The corruption of survival


He’s 28 and works at a hotel pool because his stepfather bought him a job in the tourism industry.  His command of English is awful but with the two thousand pesos he paid to the administrator, he didn’t have to prove he could speak it.  More than half the bottles of rum and coca cola he sells at the snack bar he bought himself at the retail price.  His colleagues taught him how to sell his own “merchandise” first, over that which the State sells to tourists.  Thanks to this trick, on every shift he pockets what a neurosurgeon would earn in a month.

His rhythm of spending is tied to his illegal profits, so he tries to comply rather than clash on the plane of “ideological unconditionality.”  He’s one of the first to arrive when called to a march or to the May-Day parade.  In his wardrobe, for when needed, he has a pullover with the Five Heroes, another with Che’s face, and a dark red one that says “Battle of Ideas.”  If his boss tries to catch him diverting resources, he wears one of those shirts and the pressure eases.

At his young age, he already understands that it doesn’t matter how many times you cross the line of illegality as long as you keep applauding.  Some slogans shouted at a political event, or that time he spoke out against a counterrevolutionary group, have helped him keep his lucrative employment.  His hands, that today steal, cheat customers, and divert goods from the state, six years ago these same hands signed a constitutional amendment to make the system “irreversible.”  For him, if they let him continue to line his pockets, socialism could well be eternal.

Translator’s note:
Five Heroes = Five Cuban men convicted of spying in the United States.  More detail about this ongoing case can easily be found by searching on: five heroes Cuba.

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10 thoughts on “The corruption of survival

  1. Pingback: Generatie Y/Generación Y » De harige staart van de kat

  2. Can’t say I am surprised. Governments try to control people, but ultimately they cannot fully achieve that goal. The closest to come to it is probably the DPRK and the Kims. That said, this guy is obviously living his dos caras life in order to survive. He is gaming the system.

  3. Lawrence Lessig in a recent lecture on the copyright assault on contemporary culture makes the following point:

    “We live in this weird time. It’s like an age of prohibitions, where in many areas of life we live life constantly against the law. Ordinary people live life against the law. And that’s what they are doing to our kids. They live life knowing they live it against the law. That realization is extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corrupting and in a democracy we ought to be able to do better.”

    Only in Cuba it’s ‘many more areas of life’.

  4. Todos somos explotados, en todo el mundo…solo hay que aprender como retener la dignidad maxima en cualquiet situacion.

    Le parece?

    Bravo por tu Blog!!

  5. That reminds me of the fable of ‘the fox and the raven’ written by Jean de La Fontaine.
    “Todo adulador vive as custas de quem é adulado”.
    Salutos desde Brasil.
    keep going with the blog, it is great!

  6. Yes, sure , there are other blogs, but lamantablemente Generation Y is right on. I have family in Cuba and visit every year at least once. and I have to say Yaoni IS RIGHT ON. claudio

  7. Freidrich Hayek explains “How the worst get to the top” in his ground breaking book (circa 1950’s) “The Road to Serfdom”.

  8. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Cuba: Corrupt Survival

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