“Privilege can create monsters.” This has been repeated by many people for years in the face of signs that are frightening.
Socialist society has meant a whole list of undeniable benefits for the Cuban people, and among this inventory can be highlighted the special treatment made available to people with capacities that are different from the great majority.
I’m talking of individuals who are physically or visually handicapped, those who are hearing impaired (deaf), and people with learning disabilities, Down syndrome or some other challenge that I’m overlooking at the moment.
And to ensure that such references are not overlooked, associations were created years ago to bring together almost everyone — which included the great majority of Cubans with disabilities — who were seeking to balance the rights of people as much as possible.
In this way the Cuban Association of Persons with Limited Physical and Motor-Skill Abilities (ACLIFIM) was constituted, as was the National Association of the Deaf in Cuba (ANSOC) and the National Association of the Blind (ANCI).
People! All that sounds noble, because this way none of those beings are left to the mercy of the cruelties and ungodliness of others.
“But there’s always a prophylactic but” as poet Ramon Fernandez Larrea once said.
How often have you seen a sufferer of Down syndrome being used by his sister to cut in line at a bank; while he doesn’t understand anything involving bills, she takes advantage of the opportunity to make some payment or cash a check for herself.
Likewise, it’s surprising to discover how behind the disabled vendors on street corners or in the doorways of their houses, the wheeling and dealing of the black market is being developed. Concealed behind the doleful image painted on their face or the card explaining their disability, there are often clandestine activities going on (which finally might soon become legal given the impending reforms) or even operations involving theft in the worst cases.
A pregnant woman — let’s call this a temporary disability — will go to buy a tank of cooking gas and at her side her brother or husband will take advantage of her condition to go up in front of others who are waiting.
When there’s a very long line for something in short supply and desperately needed by everyone, there always appear those disabled or pregnant individuals who leave all their able-bodied folks at home and take charge of making the purchases.
These are not the only occasions in which this is evidenced, but they are indeed the most common. There are those that others undertake in a quiet manner and with inevitable benevolence, but which do not cease to raise discreet comments of protest.