HAVANA TIMES — We speak so much about the moral degradation of Cuban society that sometimes it feels we are deep in a quagmire that can’t get any worse. This isn’t exactly true, and we should not deceive ourselves that it is.
Today, I had one of those days in which you go out with all of the positive energy in the world, hoping to get some things done, and you come home frustrated and empty-handed. This does not exactly illustrate my point, I know.
I don’t have any statistics at hand that would support my claim either. I only have the facts. I sometimes wish there was an instrument designed to measure what I’m talking about. It would be called a “degradation meter,” or something like that.
It would suffice to go out to the street and point it towards people’s rude behavior, the misconduct of consumers and public officials, bosses and employees, adults and the young. The device would then give us a reading.
Since such an extraordinary piece of technology does not exist, I will try and measure the vibe of Cuba’s streets on the basis of my own experiences.
The incidents I will describe are not exactly revealing, in and of themselves. I think the fact they took place within the course of a single day, however, gives us a sense of how inhospitable Cuban society has become. My best reason for saying this is the simple and overwhelming fact that incidents like these no longer shock anyone.
To improve public transportation, the number of buses operating in Havana was recently increased. On this day, however, we are witnessing bus stops with the kind of large crowds we hadn’t seen for a good while.
Public transportation difficulties giving rise to stress among passengers has been described at length in posts like this one. It is understandable that people should be irritated. The hot August sun also has a say in this.
But the fact that people – particularly the young – speak in a loud tone of voice all the time has nothing to do with the public transport system or the heat. That people should curse and say rude things to one another while joking, that can’t be chalked up to the weather or bus shortages either.
This morning, a woman almost knocked me down while scrambling to get a seat in the bus. Things like this, folks, bring us a step closer to savagery, even barbarism.
Another fellow who got on the bus was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt. His armpits were hairy and sweaty. By then I was sitting on the seat the rude woman had emptied. He settled next to me, placing his hairy armpit very close to my face. He didn’t seem to notice what he was doing.
My arm still hurts from having had to wrestle my way onto the bus, and I was third in line. It actually hurts, the people standing behind me almost tore it off, supposedly trying to keep others from taking their place in the line.
On my way back, I ran into a friend. Just before I got off the bus, she told me she had seen a man looking at her and masturbating, right behind me. In effect, he had been fondling his genitals a few centimeters behind my back. She had said nothing “to avoid problems.”
Something isn’t right here. Many things aren’t right, for people are shedding all civility with less and less shame and no one does anything. This trend continues to grow and the “decent” appear to have become immune to it.