Apparently it is not only cash remittances and family visits that have hindered Cubans from reaching the brink of the abyss at the bottom of which, supposedly, lies freedom for those willing to take the leap. Starvation, however great its theorized benefits when practiced on Cubans, has not proved enough to push them over that edge despite the good offices of Val Prieto and Commerce Secretary Gutiérrez, who assured us recently that Cubans don't need money to live or to die. Obviously, the Human Pressure Cooker is not working as its proponents hoped; for instead of fomenting a rebellion on the island it has increased the people's dependence on the regime and hence its power over them. In other words, the HPC works to Castro's advantage, as it always has and always will. But do not despair. The Bush administration has discovered that man does not live by bread alone. He also requires other articles to promote his own quality of life as well as that of others. Perhaps if these could be prohibited or restricted, the great unwashed masses would finally rise in search of their next meal or their next bath.
So it was decreed by the policymakers in the White House that Cubans should have no soap or other items of personal hygiene to supplement what they already don't get from Castro. Soap was ordered placed on the list of banned items that cannot be sent to Cuba, and not only soap itself, but any ingredients for making soap (I wonder if that includes candles?). The rationale here -- if we can call it that -- appears to be that since cleanliness is next to godliness, then it must naturally follow that the lack of cleanliness will lead to ungodly behavior (wars and rumors of wars). However, the objection might be raised that since "rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God" (hence "godliness"), it would actually make more sense to flood the island with Palmolive soap (a brand that Cubans still remember) in order to promote rebellion there.
Or perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong. Perhaps the U.S. government doesn't want instabilty in Cuba and that's the reason that it does not allow soap to be shipped there. Soap -- and four or five other unobtainable ingredients -- can be used to manufacture dinamite. Of course, if that were really a concern, then Washington would not permit the exportation of portable AM/FM radios. (The last, incidentally, was the biggest "reform" that Bush ever implemented in respect to Cuba).
There are other items which Cuban-Americans are currently prohibited from sending to their relatives in the monthly care package (not to exceed 4 lbs) which they are allowed to mail to the island via USPS. We were surprised to find "fishing implements" among the proscribed items. What would Val say? His solution for uplifting Cubans has always been to teach them how to fish. He must have said it a thousand times if he has said it once. Here is one of his more original variations on the old proverb: "Give a man a fish, and you will quench his hunger. Teach a man -- or in this case -- allow a man to fish and he will never go hungry again." Well, not if Uncle Sam can help it. His version of the Human Pressure Cooker makes no exception for fish. Of course, Val's does not really want Cubans to eat fish or anything else. His fishing rod is strictly allegorical. What he actually means is "teach a man capitalism and he will be able to fend for himself." That is, he will never have to beg for nails and plumbers again; nor Wall Street for $700 billion bailouts. However, I hope the next time Val extends his fishing line as the universal panacea that someone will remind him that he is advocating sending illegal contraband to Cuba.
Notable & Sadistic: Val Says, "Let Them Eat Goldfish"
The Meltdown at Babalú
Mr. Prieto Builds His Dream House