Fidel And 540 minutes :Fight, Don’t Let Pessimism Win, It’s Our Duty
By Farooque Chowdhury
21 February, 2012
“We have to fight. We can’t let pessimism win. It’s our duty”, Fidel Castro said.
This call to duty comes from the person who, long ago, in a court of trial quoted Martí: “A true man does not seek the path where advantage lies, but rather, the path where duty lies […]” (Fidel Castro, “History will absolve me”) Of this person, Tad Szulc observes: “Cuban and world history would have evolved differently had this single individual been less determined […]” (Fidel: A Critical Portrait) And, of the same person, Raul Castro told: “The most important feature of Fidel’s character is that he will not accept defeat.” (Herbert Matthews, Castro: A Political Biography)
So, today, Fidel describes the current world period as “harsh and difficult, with everyone asking each other what to do […]”. In terms of the enemy, the aspect that concerns him most is that “they believe that they are in control, they try to impose things, but they are not in control. Nobody really knows what is happening.” Elucidating the point Fidel cited the situation related to Iran. “The principal truth is the danger of war”, he said. Fidel warned: “[T]he most dangerous aspect is that enemy forces are less and less in control of the terrible forces and processes which they have unleashed. This is the situation of the United States and Europe in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they can neither stay nor go.” (Arleen Rodríguez and Rosa Míriam Elizalde, “Nine Hours of Dialogue with the Leader of the Revolution”, Feb. 14, 2012)
Fidel reiterated the need to keep people informed, (emphasis, here and henceforth, added) another news agency report said.
Fidel Castro was having a discussion in Havana. A Reuters news said: Fidel had a nine-hour discussion with intellectuals.
The meeting, “Encounter of Intellectuals for Peace and Environmental Conservation”, was participated by more than hundred laureates in literature, history and social and natural sciences, eminent thinkers from 21 countries and Cuba including Cervantes Prize (the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world) 2005 winner prominent Mexican writer, translator and diplomat Sergio Pitol, and Nobel Peace Prize (1980) laureate Argentine sculptor, architect and pacifist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. They were attending the 21st International Book Fair of Havana. The discussions covered issues including the state of the world, possible extinction of humanity, exhaustion of the planet’s natural resources, perversions of media transnationals, military and mind control devices, and the 85-year-old comandante’s health. An intimate Fidel gave full attention to all the speakers during these 540 minutes with two brief recesses. (Arleen and Rosa, op. cit.)
“He is the same Fidel as always”, said Ignacio Ramonet, author of Cien horas con Fidel (One Hundred Hours with Fidel), Spanish journalist, writer and former editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique. The revolutionary’s inexhaustible curiosity was there. As the participants were expressing ideas, Fidel’s thoughts were live with expression; there was his habitual gesture – touching face with index finger or reflectively stroking his beard. (Arleen and Rosa, op. cit.)
Daniel Chavarría, the Uruguayan-Cuban revolutionary, writer, and winner of the National Literature Prize, mentioned Fidel’s capacity for being ahead of events, of being a type of “historical prophesier”, a “tactical pessimist and strategic optimist”. Chavarría wanted Fidel “to say whether, in a world at the point of going to the winds and with […] enormous problem […] he should be alarmed or stay calm. Fidel unhesitatingly replied, ‘In order to remain calm you have to think about the problem and fight against it.’ One of the best ways of helping the act of ‘thinking about the problem’ is to provide peoples with as much information as possible.” (ibid.)
Stella Calloni, Argentine journalist and writer, cited the frightening silence of media and part of the left in the face of colonial wars unleashed one after another since 2001 and those threatening to follow the script in Syria and Iran. She called for greater coordination on the Defense of Humanity network. “If we cannot stop these wars, they will come down on us later […] Silence on the part of intellectuals, never again”, she said. Frei Betto, author of the book Fidel and Religion, urged to generate projects, not only outrage, because it is not enough to address global injustice. (ibid.)
