New and old tools could help us save culture, which is in danger. Photo: La Jiribilla

Even moments of crisis can become "comfort zones". If we get used to renouncing what was already a conquest and allow ourselves to be dragged – accommodated to an excessively prolonged "not doing" – crises return us to prenatal stages of social dynamics. In culture, even more than in economics, when the state of conformity is established and remains, the evils unleashed are incurable, metastatic, lethal. Radical surgery ends up being the only procedure, of dubious effectiveness, to try to start everything again, the other are palliative.

I am not afraid to say that the losses caused by economic crises tend to be less abrasive than those that occur culturally. Once the production of goods has recovered to modestly satisfy demand, the spirit recovers from its aftermath relatively quickly. In culture, on the contrary, any sustained regression cancels the paths of return, disorientation prevails and it becomes impossible to travel the same path by which realization was previously accessed. We have proof with the rosary of disagreements of different natures that in recent times we have experienced with intellectual groups —and popular—: the most recent of all, very bitter, that of the cinema.

"In culture, even more than in economics, when the state of conformity is established and remains, the evils unleashed are incurable, metastatic, lethal."

It should be remembered that, in the dismantling of the socialist system of the USSR and Eastern Europe, which we witnessed at the end of the last century, glàsnost did more damage than perestroika: the economy in Russia and many of those countries recovered, but the socialist ideology had to face the long devaluation of its moral capital, which today rows against the current; The persistent loss of its political appeal and its mobilizing capacity has not ceased to accompany us. That debacle, on a planetary scale, has not yet been completely reversed, although new experiences debuted with methods very different from "manualistic" orthodoxy, the conceptual wound was deep.

In Cuba, the crisis of the nineties was handled, thanks to Fidel's clairvoyance, with remarkable creativity. Bold decisions, never before part of the repertoire of actions, led us to promote work of activation of the private sector, reorientation of the main economic lines (from sugar to tourism, agriculture and local industry for survival), decentralization of many decisions towards the territorial, monetary reform, and others. But the most successful of all the policies oriented by the leader was the one enunciated in 1993 (V Congress of UNEAC) at a time when it was called for "Save the Homeland, the Revolution and Socialism", without hesitation affirmed that "culture is the first thing to be saved". Culture as the first seat to save everything.

Consequently, as the first transcendent decision of the country's leadership, it was agreed that culture would receive, for its performance, everything that was capable of entering. And it was no small thing. The Fund for Culture and Education (Fonce), territorial funds, special accounts, were created, tributaries to the Ministry of Culture, and thanks to this, important projects were financed. Cultural companies such as Artex, Ediciones Cubanas and the Cuban Fund of Cultural Goods multiplied their level of activity to the point that while the economy lived its slow recovery, culture experienced visible growth. The foregoing allows me to risk affirming that culture, in the face of that crisis, was the one who catalyzed the resistance because it became a mobilizer of innumerable wills.

Faced with the crisis of the 90's, it was culture that became "mobilizing innumerable wills". Photo: La Jiribilla

As the crisis was overcome, traditional methods gradually replaced emergency methods and, already at the height of 1998 and 2000 (to give just two examples) artistic education and publishing expansion had the notable boost that led to a recovering economy. But spiritual culture has always been ahead of material culture, and has encouraged it, although the pressures and fruits of the latter will always be more visible in the immediate future and will give the impression of being previous.

To face the crisis that currently grips the country, as a result of the worsening of the blockade, the COVID-19 pandemic and the natural phenomena that have affected us, strategists and decision-makers have put the accent, very strongly, on the economic. The tools to confront and take culture ahead of the rest of the spheres are no longer those that served in the nineties, but it would be worth asking if some of them could be adequate so as not to lose more than what has been lost in that field.

"The fact that the paper book is not revived in years and that the digital book is insisted on too emphatically, suggests – even if it is not – that the latter is thought of as a long-term substitute."

The scenario is different: Internet access has been for us almost the equivalent of a glasnost, at least its effects are similar. In many cultural sectors, claims are heard that, if addressed in their essence, would lead to a dismantling of institutionality. And with the cultural institutions we would go the socialist conception of society, of that there is no doubt. The growing presence of private management in culture, if we do not handle it wisely, could lead, as in the economy and services, to the discrediting of state management.

I believe that the alternatives that have been drawn up for some important areas of cultural life are only palliative. That the paper book is not revived in years and insists too much emphasis on the digital, suggests – although this is not the case – that the latter is thought of as a long-term substitute. If this were the case, we would be facing the wrong strategy of postponing, without immediate horizon, one of the most powerful weapons for working with consciences. The institutional discourse insists that the physical book is not abandoned, but time passes and in practice the winners of important prizes are not published, nor do the publishers receive originals to evaluate.

Continuing to steer the crisis with minor or wrong alternatives, while the cultural is completely subordinated to the benefits of a budget that will not grow at the desired pace, can lead to worse nonsense. It is not possible to operate with the discourse of convocation and exaltation typical of our mass media, while in real life the speeches are different, increasingly harsh and open.

"Without man any battle will be lost."

New and old tools could help us save culture (which is in danger). If some of those used during the nineties (perhaps those of closed financing scheme) were added others related to the possibility of calling up new economic actors, perhaps we could recover who knows if the production of books and cinema, not to deviate from the last two examples that I already used. With each book or film that is not made, a few grams of credibility of our institutions are gone, for so many years and with such careful care.

I would like to hear, emanating from the corresponding levels of leadership, pronouncements that place on the offensive the noble task of transmitting reflective flows of proven effectiveness for the spiritual aggrandizement of all. In this we play the essence of our humanism. Without man any battle will be lost. If we win it, we will have a country, an economy, full social justice.

(Taken from La Jiribilla)