Fidel Castro’s return to the Cuban television screen generated almost as much interest as the issue he was raising there: the imminence of war in Iran.
The matter had to be very serious for him to interrupt his reclusive and prolonged retirement, whose sole interruptions have been writing op-ed “Reflections” published in our media.
My family —pro-Castro par excellence— had waited eagerly in front of the television to see and hear him. They were concerned about his health following the ailment that almost cost him his life four years ago.
He looked good, but his voice was almost as unintelligible and his ideas, dispersed and rambling. Bored after a while, almost everyone left the front room under different pretexts.
My mother needed to step into the kitchen, her husband had to take the motorcycle in from under a heavy thunderstorm, and I remained alone in front of the television, taking advantage of the opportunity to hook up the DVD and to watch one of those Spanish sitcoms that are so popular these days.
Turning off the leader
Every so often my mother and stepfather would take a break from their respective tasks and stick their heads back in the front room. When seeing me watching my sitcoms, my mother asked, “How could you go and take Fidel off?” They were scandalized because I had “taken off” the leader. They couldn’t believe it.
The situation was so laughable that it reminded me of the very old philosophical problem concerning the relationship between the individual and the universal. Throughout the course of history, these opposing categories have taken on different attire: presented as the individual versus the collective, selfishness versus altruism, socialism versus capitalism; but in the end, these are all the same.
That relationship is a complete mystery for me. As long as we only know how to look at things in black and white; reality, though, offers us boundaries that are substantially more nuanced and confused.
Each person has selfish instincts that they can or cannot control, to a widely varying degree. Likewise, the individual can be the bearer of altruistic ideals who upholds, pursues or avoids them in diverse measures. The same deed can hold implicit complications of one type as much as another.
Returning to Fidel, we can infer that his love for humanity, his concern for the collective future and a universal conscience compelled him to forsake his convalescence and to risk his delicate health. However, what also comes to mind is a possible government strategy aimed at dealing with the critical situation that is putting at risk not only the future of humanity but also the continuity of the Revolution.
Nonetheless, the most selfish aspect of Fidel’s reappearance reveals him once again addressing international problems while ignoring the precarious economic and moral situation in this country. He has not spoken out regarding these issues, except to demand more “sacrifice,” “efficiency,” “productivity,” without connecting these to any concrete strategies.
While the country is agonizing economically and institutionally, while Cubans are experiencing increasingly more stress in trying to feed their families, and while we spend hours daily at bus stops, our television media dedicated several long minutes simply covering the presence of the leader of the Revolution when he recently visited the National Aquarium.
We are also to blame
However, ordinary people are not exempt from selfishness. Those of us who don’t decide the destiny of the world, we are also to blame. We’re able to alienate ourselves in our day-to-dayness without caring about this decisive moment that could be the end of humanity.
We are guilty of having lost faith in justice and order, and of not struggling for them or against the men who govern us, those who —in as much as one decree as in another— use us for a war in which we the poor, ultimately, are the sole victims and enemies.
But the true enemies are those in power. They are the individuals who when obtaining that status became corrupt and are seen catalyzing that selfishness that is innate within us as a species. The dilemma must not be whether we opt for the right or the left.
The struggle is not between “good” and “evil,” since no one is born into one or another role; moreover, these can be interchangeable. Each person struggles for their interests. Some dominate and others are dominated. In that conflict resides humanity’s development, but also its probable end.