Humor as Exorcism

9152419424_dac84809ec_oI leaned against the window carefully. The glass had a crack running through it and with each jolt it seemed likely to shatter. A few minutes, a roadway traversed by collective taxis, an arithmetic exercise: count all the people on the street who were smiling. In the first stretch, between Rancho Boyeros Avenue and the Maravillas Cinema, none. One lady was showing her teeth not for joy but because of the sun, which made her eyes squint and her lips open. A teenager in a high school uniform shouted at another. I couldn’t hear because of the engine noise, but there was no joking in his words. Coming to the Plaza de Cuatro Caminos, a couple was locked in a kiss at the corner, but there was nothing playful about it. Rather it was a carnivorous kiss, devouring, predatory. A baby in a stroller looked close to laughing, but no, it was just a yawn. Coming to Fraternity Park, I was barely able to calculate some three laughs, including one from a cop who was mocking a boy in handcuffs being shoved into a patrol car.

It’s an experiment I’ve carried out on several occasions, to see if we really are the smiling people so talked about in the stereotypes. In most cases, the number who express some level of happiness has not exceeded five in a trip varying between two to six miles. Clearly this doesn’t prove anything, unless it’s that in our daily circumstances laughter is not as abundant as they want us to believe. Still, we remain a people with a great deal of humor. But the jokes act more like the rescuing piece of driftwood that saves us from the shipwreck of depression, not as evidence of our happiness. We laugh to keep from crying, from hitting, from killing. We laugh to forget, escape, shut up. So when we see a comedy show that touches all the painful springs of our laughter, it’s as if the valves open and the whole of 10th of October Avenue starts to laugh, including the buildings, the street lamps and the traffic signals.

Last Friday something like this happened at the “De doime son los cantantes” show, presented at the Karl Marx theater by the actor Osvaldo Doimeadios. A tribute also to the best of our vernacular theater, the comedian offered magisterial interpretations and monologues. From the economic hardships, the migratory reform, the excessive controls on the self-employed, to the corruption scandals associated with the fiber optic cable, these were some of the themes that most made us roar. We laugh at our problems and our miseries, we laugh at ourselves. After the distraction ended, the audience crowded into the hot aisles to exit. Outside, Primera Street was packed in the late night. I took a bus home and leaned against the window… no one was smiling. The humor had been left in the seats and on the stage, we had returned to our sober reality.


14 thoughts on “Humor as Exorcism

  1. Hank,

    You make some good points. We shouldn’t get paranoid about harmless mistakes by the little guys.

    Little Hitler once got lost driving, took a wrong turn and ended up going through Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Holland and a few other countries.

    Little Ho missed a stop sign and ended up in Saigon.

    And there was good ole Fidel who went fishing one day and ended up in Angola when his compass broke.

    Let’s hear what Granma has to say before jumping to conclusions.

    I see no reason why little Kim Jung-on, Charles Manson, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda shouldn’t be given a few nuclear warheads to play around with.

    It’s not like they’re crazy or anything.

  2. “Históricamente, Cuba había escapado siempre de la realidad gracias a la sátira y a la burla. Sin embargo, con Fidel Castro, el sentido del humor fue desapareciendo hasta quedar prohibido; con eso el pueblo cubano perdió una de sus pocas posibilidades de supervivencia; al quitarle la risa le quitaron al pueblo el más profundo sentido de las cosas.”

    “Historically, Cuba had always escaped reality through satire and mockery. However, under Fidel Castro, the sense of humor was outlawed, and with that the Cuban people lost one of their few chances of survival, prohibiting laughter took from the people the deeper meaning of things. ” – Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls


    US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: North Korean Delegation Visited Cuba Ahead of Recent Weapons Seizure – Was North Korea’s top general buying missile parts between mojitos? – by Paul D. Shinkman

    North Korean military officials were in Cuba as recently as early July, according to its state media service, weeks before the seizure of a delivery of suspected missile parts en route to the hermetic Asian nation.

    “A delegation from the [Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea] led by Kim Kyok Sik, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, left here on Wednesday to visit Cuba,” reported the Korean Central News Agency on June 26. The Armed Forces minister and at least two other general officers accompanied the Cuban embassy’s military attache on the trip.

    Talks took place in Havana on July 2, the news service says, between senior officers and government officials. “Both sides informed the situation of their countries and exchanged views on boosting the friendly relations between the two armies and peoples of the two countries.” KCNA said.

    “Cuba and the DPRK stand together in the anti-imperialist joint front,” it stated. “The U.S. imperialists can never break the will of the two peoples.” North Korea and Cuba have friendly relations, not in the least due to their mutual isolation by the United States and other Western powers.
    The weapons shipment could have been designed to bolster North Korea’s floundering military infrastructure. It used to receive military equipment from neighboring Russia, though that relationship ended more than 20 years ago following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    The full extent of the weapons shipment has not yet been fully uncovered, the Associated Press reports. Panamanian authorities say searching the ship may take as much as a week, after only examining one of five containers on board.



