All posts by Susan Babbitt

The Myth of Difficult Times

We live in difficult times. Or so we are told, again and again, since Trump. But Raúl Roa, brilliant Cuban academic, politician and diplomat, made the claim in 1953. He said a crisis was unfolding that was unprecedented in world history.

He was referring to US power after the Second World War. No greater joke, he speculated, could emerge from the most diabolical mind, than the government ruling in the name of the people against the people 1 ½ centuries after French Revolution.

Roa was a leader of the “1930s revolution” that briefly replaced the government installed in Cuba by the US. Cuba’s last war for independence from Spain ended in 1898 when the US intervened: the first imperialist war. Cubans’ struggle for independence, begun in 1868, was lost.

Its ideas were lost too. The 1895 war, led by José Martí, according to US historian Ada Ferrer, was remarkable for its anti-racism: 60% of its leadership was non-white, many former slaves, at a time when, in the US and the UK, scientists measured skulls to establish the intellectual superiority of whites.[i]

Roa emerged from the intellectual, political and cultural resistance in Cuba of the 1920s. Activists and scholars turned to Martí who had the unusual idea, in the 19thcentury, that Latin Americans could be free, and developed, without following the US. It is an unusual idea still.

But it is alive. According to Fernando Martínez Heredia, Roa, in his twenties, knew revolution is a cultural struggle for superior ideas.[ii]It is not about a dictator. Roa was intolerant of those who just wanted to replace Gerardo Machado, although he worked with them.

The real problem was imperialism.

Roa published Bufa Subversiva, at age 28, in the year of utter political failure in Cuba, 1935. The book was republished in 2006, unchanged. After 1935, as a lawyer and university professor, Roa wrote, taught and organized. He was Cuba’s foreign minister, 1959-76, nicknamed “minister of dignity”.

He defended the humanism buried by the misnamed Renascence. [iii]It was not a renascence, but ground work for capitalism. Or so Roa argued. Ancient humanism was characterized by contemplation. It was defended by Erasmus, for one, and Bartholomé de las Casas, who condemned Spanish colonialism.

But what might have led to freedom was a justification for cruelty and greed: Liberalism.  There were few dissenters. The “difficult times” Roa identifies in 1953, unprecedented, are when the lie of the Renascence becomes unquestionable. It becomes an expectation, unnoticed.

The great whale story, Moby-Dick, is instructive. It is said to be a US book because the whale ship contains a multiplicity of characters, representing US democracy. Queequeg, for instance, is a cannibal with strange rituals, and the nicest, smartest guy on the boat.

It is the story of Captain Ahab’s vengeful pursuit of a whale and Ishmael, the narrator, who looks for meaning. Ahab dies while Ishmael comes to terms with human beings’ “almighty forlornness” in nature. Ishmael seeks meaning in every part of the whale, its face (which it doesn’t have), its ears, its tail.

Only Ishmael survives, floating on the sea: the one who thinks. Some say the search for meaning is a human propensity.  But we don’t look for meaning. We look for somemeaning, depending upon expectations. We seek meaning in what we don’t expect and what we expect depends upon social practises. This is well-known.

If Moby-Dickshows human unimportance in nature, and if we find it meaningful for doing so, it is because at some level we don’t expect it. Critics find Ahab’s quest humanly understandable.[iv]But Bertoldt Brecht found in Chinese theatre a differentexpectation.

In Europe, Brecht noticed, the heroic individual “stands tall” against the storm. In Chinese theatre, in contrast, the hero sees the storm, crouches down and waits for it to pass.  The hero becomes small.

Brecht saw the Chinese imagery as more realistic. If Brecht is right about such imagery, and if one were to immerse oneself in such literature, one might find Moby-Dickinteresting, not because Ishmael accepts his unimportance in nature, but rather because he finds it interesting in the first place: unexpected.

“The one who thinks” discovers that we are not in fact superior to nature. But why would anyone expect that to begin with?

And this is Roa’s point. Ishmael cannot know the whale. Describing the whale’s “exquisitely defined” tail, he writes: “Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep. I know him not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how understand his head“.

But he expectsto know the whale. Otherwise, he wouldn’t find interesting the fact that he cannot.  It is how understanding works.

Moby-Dickis a US book, not because it includes a multiplicity of perspectives, representing US democracy, as some say. Instead, Moby-Dickis a US book because it expresses the expectation that such multiplicity is surprising, and needs to be understood. It is not a necessary expectation.

But it was dominant by 1953. An expectation of power, defining itself as democracy. Some say violence in the US is explained by guns and mental illness. Cuba has both, but no Cuban child is shot dead studying at school. The US, though, has 800 military bases around the world.

Why aren’t the kids protesting that?

Roa’s Viento sur (Wind from the South) opens with an echo of Karl Marx’s “A specter is haunting Europe”: “A wind blows in the south”, he writes.

It is urgent. Otherwise, the expectation of power is unnoticed because it is just that: an expectation.

Ana Belén Montes knew this. She is imprisoned and silenced.[v] Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i]Insurgent Cuba (University of North Carolina, 1999)

[ii]Fernando Martínez Heredia, “Prologue: Roa, Bufa y el marxismo subversivo” in Bufa subversiva(Havana: Centro cultural Pablo de la Torriente Brau 2006)

[iii]Raul Roa, “Grandeza y servidumbre del humanismo”, Havana, 1953

[iv]Kazin, Alfred “Introduction”, Moby-Dick(Wadsworth Publishing, originally published 1955)

[v]http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to sarahnes@cubarte.cult.cuor cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

 

Chestnuts, Monkeys and Another Reason Ahed Tamini Matters

Photo by Romerito Pontes | CC BY 2.0

Ahed Tamimi, 16, slapped an Israeli soldier, in her own yard, after her cousin was shot in the head. She’s detained for eight more months after a closed-door trial.[i]The soldier who shot her cousin, putting him in a coma, was not reprimanded.

As I write, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is again covering Malala Yousefsai. She was shot in the head in 2012 and made a hero. She was demanding her right to education.

Palestinian kids are shot every day for the same thing: demanding their rights. But Palestinian kids don’t exist. They don’t count. Most remarkable about Ahed Tamimi’s story is that we’ve heard it. [ii]

Colonization, Frantz Fanon argued, has logic. If you participate, even mentally, certain people don’t exist. You can kill them, or see them killed, without being bothered. You’re human. They’re not.

