Mojitos Or Malice? Which Is Cuba’s National Drink?

December 29th, 2014   Submitted by Anthony Caprio

MajitoIt has been said that carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. This phrase has been running through my mind a lot as I read the comments made by Cuban American politicians upset over the thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States. To hear their hysterics you would think America was arming people who want to kill Americans (a policy they seem to support for the Middle East), instead of liberalizing trade and travel with one of our closest neighbors.

With any argument (especially a big one like this), I try and see both sides.The rhetoric coming from Cuban Americans against liberalizing trade with their homeland has always puzzled me. Most of the Cuban Americans I know are staunch capitalist who have seen firsthand the destruction wrought by Communism. So why would they be against free trade, especially with their former homeland? The more I read and listen to the arguments for keeping the embargo the more I am convinced that the real reason is good old fashioned malice.

The Cuban exile community has good reason to be spiteful towards the Cuban government. I have heard terrible stories from exiles about how they were treated by the “Revolutionaries.” Most left the country with only what they could carry on their backs. They lost their homes, businesses, and farms to a government that nationalized everything. These people lived through what those of us in the liberty movement fear most, a total government takeover.

So, for the average Cuban exile the thought of the Castro brothers getting rich off tourists happily snapping photos of their parents’ crumbling mansions, and enjoying rum and cigars from businesses that their families built is too much to bear. I can’t really blame them for feeling this way. It’s kind of like having a thief steal your car, and then watching them drive it around town. It’s only natural to resent the theft of your property. For the Cuban exile, they resent the theft of their country by the Castro brothers.

The survivors of Communism carry deep scars from the experience. Ayn Rand is probably the best known to the liberty movement. Her experience left her wanting to reject anything and everything even remotely related to Communism. Even voluntary trade with a Communist nation was a betrayal in her eyes. During a March 1964 interview with Playboy, Ayn Rand advocated for an economic boycott of both Russia and Cuba:

“I would advocate a blockade of Cuba and an economic boycott of Soviet Russia; and you would see both of those regimes collapse without the loss of a single American life.”

Clearly this policy has not worked, but the belief that boycotting hostile governments will end Communism is clearly evident in Atlas Shrugged. The residents of Galt’s Gulch become a self-sufficient hermit kingdom, effectively withdrawing from the world, and refusing to share their talents with “looters.” It is telling of the attitude at the time that even Ayn Rand, a champion of individual rights, quickly lost sight of the fact that Cuba is an island of 11 million individuals, some of whom may want to engage in trade and travel with the 350 million individuals within the geographic territory of the US.

Ayn Rand died in 1979, so unfortunately she did not live to see the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, or the rise of the market economy in China and Vietnam. What ultimately brought about market liberalization in all former Communist countries was the realization, from the party leaders all the way down to the workers, that people living in western countries enjoyed a standard of living that was exponentially better than their own. There is a reason that East Germany was the first Communist country to fall. The East Germans had friends and relatives living on the other side of the wall who were smuggling them gifts that could not be acquired in East Germany for any amount of money. It is easy to imagine East Germans thinking, “Why can’t we have that?” Ultimately it was not an embargo, or an invading army that brought down the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was nearly 293 million individuals asking themselves why a factory worker in West Germany could afford a car, while they had to stand in line for toilet paper.

As we have seen, embargoes have done nothing to weaken the power of Communist governments in Cuba or North Korea. On the contrary, the power and influence of these governments have grown, mostly because their people have almost no contact with the outside world. Even though the citizens of these Communist countries have endured decades of indoctrination and brainwashing they ultimately cannot deny their own senses. It is hard to convince someone that their crumbling system is superior once they see for themselves that other people around the world can enjoy unheard of luxuries for doing the exact same occupation.

To me the case for liberalizing trade with Cuba is a slam dunk. The average Cuban makes $20 a month. Any exposure they get to the wealth and abundance that their neighbors are enjoying is going to make the average Cuban fundamentally question why their economic system is operating so poorly. The ironic thing is that even Cuba’s senior leadership must be getting covetous of American materialism for them to have agreed to a thaw in relations with the US. Communist party officials must know that liberalizing travel and trade with the US will weaken their position, but I am sure that most of them are willing to give up some of that power for an iPhone4 and a 20 pack of Charmin Ultra.

Ultimately we are all human and want more or less the same things: love, comfort, food, security, friendship, happiness, and freedom. We don’t all agree on the best way to achieve these things, but if we are allowed freedom of association, then in general the best ideas get adopted and the worst rejected. I can understand why Cuban Americans are so upset over the thaw in relations with Cuba, but punishing the average Cuban with sanctions isn’t going to bring back their lives before Castro. It’s only going to hold off the transition to a market economy.

I am constantly amazed at the power that forgiveness holds. It seems to be the only thing that can bring peace to people who have been grieved, especially those with no hope of restitution from their aggressors. I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to lose everything, and then endure the humiliation of watching the thieves live in your house for decades, but poisoning yourself with malice hasn’t worked for the past 60 years. The one thing that has been proven to work has been to set aside ideology and allow individuals the freedom interact with whom they choose. I think most of us would prefer those interactions to happen over mojitos, instead of malice.

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13 Responses to “Mojitos Or Malice? Which Is Cuba’s National Drink?”

  1. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    Well said. I hope this article will reach many who still support sanctions.

  2. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    Ayn Rand died in 1982. Frank O’Connor died in 1979.

  3. Anthony CaprioNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the feed back!

  4. VanmindNo Gravatar says:

    Great stuff, Mr. Caprio, thanks.

    • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

      This avatar forgot to mention that it all boils down to some people still pretending to be in a position to “make the call” for everyone else and some other people still pretending to be in no position to do anything other than take someone else’s call.

      It’s similar to the earlier article here about pot. Trade between any Cuban and anyone else on the planet has never been inappropriate. Politicians and bureaucrats, of course, have tried for thousands of years to trick people into a false impression regarding “official” permissions & prohibitions.

      • Sam SpadeNo Gravatar says:

        Vanmind:

        “…Politicians and bureaucrats, of course, have tried for thousands of years to trick people into a false impression regarding “official” permissions & prohibitions…”

        A strike at the heart of this and many other discussions on anarchist and libertarian boards. All monopoly “government” everywhere is an exercise in the science of tricking masses of people into false impressions regarding “official” permissions and prohibitions.

        That sez it more succinctly than almost any other comment I’ve come across.

        Ranking near the top in tactics for that “science”, I think, is a strategy called “reification“. Now at the risk of Anthony think I’m trying to jab him in the eye over what is truly a nice article, I’ll show you what I mean:

        “…the thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States…”

        Innocuous enough, right? Libertarians use such phrases extensively. But according to a guy nobody seems to remember or admit to having known, who wrote one libertarian essay that I know of, then up and died without fanfare, that word usage is at the heart of why libertarian thinking seems to trap us into the syndrome of going nowhere.

        Because it lets the perpetrators of evil off the hook. It’s a gambit tyrants have depended upon for generation after generation to keep the hoi polloi from unveiling the man behind the curtain.

        There is no such thing as “relations between Cuba and the United States”. There’s nothing to “thaw”.

        I’m aware of a pleasant island off the keys of a place we’ve come to think of as “Florida”. Somebody once decided to name the island “Cuba”. I know from history that egregious predators time after time have murdered and pillaged and overpowered producers and their spouses and children at that place; and then claimed to have secured an abstraction called “jurisdiction” — absconding, as predators do, with virtually all the produce and trade of life there.

        The same kind of scenario worked itself out at about the same time on that larger piece of land called “US” — the predators of which have been in conflict with the predators of “Cuba” — the producers in both locations being the victims of the predators. That’s “history” from the beginning, the world ’round.

        And that’s all.

        The producers in neither location have had any reason not to enjoy trade with each other — that trade which results in wealth, prosperity and well-being for everybody. Producers intuitively understand that trade is the staff of life and prosperity and security. Predators have by their natures perceived a phenomenon somewhat recently labeled Stockholm Syndrome — that producers, rather than squabble, will lie down, spread their legs and allow predators to have their way. It’s an eerie mystery that nobody seems to fully understand (least of all, me).

        And thus, “Our-Great-Nation”. Sentimental accolades to “Our-Forefathers”. Celebrations of wars that have been inflicted upon producers by predators appearing to be in conflict with each other. Old as time itself.

        I don’t know what it’s going to take for us to grab the torch and run with it. I think it’s burning and ready. First we’ll need to be willing to expend the extra words to describe things the way they really are instead of how the predators want us to think.

        Mojitos, instead of malice, is, indeed the solution. But first we have to ignore the beast out of existence.

        Abstain from beans, my friends. Sam

        • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

          Your response is almost as long as the article.

        • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

          Yeah, good stuff, thanks. Gene Callahan sparked a decent discussion here about the whole chicken-or-egg thing regarding individuals and the societies they appear to comprise (or vice versa as the case might be).

          Here’s a related joke-stumper to use on both grammarians and dialecticians: “Which came first, The Word or the God Particle?”

  5. SpooneristNo Gravatar says:

    The problem with “opening up trade” with Cuba is that you won’t be trading and dealing with ordinary Cubans — you’ll be trading and dealing with officials of the Cuban state.

    Companies seeking to do business in Cuba are not allowed to do their own local hiring. They must go through a Cuban government “service” that filters applicants and hires employees for them. And the company is not allowed to pay the employees in dollars or euros — it gives dollars or euros to the Cuban government, and then the government “pays” the Cuban employees in worthless pesos.

    So by “trading with Cuba” you are helping to feed the Cuban state monster and participating in the continued exploitation of Cuban workers.

    Would you buy or sell from a slaveholder in the expectation that this would somehow give the slaves knowledge that there’s a better life outside?

    The embargo that needs to end is the Cuban state’s own embargo (prohibition) on individual Cubans directly making their own deals with each other and with foreigners who would like to deal with them.

    Ordinary Cubans are aware of what’s going on and what things are like generally beyond their shores. The problem is there are two nails keeping the lid on, a “negative” nail and a “positive” one. The negative nail is the elaborate system of state repression that follows dissidents around, monitors Internet communications, and throws people in jail or sends “spontaneous” mobs to attack them when they get too threatening.

    The positive nail is the continued clinging to life by the charismatic founder of the so-called “revolution,” Fidel Castro, a romantic figure who is personally very much admired even if the system he imposed is not. Once Fidel finally goes to his richly deserved reward in the next life, the only nail holding things together will be repression. It’s a strong one, but only time will tell if that’s enough.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      So, you’r against the Cuban government telling people what they can do with their own money but you’re okay with the US government telling people what they can do with their money. Gotcha.

    • Sam SpadeNo Gravatar says:

      The last two comments vividly express a statement attributed to Thomas Pynchon:

      “If they can keep you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

      — Thomas Pynchon
      http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/235.Thomas_Pynchon

    • Anthony CaprioNo Gravatar says:

      Individuals should be able to chose who they interact with. Regarding the slave question. How long do you think the Cubans will support their overlords once they realize just how much their missing out on? The Soviet Union died because people realized what was beyond the curtain.