HAVANA TIMES — The title of my post alludes to the question with which blogger Yoani Sanchez closes Devaluación (“Devaluation”), an article addressing the question of how the marked and profound damage the revolution has caused Cuban society could be fixed today.
It is not my intention to be polemical, but I believe some of the undeniable causes behind this damage are the ideological institutionalization of disrespectful behavior, the country’s “meritocracy” and the deliberate propagation of vulgarity and ignorance as a means of political manipulation. Now that we’ve acknowledged the injury, however, the crucial question isn’t so much who is to blame as how we can go about fixing the immense damage caused.
More than once, I’ve heard the rather categorical assertion that Cuba’s gradual moral regeneration will only begin with the complete extinction of today’s generations. This perspective, which precludes any possibility of taking part in the country’s rebirth directly, is so disheartening one loses all interest in expressing an opinion on the subject. So I began to reflect on what we could do if a legitimate will to change things existed (not only among the people, of course, but also within the government). These are the points I came up with:
– Wages on a par with current prices. When citizens begin to see that they can live (not merely survive) without the need to misappropriate State goods, hustle or directly resort to crime, they will gradually regain their sense of the ethical and begin to appreciate the value of honesty once again.
– Workers ought to be assessed on the basis of their skills and performance and not their political loyalty. This will restore the natural order of things and make workers feel motivated. It will help in the development of different projects and do away with mediocrity, an ill that is ubiquitous on the island.
– The degrading background checks based on assessments conducted by members of Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) or the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), used to decide whether a citizen should be given a certain job, travel or anything, must be eliminated.
– All acts of retaliation against citizens must be banned immediately.
– All individuals who discriminate against others on the basis of race, gender or opinions must be punished with the full force of the law currently in effect (or new laws that sanction such practices must be created and approved).
– Titles such as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” and “Ms.” must be officially restored.
– All citizens must be treated with respect in all of the country’s institutions and by public officials and police officers.
– Teachers and professors must behave respectfully and use appropriate language in front of students. Classroom inspections must not be announced beforehand. The truth must be made public in the hallways, classrooms and slogans of these learning institutions.
– State establishments where young people gather to listen to reggaeton music must begin to offer other dance music alternatives.
– Streets must be cleaned and those who litter roads by throwing garbage from windows or balconies must be fined.
– Laws that restrict noise levels, domestic violence, sexual harassment and animal abuse must be passed and enforced. Non-smoking areas must be enforced through the application of fines.
And the list goes on and on.
Many will say it is easy to dream of such things, but I believe that expressing the truth this way can undermine institutionalized lies and the bad habits people have adopted because of a lack of options, fear or apathy.
Recently, during a CDR meeting, a neighbor of mine encouraged others to attend meetings more regularly in order to trace strategies that could benefit everyone (such as payments to individuals tasked with operating the building’s water pump and with mowing the lawn, for instance). He insisted that he wasn’t calling for meetings of a political nature, that he wasn’t interested in anyone’s politics (if they had any) – that he simply wanted to address issues that affect all of the tenants.
Reality is much more compelling than mental constructions. At this point, having clearly seen and experienced the country’s moral and economic collapse, people are hungry, if not for truth, at least for progress.