Castro's Cuba – 50 years later, the island nation is still Castro country


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/16/castros-cuba-50-years-la.html


#2

This looks wonderful, though out of my price range. Maybe my library will get a copy. There is something about color photographs from the 60’s that just does it for me.

at one point that what looked like political indoctrination to Americans was social education to the Cubans

Americans seem to be extremely sensitive about the ‘indoctrination’ of others, while particularly oblivious to their own systems/content of indoctrination. I hope I am not being too optimistic by believing that this book likes like a fairly well rounded and intellectually honest collection.


#3

Castro did stuff I don’t agree with…but he did a LOT of objective good with his authority as well.


#4

Goddammit that embargo was just about to topple the Castro Regime! Why do commie-coddling liberals have to throw out a perfectly good plan just because it didn’t show any signs of working after half a century?


#5

I have a love-hate relationship with Cuba.

It’s a big, beautiful country, overtly there’s a certain joie-de-vivre, they have come close but never succumbed to famine, there’s basic healthcare and education for all, it’s probably the safest country in the region (tiny, uber-rich enclaves aside), and it’s exceedingly rare – though not entirely unheard of – to encounter drunk, mentally ill or homeless people wandering the streets or passed out in doorways. People are incredibly resourceful: not only do they famously keep ancient cars running against all odds, they melt down beer cans to make kitchen implements, among many other examples of resourcefulness. Most people are genuinely nice.

But the joie-de-vivre is counterbalanced by a deep undercurrent of unhappiness, almost everyone has to engage in prohibited and sometimes shady or criminal hustles to live anywhere above bare subsistence, and the state controls huge swaths of the economy and everyday life.

Unrationed food seems reasonably plentiful at first glance, but it’s hideously expensive by Cuban standards, suggesting it isn’t really all that abundant. Most people’s diet is classic poverty fare: it’s dominated by carbs in the form of grains and sugar, so obesity is a problem. On the whole, ration stores are depressing and so are hard-currency stores. Non-ration farmer’s markets (agromercados) can be bright spots, with lots of beautiful produce for sale, but again it’s bloody expensive on a standard wage. Cleaning supplies, personal grooming/hygiene items, clothing, furniture…all very expensive, or possibly unavailable on any given day. (Some will blame the embargo for any and all economic woes, and I do think that’s part of it, but a lot of these issues are at least partly homegrown. There’s plenty of blame to go around.)

It’s allegedly a post-racial society, but you don’t have to scratch far below the surface to find race-based inequality, discrimination and overtly racist attitudes. No doubt it was worse in pre-revolutionary Cuba, but it’s insane to pretend that the Communists have stamped out racism. They haven’t, any more than they’ve stamped out gambling or prostitution. For a parallel, would you say American racists suddenly stopped being racist when the Civil Rights Act was passed?

There is not even the illusion of a free press, freedom of expression or freedom of assembly, with the minimal exception that these days the average person won’t get in deep shit for associating with foreigners. Under Raúl, the state has withdrawn a tentacle or two from the economy, but it’s still almost everywhere. And surely at the back of people’s minds is the fact that previous liberalization initiatives were rolled back or shut down outright, so people still need to take care not to appear to be “too successful.” Nevertheless, inequality is growing rapidly.

I don’t give a shit about the “hardships” faced by tourists – sub-par hotels, mediocre hotel food, scams/gouging, having to see beggars – because none of them come anywhere near the hardships of real Cuban life.

All that said, I do plan to have a look at this book. I’m sure it’s fascinating.


#6

“From an early age,” Castro tells Lockwood, “they must be discouraged from every egotistical feeling in the enjoyment of material things.”

I have to give Fidel credit for almost complete success here.


#7

I don’t mean this in a confrontational way. But what did he do with his authority which was “objectively good?” Also, could that good have come about without objectively evil things having been done, as well?


#8

are those his shoes? I mean, I’d expect rugged boots. Something with a bit of wear. But those?


#9

I’m not so sure about that. What are you basing this on?

No doubt some Cubans truly are uninterested in consumerism and its trappings. But I suspect that a surprisingly large number are just as susceptible to “egotistical feelings” (I guess he means pride) inspired by material things as anyone else.


#10

To list a few things: nationalized banks; the execution of corrupt officials/police from the previous regime (in lieu of simply hiring them, like most autocracies seem to do…); developing novel and effective new approaches to healthcare and science; setting a specific base standard of living that citizens cannot fall below; maintaining autonomy in the face of american aggression and soviet seduction.

There’s a list somewhere.


#11

Well, I don’t know that nationalizing banks is “objectively good.” Considering that there are Nobel Prize winning economists who might agree or disagree with that indicates it’s more subjective, than objective.

I think there is, in a liberal society, a middle-ground between “hiring corrupt officials” and “executing corrupt officials.” Executing people for corruption (with or without trial), it seems to me, is absolutely not an “objectively good” thing.

I think Cuba’s approach to healthcare does have some objectively good things about it, but it still suffers from the same kinds of limitations one finds in a totalitarian regime. And science in general? How so?

I agree that this is objectively good, but it’s hardly unique to Cuba. And certainly it could have been achieved without so many people being unable to rise above the standard set by the Cuban government?

I think this might be “objectively good” if said autonomy didn’t include the regular imprisonment of dissidents, along with severe restrictions on free speech and travel (Soviet seduction was not so easily resisted, it seems). I think any good that has happened in Cuba could have been (and has been, elsewhere) achieved without the illiberal oppression seen there and in all other totalitarian dictatorships.


#12

But American indoctrination is the right kind of indoctrination, unless it’s American liberals doing it.

/sarcasm


#13

Of all the crimes that might make me reconsider my opposition to capital punishment, corruption isn’t one of them. Especially not in a situation where the application of due process is questionable at best. Seriously, by what logic can this be considered “objectively good”? I’m genuinely curious.

At least in today’s Cuba corruption doesn’t appear to be a capital offence. A good thing, too, because they’d have to slaughter millions of people, if we’re going to define corruption as paying, soliciting or receiving bribes and/or stealing from the state. Stealing from the state is practically a national pastime.

As for the positive achievements of the Cuban revolution as a whole… sure, they’ve accomplished some good things, but IMO it takes some serious blinkers to conclude that it’s all peachy.


#14

I found the Manic Street Preachers concerts in Cuba interesting, in an “Is this really a good idea?” way.

The band regrets doing it now.

So you played in Cuba, did you like it brother?
I bet you felt proud, you silly little fucker
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xU_kKnmKsuU


#15

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.