And You, Son, Don’t Stand Out

Photo: Silvia Corbelle

You’re getting your bag ready for school and listening to your mother nag. “Don’t get into anything that’s going to make a ton of trouble for you later,” she shouts from the kitchen. So you go to the morning assembly at school, withdrawing into yourself so they won’t notice you. The bell rings to enter the classroom and there’s the history teacher with her Manichean version of the past. You know it wasn’t like what she says because you’ve read other versions in your grandfather’s books, but you keep quiet… so as not to look for trouble.

Your voice went hoarse and then you were a soldier serving your time in the military. You had to learn the lesson of survival. So when the officer shouted and demanded greater dedication, you mentally repeated, “Better not to be noticed.” Get by unscathed, don’t get involved, avoid them noticing you, were your premises at that age. Don’t offer an idea, don’t suggest a change, the only thing your bosses will hear from your mouth is “at your service!” Later you made it to the university, where the objective was to get a diploma, to graduate, without any complications.

Your children were born and when they were little you read them the riot act about simulation, how to fake it. “Make sure you don’t stand out, it only brings trouble,” you counseled them from the time they could understand. With this action you prolong the cycle of simulation in your offspring, as your parents once did with you.

But you have not come out unscathed. You’re not a crook who has deceived others, but you have cheated yourself. With so much self-restraint, limiting your expressions, and avoiding speaking up, you have become the mediocre man you are today, a being tamed by the system.


29 thoughts on “And You, Son, Don’t Stand Out

  1. cuentapropistas have greater difficulty reconciling their official, “legitimate” activity with membership in a socialist state. Recognizing the liminality of cuentapropistas’ structural position—one which is ideologically threatening in part because it is legally authorized—helps to illuminate why they are regarded with suspicion by the Cuban government. As legally authorized
    private, for-profit workers, cuentapropistas throw into confusion the ideologically clear-cut categories of “socialism” and “capitalism.”

    The legalization of self-employment thus creates the paradoxical question of whether cuentapropistas can claim to be “socialist citizens.” Alejandro suggests that the answer lies in cuentapropistas’ contributions to the everyday functioning of their country:

    We’re bringing in a lot of money to the country, to the government. Plus services
    that the government can’t provide. If the agropecuario closes, where will people
    find things to eat? And if they stop the taxi drivers, how will people move
    around Havana? Or if they stop the shoe repairmen, who will repair the shoes?
    The trabajador por cuenta propia resolves many problems for the population
    that the government just can’t provide for the moment. (Personal communication,
    Alejandro’s home, Havana, August, 1999)

    Alejandro thus emphasizes not only the financial benefit that cuentapropistas bring, but also their key role in facilitating the day-to-day functioning of the country. This is an imperfect answer, however, since it is through private, profit-making activity antithetical to the socialist paradigm that cuentapropistas are able to make this contribution. Yet it illustrates both the strength and
    the vulnerability of cuentapropistas as they straddle the socialist past and an
    uncertain future.

    A “New Breed” of Workers

    The partial abstraction of cuentapropistas from the centralized state labor system represents a fundamental challenge to the collectivist social pact underlying Cuban socialism. Arguably, it is this relational shift that, more than economic status or capitalist mentality, distinguishes trabajadores por cuenta propia from the rest of the populace and provides some sense of group
    identity. This restructuring of worker-state relations may also be at the heart of the Cuban government’s anxiety about trabajo por cuenta propia. As Maribel, a 37-year old cuentapropista who sells leather goods in a market in Havana, commented to me:

    Before, the state provided you with the necessities of life. Now, the trabajador por cuenta propia can acquire things, and we control ourselves. The state doesn’t interest us, because it doesn’t do anything for us. We even have to pay to do our work. What it does do is sell us things at a high price, and at the same time imposes more taxes and sends more inspectors. [The government] realizes that they are losing control of trabajo por cuenta propia….And so it seems to me that that’s what the government fears, not that we have a capitalist mentality, but that we don’t depend on the state for anything, nothing more than to pay our $163 each month. (Personal communication, Malecón Market, August 1999)

    Cuentapropistas is transforming Cuba because self-employed citizens create new norms in the society. The question is whether or not the Cuban government is going to assimilate this new changes in work ethics, autonomy and independence to help shape future laws and policies and still continue building a Socialist Democratic Republic – Cuban style.

  2. Cuba plans big tax breaks to lure foreign investors

    March 27, 2014 · By Staff Writer
    HAVANA, (Reuters) – Cuba’s government has drawn up a new foreign investment law that will cut the profits tax in half and exempt investors from paying it for eight years in an attempt to attract desperately needed capital into the communist economy.

    The National Assembly will meet on Saturday to approve the legislation that Cuba promises will offer investment security to foreigners and help further integrate the Caribbean island in the global economy.

    The law would address the lengthy and sometimes murky process to approve foreign investment deals and improve investment guarantees, two major concerns of potential investors and foreign governments. Details of the proposed law were published yesterday in the official newspaper Juventud Rebelde, which said the National Assembly was expected to approve the draft with little change.

