Needs and the Guilt of Consumerism

Irina Pino

img_3234HAVANA TIMES — “Im not going to eat an expensive Nestle ice cream, it’s better to queue up at Coppelia even though it takes 2 or 3 hours. I can eat an ice cream sundae for 10 pesos.”

“This perfume smells really nice, but I’ll never be able to buy a perfume that costs more than 15 CUC, because that’s a luxury.”

“I’d like to have this dress… and even though I have 25 CUC, I should use it to buy food for home.”

“Why am I going to buy hair dye, if I have to keep on buying it afterwards? It´s better to leave my grey hair, and that way I´ll save money.”

I’ve heard these phrases thousands of times, coming from the mouths of people who even though they have the money to buy these products, don’t, because they are a reflection of poverty and the guilt of consumerism. It’s the dread that you’ll end up with no money which rests in the veins of ordinary Cubans, and audacity, if you can call it that, to spend money on unnecessary things, because of the pressing need to only use it to buy food and basic items.

Many people with low incomes, if they suddenly receive, or have a certain amount of money in their pocket, want to spend it as fast as they can, but in the end they decide to buy what is more urgent: they go to the agro-market, they buy beans, some root vegetables, and then oil, soap in the store…

They prefer to eat at home because it’s cheaper, and they don’t take the risk of being charged more than 20 CUC for a meal, because they consider that robbery. If they do spend money in a restaurant, the guilt will follow them for a long time. Then they think: I could have spent that money on something useful and I spent it on going out that one time…”

Quite simply, they can’t relax, they can’t give themselves this luxury, even if they were given money as a present, because they are conditioned to stretch it out as far as they can.

Who doesn’t like having an elegant dress for a special occasion? But then they ask themselves: for what? If I’m not going anywhere classy. And as a result, dreams slowly disappear and they become modest because of a lack of perspective.

The closet is full of old junk, they can’t update their wardrobe. They’ve inherited furniture from their parents and grandparents.

Save up money to travel? That’s a real utopia.

A psychological state has been created in poor people in Cuba so that they can do without so many things and hate consumerism like they would an infernal machine.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

2 thoughts on “Needs and the Guilt of Consumerism

  • Famtastic balanced and nuanced article on Cuba; where it was economically, before the revolution, and where it went afterward

    Obviously, it is impossible to go in a time machine and explore what would have happened if Castro had not overthrown the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. But any measurement of Cuba now must take into account where Cuba stood at the time of the revolution

    We also have to acknowledge that any data from the Cuba government is naturally suspect. Experts say that official statistics must be treated gingerly and skeptically, as police states generally are not known to provide accurate numbers. In particular, Cuba’s relatively high ranking — 67 out of 188 countries — in the United Nations’ Human Development Index appears to be affected by questionable data.A rigorous effort to establish an accurate picture of pre-revolutionary living standards in Cuba, published in the Journal of Economic History in 2012, found that Cuba significantly lagged its counterparts in the region during Castro’s rule. “Since current living standards appear to be below the levels of the late republic, it is hard to visualize any scenario where the republic would not have outperformed the revolutionary economy by a considerable margin in terms of living standards,” wrote Marianne Ward-Peradoza and John Devereux.

  • Consumerism is an infernal machine. The best things in life are free or nearly free. Health,
    love, peace, being with friends and family, a good book, a McDonald’s apple pie, a glass of
    the house wine, a nap are things worth having, not trinkets, gadgets or status symbols.

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