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viernes, octubre 30, 2020

We the Ungrateful

by Joany Rojas Rodríguez

The appearance by the Minister of the Food Industry on the national television program Mesa Redonda has triggered criticism, comments, jokes, and memes in the Cuban social sphere and on social media, the usual whenever a public figure screws up badly. And the repercussions go beyond his figure since these events often bring to the fore others which, under normal circumstances, remain concealed behind the happy curtain of silence.

I will not refer to what the minister said or to how he said it… or maybe I’ll do it below. Remember the memes about Trump and the disinfectant? Many of us witnessed or participated in the criticism, comments, and challenges to the president of the most powerful nation in the world for such a foolish remark. Many of us laughed and enjoyed the internet memes on the topic that sprouted daily on the web. One of the qualities that distinguish human beings is laughter, the mockery of what they consider terribly stupid or ridiculous, and that is – correct me if I’m wrong – an escape valve in stress situations. That’s the reason why, for example, the entire world laughed its head off with the magnate’s blunder, instead of having him shot in the head or sending him a missile.

All public figures are exposed to public scrutiny.

We Cubans have an idiosyncrasy molded by shortages and by our typical joyful character. Joking is a natural part of our culture and it has helped us survive through the worst moments, whether individual or collective. Even in funerals, we make jokes. In buses, when people who are desperate for having waited so long trying to get on through a gauntlet of shoves and elbows, practically walking over each other, you see many splitting their sides with laughter as if they were being tickled to death. And that’s because humor is inseparable from the way we are. Whoever tries to take that away from us has already lost the battle.

However, in the last few days, after the broadcast of the above-mentioned Mesa Redonda and everything it triggered, some official media have labeled as being ingrates, parasites, and even bought by the enemy all of those who took to the networks to laugh at the minister’s apparent ineptitude and lack of preparation, and I say apparently because one must always give the benefit of the doubt. Cubans have always made jokes about our leaders, and we have laughed at their fickleness and mistakes. The difference is that now we can express it on social media, which, for better or worse, is here to stay.

It seems the government authorities and the official media haven’t heard about it. We all remember that botched article in the Granma newspaper in which they criticized the makers of the popular TV show Vivir del Cuento for the parodic portrayals of cadres and political leaders at different levels. We know what came afterward. The thing is that our government officials – always so serious and solemn, so impeccable, so pure and all-knowing, so perfect – are never wrong, they never admit any mistakes, and that’s why it’s unfair that we criticize them and even have a laughing fit when we see them talk like they just came out of a science-fiction film.

It would appear we Cubans live surrounded by comfort and lacking nothing, thanks to the efficient and solid work of our officials. I mean, we would be very ungrateful if we showed dissatisfaction in the form of jokes and mockery. In short, the appearance by the comrade minister of the food industry deserves a deluge of applause and loads of gestures and words of gratitude for having informed the people so coherently, with explanations as transparent as chemically pure water, and, above all, for leaving our bellies full with the couple billion tons of food that are being produced.

We have all the right in the world to joke and laugh.

Isn’t it enough with the shortages and miseries we’re enduring? Are we also to worship mediocrity, lack of clarity, poor management, and the outdated verbal diarrhea that justifies everything with the siege of the blockade? Must we feel grateful for that? Must we feel grateful that they mean to feed us with tripe and croquettes? In developed countries, they also make canned food for dogs and cats. Do they think we’re stupid? Pig and cow tripe. And the meat, comrade minister? Who’s eating that?

If one is an ungrateful parasite that contributes nothing to society for laughing at the blunders of our leaders and asking these questions, then sure, I am one. If our officials don’t want to be the object of jokes and mockery, then come back to earth, put your feet on the ground once and for all, because our people, who use humor and jokes as an escape valve, and who also have a high level of education, isn’t stupid at all and will continue to laugh at everything and everyone whenever it feels like it.

Translated from the original