By Martin Guevara
HAVANA TIMES – I’ve spent the last few weekends in capital cities due to work reasons. Every time I have a bit of spare time in these great metropolises, I go to explore book stores, classic or modern art exhibitions and the thing that most strikes my attention in cities, the heart of hedonistic life, the Bohemian neighborhoods dotted with places of dissolute, dull, working-class life.
This time, I had decided to renew some pieces of clothes from my wardrobe that had now taken on the odor and color of my skin, so I submerged myself in these large warehouses which I normally avoid.
After traveling to three cities, a new common denominator was set up in my understanding, the common space for dizzying consumerism clearly dominant today which used to exist and up until recently, the new class of Russians used to show off. Keen consumers after decades, centuries, millennia of Communist austerity, coming from beyond Siberia, coming from the eternally uniform Manchuria: the rich Chinese.
And then I noticed that as well as being considerably richer and having a shockingly poorer taste than their predecessors, they also represent the antithesis, the negative, the opposite of what an eternity of alienation and Communist indoctrination in rigorous Oriental fashion has tried to imprint in the hypothalamus’ of current and future generations.
The result of this particular “New Man”, a hybrid of hyena, scorpion, lost panther and a plague of locusts which compulsively does away with everything a “for sale” sign flaunts. Then I move on to Cuba because of the new government restrictions for developing similar social classes to these post-Communist mobs.
I don’t know how it must have been in China, but the phenomenon of a new wealthy class within what is still an “egalitarian” socialist Cuba, greatly resembles what happened in Russia. Generals, historic revolutionaries and their descendants make up the new stock of power, who are responsible for representing the new jet set class and of carrying the weight of swollen coffers of gold. And they do so without having to put on the show former Soviets had to of abandoning total control of the Communist Party.
The new business oligarchy brings together a set of common distinctive features:
It is more predisposed to fierce competition than the business community in market societies, even though it is less prepared to take hold of it.
It is a skeptical class, the apostate of every ideology, religion, philosophy that promulgates a purpose based on moral principles.
It’s atheist, agnostic and is even skeptical of its own teachings.
While the business community born within a market society can experience the need for spiritual support at some point in their life, the new business class that is created in the mandatory slogans of social equality is different.
At its time of inflection, it normally reflects and revises its trajectory in the opposite direction, criticizing itself and its futile waste of energy and considering that this is the time to concentrate them for their own benefit, that it is the time to not lose a single minute more in the old, dishonest slogans of its forefathers nor in new infertile utopias.
It considers the normal hypocrisy of the traditional wealthy class to shift blame a waste of time.
It doesn’t ask for permission, it doesn’t ask for forgiveness nor does it give thanks. It pays.
For this new Russian, Chinese and Cuban class, the ostentation of wealth is a healthy sign of good taste.
They don’t understand philanthropy, or patronage in art or absolutely anything that doesn’t have to do with ensuring juicy benefits. Even though they detest culture, they invest large sums of money in paintings and sculptures that are going to have their value pushed up.
They are direct, sincere, primitive, without veneers, without depth and exponentially enrich all of the manufacturers of God knows how many distinctive items of poor taste that abound in surrounding areas.
They are incapable of understanding how a grey Rolls Royce can be a sign of distinction for anybody in their sane mind.
While they are taking advantage of new restrictions to suffocate the emerging national competition without any shame, they are beginning to get used to popping open bottles of champagne and drinking it from the bottle. A few of them use slim glasses, but when they feel protected by the shadow of intimacy, they fill glasses with ice cubes and this characteristic dark red colored syrup, that is an explosion hazard.