Throughout the millennia, the prophets have announced a kingdom of justice, where the good of all will prevail, as well as the coexistence in harmony, of great feelings of love above selfishness and hatred, the leveling off between poor and rich, strong and weak; where each will receive according to his needs, as conscious creatures, in a higher order, where there is neither oppression nor wars, nor need for State, courts, police, nor codes, laws, parties .
Preparing for this kingdom requires training people who can assume and conduct themselves according to such principles. To say it like Saint Paul in his epistles, it is a question of creating a new man.
No wonder, then, that just as millions have responded to the call of Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, others have identified Martí, Fidel, Che as their spiritual guides. If we read the first paragraph again, we will see that this description could cover them all.
I suspect, however, that putting them in the same bag will cause allergies, among the Tyrians and the Trojans. Fidel and Jesus Christ? Che and Marti? The former would say that the guerrillas preached subversion and armed struggle, not love and peace. The latter would say that to confuse communism with the kingdom of God in the afterlife is a misrepresentation of Marxism-Leninism.
They might all add that the followers of religious prophets share the same faith and those who respond to political leaders share the same ideology. And that is precisely why prophets are revered, while political leaders elicit loyalties, but also fierce opposition.
The problem arises when you look at history, where it’s not so simple to draw that line.
Preaching “the necessary war” and affirming that “being Cuban is more than being white, more than being black”, among other innovative ideas, earned Martí quite a few enemies, not only among fundamentalists , the separatists, the annexationists, but also in his own. ranks. He had to devote as much if not more time to these differences than to the armed organization of the revolution, since nothing less than the launch of independence depended on political conditions.
Blessing “those who are persecuted for righteousness”, those who “slander and persecute”, as “previous prophets were persecuted”, and denouncing superficial materialism and hypocritical religiosity, the dogmatic or self-righteous interpretation of faith, dangerously questioning the status quo in Galilee occupied by the Romans at the time of Jesus: it is not in vain that he will be rejected by the majority of his people and crucified. In a famous chapter of The Karamazov brothersDostoyevsky recounts how the presence and preaching of the Messiah, nearly two millennia later, has kept intact his subversive nature, disagreeable to established powers, including the Church.
“But that part about the prophets is a thing of the past. No one is going to preach new religious beliefs now. And if they do, they have nothing to do with politics,” a Tyrian told me.
What did Martin Luther King Jr. do then, with his prophetic “dream” in front of millions of Americans, if not respond to the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount? This dream of fraternity and justice, where blacks and whites lived together, was also a very political discourse, which called into question the foundations of the system, in the midst of the Vietnam War. Being the struggle of this Baptist pastor from the deep South, rather conservative in many other respects, as “peaceful” as they say, how did he start the most intense and difficult social movement of which we are remember since the civil war (1861-1865)?
Regarding the apolitical character of the faith, we are close to confronting a minority opposed to same-sex marriage and what they see as state interference in the sphere of the “holy family”, based on a bad “gender ideology”. .” Part of this opposition rests on a fundamentalist reading of Scripture, such as the one with which Jesus challenged the Pharisees, that it is all blasphemy.
Finally, just as faith has its politics, politics carries with it attitudes and practices that seem typical of faith.
It is enough to see the daily stream of quotes from Martí, Ché, Fidel, with selected sentences in their context, as if they were verses, to get out of a difficult situation during a debate on any what subject. Extracting the meaning of these sentences in the time they were spoken requires a historical approach to thought and concrete action that gave them political meaning. To use them as gospels amounts to reducing them to their prophetic dimension, and often to making them into dogmas.
It is in circumstances of crisis that the logic of politics emerges and manifests itself in high definition. In a letter of barely 600 words that almost everyone in Cuba knows, Che chooses the moment of the crisis of 1962, among all those experienced within the Revolution, to tell his comrade in arms that “rarely a statesman shone brighter”, and to share his way of “perceiving the dangers and the principles”, in these “bright and sad days”. In this personal letter, barely three years after the events, the words he chose capture the complex intensity of a limited moment.
Written by someone who, like Martí, is a recurring emblem for many Tyrians and Trojans, the letter interprets the crisis of 1962 as a turning point of lucidity and disappointment: marginalized from the dialogue with the superpower by our greatest ally, navigating alone in a deadly current, where navigating the reefs without losing the compass was an unusual feat, a 36-year-old chef became a great statesman.
Going in and out of the nuclear crisis where the war with the United States has taken us, with an ally more experienced militarily, but trapped in deadly competition with his sworn enemy, and unable to decipher the political algorithm of the Cuban Revolution; and doing so in the major leagues of world politics was a trial by fire, only worth it because the newfound dream of independence and sovereignty was once again at stake.
Just as resentment prevents some from appreciating the political spirit of Fidel Castro, recognized by his worst enemies, they also do not see his ability to defend national integrity, even in the face of the force majeure of an essential alliance. with the Soviet Union, which led him to emerge from the missile crisis with the political aura of a Third World leader. This Third World recognition opened a big hole in the American political seat.
To what extent does the political reason required to unravel the skein of an event like this, surely the most studied of the Cold War, contribute to thinking about the other subsequent crises, including ours, that we are going through in this moment ?
When Tyrians and Trojans give their versions of the current crisis, what is most significant is not the differences in approach, but the predominance of qualification over analysis, the postulation of trials and sentences, instead arguments. Someone who knows nothing about Cuba and has read any of the manifestos circulating on the networks about the situation, might get the impression that this is a dispute between beliefs and apothegms, closer to speech religious wars than political reasoning.
Unlike prophets and preachers, but with a similar commitment, politicians must play a role that requires occupation and cultural training that is difficult to achieve in an executive school, or in transit through the dense network of bureaucracy. A profession and a culture that require experience, but above all dedication, the will to serve, the capacity for dialogue, imagination, and a certain amount of courage so as not to be afraid, say, of losing one’s job .
When a politician dares to say in public, for example, that “street protests are right”, he risks fire from those who see protests as nothing less than vehicles of political destabilization, tools of conspiracy, weapons of the enemy. It is not even strange that this fire comes from its own ranks (Friendly Fire), which may be, by the way, the worst of all. In any case, those who monitor these demonstrations are not without reason, because it has happened that excited young people and also 55 and over have come out of the closet of anti-communism, some impetuous, others calculating, get involved in the spontaneous triggering of a demonstration, where sometimes some may participate just to feel what it feels like to shout against the government in the middle of the street.
The right to demonstrate in Cuba
What would be the role of those who are not preachers or politicians, but intellectuals, would be to explain it. By showing politicians, preachers and the rest of society that the protests are part and parcel of a crisis situation, not just on this island, but on dry land. In any case, it is not enough to understand them as just or comprehensible protests, because to see them thus reduces them to acceptable or justified phenomena, but without understanding their nature. If you have to wait Article 56 of the Constitution to be translated into law so that they are legal, the important thing, politically speaking, is that they are already legitimate. That is, part of a normality under construction. And this happens on condition that the Tyrians and Trojans continue to fight, that a leader dares to say that they are “just”, or that others claim that they are barely “understandable”. Because all these qualifiers are subjective assessments of a phenomenon which reveals a changing political culture there, that is to say in society itself.
Explaining this changing reality requires considering that “the cursed circumstance of being surrounded by water” is nothing more than good verse, which reflects nothing of our history or our culture. Otherwise, how to combine this insular and aquatic condition with three revolutions that have transformed its place and meaning in the world? With crises and beliefs that change everything that should be changed, and even, sometimes, what shouldn’t be?
We will see.