Award-winning Argentine journalist, novelist and politician Miguel Bonasso raised a burning issue: The latest British colonial aggression in the Malvinas. Fidel observed: “They have no choice but to negotiate and leave. What they have done is totally brazen: they even dispatched a destroyer and a helicopter with the Prince as a pilot. The Americans definitely won’t be very happy about that. The situation is not one of war, but pressure has to put on them.” “Pinochet’s no longer here; he was the one who helped the British in their last war on Argentina. They are desperate, and that’s the way in which they reacted when Uruguay recently vetoed the entry of a British ship flying the Malvinas flag. They have no business there, the only option left open to them is to leave”, Fidel said. (ibid.)
The dialogue turned amazing as Brazilian Marilia Guimaraes informed that architect Oscar Niemeyer, a friend of Fidel, is now 104 years of age. “His mind is extremely lucid and he often asks after ‘the 85-year-old boy.’” An amused Fidel asked “Why don’t we make a genetic study of him?” He wanted to know from German Harri Grünberg the way Germany plans to replace nuclear energy. Santiago Alba Rico, “Arab by adoption and a homeless European who, like many others, moves about defending Cuba”, was asked questions on the post-revolt situation in Tunisia – Rico’s present place of residence – its economy, agriculture, and its wine and date production. This led Frei Betto to comment: “Many people here, like Santiago Alba have experienced what an oral test in a Jesuit school means. It’s hard. That’s where Fidel comes from.” (ibid.)
Famous author of juvenile and youth literature Carlos Frabetti referred to advertising: “Advertising tries to convince us that happiness is possessing more than others, when happiness is having more with others.” Children are the most vulnerable to advertising, he said. Frabetti congratulated Cuba for not being subjected to this aggression while Europeans can receive up to 1,000 advertising impacts every day. He said children living under constant consumer stimulus turn frustrated and react aggressively. Fidel expressed his aversion to advertising, which the Cuban Revolution has never utilized, not even as a means of testifying to its positive actions. (ibid.)
Everything that Cuba has done for other peoples was without any desire for competitiveness, publicity or propaganda, Fidel said. He affirmed: The spirit of solidarity is part of the foundations of the Revolution that triumphed in January of 1959. In those years, Cuba had 6,000 doctors. Many of them left for the US when the economic and political blockade was imposed. However, at the same time, some of the professionals who joined the revolutionary process were also prepared to go to Algeria to help that country. “Thus Cuba’s internationalist tradition began”, Fidel noted. He recalled that “the initial aid for Angola was transported in the old Britannia aircraft that we had. We did it without seeking any limelight.” Experience was added to these principles, intertwined with what Fidel called “an honorable politics, not exempt from errors, but honorable.” He added, “The ideas which we defend are based on experience, they are not simply imaginings. We have experienced them.” (ibid.)
Honor and dignity are fundamental and uncompromising issues to Fidel. Even his class enemies fail to deny it while they refer to Fidel and Cuba. The revolutionary, whose struggle transgresses centuries, initiating in the twentieth century and continuing in the twenty-first century, stands for honesty, honor and dignity since the initial days of his revolutionary activities, since the days of his dream to “revolutionize [Cuba] from top to bottom” (Fidel, My Early Years, “Letters from prison, 1953-55”, April 15, 1954)
Fidel praised the Telesur network […] “for working very seriously and professionally […]” “I like Telesur very much”, he said. On ways to confront lies by the enemy’s powerful media, he said he no longer bothered these lies. “The problem is not in the lies they say, but that we cannot prevent them. What we are looking at today is how we ourselves state the truth.” The key, according to Fidel, is to inform. He praised Telesur’s approach and its lack of advertisements that bombard media users almost everywhere in the world. (Arleen and Rosa, op. cit.)
