Roll over Ortega y Gasset

The Ortega y Gasset prize comes with 15,000 Euros. Way to get a Blu-Ray!

Congratulations Yoani! What a Pr¥ze!

Jorge Ángel Hernández – Rebelión – Translation: Machetera

Certain handbook rules are rarely violated, except when engaging in an ideological war. So, using Reuters as their primary source, on March 25, a number of international press agencies copied and distributed the news denouncing the censorship of the “Generación Y” blog, by the Cuban philosopher, Yoani Sánchez. No-one bothered to investigate the apparently invisible invasion of personal freedom by the Cuban authorities, as reported by the source. It was a journalism so complacent that if I were to say I’m being besieged by mysterious extra-terrestrial forces whose green tentacles materialize before my eyes and immediately disappear, they’d give it a hundred percent credibility and circulate the tale around the world. Of course maybe it would help me a little if I added that the alien was delivering warnings about international communism and populism, to grease the pig, so to speak. The news amazed the journalist Pascual Serrano who confirmed that the news was false the day afterwards, March 26th, but also Iván Alonso, who took on the job of digging through the blog entries and even giving advice to their creator about where she might encounter some truly serious problems, all of which surpass Yoani’s irritations and worries.[1]

The invasion of the “Y” in our catalog of names corresponds, barely, to a saturation of first and last names either similar or easily associated, in Cuban society, at exactly the moment when this “Generation Y” had to enter a world where people are professionals, artists, doctors, nurses, sports players, professors, philosophers, etctera, and their identification was creating uncomfortable mistakes. As an author, I myself have suffered with the similarity of my name to that of Jorge Angel Pérez, and the same goes for the writers Waldo Leyva with Waldo González, Rogelio Riverón with Ricardo Riverón, Ernesto Pérez Castillo with Ernesto Pérez Chang…and so on in all sectors of our society, in the public domain as well as the local professional realm. Seeing the problem, the popular remedy, after some minimal attempts with Russian or English names, was to seize on letters that were minimally used…and there you have it! Any philosopher with average reasoning capabilities could figure this out, or at least do some professional research. People with names such as Yoani graduated, or went on to take away the dreams of our sportscasters, or to make us ask “please spell it” when they are gracious enough to come and and ask us to write a dedication in a book they’ve bought.

“Generation Y” had the misfortune to come of age under a socialism that is in a dangerous balance between base and superstructure, a socio-economic formation that prepared the vast majority of its citizens (with less discrimination than ever before in our history, even as it continues to struggle against the continuance of these discriminatory attitudes) yet that lacks a direct route for the practice of their professions. And that also has to face an impregnable barrier of competence; that of its elders as well as those to follow. Add to this the resounding collapse of European socialism, which the Cuban project capriciously failed to follow. Cuban politics did not respond to the collapse, as was hoped, with dismissal or “Darwinist” or Malthusian measures, nor did it accept the Friedman poem of free enterprise as an ad hoc formula; rather, it applied the necessary measures of resistance that, given its backward condition, are now beginning to recover their costs. Thus the fever over the newly permitted DVDs, free entry to tourist hotels (I would advocate working harder on the others, such as the national currency which engenders such an outcry, but which at the end of the day many people enjoy so ostentatiously) and other necessities that our society has protested, freely, in assemblies, although without ruling out the presence of mechanical censors whose spontaneous enthusiasm is hard to contain.

And although many doubt it, the changes are coming about gradually, sometimes with gaps that come about in practice, sometimes with results that show very quickly how far a society needs to be regulated in order not to lose balance in the distribution. With the danger that fatalistic predictions might go uncredited, the manual for ideological confrontation recommends haste, stoking the fires, not just because the sky is not going to fall (do you know the King by any chance?),* but because it’s trying to reconcile itself with the ozone layer. The sessions of the 7th UNEAC (Union of Cuban Writers and Artists) Congress broadcast an open criticism on television to the entire country, projected from inside the system and in virtue of regulatory necessity; calling on our press to wake up for the benefit of its own country (although for the foreigner it seems plenty awake) and also for what it should do for the citizens, who tend to accept abuse, embezzlement and even scams with resignation. We must hurry, no doubt about it.

Barely ten days after the news of the mysterious, unproven blackout of “Generation Y,” denounced as false by other journalists, the Ortega y Gasset Journalism prize appeared[2], which in its 25th anniversary included Yoani Sánchez as one of its nominees. If Iván Alfonso suggested that the young Cuban woman disguise her links and references a bit, what suddenly prompted the El País jury? Maybe research means something more than repeating something for the pleasing sound of it, something more than saying what anyone in Cuba is saying, although in the case of our philosopher as prizewinning journalist, with less intent to delve deeply and more of a tendency to get carried away by the scheme or the chatting between friends already downing the second bottle, without having to suffer disillusioned lovers who might try to monopolize the conversation. It’s obvious that the jury was more than a little fascinated by the police story of March 25th and didn’t care to click on any other sites, such as that of the Venezuelan intellectual Luis Britto García, just as one example, or analyze how much they were willing to put themselves at risk (and in this very case, from where they have come to risk themselves).

Investigating would also mean pulling the strings that have kept the blog running, the shaping of its motivations, etcetera, etcetera. And using a name with such profound connotations as that of Ortega y Gasset to distinguish with a soothing sum of money and an explosion of propaganda a group of such prosaic ideas, lacking in substance and investigative balance, leaves the case in a fog of suspicion that dissolves on its own. That the blog wasn’t cut; that’s their right. That it should be endorsed by the prestige of the Spanish philosopher is like entrusting it to a pushy Cuban to use to win the championship at say, Getafe.

Anyway, it’s all part of the handbook: however anodyne the events to come, it’ll always be there like a passport stamp. Damn, Yoani, what a pr¥ze! Congratulations! And all for talking about Russian cartoons![3]

[1] Both commentaries “The Censored Cuban Blog,” by Serrano and “The Relentless Persecution,” by Alonso, were carried by on March 26th.

[2] Coincidentally, the Ortega y Gasset Prize for Journalism was shared by Yoani, and others, with El Nuevo Herald, which was awarded the prize in 2002, and with Raúl Rivero, 2007 prizewinner.

[3] Alonso, who is apparently Spanish, doesn’t understand that Cubans, in a generic way, use the word “muñequitos” to refer to animated cartoons. This is what Yoani was referring to when, surely influenced by watching so many of them in the afternoons, the world is divided into Mozna and Ñie ilziá (Can and Cannot) or stays at the point of Ñiu Moika (Tiznado), dubbed for children preceding Generation Y by Spanish voices.

* Translator’s note: In Spanish the nursery rhyme is, “El cielo se va a caer/y el Rey lo debe saber” – “The sky is going to fall, and the King should know.”

One response to “Roll over Ortega y Gasset

  1. I’ve copied and forward this to 1170 more subscribers to the CubaNews list.

    Machetera should feel welcome and encouraged to share these translations on CubaNews as well. We can’t get enough of this material!

    Thanks very much!

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