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Visiting a political Jurassic Park

My wife and I are off to Cuba next week for a fortnight.

We have to be quick if we’re to catch a glimpse of the place before it changes irreversibly. Every piece of news seems to be in the right direction for Cubans, the wrong direction for tourists seeking picturesqueness.

President Raul Castro has pledged to legalize the purchase and sale of homes by the end of the year, bringing this informal market out of the shadows as part of an economic reform package under which Cuba is already letting islanders go into business for themselves in 178 designated activities, as restaurateurs, wedding planners, plumbers, carpenters.

And:

Since last October, Cuba’s streets have turned on a new look with the opening of new private restaurants, fast food stalls, beauty salons and electronic repair shops.

Yes, got to move fast before Cuba’s USP as the Western Hemisphere’s only communist paradise slips away. Perhaps to pass to Venezuela.

But Venezuela hasn’t got the Hemingway connection to trade on.

20 comments to Visiting a political Jurassic Park

  • Take a few processed sweets, candies, toothbrushes and toothpaste (i also imagine smints would be popular). When we were there that was what everyone seemed to be after. Someone will be grateful, and they could even be used to trade in lieu of currency. Everything is upside down there. Plenty of dentists, but no toothpaste. Its what surplus labour and human capital compared to physical capital looks like, i guess.

  • Jay Thomas

    One of the things I resent most of about many people’s view of Cuba is this tendency to pretend that the poverty and lack of economic opportunity in that country is somehow cute or endearing. This attitude of ‘My how charming, look at those gorgeous 1950s cars!’ as if people are living that way on purpose. There is nothing charming whatsoever about the economic ruin the Castro family has inflicted upon ordinary Cubans over the last 5 decades. Why do so many people continue to see it in those terms?

  • Paul Marks

    Jay – people assume that Castro (and so on) had “good intentions” and (therefore) they interpret everything in this light.

    Most people will (if presented with the evidence) will accept that the Castro brothers and “Che” were mass murderers as well as economic mess makers – but they will think of it as a “noble idea gone bad” not as a result of an evil idea – collectivism.

    A few (such as disgusting Noam Chomsky) will even pretend that any murders or economic failures in any socialist country are not the result of socialism at all – but of a perversion of socialism, with even “Lenin” being described as “right winger”.

    The “left” are noble and pure BY DEFINITION you see – so if turns out that a leftist is the biggest mass murderer of all time, such as Mao, then are not “left” any more, just as Chomsky supported Pol Pot (who wiped out a third of the entire population of his country) and then (when even he had to start admitting stuff – but, of course, without a word of apology to the people he attacked, for years, for trying to expose the horror) try and make up reasons (from ethnic tentions to the mental effects of American bombing) – ANYTHING rather than admit that the IDEA of collectivism is evil.

    At all costs the IDEA of socialism (or “social justice” or “economic justice” or “environmental justice” – all cover terms for collectivism) must be protected – and not just by creatures like Chomsky.

    The latest cover name for the idea of world collectivsm is the “Agenda 21″ project of the United Nations (most likely being, in part, put into practice by a local council near you). “You are paranoid Paul” – perhaps, but what is so crazy about taking people at their word? The people who wrote Agenda 21 are socialists and said they did it to advance their ideas on a world scale – so……

    The intellectual establishment (from most universities and schools – to most entertainment sources [such as Hollywood] and news organizations, private as well as state owned) has the starting assumption that the idea is a noble one – although it may go wrong “in practice”.

    Till we discredit the IDEA (“the doctrine – not just the life”) then socialism will keeeping commming back – like a weed, or more like a science fiction triffid.

    Talking of science fiction – there is nothing in the horror of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution” that can not be found in (for example) H. G. Wells short story – “The Comming of the Comet”.

    He adds in a comet and “new air” – but the rest is all there, the end of private property, and the destruction of the old culture and customs, and then even the physical destruction of houses and other buildings – so that there may be a “year of tents” (and so on) as the wonderful new world is built on the dust of the old world.

    And all presented as a “good thing”.

    “But these were moderate Fabians Paul – they did not support mass murder”.

    Yes they did – both Wells and G. B. Shaw openly (and in their NONfiction) writings supported the murder of tens of millions (indeed hundreds of millions of people), and then they (and Mr and Mrs Webb) covered up for Lenin and Stalin when they put some theory into practice.

    By the way – the claim (made by some socialist historians) that the Marxist takeover in Russia would not have led to mass murder if only Trotsky had come out on top (a claim made by supposed “moderates” such as Robert Harris) is total crap.

    In reality Trotsky opposed Stalin from the LEFT – to him the collectivization of farming did not happen fast enough, and where were the “industrial and agricultural armies” promised by Karl Marx – under Stalin tens of millions of people were slaves (the prisoners in the Gulag and so on), but not everyone was a slave – and it was this lack of universal slavery that really upset the left.

    For a vision of what it would have been like if they had won out against the “moderate” Stalin – see Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

    As for “when the state is the sole employer, opposition is death by slow starvation” – the classic Trotsky quote (used by his defenders).

    Trotsky’s own bodyguard, Max Eastman, came to see that this would be just as true under Trotsky as it would be under Stalin.

    Trotsky would simply have been more open about it – less decietful.

    For example, he would not have pretended that slaves were “criminals” convicted of “crimes” (as Stalin did).

  • Paul Marks

    My comment will turn up in due time.

    Whilst I am here again I will give you a test – to tell a decent person who calls themselves a socialist (for many decent people call themsleves socialists).

    Show them the “Fabian Window” and explain it to them.

    If they are honestly horrified – then they are decent people (regardless of their politics).

    If, however, they claim “you do not understand – it is just a joke” or “the Fabians were just being ironic” (or some such) then you are dealing with a scumbag.

    When (for example) George Bernard Shaw said, with a smile, that he wanted everyone to have to “justify their existance” to a government board – and if the board was not satisfied with justification the person was to be killed, forget the smile.

    For he meant every word.

    So did H.G. Wells – with his writings about using poison gas to exterminate hundreds of millions of people (for example the “blacks, browns and yellows”).

  • Sunfish

    Somehow, I’m having trouble imagining swarms of teenage Cuban girls at the Montecristo factory rolling doobies to sell in Canada, but I guess anything is possible.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    When travel writers start going on about how “vulgar” and “overdeveloped” Cuba is becoming, I’ll book my flights. So long as it is the favoured destination for the sort of people who wear silly T-shirts with pictures of mass murderers on them, I’ll be off to somewhere else instead.

  • I have no interest in seeing Cuba (I grew up in a similar environment), but I’d love to take my son there – or, better yet, to NK. It would be far more beneficial than any crap they are trying to teach him at school.

  • Sunfish

    There’s the thing. I really do want to see Cuba. I want to smoke a real Partagas while doing shots of rum while disposing of the used rum on Castro’s shallow, unmarked grave.

    I had a number of teachers who showed up in Florida as children in the early sixties. They made an impression that Cuba could be a lovely place, if only the collectivists would just die in a fire.

    Disregard my earlier joke. It stopped making sense once the spam was deleted.

  • Of course, Sunfish – I meant Cuba under current regime.

  • frankania

    Been to cuba 3 times–everyone we met wanted to leave. Lines everywhere to buy things.
    When a country builds walls on it borders to keep people OUT, it must be a decent place.
    When the wall is to keep people IN, it is a failed state.

  • Jay Thomas

    When travel writers start going on about how “vulgar” and “overdeveloped” Cuba is becoming, I’ll book my flights. So long as it is the favoured destination for the sort of people who wear silly T-shirts with pictures of mass murderers on them, I’ll be off to somewhere else instead.

    This comment has serious SQOTD potential, on my opinion!

  • This comment has serious SQOTD potential, on my opinion!

    The management agrees.

  • Anyone who visits Cuba under Castro is giving comfort to the enemy. The guy has exported terrorism (under the name of revolution) all over Latin America/Africa and provided a haven for terrorists. You are no better than those who visited late 30s Germany or Franco’s Spain. Or is ok to visit those who fund mass murder and terrorism if they are from the left?

  • That is nonsense Andrew. Visiting the world’s assorted hell holes yourself can be very instructional and it hardly counts as giving “aid and comfort to the enemy”.

    I spent a lot of time in Franco’s Spain when I was young… so what? My uncle spent most of the 1930′s in Nazi Germany (German girlfriend) and his intimate knowledge of Hamburg was very useful in his rather event filled stint in the RAF’s Pathfinder Force.

    Now the US policy of attempted isolation may or may not be a good idea (certainly it has failed completely as a means of ending communism in Cuba) but why should anyone, particularly non-Americans, give a rat’s arse that the US state department does not like people travelling there?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Andrew, the better reason for avoiding Cuba is the food poisoning. A leftie former colleague of mine went there and spent weeks recovering.

    I told her to visit Miami next time.

  • Paul marks, great comments.

    As for the old cars etc it’s all crap, there are a few kept hidden for the Bond films etc but the ones on the road are shit heaps, like most of the national buildings with their ‘quaint air”…mainly because they’ve been rotting for 40 years!

    “…the wrong direction for tourists seeking picturesqueness. ”

    No, you’ll soon realise the Cuba you see in films with the stalls on thew Malecon and dancing and everyone happy etc doesn’t actually exist. You have to be a left-wing liar to revel in Cuba’s “picturesqueness”.

    Nick says take a few sweets but if you want a ‘slave’ for the duration of your stay take a pair of Levis or similar, it will guarantee it. I am not kidding, it is so sad.

    P.S. Don’t trust anyone, it’s not their fault mind.

  • Its nothing to do with what the State Department says really. I am sure Obama & his cronies want to normalize relations immediately if they thought it was viable.

    I am thinking of the parents of friends of mine and friends of my parents who were kicked out of Cuba with all but their shirts. All those people who died fleeing the shit-hole that Castro has turned Cuba into by sea. All those that have died to terrorists funded by Cuba.

    But they don’t matter because you get a cheap holiday right?

  • I am thinking of the parents of friends of mine and friends of my parents who were kicked out of Cuba with all but their shirts. All those people who died fleeing the shit-hole that Castro has turned Cuba into by sea. All those that have died to terrorists funded by Cuba.

    Yes, terrible. Really.

    But so what? How is any of that relevant? If I want to go see it for myself… so what? Is it bad because some of my money might end up in Castro’s pocket? Sorry, not a good enough reason because if you expand that notion, it gets you in some very weird situations.

    The USA does a very large number of things I disapprove of too… so presumably because me going there will result in me paying some US taxes, should I avoid entering the USA for fear of aiding and abetting the things I disapprove of?

    The UK nationalised the business of some of my relations, it taxed the parents of people I know out of their home and made them ‘agree’ to turn them over to the national trust if they wanted to be allowed to live there (this was in the 1960′s but they never got their home back)… monstrous behaviour by the state… well, no visits to the UK for me, I guess.

    If I never went somewhere because I disapproved of its government, I would have to live on a ship that never docked anywhere.

    But they don’t matter because you get a cheap holiday right?

    Non sequitur, to put it mildly.

  • Chris Cooper

    Well, not too many condemnations from commenters for visiting the place. I wonder how many holiday destinations are squeaky-clean in the eyes of the condemners? Good luck with boycotting any Chinese goods.

    The insane and cynical US policy of sanctions has done its bit to keep the regime in power in Cuba all these years – why should I help by boycotting the place? On principle, I would never have boycotted South African goods in the apartheid days (and I don’t when the current lot commits some outrage) – so why do just that with Cuba?

  • but why should anyone, particularly non-Americans, give a rat’s arse that the US state department does not like people travelling there?

    That would be a good-enough reason to visit in and of itself.