The Great Bubble and the Complicit Silence / Estado de SATS, Alexis Jardines
Estado de Sats / State of Sats, Translator: Unstated
By Alexis Jardines
José Daniel Ferrer suffers in the dungeons of State Security in Santiago
de Cuba, subjected to psychological pressures and macabre practices
(like night attacks from swarms of mosquitoes) that seek to break his
health. What has Raul Castro gained by the detention and harassment of
the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba? Nothing at all. José Daniel
rises today from the dungeons of Versalles as the most charismatic and
active figure of the Cuban dissidence. His work has transcended the
east of the island, and from outside is seen with deep admiration and
respect. When such heights are reached, no such measure is effective.
His incarceration only produces more activism and others, inspired by
him, multiply his example.
Today this man, whose courage and integrity is surely the envy of more
than a few Cuban generals (if they say it's not so ask them whether or
not Military Counterintelligence fears him), has just declared a hunger
strike. For many Cubans, I'm sure, this news means nothing. They think
it is about one more criminal who wants his cell to be a room in a five
star hotel. The information blockade to which this government subjects
them makes them indifferent, and ever more ignorant, and also more
insensitive. By the time they get home after a thousand vicissitudes
with transportation, stealing, resolving, a little "business" and then
watching the ball game — to repeat the cycle again the next day — their
life has gone by. There are those who don't even have a job, but not a
few of them handle money, go on a little trip abroad, and even enjoy
Within the latter group — from which we don't exclude the shady dealers
— there are recognized and not recognized intellectuals and artists.
They can be seen full of their theories, critical thinking, convenient
reports, in permanent contact with their colleagues in exile. But there
are many others within this group (which has already ascended to the
middle class) who have never boarded public transportation, nor watched
national television. What prevents all these people — and I circumscribe
them in the interests of brevity — from knowing what happens in Cuba?
Recently I asked one of the most famous writers on the Island to say
something on behalf of José Daniel Ferrer. The reader can already
imagine his response. But this is not the most alarming: a great number
of our academics and intellectuals are unaware of the existence of civil
society. If you ask them about it they immediately think you are
referring to NGOs (which in Cuba, paradoxically, are governmental) and
community projects (also obliged to be linked to the government). The
full range of independent projects, the civic and political activism,
the opposition movement, the various forms of dissidence, the
alternative spaces, the rebellious groups and even individuals such as
Yoani Sanchez, all are unknown to this Intelligentsia that refuses to
leave the Big Bubble.
From the exile I have heard the opinion that culture and politics
should be separate so as not to run the risk of running out of artists
(as if staying inside the Bubble was nothing more than the way our
artists engage in politics). We can see how far the enchantment reaches.
We must break this immense bubble to access civic society and its
spaces, unique places where the opposition, the dissidence and the civic
movements can interact with the rest of the population. Thus, they
constitute, these sites of connection, the articulation that is needed
to make political reform viable.
It's not just for something to do that State Security spares no effort
to keep these bridges broken. It's time for Cubans outside and inside to
recognize the real Cuba, which is not confined in the Big Bubble, inside
of which float the organic intellectuals, the government, the State
institutions, the media images and the neighbors grouped into their
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs).
Cuba is more than this: it is also — and better for it — this vibrant
civil society that involves citizens and their autonomy, dreams,
projects; their sequestered lives, the streets — our streets — the
decision to have our own voices.
San Juan, 23 April 2012