Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Fear of Being Wrong

Photo: Leandro Feal

It’s hard to have a conversation these days without landing on the topic of “The list of the 178,” that is the new list of the approved “self-employment occupations.” I personally would like a summary of the most popular occupations of the 16th century, but I know I’m one of the pessimists. Fine, my debate partners tell me that I am among the “pessimists” but to me I’m among the “obvious realists” because for how long are we going to “improve the system”? They say “socialism” but I refuse to call a government socialist that in less then two years plans to lay off a million workers, that has raised the retirement age, that has decreased the number of products euphemistically called “subsidized” and that hasn’t even remotely considered raising wages, not to mention the Sword of Damocles that the dual currency represents in our economy today. I am not going to talk about economic, social or political freedoms because, obviously, for those who consider the Cuban model a socialist model, these freedoms seem something like a capitalist class, or am I mistaken?

Thank god I have not become a “Taliban” -- which is what we call the extremists on both sides, especially those of the Cuban Communist Party, who are the most abundant in this geographic zone -- and I maintain excellent relations with some communists (they say they are communists, I’m not so sure). The fact is that one of my friends has a small private business: custom-made cakes. For several years now she has managed to survive, without luxuries or stealing, by selling little her guava and coconut cakes. With what she earns she has some extra money to give her children, to fix some of the silly problems with her house, and to eat. When she talks with me she is always on the defensive, so she’s never confessed to me that she buys most of her ingredients on the black market, despite my having seen with my own eyes her doing business with “the egg woman” and the “guy with the flour.” But anyway, citing “American Beauty,” the power of denial is great.

My friend feels guilty, knowing that her little endeavor is included in the occupations on the medieval list and doesn't want any part of illegality, at least not much of a part. When we talk she offers a historic phrase: if we all do our part, maybe this time we can move forward. I am not a cruel person so I hold my laughter. She omitted a detail, however, which her husband revealed to me: when he figured her monthly income after taking out a license, he got a round number: 2 CUC (~ $2.00 U.S.).

Note: Starting with this post I will start moderating comments, with the help of a friend. I am still preparing the rules for the forum so we can make Octavo Cerco an interesting place for discussion.

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