Left.ru ________________________________________________________________________________
Irina Malenko

Island of Women’s Freedom
(Part 2 of the Cuban Diary)

The world does not belong to bandits and cowboys.
(Assata Shakur)

… It’s always very difficult for me to write on this subject. Too painful. 
Not to mention that most of Russia’s media outlets  nowadays have on their editorial boards those “half-baked machos” who finally “came out of the closet” and have shown their true face. Their animalistic instincts are pleased by that humiliation of women – unknown under the old “totalitarian regime”!- that our women are facing on a daily basis after the “victory of democracy”. Every time these editors diligently cut out every little piece out of my articles written in defence of woman’s dignity: that seems “old-fashioned” to them, and they continue to reassure their readers that this is “an indispensable part of life in a civilized society” and – with a shy horny smile – that “the ladies like it themselves”….

…They love to shed crocodile tears in the West about the destiny of  the Afghan women who are deprived of the possibility to work and are forced to wear burkas. They only forget to cry loud about their own women who from the day they are born are learning to accept the sexual discrimination as a norm of life; not just the huge (up to 1/3!) difference in payment for the same kind of work between men and women , not just the lack of affordable and well-developed net of child care  that makes them delay their motherhood until late 30s… Many Western women are practically deprived of the possibility to work after the birth of their children – the West isn’t much better than Taliban in relation to this! But the worst of the worst is the continuous and overall humiliation and offence of the female dignity – in the form of “erotic” magazines, prints, video, etc that are being sold at every corner. For me as a woman, there is no difference between the invented by Gorby in USSR term “erotica” and pornography. Because I remember all too well how suddenly it became impossible to go out safely at night to the always so safe and quiet Russian streets,-  by some “coincidence” exactly after Gorby’s declaration that watching female’s behinds on TV screens  and in the magazines is “indispensable part of the world culture”!

“Women are Negroes of this world”- as John Lennon sung.  Fair enough. Not about Afghan women he was singing, by the way, - about Western.  One can judge about their life, for example, by a recent header in “Daily Mirror” that proclaims as  “a giant victory” for the British women the fact that they have finally won the right to refuse the night shift work if the have small children. Nobody in the West, of course, bothers to know that in our country, under “totalitarian Soviet regime” our women not just had this right: by law, the employers could not even ask them about doing the night shift! And  that it is only now, with the coming of “democracy” our women-mothers are finally “liberated” of this right…

Western women are so brainwashed and oppressed  since childhood; they are so far from seeing themselves as human beings with full rights that they do not even notice their own slavery.  They think that it is a real luxury – to have 16 weeks of maternity leave, and so they work nearly until the child birth, just in order to stay with the baby a bit longer after it will be born. They can not even imagine in their wildest dreams that in the USSR, under communist “dictatorship” women had the right for paid maternity leave up to 18 months and for unpaid leave of up to 1,5 years - with their jobs kept for them until they return.

Only because Western women do not realize their own humiliation and lack of rights to be treated as a human being rather than a piece of meat for men’s pleasure – so many of them consider it the highest compliment if some one calls them “sexy”, after giving them a dirty-minded look. That is what a woman is in the Western society in the first place: a creature for men’s pleasure. And only if she really insists  on her rights (and sometimes even threatens with the court!), then somebody might finally remember about her human and business qualities. That is the root of the Western  man-hating feminism incomprehensible for our Soviet mind . That is also the root of the hysterical desire of so many Western women  to make their breasts bigger at any cost ( the so-called “boob-job”- an expression by itself testifying to the lack of respect for women in this society) or to make their behind tighter or to dress in such a way that there will be little left for imagination. That is also the root of anorexia neurosa – the sickness of modern Western women who are so desperately trying to make themselves “beautiful” that even the Auschwitz prisoners looked healthier than some of them…

Contrary to what some people think,  it is not so much because the mass media bombards us with the images of the skinny “models”--their  knee bones scrubbing each other when they walk. It is because the whole atmosphere in the Western world is, in my experience, very unfriendly towards women. This system does not take them seriously and does not allow them--contrary to what its propaganda claims--to be seen as fully human beings who can very well decide for themselves what  they want to be and who would not be intimidated by somebody else’s opinion as to what woman is supposed to be.

