Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Meeting of Minds

On Miami's Cuban Connection, Stuck on the Palmetto and Critical Miami, all long since gone, Alex (now of Miami & Beyond) and I often, and, for a time, almost on a daily basis, debated Cuba's past and present. These exchanges were always entertaining and sometimes instructive (for both parties, I hope). Not quite Adams and Jefferson unbosoming their souls to each other and posterity, but not without interest as an example of the importance and even possibility of civil discourse among Cubans. Interest was also lent to our discussions by the fact that we were both equally stubborn (or committed, as Cubans see it) and refused to concede the last word to the other (we could hope as much for the McCain-Obama debates; we are sure to get it in the Biden-Palin one). The fact that we do not know each other and never exchanged so much as a private e-mail between us though thousands and thousands of words publicly, did not dilute the intense character of our exchanges. Ultimately, however, our differences were about approaches, not goals. We saw eye to eye on what mattered most — the malevolent role of Castro in our history and the need to finally consign him to our past.

That we also agree that the Cuban people are Castro's victims (not accessories after the fact that must be rendered in a pressure cooker), or that we both regard the survival of the Cuban people rather than their martyrdom at Castro's hands as the only victory which we can still obtain over him, is not in the least surprising to me. Sin pueblo no hay patria.

Though not surprised I was greatly gratified to see that our common concern for the Cuban people and interest in their survival would lead us both to condemn, independently and in equally forceful terms, those who welcome natural catastrophes as God-ordained opportunities to wreak their vengeance not on Castro but on the Cuban people.

At Miami & Beyond ["Nothing to Buy in Cuba," Sept. 12, 2008], Alex honored RCAB by quoting at length from our condemnation of those who dream of a Cuba free of all Cubans rather than a free Cuba for all Cubans. For my part, let me also declare my agreement with Alex's eloquent defense of our people's humanity and excoriation of those who deny it or hold it cheap.

From Miami & Beyond:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The subversive power of remittances [Excerpt]

Remittances fuel the black market and the grey economy where whole generations of Cubans are learning empirically to act as entrepreneurs and create an ipso facto social network of support. My family doesn't spend the money I sent in state-controlled stores simply because they are too expensive. If my sister needs meat, milk or shoes she goes to somebody in the black market with my dollars. That person in turn will use my dollars to buy a meal at a private restaurant, and so on. Before my dollars get to Raul's coffers, they have provided for several everyday Cubans.

Remittances are also subversive by nature, because they are the main source of wealth not provided by the omnipotent communist state.

A communist system has a foundation of total obedience. You will work for the state and you will work where you are assigned and you will receive the same salary as anybody else with the same job, regardless of productivity. To deviate from this system creates subversion. The increasing number of people who opt to stay out of the system are sending a big "F you" to the regime — something only a person that has shook the mental shackles can do.

A communist system has as its main principle the paternalistic responsibility of the state to support all citizens. Nobody can provide like the state do. The people who thanks to the remittances and the black market are able to live much better now realize that the state has failed. Most Cubans today know the state can't provide even their basic needs and it's up to them to procure their subsistence in the grey economy. Those Cubans are more free. So a doctor becomes a taxi driver and a dentist does work on the side. In a normal country this is a sorry state of affairs (and so it's in Cuba, let's be clear) but their motivation is self-betterment, they are taking an active, if desperate, stake in their own lives.

A communist system postulates equality. But remittances and black market income create a big gap between those who enjoy them and those who don't. Now, it's easy to say poor Cubans outside the hard currency circle will hate their luckier compatriots, but give them more credit. They realize it's working for the state what keeps them in poverty. If the state allows these policies of inequality, the state doesn't have their interests in mind and it's only interested in its own survival.

Black market and grey economy are illegal enterprises in market economies. In communist countries they are a form of survival and since they violate unjust laws, a form of resistance. When a Cuban is forced to quit his poorly paid state job and make a living hustling in the black market, they are resisting the totalitarian state who tells them "you can't do that, you have to work for the greater good", and in the process they are picking up the skills of self-reliance and entrepreneurship which will be invaluable in a future Cuba.

Disobedience, self reliance and subversion of the basic principles of the communist state. Even at the though price of giving hard currency to the regime, remittances make people more free.

16 comments:

Charlie Bravo said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

Alex said...

Hey Manuel: just got in from LA, saw your post, thanks for the kind words.

If there's one thing I'd always appreciated about you and RCAB is that you welcome arguments -now, wonder why those who despise this blog so much won't take the opportunity to answer where their answers won't be deleted?- and I'd much rather have honest, strong and razor-sharp debates than sing praises and belong to cliques. Arguments are needed. Echo chambers are not.

Alex said...

Oh, and it is always instructive for me as well. Your erudition and eloquence are well known and our exchanges are both a challenge and a privilege.

Fantomas said...