    Cuba is cut off from U.S. investment by a comprehensive trade embargo and has failed to meet its investment targets for each of the past five years. The new investment law has been anticipated since 2011, when Cuba enacted a 300-point overhaul of its domestic economy.

    President Raul Castro’s government is promising legal protections to persuade foreign investors to risk their capital in the Soviet-style economy, and new incentives such as the dramatically lowered tax.

    “The Cuban government has a major credibility gap to overcome with foreign investors. Investors will want evidence, not just legislation, that Cuba is prepared to allow investors to make money, employ Cubans they select and not move the goal posts when success seems to be too rewarding,” said Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who now teaches at Boston University.

    The new law “would apply (to investors) … a tax of 15 percent on taxable net profits,” after which all profit could be repatriated, Juventud Rebelde reported.

    Under the current foreign investment law, which went into effect in 1995, all tax breaks are negotiated and foreign firms pay a 30 percent profits tax and 20 percent labor tax. The labor tax was already being gradually reduced and now will be eliminated completely, according to a version of the draft law published by the Miami-based Web site Progreso Semanal.

    However, foreign ventures that mine natural resources, including oil, can be subject to a higher profits tax of up to 22.5 percent, depending on how those ventures are negotiated with the state, according to Juventud Rebelde.

    Investors will still have to hire labor through state-run companies, a major complaint, though the hiring halls will no longer operate for profit, Juventud Rebelde reported, indicating more money will flow back to workers and their wages may be easier to negotiate.

    “The policy’s impact will be known once Cuba starts negotiating deals with potential partners, but the new law’s incentives and flexibility seem to be designed to bring in the capital needed to lift the economy and make the reforms succeed,” said Phil Peters, who runs the Virginia-based Cuba Research Center. “Agriculture, sugar, and renewable energy are key sectors to watch for signs of a new attitude toward foreign investment.”


    MIAMI HERALD: Son of Cuban Interior Minister lives in Miami – by Juan Tamayo

    Also on the list compiled by blog editor Luis Dominguez are the sons of three senior Cuba figures — a former intelligence chief, a former top diplomat in Washington and the godfather of virtually all of Latin America’s leftist guerrillas.

    Dominguez said he has been gathering the names for months and published them late Wednesday to highlight the case of one of his cousins, a Cuban doctor who defected while working in Venezuela last year but has been repeatedly denied a U.S. visa.

    “Where is the justice, morality and national security when visas are issued to members of the Castro nomenklatura (ruling class) and are denied to Cuban doctors in other countries,” he wrote in a his blog post.

    His cousin was denied the U.S. visa because she could not prove she was in Venezuela as part of an official Cuban program, Dominguez added, “an absurd argument because it is known that there is no other way for a Cuban doctor to go there.”

    Parts of Dominguez’s list could not be independently confirmed. But his previous reports, including one last week on the promotion to the rank of brigadier general of a son-in-law of Cuban ruler Raúl Castro, have proven to be reliable.

    Dominguez said Josué Colomé Vazquez left Cuba for Cancun, Mexico, crossed the border with Texas and flew last month to Miami to reunite with his mother, Suri Vázquez Ruiz, a former wife of Colomé Ibarra. The son could not be reached for comment.

    Colomé Ibarra, 75, is vice president of the Council of State and as interior minister is in charge of national security, from the Directorate of Intelligence to the police and fire departments. A veteran of Fidel Castro’s revolution, he is nicknamed “Furry.”

    Another of Colomé Ibarra’s former wives, Rita Torres Beltrán, lives in Miami, according to Dominguez. She is the mother of José Raúl Colomé Torres, who owns an upscale private restaurant in Havana named Starbien.

    Also on the bloggers’ list is Pablo Ernesto Remírez de Estenoz Semidey, 24, who arrived in Miami in August. His father is Fernando Remírez de Estenoz, former deputy foreign minister and head of Cuba’s diplomatic mission in Washington from 1995 to 2001.

    The father was fired in 2009, along with Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Lage, then vice president and executive secretary of the Council of Ministers, amid accusations by Fidel Castro that they were too ambitious for power.

    Dominguez’s list also said that Alejandro Luis Barreiro Agrelo, 25, the son of former Directorate of Intelligence chief Gen. Luis Barreiro Carames, arrived in Miami in September of 2012. The son worked in Miami with John Henry Cabañas, a pro-Castro businessman whose Company used to charter flights to Cuba, the list noted.

    The father was fired from the Intelligence Directorate in 1989 amid the case against Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, Cuba’s top combat veteran, executed by firing squad on charges of drug trafficking.

    Dominguez’ list also included two offspring of the late Manuel Piñeiro Losada, known as “Redbeard” and the notorious chief of Cuba’s campaign to train and arm Latin American and Middle Eastern guerrillas in the 60s and 70s.

    Manuel Kahlil Piñeiro Burdsall, 56, now lives in the United States, according to the list. And Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, 34, is a Cuban economist who has participated in several public conferences in the United States and is married to a U.S. citizen.


