One of the characteristics of the rational being is to recognize his own limits, as well as others which -- for logical reasons -- must be adhered to so that coexistence works as harmoniously as possible. Some sectors of my society, however, break the boundaries of human cynicism on a daily basis, and at the forefront of this movement we find, without a doubt, official journalism and its famous National Television News (NTV).
One of the latest changes made by our appointed president was the modification of the retirement law: overnight -- without shouts, without rejoicing, without protest and without labor unions furiously demanding explanations -- Cubans were warned that our right to retire would be extended from age 60 to age 65 for men, and from age 55 to age 60 for women. So, without further ado, the “working masses” of the socialist paradise were forced to swallow this bitter pill from the abusive state and extend their working lives by five years.
But for some, no humiliation is too much; yesterday on NTV they aired a small report about the “tens of thousands of demonstrators” in France, who took to the street to protest the government’s intention to impose a law that is similar, though it adds only months of extra work.
The soft voice of reporter entertained us over screen shots of a Parisian street filled with strikers. “French workers,” she said, “are protesting the government’s intention to increase the retirement age by two years."
How far do the distant horizons of official cynicism reach? Is it an act of State vs. People sadism, or simply the laziness of the powers-that-be who forget to sweeten the pills of their subjects. Does the Party Central Committee want to demonstrate their impunity relative to the workers? Could it be considered an irony planned by the boys of the Department of Revolutionary Orientation, who don’t want to retire five years later, and so they slip the information in between the lines to raise everyone’s temper?
I don’t know what the correct hypothesis is, but whatever it is, it’s nothing more than a cruel sarcasm aimed at us: for fifty years we have not protested to our working rights.
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.