Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Response to Elaine's Irritation / Miriam Celaya

Response to Elaine's Irritation / Miriam Celaya
Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

Just as expected, the article I published in number 9 of the magazine
Voces which I reposted in this blog caused stinging and irritation in
more than one website, which always makes me feel good. Among those
affected by the stings, blogger Elaine Díaz seems to honor me with her
attention in a particular way. "Strange Attractor," published in her
blog La Polémica Digital (Digital Controversy), is the writing that
flatters me. Some friends and readers informed me about her reference to
my work, because — and here, following the example of our leaders, I
must self-criticize — I'm not a regular reader of Elaine's blog. This
distinction piqued my interest and almost my liking for this young
woman, who, I am told, is a professor at the School of Communication.
Maybe that's why she writes well, which, I'm sad to admit, is not always
a quality that comes with our journalists and other communicators.
Elaine, I repeat, writes well, but does not always say it well. It could
be because she may not read as well as she writes, or because my article
made her nauseous, which she admits. Or maybe because, in her anxiety
and haste to disqualify me, she neglected some odd little detail, such
as the fact that the pioneer blog she uses as a reference
(Murciegraphos), which I must confess I was not acquainted with, had not
been updated since 2007, that is, before the blogger explosion in Cuba.
Nor does it seem odd to me that some isolated blog might constitute a
blogosphere, which is what my article is about. However, she shouldn't
deny that the increase of blogs, especially those that have remained on
the Internet, which are updated regularly and which are among the ones
that have provoked a virulent reaction from the authorities, is a
phenomenon that took place after 2007. I propose historic examples that
may illustrate my assumption: It is known that Christopher Columbus
"discovered" the New World in 1492. However, archaeological finds
attribute the Vikings' presence in North America prior to the discovery
date. Nevertheless, for all purposes, October 12, 1492 is the date that
marks the discovery of America because Columbus was able to return to
Europe and testify to the existence of land on this side of the
Atlantic, and the Vikings were not, to my knowledge. Or maybe the Nordic
Scandinavians were not very interested in the matter of discovering
something, who knows. But, like it or not, Elaine, pioneer Karel's
"inconvenient" blog did not mark the beginning of the blogosphere, if
not, I, just having found out about its existence, would advocate the
right of giving it due recognition, and I would flagellate myself for
not having known about it until today. Even Voces Cubanas came after the
Desdecuba.com platform (early 2007), or even Consensus (December 2004),
a collective platform.
Elaine conveniently omitted a piece of my post where I state that, at
the time of the birth of the alternative blogosphere, "different people
drew near, some of whom had long since been dabbling in online
journalism or had taken their first steps in isolated blogs". That is,
the emergence of a blogger platform in itself did not negate, at any
time, the prior existence of other blogs, although it's true that,
because there were doubts, I did not mention any particular one. 

I add
that I could be mistaken in other facts, and I am willing to rectify
those errors, if that's the case. Unfortunately, I don't have enough
Internet connectivity to verify and correct them all soon. It would be
great to have help from informed people such as Elaine… and also from
others even better informed, because her investigations are a bit
skewed. For example –using a funny and biblical parable – she assumes
that Eve was born with the blog Sin EVAsion (January 2008), as inferred
from this quote from her post: "The Cuban blogosphere began with Adam,
just as the beginning of time. Eve was not yet born, Miriam. Too bad. It
would take three years". Yes, sorry Elaine, because Eve was actually
born in 2005 for the daily Encuentro en la Red, probably a few months
after your paradigm Karel. Under the pseudonym Eva I began to
collaborate in the publication that year. Eva was born before Eva's
blog, unrelated to Adam's rib. I think that, if Elaine wishes to correct
my chronology, she should at least adjust her own, since she has such
ample opportunities to do research. She should have prevented that error
by just having been careful to read my blog's profile before pouncing so
zealously on me. I did not have (nor do I have) the intention of writing
the history of the blogosphere, but to move some information around to
complement the map that the U.S. academician Ted Henken put together,
with facts and dates that the public was not aware of. That does not
prevent the contributions of others, nor do I think that I'm worth such
a waste of "revolutionary" energy in order to attack me. It might be
indispensable now, and could be put to better use in the interest of
"renewing the model".
