I have lived weighed down by the ideal of the moment: the indispensable citizen. Throughout the short history of my life I have come to reflect, voiceless and faceless, the different types of indispensables that the country has needed. At times they were those who voted early, who denounced the evil done, who sacrificed themselves in the name of the revolution, who carried a gun to other places to kill or be killed. As if each one was previously chosen at some moment in a speech by Fidel Castro, having their respective advertising spot on TV, where they invited us—the dispensables—to join ourselves to a strange imperishable collective.
But the qualities of the indispensables have become increasingly ambiguous, until they have come to be completely obscured and the only essential left in the realm of the tangible was to keep one’s mouth shut at all costs. I found it soothing, this change in the supposed “New Man” who was metamorphosing annually depending on the prevailing discourse and who never existed.
“These are the essentials,” the TV announced yesterday and I wondered who would be the ones to sacrifice themselves in the name of an ideology that no one remembers. But times have changed, now the indispensables are those who work for a wage of 400 pesos a month without a murmur, who work the land to make a gift of their crops to the state and those who don’t aspire to live on the fruits of their labor. The idealists, the fanatical defenders of the good, those who believe in a bright future, they are no longer indispensable.
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.