Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Translation: To open up is ... to open up

From today I hope to resume my more or less daily translations. Below is Luis Sexto's latest commentary. It conveys the impression of a revolutionary process grappling with the dead weight of administrative inertia, the socialist state paternalism that Cubans have become accustomed to over the decades and the understandable fear of change that accompanies individuals and societies alike at critical junctures. 

To open up is to open up

By Luis Sexto

Juventud Rebelde, February 24, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

We really are living in a time of crucial rectifications. Inasmuch as we strive to sincerely maintain the fidelity of the essential ideas and ends of the Cuban Revolution, nobody lies nor plays with the confidence or the hopes of our compatriots. Myself included, although no decisions depend on me because I write, and I write with the intention of diffusing the certainty that in Cuba today, thought and action strive to transcend the precarious without renouncing the values of social justice and independence.

Readers of this column will know that I've mentioned social justice and independence on other occasions. And I must confess that I'll continue doing so, because without either one of these there would be no Revolution, nor socialist aspirations. Thus, I can say that we're grappling with a period in which to stop doing what has been projected, or to distort some proposals, can imply throwing into the gutter much or all of what Cubans of several generations have created from [the attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba led by Fidel Castro in] 1953 to today.     

Of course, I dislike hackneyed phrases, recycled ideas. I don't like posing as a guardian of doctrine, but neither do I wish to feign ignorance or be a "rebel without a cause", or sit before the candle to hear the crack of the flame without trying to put it out. So I have to say that some of the questions most often directed to the journalist that I am, are these: What will become of us? Perhaps everything will be OK? And I understand: it's not possible to pass from a situation in which to receive [from society] means receiving even that which is not deserved [a reference to socialist state paternalism], towards a situation in which much of what an individual receives will be, basically, the fruit of one's labour in a society in which state-sector employment is readjusted to rationalise spending and income, salaries and productivity, merit and efficiency. As a consequence, the notion that absences to deal with personal matters is justified will have to disappear from the workplace, along with leaving work in the middle of the day to buy such and such that is now on sale, or the absent administrator, or the budget is overrun but we continue [spending]... OK, we know about all this.

But at times these questions asked by those who seem to be in touch with the people denote a valid confusion. Because they read newspapers, or laws are approved that liberate [economic] options [such as the expansion of self-employment], and suddenly here, in this little locality, in that village or municipality, practice reveals the contrary: he "cannot", "we're not interested in this", "there's no solution", "shut up, we don't speak about this", "bring in this form, though the law does not require it". This method  of leadership and administration continues to reign in one or two villages in the country. It's logical, then, that some citizen, particularly in the interior of the country, asks: What are we doing? Either we open up in order to close down, or we close down to ... continue being closed.        

As a journalist, I should neither downplay nor exaggerate what I see and hear. I say this because of all that I've seen in a recent visit to the provinces. In certain places there's a still a contradiction between the course the country has declared and actions that, instead of furthering this course, paralyse or muddle it. The mentality of rigid control continues encysting — to enclose in a cyst is also a method of control — that is now intensified. Control that fails to distinguish, as a poet would say, between the voice and the echo, between an honourable citizen and a rogue, between a solution and a danger.     

Now, above all, we must understand the value of semantics. To control is not the same thing as to obstruct; to obey a law is not the same as to comply with it [to the letter], nor is complying with it the same as distorting it.               

Today, semantics is, above all, part of the grammar of politics. Thus control, in the sense that Cuba reclaims, means carrying out procedures without obstructing them, without confusing the citizenry, and without discouraging work. To open up is to open up. And if there must be a goalkeeper, s/he must know, above all from a revolutionary sensitivity, that while the path [of reform] will be regulated, he who gets in the way through blundering or bad faith will immediately be labelled, in the present circumstances, a "problem". One more problem. 

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