The Problem Is Not the Packaging

Fernando Damaso, 23 March 2015 — Many years ago when I worked at an advertising agency named Marketing, Research and Public Relations, Inc., its head — Enrique Cuzco — would often say, “A bad product won’t sell no matter how good the advertising is.”

In an effort to get young people to actively participate in the current electoral process, the National Electoral Commission recently decided to give responsibilty for the entire public relations campaign to a group of young journalists, designers and artists, figuring they can speak a common generational language.

Cuzco’s words immediately came to mind.

If anyone thinks that by designing more colorful and attractive “packaging” he will better be able to sell a low-quality “product” such as the Cuban electoral process, he is wasting time and resources.

This can only be achieved when the process is changed, when it stops being a farce and becomes something serious, when citizens can nominate candidates they really think are better and not someone supported by the sole poltical party, and when they can vote directly for those who will occupy the most important government positions, including the presidency.

I hope the new election law now being written includes these provisions. The problem is not with the packaging; it is with the product inside.

Posted in Fernando Damaso

Intransigence at Any Cost / Fernando Damazo

Fernando Damaso, 16 March 2015 — When a phenomenon is analyzed, or a historical occurrence or any important matter, this analysis should be done objectively evaluating all its components, be they internal or external, without a priori positions, keeping in mind their positive or negative aspects.

Yesterday marked another anniversary of the events which occurred at Mangos de Baraguá on March 15, 1878.

The Baraguá Protest, mounted by General Antonio Maceo and other generals and officials of the Cuban Army of Independence [in the 19th Century against Spain], as a response to the Pact of Zanjón, has been included by history as a symbol of intransigence for Cubans. The virile gesture by Maceo and his comrades deserves the greatest respect — even though it did not correspond to the actual status of the struggle which, except for within the jurisdictions of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, had waned, primarily because of the exhaustion of the Mambí forces, the internal divisions within the Army of Independence, and the rupture between it and the Cuban Government-in-Arms.

Besides, the Camagüey and Las Villas forces, as well as those of Bayamo, plus General Máximo Gómez and other important military leaders, had accepted the Pact and, since February, there were no longer an insurrectionist Executive Power nor Chamber. As a result of the Protest, General Vicente García remained at the helm of the district composed of Las Tunas and Holguín, while Maceo headed the zones of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

Once the hostilities were broken off on March 23, they failed and Antonio Maceo had to lay down arms and, with his family, depart for Jamaica on May 9 (55 days after Baraguá), aboard the gunboat Fernando el Católico [“Ferdinand the Catholic”], which the Spanish Chief General Arsenio Martínez Campos had placed at Maceo’s disposal. On May 28, 74 days after Baraguá, the veterans of that skirmish were laying down arms and acceptingthe Pact of Zanjón. Only Limbano Sánchez in Oriente, and the brigadier Ramón Leocadio Bonachea in the zones of Camagüey and Las Villas — the latter for 11 months — prolonged the resistance, but their efforts proved futile: the Ten Years’ War had ended.

These adverse results do not detract from the protesters of Baraguá, but the days and months that followed demonstrated that they had erred in their assessment of the situation and what needed to be done: they put their libertarian desires ahead of good judgement. In this matter, the perjoratively-named “zanjonerians” (so called for having accepted the Pact) — among them General Máximo Gómez and other important military leaders — proved to have had the greater capacity for analysis.

Unfortunately, this is not what is said and written when recalling Baraguá. Were it to be recognized, however, would perhaps help us to more intelligently confront the various situations we face today, in a complex and changing world. Intransigence at any cost, as history shows, is not always the best option. It behooves us to remember that “Neverland” only exists in children’s stories.

 Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso

A Vote for a Good Appearance / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 25 February 2015 — A journalist has written in a government daily about good appearance — not to demand it, but to question it. She focuses her question on advertisements by certain private businesses, which read: “In search of a young trabajadora [female worker] of good appearance.” (I will add that there also are ads which ask for “young trabajadores [male or non-gender-specific workers] of good appearance.”) In any event, the request is not as limited as the writer describes it, but let us get to the point.

Upon this weak foundation begins her argument regarding discrimination by gender, age, skin color, whether a certain type of figure is required, whether women are objectified for commercial purposes, etc. These are well-known claims, being repeated as they are in the government jargon.

Standards of beauty have always existed. They change with the times, but they do not disappear. Today, as yesterday, they exist, and it is valid to take them into account, especially when it comes to individuals who will be dealing directly with the public. Throughout too many years we have had to suffer male and female clerks and waiters in stores, restaurants, cafeterias and other services who lack a good appearance, who should never have been chosen for those positions.

