My Political Stance

Verónica Vega

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos
Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — I’ve always believed that the simplest things are the hardest to explain – precisely because one feels that they require no explanation, that they are as intrinsic to us as the act of breathing.

This has also been true of political stances. I never imagined I had to choose a label before others placed it upon me.

When I discovered that the words that name the body’s opposing hemispheres and the virtual divisions we use to orient ourselves in space (right, center, left) also referred to political tendencies, I did not feel I was obliged to place myself within any one of them.

I have nothing against those who define themselves politically but, for me, it is as though they were forcing themselves to choose one of the many sides of existence.

I have condemned injustice since I can remember, and this natural instinct constitutes the basis of what I would call an active political stance.

I see human beings as essentially spiritual beings and the world as the stage where their consciousness evolves. All the rest, communities, systems of government, social classes, the accumulation of information and the eternal confrontation between subjective perceptions, are part of the learning process whose goal – conscious or not – is self-realization. Everything else are illusions piled upon illusions.

I understand that definitions try to organize experience and the knowledge that is passed on to us, as well as facilitate the exchange of ideas. However, when these categorizations become restrictive, when they turn into a trap and a prison, perhaps it is time to tear up the asphalted roads and step onto the broad, free fields once again.

Of all the political figures I’ve known, Mahatma Gandhi has had the greatest impact on me. I see his example as the only one that could physically and morally save, not only our troubled “civilization”, but the human species as well: non-violent struggle and the practice of truth. If I had to choose a political tendency, it would be that one, at least as a personal aspiration.

Gandhi would point out that “we are opposing the intoxication of power, that is, the blind application of law, and not authority as such.” For him, the true struggle takes place inside each human being, between the ego and consciousness. Only when the latter defeats the former can people extend that struggle to society. Then can we truly say that the government and population constitute a single family, and that confrontation always aims at a collective and never truly personal end.

I don’t know anyone who represents such a stance today, neither in Cuba nor the world, much less myself. However I consider it the most mature, objective and efficacious political vision.

In our unconsciously male-chauvinistic culture, non-violence is misinterpreted as cowardice. But, if we analyze the issue in depth, we are forced to admit that to endure aggression and to choose not to retaliate requires immense courage.

The only way of exposing injustice is leaving it alone, for everyone to see. Those who take part in violent mob-actions against dissidents in Cuba (and last week in Panama) would be left defenseless if those attacked offered absolutely no resistance and didn’t even defend themselves verbally from insults. It is extremely hard to accomplish, but there is no possible defense of violence if one manages not to react to it. When someone under attack defends themselves, people can speak of a “squabble” or “altercation.” Images can even be edited and manipulated. But, if only the aggressor deals the blows, their bestiality is exposed and their actions can only be classified as “abusive” or “criminal.” The incident cannot then be distorted. Refusing to react to violence also means cleaning one’s mind and guarding against future retaliation. Failing to do so means holding on to the poison and only postponing violence.

If an economically depressed Cuba, with a population decimated by continuous emigration and the rapid deterioration of its most celebrated achievements (education and health) is everything 50 years of government have to show for, we have to acknowledge that half a century has not been enough to construct a solid civil society, right or left-wing.

Controversies about the course our country would set once a peaceful transition were accomplished have come to take the place of real action. What is the point of designing the interior of a house that hasn’t even been built?

The dream of a society without class differences is an ideal for anyone who conceives the world in terms of justice, but taking anything from those who have more by force entails going against a natural order and will always be counterproductive. The same is true of coercing people into sharing what they have. Forced egalitarianism hasn’t worked and will not work: human beings are intrinsically different and we do not all need the same things to be happy. It is however crucial that we all have the same opportunities, and that freedom, rather than a goal, be seen as a previous condition, at least a mental one, so that it may later be turned into something tangible. Without freedom, no political, ecological, humanitarian or spiritual project can flourish. We’ve seen plenty examples of this: not even alternative art has been able to develop and expand. All independent actions are seen by the government as a potential danger.

I believe the first thing Cuba needs is a form of unity that transcends definitions such as “Right” or “Left” or “opposition” and “loyal opposition.” A nation is a vast tapestry where every fiber is needed. Exile and exclusion have only torn people apart and led to our regrettable inconsistency as a people. We must urgently become aware of the need for this type of unity and for moral healing. Playing along, accepting promotions for feigned merits, tolerating the unjust so as to keep our jobs, where one does not live off one’s salary but “whatever sticks to us,” has guaranteed our survival, true, but at the cost of our basic rights. We have made a tacit pact with oppression, at all levels. Nothing can be demanded without morality. The basis for any demand is integrity.

No political strategy, no clever argument, can replace this. Cubans will only be able to defend the truth once we live in truth. Then, everything that paralyses and divides will fall of its own weight.