A Short Fable on Capital and Labor

Juan Quin Quín: The land belonged to the Indians and the Galicians took it away, after they killed them all.

The Proxy: Undoubtedly it was that way! … But this is how the damned world is, but today the land is now all distributed and within the law…

–“Juan Quin Quin en pueblo mocho (1963) by Samuel Feijó

By Leonid Lopez

I grew up with those ideas and today I am in Japan.
I grew up with those ideas and today I am in Japan.

It’s very common to hear people in Cuba say that under capitalism you really have to work because everything is invented there.  In this are two meanings: the first is that you can live without working in Cuba, or at least without seriously working.  The second is that an emigrant in a capitalist country has no choice than to work hard, because the other alternatives are already closed, since other people – never the emigrants – create them.

I grew up with those ideas and today I am in Japan.

I never liked those notions, which to me seemed to have been rashly conceived.

These opinions seem to be formed by Cubans in Cuba who wanted to feel like they possessed a knowledge that for most Cubans is only a dream: the knowledge of how life is outside of Cuba.

On the other hand, the Cubans who live outside Cuba often try to dignify their lives, painting a picture of great sacrifice and effort -two words very frequently used excessively in Cuba- despite their not having achieved anything creative with their lives.

I thought this way. Today, after six months in Japan, I think somewhat differently.

It’s true that when I arrived here the land was already distributed.  Life had a direction that wasn’t going to suddenly change simply because I didn’t understand it; and moved at a speed that was not going to slow down for me because I didn’t keep pace with that rhythm.

As the last person to arrive here, it was my turn to begin learning the language, to adapt to different customs and to train myself in the mannerisms in the hope of getting a job – probably one of the least paid and having nothing to do with creativity.

Up to now I had found reason in popular sayings.  However, the “lucky” idea that people in Cuba don’t work, is nonsense.  In a society where people don’t work, its citizens can never see any prosperity in their lives.

Likewise, I believe that in Cuba, with its shortage of raw materials and technology, one has to work that much harder.   What this popular saying indeed allows us to see is the little respect given by the Cuban in Cuba for work, often unproductive, without recognizing it.

Another thing is obvious: While people who work so that the world functions – who are the majority – continue to see this as a place where everything is now distributed and within the law, they accept the immobility of things.  Yet things dominated by gravity and inertia will not move far from their place, at least not until they have drained the effort of so many generations.

I still don’t feel that I can move anything from its place, but yet within myself I can move every day.  Making those people who surround me happy makes my revolution.  I’m beginning to see that the outside world changes to the degree that change occurs in the personal world.

All that is inert outside is for an inert soul.  Although there are things like hunger that pure love doesn’t change, it’s necessary to begin shaking away those myths that make reality a world always for others.

2 thoughts on “A Short Fable on Capital and Labor

  • FYI: Nippon was seized from the Ainu over the course of more than one millenium of bloody imperialist conquest.
    IMO: you are against socialism essentially because it did not “deliver the goods” to cubans — while nipponese capitalism ‘has’ done so in your opinion, apparently. However this story is far from over, whatever some people say. Often loudly and repeatedly.

  • Another thoughtful and interesting piece on Havanatimes…congrats.

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