When Real Life No Longer Interests Us

Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES – For a long time now I’ve had the growing feeling that the media lead us to underestimate life. Even in Cuba.

Interactive video games where the most impossible fantasies “appear” to occur; video-clips at a breakneck rhythm that in no way reflect the objective rhythms, at least of our cities, but do demonstrate how much the speed of thought has intensified and to what extent we in Cuba have also attained a high index of stress, despite our poor technology and general absence of internet connections.

Attitudes among adolescents clearly reflect the singers currently in vogue.  These, of course, seem to derive their arsenal of sensuality from the same school: the same gestures, the same cliché poses as sexual vipers.

The media have always dictated the fashions and had an influence on the tastes of young people. However, the question that arises for me at the moment is how much happiness can really be derived from consuming more and more materials that distort the dimensions of the real in order to be attractive.  And when we return to the real world?

Audiovisual clips of extreme sports circulate, as do Guiness world records and participatory television programs where the sensationalism borders on obscenity and scatology.  Even for housewives there is a plague of series or soap operas, which offer them an “escape” from their own lives by watching the comforts enjoyed by the middle classes (with characters that are invariably attractive, no matter what their age).

This disdain for reality, I note, has had its influence on the trite expressions that reproduce themselves at an alarming rate, and not only in the youth.  They are meant to feign aggressiveness, to demonstrate that “Nothing gets to me, I’m above any fragility.”

When I watch documentaries or films from the eighties, it surprises me to note the differences in the facial and other expression, even among Cubans: they reflect more naturalness and candor.

I’m not deluding myself that we were better off then than now.  I realize that from those same generations, for example, came those who carried out the acts of “repudiation” against Cubans who had the sincerity to admit that they weren’t happy in Cuba and wanted to emigrate.

But I feel that something has been lost.  Something that socialism never managed to give us, nor will this invasion of capitalist media – official or clandestine – grant us.

It’s true that the extremes often meet.  And in the multiplicity of capitalist expression I see traces of the structures and fabrications that so alienated us in our past lives with their invasive catchphrases, billboards, and furious slogans.  In the end, all of them are directives aimed at monitoring our thought processes, creating needs that are not really so necessary, be they ideological needs, material needs, or whatever.

I think about how much I’d love to see more programs (both from here and from “there”) that show how simple life can be, and how the greatest events are those that only you yourself know about, because they happen in your interior without witnesses or applause.  And how marvelous that can be.

About how it’s not necessary to be aggressive to seduce, and that sensuality offers infinite possibilities.  That life continues to be a challenge, even for those of the middle classes and the millionaires, who also suffer pain, loneliness, aging and death, and for all those who preach formulas for happiness.

How much do those smiles for the camera and the (ephemeral) splendor of the supermodels cost?

How much lasting value is there in being “superhuman” in order to earn the nickname of Spiderman for climbing a skyscraper, or “The flight of the bumblebee” for playing more rapidly than any other musician?

How I would love to be reminded that fragility is what makes us human and that all competition is absurd, since every individual is unique and their experiences (of pleasure or pain) are not transferable.

That existence, even at this high moment of progress, continues to be the greatest of mysteries.  And that the only true liberty is our right and our risk (also individual and non-transferable) to traverse it:  without formulas, without superpowers, without slogans.

Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.

3 thoughts on “When Real Life No Longer Interests Us

  • Alas! Luis, another hole in my education revealed. The Wikipaedia entry for SOCIETY of the SPECTACLE is very intriguing. I’ll add it to the long line of books I have to read. I have read some of the other books mentioned in the article (namely WHITE COLLAR and THE LONELY CROWD). Still, I think this problem began way before the 1920’s, and is the basis of many reflective novels, plays and poems going back to earlier civilizations (e.g. certain scenes from THE SATYRICON by Petronius Arbiter, not to mention, of course, earlier philosophical works of which the two heroes of the SATYRICON were well aware.

  • Michael, I assume you know Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, don’t you?

  • Your comments reflect much wisdom, Veronica! Still, long before there was a mass media (in fact, going back to the very beginnings of civilization) most folk were caught up in seeking happiness in the acquisition of things–and people! Now, with the mass media–not to mention the “social” media–we reach for the brass ring as the merry-go-round goes ever f-a-s-t-e-r and f-a-s-t-e-r, revolving around at a dizzying velocity. Likewise, the answer–or antidote–for sacrificing an entire life to distraction and unfulfilled desires is to get off this “merry-go-round.”
    Recently, with one of my students I re-read Herman Hesse’s SIDHARTHA, a retelling of Buddha’s story, which reveals how he overcame material distractions. Earlier, reading (a Western digest of) the Chinese classic DREAM of the RED CHAMBER, the author arrives at much the same conclusion concerning a life forever bound by chasing after desire and distraction. Many roads lead to this “oceanic conciousness,” and your diary entry reveals that you have also arrived at this state of enlightenment. Even if you can only lead a small fraction “out of the cave,” and into the liberating sunlight, still, you have accomplished much.

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