Calling the Kettle Black

Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — A few weeks ago, just by chance, I saw a report on “the real United States” by Tele Sur (the Venezuelan Television network) broadcast here on Cuban TV.

Among other things, the material showed the tragedy of the homeless, whose ranks now include many veterans of the war in Iraq. It showed how they suffer traumas that have turned them into social misfits, psychologically maladjusted for life.

These are aspects of US society that of course aren’t shown in most movies. They’re not among the glamorous and hypnotizing images from the empire that are shown to us, the poor of the Third World.

Those troubling scenes are like ulcers, throbbing beneath the makeup, requiring attention but most of all cures. I’m therefore grateful for having been made aware of them.

But at the same time, as I watched the interview I couldn’t help questioning how many of the ulcers of Venezuelan society could have also been shown by those same journalists. Likewise, I had to ask how many of our own sores and lesions could have been revealed to us by Cuban national television.

It seems that this approach fully reflects the axiomatic phrase: “We see the speck of straw in our neighbor’s eye, but we don’t see the plank in our own.”

If humans were less impressionable or manipulatable, I think the world population would have long ago become disgusted with deceptive announcers and guileful commentators. They would have become like “the Murderer” in Ray Bradbury’s short story, eager to destroy televisions, “machines that yak-yak-yak,” magnifying glasses that scrutinize other people’s problems and spokespeople of foreign scandals and gossip.

Nevertheless the seduction of the media is very effective, and one finds themself trapped in the news. It doesn’t matter if they’re seeing the faces of these homeless people in the US, whose personal dramas frighten us, what they’re doing on TV here is omitting our own homelessness, which of course I’ve never seen on Cuban television.

Or is it that they’re making us forget about those who — so very close to us — are suffering repression for disagreeing publicly or for trying to talk about those hidden elements that our state censors have determined unfit for publishing.




6 thoughts on “Calling the Kettle Black

  • “44 Damas De Blanco arrested in Havana while leaving Sunday Mass”

    On the eve of international Human Rights Day, on Sunday police unleashed a wave of repression against members of one of the nation’s most effective opposition groups, the Damas De Blanco, or “Ladies In White.”

    In Havana, police forced into buses 44 Damas who had just attended Mass.

    “Dozens of Ladies in White and other activists beaten and arrested leaving Santa Rita Church today”

    The Cuban government finds a wonderful way to observe International Human Rights Day, by arresting peaceful citizens.

  • People continue to amaze me. Cuba is an Island of 11 million people, who have had an economic boycott imposed by its neighbor – a land of over 300 million, considered by most of the World to be the wealthiest country in the World, and now busily building an Empire to rival Rome. And like Rome, that Empire depends on the biggest military ever seen, and enough bread and circuses at home to keep people anesthetized.

    Not only does Cuba suffer from the boycott which has lasted more than 50 years, but it continues to suffer terrorist attacks from the US. Its Artists, Business enterprises, Tourism, Agriculture, Housing and every other economic and intellectual endeavor are forced to find islands of competitiveness not yet embargoed by the US. About the only good thing about the Embargo is that it has forced Cubans to be some of the most innovative people on Earth.

    How strange that there would be any homeless, poverty, or Veterans suffering from the effects of the Angolan War. With the endless Wealth of your country and the inventiveness of of the people, that is inexcusable! No wonder all those Ball Players and Doctors flee the weight of Government interference in their lives. Earning millions of dollars in the US could not possibly have anything to do with it could it?

    Not only homeless people, but a crumbling infrastructure, and a shortage of suitable employment after getting that free education and PhD. The suffering is intolerable! And, there is still Racism, and Inequality, 60 years after the Revolution.

    Our Revolution ended 250 years ago, and yet over half of our Black Men are in prison, or on parole. Many will never be allowed the right to vote, or any other Civil Rights because of their criminal record. The same is true for our Hispanic population – except for the Cubans who make such useful propaganda stars. About 50 million US citizens have no Medical Care. Many are homeless, the numbers growing with the increasing evictions of whole families – who were ripped off by the banks, and get little help from the Government.

    I never saw a beggar or a homeless person till I went to NYC after Reagan was elected President. Our Military Veterans got pretty good benefits – unless they were among the ones shot down in Washington DC in the 1930s, by that wonderful humanitarian Douglas MacArthur. Yes, the US is a wonderful country, if you are White, Educated, Connected, and Employed. We just don’t talk about the other 80% of the population who lack some of those advantages.

    I am certain the Venezuela TV Show did not show us at our best. I am also very aware that there are poor people all over Latin America who go hungry, and homeless – and in both in the Bolivarian Republic, and Cuba. But I am equally aware that your Governments deserve pretty damn high grades for trying to improve things and eliminate the inequities.

    That is a lot more that can be said of the ‘Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave’, where the cops in many of the big cities use Minority kids for target practice – and get away with it.

    Skinny Carlos is paralyzed and suffering because he was wounded in a War that was fought by brave men trying, successfully, to bring Freedom to a Black Country in Africa. In the US, kids just like him are in the same shape because the Cop or ‘Gang-Banger’ had a lousy aim.

    Sorry to go on at such length, but it gets tiresome reading the strange comparisons you people make between a ‘3rd World Country’ and the Biggest Bully on the Block. Get a clue!

  • I agree. So why do the Castros continue to lie to the people?(Mostly lies by omission) If you know the “truth” and yet you still appear to support the totalitarian regime, then why not let the Cubans on the island have uninhibited access to the internet and cable TV and foreign newspapers and magazines just like you have?

  • Hum, maybe because they already have a rich community in South Florida ready to help them and are welcomed with a red carpet with the Cuban Adjustment Act?

  • It is true that in the USA, some returning veterans of wars, whether Iraq or Afghanistan now, or Vietnam in the 1970’s experienced PTSD and other psychological traumas.

    In my reading of Cuban literature and history, I have noted oblique references to similar trauma, such as PTSD, among some veterans of Cuba’s foreign wars, in Angola, Ethiopia, Congo and elsewhere. Yet the official narrative, based as it is on a heroic Internationalist line, does not admit of such things. Yet physical and psychological trauma does not distinguish between ideologies of the victims. THere must be many thousands of such veterans in Cuba.

    In Leonardo Padura’s detective novels, there is a recurring character, “Skinny Carlos, who is not skinny”, a veteran of the Angolan war, whose dreams of a meaningful career and life were shattered by a bullet which smashed his spine. Skinny returns to Cuba disillusioned by his experiences in Angola and copes with life through alcoholic binges of nostalgia. Padura’s observant eye describes accurately the signs and symptoms of PTSD in Skinny Carlos.

  • Government-controlled Cuban media is not taken seriously by a very large portion of the population. Whenever I am in Cuba and people realize that I am a foreigner (I look Cuban), they approach me with questions beginning with “Is it true that…as was reported on the news last night” I am always asked to confirm whether something reported on the news really happened as reported. I believe that there is a high level of mistrust in government media in Cuba. The best evidence of this is simple: despite 53 years of reporting how bad life is for everyone except the rich in the US, especially these days, balseros continue to leave Cuba for the US or Mexico. They continue to risk their lives in search of a better opportunity. Athletes and doctors also continue to risk everything to get to the US. If what the Cuban media says about the US were having an effect, would this exodus be so? Besides, if one out of every five Cubans has a friend or family member who lives in the US, the truth as told to them by that emigrant carries far more weight than Granma or Cuban TV. Most Cubans see the news as propaganda and “take it with a grain of salt”.

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