It raises a question, mostly ignored: How do you know the non-persons, the ones you’ve erased, so it doesn’t matter when they’re shot in the head? How do you know you don’t even see them: unarmed children, demanding human rights?

Ancient Chinese philosopher, Chuang Tzu, tells a story: The keeper tells the monkeys they’ll get three chestnuts in the morning and four at night. The monkeys are furious. So, the keeper offers four chestnuts in the morning and three at night. The monkeys are happy.[iii]

The end is the same: seven chestnuts. But the monkeys are on board: a better result. “Three in the morning” is famous. It is key to Taoist philosophy. Some say it is about thinking at two levels, or about equality, and balance: The monkeys’ perspective is included. The result is the same.

The story is supposedly about “two roads”. But it is not easy. Chuang Tzu’s anecdote is deeper than it seems to those who’ve been duped by a moribund liberal worldview. Chuang Tzu cared about what is lived. He valued simplicity and humility, but not for moral reasons. It was for truth.

We think better about the world, and live better in it, when we can feel our connection to it and to others. “Three in the morning” is not about thinking. It is about creation and loss.

The keeper recognizes the monkeys. He thinks they matter. Herein lies the challenge. Chuang Tzu, like the Buddha, and Marx and Lenin, knew knowing is a challenge, worth investigating. Chuang Tzu wasn’t an anti-imperialist, like Fanon. He was just smart. Realistic.

His focus is the existential, not just intellectual, grasp of reality. It’s a lost art, thanks to centuries of European intellectualist, individualist liberalism, more damaging than Trump.

When Ahed Tamimi is asked what would improve the lives of Palestinian kids, she says human solidarity, from across the world.[iv]She is a child who knows what many political scientists do not: A question about truth matters more than a future vision: How do you envision a future when you can’t even see the people that future is supposedly for?

Some say Ahed Tamimi inspires hope for the Palestinian cause. Jean Paul Sartre, following Fanon, calls resistance an act of self-creation. It is more urgent, and interesting, than hope.

Hope is belief: something to look forward to. It can be understood differently, and is in some traditions, but in happiness-obsessed “developed” societies, it is an opioid. It denies evidence. You hopebecause you don’t, and won’t, see what is there, in front of you. Antonio Gramsci called it lazy.

You sacrifice truth at an “alter of enthusiasm”. When cancer patients are urged to hope, it means: Believe in your own survival no matter what. Don’t see those who are dying around you. You’re not like them. Or so you should believe.

It ignores an important point. Marx knew it. His dialectical view is scientific. We getto truth through connection, with the world and its inhabitants. Felt connection. It is not always comfortable. Marx did not provide a model of the future society, but he showed how to discover truths.

It’s not through hope. I had a student come to me once in despair. She was in first year and had heard university authorities going on about success. She said, “I don’t know how to distinguish myself from 7 billion people on the planet”. It is how she’d understood “success”.

I tried to explain that it is more interesting to know how she is the same as all those people. Shared humanity. It is not what we teach. We hardly believe in it. Ahed Tamimi knows the power of connection, more sustainable and motivating than abstract hope. We can learn from her.

The Peruvian philosopher José Carlos Mariátequi, understanding imperialism, said “deliberation and votes” could not bring justice to Latin America. He admired enlightenment philosophers but knew they didn’t understand dehumanization. They want to count votes without admitting they don’t even see the people who might vote, let alone understand what they’d vote for if they existed.

It is not for nothing that Chuang Tzu is still seen by some as China’s greatest philosopher. Anyone who sees what he writes as simple misses the questions. But we can learn them from Ahed Tamimi, if we dare.

Or, we can learn from Ana Belén Montes, who has been silenced, in the US, for just this reason.[v]Please sign the petition here.

Notes.

[i] https://www.thedailybeast.com/exclusive-interrogation-video-surfaces-of-palestinian-teen-activist-ahed-tamimi

[ii]“One story, two narratives” The Listening PostAljazeera March 3 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWEGUHpafsY

[iii]https://www.scribd.com/document/331816897/The-Way-of-Chuang-Tzu-by-Thomas-Merton-pdf

[iv]The Empire Files with Abby Martin (Telesur)Jan 10 2018

[v] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to sarahnes@cubarte.cult.cu or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

 

Ana Belén Montes at Year’s End

A friend asked “Why write for the left? It’s preaching to the converted”. The question reflects an error. The appeal of wide reach. It is why friends of Cuba despair. They say Cuba should abandon socialism because the world’s not following. It can’t beat the propaganda of the internet. The youth won’t listen.

They miss the point. It’s age old, and still alive in Cuba: the power of direction, of example. Fidel Castro said about Che Guevara that he never lost faith in example. One life, reflecting and living truth, has durable effects. It changes relations. It changes thinking. But it takes time, focus, dedication.

Of what will you convince multitudes? Victor Hugo writes: “This sincerity of muck pleases us … When you have passed your time on earth enduring the spectacle of high and mighty airs put on by reasons of … political wisdom … it is a relief to step into a sewer and see the sludge that rightly belongs there.“ [i]

He means history and daily life. Some readers skip Hugo’s lengthy diversion into the sewers of Paris. But it matters. Drawn by “high and mighty airs”, you don’t “breathe in the enormous fetidness of social catastrophes”. Mao Tse- Tung said the same about how to know reality.[ii]

Critics say Che Guevara’s death was useless. The conditions for revolution didn’t exist in Bolivia. He didn’t achieve political success and so he can be dismissed. They’ll say the same of Ana Belén Montes, who completed her 16th year in a US jail. She’s over sixty, suffering cancer, still silenced.

Her cousin, Miriam Mock, writes that, at year’s end, Ana is the same caring, engaged, studious person as when she was apprehended. She’s allowed to communicate with only a few friends and family members. They’re not allowed to quote her. Her prison-mates supported her through cancer.

But psychologists insist: “There are no single brains”. [iii]  They use concepts like “mirror neurons”. Attitudes and orientations are passed around by “emotional transmission”: within families, workplaces and social networks.[iv] Psychologists don’t see how the idea of shared thinking is radical.

