Seeking out fiskable material in the Guardian is altogether too much like spearing fish in a barrel. It’s almost unfair. Callous, even. In fact, spoilt for choice, I generally elect to leave the tiddlers and save my energies for the succulent, fat ones that drift serene and oblivious to my cravings for their ample and oily flesh.
Dinner is served, courtesy of one Brian Wilson who takes his readers on a moist-eyed trip down memory lane:
Twenty-five years ago this month, I visited Cuba for the first time. The occasion was the World Festival of Youth and Students, which drew 20,000 to Havana from 150 countries – probably, to this day, the country’s biggest display to the world of its revolutionary wares.
Come on over, Mama, whole lot of schtoopidity goin’ on.
Yet, for our Brian, these were the salad days:
But for me, that visit was the start of a life-long love affair.
Ah yes, the romantic boulevards of gay Havana, where Brian strolled arm-in-arm with the Revolutionary Vanguard of the Hoopty-Squat Dirtbag 25th of November People’s Liberation Front Army (or something).
There is no need to confuse that statement with uncritical acclaim for everything about the place. But criticism should never ignore the fact that Cuba’s primary service to the world has been to provide living proof that it is possible to conquer poverty, disease and illiteracy in a country that was grossly over-familiar with all three.
Where’s the ‘living proof’, O Besotted One? Why isn’t every Cuban Embassy on the planet besieged with sick, starving, illiterate people all clamouring for passage to Havana and salvation?
I have now had half a dozen such sessions with Castro. He talks a lot but then he has a lot to talk about. He is a man with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I have got to know quite a few surprising characters whom few would recognise from the caricatures – Castro as an admirer of Churchill; Castro as a pragmatist who recognises the inevitability of globalisation and wants Latin America to mould it; Castro whose withering remarks about the Soviet Union confirm just how unloving a marriage of necessity that was.
Castro the wise. Castro the good. Castro the humanitarian. Castro the divine, the charming, the witty, the profound. Castro the bon vivant; a scholar, a gentleman, a prince among men. Dammit, I’ve run out of compliments.
The tragedy is that the evolutionary process – not least in regard to the liberal freedoms – could be so much more rapid and comfortable, if only the US would learn to co-exist a little more graciously.
See it’s that bloody George Bush again. What a monster! On his ignoble head be the plight of Cuba!
Cuba’s problems are immense. Socialism in one country is still a contradiction in terms.
Oh of course, it’s not the socialism that is causing the problems, it’s the socialism in one country. If only the rest of the world would take Cuba’s lead those problems would all evaporate overnight.
All true, all the inevitable product of 40 years of siege, but also all irrelevant to the bigger picture of what Cuba represents as a symbol of human potential.
If Mr.Wilson thinks that an impoverished, oppressive, third-world communist toilet is a ‘symbol of human potential’ then it isn’t just Cuba that has immense problems.
I have noticed quite a lot of this sort of orgasmic waxing about Cuba’s alleged healthcare and education standards in the British leftist press of late. It is almost identical to the kind of rhetoric they once employed in the service of the British sovietised models. And ‘once’ is the key word because here in the UK they can no longer get away with that and they know it. Their rosey propoganda has first stumbled and then ground to a halt completely in the face of a first-hand shambolic reality that even they can no longer deny.
So it’s all hearts and minds over to the tropical, mysterious and (best of all) faraway island in the Caribbean whose sovietised models work as intended (so we’re told) and the rude actuality of bitter experience need never darken their melifluous visions. While angry Britons prod them in the chest and tell them they’re talking crapola, angry Cubans denied a similar privilege are hitching a ride on old truck tyres to get them to Florida.
Doesn’t stack up, does it. But, then, it never did. Pass the hollandaise sauce.