By Veronica Vega

vero-1-Yasser
Illustration by Yasser Castellanos.

HAVANA TIMES — Whenever I hear someone complain about how bad it is Cuba, if it’s one of those people who fought, convinced of what we have today (or about the promises blown away by the wind), I’ll note that in times of greatest political upheaval, many useful details go overlooked.

These include the attitudes of leaders, meaningful words, and reactions that inspire or punish. However, at least those that I know, exonerate themselves of all responsibility by arguing, for example, that they didn’t participate in the various witch hunts.

But I wonder… was that enough?

Many people still refuse to forget the time when this island — like with David against Goliath — emerged as the paradigm of the triumph of the subjugated over tyranny, demonstrating that there’s justice and that a small country can fight to attain its right to sovereignty .

The dream (then a reality) spread to the masses. Though I was never a witness or an actor, I’ve seen pictures of those glorious moments.

I saw photos of not only crowds intoxicated with optimism, not only uniforms, long hair and beards, not only a dove descending from heaven, suspended emotions, smiles and tears. There were also scenes of masses of people yelling “to the wall, to the wall! Another scene was of a man reeling from the impact of a shot, the explosion of blood on the wall, the grotesque fall into a previously dug pit.

Then the feeling of “glory” becomes diluted, and an inner voice whispers that the balance of this effervescence couldn’t simply be peace, unity and the prosperity of a people.

Among those who edit (or justify) that part of history, are those who were too poor not to venerate the hand that pulled them out of grinding poverty…or they’re those righteous souls who saw the outlining of this paradise of earthly equality, but who had to wait, and wait, and wait … never seeing that design completed…or those who, without being direct stakeholders, declared themselves unconditional supporters from the bowels of capitalism [the USA].

Today, leaders embody the level of consciousness that prevails in a group or nation. The most common mistake (the most fatal one) is letting oneself be seduced by sweeping personalities and despots, by acts of cruelty as performances of justice. Simplicity and compassion impress very few.

Because of this, none of them wanted to notice the distinctly visible thread: the hunts for those who were accomplices (or only suspected of abetting) the Batista dictatorship.

But soon they needed more “purging,” such as with UMAP, “parameterization,” the rallies against “scum” (who could have been anyone from those planning to leave on the Mariel boatlift to the “10 Intellectuals,” or those who advocated “alternative opinions,” or independent journalists and librarians, or those who signed the Varela Project, women dressed in white, or bloggers who write in the vastness of virtuality).

Following that line of thought, the conclusion is simple: demonization can take any face, and the methods of purging are diverse.

I remember something I told a friend: “I won’t follow anyone who isn’t an example of what they say.”

A cold observation of the evolution of the great leaders is very revealing. For starters, very few of them who led all their people didn’t wind up being kings, ministers or presidents. Relinquishing power is an extremely rare phenomenon. It’s hard to give up once it’s achieved, even when power is codified in legal mechanisms that legitimately restrict their terms in office.

What’s most common for leaders — surfing on their fragile board of power — is for them to display their egotism, fickleness or even their own blundering.

But nations, exactly like individuals and fruits, don’t ripen with blows or chemicals. For blows to be effective, they must involve a substance as subtle as discernment.

What’s more, this process can take centuries. Distracted in our daily struggles, by anticipation, life in foreign or internal exile or the frantic brandishing of flags of one ideology or another, we don’t see their shadows and lights forming seductive but fleeting mirages. The twilight of our life can surprise us in that state, which is described in a song by the Uruguayan group “Cuarteto de Nos”:

I was ethical and I was erratic,
I was a skeptic and I was a fanatic,
I was apathetic and I was methodical,
I was chaste and I was chaotic.
(…)
I’ve changed my hair color,
and I’ve been against and I was for,
what gave me pleasure now gives me pain,
I was on the other side of the counter…

The sad thing is that governments count on all this: human selfishness and conflicts of interest, gradual physical and mental wear, changes of ambition in life cycles, historical amnesia and the valuable recycling system sustained by the different generations.

Many people still refuse to forget the time when this island — like with David against Goliath — emerged as the paradigm of the triumph of the subjugated over tyranny, demonstrating that there’s justice and that a small country can fight to attain its right to sovereignty .

Most leaders are only adept manipulators of dreams. It’s popular complicity that gives them the power to act. From the pedestal where we place them, seeing the world like a huge chessboard and humanity as tiny pieces, they administer our hopes and disappointment in appropriate doses.

But the real tragedy (the eternal one?) is that when the crowds finally de-hypnotize themselves through bitterness (like happens with love), they admit the deception. There could have been other candidates no less reliable who weren’t placed under the beam of light and applause.

Today, leaders embody the level of consciousness that prevails in a group or nation. The most common mistake (the most fatal one) is letting oneself be seduced by sweeping personalities and despots, by acts of cruelty as performances of justice. Simplicity and compassion impress very few.

Today, at least in Latin America, the fact that there are groups of people who gather to venerate the memory of Pablo Escobar, proven to be a murderous drug dealer, is indicative of how far we are from any possibility of democracy.

Continuará…


Veronica Vega

Veronica Vega: I believe that truth has power and the word can and should be an extension of the truth. I think that is also the role of Art and the media. I consider myself an artist, but above all, a seeker and defender of the Truth as an essential element of what sustains human existence and consciousness. I believe that Cuba can and must change and that websites like Havana Times contribute to that necessary change.

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