It has political implications, or should. It means that unless you do the hard work to discover and to live truth – some truth about human beings – you think like everyone else. You won’t know your humanity. You can’t, because the society you obey is a dehumanizing one, thoroughly.

Hence, the continued silencing of Ana Belén Montes. With a prestigious job and a comfortable life, she cared about truth. She told the judge in 2001 that she stood before him because she obeyed her conscience. She stepped into the sludge and knew truth about US foreign policy. She acted on her concern for people who were dying, innocent folk getting in the way of US power.

José Martí said “To think is to serve”. He meant, for one thing, that you don’t get truth by “mere thinking”. Einstein knew it. He said great scientists, as opposed to good ones, are capable of solitude. They are capable of caring – for the universe perhaps, and for the people in it. [v]

Einstein recognized relations. He said the truth of socialism is obvious because if you see a group of happy people, you’ll notice passers-by smiling. Marx was one of many smart, sensitive philosophers (ones we don’t teach) who noticed what psychologists have now established: We don’t think alone. The Buddha was another: He said half the job of living ethically is walking with the right people.

They speak to you, silently, with their lives. Thomas Merton warned about filling the world with words, “expressing [ourselves] like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark where there is no enemy.” There is an enemy, of course. We just need to identify it, properly. It takes work.

It’s our own shared thinking, rooted in social practises. It is why the Left must talk to and listen to each other. Finding the way forward is not about, as Merton says, “boring through silent nature in every direction with our machines … pretending to have a purpose”.

Yes, purpose. It’s an idol. Liberal philosophers say you need purpose to have reasons. They call it “instrumental rationality”: You act reasonably when we act for ends, for purpose. They say it is uncontroversial, or at least academic philosophers do. Some even say you need purpose to live.

It is not true. You need relations, the right sort of relations. It is how more adequate purpose is discovered.  It takes time. It’s worth the effort. It’s why Ana Belén Montes needs to be known. Her example is a real threat to dehumanizing liberal ideology. Otherwise she would not still be silenced.[vi]

We need her for direction in 2018. Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] Les Misérables (tr. Julie Rose) 1034-5

[ii] Talks at the Yenan Forum on art and literature http://collections.mun.ca/PDFs/radical/TalksattheYenanForumonArtandLiterature.pdf

[iii] Cozolino, L. The neuroscience of relationships: Attachment and the developing social brain (Norton, 2006) 6

[iv] Mauss et al, 2001; Larson and Almeida, 1999; Hill et al 2010 all cited in Michal Barnea-Astrog, Carved by experience (UK: Karnac Books, 2017)

[v] “Science and religion” and “Religion and science” in Ideas and Opinions (NY: Wings Books, 1954)

[vi] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to sarahnes@cubarte.cult.cu or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

 

Why Don Quixote?

The World Health Organization honored Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade in 2017.[i] Named after a US internationalist, its 48,000 health care workers throughout the South are more than all the rich countries combined. The Brigade has treated 3.5 million people in 21 countries since Fidel Castro created it in 2005.

Some think Cuba’s medical internationalism an impossible dream. Not for a poor country, they say. Don Quixote is honored in Cuba. A large replica dominates a square near the University of Havana.

But Don Quixote is often misunderstood, at least in the North. It is not about impossible dreams.

The word “anarchy” pops up these days, along with “seize your destiny”, “imagine”, “create”. Those following dreams are compared to the Man of the Mancha. We admire them, as if they are courageous, taking risks for an ideal.

Yet Victor Hugo noticed that even revolutionaries resist Don Quixote. They’d rather be Leonidas, with victory assured. Their visions, Hugo writes, are “illusions … [of] human certainty”.

It was not so with Don Quixote. His appealing mixture of “madness and intelligence”, whatever else it was, did not expect certainty. He charged windmills and herds of sheep. But his “madness” was not the straight and narrow.

Cuba has exported solidarity. The US, in contrast, exports ignorance. In 1961, at an economics conference, Che Guevara showed how it works.[ii] President Kennedy said the US development program “Alliance for Progress” was about democracy. He didn’t define the term. It was defined by power.

Guevara knew “democracy”, the US view, was an expectation. No other view was permitted. The demo in “democracy” is supposed to mean people. Guevara knew people were not permitted, at least not Latin American ones. He said so at the meeting. Cuba was expelled.

Expectations arise from practises. If I live in a white society, I expect people to be white. A non-white person becomes “different”. I don’t admit to thinking people are white. But because of social practises, I have that expectation.

Expectations are useful. I expect heat to burn and withdraw my hand. I may not know the physics but my expectation arises from practises, some scientific. It is reliable. Some expectations, though, are arbitrary, defined only by power.

It explains ignorance about the Henry Reeves Brigade and what it means for democracy and human rights.

The great US novel Moby-Dick is about expectations. It is supposed to be about US democracy because of multiplicity of perspectives. The ship includes Queequeg, a cannibal with strange rituals and beliefs, one of the nicest characters on the boat.

But Moby Dick is a US book because of expectations: for certainty. It is about Captain Ahab’s vengeful pursuit of a whale. But it is also about Ishmael, the narrator, who seeks meaning. Ishmael is central because he seeks meaning. Standing watch at the masthead, he takes the “mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of the deep, blue bottomless soul pervading mankind and nature”.

Some say the search for meaning is a human propensity. Ishmael contemplates the “almighty forlornness” of human beings in nature. He seeks meaning in the whale, its face (which it doesn’t have), its ears and tail.

But we search for what we want to know. We don’t just look for meaning. We look for some meaning. It starts with a question, a set of values, a worldview.

Ishmael cannot know the whale. “Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep. I know him not, and never will. But if I know not even the tail of this whale, how understand his head“.  Yet Ishmael wouldn’t say the whale cannot be understood if there were no expectation it might be understood.

Moby-Dick, the novel, is about how Ahab’s expectation for superiority over nature fails and how Ishmael, unlike Ahab, accepts the failure. But expecting such superiority is itself surprising, or should be.

Human beings are part of the mysterious and complex unfolding of the universe. Our existence is insecure and, ultimately, unpredictable. We know this from science. Causation is complex, even chaotic. Human beings are subject to such causation.

Smart, sensitive philosophers from across the ages, and across the globe, say the art of dying and the art of living are the same. The reason is simple: All life, including human life, involves decay. Every moment involves change, which is loss. But as Victor Hugo notes, even revolutionaries want certainty.

