Two civil societies: one wearing green and one wearing colors
I read Granma and I watch television, the news and whatever official publication falls into my hands. Although sometimes they annoy me, I prefer to spend an unpleasant moment to find out what they are saying and to try, in a naïve way, to guess the intentions behind each title. The other day, for example, I almost fell into the trap of a title in Granma: “Cuban civil society denounces the blockade,” or something like that, I don’t remember exactly. When I read “civil society,” I instantly said, very excited, “They’re talking about Civil Society in Granma!” How naïve! I finished the article reluctantly, not remembering at all what it was about; what I do remember was that the “Cuban civil society” mentioned in Granma was formed, initially, by Felipe Pérez Roque, followed by Miguel Barnet and other writers and functionaries of the leading cultural institutions of the country, that is to say, the main governmental organizations; because at this point everyone knows that in Cuba, a high official in Culture is the same as a high official in State Security, and that their immediate superior undoubtedly works for military intelligence. There was even a time when nearly all our minsters were military, without any evasiveness or lies. Now it seems they aren’t, now they call it civil society, because the green uniform has long since ceased to be compulsory. Why? I wonder if it might be, perhaps, that they’re afraid our people actually know that a true civil society exists, that they also form a part of it, and that it has no rights, or almost none. It doesn’t even have the right to know what its rights are. Or maybe I ask myself why our leaders feel the need to steal the name of the opposition. Could it be, perhaps, that they fear the terms “opposition” and “civil society,” which encompass so many people who couldn’t talk about politicians, about dissidents, because civil society is enormous and so great, destined to continue growing while our government ignores it, meanwhile shamelessly stealing its name.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.