Citizen Helplessness

The Electric Utility, it seems, opens a hole in what’s left of the sidewalk to replace a pole, does its work, and leaves as a souvenir the broken sidewalk, a pile of dirt of prevent or hinder the passage of pedestrians and places, barely, a piece of a piece of wood from a cable spool, and eyes that saw them go.

The Havana Water Department opens a trench in some street, even if it’s newly paves, puts in its pipes, fills it with dirt and, barely, covers it with a thin layer of cement. In a few days the stretch becomes a pothole that prevents or hinders the passage of vehicles and eyes that saw them go.

You arrive at the door of a neighborhood store that sells in freely convertible currency (CUC) and, when you tries to enter, the guard tells you  to wait, that the entry is two by two. You look inward, through the glass, and observe there are only three customers and you ask, “Why two by two?” Finally you go and buy your products. The cashier is next to the guard at the door. He looks at your products, and the cashier collects you money and when you are going out you have to show your purchases and proof you paid for them, as he rummages through your plastic bag.

The kiosk, also selling in CUC, where there offer a few dairy products and open and there’s an employee inside, watching the pedestrians pass. You greet him the clerk, without returning the greeting, says they’re not selling anything because there’s no electricity. You are stunned and ask: “Is it because you don’t know how to add with pen and paper?”

These are a few examples of what constitutes an infinitely small part of civic helplessness. Someone may say: protest, do not accept it, demand your rights. You can, but it’s like plowing the desert, and you only risk a rude or violent response, depending on the mood of the person you demand them from, who enjoys impunity. What about the authorities? Fine, thank you. They are concerned with other things, preferably politics.

This is the result of living in a country where, for more than fifty years, the exercise of citizens’ rights and respect for them has been a pending matter.

2 April 2013

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