He calls it the “blind, iron horse of the straight and narrow”. Following dreams is that blind horse. It is following expectations, arbitrary ones, arising from a single, powerful society, a set of values, a worldview. They are followed in ignorance: of expectations, arbitrary ones.

Don Quixote is not about impossible dreams. It is about rationality. Don Quixote wasn’t driven by an “inner voice”, nourished by himself, seeking security that doesn’t exist. However considered, the Man of the Mancha had a vision. He studied and lived it.

Guevara said that thinking freely and creatively is a “close dialectical unity” between individuals and the vision. There has to be vision, direction and leadership. It cannot be otherwise because of the role of expectations, generated by social practises. In a dehumanizing world, they must be transformed.

The role of expectations, rooted in practises, is well known in the philosophy of science. But it is ignored in political philosophy, especially liberal political philosophy, but also anarchism, even sometimes in academic Marxism.

It means reliance upon dreams, imagination, creativity, can only ever be conservative if there is no vision, no direction, no leadership. Cuba has had a vision, more urgent now than ever. The Henry Reeves Brigade is just part.

Ana Belén Montes had that vision.[iii] She’s in jail, in the US, under harsh conditions. Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2017/05/27/organizacion-mundial-de-la-salud-entrega-importante-premio-a-brigada-henry-reeve/#.Wi-ToVWnHIV

[ii] Inter-American Economics and Social Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) at Punta del Este, Uruguay.

[iii] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

Fidel, a Year Later

Nicolas Maduro is a dictator although he was fairly elected. He has improved the situation of the poor and for this alone should be considered democratic.  Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad Bin-Salman, on the other hand, sacked scores of his opponents, almost overnight. He is not a dictator.

The Crown Prince has brought the economy, the security and military forces, the media and the religious establishment totally under his control. He’ll make sure millions starve in Yemen or die of cholera. But he opposed the “old guard”. He’s considered bold and enterprising, modern.

On the anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death, the connection matters. It has to do with lies and how we accept them. If there’s one thing to remember about Fidel Castro, it is his insistence on ideas. He insisted on philosophy. He talked about what it means to be human. It has to do with how we get truth.

We notice the lies, of course, but we don’t see the connection to how we think about who we are and how we live. José Martí did. He said a major barrier to Latin American independence was a false idea of how to know. A philosophical idea. “We want truth, not dreams”, he wrote.

When I mentioned Martí at a solidarity meeting for Venezuela, the chair suggested he was irrelevant, or at least his philosophy was. What matters is economics and politics. Venezuelans must eat. Many admire Cuba’s revolution and don’t bother with the ideas. They talk about Castro’s charisma as if it had nothing to do with his philosophical vision, centuries old.[i]

The separation of philosophy and politics is part of the ideology Martí opposed. Fidel followed. He dedicated his life to opposing that ideology. He said people suffer because of a “nicely sweetened but rotten idea” about how to live: an idea about what it means to be human.[ii]

In philosophy classes, students engage in a thought experiment. Suppose you could enter a happiness machine that makes it appear that your desires for your life are satisfied. Once you enter the machine, you won’t know it is a machine. You will have a happy, fulfilled life, within the machine.

Few choose to enter. They are not sure why. They say, “I know there is something wrong but I am not sure what.” Some point to the importance of struggle. They want to work for their happiness. But the machine can make it seem as if they did, and they won’t know the difference.

The thought experiment is supposed to refute hedonism, the idea that pleasure is the only value worth pursuing. If you don’t opt for feeling happy, there must be more to life than pleasure.

One might think, though, that the pursuit of happiness itself is the delusionary machine. Concern for happiness – my happiness – obscures the distinction between truth and reality: real lives are irrelevant.

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Chuang Tzu, said: when the shoe fits, you don’t feel it. He meant that when you live well, by which he meant realizing your unique human potential, you don’t wonder about it. The question doesn’t arise. We ask questions when there is doubt.

Happiness involves a paradox, at least as understood in North America: When you pursue it, you don’t find it. Those looking for happiness are not happy. The Buddha, of course, said “May all beings be happy” but his idea of happiness was quite different. He meant absence of ego, not fulfillment of it.

The self-help industry is instructive. Many realize that material gain does not satisfy. They seek elsewhere – in yoga, meditation, travel, art, creativity, “sharing circles”, nature.  Self-help books and life coaches give guidance. And then there are self-help books to help you deal with the self-help industry.

A simple truth is missed. It was known to Marx, Lenin and José Martí. It is known within indigenous traditions that motivated José Carlos Mariátegui. It was known to the Buddha and Chuang Tzu. It was expressed by Fidel in its myriad dimensions and applications.

Human beings are interdependent. Like every other part of the universe, we are dependent upon other people and upon the natural environment. This includes for thinking. Marx said human beings are herd animals not because of how we live but because of how we think. We do not think alone.

And we cannot be happy alone. The self-help industry in the North tells us to “get the most out of yourself …  in a job that is spiritually fulfilling, socially constructive, experientially diverse, emotionally enriching, self- esteem boosting, perpetually challenging and eternally edifying”.[iii]

For what? It is for me, all about me. And it doesn’t work.

I am surprised when activists in the North tell me philosophy is irrelevant. There’s no time for that, they say. Cubans cannot afford tomatoes, and Trump is preventing US tourists from going to Cuba.

But Juan Marinello, one of Latin America’s great thinkers, said Martí left an important legacy: the idea that if you want to flourish intellectually, you should commit yourself to the major causes of your time.[iv] In other words, if you want to think well, to distinguish truth from lies, you need to act well, for others. You need to sacrifice.

We won’t know the lies if we’re living them. And if we don’t know we’re living them, we don’t ask about those lies. Fidel Castro opposed such lies: some philosophical. He did that as part of the struggle for a better world, politically and economically. Those who don’t see that in his legacy aren’t looking.

Ana Belén Montes opposed lies.[v] She’s in jail, in the US, having hurt no one. Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] Nelson P. Nelson, “El contenido revolucionario y político de la autoridad carismática de Fidel Castro”, Temas 55 (2008) 4-17

[ii] “A revolution can only be born from culture and ideas” (Master lecture at the Central University of Venezuela, February 3 1999). Havana, Cuba: Editora Política, 9.

