Monday, August 19, 2013

From Reddit/Philosophy: First hand account of how different Cuban society is than most of the world

You can't escape ideology. Unless you become a hermit i guess.
But there are some places which are very, very different from the specific things you mention. Consumerism, materialism, etc.
Out of all the places i've been, i actually found Cuba to be the most different in this sense, with the exception of Havana, which naturally bears all the traits of a relatively big tourist-attractor.
In larger cities like Santiago de Cuba, i felt more removed from the ideology of consumerism and materialism than any other place.
Even rural Africa in the places i've been to me, is less of an escape in this aspect. Even though it is sometimes way poorer and more desolate, it is a sort of ideological wasteland, into which consumerism from the rest of the world seeps quite quickly.
Fidel kept Cuba on a very strict line - and i am not being any kind of political sympathizer here. I have no special alignment towards stalinism or communism. But if what you are looking for is a place that is radically ideologically different, Cuba is my best bid.
In Santiago de Cuba i lived next to a doctor and a streetsweeper and while this is one of the most contented and clichée heavy subjects about Cuba, I really don't think you can imagine the difference in class-relationship that is Cuba vs the western world.
I mean if you educate someone highly and put them next to someone without an education, that is going to do something to their relationship, but it was nothing like what i have ever encountered in other countries.
The street sweeper had become a kind of handyman, because keeping the street clean was not that time consuming, so he basically went around and fixed stuff for everyone free of charge.
One day i broke my only pair of footwear - some really cheap sandals, and went into the doctor-dudes house to maybe borrow a pair of shoes. He was playing backgammon(i think) with the handyman, and i asked them both. The handyman asked to see my sandals. I showed him the sandals and he offered to fix them for me.
Now, the sandals had basically just broken the top from the soals, so i didn't see how he could - but he basically picked up a scrap-soda-can, cut a piece off to make a needle, sharpened it on rock, and sowed my sandals together with homemade tar string.
This is a sort of quaint story that i have remembered for a long time - but the memorable thing was actually the doctors behavior while this happened.
I've tried to explain it so some people. he wasn't fascinated with it like a doctor in my home country (Denmark) might be with a plumber doing good work - he didn't admire it from a sort of intellectual plateau which is quite common here.
He genuinly considered them equals. That really hit me in the face, because everyone in my family has always gone to the university and if i proposed to my grandmother that plumbers are as important to society as doctors - she would probably answer in agreeable terms, but wait until she thought i was clear of that "phase", to talk to me about that kind of thing again.
This class-relationship, as well as a brand of consumerism (if not absence of) that is completely unlike anything i've seen in the western world made it thorougly enlightening experience.
Of course the sky is more colors than blue, and people were unhappy about many things. From restrictions of things like internet, to rumors of neighborhood "spies" that supposedly were there to alert the government of any rising of opposition to Fidel, loads of ideological, political, economical and social problems persist in Cuba. But yeah, if you do consider moving somewhere - that would be my suggestion.
Also western money is worth a million there, if you don't live in Havana. So your financial worries is probably something you can work around with preparation and planning.