With a rope and a piece of wood, three children were preparing a torture trap for a lizard. One of them held onto the victim which, with eyes wide and body rigid, awaited his martyrdom without much hope of survival. At that moment I passed by and intervened, as is normal, in defense of the poor animal: I explained to them about caring for living beings and grabbed the creature in my hands. Fortunately for my good deed there was a tree suitable for its welfare and I let it go among the branches. Up to that point, everything was typical, children experiment with birds and small animals and adults try to inculcate a love of nature.
The unusual came minutes later when the mother of one of the kids knocked on my door to demand an explanation. I decided, then, to use the same arguments with the mother that I had with her son, and she seemed to understand me though she didn’t say a word, but grabbed her son by the hair and dragged him away. I felt a little guilty, not expecting such a punishment for a lizard, but to intervene again in the moral issues of this family would have been excessive.
The incident puzzled me, not because the boys were playing at martyrdom with a reptile, but because they were so unaware of how bad this was; judging it “right,” they went to their parents for support. When I was little the kids in my neighborhood surreptitiously killed sparrows, knowing that what they did was wrong. What has happened that, fifteen years later, the simple notion of good and evil has disappeared?
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.