Haroldo Dilla Alonso
HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago, singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez angered that very small part of Cuba’s population with access to the Internet. This happened when, following a concert held at a small town in Cuba’s eastern end, the musician was interviewed by the official government web-site Cubadebate.
During the interview, Rodriguez showed a certain degree of disillusionment with the outcome of what both the interviewer and interviewee agreed to call “communism.” More importantly, he made a chilling confession: “I’ve realized,” he said, “that people are screwed, really screwed…” He added: “a whole lot more screwed than I thought,” before mentioning another empirical discovery: “my life is far more comfortable than that of the immense majority of Cubans.”
What’s striking about these statements is that Silvio Rodriguez has always lived in Cuba, and that he has resided on the island for the past twenty years. In the course of these two decades, Cuba’s population has become alarmingly impoverished, individual consumption has dwindled and been transformed into a daily struggle and social services have degenerated to truly regrettable levels. And only now does he discover, to his surprise, that “people are screwed.”
I must point out that, ten years ago, Silvio Rodriguez himself publicly supported the Cuban government’s repression of those who were “screwed” and called for a system that offered them brighter prospects, including the execution, without due process, of three young black men who had hijacked a ferry in order to emigrate to the United States.
Silvio Rodriguez’ statements are an illustration of the perversities that emerge from a system that has not completed its transition to capitalism and of the frivolous disappointment of an elite that imagined it would transform the world and ended up discovering it had merely staged a burlesque show for a public that had been gagged.
These disparaging public declarations have become common among the post-revolutionary elite, interested in publicizing an account of things in which it appears as the baby we should keep and the rest as the dirty bath water we ought to throw out.
A few years ago, when the Cuban president announced the implementation of his economic “reforms,” no few miserable public officials spoke of the devastated Cuban population as a society of vulgar children who simply opened their mouths and waited for the State to spoon-feed them. Only a few weeks ago, we learned of another sudden outburst, that of Alfredo Guevara, a learned official and patron of the arts who, in his last days, complained of a people he considered unworthy of the government’s efforts.
What makes Silvio Rodriguez different from Alfredo Guevara – perhaps because he does not suspect that the world he knew is dying (a common type of blindness among intellectuals) – is that he believes we should continue to move forward: “it’s likely a great part of the population will have to endure many hardships, hard work, problems and shortages, on top of the many hardships, hard work, problems and shortages we’ve had for many years.” That is to say, Silvio Rodriguez is calling on Cubans to make new sacrifices.
Silvio Rodriguez has in fact always been calling on others to make sacrifices. He did it when he was starting out as an artist and he was yet another common Cuban committed to his people, something that made his work authentic and believable.
Today, he is no longer a common Cuban, nor is he believable, because Silvio Rodriguez is an intellectual of the elite, and this – as the musician has just discovered – allows him to maintain a safe distance from the daily struggle for survival of those folk that, according to him, are “screwed, very screwed.” Without a doubt, these people will be even more screwed – and distant from the folk singer that once captured their imagination – when the establishment of an authoritarian form of capitalism has been achieved.