    Read more here:


    Venezuela’s Black Market Dollar Plummets on News of New Exchange Rate Mechanism

    While most of the news from Venezuela has been focused on protests, something that is probably more important for the future of the country has taken place. The black market value of the dollar has plummeted by one-third in the past three weeks, on news that the government is introducing a new, market-based exchange rate. According to the plan, known as SICAD 2 (Sistema Cambiario Alternativo de Divisas), Venezuelans will be able to purchase dollars legally from various vendors including private brokers and banks.

    In November of last year I wrote a short piece for Folha de Sao Paulo arguing that the black market dollar price was a bubble, comparable to the real estate bubble in the U.S. in 2006 (or stock market in 1999), and that the government could burst it at any time. Some people were buying dollars because they needed them for various purposes; but also some were making what they thought was a one-way bet. They thought that the dollar was a good store of value because it would continue to rise indefinitely against the domestic currency. Much of the media promoted the idea that Venezuela was headed for hyperinflation (some even erroneously call it that), and so the domestic currency (bolivar fuerte) would continue to lose value until it collapsed.

    At the time I wrote about the bubble the dollar was at about 60 bolivares fuertes, but it was already well into bubble territory; it continued to rise to 88 and has now fallen to 58.3. It’s likely to fall further as the SICAD 2 system supplies dollars that were previously being sold on the black market. And if the black market dollar falls, it will bring down inflation, since this has been the main cause (see graph below) of the sharp increase in inflation since October of 2012. There should also be some relief of shortages, since it will be easier for importers to get dollars. Since PDVSA (the state oil company) can sell dollars on this market as well, this should also reduce the government budget deficit.

    Of course there are other economic problems, including the pilfering of billions of dollars in foreign exchange at the official rate through the setting up of fake companies, and smuggling subsidized food and gasoline across the Colombian border. But the exchange rate system has been the central economic imbalance, and if SICAD 2 functions as planned it could go a long way towards resolving Venezuela’s current economic problems.

  5. Attacks on Utilities and Other Violence Continues in Venezuela

    Merida, 27th March 2014 ( – Attacks on utilities and public property have continued this week and so far no arrests of the perpetrators have been made.

    National Electoral Council (CNE) spokesperson, Socorro Hernandez, said today from Maracaibo that authorities were evaluating damage done to the CNE offices of Zulia state, after they were torched on Tuesday.

    Hernandez said “fortunately” all of the office’s information was backed up in Caracas. However, the CNE will have to be relocated, as she said 60% of it had been damaged, impeding its ability to operate.

    The regional CNE head, Marisela Gonzalez said a provisional office would be set up by Monday.

    The Merida water council, Aguas de Merida, said that on Sunday the Bourgin plant in the city had been poisoned with diesel. The contamination was quickly discovered following testing of water, and the water supply to Merida citywas turned off for one hour while cleaning was conducted.

    “In every way, it’s about a deliberate and premeditated action… They punctured the pipes and they must have poured more than 100 litres of … diesel in them. What would have happened to the Merida population if the contaminated water had reached their homes?” said the environment minister Miguel Rodriguez.

    On Monday afternoon, 100 hectares of the Waraira Repano National Park were set ablaze. Two fires were started near the Tacoa-Boyaca electricity plant, within hours of each other.

    “The way that the event occurred makes us believe that it was intentional… the fires were located in two sites, where the only substations of the national electricity system are located,” electricity minister Jesse Chacon stated.

    On Tuesday in Caracas, a white goods warehouse for the My Well Equipped House national program, was also set alight (photo). The warehouse contained washing machines, fridges, and other goods that go towards furnishing state provided housing.

    Regional governmental spokesperson, Jaqueline Faria, said at the time that fire fighters were trying to put the fire out, but were finding it hard “because of the amount of oil”. Faria said it was too early to conclude “if it was intentional”.

    In Los Mangos, Ciudad Guayana, Bolivar, an incident occurred at a barricade, where barricade participants tied a man up with wire and proceeded to threaten, verbally abuse, and mistreat him. It was caught on video, but later removed by YouTube, but photos of the episode are still available. The motive behind the abuse is uncertain, with opposition supporters in the area stating the man had been caught robbing, and the local National Guard saying he had been attempting to cross a barricade.


    CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION: Venezuela an online battleground for Canadians backing protests – Canadians part of effort to overcome government crackdown on local news – by Mark Cadiz

    For Canadians with friends and family in Venezuela the extent of the violence sweeping that country is hard to watch, but many are also working to overcome government crackdowns on local news to ensure the world knows exactly what’s happening.

    “It is out of control and I’m very afraid,” said Yorman Urdaneta, originally from the Zulia state of Venezuela, who has been living in Canada for four years. “Eventually there is going to be a social explosion in Venezuela, and I believe there is going to be a lot of blood on the streets. But the only way the people are going get their country back is to fight.”

    Roa participated in protests in her hometown of San Cristobal, one of the cities hardest hit by the violence. But her involvement in the protests didn’t end when she returned to Canada — she is constantly checking online and relaying information back to her family and friends who have spotty access to information.

