It’s time to take off the rose-tinted spectacles

Dear Editor,

The article ‘Cuba’s Economic Paradigm Shift: A Work in Progress’ (‘In the Diaspora’ SN, December 20) was an interesting take on developments in Cuba; we wait to see how it all pans out. Good luck to the Cuban people and one hopes this brings about some measure of breathing space for them.

I’m all for with Cubans coming up with Cuban solutions. While nothing Alissa Trotz and Norman Girvan say can be seriously disputed, the problem is what they don’t say: that enormous pachyderm in the Caribbean lefty living room – you know, what to do/think about Cuba.  I do have a problem with eminent Anglo-Caribbean academics trying continually to tread softly and uncritically just a tad too much on Cuba from the relative material and democratic comforts of North America and the Anglo-Caribbean where we enjoy basic rights/are allowed to actually choose who governs us, be openly critical of them in public and get rid of them if they don’t deliver results, unlike the Cuban populace who just don’t seem worthy of these goodies themselves, poor things.

It all seems rather a bit of a let-down for the rest of us who respect the objectivity honed by years and years of study/work in tertiary institutions, that distinguishes our professors from the ordinary people. In other words the professors, are effectively being paid and recognised not to have a one-sided, uncritical takes on things; criticism is the lifeblood of the intellectual – always enquiring, always objective, always scientific, as far as it’s possible to be so in political analysis, and never seemingly taking sides. Otherwise we might as well all give up, pack up, turn off the lights and head off to North Korea (or Cuba for that matter) where they do propaganda rather better.

I am not sure, by the way, whether attending a conference located in Cuba, fantastic though it probably was to be there, but that was sanctioned by the Cuban regime was ever going to be a totally balanced affair. I’m curious to hear whether the views of Cubans not allied with the regime were heard or were solicited from the conference organisers.

Over and over again, Caribbean academics’ refusal to even acknowledge that ordinary peoples’ basic human rights in Cuba might actually be violated in ways which we would not wish on our worst enemies, and that it is most likely not all the work of some evil and dastardly plan hatched in the bowels of the Washington beast by the CIA, Barack Obama or the remnants of the Florida Batista lobby, seems a particularly tough one to swallow. Why, I have no idea, but what I can say is that doing this analytical fancy footwork is a bit undignified in 2010 as they demand consistency. It must get a bit intellectually taxing and wearing at times, and can ultimately lead to that well known pesky podiatric condition: the Achilles heel.

Interestingly, when it comes to governance and democracy in the Anglo-Caribbean our intelligentsia are quite stridently vocal in their critiques and more power to them, I say. Kamla, Bruce and Bharrat must be peeved about all the grief they get, but one would like to think that deep inside, they recognise that this is a good thing and is the essence of the democratic deficit that we all take as a given. They are the servants and we are the people who put them there.

When it comes to Cuba, however, bring on the violins, the congas and the ‘Vivas!’ This ideological rumba love-in is in full swing and shows no sign of waning, even after all these years. (I must admit I like it too – a real David and Goliath story, and we of course all root for the little plucky guy, naturally. I myself make it my business to educate people about the sustained, yet ultimately unsustainable US aggression against Cuba. We all know how terrible the embargo has been for Cuba and any criticism of this is fully justified. We all long for the day when the Americans realise how useless, petty, vindictive and needlessly cruel and criminal the whole thing is.) We don’t need to be left wing to recognise and admit that it was morally wrong.

 But as we say in the Caribbean, three wrongs don’t make a right, so why be dogmatic? It’s time to take off the rose-tinted spectacles. By leaving the impression of one-sidedness and over-enthusiasm for the everything that the Central Committe does in Cuba with their “brave, revolutionary and heroic” school of thought, our intellectuals do themselves, their profession, their audience, and the Cuban people with whom they claim to have solidarity, a grave disservice.

I wonder if either Dr Girvan or Dr Trotz (both of whom I admire enormously) and others on the Caribbean left can even bring themselves to publicly support the men and women –journalists and fellow academics – who languish in Cuban jails (some recently on hunger strike) because all they ever wanted was not to be accused of being Yankee stooges but simply to be seen as ordinary people fighting for the right to enjoy the basic freedoms that we take for granted ourselves, and have enjoyed in the Anglo-Caribbean for decades. Why ignore or brush aside these things simply because we all adored the heroics of Comrade Fidel a long time ago? Why can’t we do both? It will advance us as individuals and societies, not to mention, the future of all Cubans enormously if we can hone this particular skill.

History moves on though, and so also should we all. What about the good ol’ concept of critical analysis? By all means give praise where praise is due, but please for the sake of intellectual probity, the professors should be a bit more circumspect, balanced and objective in their analyses. If they are not, they run the risk of tarnishing otherwise flawless academic reputations.

Yours faithfully,
Ramona Cabral Guevara

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