HAVANA TIMES — I was inspired to write this post by a recent conversation I had with other HT colleagues.
We were talking about countries where people have freedom of speech. A colleague mentioned that having lived outside of Cuba, she discovered that democracy was useless even though people can criticize the government and have freedom of association and a multi-party system. The majority of citizens aren’t interested in exercising these rights or in actively contributing to the improvement of their country, she said.
Another colleague insisted on the need for Cubans to be able to express ourselves 100% freely as soon as possible, an opinion which I supported.
Reflecting on the subject a little later, I came to the conclusion that comparisons are always inefficient and tend to distort reality. Freedom of speech (and its by-products: freedom of association, freedom of beliefs, to create companies… etc.) don’t resolve every social problem because it is just the first building block in focusing objectively on how a system works.
However, the impossibility of talking about problems freely and in public, even about the real causes behind an economic disaster, can indeed worsen the social landscape, like it has in Cuba.
A Cuban friend who lives in Austin, Texas, told me that a part of the reason that Trump won the election was the US people’s indifference, those who didn’t vote, I believe it was 56%.
This reveals that even in democratic systems, the large majority of people choose civil unconsciousness. And that is also exercising freedom; however, it is founded on ignorance unfortunately.
We are all responsible for how things work at home, in our city, in our country and in the world. Of course, not all of us have a political background or what it takes to lead or organize a country, but there is always a way for us to support what is going on, from our own plane of action.
The interpretation of freedom as the capacity to do everything that we please comes into conflict with all kinds of restrictions from the outset: spatial, time-related, material, physical and even psychological. Without taking into account the restrictions that are imposed by social laws themselves, even in the most advanced countries, when it comes to human rights.
A young man once told me that for him, freedom meant not feeling suffocated by obligations, and he gave me the example of first world countries where people live at a non-stop pace. This stress was the loss of peace for him and he believed that without peace, you can’t enjoy freedom.
I kept on collecting ideas and I gathered these:
-Freedom is the capacity to adapt, to accept even that which might not please us.
-Freedom is the capacity to understand, to identify ourselves with others.
-Freedom is not clinging to something or someone. To live this life as if it were a show, a theater performance, because soon the event will end whether we want it to or not and we will have to leave the stage.
-Freedom and happiness are the same thing. And for me, happiness is the absence of contradictions.
This last opinion reminded me about what Gandhi said about happiness manifesting itself when “what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Then the necessity of freedom of speech hit me again.
What can work in an individual, or in millions of people, in harmony when truth itself is blocked, censored and left out? When the understanding of what surrounds us is distorted through the lens of less than subjective, manipulated interpretations? It’s like changing the air we breathe.
Truth is just “what it is, what exists, what is happening” and the malicious interpretation of it, the mental or verbal construction of it, can’t replace what it is and the only outcome is confusion, a standstill, apathy.
Truth is the start of everything that is born. For progress to be natural, healthy, what has been created needs to continue growing with this truth.
And returning to the subject that started off this post, in my opinion, freedom is simply an extension of truth.