HAVANA TIMES — I recently wrote an article which attempted to demystify, not refute, the Revolution’s so-called achievements. My HT colleague Elio kindly responded to that piece by highlighting what he considers its undeniable achievements. The first difference between Elio, who I respect, and I, is that everything is questionable.
I have tried to find “undeniable” achievements using my own rationale, that would be considered “almost” exclusive to Cuba and, thus, most likely attributable to the Castros’ leadership.
I am excluding those that the Government publicizes as achievements, but have been counter-productive in my opinon or unnecessary or that were going to happen because of the natural evolution of things:
The extremely expensive luxury of transforming us into a sporting power was counter-productive.
A full speed ahead literacy campaign with huge human costs which was, in part, responsible for the current agricultural disaster.
Universal access to education and healthcare as well as women’s integration into the workforce were going to happen anyway, like what happened in other countries which set off from a similar situation.
Let me clarify that the achievements I’m going to point out might be the secondary effects of policies that were primarily disastrous, but are aspects of our reality that I hope we don’t lose at the end of the day.
Very low ecological footprint: The environmental disaster that human greed, goaded on by US-style market capitalism or China-style capitalism, is huge. I understand that our low ecological footprint is due to our low level of industry. When the moment comes, we will have to analyze whether industrialization, among other things, is a good option for Cuba, what type of technology will we use, whether supporting public or private transport is convenient or not, whether intensive livestock farming is beneficial or not. We basically just have to seek out development options that don’t harm the environment.
Non-existent publicity: Ironically and as a demonstration of the little we matter to the Government, the only publicity we Cubans have is that of cigarettes and alcohol. We would have to get rid of this and stop inevitable commercial advertising from becoming a machine of suicidal consumerism.
Low child obesity rate I already know that it’s because people don’t have money to eat or dress, much less to get fat, but we will still have to think about how to keep ourselves far away from the worst health crisis in the present day.
Standardization of racial integration: It has been one of the Revolution’s genuinely positive policies that has produced results, there still being a lot to do is another thing, but I think enough has been done.
Cheap and generally available condoms: I have found them to be ridiculously expensive in any other country I’ve been in. I’m not including other pharmaceutical products because they aren’t cheap or generally available.
Development of basic creativity and flexible thinking: I have been witness to the Cuban people’s ingenuity and problem-solving skills in other countries. When other workers stop if they don’t have the perfect working conditions, Cubans seek out solutions. I have a feeling that this is associated to the inventiveness that is born out of need, but I do think it’s a great value to save, although I don’t know how we can save that.
Time to socialize: People work very little in Cuba, Cubans would have to be stupid if they work a lot just to make 25 USD per month, so people work a little and that gives way to them socializing, which has been scientifically proven to increase people’s happiness. With the level of technology Cuba has today, ensuring the millions of Cuban people that exist 40 hours work weeks doesn’t make sense, jobs with not very many working hours are the future.
Appreciation for the small things: I once wrote that I saw more happiness in Cuba than I did in Austria. I should have written joy, not happiness. I believe that Cubans are genetically joyful and small discoveries are the reason for this. A Cuban person experiences the same amount of joy when they get a pair of shoes that an Austrian does when they buy a BMW; the same thing happens when they go into a store and find out they have minced meat! An Austrian can only experience this joy when they buy a Gustav Klimt painting or their dream apartment.
Total and absolute secularization in politics: It doesn’t mean stigmatizing religious people who make policies based on their beliefs, but we avoid the “God bless America” chants and moral dictates from any confessional box.
Abortion and divorce laws: The current abuse of the right to an abortion needs to be prevented through education, not through backward steps that take away the freedoms people have fought for. Anyone who wants to get a divorce should obtain a divorce.
Restrictive laws on firearms Not to make guns commercial goods.
Health and Education systems: Well funded and free from ideological dictates, these are reasonable and fair systems. Today, Education and Healthcare are extremely deficient in Cuba but that’s not because of a specific failure of any one of these two systems, but rather due to the fact they were built on an economic fairytale for propaganda purposes. Public expenditure needs to be maintained and increased in these sectors once the economy functions outside of the absolutist control of a single political party. It shouldn’t exclude the existence of private health and education systems in parallel to public ones.
This isn’t a thorough list, every one of these points could be added to or denied in part or completely, but I’ve written this up with the hope that we don’t think about the future as a fresh start by wiping the slate clean but as a transformation, by democratizing, modernizing and freeing all of the energy that the current Government has condensed so as to control us, but without this energy blinding us so that we regret our actions in the future.
We have to always keep the phrase in mind of that Dominican who knew us so well: “Cubans either don’t make it, or they far exceed themselves.”