    In response, riot police and the Venezuelan National Guard have clamped down on the street protests. With the government also censoring media coverage, citizens have turned to social media to organize and inform the world about the extreme measures the government has taken.

    In the past couple weeks the protests have taken a life of their own, with violent confrontations between protesters, the riot police, the National Guard and the colectivos.

    The first deaths took place in Caracas, the city capital, on Feb.12, and to date 36 have reportedly been killed.

    “NTN24, a Colombian news channel, was kicked out of Venezuela because they were going there working as reporters, something the government doesn’t want,” Urdaneta said.



    BBC NEWS: Venezuela: Opposition legislator Machado returns to Caracas

    Opposition Venezuelan lawmaker Maria Corina Machado has returned to Caracas after having her mandate revoked.

    Ms Machado was in Peru when the National Assembly stripped her of her parliamentary immunity on Monday.

    The Assembly said she breached the Venezuelan constitution last week when she addressed the Organization of American States as a guest of Panama.

    Speaking to hundreds of supporters in Caracas, Ms Machado said she had been illegally dismissed.

    “I am a still a legislator, more than ever, and will continue my activities inside and outside the National Assembly,” she said.

    National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello had threatened to have her arrested for “acting as a Panamanian ambassador” before the Organization of American States (OAS).

    She was also accused of inciting violence.

    Ms Machado was welcomed at the main Caracas airport by hundreds of supporters, who followed her to a demonstration in an opposition stronghold in the east of the capital.

    “Mr Cabello has violated all of the laws of the nation. He does not know what the procedures are to have a lawmaker sacked from his post,” she said.

    “If the price that I have to pay so that our voice is heard around the world is this persecution and these threats, I’ll pay it once and a thousand times.”


  8. Svend & Edie Hartmann said: “There are few signs of a police or military presence and one certainly does not have the feeling of being watched by the government. This is very different from the feeling we had many years ago on trips to the Soviet Union from 1955 to 1961.’


    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL VIDEO: Routine repression in Cuba – Harassment and detention of political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists and bloggers across Cuba has risen sharply over the past 24 months. – Mar 22, 2012


    YOUTUBE : CUBAN Documentary – “Wishes on a Falling Star”- While the Castro brothers face their certain end, an uncertain future hangs over the island. Some people are afraid, many cannot wait, but all shudder and hope that the changes will be positive.
    This documentary leads the audience through the discovery of this hope, through a tourist’s camera which looks to be turned off and oblivious to the conversation at hand, yet is focused on candidly capturing each person’s wishes. There is the old guerrillero who took part in the revolution, the lady who met Che Guevara and lives thanks to the government social card, and also the young boys and girls — those who wish to make a career within the rules, as well as those who only try to escape abroad. Clandestine underground shops, businessmen experienced in all things illegal, dodgy pimps, mothers who force their daughters into selling their bodies — the hidden face of the State which welcomes tourists into its luxury resorts is openly displayed beyond censorship’s control. One special guide is Yoani Sanchez, the independent blogger, a leader of the new, peaceful revolution — the revolution of ideas. The internet is its main instrument, while the government attempts to limit computer use with any means possible in a pushing and pulling of ideals. In the interview, recorded in a secret location, the young writer speaks about her country’s ruin, and where Raul’s reforms have no effect on everyday life. Castro’s supporters and dissidents, young and old — none deceive themselves that the star of the revolution will shine on for much longer. And this is what this project focuses on: the wishes on a falling star.

  10. This is the kind of insight into the daily lives of Cubans that it is almost impossible to get from a visit to Cuba.

    My wife and I spent a week in Cuba at the beginning of February and we enjoyed our visit very much.  We met several groups of young people who were members of ch o ires, dance groups and various art programs. We even went to a private school where parents had arranged a special after school class to teach their children English.  All the young people we met were delightful and eager to speak to American guests. However, such encounters do not lend themselves to asking questions of a political nature.

    Our overall impression was that Cuba is more modern than we expected and the warning we had heard about the food not being very good turned out to be wrong.  Havana now has many private restaurants where the food and the service is equal to what we might expect in our hometown of Seattle. The Cuban tourist industry is clearly booming and we constantly met tourists from all over the world including many Americans. This in spite of the US embargo which restricts travel to groups with special permits issued by the US Treasury Dept. Fidel Castro has been out of power since 2006 and since then his brother Raul has allowed reforms which permit many small private enterprises to prosper, especially ones involved in tourism such as restaurants, bed and breakfasts and travel organizations.

    Cuba is changing and still has a long way to go before the potential of the Cuban economy can be realized. But many people we met, especially the young, seemed to believe that Cuba will continue its progress and several predicted that the US embargo would be lifted in a matter of a few years.  As a visitor to Cuba it can be hard to believe that Cuba still is a totalitarian state. There are few signs of a police or military pres ence and one certainly does not have the feeling of being watched by the government.  This is very different from the feeling we had many years ago on  trips to the Soviet Union from 1955 to 1961.

