The Christian Science Monitor is the official organ of the Christian Science Church, the 19th century precursor of the Church of Scientology. Like L. Ron Hubbard's "discovery," Mary Baker Eddy's purports to combine but really has nothing to do with either (conventional) religion or (conventional) science: Christian Science is about a hypochondriac's search for meaning in life just as Scientology is about the same quest by a psychopath. Of course, it is better to have your "religion" fed to you in a suspension of scientific hogwash with an eyedropper than drilled into your skull with an awl in an amateurish imitation of a lobotomy. Still, I suspect that some day Scientology may be as much a part of the establishment as is Christian Science today. With the passage of time all cults gain respectability and acceptance, their sharpest ends are blunted, their founders die and recede into history, and even their official history is rewritten and reinterpreted so as not to embarrass too much its contemporary followers or offend modern sensibilities.
I mention the origins of The Christian Science Monitor because its mainstream reputation is no guarantee of its journalistic independence. There are other church organs, of course, but these are not generally credited except when it comes to church news. The Monitor is the only religious screed which is read predominantly by non-believers. I suppose the explanation is the same for this phenomenon as for the fact that most Shaker furniture is owned by non-Shakers. Both are supposed to be simpler and more balanced because less mundane and more parochial. But chairs and newspapers, though they share a common materia prima, are far from interchangeable. Chairs are not redolent with theology or ideology. It is also easier to find a balanced chair than a balanced newspaper. The Christian Science Monitor is not such a newspaper.
A newspaper that hails "Cuba's Bold Shift to a Postsocialist Era" [August 12] is in fact rather unbalanced. Somehow, Cuba's Stalinist regime has transcended the post-Communist era and shifted boldly into a post-socialist (note the small "s") era. The author (or channeler) of this revelation is Luís Martínez-Fernández, who, taking Raúl Castro at his word, claims to have detected in Raúl's recent speech to the so-called National Assembly the "most profound ideological shift in the five-decade long history of the Cuban Revolution, ... redefin[ing] socialism and effectively declar[ing] the end of that system." And no exclamation mark, either.
"The end of the system" was contained in the following phrase: "Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income." For Martínez-Fernández, "[t]his remarkable declaration represents an embrace of a postmodern version of socialism." Except that Socialism in Cuba never meant equality of income, not even equality of income within the same profession since model workers were always rewarded with material and not just moral incentives. These "incentives" -- e.g. the right to buy a refrigerator -- were such as would have elicited the anger and laughter of most workers around the world; but they were anxiously sought and graciously received in Cuba because there was going to be no refrigerator unless you were first granted the boon of buying one.
The only "equality" that the Castro regime ever achieved was in making all incomes inadequate for sustaining life and all goods and services intended for the masses shoddy and unfit for human consumption. Martínez-Fernández writes of the regime shirking its "social responsibilities" as if it ever upheld them. What have the last 50 years been but a complete repudiation by the state of the social compact? Indeed, a people that has no say through a democratic process in formulating such a contract should not be asked to be grateful for its imposition.
Cubans on the island enjoy no rights; they are assigned privileges on an individual basis according to their fealty to the state and usefulness to it. Raúl Castro has no intention of altering the system because he personally has nothing to gain thereby. He is not and has never been inimical to squeezing the last drop of blood or sweat from his countrymen. Those kinds of "reform" are not new or news. No sacrifice is too great for the Cuban people to make if it advances the interests of the Castro family. This is the Castros' guiding principle of governance, immutable and inalterable. Socialism would really fall on the day that this rule ceased to observed in Cuba.
Martínez-Fernández believes that continuing to do what they have always done "signal[s] a dramatic ideological shift that actually heralds the end of socialism." But "socialism," as practiced in Cuba, is a system of repression, not a welfare state. The end of socialism will come when the repression ends not when the state's supposed largesse ends. The regime's promised crackdown on "economic saboteurs" that outwit the state at its own game, contributing nothing to the commonweal as the state itself contributes nothing, does not "herald the end of socialism" but is an attempt to consolidate its power and make the Cuban people even more powerless. Accusing them of "stealing" from the productive workers -- that is, from those still willing produce for the state what they do not themselves receive from it -- may signal Raúl's own Cultural Revolution, or revolution within a revolution, but is no harbinger of the end of socialism much less the advent of a "post-socialist era."
And what to make of this preposterous conclusion: "Castro's indication that his government [?] will eliminate some free services and excessive subsidies to consumer goods is further evidence that Cuba is about to enter a postsocialist era." Say what? "Free services" and "excessive subsidies?" When were these ever offered outright to the Cuban people? Fernández-Martínez makes it appear as if the Cuban people are a nation of mendicants provided for by an overindulgent state when in fact their poverty is the result of one family's exclusive use of the national patrimony for its own enrichment over a period of 50 years.
Castroism is a magic lantern which creates sundry illusions; the gears are all rusted together and any attempt to tinker with it will only compromise it since it is beyond repair and may not even stand examination. All that Raúl can do is move the candle in this or that direction, casting the same shadows here or there; but the montage is always the same.
Note to the author:
The idea of creating a double-barreled (or composite) surname is to distinguish a common paternal last name by coupling it with an uncommon maternal one (e.g. "García-Menocal"). I do not see what is gained by fusing together the two most common Hispanic last names (Fernández and Martínez). If your last name is "Fernández" then be Fernández. That is more distinctive than being twice indistinctive.