To be honest with you, I do not know who deserves more pity: the Afghan women under Taliban or the Western ones (and lately, the Eastern European as well) under “democracy”.

Just as a chador or a burqa  humiliating for every person with dignity (and even just a little bit of brains!), public stripping in “Playboy” viewed in the West nearly as a great honour and an achievement of progress, are basically the same thing. 

In its root – the oh so badly needed proof of their power, needed by those men “in charge” of this society who lack self-respect and self-confidence themselves, despite all their material possessions. These men feel good when women either cover themselves up to their eyebrows or strip themselves publicly “under their orders”. Western women might not get direct orders – but they are being prepared to follow them by their whole upbringing. It is not surpriseng then that the 5-10 year-old girls in West Belfast have as their role models the bimbos from “Atomic Kitten” who proudly declare that they would strip for “Playboy”  “for the right price”…

What is the difference between this and prostitution? The price? And what kind of women will grow up out of these little girls?

Of course, for those at power it is very important that the kids have such “idols”: the dumber the next generation will be, the easier it will be to rule over them. And since they haven’t learnt yet how to clone slaves and the “canon meat”, the best way of  making the population dumber at present is to make it totally fixated on the lower parts of their bodies…. After a while the brain cells will simply die out by themselves.

The current situation of Russian women in the so-called “democratic and free” society – is a long, painful and separate story. Under socialism, despite certain difficulties, all opportunitie were really open for us in life: from conducting a symphony orchestra to becoming a professor.

It is in the West  that I for the first time came across the people who refused to believe me that we, women,  used to work in the USSR not “purely out of economic need” – that  we actually WANTED to, because we wanted to be fully developed human beings, not "chicks". Well, of course, every one judges others by his own standards… But none of us--Soviet women, well-educated, active, continuously perfecting ourselves professionally, respecting themselves and respected by their male colleagues and partners, and loving mothers and wives at that--could even imagine in their worst nightmares that there can be such a “well-paid job” as being “decoration of the table”… Thanks very much to capitalism and “democracy” for the “freedom” to sell our bodies so we can feed our children!

According to some recent numbers, over 50.000 of our women and children are being sold abroad into sex-slavery every year. Of course, they all “like it themselves” – as many of my male journalist colleagues say in Russia. They don’t even see that the first ones who should be ashamed of such a disgusting situation in the country, are our men, many of whom, unfortunately, not only do not wish to or cannot defend the weakest ones, but who even make “big bucks” on our blood and tears, becoming pimps and slave-traders.  USSR had a death penalty for economic crimes (my Irish friends whose politicians are sunk in corruption, just love this idea when I tell them!). I believe that the slave-traders – all of them, without exception, no matter if they have rheumatism or a terminally ill mother-in-law-- do deserve death penalty.

… Havana, early morning. The sun usually rises here at about 7:30. I am looking from my window at the Cubans going to work.  They walk unhurriedly, quietly, in small groups, friendly chatting with each other. Just as we did in the past. Under socialism.

These are comrades walking – in the full sense of this word, - not “competitors” trying to turn dirty tricks on each other behind the back in order to get promoted. There are many women among them. I met many Cuban women- nurses, doctors, and journalists. Even police women and the military. Including one pensioner who many years ago graduated from the Kiev Tank Academy.  We met in some store and she addressed me in Russian: “Wait a minute, tovarishch!”

