Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Mutilated Civil Society

A Mutilated Civil Society
REGINA COYULA, La Habana | Marzo 23, 2015

Just try it. On the street, randomly ask: What is civil society? You'll
be lucky if you find any satisfactory answer and will have better luck
if, unlike for me, more than one person even deigns to answer you. To
speak of civil society in Cuba is like teaching new material in school.

First the concepts, then, explain which is considered more successful
according to the teacher's vision. A meticulous educator looks for good
examples. It is essential to mention the thesis of Alexis de Tocqueville
of civil society as an intermediary between the individual and the
State. Also interesting is Habermas's approximation about individual
rights that guarantee and foster free association.

Like almost all social science concepts, we find different and even
opposing views on the subject. Where the philosophers agree, regardless
of their political affiliation or their religious creed, is that civil
society exists and functions independently of the State, and in many
cases as its counterpart.

Only then, after talking about the subject enough so that the citizenry
feels informed, can we speak of the role of civil society.

It has still been less than a decade that the term civil society, along
with its close relatives, human rights and non-governmental
organizations, was either nonexistent or cursed in the Cuban press. But
with the growth of alternative civil society, which is attacked and
simplified, accused of following an agenda dictated by the enemy, has
the issue seeped into the discourse of the official press. To public
opinion, contaminated with the unhealthy idea, now trying to present as
civil society organizations that, for the most part, are created and
financed by the government itself.

The upcoming Summit of the Americas will put to the test the ability of
both – the civil society recognized by the government and the
alternative one, unrecognized and derided – to show the continental
community their projects and results. Since the constitution itself
observes the difficulty of the alternation given that, according to
Article 53, freedom of expression is only recognized in relation to the
aims of socialist society. This article makes clear that the mass media
are state or social property, and limits their use exclusively to
working people and the interests of society.

The government tries to know and represent the interests of Cuban
society but, given the deterioration of social conditions, the
boundaries become blurred between popular support for the authorities
and the desire of citizens to try another formula. Only within a
totalitarian context is it possible to control the discontent, deaf to
discordant voices and to make practically impossible the legalization of
an independent project. This lock is constitutionally established in
Article 62, that doesn't recognize the freedoms when they don't fit with
the aims of the socialist state and the decision of the Cuban people to
build communism.

I read Friday, in the newspaper Granma, the article "Our civil
society." I agree with some of the points of view of the journalist
Sergio Alejandro Gomez. In effect, domination is not always applied by
force or coercion and the powerful like to appropriate words and their
meanings. However, I disagree with the manner in which the journalist
resolves the current problem with civil society. The Cuban State
represents the interests of the great majority (while it demonstrates
the contrary), but this government has rejected the free associations
established by Cuban citizens.

It is clear that the heterogeneity of the Cuban Civil Society Forum is
circumscribed to differences in matters of religion, gender equality,
racial equality or sexual diversity. Immediately observable is the
absence of a political opposition, It's very fair that the above rights
are recognized, because bad memory can't omit the fact that minorities
were also discriminated against in Cuba. But as long as political
opinion and initiative outside the State are not present, civil society
will be incomplete, and any democratic observer immediately perceives
this anomaly.

As pointed out by the Granma journalist, the society is not
homogeneous. Homogeneity is not the personality of brothers brought up
under the same roof. However, the Cuban state wants to achieve with
these organizations of its civil society a symphony that supposedly
affirms to the writer that this is a civil society unlike any other.

Source: A Mutilated Civil Society -

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