How much do you make? That was the question a faceless journalist asked a man on the National Television News (the best science fiction saga on Cuban television, after, of course, the reading of Fidel’s Reflections). As he earned about three hundred pesos a month, she was wanted to know how much of that salary was spent on food for his family: Almost all -- then he hesitated -- All.
I looked at the screen with suspicion. What are they up to? Because obviously they are not going to raise the salaries, and even if they did it wouldn’t be enough to eat. Sometimes I wonder how the government can be so completely shameless with the salaries it pays. Suddenly the camera pans to show an organopónico, an urban garden site. I bust out laughing and my family looks at me strangely. What can I do? I justify myself. I could cry but I’ve seen the same movie too many times and have developed a certain cynicism. So instead of earning more money, what we have to do is plant a few furrows on the apartment balcony and grow some onions, right? My father used to grow herbs in the nineties until he realized he didn’t have any food to season.
I was sixteen when I first read, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera and I have never forgotten its analysis of the eternal recurrence of Nietzsche and human historicity. What happens to us when events are repeated over and over again? We could be more serious about overcoming them if they were unique and not the same ones, always repeated. Then when on TV some poor guy doesn’t earn enough money to feed himself and they show him in front of a plot of dirt, instead of crying it makes me laugh, and he, instead of slapping his boss starts to garden, though he knows that his crop will never be enough. And if you live in Vedado and don’t have any dirt it doesn’t matter, the imperative is to eat, but the system is stuck in neutral and perpetuates itself.
I seem to have the syndrome of eternal return: nothing moves, nothing really changes. I would like to make a video in which I take each phrase said over the last fifty years that proves my theory, every “but now...” “perfecting...” “redevelopment...” “updating the model...” “correcting the mistakes...” Maybe on seeing it all together we would remember that there is another way to live, one in which we move forward over time, and not just go around in circles.
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.