Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams

By Fernando Ravsberg

1HAVANA TIMES – When our children left home it was as if the sky had fallen; my wife and I fell in what is known as the “empty nest syndrome”. Suddenly we were without our main occupation; educate this pair of boys who gave us life.

Grisel, an excellent psychologist and best friend was the one who gave us the key to get out of this existential anguish. Write down on paper all the things you had wanted to do and had to forego to devote time to your children, she said.

I realized then that we are not what we want to be but what the circumstances impose and that can be projected to Cuba as a whole. I had read somewhere that Cuban society in general and individual Cubans are not what they had wanted to be.

For half a century they lived in a “besieged plaza” and adapted to the circumstances; rationed food and freedoms, a single centralized chain of command, unanimous unity, the nation above the individual and a single slogan: resist, resist and resist.

The dreams of young Cubans in 1959 may resemble those of their grandchildren today. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
The dreams of young Cubans in 1959 may resemble those of their grandchildren today. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Perhaps resistance could have been done differently or perhaps there was no alternative to successfully stand up to the wrath of the world’s greatest economic and military power. The costs were high but even Obama acknowledged that they had been unable to subdue Cuba by force.

But the fact is that in this process the nation ceased to be what it wanted to be, adapting all the time to aggressions. If today you have a dual currency, for example, it was because one day the US decided to punish banks that receive dollars from Cuba.

However, now the “enemy” recognizes its failure, begins to lift the siege mounted against the island and develops a new strategy that puts the dispute on a different plane and changes “the circumstances” of Cuban society.

The government complains that Washington is moving too slowly in the dismantling of the economic war but perhaps they should be thankful because it gives them the time to develop the new Cuban strategy adapted to this context.

My wife and I had it worse when our children left home, almost overnight, without giving us the shortest time to adapt our lives but we finally managed to recycle or our original plans, those that had been continually postponed.

It would be healthy to remember what the Cuba that they had wanted to build was, looking at history so it points the direction to follow. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
It would be healthy to remember what the Cuba that they had wanted to build was, looking at history so it points the direction to follow. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

Obama’s policy regarding Cuba is not the same as that of his predecessors; therefore Cuba’s policy should also be different. However, designing the new society only thinking in response to the US takes away possibilities for the nation.

Perhaps the advice of my friend Grisel would serve the whole society, look back and remember that nation it had wanted to build. Not everything will be useful in the present circumstances but it will serve as a compass to resume aspirations and redraw the course.

With the change of US policy the nation should not fall asleep but it can dream again and even build on one of those old dreams that one day was left in the storage room because the times demanded their being very, very awake.

The exercise could be useful even to bring the different generations closer. Possibly if a young Cuban asks his/her grandfather what society he dreamed of in 1959 they will realize that it is much like the Cuba that today’s youth are seeking.

23 thoughts on “Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams

  • May 30, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Rich Haney two years ago stated in these pages that he is a Republican. Moses has stated in these pages that he is a Democrat, Casey Strong suggested that Moses was a friend of Marco Rubio one of the numerous candidates for nomination to represent the Republican Party in the November 2016 Presidential elections. Those were the basis for my comment. But another reason to deprecate Mr. Strong, is that as I said above, his language – which is none too savory, reflects his mind. You don’t have to like my response, but at least I have the courtesy to reply to your question.

  • May 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Carlyle: You make many good comments here. Some I agree with, some I do not. But almost all are intelligent and worthy of consideration.

    I appreciated your response to luis segui about not being another US citizen here to depreciate the US.

    But then you go and comment that Casey Strong and now Rich Haney are supporters of Donald Trump. Where in the world did you get that from? You are diminishing your own credibility.

  • May 28, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    It is a very interesting viewpoint Doug 1943 and I agree with much of what you say. Your third paragraph is key however as there is an assumption in the question you ask: “what the Cuban citizens should do to advance the possibility….”
    In my view based upon my experience of living in Cuba, there is nothing that the Cuban citizens can or will be able to do unless they are given a degree of freedom. Under the Castro regime and the PCC that just isn’t going to happen as their power and control is absolute.
    I agree totally that Cuba needs to change and with your expressed hope that that can be achieved peacefully. Cubans will only be able to form the society that they long for, when they are free to vote for whom they wish, when they have freedom of expression, freedom of information and have been released from dictatorship.

  • May 28, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I have a personal rule which i recommend to all people who are interested in changing the world for the better, whether you are on the Left or the Right or somewhere else: don’t spend time doing ‘blame assessment’, or trying to analyze the motivations of others, which are invariably complex. (There are few purely evil or purely good people, and there are absolutely no people whose actions were determined purely as a manifestation of their character and intellect with no influence by the circumstances in which they found themselves, or thought they found themselves.)

    In short — it actually doesn’t matter a rat’s **** whether the Castro Brothers were simply seeking power so they could test out the proposition “It’s Good to be the King”, or whether they were self-sacrificing idealists given few options by the Yankee Colossus. It just doesn’t matter.

    What does matter is what the Cuban state should do now, and what Cuban citizens should do to advance the possibility that it will do those things.

    And it’s not clear — to me at least — what it should do. Cubans — and not just Cubans — need a lot of discussion about how to deal with their undoubted problems, how to retain the good things they have, about what went wrong with similar projects — such as Venezuela.

    Concretely, is there any alternative between the top-down state Plan for running an economy — with the number and design of shoelaces being decided by the Central Planning Committee in Havana, on the one hand …. and simply privatizing everything, opening the country to unlimited foreign investment, and hoping for the best.

    Forget all the neat little slogans about imperialism, capitalist exploitation, the logical proofs that show that the Socialist Calculation problem is insoluble, that democracy is a wonderful thing, that life expectancy for Cubans is as good as for Americans, etc etc. What the collective intelligence of people who care about Cuba and its future should be doing now is discussing/arguing about what changes should be introduced into Cuban society tomorrow.

    If you think that no small incremental change will make any improvement at all — that there is no purpose in demanding half a loaf because, in the words of an early 20th Century American socialist leader, “half a loaf is not better than none, half a loaf is stone” … then of course you won’t be interested in arguments about how producer co operatives could be helped, or hindered, by the state. On what terms the internet should be expanded in Cuba will not engage your attention, because unless the whole things changes totally, no change is of interest. That ‘maximalist’ attitude actually hinders change — because it demands that the Cuban people make a leap into the dark, in the hopes that everything will be better.

    But human beings are inherently conservative, and rightly so. It may be the case — it has sometimes been the case, in the past — that some social-political systems and the people who run them are utterly incapable of change, even when it’s desperately needed. Woe to them, and often woe to the people who live under them, even if the system is finally overturned and shattered.

    Cuba needs to change, but we must hope this change can be made peacefully, and incrementally, and not according to some preconceived blueprint about how an ideal society should be arranged. We’ve had enough of those.

  • May 28, 2016 at 6:25 am

    I hope and pray you aren’t a resident of the USA.

  • May 27, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Read Carlyle’s response. Spot on.

  • May 27, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    I’m a card-carrying yellow dog Democrat. Do you know what that means? If I had to choose between a Republican and a yellow dog, I would choose the yellow dog. You really guessed wrong on that one. Have you had enough of the personal attacks? You are not very good at it.

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