My God, What Damage They’ve Done to Us


Caracas, Venezuela

HAVANA TIMES — That was how I ended an email that I wrote to a friend recently. It’s wasn’t in the tone of drama and victimization that it might seem at first; rather, it was full of the irony and humor that we Cubans often come up with, sometimes dragging it along like a heavy weight.

This sentence that ended the letter had to do with the fact that — for the moment — I’m trying my hand at a new “business.”

I need to put a price on my work as a photographer, a notion that fills me with anxiety.

After arriving in Caracas I started doing the kind of work that I’ve been giving my best at in recent years: taking pictures.

Previously I was employed in Havana and received a salary strikingly equal to other wages in Cuba. No matter how much or little work people do, they always receive the same pay, which of course is buying less and less these days.

I’m of that generation for which the word “business” or “private” were explained to be the worst of human sins: appalling selfishness.

We learned in school that the act of work is an act of giving to others, that money was the dirty by-product of that labor and that it would soon fade into the past as something outmoded.

Though that dream turned into a nightmare, as our bodies began to require shaving razors, somewhere well-guarded in our noble brains remained that beautiful but self-blaming idea.

Now, after such a long time and so many lessons in life — each determined to oppose themself to any kind of utopia — I can’t manage to fit in on one side or the other.

Suddenly I saw myself doing my job almost for free, as I would occasionally run into people who wanted “a snapshot of our little girl” but didn’t have much to spend.

But suddenly I would find myself without any money to catch the subway or buy a bottle of water.

So I’d start charging more for photo shoots, though still thinking it was too much. Then my partner would start complaining since she doesn’t understand my concern.

From somewhere within me comes the desire to give away the photos for free.

That’s crazy, right?

But at the same time I can’t, everything here is so expensive; although in comparison to Cuba, more affordable.

Being on the island I would face the same dilemma – or worse. The problem isn’t the place where I am, it’s the place where I grew up, and the times of course.

What makes me laugh most is that those who taught us all that trash never believed it themselves. I imagine it must have been funny to them, playing a trick on a naive child knowing that only with time would the youngster discover the cruelty of the joke.

Luckily they didn’t “domesticate” me very much. They didn’t manage to turn me into automaton or a bureaucrat. The worst thing in the world is having to work at some job that doesn’t allow us to develop, to learn, and from this I was able to escape by pure instinct.

To me, money still seems stupid, and a few more etceteras. Placing a value on work is like turning into mud something that at one point had been light.

But though one part of us is light, it is from mud — the ideal mixture of water and earth — that we were all born.


6 thoughts on “My God, What Damage They’ve Done to Us

  • Lawrence, thanks for your consistent rebuttals of the stuff posted by Moses. Please keep it up.

  • I love how ‘Susan L’ pops out of the woodwork from time to time, supporting ‘Moses’ when he seems to need it most. It’s actually kind of creepy, reminding me of ‘dissociative identity disorder’ (DID), more popularly known as ‘multiple personality disorder’, a mental affliction characterized by at least two identities that alternately control a person’s behaviour.”

    I just finishing watching the third and last season of ‘The United States of Tara’, an entertaining cable TV series about a woman with DID. Stress always caused her to change personas.

    Anyway, ‘Susan L’ continues to have problems with my comments to ‘Moses’ although I thought we had an agreement she should simply not read them. It seems she has some sort of ‘fatal attraction’ to what I write whilst claiming I have a fatal attraction to what ‘Moses’ writes.

    I would like to assure her it is certainly not an attraction, quite the opposite, really, and if ‘fatal’ means my writing is expected to come to an end, that’s not going to happen. I find I’m getting up each morning and quite looking forward to seeing what’s come in and responding to it.

    In contrast to what ‘Susan’ sees as my fatal attraction for what ‘Moses’ writes, she writes “Moses continues to write his views about different aspects of life in Cuba” – according to her perspective. She wonders “which contributes more to the discussion”.

    ‘Moses’ “views”, relentlessly posted and relentlessly in lockstep with US government propaganda, are regularly greeted with hostility, except for ‘Susan L”, on the website. I personally don’t see, under the circumstances, what can be discussed.

