To March or Not to March… that is the Question / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on October 30, 2015
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 28 October 2015 — The latest
cyber-skirmish unleashed around statements made by Eliécer Ávila, leader
of the opposition movement Somos+, about the #Todosmarchamos initiative,
once again focuses first, on the need for restraint in political
discourse and the importance of not allowing ourselves to be swayed by
the provocations of those who pursue only ratings and drama from the
comfortable security of their distant geographical locations, and
secondly, on the inability to weigh things at fair value, whether by the
so-called opposition leaders — regardless of their strategies, their
ideological orientation or their political proposals, if they happen to
have them — or by public opinion.
In this case, there are numerous myths contained in a sort of Theogony
of the opposition, a mirage created and sustained from abroad in an
absurd desire to hold on to an opposition epic — which should eventually
replace the current revolutionary epic — which, like the latter, creates
pockets of prestige and heroism, and even castes and lineages, depending
on whether the new heroes are willing to bleed or get slapped on the
head. It is a well-known fact that we Cubans are experts at repeating
our mistakes, especially those that guarantee future suffering and
shredding of vestments.
If there is anything I agree 100% on with Eliécer, it's the need for the
independent press in Cuba to cease to be complacent with the opposition
– sadly mimicking the stance of the official press towards the Castro
regime — and assume from this day (during the dictatorship) the usual
journalistic roles and functions in democratic societies. This includes
questioning absolutely everything and everyone, desecrating any public
figure whose effect should ultimately be to serve, not to rule. In this
regard, here are some observations I propose that might seem unbearable
to some extreme radicals. I suggest that the passionate stop reading at
this point so they can avoid the usual patriotic tantrums.
I shall not vent my sympathies or personal differences on the opposition
— not on a nonexistent "opposition movement" — an environment that I
know by heart, since it's been almost fifteen years since I delved into
it. What I know or believe about anyone is completely irrelevant.
I have found many of the most honorable, honest, generous and dedicated
people I've ever met in my life within the opposition, and also many of
the worst and most harmful: ambitious, hypocritical, opportunistic,
false patriots and, as Eliezer stated, some corrupt little characters
who have made the "struggle for democracy" a way of life. Over the years
I have come to understand that that reality is not unique to the Cuban
stage or that it is bound by the geography of the Island. There are good
and bad Cubans both in Cuba and in the Diaspora, there are those who
live for Cuba and those who live from it. Note that I am merely
reviewing the facts as a necessary and true evil. It is what it is, period.
Some people prefer to ignore that the Cuban dissidence is as varied in
its composition from the point of view of human quality as any other
social group. In fact, all the vices inherited from a corrupt and sick
system are present in our sector, including atavistic evils, such as an
autocratic government, authoritarianism and despotism. There is even
what we might call an opposition gerontocracy, firmly clinging to old
precepts and unchanging bad habits, incapable of evolving in the light
of new scenarios.
When I travel abroad, I'm always surprised to hear someone, perhaps with
the best of intentions, refer to dissidents in general, including
independent journalists, as "heroes." And what's worse, there are
characters who "modestly" accept the epithet, as if it were their true
right. I will never support a leader who perceives himself as worthy of
moral supremacy over the everyone else. In addition, such a
prefabricated pantheon of heroes will only serve to cement many present
and future ills.
Nevertheless, in those circumstances, and with those actors, we must
continue to open the way for Cuban democracy. We optimists believe in
the best of scenarios and, with the passing of time, many individuals
and proposals will surface which will expand and diversify the options
in the political and social milieu, thus covering all interests and
including all the trends and options for citizen participation And we
will need to learn to live with our differences.
Another one of the most notorious Cuban imaginary myths of all time is
based on measuring the value of people by their willingness to "shed
blood," to be beaten in the streets or locked in dungeons. To march or
not to march seems to want to establish itself as the moral question for
future politicians. It doesn't matter whether the event is repeated
again and again with the same result, and the dictatorial power
continues to not move one inch, or that one of those "common" citizens,
the ones who are trying to get free from the Castro yoke, has joined in
the martyrdom. It is known that no "leader" has attracted followers by
becoming the scapegoat of a dictatorship known to be repressive and
capable of the worst abuses.
It seems to be that what's truly important is that the more marches and
more beatings one gets, the more "courageous" one becomes, and that will
get you a place of privilege in the select club of the anti-Castro titans.
But given that no Cuban "peoples" are willing to suffer the already
traditional Sunday assaults, the organizers of this Antillean Via Crucis
have not only summoned the other dissidents –including those who have
been labeled a "naive" and even "traitors" for having acted in
accordance with the US administration policy of détente — but they
question the reluctance of those who do not abide by the summons.
And they see in this negativism, not the right of others to choose their
own methods of resistance or their own path to work for the Cuba we
want, but an alleged intention to divide the opposition or "to play into
the hands" of the dictatorship. It would seem that if the Castro regime
has not failed it is because some of us, whether absurdly or cowardly,
have refused to march after attending church. Not believing in God, in
the sponsors of the initiative or in their results, is secondary: a herd
must follow the alpha male, who — in the purest Castro sense — will
assume that those who do not follow him blindly are cowards and are
Thus, Eliécer Ávila's greatest sin was excessive transparency in a world
of masquerades, forgetting that to ignore provocations is the wisest and
most expeditious strategy that anyone aspiring for political leadership
could employ. The sponsor of Somos+ wasted a great opportunity to keep
his subtle silence.
There is no need to conquer freedom. Being free will suffice, though it
needs to be done intelligently.
I, for one, while enjoying the privilege that my status as an opinion
journalist grants me and my complete lack of commitment to leaders or
parties of any political color, take the opportunity to join the
commentary of a wise reader: there is no need to "fight" for democracy,
practicing it should be enough; there is no need to conquer freedom,
being free will suffice, though it needs to be done intelligently. It is
impractical to continue implementing strategies that lead to the same
result again and again… except when what we seek is that seal of
pedigree that has been repeated so many times throughout our history.
In Cuba's immediate future we will not hear that worn-out phrase that
marked our lives and legitimized the rights of the privileged few over
the rest of Cubans: "Did you by any chance fire shots in the Sierra
Maestra?" It will be replaced with "Did you by any chance march on
Sundays down La Quinta Avenida?" God forbid!
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: To March or Not to March… that is the Question / 14ymedio,
Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/43934-2/
4 hours ago