The words fade away

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For several years I’ve been noticing that we’ve stopped using such conciliatory words as “excuse me,” “pardon me” and “I’m sorry.” When we put our foot in our mouth, we would rather blame clumsiness than admit our failure. Into that absurd “code of national male-chauvinism,” with laughable phrases such as “a real man doesn’t drink soup, doesn’t eat sweets, etc, etc.,” someone has added the phrase: “A real Cuban doesn’t have to apologize.”

I remember the hilarious anecdote of a friend of mine, whose toe was “crushed” by the narrow heel of a lady passing by.  When he realized the lady was not going to apologize, he got closer to her and said, “Forgive me, Madam, for getting your heel dirty.”  The woman didn’t like the irony at all, and she came very close to again crushing the toe of her “victim.”  All this because she didn’t want to pronounce the magic words to express her regret for the mistake she made.

How many times have we been badly waited on, insulted or ignored by a waiter who is incapable of articulating words such as, “I’m very sorry, Sir.”  A phrase like that does not fix the problem, but at least it leaves you with the sensation that there was no premeditation in such bad service. The record for undelivered apologies, however, goes to the bureaucrats and politicians.  They’ve been our teachers in this “intensive course of not regretting anything.”

We are exceptional students of a government that, in almost fifty years of “dancing alone” on the stage of our politics, has never given an apology for anything.  We’ve been waiting in vain for the necessary mea culpa for the revolutionary crackdown in 1968, for the atrocity of the repudiation meetings, for the dependence on the Soviet Union, and for the successive and disastrous economic plans that ended up in this productive strangulation.  In short, the list is so long and so dramatic that, instead of an apology, it demands a prolonged act of “public self-flagellation.”

Oh, well. I already know politicians never apologize.  That’s why we, their small copies who imitate them, repeating their slogans and poses, also emulate them in not apologizing.  “For what?” the lady who stepped on my friend’s foot would ask.  We already have our toes crushed and up there they don’t want to recognize that they already have their soles “dirty.”

Graffiti on the barrel: Save. (in white: “that”) There isn’t much.

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218 thoughts on “The words fade away

  1. Here in Brazil, during the “mensalão” scandal, the president just said that he didn’t know anything. However, brazilian governors tend to use apologies as a way to appear more human, to win people’s admiration.

    Not apologizing is inhuman (only gods don’t apologize. In the Bible, God just does what he means, without the need of explaining, and the humans just don’t want to know why.). The case of the dirty heel is emblematic. When a person treats another that way, he or she is saying that “some animals are more equal than others”.

  2. Living in the United States for many years, I learned that government functionaries and leaders can do more than merely ‘not apologize’. Perhaps the single most important phrase that’s come out of the travesty of Iraq came when the Vice President said, not “We made a mistake”, but “Mistakes were made”. That simple bit of semantic change meant that no one was responsible.

    ‘I’ made a mistake, or ‘he’ made a mistake, or ‘we’ made a mistake… all these are admissions of responsibility. “Mistakes were made” is mere acknowledgement without responsibility.

    It is, of course, a true statement– mistakes were made. But they were made by individuals… and that is what the politicians will never admit.

    And, of course, there are the false apologies. In the case of the man whose foot was stepped on, had the woman said “I’m sorry that you didn’t like my stepping on your foot”, it would not have meant the same as “I’m sorry that I stepped on your foot”. The first acknowledges no guilt on her part– his feelings of pain or insult were his own responsibility.

    Never believe anyone who says ‘Oh, that’s just semantics”. Semantics are all we have with which to communicate, and when we choose our words in ways to avoid responsibility… well, the Fidels and the Bushs of the world may be closer than they’d like to admit.

  3. Every Generation says the same thing.
    Welcome to being old.
    youngsters have always been losing their manners.
    Life is hard in Cuba -Welcome to Latin America.
    This generation will no doubt continue the effort towards a better society.
    Even if it is a dream…its one worth living for.
    Peace.

  4. Geetings from Los Angeles, CA USA. God bless you Geny. I am a proud American of Cuban decent (mi mama es de Palma Soriano y mi papa es de Guantanamo). We are very proud of you and pray that God keep you healthy, brave and safe. My father is writing an article about you in next week’s edition of 20 DE MAYO- a local newspaper of Cuban exiles who have fled the tyrannical regime. It can be accessed through 20demayo.com. YOU ARE A TRUE HEROINE!

