HAVANA TIMES — As I’ve said before, I am a run-of-the-mill Cuban without an Internet connection and I am unable to actively participate in the debates that take place in Havana Times.
From what I read in the comments sent to me via email (some of which are incomplete, for my Gmail account truncates some messages), I realize that what dictates the opinions expressed by participants is often not directly related to the topic addressed but the life experiences of the person commenting.
This is neither new nor strange, of course, but the subjective characteristics of what I am referring to are rather subtle.
Reading people’s comments attentively and as free from prejudice as I am capable of, I discover that even the frankness of the opinions expressed is conditioned by posturing and by individual interests.
Those who left Cuba and now feel the freedom to express themselves which they never had (or waived) in Cuba will often make far more direct criticisms, using pseudonyms. Those who do not fear being denied the right to visit the island (either because they’ve decided never to come back or because they have no loved ones here), will often reveal their true identities.
Todos serán inclementes con quienes no llaman a las cosas por su verdadero nombre, pondrán sin temor “culpa” junto a “gobierno”, hablarán de nuestra falta de valor, de la necesidad de deslindar responsabilidades, de organizarse, rebelarse.
Others who live abroad but are committed – to a greater or lesser extent – to preserve certain government privileges, will protect their freedom to the point of expressing opinions that never reach any one shore, looking for some kind of balance between past and present. They will speak of reconciliation and even forgetting and weave intricate arguments to avoid the thorny issues of Cuba’s disastrous situation, the government’s direct responsibility for it and the complicity of those who contribute to this state of affairs but do not suffer it directly (inside Cuba and abroad) and of those who suffer and contribute to it because of fear, inertia or lack of awareness.
Foreigners attracted by the issue of Cuba, be it out renewed sympathy for the revolution or in order to nourish the myth they once knew, will voice their opinions through the relativisms of that freedom they’ve chosen. Those who in Cuba are authorized to speak will temper their opinions, even when these rub up against the delicate terrain of government measures and the urgent need for democracy. Some Cubans who are constantly immersed in this world and are predictable in their pronouncements will attempt to disguise the fact that such services pay for their access to the Internet and perhaps other benefits.
Others express their opinions within the molds of an ideology and will not budge from their positions, not even when faced with solid arguments. They will be highly critical but always employing terms such as “bureaucracy”, “institutions”, “officials.”
There are complex positions in which the conscious or unconscious premise is defying anything that smells of imposition, dogma or domination, any criteria that suggests a mental prison (even when rebelliousness seems to be its topmost limit), no matter whether it yields lucid, debatable or absurd judgments. What is truly regrettable is that the commentator’s interests focus more on this personal premise than on finding a solution to the problem being debated.
And then, of course, there’s us, those who do not express opinions or express these through articles that are truthful or cathartic, lukewarm or trivial, inopportune or misguided. We avoid exposing ourselves through the intricacies of language, through abstractions and appeals to the divine, weariness or the fact this virtual dump cannot solve what affects us in Cuba directly on a daily basis.
There are also those who content themselves with a virtual debate (with or without a consensus), as this sustains the semblance that a online site that the immense majority of Cubans does not know or read is an indication of growing freedom in the country.
It is not my intention to diminish or offend anyone with this analysis, but to regard myself as part of a human community whose actions are limited by their perception, experience and egotism – a fact history more than demonstrates, and as we are able to see anywhere in the world today. And I affirm that truth is always more profound.
I wonder what kind of debate we would have if everyone exposed what they are protecting from the word go, where everyone was aware of their unavowed commitments, and whether that could be a point of departure for change, beyond cyberspace, in the tangible Cuba.