I would like to ask those “supporters of freedom and democracy” – or, to be more exact, the supporters of the return of American imperialism to Cuba-- who are cheering so much in their Miami at Russia's recent “present” (the Lourdes base) to Bush: what will happen to these intelligent, educated women under your “freedom”? I can tell you what…

… Some years ago I saw a documentary in the Netherlands about the contemporary Hungary. One of those countries that are “doing so well” now. On the TV screen there appeared one after another completely naked young Hungarian women who, then, would tell what their profession was just a few years ago, under socialism. “I am 23, was a school teacher…”, “ I am 25, ex-librarian”,…” I am19, was studying to become a nurse”…  I don’t know exactly how much they were paid for this public humiliation. But what I know for sure – and that is what I would like to say to those Cubans who are morally tired of today’s rationing system and think that they “would have it better” under capitalism: it won’t be better!  Just look at us in Eastern Europe, look at your neighbour – the Dominican Republic or Brazil. That is what is waiting your women in the future if you will allow bandits and cowboys to destroy your revolution!

Before I came to Cuba, I, to be honest with you, just as most of my compatriots nowadays, was quite cynical. No wonder after 15 years of rule of our various Ras-Putins…I had my doubts. There was also a lady who was trying to pour more oil into the fire: Valya, my ex-compatriot who came to Dublin as a “political refugee” about 8 years ago. She lived for nearly 25 years in Cuba with her Cuban husband, a military pilot, but she quickly left the Island of Freedom as soon as Cuba experienced economic hardship the result of the destruction of the Soviet Union. For all of her economical and personal problems she blamed personallu Fidel Castro ( this might have helped her to get her refugee status so smoothly, even though she was as much a political refugee as I am a trolleybus!). Even in her own divorce (according to her, “the party forced” her husband to divorce her because she was Russian!). In Dublin Valya became very religious (for all those 25 years in Cuba, when it suited her, she just pretended to be a supporter of communist ideas?), but I noticed her for a different reason. Her first name in an unusual combination with her Spanish surname seemed terribly familiar to me, even though I had never met her before. It’s only later on that I remembered that I saw this name in a Russian free-ads newspaper from London, under an ad; “ Middle-aged good-looking lady is looking for an English gentleman…” 

That is--rather than the “evilness of the Cuban Communist Party”!-- was the real reason for her divorce. Even Ireland for this Madam Broshkina is just a temporary stop on the way  to her real goal – a “well-off husband”. She hasn’t married an Englishman earlier just because in Soviet days “English gentlemen” didn’t hang around in the USSR in search for cute Russian bimbos to decorate themselves with. But as long as her Cuban husband was reasonably well-off (an army pilot!), he suited her perfectly, even with all his communist ideas…

I wonder  where will she run to in the future when there will be an economic crisis in England as well?

Now I could see for myself what Cuban women live like. The first thing that I noticed in a souvenir shop, was the absence of any dirty “beach cards” that all the Southern countries, from Spain to Curacao, are full of. Here, in Cuba, they still know how to respect female’s dignity.

There are still  many Russian women living in Cuba – those who married out of love, and not for the sake of “moving abroad”. I met one of them, Tamara. And, despite all Valya's complains about the Russians being discriminated here, not a single Cuban who knew where I was from ever said a bad word to me. Quite the opposite: many of them regretted that few Russian tourists visited Cuba and remembered their Russian friends or the years that they spent in our country very warmly.

…Havana, late evening. I am being driven in Coco taxi (a special. purely Cuban form of motor-taxi) by a young Cuban woman in a military style (a la Fidel) cap, with a long black hair waving in the wind. We are communicating in a mixture of words and gestures, she can not find my destination. It’s already completely dark. Without any fear, she walks toward some building we were driving by and asks the security guard (a young man) for directions: “Companero!”- “ Comrade!” He tells her where to go, but she does know the area and asks him to get in the car and show us the way. She is not afraid of the stranger. Just as we never were under socialism.

Let me give you just one example of  how pervert, how fearful of other people our mind has become after these years of “free and democratic” life in Russia. Here is a little story of my Russian female friend who has come to Cuba for the first time, just as myself.

