It’s Not About Other People’s Rights

LGBTIQ community march in Havana, Cuba. May 11, 2019. By Alba Graciela

By Carlos Manuel Alvarez (El Estornudo)

HAVANA TIMES – A reading of what’s recently happened after the new Family Act was voted in on September 25, featuring some new rights, will say that it was the direct and exclusive result of a struggle fought by the community that benefits from this. But that isn’t true. In Cuba or anywhere else in the world.

Homosexual couples will be able to get married but not only thanks to the historic, legitimate, fierce, and yet still not self-sufficient struggle of sexual minorities for the full recognition and approval of their basic rights. For that reason, it’s becoming more and more important to understand Cuba from a contemporary, global perspective and not from the point of view that it is an exception.

The social system is being pulled at from all angles and the Government navigates latent conflicts, preferably in its own favor: it pressures, drains and equalizes using non-transparent repression. It especially works to split up dissident identities: pitching Blacks against Blacks, gays against gays, indigenous against indigenous, diluting any cross-sectional understanding of politics and, of course, the chance for structural change, that is, awareness of the current economic situation and how it correlates in social groups and classes.

Beyond the libertarian slogans that populate the messianic space of exile from the Castros’ Cuba, a specific interpretation of the dictatorship and Cubans recognizes that rights perforate totalitarianism’s iron gate and that the totalitarian State normally grants rights elusively, if they don’t undermine their control, their idea of government. The totalitarian State isn’t going to admit it’s cracking, and every forced adjustment will be presented as something they themselves choose.

So, why do we have to believe it? Whose interests is it in for us to believe it? Everyone who has a relationship with the totalitarian State, and this includes both those who legitimize it, as well as those who reject it wholeheartedly. That’s because it isn’t a question of rejecting it, but of transcending it.

Political prisoners aren’t abstract entities. The San Isidro Movement or UNPACU aren’t abstract entities. The unprecedented climate of protests isn’t abstract. None of this is there just for someone – you – to defend it. They are also there to be expressed themselves.

Political negotiation includes concessions and pacts. Some happen unofficially, in the moment, like now. Many things have been conquered on the street, even if official propaganda isn’t going to admit this (who thought they ever would?), and even though the opposition’s prevailing rhetoric believes that the only thing that can and should be won on the street is overthrowing those in power, and that everything else is a distraction. Regardless of what people who voted “NO” believe, and the people who voted “YES” think, the Family Act has also been passed thanks to the bodies of political prisoners, the people who have had to tragically go into exile, even when these very people don’t see the new Act as a win for themselves.

Cubans live their day-to-day lives swayed by authoritarian rhetoric: they seek it out and find it in Kendall, Lavapies or Calimete. While democracy doesn’t come just from those in power. In fact, you find the least amount of democracy in the Government’s “democratic gestures”; at this time, they are mostly liberal automatisms.

There are ways for a democratic efforts to exist in every transition, even when things come to a grinding halt. The San Isidro movement lived in democracy, to give you an example that I hold dear in my heart. It proved a point, it didn’t pontificate. They didn’t say: “Tomorrow, we’ll all have equal rights,” but rather said: “Well, I’m going to live how I’m supposed to, let’s see how it goes.” There is a group that sacrifices itself, and this gesture also ensures other people’s rights. A political avant-garde.

The bigger picture for humanists is that there aren’t other people rights. If a homosexual person gets married, I can also get married. However, among Cubans, there is a conservative and reactionary discourse that is used as a means to an end, defending political prisoners. It’s scary. Prisoners are also locked behind bars because of everyone else.

Only the perspective of democracy as individual, but also supportive forces, will stop dissident bodies from being revictimized. An ecumenical interpretation of civil commitment (political opinions about manipulated issues don’t matter as they are spun into mad stories, e.g. the embargo, annexation, war, the preservation of socialism, the ideological weight they hold as subjects matters instead), and the convergent understanding of subordinate identities. Likewise, specific achievements, denial, oversight or silence surrounding somebody else’s words and actions, are all authoritarian methods – their education, their mark – and this can be found both among those who voted YES , as well as those who voted NO.

In short: there is no Family Act without the 11J protests because somebody else’s body is paying for my privilege. That’s a historic truth, it’s up you to admit it or not.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times