[iii] David Brook, Bobos in paradise (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

[iv] Cuba: Cultura (Havana: Editoral Letras Cubanas, 1989) 287

[v] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

Leonardo da Vinci: We Get His Life, But Not His Vision

Photo by J. Simmons | CC BY 2.0

Walter Isaacson’s newly released Leonardo da Vinci doesn’t inspire.[i] The Mona Lisa challenges modern thinking. It is the culmination of a “life spent perfecting the ability to stand at the intersection of art and nature.” However, Isaacson doesn’t fully grasp that challenging intersection.

We learn of a genius motivated by creation, not results. It is what Einstein said universities should teach: the joy of receiving back, humanly, from the process of learning. Students should feel. Obsession with end results, Einstein said, undermines education. It threatens science.

Leonardo didn’t much care for results. His tangible output was meager. Paintings went unfinished, engineering projects unrealized. He failed to publish, or even share, meticulous scientific results. He spent large amounts of time designing lavish pageants that left nothing for posterity.

Yet the Mona Lisa is “a distillation of accumulated wisdom about the outward manifestations of our inner lives and about the connections between ourselves and the outer world.” It is, we learn, “Leonardo’s profound meditation on what it means to be human.”

He cared about this question. He observed people intensely, studying gestures and expressions. He dissected bodies, drawing every bone, muscle group and major organ. He knew the muscles of the lips. He wanted to know how smiles happen, and how emotions become movements.

He figured out how the aortic valve works, an achievement confirmed in recent times. Leonardo loved spiral flows. He was fascinated by “swirls of water eddies, wind currents, and hair curls cascading down a neck.” With this same love he examined the spiral flow of blood.

He held a mechanistic view of the universe two hundred years before Newton, explaining impetus and friction in the flight of birds. Yet he delighted in human spirt. His Saint John the Baptist, with its erotic allure, gave Leonardo’s “own charged meaning to ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’.”

He was philosopher, scientist and artist. He saw patterns in nature, and discovered them again in the human world. A 15th century vegetarian, he paid for birds in the marketplace and set them free. He thought human beings are best understood through nature. He studied it intensely.

We are told, repeatedly throughout this book, that da Vinci’s persistent questioning – what does the tongue of a woodpecker look like, how do people walk on ice? – expressed curiosity we should all emulate. We should strive for the “childlike wonder” that makes us ask, in youth, “why is the sky blue?”

But we ask questions when we care. And we care because of who we are, how we live. Leonardo insisted on connection. No moment, no action, no thought, occurs or can be understood in isolation, he insisted. He saw no borders in nature, no lines.

“Childlike wonder” is a state of being. We train children out of it. We give them gadgets to fill their heads with information. They don’t learn to feel. Education is not about feeling. This worried Einstein.

Herein lies the bigger challenge of Leonardo’s life. Knowledge is useless if we don’t know what it explains, or might. The Mona Lisa and Lady with an Ermine show the intricate workings of minds. Connecting mind and body was Leonardo’s artistic genius. He studied the world because he felt its beauty. The connection between mind and body is what he lived.

Disappointingly, at the end of this book, we get a list. We are urged to “retain a childlike sense of wonder”, “go down a rabbit hole”, “start with details”, “get distracted”, “procrastinate”, “make lists”, and on and on for an entire chapter: Leonardo in the self-help industry.

His life provides a formula. For what? Happiness? If we learn anything from his life, it should be that the complex intersections his art expressed are not talking points for life coaches.

In 7,200 pages of notes, covering a remarkable range of intellectual passions, Leonardo reveals little about himself. Mercifully, he doesn’t tell us whether he was happy.

He was too busy looking outward, at complexity, patterns, intersections. In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo writes, “Thoughtful people rarely use the terms, the happy and the unhappy…. The true division of humanity is this. Those filled with light and those filled with darkness.”

Hugo thought truth more interesting than happiness. So, apparently, did Leonardo. Like Hugo, and myriad smart, sensitive philosophers we don’t teach – the Buddha, Chuang Tzu, Marx, Lenin, José Martí – he wanted scientific truth, not dreams.

Obscured by naive, snuggly clichés about curiosity and wonder, it is easy to miss Leonardo’s vision in this biography. It is a vision much needed in inward looking, happiness-obsessed societies. If we take his life story seriously, self-indulgence is more than moral failure; more interestingly, it is intellectually disabling.

Understood with more moral imagination than this biography expresses, the Mona Lisa teaches us that self-centredness even undermines science.

Ana Belén Montes is someone who looked outward for truth, for beauty.[ii] She’s in jail, in the US, having hurt no one. Please sign petition here. 

Notes.

[i] NY: Simon and Schuster, Oct. 2017.

[ii] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

From Leonardo to Lenin

Photo by anpalacios | Public Domain

Last month was the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution, the first successful revolution against capitalism, opposing the imperialist blood-bath of WW1, which killed 18 million. The October Revolution was important, also, because it opened new ways of thinking, more realistic ways.

Lenin died too soon. He was a philosopher. [i] Revolution requires intellectual innovation at every level. Marx was innovatively philosophical. [ii] This is not much noted. It is missed by many academic Marxists. The philosophical is harder than the political and economic.

It can affect how you see yourself, and how you think.

The October Revolution showed the importance of science. I do not mean the launching of Sputnik. I mean the importance of science for understanding the human condition, for understanding how human beings live, and how we might live, better.

Leonardo da Vinci knew this role. He gets no credit for the radical import, or potentially radical import, of his view of who we are, as human beings. In the fifteenth century, he was a vegetarian. He paid for birds in the marketplace and then set them free. He thought human beings are part of nature, and best understood through nature, which he respected and studied intensively.

Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist. He articulated a mechanistic view of the universe two hundred years before Newton. He was likely the first to describe human beings’ dental constitution, and he knew geology. Observing birds incessantly, he overturned Aristotle’s theory that birds are supported by air as fish are by water. He dissected bodies, identifying anatomy previously unknown.

He was, first and foremost, though, a painter.  Biographers say da Vinci’s obsessive questions – what does the tongue of a woodpecker look like? – express curiosity we should all emulate. They make cliché statements about Leonardo’s “childlike wonder”.

