A phony 'civil society'
We know that in totalitarian regimes history does not unfold gradually, but rather suddenly, in fits and starts. And as totalitarian efforts spawn more losses than gains, not much more can be expected of the sham civil society concocted in Cuba's pro-government spheres. This is yet another monster designed to pursue the same strategy as always: perpetuate an archaic power, but with a facade making it acceptable in the eyes of institutions and dimwitted or ideologically sympathetic "progressive" governments around the world.
Apparently improvised, Havana is now teeming with new associations, foundations, and civic and social organizations that are acting (or think they are, or wish to seem that they are) as mediators between citizens and the State. Suddenly we are seeing a range of different interests of individuals "represented" in an environment in which presentation as an individual and, even worse, as a group, was always considered politically objectionable.
Cunning, institutions and certain figures affiliated with the regime have moved to capitalize on certain issues that constitute priorities amongst altruists, and also among hypocrites and phonies around the world. Orchestrating the handling of such issues, they have manufactured the mannequin of a "new civil society," with a body of individuals and the dictatorship’s malicious head.
From environmental awareness to sexual or religious choice; from accommodating people with disabilities to the protection of certain animals; from antiracism and feminism, to the salvaging of traditions... from the serious to the light, from the banal to the transcendent, from a fondness for Harley-Davidson motorbikes, or playing dominoes, to winegrowing, or even a nostalgia for ballroom dancing... anything under the sun can be successfully exploited to manipulate views off the Island, and to control the behavior of people on it, through the "spontaneous" association of individuals in "non-governmental" organizations.
We have already witnessed the farce of self-employed Cubans marching, organized to celebrate Labor Day, almost as laughable as the gays and lesbians who demanded freedom for the "Five Heroes," and certain mediators of Orula whose snails prophesy according to the orders of the Goverment.
Perhaps not all those who have joined these new associations, foundations, civic and social organizations, should necessarily be viewed as knowing accomplices of the trap laid by the regime. Some are sure two-fold victims: of the deception itself, and also of the climate of economic hardship, political helplessness, institutional vacuity and collective uncertainty in which they were born and raised, and where they still live.
Perhaps it is too much to ask people who for several generations have been stripped of their most essential identities, and trained to be docile automatons, to rise up with wisdom and responsibility to lay claim to their individual rights.
The truth is that we should not expect them to assume with the necessary depth the role that should belong to them in civil society, simply because they do not know what it is. Most do not even know what those two words together, “civil society,” mean as a concept, and, of course, neither do they have any idea how they should proceed in terms of organizational practices.
Of course, as one truth does not necessarily exclude another contrary one, it is likely that though harmful for the moment, the new policy morass contrived by the regime's kingpins will likely up blowing up in its face. Even so, this is not reason enough to celebrate it, nor to accept it with a tragic spirit, but rather only to view it with the caution it merits. For, though at first glance it appears to constitute another example of idiosyncratic local color in Cuba, it is surely brewing up a poison that will have to be dealt with in a future democracy, when a genuine independent civil society can finally play a real role.
Nor should we forget the efforts that have been made by some peaceful opposition groups to bolster the organization of the kind of genuine independent civil society the country needs so direly, and is loudly demanding. Nor should we forget the viciousness with which the regime's repressive forces attack the slightest of this, demonstrating, as is known all too well, their absolute contempt for any efforts that are not designed by them and to serve their interests.