I look with distaste -- why deny it -- at the face of Ramiro Valdes on TV. This time it’s about the sermon to the workers in the construction sector. I barely take the trouble to listen any more, every time he speaks it’s to scold us, he and Machado Ventura have been transformed, you might say, into the nannies of the Cuban citizen: admonitions, punishments, threats.
It’s always the same old story: work harder, ask for less, don’t complain too much, show a fighting spirit, finish the work of the Revolution, don’t divert resources, don’t expect incentives, trust the leaders of the process, be faithful to the Party... It’s the authoritarian father lecture to his eternally underage children.
Doesn’t Ramiro wonder what the builders would eat if they didn’t “divert” some bricks to sell in the black market? The union leaders, it seems, turn a blind eye. Could it be that they too need a salary to survive? Why don’t they show a little courage and pass the baton to the “deadbeats” to tell their version of the workers’ paradise?
Instead of threatening to remove incentives and perks -- which only causes opportunism and double standards to flourish -- he should ask why the wages aren’t reason enough to work hard, to get better results, to increase production. Of course, he would do it the truth mattered to him, and if -- in addition -- he wasn’t confusing the National Union of Construction Workers with a nursery school.
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.