Monday, April 30, 2012

Cuba and the Value of Silence

Cuba and the Value of Silence
April 29, 2012
Veronica Vega (Amrit)

HAVANA TIMES, April 29 — Last night I attended a meeting in my building
to appoint a new president of the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the

The previous president resigned nine months ago, but after several
attempts at holding a nominating meeting, none has ever succeeded at
obtaining majority representation of the 30 apartments.

It appears that no one was willing to take over the office.

The CDR person that came to the area specially to chair this most recent
meeting, stressed the urgent need for someone to assume the post.

"They're requiring that I find someone, it will be important when they
do the checking," she explained.

Those few in attendance only maintained their reticent silence.

Despite the repeated call for a possible candidate (even a
self-nominated one), the general reaction remained one of silence.
Thirteen representatives from thirty apartments was not a very
flattering figure. Yet, the gazes remained blank, without even a shadow
of guilt.

I've lived in different places in Havana, so I've also witnessed other
meetings of committees to defend the revolution, and I can say that
there's one common element in all of them: apathy.

People's opinions are silent or whispered, and you'll see suppressed
yawns, glances at the clock and gestures of annoyance. Nonetheless,
there was a vast difference between this and the first CDR meetings that
I went to in this building back in 2001.

Not only has the passing of time marked my neighbors' faces (and mine),
but we've also seen the surreptitious erecting of this wall of silence,
denial and skepticism.

While the woman from the area council was trying to encourage ideas, I
was tempted to express one: Why not dissolve the CDR all together? An
organization is only maintained by the free will of its members.

Free will is not the same thing as obedience, that aberrational
substitute for civic duty. No association is sustainable by outside
pressure, no matter how much it's facilitated or forced from the outside
– the inner fibers rot and tear.

"What a shame!" said the woman. "If this isn't resolved today,
representatives from the municipality are going to have to come. There's
going to have to be another meeting. Do you understand what I'm saying?
You're going to have to be bothered again," she continued to harp.

"But if it's such a bother – why does it have to persist?" I thought.
We'll get together to look at each other again, all concealing what we
really think: that the harsh demands of survival no longer allows for
the sustaining of a relic that only continues out of inertia.

However, among the complicit whispers and glances as the gathering
finally broke up, one thought made me almost happy: we were (by choice)
not practicing freedom of speech, but at least we had the freedom of

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