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Thu Oct 1, 2015, 05:01 AM

Cuba’s Quiet Wealth: Why It is Needed

September 30, 2015
Cuba’s Quiet Wealth: Why It is Needed

by Susan Babbitt

The Pope, speaking to Congress, quoted Thomas Merton, Trappist monk. It was to preface remarks on Cuba. He might have pushed the connection further. Merton said he lived enslaved by his own desires and fears. José Martí, Cuban independence leader, placed a similar insight at the centre of his revolution. It is about the nature of freedom, and science. Martí was concerned, for the sake of radical politics, with how to think.

Two hundred years ago, countering European ideas, an intense debate in Cuba addressed the issue. Armando Hart, who led Cuba’s literacy campaign, unmatched in the world, says no one who disregards the “Cuban philosophical polemic”, 1838-40, understands the Cuban Revolution.[1] This will surprise some. Cuba is much studied but not for its ideas, and certainly not for ideas about how to think creatively. It should be.


Since the 1960s, the “creativity industry” in North America has urged us “outside the box”. Cuban philosopher, Féliz Varela, in 1817, before Martí and before Marx, cared about boxes. He took the question to be about the nature of thought, which depends upon universals.[2] He noticed that the vehicles for all thought, general categories, are social. We make use of them but we do not create them, at least not alone.

Science depends upon universals. So does individual reasoning, day by day. North American philosophers know this. But they ignore political implications. The “Cuban polemicists” did not. Cuba in the 1830s was threatened by four global institutions: Spain took Cuba to define its “national integrity”; slavery was a “necessary evil”; the US considered Cuba its manifest destiny; and England was gaining influence in the Caribbean. All four implied submission for Cuba.


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Reply Cuba’s Quiet Wealth: Why It is Needed (Original post)
Judi Lynn Oct 2015 OP
TexasProgresive Oct 2015 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu Oct 1, 2015, 07:46 AM

1. This is truly a great read

I recommend that all read the article fully and carefully. It will take me more than one read to even begin to unpack what Ms. Babbitt has written.

And to Judi Lynn, thank you for your tireless reporting of events and the thinking of Latin America. I think one thing that the election of Pope Francis has done is to raise the consciousness of many who live in the U.S. that there is a vast source of wisdom and knowledge in our hemisphere. My Dad, may he rest in peace, would be your greatest fan. He joined LULAC as a young man and always considered himself a Latin while not Hispanic. His logic was that the French of Louisiana have more in common with the Hispanics of Latin America that with the WASPs of the US.

A snip of the piece that really resonated with me and I think is a beginning in differentiating between knowledge and the more ethereal concept of wisdom.

(Beginning at the end of 4)
...they did not conceive of philosophy as we do today, removed from politics, and even life. They wanted students to think philosophically in order to identify and revise the universals they depended upon, especially for knowing their own human dignity.

For Martí, as for many Eastern philosophers, wisdom that challenges convention comes only from what is felt, and from what is lived. Merton thought the same, and lived in silence. They both held that freedom, which requires understanding, depends upon sensitivity and humility. For, it is not just knowledge that promotes understanding: the capacity to respond to beauty – in ideas, people or events – is often how we know the unexpected. This may, in a dehumanizing world, be human beings, and humanness.


Freedom, then, has more to do with being, than having.

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