"If Gorki is being set up as the Havel of Havana, then God help Cuba." -- Phil Peters, "Gorki!," The Cuban Triangle, September 7, 2008
Phil Peters is the tour guide at a supposedly independent think tank whose only Cuba-related activity is sponsoring junkets to the island for U.S. politicians sympathetic (or potentially sympathetic) to the regime. His investiture as a Cuba expert, however, has been approved by The New York Times and there is nothing more to be said on that matter.
If Phil Peters were a journalist writing about Gorki instead of an "expert," he would at least feel the obligation to get the name right. It is Gorki Aguila not "Avila," Mr. Peters. I wonder if this was actually a careless mistake or just another calculated attempt to belittle him, which seems the only purpose of Peter's belated post about him. I suppose that while the Gorki affaire played itself out -- and Peters was conveniently "away from the blog" -- he did not feel that it was the right time to dump on him. His comments as an "expert" would have been at variance with everybody else's from Amnesty International to The Times itself and would have made what should be obvious to all about Peters even more obvious. Now that Gorki has been released, however, Peters feels safe sitting on the fence again and in judgment of him.
He begins by disputing what he calls the "unanimous narrative" about Gorki, to wit,"that the Cuban government [sic] intended to silence him, but flinched and retreated in the face of an Internet-fueled blast of worldwide outrage." Peters is not so sure that the regime wanted to "silence" Gorki as in repressing his speech because he "blast[s] the government and its leaders in both political and personal terms, sometimes with obscenity." Now, Peters himself seems pretty shocked that Porno Para Ricardo would take such liberties and personally offended that it would resort to "obscenity" to combat the living embodiment of obscenity that is the Castro regime (or "government," as he would have it). Peters, who is apparently more zealous of the regime's "dignity" than is the regime, speculates that it was not the subversive content of Gorki's songs but the noise generated by his band's rehearsals that disturbed the public peace and led to Gorki's arrest. Of course, we all know how important quality of life issues are to the regime. No doubt it feared that Porno Para Ricardo's high-decibeled playing would crack the 3 or 4 intact panes of glass within a 20-block square radius of his studio or cause the walls to buckle that weren't already shored-up.
Ambrose Bierce defined "noise" in his Devil's Dictionary as "undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization." For Peters, however, music, at least in Cuba, should be domesticated and civilization itself reduced to silence. "Listen to the music,' asks Peters, "imagine living nearby as rehearsals are going on, and ask yourself if there’s a neighborhood on earth where a few neighbors wouldn’t call the cops." Of course, in Cuba those "few neighbors" would belong to the block's Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the "eyes and ears" of state security. No one else would have denounced Gorki because his neighbors, unlike Peters, know the consequences of such a complaint to the police. The Cuban people prefer to keep their contacts with the police at a minimum. Their intervention in such matters is usually avoided because it is certain to complicate everybody's lives, including the complainant's.
Peters also debuts in this post as a music critic. He had never heard of Gorki before the punk rocker's recent arrest (I guess his handlers had never mentioned his name) and made it a point to listen to the songs on the Porno Para Ricardo website. He didn't like what he heard: the outrages committed by Castro's henchmen will always elicit a moderate response from him, but the forceful condemnation of those outrages by one who is not afraid to call Castro a "cocksucker," is more than Mr. Peters could stand. It's not just the "noise pollution" that Peters finds objectionable; he is also concerned that Cuba's children might be exposed to Gorki's explicit lyrics and feels that any parents who denounced him to the police on that account were justified. Never has Peters said one word about the deleterious effects which living in a police state would undoubtedly have on Cuba's children. Perhaps he should begin to research that question with Gorki's 12-year old daughter.
So great is Peters' aversion to Gorki's music and to what Gorki represents (a future without "Cuba experts") that he comes down from the fence he usually straddles to deliver himself of this remarkable statement:
"If Gorki is being set up as the Havel of Havana, then God help Cuba."
So now Gorki is not his own man but is being "set up" by others (?) who want him to be the next Havel, which Peters considers a ridiculous idea. These "others" are presumably using Gorki to hurt Cuba and Peters invokes God's intercession to save our country not from Castro but from Gorki!
For Peters' information (and I could start every sentence with that phrase), the Havel of Prague was himself accused of "obscenity." Perhaps obscenity is the only way to speak to tyrants, except for those, like Peters, who are trying to court them.