Staging Civil Society

The Summit of the Americas is the best opportunity for Cuba. For the first time since 1959, our country has and will take advantage of the occasion provided by the international community to put itself in sync with the world.

Let’s review. In 1985 the Cuban government had an excellent moment to link the country to the height of what was coming. Instead it decided not to take advantage of perestroika and the opportunity it opened, at some point, to stop the country’s structural crisis, although to do so they would have had to recognize the structural crisis of the country’s model.

In all likelihood it would not have saved socialism if the government had used the occasion to transform itself, but if would have saved, for example, the sugar industry. By not making the necessary changes, we’re left today with neither socialism nor sugar.

This second opportunity is better and distinct. Distinct, because it continues the gradual process of returning to our natural geopolitical space. Better, because for the first time the entire country is invited to this process of integration.

None of the forums in this part of the world engage Cuba in its entirety. Neither the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), nor the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) think about Cuba when they use the mail to open their doors to the country. For them it is about “thinking of the heights,” which only recognizes our nation through the State. No more, no less.

With the VII Summit of the Americans, everything changes. The Americas, half reluctantly among its Latin part, accept that those who disagree with the regime and those who support it against all common sense are on an equal footing.

This is a formidable challenge. Fundamentally for the democratic civil society. There we can do what we have been taught from a young age at all possible levels of education and what is projected almost daily in the Island’s communication media and from the corners of official politics, in those most hidden places of the Island. We can scream, offend, exclude and continue to focus onmoral destruction of the adversary, rather than on rational discussion of the arguments. We can also say, as the political narrative in use accustoms us to do: them no, us yes. That is, we can project ourselves in a negative way, adding impropriety to the complaint. But this is not recommended.

Panama is giving us the opportunity to close the cycle of a long transition from uncivil language to civic language

The Seventh Summit of the Americas will surely be a space of wider exposure and a more intense light than we have had for years. Surely it can be considered the greatest visibility for Cuba at any time since 1962.

And we must take advantage of this in several ways: first, to vindicate an image. The Cuban government has effectively sold, especially in Latin America and more than a few U.S. circles, the idea of an incapable people, kind of rundown without purpose or goals, just asking for benefits, and doing it directly now that we can travel.

Second, to refine the language. The language learned for too many years in Cuba is not a civil language of the civilized. They raised us on insults, on low attacks, on the primary stories of tangled and foul politics that are the ultimate negation of the civic that can’t be understood without moderation, the choice of appropriate words, tolerance and respect for the differences that make the world and civil society. Civil society is basically this: the difference that coexists with independent judgment and from social autonomy. The only thing that makes depersonalization of the conflicts and the same differences possible. Panama is bringing us the opportunity to close the cycle of a long transition from uncivil language to civil language. It brings to the Cuban government the chance to start this same transition. The faster the better.

Third, to calmly assume the legitimacy of Cuban society itself. A misconception, based on the political distortion that many States, particularly Latin American ones, make of social life is that of introducing the concept of representation, which is typical of parties, corporations and assemblies, within the values or requirements of civil society. Civil society can be managed by its representatives, but it is not more or less legitimate because it represents sectors or grups. Its legitimacy comes from the expression of different projects within society. Thus, the nature of civil society is its diversity. The more diverse it is, the richer it is. Thus, quietly: a voice is civil society even though it does not have an army behind it.

We must leave behind the language of the complaint and pain, moving to one where ideas and proposals prevail

Fourth, to send the best message of a civilized civil society: that of inclusion. We have experienced firsthand a fifty-year exclusion, which we repay in kind. A coherent defense of civil society is only possible when we include others. This assumes the risk, like that assumed by Yoani Sanchez, of including the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), an organization formed to destroy the civil nature of coexistence from the most basic level, between neighbors and families, within the vast concept of civil society; which means for the CDRs the challenge of supporting citizens without spying on them.

Fifth, and finally, to leave behind the language of complaint and pain, moving to one where ideas and proposals prevail. Possibly the representatives of Revolutionary civil society, which answers to the regime’s discourse, be it in their critical or contemplative vision, will have an idea in one hand and stick in the other, aimed at our heads. But the best thing for us is to have two ideas, one in each hand, to share in a space where many, if not all, will be attentive to our staging. This must be worthy of the best theater.

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