But we ask questions for a reason, and Leonardo da Vinci wondered about mind/body connection. We love his portraits – Mona Lisa, Lady with an Ermine – because they show the intricate workings of minds. Connecting mind and body was a key component of his artistic genius.[iii]

But a few hundred years later, European philosophers denied that connection. They drew a distinction between facts about how the world is – science and facts about how it ought to be – ethics. The so-called “fact/value” distinction undermined ethics. Across Canada, ethicists and political philosophers do not discuss the nature of reality, or how to know it. They leave this for philosophers of science.

They think questions about value do not require science. They do not require truth of any sort.

The Buddha, 2500 years ago, had no truck with the “fact/value distinction”. It wouldn’t have occurred to him. Precisely to the degree that I know the physical reality of the universe, experientially, through feelings, I start to know how to live.

And precisely to the degree that I live morally, by which he meant acting out of good will toward others, I understand reality. The two are inseparable. It has to do with mind/body connection. The one affects the other. It was obvious to Leonardo da Vinci.

It took European philosophers to come up with the idea that questions about value are separate from questions about truth.

Marx thought differently. So did Lenin, and Antonio Gramsci, and José Martí. They knew, for one thing, how capitalism makes human beings, or some, unknowable. It is not a moral thing. It is factual. Morality, if we believe in it, surely requires knowing human beings.

Lenin described knowledge as a “passage through dark waters”. If your very own thinking presupposes the “objective world”, which it does because of causation, you have to lose your attachment to that thinking in order to learn what lies beyond it: the world as it is.

Lenin’s passage through dark waters, by itself, opened new ways of thinking. It was so in South America. José Ingenieros, brilliant Argentinean psychiatrist who turned his copious talents to anti-imperialism after the First World War, led a movement for educational reform, across the continent.

He also died too soon. Ingenieros saw that the entire educational system had brought South America to the feet of the imperialists. [iv] He singled out the hypocrisy of philosophers, engaged in intellectual game-playing when they could have led the way toward deeper understanding of the human condition.

They could have explained how we know, and why it matters – for ethics and political philosophy – that we know how we know. Fidel Castro said in 1999, “They discovered smart bombs. We discovered that people think and feel.” Cubans discovered, or rediscovered, the ancient truth that human beings know the world dialectically. We know, not just intellectually, but by feeling the effects of the world, bodily.

We should take seriously Leonardo da Vinci’s commitment to science on behalf of art, and beauty: human beauty.

His commitment to science needs to be understood more deeply than through naive clichés about supposedly childlike wonder. The clichés themselves indicate how little we know about how we know.

Lenin did not ignore such questions. Martí, who was an anti-imperialist decades before Lenin, made such questions – philosophical though they are – central to his revolutionary program.

He was a realist. Lenin was also. Lenin should be remembered, now, as a philosopher.

Ana Belén Montes should be remembered.[v] She pursued truth, and acted upon it. She is in jail, in the US, having hurt no one. Please sign petition here.   

Notes.

[i] Tamas Krausz, Reconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography (Monthly Review Press); Lar T. Lih, Lenin: Critical lives ( UK: Reaktion Books, 2011)

[ii] Allen Wood, Karl Marx: Second Edition (Routledge 2003)

[iii] Walter Isaacson Leonardo da Vinci (Simon and Schuster, 2017) 219

[iv] In Raúl Roa, Bufa subversiva  (Havana: Ediciones la memoria, 2006) 35

[v] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

Elián González: Saved by Angels and Dolphin to Condemn Imperialism at the World Festival of Youth and Students

The fisherman who found five-year old Elián Gonzalez in 1998 thought he’d been saved by angels and dolphins. His mother put him on an inner tube before she and everyone else on the boat drowned. They were trying to get to Florida. It was US Thanksgiving. The Cuban boy became a household name.

This week, at 24, Elián González, speaking in Russia, condemned US imperialism. [i] He talked about the lies he was told in Florida. He called them a violation. In early 1999, the media showed a small boy in a huge toy car, surrounded by colorful children’s paraphernalia, saying he didn’t want to return to Cuba.

His father, who hadn’t known the boy’s mother’s plans, saw his son on TV and cried. In Havana, almost daily, people marched. Night after night, children took the microphone before large crowds. They asked how the US could be “saving” Elián when 11 million of its own children had no health care, and when children were killing other children with guns in US schools.

I remember an eight or nine year old, speaking for ten minutes, without notes, under the lights, citing statistics, wondering aloud about the stupidity of believing a six-year old lives better with sophisticated toys and Disney World than with his father who loves him, just because his dad happens to be poor.

Another child commented that Elián, who wanted to be a pilot, would, in the US, be able to travel the world, bombing people’s dreams.

A student from Honduras, studying at the newly inaugurated Latin American Medical School, described children in his own country carrying huge loads of wood, or working in the mines, burdened by illiteracy. He asked why the US wanted to destroy a beacon of hope, Cuba, where he’d received full scholarship and a chance to help his people.

The North American media, of course, said the kids were “forced”. But children can’t fake the kind of enthusiasm and confidence I saw expressed at rallies across the island. Maybe they don’t fully understand respect, dignity, and solidarity. I don’t either. But they knew these values matter.

One teenager said loudly in front of the US Interest Section, now the US Embassy, “I wasn’t sent, you know. Did you hear that?” She went on to explain to the dark, silent windows: “You don’t know us. And in particular, you don’t know that nothing is more important in Cuba than one child”.

In fact, most of the US population (82%) thought Elián should be returned to his father in Cuba, and he eventually was. Fidel Castro used to say that the US people, for the most part, want to do the right thing. The problem, he’d add, is that their government lies to them.

It is no small challenge. Those lies, at least some, are an identity. They become expectations, rooted in social practises. They are presupposed, day by day.

Some are reliable. I expect fire to be hot and I withdraw my hand, without thinking. I have that expectation because of collaborative social practises. Some expectations are based in true beliefs. We rely upon them necessarily. But some are arbitrary, based in social conventions.

It is why José Martí, nineteenth century independence leader, thought a false idea of knowledge was a bigger hurdle for Latin American independence than the powerful northern neighbour. [ii] Expectations determine how we understand the world, even what we see. This is well-known in philosophy. It means, if the insight is pursued, as it should be, that imperialism must be challenged in order to think – properly.