Then Elaine complains about my proposal, when she even classifies
herself within the taxonomy: "I'm touched by the blogger who was born
under protection, who has posts dictated to her over the phone, the
a-critical, a-neuronal blogger who is an imbecile and is in favor of the
regime for a few hours of free internet and a salary that fluctuates
between the ridiculous to the inadmissible". The truth is that I never
said all that, though I admit that her assessment does not wander far
from my evaluation. But, in this respect, it provides more details than
I did, is delightfully explicit, although, considering her youth, she
shows an inexplicable amnesia. Because I remember (how can I forget!) as
part of a select cast of the TV show "The reasons for Cuba," in which a
number of alternative bloggers, including me, are accused of being
cyber-terrorists, mercenaries and traitors, although, as usual and as it
turns out, impossible, evidence of such charges was not provided. Elaine
cannot ignore that putting the powerful machinery of the media, the
government monopoly that she defends so much as a function of
fabricating a false case against other Cubans is usually a preamble for
a history of long jail sentences and constitutes a criminal act of which
I declare her an accomplice. Did someone, beyond conjectures, perhaps
show her concrete evidence of our "payments" at the service of a foreign
government? Perhaps it's enough for a journalism professor that the
authorities summon her to offer herself to do their dirty work? And she
still denies she is "official"? In Cuba, under a dictatorship, this is a
rhetorical question. Moreover, after this, I don't know if she has the
right to be included in the category of official blogger "light".
However, I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt: there are some
that say that Elaine was used by the political police, that her
statements were conveniently edited, and that she had no idea that they
would appear in the program of reference. For my part, when I want to
enjoy a mix of talent and naïveté, I prefer attending a performance of
The Little Beehive (no sarcasm, those kids are great performers),
provided that it is not a work of tribute to the five spies or other
similar atrocity. But if Elaine had really been manipulated, shame and
journalistic ethics should have compelled her then to publicly denounce
the media maneuver. So far, she has not done that, so there are only two
options left: either she shares the "reasons" for the mentioned TV show,
or she might have her own private "reasons" to not contradict her
obligations. Mystery surrounds Elaine, perhaps until everyone is able to
enjoy better times. Isn't that right, Elaine?
A few months later, she was discretely invited to a twitter encounter
that was held on July 1st, 2011 at 23rd and 12th Streets in Havana,
enthusiastically embraced by some alternative twitters (Orlando Luis,
Yoani Sánchez and Claudia Cadelo among them) who were quickly rejected
from the original show. A dividing, clearly defining line should be
drawn between her (them) and us. It all became official, rigid and
exclusive, demonstrating that ideological barriers are imposed by
official bloggers-subordinated to the government, not the independent
bloggers and twitters, who answer to no one. What are we talking about
then, Elaine? Along the same line, I remember the first blogger contest
"Una Isla Virtual", Elaine Díaz was awarded a prize she rejected, a mere
certificate recognizing her work in a blog. It was a "contaminated"
acknowledgement, not because she said so, but because her benefactors
did. More than once, a hand has been extended from the alternative
blogosphere, and she has refused to take it without providing reasons
beyond the same old official rhetoric. Free? You, Elaine?
And this makes me land on another of her "arguments". Elaine states:
"There is little time left for those who believe in Socialism (the
capital "s" is hers, of course) in a sublime act of honesty or
ideological suicide or simply because they democratically and
sovereignly feel like it". Actually, she completely lost her muse in
this respect, because the same statement can be applied to her in
reverse. Why can't I selflessly be against socialism and against the
Cuban government (which, incidentally, are not the same thing), for an
honest act of choice, without being paid for it by a foreign government?
I am neither socialist nor Marxist, but that does not make me a
mercenary or an annexationist (my apologies to those who choose to be).
At any rate, I have friends who are avowedly socialist and they are dear
friends. Other friends of mine, as dear as these, have liberal,
demo-Christian, and even anarchist leanings. I do not subscribe to any
ideological bias or base my friendship on ideology. Others don't find it
easy to define me politically either (anti dictatorial is the name that
comes to mind to define me in some manner); but just the same, I allow
myself the right to have political opinions and to criticize whatever I
"democratically feel like" I declare that I am interested in politics,
though it is not the axis around which my life revolves, because I
prefer to choose the political program that closest to my own interests
than to tamely permit that others make policy and decisions for me. The
Cuba that I dream of would not exclude anyone because of her political
ideology, and that includes socialists, Marxists or whatever it's called
in the fictional theoretical literature. Is that clear to you, Elaine?
