Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Cuba: an accidental revolution
October 26, 2007 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Cuba: The Accidental Revolution. Hasta la revolucion ? Maybe, but some revolution is dictated more by need than by politics. In this documentary, we are shown how Cuba is converting from oil-subsidized agricolture to organic agricolture with remarkable results. The presence of a police state isn't conveniently forgotten, as much as the facts that public education, public healthcare and limited, regulated free enterprise markets are helping Cubans in the transition from the illusion of freedom in a subsidized economy to a far less comfortable and rich, but more sustainable and independant economy.
posted by elpapacito (48 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Che Guevara is burning in hell.
posted by chlorus at 4:01 PM on October 26, 2007


Che Guevara is burning in hell.
posted by Mblue at 4:07 PM on October 26, 2007


Oh, by the way, Che Guevara is still dead. (and in hell)
posted by rockhopper at 4:09 PM on October 26, 2007


I like where this thread is going.
posted by Spacelegoman at 4:14 PM on October 26, 2007


Someone is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt while burning in hell.
posted by thivaia at 4:20 PM on October 26, 2007


Cliche.
posted by chlorus at 4:22 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ahh, agricolture. Where would we be without agricolture? (other than Hell, with dead communists)
posted by Pants! at 4:24 PM on October 26, 2007


wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt
posted by Mblue at 4:29 PM on October 26, 2007


there's also this article in Harpers about Cuban agriculture post-Soviet Union. Unfortunately, to me it sounds like things that a lot of well-meaning "organic" yankees want to hear ala Michael Pollan.

I'm sure the reality doesn't quite match up but it is interesting... I also imagine organic agriculture in Cuba will be the first thing to go once the CIA is back in control, unless oil is at $200 a barrel...
posted by geos at 4:30 PM on October 26, 2007


Arche
posted by wendell at 4:35 PM on October 26, 2007


Wait - I forget - which is hip, now? Hating Che or loving Che? I'm so confused.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:37 PM on October 26, 2007


geos writes "hings that a lot of well-meaning 'organic' yankees want to hear ala Michael Pollan."

Yep I expect overkill hyperboles left and right, like U.S. is the richest country in the world, yet millions don't have any kind of health insurance. Ahah , rich yeah sure ! Or like Cuba is a paradise ..uhuh sure, and Darfur is "colourful"
posted by elpapacito at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2007


Wait - I forget - which is hip, now? Hating Che or loving Che? I'm so confused.

Confusion becomes you.
posted by chlorus at 4:40 PM on October 26, 2007


Wait - I forget - which is hip, now? Hating Che or loving?Che I'm so confused.
posted by Mblue at 4:47 PM on October 26, 2007


Arche

Menarche
posted by chlorus at 4:48 PM on October 26, 2007


Golden Arches
posted by rouftop at 4:58 PM on October 26, 2007


From the Nature of Things website:

"Will Cuba's "Green Revolution" become a blueprint for sustainable agriculture, medicine, and biotechnology, or will it be swept aside by the economic weight of foreign investors? Or will the public clamour for consumer goods from a weary people, fed up with lack of choice, overwhelm contemporary Cuba? Will Cuba's enormous experiment in sustainable development be maintained if the U.S. embargo is lifted and Cuba is exposed to the brutal arena of world trade? Whatever the future of Cuba's accidental revolution, Castro and his country has shown that alternatives do exist."

This could be pretty interesting, especially given George Bush's recent pronouncements about Cuba. I wish he'd say what he really thinks on this one.
posted by sneebler at 5:50 PM on October 26, 2007


Not a Che shirt
posted by absalom at 6:06 PM on October 26, 2007


This could be pretty interesting, especially given George Bush's recent pronouncements about Cuba. I wish he'd say what he really thinks on this one.

All politicians think "Cuba money". George, Ted, Romney and the New Hampshire D/democrats.
posted by Mblue at 6:14 PM on October 26, 2007


The modern Japanese organic movement has taken many leads from Cuba. Takuya Kobayashi's documentary "A Report on Organic Vegetable Farming in Cuba by Harukichi" and the Harukichi Farm are good examples.

