Miércoles, 24 de Julio de 2019
Última actualización: 10:45 CEST
Politics

Revolutions lack education

Act of repudiation by the official Cuban delegation, Summit of the Americas (Panama), 2015. (EFE)

Education (in the amplest sense, encompassing upbringing, and the instilment of values) transcends mere instruction, and is more important than economics, because values are what make economic development possible. Without values there can be economic growth, but not development. I believe that there is a univocal relationship between moral codes and national productivity.

The issue of education, and the kind of behaviour it inculcates, has recently come to the fore again due to the number of insults, and not the subtler ones that can be found in the General Inventory of Insults written by Spain's Pancracio Celdrán, but rather the vulgar type, from marginalized areas, of which  Yoaní Sánchez has been a preferred target. And not insults leveled by the marginalized, but rather by high-ranking, "educated" State officials, with studies in the likes of Letters, and Accounting.

I would like to recommend a magnificent text, Waltz of Ethics, by the French thinker Alain Etchegoyen, almost a handbook for anyone who wants to understand why in demoralized societies, insults are demoralizing, and people end up struggling to eat well.  Unless they receive money from abroad. The type of conflict, also demoralizing, by the way, that the State has been prominently engaged in, through ETECSA (State telecom), which has the right to receive the money from abroad, which is, ultimately, where everything received in Cuba comes from. If the Government receives it, it is just laundered. But if a citizen receives it, he is tarnished, a mercenary.

The profound problem with values is that revolutions lack education. Or worse. Revolutions are miseducated. If you don't believe it, look at how revolutionaries are capable of alternatively carrying out an homage, or an act of repudiation, in Geneva; in Colón, Matanzas province, or in New York. Without education there is no possibility of inculcating values of any kind. That the institution dedicated to teaching bears the name of "Ministry of Education" is a case of confusing nomenclature with purpose.

The crucial dilemma is that revolutions do not build new values based on the foundational ones they demolish. This is an impossible task. The moral paradigm of Cuban public education, being like Che, has been spurn by each successive generation with evident self-assurance, almost impudence. In fact, if the first generations, educated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, embraced this ideal, it was not because they were embracing the incipient morality of the Revolution, but rather because they were children educated in the past who still respected what their parents, grandparents and teachers told them. To the extent that this respect for one's elders degenerated, the fulfilment of the revolutionary model decayed proportionately.

Yes, that is indeed what I am saying: the possibility of revolutionary values has always depended on the strength of bourgeois values. The French Revolution was not a complete disaster for two reasons falling outside to its internal dynamics: the first is that its ideals were forged on the anvil of the Enlightenment, not imagined by Robespierre; the second is that one of the most admired men in its history, Napoleon, was a counterrevolutionary who came up with an excellent plan to salvage the egalitarian spirit of 1789: a civil code that eschewed all the revolutionaries' pompous and vulgar language. Then France, without kings, and more egalitarian, reacquired its old aristocratic ways, which endured, and continue to endure, even beyond the anti-bourgeois rebellion of May 1968.

The same cannot be said of other revolutions. A "revolution" that drags on an and on, like the Mexican or the Cuban, destroys values without creating any that can replace them. Mexico was able to gradually recover because it had an Octavio Paz, or a Carlos Fuentes, who in their own way expressed the triumph of the counterrevolution and, thereby, salvaged some of the original ideals of the Mexican Revolution. But the so-called Cuban "Revolution" was not able to generate any decent and distinguished counterrevolutionary, although there were people of some stature there to resist the machine producing and reproducing its excesses, thereby rescuing some of its initial ideals.

The problem is twofold: violence and language. As we all know well and suffer daily, violence is pernicious in two ways: it is devoid of arguments; and, in fact, it is hostile to them. Its relationship with others lacks moral rationality. And the language typical of it, which is the other and same face of violence, is only capable of expressing the reductive needs of the revolution, in a vicious circle between killing the enemy and destroying him with guttural sounds and vulgar words.  

And the question is structural. Without violence and the crude and vulgar degrading of language there is no revolution. It should be noted that the language of the Cuban revolution drew on a few sources: the crudeness of rural speech, the Spanish penchant for insult, and the harshness of marginal spheres, in which one must simply survive. When one listens to the revolutionary discourse, he is taken aback by its language, but then he understands that without those terms the process that began in 1959 would have been but a flash in the pan. When examining the official rhetoric, we come across violent metaphors referring to the likes of machete charges, bludgeoning the enemy, and hitting him hard.  Compared to these metaphors, what is the power of logic, of the simplest syllogism, or complex thinking?  I have always wondered why most physicists are not revolutionaries. One answer lies in the complexity of their language. The other is that most are decent people.

But, without language, there are no values. I call the revolutionary discourse "language" out of my incapacity to assign it another name. Theoretically, revolutions seek the elimination of all kinds of genuine language, to replace it with well calculated formulas; in Cuba, with neo-language, and verbal and physical violence. Revolutions tend to create a paradox that, at first glance, is inexplicable: in them, lyricism acquires such grandiosity that it confuses those who observe the revolutions closely and their daily, prosaic actions.

In this regard the poetry of Silvio Rodríguez  —"I live in a free country, which only wants to be free"— masks social vulgarity. The word gusano (worm) comes to mind here, and sublimates the demagogic and euphemistic rhetoric of a power (is there a less imaginative euphemism than the rationing card?) that was not able to communicate a single transcendental idea.

When poetry and rhetoric disappear, the only times when revolutions live more or less in peace, what is left?  Grumbling about destroyed values; and the attempt (quite hypocritical, incidentally) to recover them through an aristocratic fiction that the revolutionaries reject, or claim to; and the blot of a certain popular form of speech that conveys, at every level, an absence of ideas and imagination. 

Had we not agreed that the language of yesterday was that of a bourgeoisie in decline, well depicted in the film Memories of Underdevelopment? Why do we suppose that the public discourse of reggaeton is not the same private discourse of the revolutionaries? A decent revolutionary is an unconfessed dissident.

Something seems wrong. It seems that to uphold the discourse and the ways of the bourgeoisie, the only thing that remains after the disaster of all revolutionary actions, is the rhetorical operation equivalent of the golf championships won right in the heart of decadent Castroism. This would be a credible development if it were accompanied by a profound critique of the revolution itself. Everything else is like accusing the people of being guilty because they are the people. A culpability that is misplaced, conveyed belatedly, and that makes us look like stupid.

In every profound sense, being a gusano, or "worm" (anti-Castro Cuban exile) today means a struggle to restore citizenship, just as being a mambí (Cuban soldier who fought for independence) yesterday implied the beginning of an era: the revolutionary one.