Back in Ciro’s neighborhood they are putting in some phones; there are 20 people on the list without phones but only three lines available. I find out, with growing sadness, all about the process from one of the concerned parties. ETECSA doesn’t decide who is going to get a telephone, rather it’s a commission appointed by the CDR that does a “study of the terrain” and names the chosen.
The initial three-person commission first named the president of the CDR, and second the delegate from the district, and in third place it was split between two neighbors close to the committee. The dispute continued until it became a scandal at ETECSA, who sent them home to come to agreement.
Other neighbors, seeing the problem, joined the dissent. The woman who told me the story, for example, explained that she was waiting to make her claim because she thought she had more merit in the CDR than those in the dispute. The matter was so raw that the commission was dismantled and a new one put in its place.
The new commission, together with the neighbors, have called an extraordinary meeting for a new selection, which still hasn’t taken place but it will take place without the presence of those involved in the problem. In any case, always when they selection is made and they make a decision, one can then make a claim for a new review of the whole process: a person argues why they don’t agree and lists the merits of the one whom they want to benefit beyond which they have benefited.
I remember when televisions were distributed people in Havana were shocked by the quarrels between neighbors; I know of friends who didn’t have a television and preferred not to get into it with their neighbors: dirty laundry, old stories, families in the United States, comments against the government, numbers of guard duty served, voluntary work, ideological quality of relatives… in the end, any argument is valid when it’s time to explain to the CDR that the television or telephone is deserved by you and not by the guy next door.
But worst of all is that there are people, like the woman I spoke of, to whom the process seems just. People who don’t see the sad and painful result of a system that makes it citizens behave like dogs getting a bone out of the trash, who sadistically wash their hands and indolently register with pride the responsibility of having converted envy and snitching into new values of the socialist revolution.
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.