Some are now asking why the levels of anxiety in US teenagers are so high. One answer is dehumanizing social practises, promoting false expectations about life. [iii]

Elián was right to say this week that the lies he was told in Florida, as a small child, were a violation. A violation is an action that breaks something. When lies are about human possibilities, about who we are as human beings, and they become expectations, they break humanness.

The same year Elián was held in Florida, the governor of Illinois visited Cuba, the first such visit in forty years. After five days, back in Illinois, he said he was impressed that Cuba’s infant mortality rate was only 7.1 deaths per thousand live births, that there is one doctor for each 170 persons, that all children, even in remote mountain areas,  receive thirteen vaccinations.

The governor was accused of having been brain-washed. He was impressed that a poor country takes care of its most vulnerable citizens. It is not expected. The statistics, though, are well-known. What was startling was the importance the governor gave them.

It raises a question, or might have. Cuba has few natural resources. But it has people. And for hundreds of years, starting long before the Cuban Revolution, it has cultivated ideas explaining why this matters.

Those ideas aren’t known in the North, and they won’t be, easily, for reasons Martí identified: a false view of knowledge. They won’t be known because of expectations that violate, part of a national identity, expectations that must be challenged in order to think, properly.

The kids I heard at those rallies raised a question: about imperialism and the truths it denies. But it wasn’t what they said. It was how they were. And it wasn’t just them. It was the social practises that made what they said – about respect, dignity and solidarity – credible, that made it matter.

Some of those kids are still speaking out – Elián, for one – about lies that violate: humanness.

Ana Belén Montes spoke out, with her actions. [iv] She is in jail, in the US, having hurt no one. Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2017/10/19/delegado-no-173-elian-dejo-huellas-de-unidad-en-tribunal-antimperialista/#.WexaYltSzIU; http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2017/10/18/sochi-estados-unidos-al-banquillo-de-los-acusados-video/#.WexccltSzIU

[ii] In “Our America”. José Martí: Selected Works, tr. Esther Allen (Penquin Books, 2002) 290

[iii] E.g. https://www.globalresearch.ca/human-anxiety-in-late-stage-capitalism/5614090

[iv] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

Beyond Las Vegas and Why Che Matters, 50 years After His Death

Photo by Jamie C2009 | CC by 2.0

I listened with interest to CBC call-in shows about the mass killing in Las Vegas. Caller after caller, some who’d been there months before, or never, described confusion, guilt about surviving, helplessness. A commentator spoke of one person shielding another with his body: “Therein lies the hope for our species”, she said. One person sacrificing for another.

The radio commentator said people come together under existential threat. Maybe. But the threat is exceptional, or so we should believe. That’s why it was the call-in topic on two successive days.

Cuban independence leader and philosopher, José Martí, distinguished north and south Americas by the fact that the US was born behind a plough and the south was born out of panic and trauma. It was born out of terror. He said that for this reason there are two, and only two, Americas. [i]

He drew heavily upon Nátuatl imagery, inspired by his time in Guatemala. [ii] Martí’s poetry is replete with images of volcanic eruptions, lava and swords. The eruptions symbolize “la energía original” or humanness. Lava is disruptive. It seems to come from nowhere.

It burns. Náhuatl culture, dominated by the myth of Quetzalcátl, relies on images of fire and sun to portray freedom. Martí’s image of the “warrior whose path leads to the heavens” is nonetheless still “fiery and devastating”. In the Náhuatl dialectic of lava, fire and glittering swords lies, Cuban philosopher Cintio Vitier argues, the “key” to Martí’s poetry: its americanness.

The other America.  When we hear about solidarity after disasters like Las Vegas, we are supposed to be comforted. Hope for the species.  In Martí’s poetry, the “lengua de lava” does not get a chance to cool. It emerges into human consciousness as a sword that becomes sheathed in the sun. Nature’s chaos is real, and acts upon us according to the laws of nature. But we can respond with sacrifice.

The sacrifice noted on CBC is what Martí, following the Náhuatl, calls “love”. It is how to escape what Marx called “alienation”: separation from humanness.[iii] Martí’s americanness is realistic. “Hope” for humanity is not something soft and fuzzy for extraordinary moments of trouble. Humanness must be discovered. It takes work, and can be as disruptive as nature’s unpredictable and devastating events.

Che Guevara also referred to love as sacrifice. He was murdered 50 years ago this week by US agents. Che Guevara is criticized for what he said about sacrifice, just as he is criticized for much else. His vision is little understood. It is deeply philosophical. It matters today.

Che wrote that solidarity “has something of the bitter irony of the plebeians cheering on the gladiators in the Roman circus”. It is not enough “to wish the victim success”, he wrote. Instead, “one must share his or her fate…. in victory or death”.[iv]

We don’t like reference to death. We prefer “pathological upbeatness”,[v] believing in (our own) survival no matter what. Antonio Gramsci called such an attitude lazy.

It’s easy. It means we don’t have to think about solidarity as we might when survival is threatened.

It always is. The truth is that we are all in the path of an oncoming train, just as in Alex Colville’s famous painting. Che Guevara said, “at the risk of seeming ridiculous” that revolutionaries have to be guided by “great feelings of love”.  He meant the sacrifice sort.

But he wasn’t referring to dramatic events.

Speaking to medical workers in 1960, Che told them: “If we all use the new weapon of solidarity … then the only thing left for us is to know the daily stretch of the road and to take it. Nobody can point out that stretch … in the personal road of each individual; it is what he will do every day, what he will gain from his individual experience”.

“What he will do every day”. The sacrifice part of Guevara’s message about solidarity, about love, is a day by day affair. This is what you find in the Nátuatl cosmology. Images of fire and volcanoes are coupled with images of liberation. It is realistic, like Martí’s poetry, like Che’s “new person”. It must be.

Che compared the “self-made man” to an invisible cage: we are enslaved by socially produced beliefs and values and we call that “freedom”. Like Martí, he took the question of freedom to be about how to get out of the cage without creating another one. Put differently, how do you respond to slavery without reasons and acts drawn from the same enslavement?

