By Irina Echarry
We Cubans have renounced our freedom – that ample concept as broad and deep as the sea – in order to submerge ourselves in an artificial lake of small liberties.
We delight in its name, and very few of us notice the injustice that we commit. But we’re only becoming more enslaved, attached to the name but not to the right to exercise it.
It wasn’t so in previous times: there are plentiful examples of warriors, poets, politicians, thinkers who fought for true liberty, where no one puts obstacles in the way of citizens’ rights, where you can do anything as long as it’s not against the law, you can think and express your thoughts at any time, with unlimited options.
Everywhere that you go in the city of Havana there are allusive signs designed to make us believe that we are free as the wind: “I live in a free country,” “Liberty,” “A cultured person, a free person,” paraphrasing a quote from Marti.
But we already know that being in a place where once inside you don’t know how to get out doesn’t make you free. On the contrary, it kills even the yearning for liberty.
Nevertheless, the artificial lake I’m talking about has been growing larger over time and at times becomes a source of confusion for people. Those who decide to ignore the sea of liberty and live in that lake; in addition to deceiving themselves into thinking that they’re free, limit the freedom of others.
Many people live together in this lake. They range from authoritarian figures who believe they have the right to impose their will because they once saved the country from a miserable life, so out of gratitude we are obliged to obey them until death do us part; to drivers who suddenly change the bus stops and leave people waiting under the hot sun until another one decides to stop.
Then there are clerks who don’t do their job, so that you have to go to another store to get the product you need even though they have it in stock. The caretakers or porters who guard the doors of their establishments jealously – too jealously – so that to transact your business or to speak with the indicated person you have to break through the bunker of ignorance that has been set up in the entryway, without taking into consideration that they know nothing about what you want.
There are family doctors who arrive late to their clinics where multitudes of sick people are waiting for them, patients who would rather be lying down waiting for their fevers to go down. Then there’s the leaders who repeat trite phrases to the point of satiation, getting ever more comfortable in their positions of power in the face of the people’s resignation.
The people who let themselves be convinced or overwhelmed when confronted with the false proposal of liberty; who stop saying the things that disturb others, who stop listening to the things that others don’t want them to listen to, and only hear simple and false words.
The people who don’t listen to the whisperings of the wind of change that runs beside us. The people who don’t feel the spark that lights up inside of those who haven’t let their yearnings be killed and who want at all costs to get out of the artificial lake.
Could we become capable of abandoning those small spheres of influence that give us a false sense of power in order to submerge ourselves, willingly, in the immensely deep sea of liberty that surrounds us and belongs to us?