“[T]oday, information within the media system operates like merchandise”, affirmed Ignacio Ramonet, Spanish writer and journalist. “[T]here are many free daily newspapers today […] How is it that a system which is always so concerned about benefit, is making the circulation of information free of charge? Because these days, the information trade does not consist of selling information to people, but in selling people advertising [….I]nformation is a strategic raw material [….M]edia power […] can only be conceived of as the twin of financial power [.…T]his media-financial link is more powerful than political power […P]olitical leaders have less power than before and the media is taking advantage of this weakening and the absence of authority to attack on behalf of objectives set by the financial power”, he added. (ibid.)
Fidel observed the abuse of technology that intrudes people’s privacy. “All aspects of their personal lives are explored and this surveillance is being carried out by those who consider themselves champions of individual rights.” He joked about certain people still believing in code and commented that the Yankee secret in wars has always been to know these codes. He went on to talk about devices already at the advanced research stage which can transmit electricity through appliances of barely one atom in height, from drone aircraft, and of the possibility of making soldiers subconsciously react to electronic orders more rapidly than by traditional means. The persons inventing them, he noted, “are going beyond insanity”. (ibid.)
Argentine writer Vicente Battista, Salvadorian playwright Lina Cerritos and the Culture ministers of Angola, Ecuador and Jamaica referred to cultural resistance, standing up to domination, environmental conservation, and the importance of discussing ideas. (ibid.)
Bonasso recalled with emotion a February day of 2006, when Fidel wrote the following dedication on the first page of a book which he was given: “With great hope in youth and that the world will continue to exist”. He narrated another incident on one night in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution, just after the earthquake in northern Pakistan in October 2005. The decision to send a Cuban medical team to the aid of the victims was taken on that night. Bonasso recalled that Fidel said, “The winter and the cold are coming now and thousands upon thousands of people have lost their homes in the mountains. What will happen to these people, to the women and children?” The Argentine writer added, “You are the only statesman I have known to have the capacity of thinking sensitively and whom I have seen deeply moved by […] people.” (ibid.)
In an exchange with Francisco Sesto, Venezuelan minister for the reconstruction of Caracas, Fidel inquired about housing and other social projects being implemented by the Bolivarian government and exposed “the propaganda and publicity apparatus being fired at Chávez.” (ibid.)
“I came to listen to you, to learn from you”, the Comandante en Jefe insisted. Argentine political scientist Atilio Borón recalled the absurd divisions within the left. “These are old habits which will gradually [get] eliminated”, observed Fidel. He termed the audience as “Infinite”. Probably he was meaning “the capability of the men and women accompanying him to multiply their non-acceptance of the current world order and to establish projects and models which can save humanity from its self-destruction.”(ibid.)
Fidel recommended that contributions to the encounter should be compiled into a book in order to disseminate the ideas expressed. The intellectuals present could revise their words, edit them and add what they might have forgotten in the heat of the dialogue. “Given that we are very pressed, there’s no need for haste”, he said. (ibid.)
Fidel’s all moves make news. His admirers and enemies keep eyes on him, on all news on him. The discussion with the intellectuals is significant as it brings notice to the deteriorating world situation, as imperialism is making one after another onslaught, as imperialism is turning captive to its crisis that makes it desperate. The days are much dangerous and uncertain then the Empire’s Iraq invasion days. “No other era in the history of humankind has experienced the current dangers humanity faces.” (Fidel Castro, “Marching toward the abyss”, Reflections, Jan.4, 2012) On the one hand, a section in peoples’ camp with their inert, ignorant brain is joining imperialists’ covert and overt invasions in the name of democracy, and on the other, capital is cementing ties with one of its old allies, retrogressive forces, while the inert brains join the alliance. Fidel, Guerrillero del tiempo, Guerrilla of Time, in this situation, calls to practice “honorable politics” that should be upheld and practiced at all costs, that a significant section in people’s camp in a number of poor countries has abandoned, and that moneyed elites dominating societies can’t practice.
Dhaka-based freelancer Farooque Chowdhury contributes on socioeconomic issues.
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