    To get an idea of what it is really like to live in Cuba we highly recommend Yoani Sanchez’s blog.  Svend & Edie Hartmann.  

  11. I just fell off my chair and spit up my soup. Thanks, Neutral Observer. That’s the best laugh I’ve had in a long time!

  12. You’re right Nick

    As I previously documented:

    The CIA and right-wing corporate mainstream USA were most definitely involved in organizing the Pythagorean murder and its subsequent cover-up by Alexander the Great

    History most definitely points its finger at the USA and CIA

    I mean, c’mon, how could Pyth and Alex have acted alone?

    It’s got CIA false flag swine flu inside job Apollo hoax black op written all over it.

    We know what’s going on, Big Bro can’t fool us. Now excuse me, I got to read some more of Fidel’s reflections.


  14. And yet people still praise communism.

    (Aside to whomever is running Gen Y: The comments really need some control. They have clearly flown out of control. It looks bad. The unhinged have located you.)

  15. Regarding some of the recent comments on the allegations of U.S. involvement in the current troubles in Venezuela:
    For anyone who refutes these allegations I would ask them why are they so quick to do so ?
    Is this tactic something the USA would not stoop to ?
    Does the USA not have a pedigree of trying to destabilise governments that jump out of line in what John Kerry refers to as their own ‘backyard’ ??
    Do they not use this tactic regardless of whether the government to be destabilised is ‘democratically elected’ or not ???
    Does the USA not have a previous history of organising coups south of the Rio Grande ????
    Have they not already tried this tactic in the 21st century ?????
    Have not already tried this tactic in the 21st century in the very same in Venezuela ?????

    I would obviously not say definitively that the USA have a strong hand in stirring up the current bloody troubles in Venezuela.

    But I would definitively say that history shows us, that if there were a foreign country stirring up the trouble, then the overwhelming likelihood is that the USA is the culprit.

    I would also definitively say that there are certain misguided individuals with their own petty revenge-fuelled agendas who think that it is absolutely fine and dandy for a foreign power such as the USA to stir up trouble in sovereign countries under some spurious pretext such as the need to bring people ‘democracy and freedom’.


    Miss Universe Venezuela without lack of Dollars. Registration of Venezuela in the 2014 Miss Universe pageant would be hanging on a thread, because, apparently , they have failed to collect the $ 50,000 necessary to build the important beauty contest as ” pass ” for the competition in which our country has earned the record for crowns. Informed sources said that , although the national representation is reserved , not yet been able to formalize registration , as they have done so far 30 of the 85 nations that this year holds the title María Gabriela Isler fight . It was learned that the ODC ( Diego Cisneros Organization ) have managed the relevant foreign exchange cost of the right to enter the contest. But we should expect that the Foreign Exchange Administration System ( SICAD ) convene a new auction to intervene in many companies related to the entertainment industry .

    This has to see to Migbelis Castellanos, the current Miss Venezuela , who is preparing for his participation in that event in its 63rd edition will be held in the Event Center of Ceará Fortaleza , Brazil in date not yet determined. The Creole beauty does their part , appear as “green” to go to Miss Universe.
    Venezuela sin Miss Universo por falta de Dolares. La inscripción de Venezuela en el certamen de Miss Universo 2014 estaría colgando de un hilo, pues, al parecer, no se han logrado recabar los 50 mil dólares que exige la organización del importante concurso de belleza como “pase” para la competencia en la que nuestro país lleva el récord de coronas ganadas. Fuentes bien informadas señalaron que, a pesar de que la representación nacional está reservada, aún no se ha podido formalizar la inscripción, tal como lo han hecho hasta ahora 30 de las 85 naciones que este año se pelearán el título que ostenta María Gabriela Isler. Se supo que la ODC (Organización Diego Cisneros) han gestionado las divisas correspondientes al costo del derecho para entrar al certamen. Sin embargo habrá que esperar que el Sistema de Administración de Divisas (SICAD) convoque a una nueva subasta en la que intervendrían numerosas empresas vinculadas al sector del entretenimiento.

    Esta situación tiene en veremos a Migbelis Castellanos, la actual Miss Venezuela, quien se está preparando para su participación en el referido certamen que en su edición número 63 se efectuará en el Centro de Eventos de Ceará de la ciudad de Fortaleza, Brasil, en fecha aún no determinada. La beldad criolla hace su parte, mientras aparecen los “verdes” para irse al Miss Universo.

  17. GOVERNMENT OF THE UK PRESS RELEASE: Foreign Office Minister urges dialogue in Venezuela- Published 26 March 2014
    As violent protests continue in Venezuela, Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire has called for restraint.
    Hugo Swire said:
    With protests ongoing in Venezuela since early February, I remain deeply concerned about the situation in the country. I am saddened by the deaths that have occurred, and condemn all acts of violence. It is important that the right to free speech and to protest peacefully are respected, and that those being investigated are afforded due legal process. I urge all sides to take steps to avoid confrontation, reduce tensions, and create the right conditions for genuine dialogue. A commission of Foreign Ministers from the UNASUR group of countries is in Venezuela to support and advise on dialogue between all parties. I hope that this can play a positive role in helping to avoid violence and promote reconciliation in Venezuela.

