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January 9, 2010
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

  The column of lasting insignificance  
       


also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 


January 9, 2010

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

FIFTY YEARS AGO as I sat in Myrna’s Long Island home and we watched Fidel Castro and his 300 barbudos from the Sierra Maestre mountains triumphantly enter Havana, the excitement was infectious. Hope filled the air: a dictator vanquished in the cause of the people!  Jubilation everywhere after this relief from years of travail. Dreams of the future sparkled. The only comparable event in my life was the night of Obama’s victory.
      How (unfairly) American hopes have fallen in the past year. Although it was bound to be. Whoever won the 2008 election would have faced similarly relentless bitter attacks in this era of viciously supercharged politics. But hold it for a moment: it’s obviously too soon to bring down a president.
     Back in the ‘50s when Havana was taken over, optimism also abounded. And there was a salubrious grace period before disillusionment began to take shape. Early talk of Soviet alliances was followed by the growing isolation of a captive populace. Perhaps the tipping point was reached after Che embarked on his roster of dubious executions. And still, even then, even as our aspirations faded, there seemed to be something worthy about Cuba and its expressed ideals.
     Along with news of jailed writers would come reports of free health care with solicitous doctors, and lavish medical and development assistance offered to poorer countries. Next came word of widespread censorship, a subject that especially irritates writers. Nevertheless, we were somehow able to mentally visualize a society that was genuinely socialist, in all the best meanings of the word: i.e. that other people mattered in addition to yourself.
     So for decade after decade Cuba remained a paradox in our minds. And how could we not admire a genuine hero, who took power so forcefully--and kept it? All those megaspeeches, those José Martí evocations. It was easy to spot who had been Fidel’s role model.
     “If Fidel Castro has betrayed the Cuban revolution it happened at the moment when the children—children of the revolution—reached adulthood. writes José Manuel Prieto, “When by dint of the passage of time there appeared, at the end of the 1980s, a reformist current, a generation of young people born and bred within the force field of the revolution”.
    Although Gorbachev inherited his power, Prieto recalls that, “Castro’s the one who brought socialism to Cuba…He is convinced (and perhaps he’s absolutely right) that he alone is the best commander of this power, this type of power. Which doesn’t mean that either he or his power is desirable”.
    Neither Fidel nor the revolucion  is “a vulgar plunderer whose only goal is self-enrichment” the writer claims, in La Revolución Cubana, a book which was recently translated from the Spanish. On the contrary, I see an entirely different trait: a deep and terrible idealism”.
    And perhaps it’s that which has kept so many of us hooked on this fanciful vision of what Cuba could be, rather than what it actually was.
    Prieto’s book is engrossing, his hypothesis being  that in Fidel’s vision of Cuba’s future lay in an uncompromising stance towards the U.S. “He calculated—like an engineer placing a satellite around the earth—that the only possible way of breaking the gravitational pull of the United States” was to use the momentum of  independence to take control of the situation.
      In a wonderfully graphic paragraph, the author explains:
     “The unusual spectacle of the greatest and most powerful country on earth, the United States, caught up in an open war with so diminutive an adversary, like a wild animal in captivity, the astounded villagers crowding around to poke at it through the bars of its cage: that alone has captured the imagination of our contemporaries”.
    So what can we conclude from all this? That naïve and, yes, idealistic as some of us have remained, it still seems better than the role undertaken by one president after another being played for suckers until, lo! this very day. Unarguably, the  U.S. fell victim to “an astute provocation”.
     And yet it’s incredible how unaware the United States still appears to be of its importance in everything to do with Cuba, Prieto explains.  “The Americans do not suspect how much they are loved, imitated, how we hang on every word from Fidel Castro himself (perhaps more than anyone else) down to the last little child on the island (who dreams of living in America). A country penetrated from top to bottom by America’s influence, almost more than any other country on earth we could say, and without any other point of reference or counterbalance”.
     He depicts the conflict between the two countries as a lovers’ quarrel, a neighborhood spat. Although many countries around the world are critical of the crudeness of much of the American way of life, Cubans envision a similar existence as alluring. Cuba wants to be the United States, he suggests.
   “Cubans see such a life as desirable, imagine their future as independent—but American. Ugly suburbs, ticky-tacky houses and disposable plastic cups all figure into the mental tableau of their happiness”.
    La revolucion did wonders for Fidel’s international image--“a wellspring of strength”--that he’s continued to draw upon, and no less of a subsidy, the book avers, than the millions contributed by Russia, especially because their contribution was voluntary and that of the U.S. made “involuntarily, pathetically, ineptly”.
    And as for the future, it won’t belong to the apolitical dissidents, nor even the Florida exiles who’ve been in the U.S. too long. The most likely leaders will be the heirs to “the violent and exceedingly self-absorbed Cuban Revolution”. It will be their task to found the country anew. 
    “They are freeing themselves from (it)” Prieto writes, ”knowing how to make a break with its heritage of violence rather than acting as if nothing has happened…a clear and public expression of regret, an unequivocal condemnation of its excesses along with a vindication of its best aspects (the broad social and educational programs and all the rest).
      Maybe one day, before too long, we’ll see a free--even prosperous—Cuba, but hopefully without the hoodlums, robber barons and thieving tycoons that seemed to own the country before the Revolution. But Fidel Castro, good or bad, alive or dead, will take his place in history as  a monumental figure, a man for the ages. Viva Cuba libré.

impossible war
  “Obama probably believes that the war in Afghanistan is
 ‘necessary’, in his words ‘for the defense of the people’.
Unfortunately, impossible missions do not become possible
Because they have been dubbed ‘necessary’; on the contrary
they become quagmires”—Jonathan Schell in the Nation

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