Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Morality of the Survivor

The Morality of the Survivor / Dimas Castellanos
Posted on September 24, 2013

At an extended meeting of the Council of Ministers held last Friday, May
13, the head of Foreign Commerce and Overseas Investments reported
finding irregularities in business operations involving foreign capital
and international contracts. Likewise, the minister of Finance and
Planning spoke of irregularities and evidence of criminal activity
related to fuel sales. Meanwhile, the Comptroller General of the
Republic acknowledged that, though recent audits have shown the
situation is improving, serious problems and vulnerabilities persist.

Any objective analysis of this issue must begin by banishing euphemisms
that just serve to sugarcoat reality. It is not an issue of
irregularities but of marked ethical deterioration, of corruption, that
while it did not begin in 1959, it was only after that date that it
moved from the arena of political administration to all aspects of
society, becoming not only part of the culture but an impediment to the
government's own efforts. This phenomenon which began with the economy
and later seeped into Cubans' spiritual consciousness is one of the
factors pointing to the structural nature of the current crisis and the
failure of attempts to overcome it through limited changes to the economy.

Among the factors contributing to this situation were the disappearance
of tens of thousands of business owners and their replacement by
"bosses,"[1] making absolute the "property of all the people," and
inadequate salaries and pensions, a combination of noxious factors that
has led to theft, bribes and deceit in order to survive. It happens this
way because morality is an amalgam of socially accepted standards of
conduct which evolve in response to changes in goals, interests and
social conditions; therefore, survival has become part of our morality
stemming from the profound structural crisis in which we find ourselves.

The changes being implemented in Cuba under the title of Political,
Economic and Social Guidelines of the Communist Party are stymied by the
worst decline in moral conduct ever seen in our history. The struggle to
survive, which stems from multiple frustrations, has led to apathy,
hopelessness and escapism as reflected in a morality that employs
various forms of patriotic vocabulary. The struggle now is not about
abolishing slavery, achieving independence or overthrowing tyranny; it
is simply about surviving. Nor is it a matter of "Freedom or Death" or
"Fatherland or Death" but rather "Life or Death," the slogan of the

The explanation for all this is that the primary moral and human
imperative is the preservation of life. When social conditions preclude
any hope of fulfillment, people are left with only two options: to
renounce life or to survive. This is why Cubans, faced with inadequate
salaries, turned to illegal activities; faced with the impossibility of
being entrepreneurs, to the "Estaticular[2]" way, in other words,
expenses for the State and dividends for the individual[3]; faced with
shortages, to theft from the State whose property actually belongs to
"all the people." To the absence of opportunity, they respond by
escaping into exile. To ideological entreaties, they respond with
apathy. Certain verbs — to escape, to struggle, to resolve — have come
to mean acquiring that vital "something extra," in other words, to survive.

Faced with this obstinate reality, the State's only option is
repression: more police, more surveillance, more restrictions, and
inspectors — actions which only address the symptoms without taking into
account their causes, among which was the turn toward totalitarianism,
that erased the citizen from the Cuban political scene. But what is most
striking, as we can see from the examples below, is the stubborn focus
on effects and the disregard for causality.

On May 22, 2001 the newspaper Juventud Rebelde published an article,
"The Hunter of Deceptions" about a popular inspector in charge of
rooting out instances of fraud in the quality, weight, price and sale of
unauthorized goods in State stores. According to this inspector, when a
violator was presented with evidence of his crime, customers became
upset and actually came to the the man's defense. In other words the
victims stood up for their victimizer, demonstrable proof that the
morality of the survivor enjoys popular acceptance.

On Saturday, November 28, 2003 Granma published "Price Violations and
the Never-Ending Battle." In it an official with the Ministry of
Finance's Office of Price Supervision reported that in the first eight
months of this year there were irregularities found in 36% of the
establishments inspected. In the case of farmers' markets, festivals,
outdoor food stalls and other points of sale for produce, the figure was
47%. In the food-service sector it was over 50%.

Granma reported that on Saturday, December 24, 2005, in an address to
the National Assembly of People's Power, Pedro Ross — then Secretary
General of the Workers' Central Union of Cuba (CTC) — said, "There are
workers who respond but there are others who don't and who continue to
justify theft and other wrongful conduct."

On February 16, 2007 Granma reported in the article "Cannibals on the
Towers" on the theft of the metal braces that support the transmission
towers for high voltage electricity. In 2004, 1,648 pieces of bracing
disappeared from a 220,000 volt power grid and 545 from a 100,000 volt
grid. In 2005, 532 and 544, respectively, were stolen from these two
power grids. In 2006 — after stepping up surveillance, applying
technical solutions and imposing sanctions — 267 and 1827 disappeared.
There was a decrease in thefts from the 200,000 volt network only
because screws and bracing up to a six-meter height were welded
together, but the tenacious "fighters" climbed higher. Similarly,
electrical transmission cables were stolen from the power grid for their
aluminum and copper.

On Friday, October 26, 2010, Granma published an article called "The
Price of Indolence" which reported that in the Villa Clara's
municipality of Corralillo 300 homes were built using stolen materials
and resources. Some 9,631 meters of roadway material had been used in
240 of the inspected homes; 82% of them had train tracks taken from the
Ministry of Sugar, disrupting 25 kilometers of rail lines; and 59 pieces
of steel bracing from high-voltage electrical towers were used.

Even more recently, February 19 and 26, 2012, Juventud Rebelde,
published an article containing an interview of the Comptroller of the
Republic where she said: "According to our findings, the causes of
corruption range from the fact of not having contracts overseen because
the person who was supposed to do it didn't do it, and the person that
had to ensure they had reviewed it didn't review it, or didn't review it

To that you have to add the constant pocketing of resources, the endless
legal processes even to to the level of high ranking officials.

What the newspapers (i.e. Granma, Juventud Rebelde) have failed to show
from the journalistic point of view, is the relationship that exists
between, on the one side, corruption, and on the other the absolute
State ownership of resources, the low salaries and the impossibility to
be entrepreneurs. If they had addressed this, they would have shown the
uselessness of repression if is not accompanied by measures that tackle
the causes, because the police, the informers, the simple inspectors,
integral inspectors or the inspector of the inspectors are all Cubans
with the same needs as the rest of the population and thus they practice
the same prevailing morality.

To change the course of the events, the economic changes will have to be
extended to the rest of the social spheres, even if quite late; which
means that they will have to look again to the civil liberties without
which the formation and predominance of the civil morality required by
the present and the future of Cuba will be impossible.

[1] That is, administrators, managers, directors.

[2] This is a play on words: It combines the words Estado (State) and
particular (private individual in this context).

[3] Through theft of State property

Source: "The Morality of the Survivor / Dimas Castellanos | Translating
Cuba" -

No comments:

Post a Comment