  18. One thing that autonomous subjects do not give themselves is, ironically, the very thing that is most essential to autonomy. It may seem a conundrum, but what autonomous subjects do not give themselves is the project of autonomy itself. This project is a social-historical creation, and this creation is the beginning of autonomy rather than its product. If there were no project of autonomy nothing could justify us in precluding the possibility of its creation ( though of course we would not pose the question if the project had not already been created)
    .But the fact is we live historically downstream from this creation, we are the inheritors of it,almost all of us to some degree even if we do not endorse it, we are the beneficiaries (and victims)
    of its various effects. The project of autonomy in this way differs from works of autonomy in that we do not make it because we will it. Rather, we find it within ourselves and our society, and then either endorse it and make it our own value and aim, or reject and ignore it.
    Unless people adopt this project as their own, no autonomous self-transformation of society is possible. Castoriadis is sanguine on prospects for this. ³No great collective political movement can be created by the act of will of a few individuals. The rebirth of the project of autonomy requires tremendous changes, a real earthquake, not in terms of physical violence but in terms of peoples beliefs and behaviour.´ Although nothing can justify us in discounting the possibility of autonomy, it will not happen unless a significant proportion of people have made the project of autonomy a guiding value for themselves, have begun to make themselves into autonomous subjects and are prepared to change both themselves and their society in the ways necessary to make social autonomy a reality. We can point, as Castoriadis does, to a number of real crises and latent attitudes that would seem to give us hope that this might be a possibility, but the reality is that it has not happened, and we are fully aware of how great a change it would require.
    As long as this ³collective hypnosis continues,´ writes Castoriadis, ³there is a provisional ethical and political stance for those of us who have the weighty privilege of being able to speak up, namely: unmask, criticize, denounce the existing state of affairs. And for everyone: try to be exemplary in ones behaviour and acts wherever one finds oneself.´


    LA NACION: Venezuela: confirm gasoline increased more than 2,600%
    With these figures, a driver to fill the 40 liter tank of your car twice a week will have a cost of Bs 928 per month (just over $ 147) instead of 33 bolivars ($ 5.3) that pay today.

    Para conductores con un consumo más alto, el aumento será mayor. Un estudio de El Nacional publicado este lunes estima que un automovilista que viva en la periferia de Caracas (San Antonio, Valles del Tuy) y que consuma tres tanques de gasolina a la semana pagará 1.296 bolívares mensuales (206 dólares) en lugar de los 108 bolívares al mes (17 dólares) que paga hoy.

    Por el momento, sus ciudadanos pagan tan solo un centavo de dólar por litro de combustible, 120 veces por debajo del promedio continental: 1,26 dólares. Mantener ese valor del combustible en el país con las mayores reservas probadas de petróleo en el mundo le cuesta al Estado venezolano 12.500 millones de dólares anuales en subsidios.

    El economista y profesor de la Universidad Central de Venezuela Rafael Quiroz ha cuestionado el aumento propuesto por el ministro Ramírez. “Es conveniente corregir las pérdidas que afronta PDVSA por culpa del subsidio de la gasolina, pero el plan que tiene el Gobierno pretende subir el precio más de 28 veces. Esa cifra que presentó el ministro Ramírez está sobrestimada. Consideramos que el precio de la gasolina de 95 octanos debería aumentar no más de 8 veces para cubrir los costos de producción. Por tanto, la tarifa no debería ser mayor de 77 céntimos de bolívar (0,12 dólares)”, añade en la nota de El Nacional.

    Actualmente el costo de producción de las gasolinas de 91 y 95 octanos deja pérdidas diarias de 38 millones y 86 millones de bolívares al día, mientras que el diesel implica una pérdida de 89 millones de bolívares al día. “El presidente lo que ha indicado es que debemos dar una discusión nacional de si ha llegado el momento o no de cobrar la gasolina, porque en este país no se paga por la gasolina, sino que es Petróleos de Venezuela la que paga para que echen gasolina”, subrayó Ramírez.

  20. How does one get from a population of individuals radically unfit for self-rule to one capable of it? Creating democracy is not a matter of social engineering. The creation of democracy is a praxis and a revolutionary project of a profound and radical kind. What is necessary in order to bring about autonomy and true democracy is a radical self-transformation of society.Like any transformation, it necessarily begins with a status quo ante. In a self-transformation,and one aimed at autonomy, the mechanism of transformation cannot be anything other than the autonomous activity of the subjects themselves. The subjects in question transform themselves by acting autonomously to make of themselves what they have decided they wish to become: subjects capable of autonomy. This may be circular, but as Castoriadis repeatedly points out, this circle, the circle of creation is unavoidable. What this self-transformation must involve in concrete terms is a process of self-education aimed at giving all citizens the knowledge and skills needed to be competent citizens of a democracy. Especially at first, this self-education will involve a good deal of on-the-job training.


