HAVANA TIMES — A while ago, someone I think highly of said to me: “Yeah, that student (Eliecer Avila) had the courage to ask those questions to (National Assembly President) Ricardo Alarcon, making the official look ridiculous, and the student himself even became a popular figure. But what did he achieve with all that? Today he can’t work in his field and all the doors are closed to him in this country.”
Although I disagreed with that incisive conclusion, it was hard for me to explain — instantly and concisely — everything I thought. Firstly, because I don’t believe doors open with the wrong keys. I think the keys are what that each of us forges.
A few days after that conversation, I learned that Eliecer Avila had traveled to Europe. This was despite him having ridiculed Alarcon (involuntarily) by merely showing the absurdity of the official’s theory of aerial gridlock; despite him having been “discreetly” relegated from the active sector of the Young Communist League (UJC).
This was also despite him having been sent to work in a government computer club, out in the middle of no where, where he was expected to relent in the pit of anonymity and (probably) of repentance.
Far from this, the young man just initiated an alternative press project “1 Cubano +,” freely expressing on camera his ideas about issues such as the role of journalism. His comments were passed from USB to USB, as were the red-hot “Razones ciudadanas” and many other opposition materials that we’ll never see in the official media.
Worse for them, right? Reality always manages to prevail. It’s inevitable. But what bothered me about my friend’s reflection was its cult of fatalism, his buying into the fraudulent infeasibility of truth, which many young people in Cuba preach…and practice.
Convinced of the inescapable weight of the farce that we’ve helped build, they’re confined to the role of beggar, even when knowing they’re potentially capable of being independent. They resign themselves to the coercion, to crumbs, to intermittent hope.
Antoine de Saint Exupery once said: “No destiny attacks us from outside. But, within him, man bears his fate and there comes a moment when he knows himself vulnerable; and then, as in a vertigo, blunder upon blunder lures him.”
The “blunder” can tempt us in the form of a more lucrative job (where the greatest profit doesn’t come directly from one’s salary), or the possibility of attaining another status (no matter how much we have to sacrifice what we think or feel), in the form of a car or a little trip that makes it unwise “to stand out”, even though we’re already marked with the stigma of the lie and the rot inherent in immobility, or rather stagnation.
We suffer the asphyxia of a lack of freedom…the underutilization of our physical, moral, intellectual capacities.
But if in their youth (the age of questioning, of not unreserved acceptance, of rebellion) a young person decides to accept this inevitable fate, concluding that having the courage to tell the truth is a mistake, that seems even sadder to me.
Is Eliecer Avila frustrated for having posed a few questions of crushing logic to a high-level Cuban official, someone who failed to respond with reasonable arguments simply because he didn’t have a believable answer?
I don’t think so. But if something can be derived from Eliecer’s example, it’s not exactly that the truth gets us in trouble, but that the truth opens up real doors, not the phony ones that let us pass through coercion, without them ever giving us the key and always keeping us under degrading scrutiny.