Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Dream, the Forest and the New Wolf

The Dream, the Forest and the New Wolf / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Posted on March 27, 2013

"…because, although a nation may collapse, its mountains remain. And
with the mountains there remains man's eternal responsibility to
preserve what is essentially his, which is his soul. And with that
responsibility there remains the possibility of yearning and striving
and the satisfaction that comes with doing it." Hanama Tasaki

Fifty years ago the triumph of the Revolution was a paradigm for an era
about to begin. The serious social problems that it sought to stamp out
and the head-on antagonism towards the U.S. government marked its early
years with a tense and radical tone. The justice of that struggle, the
immense jubilation of a sea of people celebrating victory and later
developments such as the literacy campaign, the invasion at Bay of Pigs
and the October missile crisis would confer glory on its charismatic
bearded leaders. It was a romantic image that resonated with every
leftist movement throughout the world. At the time, as so often happens
in similarly fervent eras, it seemed that anything was possible.

As one might imagine, to bring these dreams to life, a different type of
man was needed. He had to possess his species' highest virtues, be
capable of making huge sacrifices while losing nothing. He had to be
someone trustworthy, who acted in accordance with his principles to the
point of being willing to die for them. There was an urge to forge an
altruistic being, indifferent to the miseries of the past and without
the slightest trace of selfishness. There was a need for a man aware of
his moment in time and of the legacy he should leave. He aspired to be
the perfect being "outlined in the speeches of Che Guevara" and was
called upon to be the model for an idealized future. In other words, he
was the dream of the New Man.

But that vision did not lead to a smooth road towards the promised land.
While large estates, foreign holdings and properties belonging to the
wealthy were nationalized in the early years, with the onset of the
"revolutionary offensive" of 1968 such government measures were
redirected against the very Cubans who had so fervently supported the
Revolution less than a decade earlier. They often found themselves
stripped of their small family businesses, whether they were simple
little neighborhood stores, humble produce stalls, or tiny shoeshine
stands. These misguided and extreme measures were followed by decades of
economic stagnation and a flourishing bureaucracy that did nothing but
demonstrate how inappropriate it was to adopt a carbon copy of the
Soviet model.

The passage of time also saw an absence of civil guarantees, the lack of
a separation of powers and an ethical impoverishment brought on by a
press subjugated by censorship, all of which created an atmosphere of
social hypocrisy that could only grow exponentially. The initial promise
of plurality was necessary to motivate the people to wage war against
tyranny of Batista' as well as against assassins the likes of Ventura
Novo and Cañizares, of Pilar García and Rolando Masferrer. It ultimately
degenerated into a civil and spiritual poverty that today we recognize
with embarrassment.

Now, fifty-four years later, I ask myself what remains of that dream.
What of the utopia of the New Man have young people today inherited? The
fantasy died in the cradle and in its place arose someone capable of the
full range of hypocrisy, someone who runs from truth like vermin from light.

In he shadow of fear was engendered a lazy and selfish being, unable to
put himself forward civilly with principles, unable to concern himself
with anything that doesn't have to do only with him. Insensible to the
pain of others inadvertently powerless to go further, beyond the
boundaries of his little plot, and in his Kafkaesque insect dimension,
vegetates in his own harvest of misery without ever uncovering the great
common parcel.

I don't want to say that my inquisitive mind or judgement are
infallible, nor do I want to wipe the slate clean, but it greatly
distresses me that the behaviors that should be dark exceptions are the
shameful norm: I look with sadness at the minimum level of spirituality
of this youth, focused on fashion and reggaeton but too uneducated and
superficial to notice major issues.

Elevated concepts like nation, commitment, duty or sacrifice are as
alien to the average youth of today as the concepts of quantum physics.
And it's not that it's wrong to live intensely, to wear the latest
fashions and dance to the point of delirium, "because youth only comes
around once and as beautiful as it is, it is fleeting," but there should
be, along with joy, depth… isn't this Guevara?

The mega-experiment of the schools in the countryside had everything to
do in such moral devastation, which for decades kept several generations
of Cubans away from their families in the most critical phase of their
adolescence, while their personalities crystallized.

In the classrooms of these boarding schools there was a climate of
adequate teaching, "high quality in many cases," while in the dorms many
times the prison code prevailed: good had to adapt itself to sign of
evil, and never vice versa, if you wanted to survive; their that young
person in the making could descend to the most obscene unscrupulousness.

To this must be added the unfathomable crisis of values that came with
the decade of the '90s. The profound deterioration of people's living
standards prompted a mass exodus of teachers from the National Education
System with its logical consequences, and meanwhile in the streets the
law of the jungle was definitely enthroned.

Then libretazo of the 2000s "with its never achieved its Comprehensive
General Teachers, its video-conferences and massive graduations of
emerging, and volatile, teachers," struck the final blow. The sad result
we are touching today; it is my generation and my daughter's generation
that is the product of those years: the insensitivity, the worst
education, the most arid vulgarity are the norm and, after so much time,
have reached epidemic proportions. In short, we have created a
Frankenstein and today we do not know what to do with it.

But I maintain the stubborn hope that not all is lost. Against such
desolation I offer in opposition Jose Marti's unshakable faith in human
improvement. I have a living certainty that my people will draw, from
the illustrious examples of their history, the strength necessary to
rise from its ruins; so that the New Man we dreamed of one day, and whom
I resist considering an impossible chimera, is finally born as the "son
of universal values, not of political indoctrination" for the ultimate
good of the fatherland.

We do not need the man of prefabricated harangues: essentially we need
to rescue this man from the moral abyss dug by simulation and lies. We
urgently need a Revolution of the soul.

"What can we count on…?!" the myopic skeptics scream. And the response
worthy is what Agramonte shouted that shook the insurgent swamp: "The
shame, we can count on that, the shame all Cubans deserve!"

by Jeovany Jimenez Vega

25 March 2013

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