“I was sitting on the grass and waiting for my relatives when a couple came into this little park. A man and a woman. Suddenly I saw that the man began taking his trousers off… I thought :” Oh my God! What sort of morals do they have here? Where shall I run?…” Then I saw that he had shorts under the trousers. Well, maybe, it’s too hot for him… Then I look at him – and he was taking his shirt off too, and I saw his naked belly.. I really got scared. It must be some sort of a maniac. God knows what these two were going to do… Then I looked again – and he was putting different clothes on. Well, probably he had robbed somebody and was trying to change his appearance now! Changing his image, bastard! … then I looked again – and he was giving his other clothes to the woman who went to sit on the grass while he started… jogging! It would simply not come into my mind…”

And now you – as a Russian--try to imagine what would you think in her place. Would your thoughts would be very much different from hers--after these years of “democratic” Russian reality?

The life of a Cuban woman  is not easy: just as in the USSR,  “Cubana” often does both work outside and in the house, while men are not very helpful at home. But what’s the alternative to that kind of life? Does my new friend – the Coco taxi driver – knows that in the modern “free” society she will never be able to drive around at night without fear? In Russia, even big strong men--taxi drivers are already carrying with them axes under the car seat on many occasions… 

Does she know that in a “free” society her road will be not just “from the fire place to the door” as the pre-revolutionary Russian proverb said, but from the black market where she would be selling things made in another country (while it was perfectly possible to produce them in Cuba!), where all the money will go to as well, to the brothel where she would be serving “civilized” fat bellied “Amerikoses”, as we call them in Russia, - for dollars guaranteed by blood, sweat and tears of far too many nations of this world? Would she be happy with such an alternative? I don’t think so.

While I was still in Ireland, I have met the Cuban ambassador in Dublin, a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Teresita Trujillo. Teresita is a classic example of Cuban women's new role under socialism.  A mother of three children, a diplomat and a politician, she manages to do it all. “I have visited many Eastern European countries in the last few years,-“ she told me. “And what I saw there, only strengthened my belief that we have chosen the right way. Let’s take, for example, Bulgaria: the country is in ruins. It looks like if there was a war there. Terrible poverty – and no light at the end of tunnel… Nobody will invest in this economy, and Bulgarians are not very hopeful about it, even though many of them still believe that this is the only solution for all their problems… And all the previous markets for Bulgarian products have been lost…”

“You simply look at the state these countries are in – and you say to yourself: what choice do we have? We have none. We have to continue what we have started, despite all the difficulties and all the problems. We believe in the possibility of a socialist society to exist even in one country – and we believe in a decent human life for everybody, not just all for some and nothing – for the majority… We have no alternative, but to continue!”

I am comparing what I have seen in Cuba with what I have experienced in one far from the poorest countries of this region – the Netherlands Antilles, where I used to live – and I agree with Teresita. A capitalist “alternative”  means not just the same limited  resources as it is, but also the far greater injustice in their distribution. There wouldn’t be free medical care or free education, there will be tower-high prices for water, electricity, gas and housing, almost total lack of public transport – and the IMF rulings as to how many people should be thrown onto the streets… These people will start transporting drugs into other countries out of desperation – and they will be branded criminals, not those well-fed IMF bosses and colonial Dutch  and local comprador officials who have driven them into this desperation… And only the local prison is called “Bon Futuro”  – “Happy Future”…

As far as I am concerned, I’d rather work as construction worker than as a sex slave. I am not afraid to stand in a queue – that’s nothing, in comparison with the perspective of looking into the full of food shop windows with your hungry child, without having the means to buy the things that are lying and rotting there because of somebody’s “business minded” greed…

I envy in a good way my Cuban companeras. I can only just hope that they will also learn to appreciate what they have now – before it would be too late. Because we all know too well how eagerly Uncle Sam is waiting for (and working at) the destruction of the Cuban Revolution, rubbing his hands covered with blood…

“The World does not belong to bandits and cowboys!”-  the wonderful brave daughter of the American people Assata Shakur has written in her autobiography about leader of her country. 

But it’s up to us – to prove that it really doesn’t. It’s up to us – to put the arrogant Uncle Sam back to his place where he belongs. To express it in the language of his own intellectual level, let him stick his “freedom” up his arse --his freedom to rob, to oppress, to humiliate and to brainwash all of us.

(Will continue)

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