It's impressive that a city as large as Havana can grow about 90% of its own food within the city limits through its urban gardening program. Compare that with Tokyo which grows about 1 or 2% of its own food - draining the Japanese countryside and being dangerously dependent on food imports from overseas.

I used to live in a part of rural Japan that is famous for its salmon and rice. However our local supermarkets carried frozen Chilean salmon and rice imported from Australia - everything local was sent to Tokyo. I understand that the farmers get a higher price in the big city, but it seems like that money was all spent on the fuel to bring food clear from the Southern Hemisphere... Hopefully it won't take something as dramatic as what happened in Cuba for people to start turning toward more sustainable living.
posted by ameca at 6:31 PM on October 26, 2007


yep I expect overkill hyperboles left and right, like U.S. is the richest country in the world, yet millions don't have any kind of health insurance. Ahah , rich yeah sure ! Or like Cuba is a paradise ..uhuh sure, and Darfur is "colourful"

the thing is, cuban agriculture would be the first 'victim' of the lifting of the trade embargo as a tide of rice and beef floats in from the U.S. midwest in exchange for pussy and high stakes poker.

i wonder what color cuba's revolution will be? lets see, orange is already taken...something tropical: aquamarine?
posted by geos at 6:36 PM on October 26, 2007


Cuba used to be a paradise on earth for the Rush Limbaughs of the world. A place that made up for what was missing in nature and character with high style, cheap rum and teen-age girls with full-body tans. Frankly, the dominican republic is just too shabby and too black.

the memory of paradise never really dies...
posted by geos at 6:47 PM on October 26, 2007


Oh, by the way, Che Guevara is still dead. (and in hell)

Finally, something rockhopper and I can agree on!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:54 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


there's also this article in Harpers about Cuban agriculture post-Soviet Union. Unfortunately, to me it sounds like things that a lot of well-meaning "organic" yankees want to hear ala Michael Pollan.

Thank goodness we have your glib kneejerk dismissal to save us from being hypnotised by the empty pieties of two of the most respected journalists writing on ecological issues in America today. I find that much more convincing than, say, the factchecking dept of a 150-year-old magazine. (For anyone didn't follow geos' link, the Harper's piece is by Bill McKibbon.)

But hey, Che Guevara oversaw summary executions, so anything praiseworthy about the nation of Cuba in the 50 years since is inherently false. QED. Well played.
posted by gompa at 9:40 PM on October 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Frankly, the dominican republic is just too shabby and too black."

You're talking about the cigars right?

"Will Cuba's "Green Revolution" become a blueprint for sustainable agriculture, medicine, and biotechnology, or will it be swept aside by the economic weight of foreign investors?"

Economic weight... delivered through the barrel of a gun. Blood or silver.
It'd be nice to see if this is a practical model. I'd rather not be paying $300 for a can of beans when I'm 65.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:50 PM on October 26, 2007


geos writes "the thing is, cuban agriculture would be the first 'victim' of the lifting of the trade embargo"

Oh that's certainly possible, they'll engage in the practice they say china can't do, which is dumping prices with their inexpensive mistreated labor and artificially freezed currency. My guess will be the good neighboor USA will flood the market as you say and make Cuba dependant a.s.a.p

Yet one doesn't required a Phd in economy to consider these facts

1. Dependence on oil will make or brake your economy, if it is based on it. You'd better quit your oild addiction, or reduce it.

2. If you reduce the absolute quantity demanded, the price will be raised by the seller to compensate. If my memory serves, recently the Canadians were so good they managed to reduce the quantity of electricity they demand ! To compensate for the reduced profit, the prices were raised by the producers, conveniently blaming the rising price of crude oil ( That's rather depressing, but guess what: welcome to oligopolies dictating actual offer and market prices)

I guess the documentary makes a rather compelling argument for reducing oil demand and FAST ...look at what happens

a. forget El SUVo...they go on rusty trailer tracks
b. forget El PS3 ... they scarcely have electricity for primary services
c. forget El Walmarto ... all these good needs hauling on gas guzzling trucks ; plus on which fatass car are you planning to load the goods ?
d. forget El Urban Sprawlo ... you can't run a city the size of Los Angeles without mass transit and lotsa cheap oil to haul ass left and right
posted by elpapacito at 1:27 AM on October 27, 2007


Cuba used to be a paradise on earth... with high style, cheap rum and teen-age girls with full-body tans.

