Yenisel Rodriguez

Street vendor. Photo: Caridad

“Yes, freedom is something else, something very delicate; something that can complicate things. And these are moments of survival. My life project is to subsist.”

That’s the opinion of Martin, an acquaintance of mine who proudly demonstrates the success of his private business. He’s one of those people who have a critical spirit, someone who’s been able to build a certain political culture for themself. He’s always at the entrance of his business discussing the official issues and the topics of the street.

“Did you hear what happened to Pedro Pablo Oliva? Yeah, the painter from Pinar del Rio. They say he made some kind of statement on the question of political dissidence or something. From what I can tell it seems like he got screwed over…

Notwithstanding, my acquaintance suffers from “IDUSA” (an “Imagination Dependent on the United States of America”). He’s one of those people who can leave Cuba because he doesn’t feel free and will then passively accept any type of domination or discrimination abroad, especially if its in the United States.

The most curious thing in this guy’s case is that he’s able to perceive his inconsistencies when they demand certain responses from him. It’s as if he knows he’s self-colonized.

His strategy consists of denying the possibility of changing things here in Cuba. This allows him to come up with an individual solution without others being able to question his self-proclaimed rebellious thought. As for his individual solution, that consists of taking refuge in the universe of consumerism.

That refuge begins feeding new expectations and desires about the reality of material well-being, which has a U.S. and Euro-centric orientation. Then, when the ideology of consumerist nirvana has been adopted and one is overflowing with middle-class longings, the struggle begins for the realization of personal material well-being.

“I’d already gotten tired of looking for the why of everything happening around me. I have to center myself in life, in making my daughters happy.”

Up to this point I’ve found his position legitimate. Things are hard to change, and life flashes by in a second. Yeah, that’s an unavoidable reality.

But then my acquaintance said something unexpected to me: “What I need is to travel to know things, to be able to expand my experiences, to enrich my life and to feel free.”

Free? Can you achieve freedom by simply leaving Cuba?

“I don’t understand,” I told him. “First you say that you want you take refuge from everything, and in order to achieve that you’re doing this business, but then you’re suddenly telling me about automatic freedoms thanks to a ninety mile trip. What’s the deal?”

On his fleshy lips was drawn an almost imperceptible smile, while his gaze radiated a hint of mischievousness. He put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a bit of advice:

“Freedom? I’m not talking about freedom. That’s something else, partner. And if you don’t want to make it to being an old man with nothing or nobody to live with, then don’t fill yourself up with illusions.”

It was a response that was sufficiently ambiguous and contradictory as to be debated by me that day of hunger and fatigue under a burning sun. I felt unable to demonstrate to him that he had used the word “freedom” just minutes earlier.

He assumed that attitude of bad faith because only in that way could he continue to simultaneously adopt the attitude of both a critic and an apologist of consumerism.

It was in fact his attitude that motivated me to validate some of his pessimistic opinions. However I refused to throw in the towel.

Today I decided to struggle. It’s a precarious struggle, but a legitimate one, with the fear of seeing my life flash by in an instant, and in the future not being able to hold onto consumerist intoxication if that devastating defeat occurs.

Even like this I again defined my great political principle: “I don’t live to be happy. I live to be free, although it costs me my happiness!”


Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

One thought on “I.D.U.S.A. and the Utopians

  • June 24, 2011 at 8:57 pm
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    You do not seem to realize, Yenisel, that “Utopianism” and “Marxism” are essentially the same. Both believe that all productive property can be transformed into communal property right our of capitalism. The only difference is that Utopians believe a few people can flee to the woods and form a communal property commune, and Marxist believe that the socialist state power can nationalize everything at once–as Cuba did in 1968. The main thing that both Utopian communes nor Marxian economies have proved is that such immediate communal property is dysfunctional and leads right back to capitalism.

    Socialism and “personal material well-being” were never incompatible. The bizarre idea that material prosperity and moral life are opposites was imported into the socialist movement as a way of subverting it.

    Socialism was originally conceived as a way for working people to become more materially prosperous. This prosperity would be guaranteed for the simple reason that now the worker, not the capitalist, landlord or banker would own the workplace, the place of residence, and the financial institutions.

    Then the state monopoly perversion of socialism came in and changed the movement into a quasi-religion and cult of personality. Instead of the workers owning the workplace and the financial institutions directly, the socialist state was to be the owner–in the name of the workers.

    Material prosperity for workers is not bourgeois consumerism. It is the well-being of working people who no longer have their use-values stolen–either by the capitalists of the bureaucratic state.

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