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    Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism

    Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism / Cubanet, Miriam
    Celaya

    Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 June 2017. – A characteristic feature
    of ineffective and outdated political regimes is the constant appeal to
    the historical past as a mechanism for legitimizing the present, and as
    a resource for survival. In the case of Cuba, this principle has been
    the rector of official discourse and its means of diffusion, and it has
    been applied with particular force in the teaching of History.

    As a consequence, several generations of Cubans born shortly before or
    after 1959 have grown up indoctrinated in the assumption that all events
    from the “discovery” of the Island by Christopher Columbus through
    Spanish colonization, the Taking of Havana by the British, the Wars of
    Independence, and the brief Republic were nothing more than the
    flagstones that paved the long road that would lead to this (even
    longer) path -with airs of eternity- known as the “Cuban Revolution”,
    our nation’s only and final destination.

    The preaching took almost religious tones. Just as Noah saved all of
    Earth’s living species, the boat “Granma”, with its young crew, was the
    Cuban people’s “salvation”. Thus, judging from history textbooks at all
    levels of “revolutionary” teaching, the founding fathers, the
    illustrious pro-independence, the brightest Cuban-born intellectuals,
    and all decent Cubans for the last 525 years had their hopes set, though
    they didn’t know it, in today’s “socialist” Cuba and, above all, in the
    pre-eminent guidance of an undisputed leader of world stature who would
    continue to lead the ship even beyond material life: Fidel Castro.

    With enthusiasm worthy of better causes, most Cuban professors,
    including those who teach other subjects and not just History, have
    reinforced the systematic misrepresentation of the past. An illustrative
    example might be that of a professor at the Faculty of Arts and Letters
    of the University of Havana, who would tell her students that “José
    Martí would have been a perfect Cuban, except for one limitation: he was
    not a Marxist. However, had he been born in this era, he would most
    certainly have been a Marxist. No comments.”

    However, despite the official efforts, the flat rejection of history is
    embodied in the obstinate student response. Year after year, pedagogical
    technocrats, faithful servants of the regime, therefore, accomplices of
    that apocryphal, mechanical and boring Cuban History, insist in the
    useless need for improving teaching programs, “updating” the contents
    and adapting them to the present in order to make them “more attractive”
    for students. The problem is a fundamental one, since the objective and
    basic principle of the subject is still to blur the values of the past,
    to praise a failed sociopolitical system -a fact that most students can
    verify in the reality that surrounds them- and to glorify the leadership
    that today’s young people find distant, alien and unwanted.

    So perverse has the indoctrination been, and so reinforced the idea that
    in Cuba everything has been done and decided since January 1st, 1959,
    that it has resulted in the opposite effect than what the Power
    attempted to achieve. Not only do the new generations show disinterest
    in Cuba’s history, but many young people feel alienated from the system,
    from the country where they were born, and from that future as promising
    as it is unattainable, in search of which their parents and grandparents
    became uselessly worn out. The Revolution has lost its heroic quality
    for the new generations, who perceive it as a sort of fatal outcome
    which they would rather take no notice of. Now the heroes and villains
    of video games are infinitely more exciting than that gang of hungry and
    stinking guerrillas who roamed an inhospitable mountain range.

    It is not by chance, then, that the worst university entrance exams
    results, especially in recent years, are precisely in the subject of
    Cuban History, according to Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, Minister of
    Education, within the framework of the National Council of Federation of
    Secondary Education Students (FEEM), adjourned in Havana this last
    Saturday, May 27th.

    The same Minister also expressed concern about the decrease in the
    number of students taking the entrance exams, a phenomenon that is
    becoming stronger every year, which shows the growing lack of interest
    of the new generations in higher education studies in a country where
    professionals often make less than many skilled workers or employees in
    restaurants and the service industries.

    In fact, unlike the generations of students of the 70’s and 80’s, the
    current tendency is a decrease in university enrollment, which does not
    necessarily entirely correspond to a State policy, as some claim, but to
    a scenario that is distancing itself from the official utopia and
    speeches as it approaches an increasingly crumbling reality.

    Successive attempts to attract students for teaching careers have not
    had the expected results either. Not only are their enrollments still
    insufficient, but these centers are essentially sustained by those
    students whose depressed academic averages prevent them from pursuing
    other, more attractive majors. For decades, teaching careers -along with
    agricultural specialties– have not been in very high demand, which is
    why they have been the last and sometimes, the only option for
    low-achieving young people aspiring to higher education. This factor, in
    turn, has weakened the teaching levels, particularly in primary, middle,
    and pre-university education.

    In turn, the relative success of some private sectors (the
    self-employed), related to restaurant services, tourism and other
    activities independent of the State seem to be influencing the
    decision-making of young people when it comes to choosing between
    continuing university studies or opting for expeditious and practical
    training that allows them to enter a much more attractive and better
    paying labor market.

    The crude reality that today’s generations exhibit far surpasses their
    parents’ naive romanticism, whose paradigm of success, prestige and
    salary advantages were first achieved by getting a university degree, a
    mirage that faded rapidly in the face of the deep economic crisis -never
    surpassed- which produced in Cuba the collapse of the so-called real
    Eastern Europe socialism and pushed thousands of qualified professionals
    into survival mode, translated into occupational reorientation in the
    presence of the devaluation of the currency, some of them being
    contracted out, into conditions of semi-slavery (as in the paradigmatic
    case of doctors) or, markedly accented, in emigration as the best
    alternative.

    Today’s young people -in many cases unaware- are in the presence of the
    end of the utopia that marked the lives of several generations of
    Cubans. At last, capital has come to be imposed, so they prefer to
    dedicate themselves to what provides them with income and prosperity in
    the shortest possible term.

    It is a pragmatic vision without doubt, more in tune with a
    post-egalitarian society, where contrasts proliferate between some
    absurd “Guidelines” commanded by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the
    glamour of capitalism appearing in the stained glass windows of the new
    luxury hotels in Havana and other areas of the country. “If the power
    elite and their descendants can enjoy the good things in life, why not
    us?” reason young people.

    It’s true that there are still some areas of interest for young Cubans
    in higher education, as in careers related to computer science,
    industrial engineering, and art and design, among others. However,
    suffice it to consult the enrollment figures today and contrast them
    with those in previous years to envision a future that is still being
    sketched with lines unequivocally opposed to the utopia.

    All indicates that the old myth of the levels of education of Cubans has
    begun to crumble, and with it, that sentence that “the future in Cuba
    will be that of men of science”. Another gross error of the
    Unmentionable, because the Cuban future will belong to those enlightened
    ones that have learned better to conduct themselves under the empire of
    capitalism.

    Translated by Norma Whiting

    Source: Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism / Cubanet,
    Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba –
    translatingcuba.com/between-the-official-utopia-and-the-generational-realism-cubanet-miriam-celaya/