What I Said at FIU
What I Said at FIU / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on December 9, 2014
Translator’s Note: On Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
participated in a panel discussion at Florida International University,
in Miami. The program announcement is here.
Since the time of the Iron Curtain and Soviet socialism, the word,
“solidarity,” has been one of value in anti-totalitarian use. Within the
dictatorial models that communists have historically imposed every time
they have taken power, it is impossible to socialize if not through the
power of the State/God. Every social bond is regulated as deemed
convenient by a regime that, on principle, politicizes all, but in
practice depoliticizes society.
There is no political life after the communist parties appropriate
power, be it through bullets or ballots. This should be sufficient cause
to ponder whether the communist parties — just like the fascists or
racists or fundamentalists — deserve the right to play the democratic
game. The parties that aspire to be not part, but all, have not
demonstrated that they are capable of responding to or respecting the
rule of law.
In the face of such false en masse socialization produced by stagnant
socialist systems, for the individual to be in solidarity is, then, a
way of living in the truth, of involving oneself in the complex social
fabric, of reacting against systemic injustices, of not abandoning those
displaced by the utopia.
In the face of a monolithic state that hijacks everything to the
ideological spectrum, solidarity embodies the rediscovery of the
individual, of his inner freedom and of his rights to manifest it, and
also the revaluation of his dignity as a person, of his inviolable human
condition. Solidarity thus became a secret word, subversive and redeeming.
In Cuba, the prestige of this word — as all language that has been
strip-mined by the State — is synonymous with dangerousness. Solidarity,
a word derived from “sun,” [“sol” in Spanish] was forced into the
counterrevolutionary catacombs. As with the term, “human rights,”
solidarity suffered the stigma of clandestinity. I suspect that the word
barely arouses sympathies in the average Cuban, who associates it with
conspiracies incubated abroad and thus justifies his own humiliation at
having to survive with his head bowed.
Peoples learn from their tyrants. In that sense, the Cuban people are
cynically wise. At this point in history it is almost unjust to ask them
for more. We have sanctioned Castroism with our best spontaneous
weapons, even while these same weapons make us a bit more complicit:
silence, apathy, repression through inertia, pretending to walk the walk
out of an instinct of self-preservation. Against a regime like that of
the Castros, to peacefully preach solidarity is also to remember that
all gospels end in a via crucis, in the deadly hands of State Security,
an entity specifically dedicated to dissolving any trace of solidarity.
Thus the preciousness of the least gesture of our many foreign friends.
They observe us, and they work and take risks for Cuba, without the
straightjacket of the Revolution’s compensatory myths: the social
programs, the high professional level of our countrymen, and the
stability gained by sterility of life in our olive-green bubble, which
now is mutating from the color of military uniforms to the color of dollars.
Thus the incalculable worth of the courageous acts of Cubans surrounded
by Castroism everywhere. Blackmailing Castroism and academic Castroism,
or both. Castroism of the bourse and of the beast, or both. Idiotic
Castroism and ideological Castroism, or both. Castroism as
anti-establishment therapy or sentimental, conciliatory Castroism.
Not to fall into paralyzing pessimism, but there is scarce room for hope
in this tragedy, and therefore hope shines brilliantly to the point of
virtue. It is this State-sponsored thuggery that makes it so that not
one leader of the pro-democracy movements in Cuba has not foretold his
or her death, carried out with exceptional viciousness, as in the cases
of Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá.
The diasporization of our nation starts with our laziness toward
fighting injustice somewhere else, as long as it doesn’t concern us
personally. In fact, after it does concern us, many times we Cubans
prefer to bury our pain and our injury, preventing some friendly hand
from “politicizing” their trauma, presuming that doing so would make
things worse for us.
This is how we end up being, as a people, Fidelism’s most reliable
source of governability, its raw material that will not betray it.
Although, as I’ve already said, day by day we also vote in a plebiscite
with our feet, which is one of the most constant behaviors that should
be weighed in favor of the Revolution: we leave the Island, be it only
to turn back; we leave, be it only to construct a new, post-national
servitude, in which we know that politics continues being not part of
our life, but rather a terrible “all” whose long, barbaric arm could
reach our family in whatever corner they might be.