Una cosa es enviar remesas directamente o por western u y otra cosa es levantar el embargo para permitir que Cuba que coja a creditos productos Norteamericanos que dificilmente podran pagar.
I'm for remittances for that 30% of the population who will receive them ... En el caso del huracan aid the other 70% donde queda.. Como podremos lograr que el pueblo se enfrente al gobierno
O sera que despues del huracan tendremos que continuar enviando remesas por los proximos 50 años mas ..
Hasta cuando Mansuelo?
Also, no te olvides que las remesas tambien crea vagos. Personas que pefieren no trabajar de 8 a 5 para ganarse 10 dolares al mes cuando de un solo envio reciben 100 dolares. Cuando esa gente llega a EEUU no tienen la menor idea de lo que es trabajar sudando el lomo porque se acostrumbraron a las remesas enviadas ..Asi que aunque tiene sus ventajas enviarlas tambien pueden ser perjudicial

Vana said...

Seems fanto is of the same mentality as the regime, I agree that sending money to our loved ones does make them free from the tyranny, surprising that though he lives in Miami he's not a hardliner, well said Alex.

Mamey said...

Charlie, Alex, Manuel, Vana...estamos claros. Cuba es Cuba, el regimen tiranico no es Cuba. Lo demas es boberia y a veces criminal.

Fantomas said...

Mamey lo que pasa que Cuba con fidel no es Cuba , el se apodero de ella y hizo lo que le dio la gana, el dia que nos libremos de esta pesadilla Cuba volvera a ser nuestra por ahora NI LO PIENSEN CUBA ES DE FIDEL...

Fantomas said...
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Fantomas said...
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joep said...

First off, sorry for joining the debate so late...I've been preoccupied with - ironically enough - trying to scrape up enough dough and get it into the hands of Yuli in Cuba so she can survive the terror of Ike...but anyway...

Oye Fanto, you bring up something interesting - that the notion of a 100 CUC or $ remittance per month turns a Cuban into a lazy malingerer. Only a couple of years ago I sat with the Dutch Vice Consul (a former world-class fencer, so we had athletics in common) in his country's embassy in Havana, sipping coffee and discussing just this point.
Bro, 100CUC/month by no means makes you a rich man in Cuba, and if you choose to accept 100/month and not hustle on the side, you're still only living slightly better than an animal.

In 2004, when my wife and I got married, we sat down and calculated what the cost was in dollars (This was prior to the intro of the CUC in place of the dollar) of her monthly MINIMUM expenses to allow her to live like a human. If I still had the spreadsheet I would post it here, but I'll never forget the number: $384 dollars. That was for stuff like: shampoo, conditioner, multi-vitamin, black market rent, black market telefone line, $20/month to keep the cell phone charged with credit, chicken to provide the protein she needed in her diet, a couple of trips' worth of private taxi fares so she could avoid wasting an entire day haciendo botella if she needed to move a great distance (like from Habana del Este to the western side of Havana) feminine hygiene products, etc. The MINIMUM + 10% emergency reserve not to live like an animal.

The Vice Consul and I both agreed that it took about 150CUC/month at the time to increase one's standard of living from sub-human to not-quite-sub-human for a Cuban
(avoid malnutrition, have some chicken, maybe some chocolate, a can of Coke). Yes, there are always lazy people or hopeless people or people who don't care or who can't care anymore and won't hustle, but shit bro, 100cuc is still NOTHING in comparison to what the cost of living like a human is on that fucking island.
And to live "well" there - not like some primitive ape - shit bro, figure 800cuc/month - easy (just think about what you have to spend on the black market buying materials to maintain your house or your car in Cuba).

You seem like a reasonably-educated guy with a strong curiosity about how and why things work, so I'm sure you're familiar with the writings of Roman poet Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis (aka, "Juvenal"), who developed the metaphor "Bread and circuses" (from Latin: panem et circenses).

In Satire X, Juvenal wrote:

“... iam pridem, ex quo suffragia nulli
uendimus, effudit curas; nam qui dabat olim
imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se
continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat,
panem et circenses. ...”
(Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81)

“.. Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions - everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses…” (Juvenal, Satire 10.77-81)

When considered in its historical context, the Latin phrase "panem et circenses" (bread and circuses) is given as the only remaining care of a Roman populace that has abandoned its right to fight for political freedom.

To quote another commentator: "Juvenal...makes reference to the Roman practice of providing free wheat to some poor Romans as well as costly circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power through populism. The Annona (grain dole) was begun under the instigation of the popularis politician Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 123 BC; it remained an object of political contention until it was taken under the control of the Roman emperors."

Those who would "render..[Cubans]...in a pressure cooker"(to quote MaT) are the same idiots who would argue that 100cuc/month or any remittance is the tropical equivalent of Juvenal's "panem et circenses" - enough for a bottle of terrible rum, arroz, a game of dominoes...and that those decadent luxuries (I'm being sarcastic) render Cubans impotent and keep them so de-motivated that they allow the regime to stay in power (while also providing f/x to the regime's treasury through the charging of various fees on the processing of said remittances). Nigga please!

Here are the two things that have to happen before the Cuban people can dislodge the Castro regime and restore democracy:

1. Sufficient food (especially protein) be made available to every Cuban capable of participating in the overthrow of communism (whether by force of arms or propaganda or any other means).

