Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bringing Ice to India: Or, Is a Novelty a "Reform?"

When ice was first introduced to India in the 19th century it created a sensation. Huge blocks of ice were harvested from frozen rivers in Maine and transported in insulated hulls to India and other Southern climes (including Cuba). Cubans, especially those who were removed only a generation or two from Spain, had some recollection or at least had heard of ice. Indians had not. For Cubans it was a wonder that this "precious luxury might be preserved by careful husbandry until the season when its coolness was the most grateful." Indians would have had no difficulty believing that ice came from the moon. Indeed, whatever ice had ever landed in India did fall from the heavens.

Everybody in India wanted to see ice. Touch it. But none save the British or the majarahs could afford to buy it. Nearly 200 years later, there are still parts of India unacquainted with ice.

Was the introduction of ice to India a "reform?" Did it end the British Raj or bring Indians one day closer to freedom and self-determination? No, on the contrary, it made the lives of their oppressors more comfortable. They, after all, were used to ice. Nevertheless, ice in India was certainly a novelty worth noting.

9 comments:

nonee moose said...

So, MAT, do you see reforms as net positives, hollow as they may be?

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Nonee:

I don't see reforms. I see novelties.

nonee moose said...

True enough. I will tell you, I keep trying to find some silver lining to the novelties, hoping that the utter wrongness of the regime will make their efforts backfire out of hand. They are clearly worthless concessions, in practice. But they do represent opportunities for unintended consequences for the regime. And consequently, any attempt to address those unintended consequences is an opportunity for the regime to lose face, and maybe someone who didn't scorn them yesterday will scorn them tomorrow.

Vana said...

Manuel:

Growing up in Cuba in the 50's I remember the ice wagon, some people still had iceboxes and needed it delivered.

Now do you believe that these reforms by the Cuban regime is just a way to make life easier for the regime and not so for the people? giving them "things" they can ill afford? I believe that by doing it people in the world will at least see that yes they were living in a totalitarian country, they may stop singing praises to Fidel.

I cannot help but feel that this is the begining of the end, now we must sit back and see what happens, as always where Cuba is concerned it's all a waiting game.

Agustin Farinas said...

I agree with MAT on this one. I don't see any reforms of the system in itself. The word democratic freedoms as we know them, are inexistent, and cannot be equated with the selling in hard currency of DVD's, toasters and electric chinese bicycles, or even access to the hotels for tourists only which were previously banned.
BTW, that is something that even contradicts their own 1976 communist constitution which was supposed to grant access to all facilities to Cubans, but heck what a little bending of the rules I myself made, when the whole game is at stake.

From what I see taking place, this is just is a little bit of cosmetic change but it is still the same old system of oppression and militaristic tyranny.
Castro II may change what you can buy, or how you ride to work, or what you watch on your spare time on a DVD if you have the cash to pay for it. But intrinsically is the same system with the same people in charge and the same old and discarded ideas.
One cannot throw overboard almost 60 years of believing in an ideology in 2 weeks, no matter how pragmatic one is perceived to be by others more gullible or those who forgot recent Cuban history.
Raul is a true believer in the cause and now he also wants to be a survivor, hence the novelties Tellechea mentions.
I don't belive anything will change until the current geriatric leadership passes from the scene (Death) and the sooner the better. Maybe those behind them, will be able to throw off their ideological blinders and come to their senses.
But I don't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

nonee moose said...

I don't disagree with anything you've said, agustin. I will stipulate here that nothing short than the institution of democratic reforms and civil liberties, and verifiable ones at that, can pass for anything titled "reforms" in any discussion of Cuba.

That said, however, let us not stop hoping that even these meaningless, cynical measures, presumably the product of cold calculation by the regime, can turn out to be a miscalculation in fact. And that such miscalculation can contribute in some small way to a precipitous unravelling of the control structure. Under the right circumstances, even the most minimal perceived risk can turn out to be just enough. The innoculation can sometimes kill the patient, as it were.

Fantomas said...

can turn out to be a miscalculation in fact. And that such miscalculation can contribute in some small way to a precipitous unravelling of the control structure.

yes according to kill castro these reforms HAVE ALREADY BRING CONMOTION IN FRONT OF THE COMODORO HOTEL

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

fantomas:

Phil Peters is urging Raúl to allow Cubans to stay in hotels during the months of July and August (the off season).

Now isn't that progress?

(Let me add that I'm being sarcastic because you won't see it otherwise).

Fantomas said...

I dont like Phil Peters , sorry , i care less what he implies