively and naturally do, even if they didn’t before becoming mothers (I didn’t before but I do now). So Happy Mothers Day, Cuba.

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