Thieves Stealing from Thieves
HAVANA TIMES — If Robin Hood were to work on Miramar’s 5th Avenue (1) instead of in Sherwood Forest, he wouldn’t be the “prince of thieves” but the “prince of resolvers”.
We Cubans call stealing “resolving” and in Cuba everyone steals because we all have to resolve things in some way or another, by taking away or receiving; we are all part of the black market which is sustained by the millions of employees who “resolve” matters at their workplaces.
Wages are so low that nobody goes looking for work and asking how much it pays, but how much they can “resolve” out of it.
The black market isn’t only sustained with goods, but services too. For example, an aqueduct worker selling pipes to repair a connection is just as much stealing as a teacher giving mediocre classes because she needs time to prepare her private classes which are what put bread on the table, or a doctor who uses the X-ray machine to “resolve” an acquaintance’s problem, who will then fix their water pump at his/her home.
Now the question is, is the stealing that Cubans make a living off immoral? I don’t think it is. I don’t think it’s immoral to steal to make a living when you are stealing from the person responsible for you having to steal to make a living in the first place. However, even if it isn’t immoral, it is still one of the most important causes for the loss of our society’s civic virtues.
When people get used to stealing and not feeling guilty when they steal, we are damaging our morality. We start off stealing because it’s the only way we can survive, but it soon becomes a behavioral adjustment that we use whenever we can.
The result of stealing the source of your needs, which is morally acceptable, starts to bend personal ethics and as a result, you do it the first few times with an inner struggle, but it soon becomes habit, an adjustment which is done without remorse and no inner struggle. Your morals have changed.
Widespread theft began before the few self-employed professions (which are allowed today) were legal, so when a private cafe, restaurant or workshop employee earns 15, 20 or 30 times what the State pays for the same job, the owner knows that he will probably be stolen from, because there are no personal morals which stop this from happening, because it disappeared thanks to the Communist Party’s state-monopoly capitalism.
I believe that the Communist Party (which has had exclusive control over the island for 60 years) is responsible for the Cuban people’s needs and related obtained habits. Here’s why:
- The Party holds an absolute monopoly over foreign trade, and so all of us who live here in Cuba depend on it to buy and sell goods within our borders. With the insignificant exception of what “mules” bring in.
- The Party holds a legislative monopoly, it makes and revokes laws according to its needs, which includes the Constitution, where there is a law which block future changes to the system and declares a specific ideology to be the country’s official one.
- The Party oversees internal and external movements of its citizens, goods and money.
- The Party controls every high-ranking position in the country’s economic, political and legal sectors.
- The Party appoints every official, bureaucrat, legal representative and military person at a certain level, including the President.
Therefore, it’s hard to find anyone but the Party to blame for the unsurmountable gap between wages and prices, both of which are exclusively controlled by the Party via its planned economy, which is the source of every Cuban’s need to have to live surrounded by crime in order to survive.
This moral perversion of ours, which we have gotten used to on a daily basis, is one of Cuba’s biggest challenges in the future. The economy, like every social activity, has to rest upon a network of shared ethical values which allow us to suppose a certain degree of decency from others. However, this is difficult to do in a society without any values, where hypocrisy, trickery and double standards are taught at school.
The huge problems Cuba’s scarce small business people face, or the odd foreign investor, to find trustworthy labor, is proof of one of the biggest debts we have to pay as a people to join the global economy.
Cuban Robin Hoods pay this debt, while the Sheriff of Nottingham is sipping on a margarita on a yacht in one of Florida’s ports. However, that’s not the point, the damage has been done.
(1) An avenue which many of the government’s high-ranking officials walk/drive down, which connects the pre-revolution’s bourgeois neighborhoods, inherited by the Castro´s highest-ranking bureaucrats and military men, with the city center.