A good appearance, although it includes primarily the physical aspect, is complemented by upbringing, good manners, correct speech, personal hygiene, and many other factors.

I consider it healthy for the owners of private businesses to first require a good appearance. After that, I am sure they will analyze a candidate’s overall suitability for the position, his/her professionalism, etc., and then, among those of good appearance, they will select the most capable applicants. The State should imitate these business owners.

It always turns out to be a much more pleasant experience to be helped by someone with a good appearance, be it a man or woman, than by someone who does not have it. Besides, we pay for it!

This preference, although it may appear so, is not a division between “inhumane capitalism” and “paternal socialism,” but rather between the beautiful and the formal.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso, Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Regarding the Massive Dumbing-Down / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 20 February 2015 — It has lately become fashionable to speak and write about the need for combatting negative cultural trends that, as is to be expected, arrive from abroad, mostly from the “empire.” This practice has increased since December 17, 2014, when it was announced that diplomatic relations would be re-established with the “empire”… sorry, with the United States government.

Nobody with any sense can bet on the vulgarity, the bad taste, the alienation, the extremisms of all types, the violence, and other ills, but much care must be taken when deciding what is negative, and who determines this. Let us remember that for years this country prohibited foreign music, and to listen to it constituted a crime.

Victims of this absurd policy were Beatles fans, as well as any man who wore his hair long, wore jeans, or looked “peculiar” to the authorities. The UMAP was a crude reality that destroyed the lives of many Cubans, while back then this was said to be in defense of the culture and national identity. That is, to prohibit has never been a good policy, and it is less so now in a world so globalized and digitized as ours, wherein prohibitions are very difficult to apply.

Therefore there is a need to raise the quality and attractiveness of all things Cuban, to compete with what comes from abroad. This makes for a good policy —  if and only if the “compete” part is respected — and no move is made to impose shoddiness, as has been the case up to now, simply because something is “made in Cuba.”

Now, to achieve this requires freedom and resources, without which producers can make very little. Another necessity: leaving chauvinism aside. Our children are not the most educated on the plant (even if UNESCO says so), nor are our women the most beautiful, cultured, sensual, sensible and lucid, nor are the Cuban people the most politically aware, hard-working and brave. All of these statements are no more than clichés, imposed by 56 years of “massive ideological dumbing-down,” arriving actually not from abroad, but made in Cuba.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso, Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Are Interference and Solidarity the Same? / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 11 March 2015 — The words “interference” and “solidarity” have been used interchangeability, according to the political-ideological interests of those who employ them. As a result, the United States practices interference in the internal issues of other countries, and Cuba practices solidarity, which is nothing more than interference under another name.

Just like the extinct Soviet Union did during the “Cold War”: its political interference in its “brother socialists countries” and, armed interference in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan were acts of solidarity or, as it was called then, “proletarian internationalism.”

Cuba has practiced interference, disguised as solidarity, in Latin America and Africa, organizing guerrillas and training its members. In the latter it has also armed Angola and Ethiopia. Allende’s Chile, Nicaragua’s Sandinistas and Noriega’s Panama, were no strangers to Cuba. Today it continues to interfere politically in every way, principally in Venezuela. It repudiated the old “socialist brothers” of Eastern Europe for changing their systems, and today our principal “brothers” are Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.

It is striking that the Venezuelan president repudiates American interference and accepts Cuban, in addition to being its predecessor and meddling in the internal matters of its neighbor countries, including the US. It is a difficult and questionable position to speak of sovereignty and independence, terms, of course, quite obsolete in the globalized world with integration of countries in different organizations: UNASUR, CELAC, ALBA, etc., to name just a few of the region.

I have the impression that, aside from the real interference of the United Stats, the patriotic hysteria is due to the difficult situation the country finds itself in, close to midterm elections, due to the ineptitude of its leaders in solving the country’s problems and achieving stability and development.

In these complex situations it’s recommended to look for a powerful external enemy whom they can blame for all ills, to distract citizens’ attention from those truly responsibility and crushing the opposition (the internal enemy). It’s a very old formula and has been applied with success in other countries and in Cuba with success, from whom the Venezuelan government receives recommendations for interference, excuse me: solidarity.

There is no doubt that both the United States and Cuba (in this case during the last fifty-six years) have accumulated a voluminous record of interference.