    GUARDIAN UK (includes video) : Cuba confirms arms bound for North Korea on ship seized in Panama – Havana says missiles, jets and other weapons were being sent for repair as vessel is held over suspected UN sanctions breach

    Cuba has confirmed a North Korean cargo ship seized in Panama was carrying missiles, fighter jets and other armaments that were loaded in Cuban ports but claimed it was “obsolete defensive weaponry” being sent away for repair.

    On Tuesday the Cuban foreign ministry said the 240 tonnes of armaments consisted of two Volga and Pechora anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles “in parts and spares”, two Mig-21 planes and 15 engines for those planes – all of which had been bound for repair in North Korea.

    “The agreements subscribed by Cuba in this field are supported by the need to maintain our defensive capacity in order to preserve national sovereignty,” the statement read. It concluded by saying that Havana remained “unwavering” in its commitment to international law, peace and nuclear disarmament.

    Under current sanctions aimed at North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, all UN member states are prohibited from directly or indirectly supplying, selling or transferring all arms, missiles or missile systems and the equipment and technology to make them to North Korea, with the exception of small arms and light weapons.
    A private defence analysis firm that examined a photograph of the find said the ship appeared to be transporting a radar-control system for a Soviet-era surface-to-air missile system. Neil Ashdown, an analyst for IHS Jane’s Intelligence, said a green tube shown in a photograph appeared to be a horizontal antenna for the SNR-75 Fan Song radar, used to guide missiles fired by the SA-2 air defence system found in former Warsaw pact and Soviet-allied nations.

    “It is possible that this could be being sent to North Korea to update its high-altitude air defence capabilities,” Ashdown said. Jane’s also said the equipment could be headed to North Korea to be upgraded.


  5. What misunderstanding, Hank?

    You may forget anything in the trunk of you car, but shipping arms is a well organzed operation, anywhere.

    What we have learned:

    1. The emprire does not dare to violate sovereignity of a UN member with their own forces AT THIS TIME (Snowden, Zimmerman). They use a proxy, Panama, a small country without enough intel and without commercial interest to rob ships.

    2. Latin America has big mouth but no real power to stop such violations. Who will take the ship back? ALBA is all about commerce. When ALBA creates a military branch, a kind of South American NATO, Panama will sit quiet.

  6. I have to say — I am with Marabu on this one.

    Cuba’s missing the fact that a North Korean vessel left a Cuban port with lots of sugar (and some harmless military hardware buried underneath) must have been an accident.

    The Cubans and the North Koreans just forgot to check under the sugar bags, it’s that simple. Folks, this kind of thing happens all the time.

    Just yesterday, I found that old vintage Howitzer I misplaced years ago. Guess where it was. In the trunk of my car! I simply forgot that I had put it there.

    And why would a state sponsor of terrorism, like Cuba, risk shipping undeclared arms through the Panama Canal? That’s just dumb. For a few extra hundred thousand gallons of fuel, they could have sailed around the tip of South America.

    I’m with you, Marabu. This is a big misunderstanding. I just hope the Cuban government clears this up real soon.

  7. Marabu, the cargo was seized by the Panamanian authorities, not the US. If -as alleged – the North Korean ship leaving Cuba was carrying undeclared military components of any kind this would be a clear violation of international shipping rules and make that illegal cargo subject to seizure. Moreover, as I understand it, this illicit cargo would also be a violation of UN resolutions (agreed to by the Russians and Chinese) that prohibits the sale of military hardware for use in missile systems to the North Koreans.

  8. @John Two

    I was reading the same thing.
    It appears that today only Russian and and maybe Chinese transport is safe from the paws of the empire.

  9. Oh dear. Will be really interesting to see how this alleged missile shipment to North Korea story plays out.

    As reported on the BBC:

    “Panama’s president says his country has seized a North Korean-flagged ship carrying “undeclared military cargo”.

    President Ricardo Martinelli said the ship, held in the Panama Canal as it sailed from Cuba, contained suspected “sophisticated missile equipment.”

  10. sandokan, “new class” or “old class” – every government on this planet enjoys good life and this includes families.

    Do you think Obama’s daughters will fry burgers at McDonalds?

  11. The Castro brothers’ state-run monopolies, cronyism, and absence of responsibility have made the island one of the world’s most corrupt nations. This type of corruption where favors are provided to the political elite, has permeated all levels of the ruling class, the “new class” according to Milovan Djilas definition. He delineated the “new class” of rulers as “those who have special privileges and economic preferences because of the administrative monopoly they hold.” This “new class” that ferociously protects its privileges and status, is suspicious of those actions that could weaken its power. The ruling class will defend it to the end.

  12. Sounds like “someone” is smoking too much of the mary jane that he so loves.

  13. While Cuban government is not nice to the “opposition” it is not responsible for this blog going down. The blog owners are.

    I have demonstrated their infantile errors in the previous posting under #3.

    The goverment in Havana would be very stupid if it attempted to hack this blog, because it demonstrates the general incompetence of its owners.

    If someone cannot fix his blog – an easy task – he shouldn’t be taken seriously by fixing or even talking about the national economy

    This so called “opposition” has plenty of $$$, so they don’t work. But as you can see they became the victims of their own laziness: installing and maintanining a blog needs (1) education and (2) work. Blaming the President is not a replacement for honest work.

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