2. The matèriel necessary to conduct a counter-revolution be available.

This takes money in the hands of Cubans so they can buy the food they need to fuel their bodies and minds. Obviously foreign support would be required (large quantities of money, arms, diplomatic pressure, etc.), but even if you infiltrated 100 or 1000 foreign mercenaries to train, equip and lead a domestic insurgency, those insurgents – native Cubans – can’t be starving when they take to the field of arms. Why is this so fucking hard for some people to understand? Limiting remittances to the Cuban people ensures that they will never have the strength to rise up against the regime. And the few who do will be martyrs, no doubt, but martyrs who are incapable of catalyzing regime change – because the domestic agents of change are all but starving.

Charlie Bravo said...

Joe, that was a great expose. Thanks.
On the other hand, Fantomas, the limitless remittances to Mexico have not created a class of losers in that country. They have invested in housing and businesses, many times in the informal economy because in spite of not having communism in that country the ethnic divide -a.k.a. discrimination of Indian and Mestizos- does not allow them to participate from the formal economy. Families have to help families, friends have to help friends, and people have to help people in a tu a tu basis if we want ever to have a country that can be called civilized. That's my opinion, which is not mandatory to share....

Mamey said...

Claro Fantomas que Fidel se apodero de Cuba. We can all agree that what Cuba needs first and foremost is no Fidel nor present day fidelistas or raulistas. A plague on that plague!

Fantomas said...

joep the amount $ 100 I used was just a number... But you are right you need more than a 100 to have a decent standard of living..Iam talking about somene working 8-5 and receiving their Cuban salary on top of the 100 remittances I'm sure it does help a bit.. But there is another kind who do not work regularly in Cuba and just survive on the remittances. some are young and able to work.. but they prefer not to work in cuba for 10 dollars a month when a friend or relative can just send that amount ten fold in a western union envio..

Listen , i dont have relatives in cuba but if i had i would be helping them too.. family is family regardless

anyways discussing about this wont solve shit in Cuba ... We need to get rid of the tyrant evertything else is bullcrap

Y es lamentable que estos huracanes no son aprovechados para una rebelion masiva por parte del pueblo..o sea desobediencia civil Despues no nos quejemos cuando vengan 50 años mas de lo mismo,,because at the rate we are going Cuba esta destinada a continuar su camino comunista gustenos o no

joep said...

Fanto wrote:
"Y es lamentable que estos huracanes no son aprovechados para una rebelion masiva por parte del pueblo..."

Yeah, estoy de acuerdo. Ayer estuve hablando con mi esposa, y me dijo que habia perdido todo por el huracán, y yo pensando "rayos, que lastima que la gente no puede aprovechar algo tan terrible para realizar un cambio fundamental.

Maybe if the Russians increase their activities in Cuba that will finally be perceived as enough of a threat to cause the US to take some more definitive action. Probably not, but la esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde, no?

joep said...

Some Cuban sayings I'd written down a few years ago:

"Habia una vez un perrito
Que se llamaba cuento.
Se murió el perrito
Y se acabó el cuento."

"El que madruga...
encuentra todo cerrado"

"Dime con quien andas...
y si esta buena me la mandas"

"Ojos que no ven...
zapatos llenos de caca"

"Siembra un árbol...
has feliz a un perro"

"Barriguita llena...
segurito para el baño"

"Amor de lejos...
felices los cuatro"

"Caballo regalado...
tiene que ser robado"

"Hazlo bien...
sin mirar con quien"

"Detrás de todo hombre que triunfa....
hay una mujer sorprendida"

"Cuando un millonario pasa a mejor vida...
sus herederos también"

"El amor es ciego...
solo el matrimonio puede devolverle la vista"

"El trabajo en equipo es esencial...
te permite echarle la culpa a otro"

"La suerte de la fea...
a la bonita le vale madre"

"Mas vale prevenir...
que amamantar"

"El que ríe ultimo...
no entendió el chiste"

Tu no vuelas porque no tienes alas.

El mundo es pequeno, y con el estamos dando vuelta.

El Amor es ciego. La amistad cierra los ojos.

(El amigo esta hasta el muerte.)

Ojala - perhaps, maybe (derived from islam - allah)

Un clavo saca a otro.

La hierba que esta para uno, no hay vaca que se la coma.

Pero por si acaso, dejame encender una vela.

La esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde.

Oye, la esperanza es verde y se la comio un chivo.

El que no lucha, no triumfa.

Darle tiempo al tiempo.

Las pierdras rodando se encuentra.

El tiempo lo cura todo.

No hay mal que por bien no venga.

No por mucho madrugar se amanece mas temprano

El que madruga dios lo ayuda.

El problema hay quedarle su pedacito.

De mujer puedes que muera de su herida, pero nunca empanes tu vida hablando mal de mujer.

Fantomas said...

Ayer estuve hablando con mi esposa, y me dijo que habia perdido todo por el huracán

Despues de perderlo todo, que mas da morir peleando

"Habia una vez un perrito
Que se llamaba cuento.
Se murió el perrito
Y se acabó el cuento."

como se llamaba el perrito?

El nombre empezaba con f o con r

lol

porque el que empezaba con B ya murio, verdad mansuelo , deja ese cuento ya