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A People Without Representation / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damas, 7 February 2015 — The great tragedy of the Cuban people at the present time is that it lacks true representation. I speak of the average Cuban citizen, who constitutes the majority of the nearly 12-million inhabitants of this Island.

The government, which during the first years of the 1960s signified hope for a better life in a democracy for Cubans, very soon (with the imposition of socialism and its later institutionalization and bureaucratization) began to abandon its representation of the people’s interests and separated itself from them — being preoccupied instead with establishing and consolidating the institutions, organizations and mechanism to perpetuate itself in power indefinitely. Today the regime finds itself separated by light years from the average Cuban, besides being alienated from the hopes and dreams he has for his life.

Neither does the opposition represent the average Cuba because, besides being unknown by the greater part of the citizenry, its platforms are more along philosophical and intellectual lines than practical solutions to the problems related to low wages, the housing shortage, terrible services, nutritional needs, the high cost of living, and other daily issues, which occupy the time and minds of those who struggle day-to-day to survive with their families.

This situation is easy to perceive on the street.

At this moment, although it is painful to admit, the majority of Cubans care little if their government is a dictatorship or a democracy: what matters to them is the opportunity to work, to earn enough money and solve their immediate material problems, thus raising their wellbeing and that of their families.

This means the ability to acquire what is needed to feed and dress themselves, and live in a decent home. In addition, they want to enjoy good services, even if they have to pay for them, and have disposable income for recreation.

Too many have been the years of limitations and shortages while pursuing false chimeras. The speeches and promises, come from where they might, have lost their effectiveness and are no longer of interest.

Whoever can ensure a solution will have the support of the majority of citizens and, whoever does not, will have their full rejection. It is that simple.

This necessitates, from both those who govern as well as their opponents, a serious revision of tactics and strategies, if they desire to reach the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of this country.

These are not times for walking in the clouds, visualizing pleasant projects for a virtual future, but rather for having one’s feet on the ground and mobilizing average Cubans to resolve the present problems. All else will come later.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

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Are There More Than Enough Reasons? / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 16 February 2015 — The Young Communist League (UJC) is a government organization, established and directed by the Party and the government, with the objective of controlling the youth of the Island politically and ideologically. It proclaims itself the sole representative of young Cubans, similar to how other government organizations operate in this totalitarian system — such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), who consider themselves to be the representatives of all Cubans, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which purports to speak for all women, and many others.

In the month of July, on the 18th and 19th, this organization will celebrate its Tenth Congress. The great number of activities planned in advance of this event is notable. They include assemblies, reunions, sporting, cultural, and productive events, and more. All of these will extend way beyond the actual days of the Congress, up to August 13, the birthday of the “Maximum Leader.” In total, almost eight months of events will have taken place before, during and after the Congress in July.

If we consider the amount of time invested plus other costs that all these activities will generate, it is to be expected that the results of the Congress will be “of the utmost importance,” not to mention, as has been the case with the previous nine, “historic.”

The theme of the Congress is “There Are More Than Enough Reasons” and, according to its organizers, it will be manifested in three ideological tracks: “There Are More Than Enough Reasons to Celebrate,” “There Are More Than Enough Reasons to Carry On,” “There Are More Than Enough Reasons to Prevail” — which started on January 4 and will extend until the Congress is held.

Up to now, according to what is published in the press, in the municipal assemblies all discussion appears to be concentrated on the so-called passivity, accommodation and lack of commitment of the militants — in addition to the loss of values, the vulgarity, corruption, social indiscipline, criminal behavior, ideological subversion, and other problems present in Cuban society today, of which the youth are part.

It is a secret to nobody that these problems (and others) are of long-standing and, in spite of many declarations throughout the years, and numerous congresses of the government organizations, have never been resolved. I have the impression that in this Congress there will be much music and dancing (the musical groups and performers who will liven up the proceedings and even the songs that have been created for the event have been identified), theatrical and cinematic shows, book sales, sporting competitions and other similar activities, interspersed with one or another “productive activities” — all to show the world how joyous and enthusiastic  our Cuban youth are, led by their “vanguard,” the UJC.

In the end, all congresses carried out by Cuban government organizations suffer from the same malady: “All talk and no action.” This one will be no exception.

Perhaps the UJC should start to think about how it will survive in a democratic setting, which will arrive sooner rather than later, and where it will have to compete with other youth organizations, which will definitely not be government-sponsored. To think that all Cuban young people, or the majority of them, are socialists and communists is no more than a totalitarian utopia, which daily life constantly refutes.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Posted in Fernando Damaso