Not one of my columns or photographs since my ostracism in Havana would
have had the same impact if not for the solidarity, almost always, of
the survivors of socialism. This never implied the most minimal
interference with my content. I have not evolved as an accuser: it is
possible that I am not even a democrat so much as an author interested
in the ultimate. Thus before even knowing it, I was already free to the
point of intolerability.
I am not interested in correction, be it mental or corporal, and I am
bored by any creation that from its genesis already defines its destiny
(and its meaning). I am obsessed by the limits of provocation. My fury
at, and autos-da-fé about, Cuba do not remain in the little fossil farm
of Fidelism. Rather, they go seeking in the black holes of our democracy
that never knew its value apart from the currency of violence, starting
with the land destroyed in the wars of independence. These wars
consecrated the gallons of spilled blood as a universal value, placed
martyrdom over reconciliation, suicide over surrender, hate for our very
selves mutated into hate for our Cuban difference: a civic poverty that
plays out as tribalism and that, well into the 21st century, still
seduces and traps us.
There are many dramatic anecdotes of solidarity with the imaginary free
Cuba, such that our desolation is inconsolable as a people living under
an apartheid that the world does not recognize. As an emblem, I would
like to mention an example exclusive to Cubans which we are careful to
cite, for fear (at times average and other times downright miserable) of
remaining in anyone’s territory, in or out of Cuba, as if we weren’t
already pariahs in perpetuity, in or out of Cuba.
I’m referring to legislated solidarity, to the very rare documents that
have sought to wrest liberty from legality. In Cuba, of course, no
citizen initiative ever pointed in such a radical fashion to a
refounding of the republic as did the Varela Project. This enterprise
received from Oswaldo Payá its genius of inspiration and perseverance,
but it was also our great public march against the usurpers of the law,
a milestone for future generations to know that all measures short of
bloodshed were attempted, that there was no humanly possible way of
telling the Castros that they are not welcome in our homeland, and that
it is they and not some foreign power who have hijacked our sovereignty
as a nation.
Other documents of legislated solidarity — that also do not seem to be
in fashion amongst a dissident movement that no longer pretends to be an
opposition and even less to stop being an opposition and aspire to power
through ballots instead of bullets — can be found in North American
legislation. Stone me as the Castroites have always stoned me before and
after Castro, but in the best of circumstances, it is an act of
ignorance not to cite that the so-called Helms-Burton Act is actually
named the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.
Beyond the technicalities of geopolitics, this document establishes the
keys to repealing the North American economic blockade. The few sections
that discuss normalization of Cuba-US relations — without being
complicit with Castroism — are much more respectful of Cubans than the
avalanche of editorials from The New York Times, or the campaigns by
NGOs that from Miami to Washington DC want to capitalize on the
pretend-changes in Cuba, on the auto-transition of power to power and
not of law to law, of a tired Castroism to a dynastic, post-Castroism
with the literal blood-heirs of the Castros at the helm.
Section 205 of the Act lists in legal language the minimal
characteristics needed to jump-start our delayed democracy: Legalize
political activity. Liberate political prisoners. Commit to holding free
elections. Establish independence among the branches of the State.
Legalize workers’ unions. Allow free individual expression and a free
press. Respect private property. Protect the rights of citizens on the
Island and in Exile.
In that risky context wherein a State capitalism is constructed in Cuba
which is no less totalitarian than communism (which is another form of
centralized capitalism), perhaps it would be pertinent for Cubans — with
a voice empowered by their labor for liberty — to demand of democracies
not just one but many laws for liberty — so that the Hierarchs of Havana
— who would never sit at a table of reconciliation because they do not
recognize their enemies as anything more than potential exterminations
to be carried out — will at least feel some effective, legal pressure
against their opaque tactics. Thus an unequivocal sign would be given
that they do not bear any kind of legitimacy — because 56 years of
governing in their belligerent, ill-advised and manipulative manner, are
more than enough.
Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison
5 December 2014
Source: What I Said at FIU / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo | Translating Cuba