We Choose Our Own Truth

Veronica Vega

Illustration: Yasser Castellanos
Illustration: Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — The effects of writing for a website are mysterious and unpredictable.

To my surprise, the post “A Cuban without a Smart Phone”, unleashed a wave of solidarity from a reader who wanted to help the anonymous student at the Enrique Jose Varona Advanced Learning Institute, who had become the object of compassion and criticism, without his knowing.

Complying with this reader’s wishes, I went to see my neighbor again to talk to her son and to explain the situation to him. I was a little troubled by the idea of how he would react, if he would agree to be the link with the other student who he might not even have empathy for. However, I was more worried to think about the reaction of this unknown student when he found out that his deprivation had reached a social forum.

But, I was really taken aback when the young man told me the real story, not the one I’d believed listening to my neighbor’s anecdote.

First of all: when the teacher asked the question, the student replied that he didn’t have a smartphone “right now”. He had one but it belonged to his girlfriend.

Secondly: He’s not a teenager without financial means by any means, he wears brand name clothing and shoes.

Thirdly: the teacher’s request is in line with a reality that has practically already been established.

Fourthly: we writers have too much of an imagination.

Fifthly: I withdraw my apparent understanding of how the salary-fashion-technology relationship works here in Cuba.

This event left me thoughtful for a few days. I watched young people on the street and for the first time in many years, I saw this indescribable force that time and individual and collective will make, this dialectical mix that builds what we call “History”.

Life force is a lot more than what we can understand via reason, explain with insightful analyses, comparisons and opinions, with biased or balanced evaluations.

What is it that makes so many young people in a third world country, with salaries under 1 USD per day, have smart phones and that makes university classes take on functional impetus?

A survey would shed some light on many of these interesting details, however, it is generally known that the majority of these devices are imported; others are bought from underground networks which parents pay for with help from remittances, self-employed jobs or by diverting state resources.

Now, why are young people, and even their parents, letting themselves be pushed along by this sea of progress instead of standing up for the truth, that is to say, the impossibility of paying for them without huge sacrifice?

The answer is very simple.

Like it’s been said a million times before, truth is relative. Every generation is a child of its time and unquestionable proof of the speed with which children of different ages adapt to new technologies. They already come into this world with this hidden knowledge and are anxious to use it.

And the advantages of using a smart phone are undoubtedly real. It’s a mobile phone for us to communicate and a music device at the same time, a portable information device, a way to entertain yourself and an object to show off, which feeds our sweet vanity.

The truth is so profound, so complex, that it’s laden with qualifying trends.

While talking to a group of young people who have graduated from university a while ago, the statement that they belonged to the “apathetic generation” came up. They disagreed with almost every aspect of how Cuban society works; however, they did admit that they weren’t going to do anything to change it. Because they know about the consequences in advance, apathy is their greatest act of sincerity, their rebellion.

And who are we to question them? When I was young, I also disagreed with so many aspects of my social environment and didn’t know whether they could be improved, or how. I guess (I can’t even remember now) that it was my intuition that told me that rebelling against the norm meant coming face to face with a monster. And that I would be on my own in this defiance.

Even though I was replacing and separating myself from lies, because they disgusted me, I didn’t openly struggle for what I thought was fair. Like young people today, I looked for my happiness in the mysterious infinity of what I could get a hold of, no matter how poor this seemed to be.

And as we’re on the subject of truth, political activism is one of the most exceptional callings. The great, overwhelming majority of every generation only wants to live in its moment, wherever they happen to be born, or where there are better opportunities.