    ‘Susan’ writes, “It’s not about agreeing with Moses, in fact I sometimes do and sometimes don’t, it’s about discussing the challenges facing Cuba.” From my perspective, it’s more about addressing the “challenges”‘ facing the US government – trying to effect regime change in Cuba.

    It’s scary thinking that ‘Susan’ may disagree with ‘Moses’ at times. There’s a Hitchcock film that illustrates what can happen when “alters” – the term used for alternate personalities of DID people – have disagreements. Remember Norman Bates and his ‘mother’?

  • Lawrence contiunues to appear totally fixated on Moses and insists on making us privy to that fatal attraction. Moses continues to write his views about different aspects of life in Cuba. I wonder which contributes more to the discussion? It’s not about agreeing with Moses, in fact I sometimes do and sometimes don’t, it’s about discussing the challenges facing Cuba. I can and do read about the the US corporate “democracy” in many alternative publications. HT interests me for the disucssion on CUBA.

  • You claim to have been to Cuba 20 times, yet write about its leaders “wallowing in the benefits of power and position”. More like wallowing in a kiddy wading pool in comparison to the Great Lakes-sized wallowing that goes on in capitalist countries.

    Let’s look at Australia first. In today’s Sydney Morning Herald – at a time of economic downturn and at citizens’ expense:

    “Already smarting from bill shock, electricity customers found reason to cuss last month when they heard that AGL Energy’s new boss Michael Fraser had picked up an 85 per cent pay increase to $6.3 million.”

    In Canada, from Toronto’s Globe & Mail, the top 100 CEO salaries are make over $1 million a year, starting with $36 million for the top guy – all save two are ‘guys’.

    Of course this is nothing compared to the US. In 2010 the highest CEO salary was $84.5 million. The salaries of the top 500 executives averaged $9 million each. And they continue to go up, despite the economic crisis.

    As you wrote, “It is no wonder that the chickens have come home to roost.” More than roost, in the case of the US, I think.

  • You say you’d like to write, Yordanka, but have an excuse for not doing so. Writers, you say, are too boring. Perhaps you need to re-examine the matter.

    It is very common for people, both women and men, to want to write. Many are certain that they have a great gift lurking within themselves. But a person has to know of what writing consists.

    A famous US writer–it might have been Mark Twain or Jack London (I forget)–was asked, “Of what does writing consist.” The famous reply, if I may paraphrase from memory, was “Writing consists of putting one’s ass on a chair in front of a typewriter, and writing.”

    If you have a genius, Yordanka, stop making excuses. Put your ass on a chair in front of a computer, and write.

    One more thing, Yordanka. The idea of abolishing private property immediately was and is an impractical, Utopian idea of the privileged classes. It reduces socialism to trying to jump from today’s class society, to at theoretical, far-in-the-future society that can only be slowly developed via a long-term societal bridge.

    The European working classes during the early 1800s–the peasants and workers–would have none of it. They continued to hope for re-claiming private productive property for themselves under a thing called socialism. Workers, they felt, ought to own major enterprise cooperatively, and peasants and other small bourgeois ought to own smaller enterprise directly.

    The proponents of cooperative socialism, following the ideas and inspiration of the French P-J Proudhon, were so abundant in Marx’s “First International,” that he destroyed it, by moving its nominal headquarters to New York City.

    Engels and Marx smuggled the impractical, Utopian, privileged class ideology into the socialist movement, under the guise of being “scientific,” in order to destroy the movement from within. They have succeeded thus far, in places like the Soviet Union and Cuba.

    The damage to the youth of which you speak so bitterly is part of the nonsense and poisoning of Marxism. The problem is that the entire old Left is afflicted with this false, bourgeois ideology, and cling to the old misunderstanding of what authentic, workable socialism truly is.


  • Those same leaders who were spouting off about a ¨money-less¨ society were themselves wallowing in the benefits of power and position owed largely to money sent from the USSR. It is no wonder that the chickens have come home to roost.

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