Thursday, February 24, 2011
Cuban expatriate Ernesto Hernandez grades the first three years of Raul Castro's reign and, in the process, reveals an uncanny parallel between life under perpetual "revolution" and life among the New Left in the 1960s (not to mention its modern cultural offshoots). Here is what life has been like in Cuba lately:
Where Raulism has brought no progress is political freedom. Timid and circumscribed debates and discussions on specific topics have been accompanied by heightened repression and systematic violations of human rights. A process of cathartic debate at workplaces mediated by organizations such as the Cuban Workers Union and the Communist Party have failed to go beyond propaganda-focused formalities. Independent media and opinions continue to be penalized. Censorship and exclusion have become brazen. Political decadence and corruption within the party structure remains a taboo subject; the absurd mantra of "new thinking" in the party is best represented by a decree making Cuba's "national shirt," the guayabera, compulsory at official functions. [link for guayabera added]That bit about the national shirt reminds me of the following:
Avowed non-materialists whose only manifestation of rebellion and of individualism takes the material form of the clothes they wear, are a pretty ridiculous spectacle. Of any type of nonconformity, this is the easiest to practice, and the safest. (Ayn Rand, in "Apollo and Dionysus" in The Objectivist, Jan. 1970, p.775)This is not so different from the avowed "reformers" (Or, should I say, "updaters"?) whose only manifestation of improving the status quo is, unsurprisingly, to make everyone wear tacky clothing. Note, too the "cathartic" workplace debates (whose sole purpose is to dissipate pent-up discontent) as well as the tightly-circumscribed, time-wasting discussions (which serve to waste time and energy).
The silver lining here is that these things are all signs of a tired regime that perhaps senses that it is living on borrowed time.