    VENEZUELA PHOTOS/FOTOS: El regreso de la líder opositora María Corina Machado a Venezuela – The return of the opposition leader Maria Corina Machado to Venezuela!

  22. One important component of human dignity is autonomy – meaning freedom of thought, belief and association. It is also important that the collective social body, and its morality, seek consent in its rules and regulations from the individuals that constitute it. Individuals in Cuba do not enjoy autonomy, so the social and political arrangements are illegitimate, by definition. Respect for those who choose to follow their own autonomous conscience, if it does not harm the same right for others, is one necessary condition for a cohesive society, in my view.


    “Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood,” Russian students were required to say in class. One Chinese official sang this “hymn of praise” to Chairman Mao at the 1955 National People’s Congress: “The sun shines only in the day, the moon shines only at night. Only Chairman Mao is the sun that never sets.”

    The West had its own brand of stifling conformity during the Cold War–the climate of fear surrounding the McCarthyite anticommunist witch-hunts and the sterile clichés offered up by film, television and advertising of prosperous, happy (and white) suburban family life that never conformed to reality, for instance.

    A 1957 novel expresses some of the frustration felt at the sameness of mass produced suburban tract housing: “In any one of these new neighborhoods, be it in Hartford or Philadelphia, you can be certain all other houses will be precisely like yours, inhabited by people whose age, income, number of children, problems, habits, conversation, dress, possessions and perhaps even blood type are also precisely like yours.”

    Mass-market capitalism imposes conformity on the majority. This is true at work and outside work.

    At work, we are expected to follow strict rules about our time and behavior; we are expected to follow a dress code. We churn out the same product, day in and day out, with no let up, and we have very little control over the process.

    Outside of work, we are treated as “mass consumers”–coaxed, exhorted and seduced into showing up in our millions to buy exactly the same product.

    Only the wealthy have the money and leisure to have palaces built by craftsmen, send their kids to the best schools, and take exotic vacations in private jets. Socialization is not about conformity or sameness, but about creating the basis for the flowering of creative expression and individual achievement.

    In a socialist society, the productive power of society is harnessed to serve everyone’s needs. We have the technology today, if we replaced the market with democratic planning, to end unemployment and shorten the workday to six or even fewer hours–creating the leisure time that would allow the majority to pursue all sorts of dreams that today are out of reach to all but a minority.

    Trotsky wrote, “Spiritual creativeness demands freedom. The very purpose of communism is to subject nature to technique and technique to plan, and compel the raw material to give unstintingly everything to man that he needs. Far more than that, its highest goal is to free finally and once for all the creative forces of mankind from all pressure, limitation and humiliating dependence.

    “Personal relations, science and art will not know any externally imposed ‘plan,’ nor even any shadow of compulsion. To what degree spiritual creativeness shall be individual or collective will depend entirely upon its creators.”

  24. … “whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist”. In his essay on “Self Reliance”, he declares that the only sacred, trustable being is yourself; to live by your conscience and instincts, even if it goes against everything you said before. He feels so strongly about it that he asserts “imitation is suicide”, meaning if you imitate others, you are killing your own individuality.

    I agree on a certain level. Emerson takes it to the extreme. He feels that institutions such as religion or society are completely useless in dictating behavior, that we should only “trust thyself”. I do feel that there is too much conformity in this world, and their fear of the regard of others is stronger than their own love of themselves. People are told how to behave, think, feel and act through peers, the media, and other standards. So there is a certain amount of negative conformity, of mindless shaping of oneself to fit in. If more people were happy with who they were, regardless of external factors, they wouldn’t feel that urge to conform. However, there are some standards-laws, morals-that I feel are there for the common good of mankind, and if we were to reject them out of hand simply because following them is “conforming” then it could lead to chaos. So, yes, don’t conform your personality, self-esteem, and individual regard to other people, but maintain civility and decency in society and morals.

    Different societies and different organizations put higher or lower values on conformity. The United States is often said to have been settled by non-conformists. Many of the early colonists were people who did not fit in, for religious, philosophical, economic, or social reasons, with the expectations of society in their native countries. They sought a place to live where the level of conformity and norms of society were more comfortable for them. In the United States often some degree of non-conformity is still admired today. The ideal of the “rugged individualist” who does things his or her own way is part of American culture.

    Other societies put a higher value on fitting in or conforming. There is a Japanese proverb that roughly translates into the saying, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” meaning that it is better not to stand out in a group but to conform. Military organizations are an example of a group that expects a high level of conformity in the behavior of their members and punishes those who do not conform.

    All people balance the need to conform and fit in with the need to express their individuality throughout their lives. Some research into birth order suggests that the oldest child in a family is more likely to conform, while later children are more likely to become non-conformists. However, these studies are open to different interpretations and, although interesting, should not be considered conclusively true.

