“Things will change, you’ll see,” a friend tells me. She’s not talking about freedom of the press, or expression, or opinion, or about anything related to basic human rights; rather she talks to me about onions and meat, about how to earn a little more money to improve our standard of living. To convince me, she even tells me that they’re going to give the whole world permission to travel; I explain that they’re not going to give permission to “the whole world,” that a few days ago I delivered some 90 signatures to Provincial Immigration so they would give the damn “Go for it baby! Travel!” to a friend.
But she looks at me and ignores my arguments. If you’re not interested in politics why do you want a change of president? If we can stop being poor and buy cars and live well? What does it matter who’s in power? I grudgingly explain I don’t want a “change of president,” what I want is a “CHANGE of government” from top to bottom, but she doesn’t understand me.
I’m happy she thinks that some day she’s going to be able to buy a car with Raul Castro or whomever in the Communist Party it might be who’s in power. I don’t really want to talk about how I came to this point. I don’t know how to explain to someone that exactly what they want to avoid is an economically independent civil society, a prosperous country where people have time to think instead of just to look for something to eat, a country where a piece of meat on the table is not the main objective in the life of a people and where getting it doesn’t mean you keep your mouth shut to hold onto it.
How to explain that if one day everyone has permission to travel, if we can live on our wages, if we can buy a car, and even if tomorrow morning they free all the political prisoners, I will continue asking for CHANGE. The long lines for the bus, the crush on the P4 route, the wages of misery, the permission to travel and all the rest are only the consequences… and I do want them to change the consequences… but what I really want to change is the CAUSE, so there will be no more risks, so that tomorrow I can travel comfortably on the bus, or I can eat on my salary, or I can drive a car, or I can leave the country when I have a mind to; not to then have to shut my mouth and close my eyes, live in fear, read the absurdities that are called news, idolize a liar who carries a list of the dead on his head.
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.