Ernesto Perez Chang
HAVANA TIMES — As a mechanism for ideological control, censorship is not unique to totalitarian regimes. In nearly every country around the world, there are political, religious and other demarcations that make so-called freedom of expression mere semblance. This is a truism. No one is so naïve as to believe they can freely express their opinions without some form of hostile consequences.
The fact censorship exists nearly everywhere should not, however, be used by governments to justify its practice as an unquestionable right, nor as a kind of consolation for those whose right to dissent is curtailed.
All countries will always suffer some form of censorship (tacitly or explicitly), but public opinion groups and individuals must be very much aware of the legitimate role they must play in their relationship with power.
Journalists and writers – provided they are true to their calling and assume the absolutely independent and responsible attitude devoid of opportunism and complicity with higher-ups their profession demands – are duty-bound to practice their trade honestly and decorously, even when this means an open and direct confrontation with the political establishment.
Strategies aimed at silencing people and at controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity that prevail in our society.
It is not a question of turning literature or journalistic work into propaganda, creating spaces, columns or opinion groups, much less affiliating oneself to parties or parading down the streets holding banners and yelling out slogans (as citizens, we are all free to do this, of course). It is a question, rather, of shedding one’s fears ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship as “common sense”, as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.
While it is true that efforts to avoid censorship through the use of literary disguises of every sort has spawned literary masterpieces and brilliant authors whose real names we will never know, hidden as they remained behind a pseudonym or total anonymity, it is also true that no hand numbed by fear or guided by a foreign and despotic will ever managed to write anything worthwhile. One cannot write a journalistic or literary piece if one is forced to respect the limits imposed by others. Nothing of any significance can be achieved when one needs a permit in order to create.
It is a question, rather, of shedding one’s fears ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship as “common sense”, as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.
Publishing a sterile work that has been emptied of potentially offensive content, besmirched by convenience and adulterated by the fear of punishment could be tolerated in mentally challenged people, but it is shameful and objectionable when practiced by individuals who have an effective influence on the public sphere.
Any system that fears individual opinion, the direct usage of the written word or questioning (misguided or not) only demonstrates that the ideological foundations that sustain it are as fragile as paper or as insubstantial as hot air.
By attacking those who dissent, governments merely reveal their colossal clumsiness. By revealing, through their hatred, their disproportionate and contradictory faith in the written word, they attest to the fact that their reality is made up of a huge pile of words, each propped up by the other, part of a discourse that is only apparently coherent.
Words are not the political or ideological property of anyone. Imposing limits on the activities of intellectuals and artists does great harm to a country’s culture. Strategies aimed at silencing people and at controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity that prevail in our society.