    Young children tend to be the least aware of the group and society values and are the least influenced by the need to conform. However, with more social interactions and more awareness of others, the need to conform grows. Pre-teens and teenagers face many issues related to conformity. They are pulled between the desire to be seen as individuals of unique value and the desire to belong to a group where they feel secure and accepted. The result is that often teens reject conforming to family or general society values, while conforming rigidly to the norms or values of their peer group. An example of this phenomenon is seen when young people join gangs. In joining the gang they are rejecting the community’s way of dressing and behaving. Yet to belong to the gang, they must conform to the gang’s own style of dress, behavior, and speech.

    Conformity is tied closely to the issue of peer pressure. Although people feel peer pressure their entire lives, young people who are seeking to define themselves are generally most influenced by the values and attitudes of their peers. Adolescents often encourage friends to do or try things that they themselves are doing in order to fit into to a group. The encouragement can be positive (studying hard to get good grades) or negative (drinking beer after the football game).

    Deciding how much and which group’s values to conform to are one of the major stresses of adolescence. Trying to conform to the behaviors of a group that go against one’s own beliefs in order to be accepted creates a great deal of internal conflict and sometimes external conflict with family members and friends from an earlier time. Defining oneself as an individual and developing a constant value system forces young people to confront issues of conformity and non-conformity. This is a major challenge of adolescence.

    Many studies of young people show that if a person’s friends engage in a behavior – everything from cigarette smoking to drinking alcohol to shoplifting to sexual activity – an adolescent is highly likely to conform to his or her friends’ behaviors and try these activities. The alternative is for the young person to seek different friends with values more in line with his own. Often, however, the desire to be part of a group and the fear of social isolation makes it more appealing to change behaviors than to seek other friends.

    Attitudes toward conformity are of particular interest in community health, where conformity may influence the willingness of people to engage in activities such as illicit drug use or high-risk sexual activities, or prompt them to avoid drug rehabilitation programs.

    The tendency to conform to a group’s values is of interest to outreach workers because social networks may provide a link to reaching and influencing the behavior of a wide range of people involved in drug abuse and high-risk sexual activity. If key members of a group accept messages about how to change behavior to reduce risky activities such as needle sharing, drinking and driving, and unsafe sexual behavior, other group members often follow their lead and change their behavior also.

    Although society tends to focus on teenagers’ needs to conform and follow fads, and many parents worry about how the desire to conform will influence the decisions their children must make, issues surrounding conformity continue into adult life. They may be as trivial as choosing the proper clothes to wear to the office so as not to stand out or as serious as choosing whether to have one’s children vaccinated against diseases. Finding a rational balance between belonging and being an individual is a challenge for everyone. Many people who feel as if this area of their lives is out of balance benefit from seeking professional counseling to help them find a level of conformity that is more comfortable for them.

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  25. UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LIBRARIES: The Ramiro A. Fernández digital collection contains images that document life in Cuba from the 1890s through the 1950s. Included are pictures of a variety of buildings, such as homes, schools, churches, resorts, military installations, and public buildings, as well as landscapes, street scenes, and pictures of agriculture, transportation, families, children, and people at work and leisure. Ramiro A. Fernández began collecting photographs of Cuba in 1981. Inspired by his grandmother, Hortensia Lizaso Machado, Fernández built his collection to document aspects of Cuban life, history, art, and culture before they disappeared. His collection includes a mixture of family, tourist, and professional photos from the late 1800s through the Cuban Revolution. A native of Cuba, Fernández moved with his family to Palm Beach County, Florida, in 1960. He graduated from Florida State University in 1974 and worked as a photo editor for Time, Inc. for 25 years. He is a Contributing Photo Editor to Americas Quarterly. In 2007, Fernández published I Was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernández Collection (Chronicle Books). To see additional photographs of Cuba, please visit the Cuban Photograph Collection, the Manuel R. Bustamente Photograph Collection, the Estus H. Magoon Collection, the Augustus C. Mayhew, Jr. Photograph Collection, and the Tom Pohrt Collection.

  26. N.Y. MAGAZINE PHOTOS: Glamorous Old Photos of Mid-Century Cuba – by Erica Schwiegershausen
    In the early 1980s, Ramiro Fernández was working as a photo editor at Time Inc. when he bought a set of prints by the Spanish-born Cuban photographer José Gómez de la Carrera. Finding that the mid-century images of Cuba recalled memories of his childhood milieu — Fernández lived in Cuba until he was 8 — he began collecting historical photographs of Cuban life on a broader scale. Today, spanning over 150 years of the nation’s history, the Ramiro A. Fernández Collection is one of the world’s largest archives of Cuban photography and the subject of a new book, Cuba Then, out next month. Comprised of over 300 images, the book provides a rich look at Cuba’s cultural history, from smoking movie stars to a young, bare-chested Che Guevara. Click through our slideshow for a taste of old-Cuba glamour, including images of Spanish-Mexican actress Emilia Guiú, Chilean singer Lucho Gatica, and more.

  27. Tamed? Too tame a word. Caged, debeaked with wings clipped is more apt. Has anyone compiled a book of Cuban jokes, as has been done with Soviet Communism, viz, Hammer and Tickle by Ben Lewis.

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