Or will you need many more spoonfuls of this aloe tonic?
I too, like many other Cubans, am self-taught on many issues, but that
does not make me reluctant to take training courses and skills from
someone who masters certain disciplines. In fact, taking free training
is part of self-learning and depends, among other things, on the
student's interest. Did Professor Elaine know this? Hence, I decided to
take the free course offered by the Yoani of Elaine's sorrows, and I
will always be grateful to that friend's generosity for sharing her
knowledge with me (and with so many others!) And I am grateful to
everyone who ever provided me with some sense. I cannot mention all of
them, there are too many. This is a group almost as large as my own
ignorance, of which I become more aware the more I learn.
Let me re-emphasize the idea that a blogger is the highest example of
freedom of expression. Elaine's theoretical gloating when referring to
emerging personal maps from 1995 to today and her impressive Jorn Barger
and Justin Hall quotes, as well as the fact that users use blogs "for
journalism, the compartmentalization of recipes, writing romance novels
or for whatever they fancy" does not deny the principle of freedom of
expression, but quite the opposite. Since when should free speech be
limited to merely the political? Why wouldn't it be freedom of
expression for a cook to exchange recipes with other colleagues
throughout the world or a novelist to publish his literary works in his
own blog? This girl has such a narrow concept of freedom of expression!
But I'm not surprised by her mental parochialism: she has been
conditioned to political compromise. Not me. I believe that freedom of
expression is a wide and universal human right, not a political exercise.
The "truth about Cuba" is not, in fact, what Elaine or I say. Indeed,
one cannot capture our reality in a few paragraphs, which seems to be my
only point of convergence with the intellectual barricades. As a Cuban,
I merely present my own experiences and perspectives. I have no masters,
whether native or foreign. All my readers know I am not a complacent
scribbler (I add that I'm also not "complacent" because every post I
write I consider to be imperfect and incomplete). But Elaine cannot deny
that, in my condition as a free, dissident and rebellious citizen, I
must face demons that she does not. Others consider that a disadvantage.
I feel it is an advantage and a privilege: I do not commune with
dictatorships. The truth about Cuba, as she proposes, is not yours or
mine. For now, I say the truth about Cuba is more about the number of
exiles and dissidents, the meager pockets of ordinary people and the
rampant corruption, the official statistics about the banana or fresh
milk production or the eternal promise of renewal of the same government
for almost 53 years. I remind Elaine that I'm almost 52.What is new for
her is ancient history for me, though I have never felt I am "retro"
like other people of my generation. I don't pretend to have the ability
to guide young people. I'd rather feel like I'm always "on the go"
learning, sharing and creating, which is the best way to stay alive. I
accept, unlike the generation of olive green octogenarian tycoons, that
my half-century does not grant me any generational privilege. It would
be like admitting that I have more rights than my own children, which I
refute. Ultimately, my key word is "family", not "revolution."
I does not seem that those in the lead were not too far ahead when Voces
Cubanas arrived, if indeed they were there at all, which, in addition,
is not all that important. We and Club Cuba Blogs or Cuba Bloggers are
also not "peaceful neighbors" of the same tenement slum, as claimed by
Elaine. Although, if truth be told, the alternative blogosphere has been
able to learn how to receive as a compliment the not-so-peaceful
stonings from such neighbors, so we do not consider ourselves as
victims, which does not negate that they constantly throw stones at us.
I can truly thank Elaine for her oblique but undeniable reference to my
never-humble person. Maybe if she had been less bilious she would have
seemed more authentic to me. What can we do! But, without a doubt,
Elaine writes well, and a well-written piece is always appreciated.
Hopefully, with time and experience, she might become better. Ah! I
almost forgot a little detail: I don't like humility. It reminds me of
Isaura the slave, Uncle Tom, Liborio and many other characters whom I
would never, under any circumstances, wish to be. I'll gladly leave the
monopoly on humility to Elaine, since she considers it a virtue. I hope
she enjoys it.


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