By Giordan Rodríguez Milanés
On the evening of Saturday, November 24, at the ‘Céspedes’ Square in Manzanillo, there was a celebration of the 87th anniversary of the first radio broadcast in this city with a –so-called– ‘political-cultural’ gala. In a context marked by food stalls, music and activities for children, about fifty radio producers, journalists, writers and musicians were at the square, along with the First Secretary of the Communist Party, the President of the local government, the representatives of the ICRT (the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television) in the municipality and the province, and several other officials. In front of all, there was the Flag of the Lone Star; a large National Flag hanging horizontally from a balcony, with the red triangle on the wrong side –that is, to the right of the observer–, in clear violation of the National Symbols Law passed less than a year ago.
Apparently, nobody paid attention to the blunder. Nobody, except for a couple of writers from another city who were rushing to get to an activity of the AHS (a Cuban young artists association). They asked who had displayed the flag like that, but the workers at the food stalls who sold snacks and drinks right under it didn’t know. The writers weren’t aware either that the main people responsible for the observation and enforcement of the law in Manzanillo were only a few yards away. They probably didn’t even know them. The writers took a photo, sent it to me, and yours truly published it with a note in my Facebook wall and in the group AMIGOS DE CUBADEBATE.
I will not proceed to questioning how so many people who are supposedly committed to respecting national symbols could overlook such a gaffe. Even if I wanted, I wouldn’t be able to write another Blindness –I am not Saramago. I will, however, try to analyze the logic of those who, in the Facebook group AMIGOS DE CUBADEBATE, showed themselves more indignant about the publication of the fact than about the fact itself. Replies such as: ‘Instead of taking the photo, they should have approached one of the officials and said something’; ‘It’s very easy to just criticize’; ‘Hopefully whoever took the photo was well-meaning’; ‘I think it shouldn’t have been published, it shouldn’t have become a controversy’.
Blaming Hermes of the seriousness of the message he carries, or of not delivering that message to ‘the right person’ is not a new trend in a sector of Cuban society. Such a logic of social self-denial has sustained excessive secrecy; the principle that ‘dirty laundry is washed at home’; that ‘the people’ –in abstract– are to be blamed for lack of discipline, and not those who organize certain actions; or that criticism or complaints in communication platforms solve nothing, and are only helpful to enemies.
What’s relatively new is the possibility of analytically observing the dynamics of a group in the social networks, and of seeing how a sector reacts to a reality that’s different from the model we set for ourselves. The first noticeable thing is that, in a group precisely named AMIGOS DE CUBADEBATE, with over 5,000 members, less than 50 people interacted with the post. There’s at least four possible readings: most of them don’t really care that the National Symbols Law was violated; they have concerns about the law being violated, but they believe this shouldn’t be made public and that there’s no need to have a debate; they believe that denouncing the violation of a law is worse than the violation itself; or they assume whoever denounces it is playing along with the enemy and, therefore, attention should not be paid to them.
Of those who did interact, only 8% argued in one or more comments against the fact itself and in favor of its publication. 16% –twice as many– were more concerned about the publication than about the actual incident. A check of the profiles of those in the latter group indicates that 100% of those who defended the idea of not publishing are or were public officials or leaders.
I understand that the sample is small even to attempt to establish exploratory conclusions. What’s in the mind of the thousands who preferred passiveness and silence is shrouded in mystery. That’s what’s really worrying.
It’s really not necessary to point out that local media made absolutely no reference to the flag being incorrectly displayed, even though nearly every journalist in town was at the Manzanillo square. Nevertheless, beautiful pictures of our flag have started to pop up in some of their profiles. There one can see it hoisted in the wind, with a deep blue sky in the background, proud and unashamed. Of course, I’ve given a “Love” reaction to all those pictures, though I understand that they in no way solve the problem of a blindness it seems Saramago himself would fail to comprehend.
(Translated from the original)