Cuba and Guilt

By Leonid Lopez

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Kafka saw God as an enormous fist coming down from above to hit.  I don’t know when the thought came to me of linking this idea to what was often said about the Jews being a people always awaiting punishment for some ancient wrong of which they were hopelessly guilty.

Without a doubt this thought was born of my first attempts at pseudo intellectualism that I once needed to give value to my life in Cuba: a place where I always saw few horizons to give flight to my thoughts.

Now I believe that guilt is present in all cultures and beings.  Maybe as ancient and present in life as death, although maybe less prominent in speeches.  It is true that there is much less mysticism that can be drawn from guilt than from death.  Quite the opposite, guilt is a reservoir and source of dark and painful matters that people usually prefer to ignore.

Although this is true, I would like to muse on guilt and the Cuban.

Cuba has had the same government for the last 50 years, upholding the same style of governance, albeit with some small changes.  The path is known as the Cuban revolution.

At the beginning, many saw the Revolution as no more than a solution to end a bloody dictatorship that was smothering a good portion of the population.  But it became more ambitious, first declaring itself the enemy of imperialism wherever it went, and then declaring itself socialist.

To accomplish these two ideas the first step was to instill in people a hatred of rich people -since they were the ones who enjoyed the fruits of exploitation-, and secondly to propagate the idea that the entire world outside of Cuban borders was a capitalist chaos where people killed one another, and thus instill a hatred of that system.

Surrounding these two hatreds, they planted other ideas that gave a heroic sense to life, such as solidarity of other peoples and modesty at all cost.  That’s how I grew up: between two hatreds and altruistic loves.

In the current Cuban landscape, one does not see these first hates and loves so clearly or differentiated in the talk of peoples’ day-to-day lives.  They no longer constitute the motors that drive life nor are they very useful for putting food on the table and bringing dreams to hearts.

What has taken root is the belief in more concrete ideas grounded in daily existence such as how to eat and dress a little bit better, or how to emigrate anywhere with the goal to find a little meaning to life.

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Others feel that encouraging their children to go on missions around the world to expand socialism -some of whom did not come home alive- was in vain.

The majority of families get by thanks to illegal businesses or participating directly or buying products on the black market since the money earned legitimately at work is very little and the basic monthly staples provided at subsidized costs by the state don’t last halfway through the month.

Many begin to question why they have to live in fear of going to jail for these small-time businesses that, in the majority of cases, merely provide food; but no one ever does anything about it.

Many sadly and angrily see that people live in Cuba thanks to help more recently from China and Venezuela, and never from the sweat and initiative of the people.

Some of those who emigrated from Cuba live under the pain of having left without doing anything to change the situation.  Many of them can’t even admit to their families that they are happy, and instead complain about the thousands of sacrifices that they have to make.

These phenomena, stewing for years without anyone in government paying attention to them, have forged a people skillful at adapting to being quiet and surviving; and deep down, feeling ever more guilty about not taking an active role in their destinies.

However, these are things not thought about much by the majority of Cubans who employ their time surviving or trying to fulfill their dreams outside of Cuba.

People are afraid to talk about them out of the fear propagated by the government over the years but also because people are afraid of the pain it uncovers.

Nevertheless, I don’t believe that these phenomena are damaging to Cuba.  Now is the time for people to start to see the ground they walk on and the skies where they do not fly.  Guilt also brings questions and questions bring the possibility of change.

It is bitter tasting but says a lot about each person.  The face of guilt is never as horrible as the empty fog reflected by one’s body.

Leonid Lopez

Leonid Lopez: My parents named me Leonid because I was born in Cuba on the same day that Leonid Brezhnev, the ex-Soviet president, arrived in Havana. Today it’s a name that is no longer fashionable. I lived in Cuba for 34 years and have now been in Japan for five months. Some of my ideas have changed but I continue believing in two: I believe in the importance of being able to choose, but also that happiness is the responsibility of each person, and nobody can grant it or deny it. Cuba seemed like a good place to grow up, later it began to be like a mother that devours her children. There are those who believe in the homeland; I believe in goodness. Wherever that exists I can have my nest. Now it’s here with my wife, tomorrow, I don’t know.



One thought on “Cuba and Guilt

  • I think you are misguided — all the moreso in that you have chosen to escape to a still-rich country, with economic support already guaranteed to you there. Much of the World is different from that, however — and indeed exactly operates as both the cuban government and many others say it does.

    Reply

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