Caridad

Is winning everything?

Up until last week, several of my friends were waiting for the final outcome of the national volleyball team in one of those championships or world competitions – I’m not really sure which. I like volleyball, but it’s all the same to me if the Cuban team wins or not. To me it’s the same no matter who wins.

However the majority of those who sit down in front of their TV are hoping to see their team win. The announcers put all their effort into making us feel that a victory by our team would be of such tremendous value for the Cuban people.

The question of winning goes well beyond a simple game of sports given all the sad ideological propagandizing that’s done in our country. Some countries are even worse, but here is where I live and where I see many people, every day, focused on “winning in life.”

Almost before we learn how to talk, our families — if they’re interested in “educating us” — begin teaching us the ways they consider appropriate so that “we grow up to become someone in life.”

Those parents who create intellectual atmospheres, making special efforts so that their children learn to read and count as soon as possible, also instruct them how to recognize the symbols that identify our nationality.

And soon they’ll want us to play some instrument, know how to dance, paint or learn whatever novelty that differentiates us from the other runny nosed kids on the block, thereby preparing us for a promising future.

Families less interested in cultural atmospheres will throw baseballs — one after another — in the face of their boys until they learn how to use a bat or a racket. They’ll show their girls how to look prettier and more sensual (or sexual) so they’ll gradually learn how to be a woman and find a good man – “winning” in that fashion.

Any approach is legitimate. What is important is winning. You have to obtain the recognition of people around you and even those who are much further away. All this is because without that recognition, you’ll never be happy.

Then as we begin to grow up, we are fully secure — because our parents told us, those who know the most about the world — that if we don’t stand out in some subject or sport in school, we’ll never be happy. We begin to compete to be the best. Why? Because without competition there’s no winning.

Our bodies grow and develop. We finish school. We evolve into perfect gladiators, willing to do anything in life to win.

If we think of ourselves as intellectuals, our poems or essays must be the best. If we’re not so interested in the arts or sciences, our income has to be the most of all those in the neighborhood.

Being a worker is synonymous with not having won in life. Not having money is worse (or perhaps synonymous with being a laborer).

If we marry and have children, our little boys and girls have to be the prettiest, their baby strollers have to be the biggest…and so the chain repeats.

There are many ways of feeling that one is on the right path to winning in life.

When parents see that their children have grown up and become what they dreamt: big time winners, they are the happiest on the planet…apparently.

But if their children have turned their backs on the aim of winning, those parents will wonder over and over again (like when they were throwing them baseballs) what they did wrong.

Often (perhaps all the time) big or small winners will smile in front of their family, their neighbors and their friends by day, but will suffocate in emptiness at night…or they’ll feel that what they’ve achieved to feel good about themselves isn’t enough…or that they’re missing something in their life.

Then too, they may simply feel tired from so much competing.


Caridad

Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.

One thought on “Cuba Triumphs

  • This superb article opens a profound subject. It is expected that children in a capitalist country will be indoctrinated with the “Winning is not the main thing; it is the only thing” mentality. Capitalism must justify that some are rich and some are poor, and that the former are socially superior to the latter.

    Socialism by contrast was supposed to change all that. It is both depressing and instructive that the same competitive ethos that is inculcated under capitalism is also accepted and rampant under the Cuban statist form of socialism.

    It used to be said in the US that “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game.” The old idea was that sports and sports education should build the character of both those who play and those who watch. As monopoly capitalism developed into the 1950s however, sports became a desperate contest of “win at any cost.” Today athletes take steroids or cheat or do whatever is necessary to come in first because that’s how the social prestige and the money comes. Not any more; and it hurts to learn that a similar bestiality exists in Cuba.

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