  5. You have a very special blog…i am an old-timer..born in 1955, but i think the internet is a very good thing. as well as all digital technology. i started my blog in aug 2005 and my youtube channel in jan of this year…we differ in style, you are very polite and im more of a in your face style….i admire and respect people who have courage, and you certainly do, as well as intelligence. my politics are a mix of left-libertarian and free market style economics.. keep up the great work and congratulations on your new international awards…peace, markus from tampabay , fl…

  6. Pingback: Jon

  7. Yoani, well said but one of those macho gringos who dont say “i’m sorry” or never say he makes mistakes is Bush, and look at the 100K plus civilian deaths including children and also animals in irak. It’s nice you have this blogo but you are there and not here and now in these latter years I have seen that your liberator Marti was right in the 1800s when he said ” I know the monster because I lived under its “entran~as”..and this is still true after centuries. You really don.t know you live good and happy there, the only ones that live happily in USA are the white skinned ones as racism and discrimination is rampant in USA, they get the best jobs and pay just for their race and justice is not equal also. I wish you can come and live here for 6 months or a year, just recently one of your countrymen surprised me, with less than a year here he found out what I found out in 2 decades. very clever man, he is now doing papers to move to spain. He noticed the prejudice quickly and disliked it. I hope someday someone tells you the same thing..that’s really evil to judge somebody for his/her skin color or national origin, this is hate and all haters are evil, period, and this grows with the years and I soon will get the hell outta here.
    God bless you…

  8. Eco on Yanesti’s first paragraph. In Holland, where I live, sorry, excuse me and thank you are extinct words. No matter where you are, live… is not about race or culture, is about moral.

  9. congratulation on time 100! you are a secret no more. i live in mobile alabama the sister city of havana. we are polite here. you should come visit. i have been to havana. very beautiful. keep writing. i will put you on my web site coastal alabama.tv! adios robin delaneY

  10. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU CAN EQUATE A LAW ABOUT SEAT BELTS TO BEING BAKED ALIVE IN A TIN CELL AS IS DR. OSCAR ELIAS BISSET! IT WILL SOON BE OVER FOR THE CASTRO BROTHERS. FIDEL IS DEAD AND RAUL IS HOLDING ON UNTIL THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELCTIONS. HE HAS HIS FINGERS CROSSED OBAMA WINS AND LETS HIM AND HIS CROONIES LIVE OUT WHATEVER YEARS THEY HAVE LEFT ( AVERAGE AGE OF THE “NEW” RULING CLASS ID 79! ) IN CUBA LIVING THE GOOD LIFE AS THEY HAVE DONE FOR 50 YEARS!

  11. I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU CAN EQUATE A LAW ABOUT SEAT BELTS TO BEING BAKED ALIVE IN A TIN CELL AS IS DR. OSCAR ELIAS BISSET! IT WILL SOON BE OVER FOR THE CASTRO BROTHERS. FIDEL IS DEAD AND RAUL IS HOLDING ON UNTIL THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELCTIONS. HE HAS HIS FINGERS CROSSED OBAMA WINS AND LETS HIM AND HIS CROONIES LIVE OUT WHATEVER YEARS THEY HAVE LEFT ( AVERAGE AGE OF THE “NEW” RULING CLASS ID 79! ) IN CUBA LIVING THE GOOD LIFE AS THEY HAVE DONE FOR 50 YEARS!

  12. Nobody Important,

    Donations may indeed be too socialistic, but please keep in mind that any receipts, whether acquired through donations or click through ads, would constitute a private for-profit enterprise, and that would be illegal in Cuba. So too bad, she will just have to do it because she is passionate about what she is doing. You on the other hand are too simple to realize that, perhaps you may want to start a competing blog and request donations. I also suggest you keep your day job, more likely, don’t give up the food stamp allotment.

  13. Jorge,

    You are the best, I especially like the Viva Fidel response, with which I agree 100%.

    By the way, you do realize rubbish blog is just a “patria o muerte” monitoring the blog, right? ektor is another.

  14. Scottish socialist,

    You crack me up, so you visited Cuba, as a tourist I suppose, now you feel for the Cuban people, so much so that you justify the lack of freedom by pointing out how much harm the CIA “would have done” if this freedom existed! Let me ask you something, is there freedom of speech in Scotland? Does the CIA meddle in Scotland’s affairs? Do you think the Cuban people so hapless and simple as to not have learned from the mistakes of the past? Aaah!!! But just in case they may be, then let’s make sure that the government controls every aspect of everyday life, after all, what better system than socialism to ensure equality and well being. If you doubt that, go live in Cuba is a perfect living example of just how well socialism works. Please not I suggested that you go live in Cuba, not visit it as a tourist, oh that’s right, you can’t do that, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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