Critics say Che Guevara is naïve, expecting a new type of being. Instead, he is practical, as the other America has always had to be. He knows an ancient dialectic, in which we have to lose – or sacrifice – in order to gain – truth.  The “new person” recognizes the dialectic of sacrifice, called “love”. Such practical (not moral) insight is lost in the only “America” most now recognize.

Drawing upon his America, Martí wrote: “Despídete de ti mismo, y vivirás”.[vi] It needn’t be so remarkable an inclination that only a horror like that of Las Vegas brings it to attention.

Ana Belén Montes is an example, urgently relevant.[vii] She’s in jail in the US. Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] Cited in Juan Marinello, “Discurso en la clausura del 11 semanario juvenile nacional de estudios martianos” ACEM 1974

[ii] Cintio Vitier, “Lava, espada, alas (en torno a los versos libres)” in José Martí: Edición al cuidado de Ana Cairo Ballestar (Havana: Casa de las Américas, 2007) 211-225

[iii] Vitier, op. cit. 216

[iv] Che Guevara, “Create two, three, many Vietnams”, The Che Guevara Reader (Ocean Press, 1997) 316

[v] Terry Eagleton, Reason, faith and revolution (Yale University Press, 2009) 138

[vi] ‘Say good-bye to yourself, and you will live”

[vii] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

Art in Cuba, and a Call to Debunk liberalism

The relationship between culture and politics is one of Cuba’s “grandes riquezas ideológicas”.[i] Victor Hugo agreed with Cuban independence leader, José Martí, about the radical significance of art. Hugo’s agreement conflicts with liberalism: It contradicts its idea of freedom. Liberalism threatens truth. It should be opposed by anyone who cares about global justice in the 21st century.

Liberalism is supposedly about freedom but it is a certain sort of freedom: from the “inside”.

I am free, roughly, if I follow my “inner voice”, which is the voice of  my self (sometimes called “practical identity”). I act reasonably when I choose the option most likely to realize that self.  Liberalism holds (1) that I live best when I live “from the inside” and (2) that I act rationally, in an individual (non-moral) sense, when I advance my own ends (within specified limits, of course).

Both Martí and Hugo said art is essential to politics.

They didn’t look to art for entertainment, tranquility or escape. They looked to art for realism.  Realism is the view that beliefs are true or false, and we can discover truth to some extent: How the world seems is not necessarily how it is, including how people seem, and what it means to be human. Realism about human and moral truths is not popular in the rich North, culturally or academically.

The value of art is intrinsic, not instrumental.

Art is hard to define but one point is accepted. The value of art is independent of use. Art may have a use but its value as art is usually independent of use. This means it should be experienced without expectations.

Martí and Hugo both included people in art.

In his poem “Thirst for beauty”, Martí mentions “humanidad sangrienta” (bleeding humanity) as a candidate for beauty. Hugo refers to human behaviour as “social beauty”. [ii]

If human beings and human action are experienced as art, that is, without expectations, it can disrupt expectations which, in unjust societies, are often false.

Consider Les Misérables: Inspector Javert relentlessly pursues ex-convict Jean Valjean. Eventually, Valjean has a chance for revenge but, rather than kill Javert, Valjean frees him. Javert wants Valjean to kill him. Why? Hugo writes that Javert “felt emptied, useless, cut off from his past life, demoted, dissolved…” Javert wants Valjean to kill him because that is what every part of his being tells him to expect. And when that doesn’t happen he feels “cut off from his past life”. Javert’s expectations are broken. Hugo writes, Javert saw what was “terrible… He was moved”: by social beauty.

This sort of pain moves us toward truth about human beings and human capacities, and it may be the only way to get such truth in dehumanizing societies.

Martí compares beauty to a sword (370 times) [iii] and Hugo sees happiness and truth as opposed. Martí uses stormy, crushing images of nature as similes for what happens inside when we know beauty: brokenness, not fullness. Beauty is a sword because it breaks us. Hugo agrees: Happiness deflects the sword of beauty: “There are those who ask for nothing more, living beings who, having bright blue skies above, say: This is enough …  people who … are determined to be happy until the stars stop shining and the birds stop singling. These are the darkly radiant. They have no idea they are to be pitied. … Whoever does not weep does not see”.

For Hugo, like Martí, individual freedom is not defined “from the inside”.

Hugo sees those pursuing their own happiness as “darkly radiant”. He agrees with Martí that human freedom is a “Herculean struggle against our own nature”: the self. “Happiness” is incompatible with (moral or human) truth for a simple reason: We are happy when expectations are realized, when we get what we want. But expectations are socially derived. Truth – e.g. about dehumanization – shows desires and dreams as we might not want to know them. [iv] Truth is an “implacable foe” of the sort of happiness expected in liberal societies: fulfillment of dreams. Living “from the inside”, we are the darkly radiant.

Conclusion: Liberalism undermines truths about human capacities because in dehumanizing societies, knowing such capacities as they are breaks the self that, for liberalism, defines freedom.

Martí saw it that way. He was the hemisphere’s first anti-imperialist (before Lenin). And Hugo apparently agreed.  Javert is an example. He is not a bad person. But for him, as for his society, Valjean is not human. Javert experiences Valjean’s humanity when Valjean frees Javert rather than killing him. Javert is broken by Valjean’s action, and because Javert saw it for what it was: art.

Liberalism understands freedom as following the “inner voice”, your self, but truth in systemically unjust societies breaks that self, and must.

Why it matters

It is true that 20% of the world’s population uses most of the resources. It is also true that the 20% “lives well” because the 80% doesn’t. We kill and rob them (for their oil, for example) because they don’t count as people like us. Moreover, we think we live well because we don’t think about these truths. Finally, the darkly radiant don’t actually live well. We are mostly depressed and anxious, and increasingly unable to respond to human beings as human beings.

In short, we should abandon sunny liberalism and know beauty that hurts.

Ana Belén Montes is not among the darkly radiant. [v] Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] “greatest ideological riches”: Armando Hart Dávalos

[ii] I am grateful to Dr. Robert Rennebohm for this point.

[iii] Berta Elena Romero Molina “Sobre la sed de belleza martiana” ACEM 36 (2013) 236-250

[iv] This was recognized by student activists in the 70s in the US. They proclaimed “there are no innocents” meaning that a comfortable white life is collusion in the slaughter in Viet Nam.

[v] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to the cnc@canadiannetworkoncuba.ca or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu