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Thinking about Cuba

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I just came back from a beautiful vacation in Havana, Cuba. Awesome city.

Have you ever been to the developing world? It’s amazing how you can revert to a simpler time, technologically, and be totally fine within a few days. Your lifestyle adjusts. You can actually relax, if you let yourself.

By the end of the week I wasn’t really noticing that my iPhone kept staying behind. It was normal that people couldn’t contact each other when they were out of the house. You accepted it.

The city is filled with propagandist graffiti everywhere that talk about the revolution as if people in the city actually believed in it. It’s amazing to see such a discrepancy between the official stance and the view of the people.

It just goes to show how easy it is for a revolutionary attitude to become a kind of empty sloganeering that covers up what people in power really think. It’s so easy to begin your life as a rebellious youth and then turn conservative as soon as you’re in power, it’s practically a cliche by this point.

J. Krishnamurti, a pretty famous Indian sage that I’ve pointed out here before influenced my thinking a lot on this subject; he dissolved his own Order of the Star in 1929 after a great deal of consideration, basically saying “You should not follow anyone, even me.”

Here’s a great story he told about the Devil and a man walking down the street:

“You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, ‘What did that man pick up?’ ‘He picked up a piece of the truth,’ said the devil. ‘That is a very bad business for you, then,’ said his friend. ‘Oh, not at all,’ the devil replied, ‘I am going to help him organize it.’ I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path.”

This in contrast to most people in power, who get comfy and change their attitudes to keep themselves in power as long as possible. It seems almost expected at this point, doesn’t it? But who did the right thing? Which one would you want to be?

* Filed by at 4:13 pm under travel


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5 Responses to “Thinking about Cuba”

  1. Lisa Yallamas Says:

    Then truth is not attainable – you can not reach it. And the Devil is in possession of it.

  2. Nick Desbarats Says:

    Great post, Julien. Been thinking a lot about this as well.

    If you take the J. Krishnamurti view to the extreme, however, one should never listen to anyone, not read any books, not try to benefit from anyone else’s experience or insight by virtue of the fact that such information comes from another person (i.e., someone who might be trying to manipulate your worldview).

    The trick, as is usually the case for questions like this, is to learn how to think critically, and the only way I’ve found to learn to think critically is to get as wide a variety of personal experiences as possible. Like going to Havana.

    Then, when you hear someone else’s version of “the truth”, you’re more likely to be able to compare it with something in your own first-hand experience to gauge how valid it might be.

    If you haven’t seen it already, there is an excellent TED talk about this:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/devdutt_pattanaik.html

    btw, why is there a countdown timer on the corner of this page? I felt all stressed out as I was writing this…

  3. Sharon Dinitz Says:

    “Question authority, including your own.”

  4. Rob Suarez Says:

    Out of curiosity… why use the phrase “developing world” to describe Havana? The Havana you visited is the Havana of the 1950’s… stagnant… rotting. It is receding, not developing. The developing world is moving forward, growing towards a brighter future. The Havana you visited is a dying remnant of an older city that was once on par with the largest cities in the world. Would any of us look at a dusty town along US Route 66 and declare it to be “up-and-coming” or “developing”? Hardly.

    I do agree, however, with the remainder of your observations. The spirit of the people is infectious and the propaganda rings hollow. That part of your post rings true in my ears and gives me hope for Havana and the rest of the island. Perhaps the powers ringing the hollow propaganda will tire of “organizing the truth”… then the people themselves may go back to picking up their own bits of truth along their journey back from decay. Perhaps you are right… perhaps Havana is progressing – developing – after all.

  5. Christopher Says:

    Cuba will not change for a long time. I will let you on a little secret you ever so smart educated people !
    Guantanamo base is worth way more to the Americans than Havana or the rest of the island. Have you ever stopped and thought that the big boss of cuba does not want Cuba to change. You don’t think if Uncle Sam really wanted Cuba for the past 50 years they would have sat and talked about it like a little girl, were is you heads people , they would have had it by now , Uncle Sam wants oil , oil , oil control.And a small base on the island. The 100 year deal with Guantanamo was up a few years back and now it is extended. Da Da Da , they are not interested in Cleaning up a Country. I have visited Cuba more than 40 times. Wait and see what they do next in Guantanamo , just wait and see. Coming soon to a theatre near you. Wait and you will be telling me oh I guess he is correct , give it six months to a year it takes time to build things . Stay tuned. Oh just a little more , Did Uncle Sam go to Haiti ? Caio , Stay Tuned

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