Dude, what do you mean USED to be?

(PS: those teenage girls (and boys) with full-body tans? They're medical students. And they can dance all night.)
posted by rokusan at 2:49 AM on October 27, 2007


rokusan writes "They're medical students. And they can dance all night."

EHeh so true ! They day after, it's a total riot when you find they took your virginity AND a kidney !
posted by elpapacito at 6:54 AM on October 27, 2007


The Cuba Diet. Great Article I originally read in Harpers on the sustainable farming that takes place in Cuba. It's a few years old now.
posted by chunking express at 7:21 AM on October 27, 2007


Thanks for the reminder of the Cuban experiment. It is good to see sustainable practices working on a macro level.
One thought on the influence of the Cuban police state on the outcome of this necessary switch in practices and mindset is the example of North Korea. Clearly all cannot be attributed to coercion by the state, if it were that easy or simple North Korea would not be facing famine after famine, and for that matter Mao's great leap forward should have worked. It clearly helps to have a healthy and educated population, both results of careful investment on the part of the government Perhaps as important is the motivation of the people to make this work, why didn't the state of Cuba collapse as most predicted, where was the aquamarine revolution as one snarker up thread called it.
Oh and by the way, Che T shirt derailers WTF?
posted by flummox at 9:00 AM on October 27, 2007


Also noteworthy, expecially to westeners , most Cuban scientists earn around $25 A MONTH. Not surprisingly, who is tapping this marvellous taxpayer funded resources ? Why, U.S. and western biotech companies and universities.

Suddendly, preparing thousand and thousands with a very good education seems to make a lot of sense, as opposed to creating a reduced number because of costs hidden or created in balance sheets.

Uhuh , but let's talk about important stuff like, Britney or sumthing.
posted by elpapacito at 1:52 PM on October 27, 2007


Cuba's actually really nice. lol usa.
posted by blacklite at 3:49 AM on October 28, 2007


What an interesting subject, papacito. I have to admit, I haven't watched the documentaries yet (but I will -- I love the Nature of Things)... but to me it's really hard to disentangling what in Cuba is due to the embargo and the loss of Soviet support, and what is due to "limited, regulated free enterprise markets" (unless you're intentionally conflating them). I suppose if the two end up being removed at the same time, we may never know. (As others have said, trade restrictions probably play a big role in protecting expensive, sustainable agricultural production.)

I suppose as well that my impression of Havana is that when it works, it works because people are awfully good at bypassing those "regulated markets". I can speak from a little experience to the frustration of trying to work there. I really think it's a special, wonderful place, but one should probably be particularly careful connecting policy cause (actual vs. theoretical economic environment, vs. effects of embargo) with effect.
posted by ~ at 6:27 AM on October 28, 2007


when it works, it works because people are awfully good at bypassing those "regulated markets"

It could be that one market, at one time is regulated in a way that makes it inefficient. For instance, limiting the amount of food one can buy at a time could make obtaining food more expensive in terms of time, money or necessary transport resources ; in this sense, the cost of not allowing hoarding and artificial scarcity by not seeling any amount to the richest guy is that of inefficiency.

Regulation itself isn't necessarily good or bad, that'd be a simplistic reduction to a binary reality that just doesn't always exist ; it's an instrument, and as a gun you can use it wisely or not wisely, with consequences that gould be good for many, but also bad for many others.

Yet I don't subscribe to the myth the anybody always know what is BEST or optimal for him, THEREFORE there should be no rules, but the rules imposed by the strongest players. The black market in Cuba could certainly make up for the inefficiency of official market, but it could also suffer from the fact it cannot be run without concealement and it could be a lot less then efficient, for instance because it could encourage antisocial behaviors (read violence, slavery, extreme exploitation, deception) that could be the hidden costs, the so called "externalities" of an otherwise apparently "perfect" market.

So while it's just too convenient to just name-call Cuba, it's actually a lot harder to digest the mere IDEA that they could be doing something very very good ; even harder to swallow the idea that the economy may look efficient and brilliant, but it's actually a delayed trainwreck.
posted by elpapacito at 7:52 AM on October 28, 2007


But hey, Che Guevara oversaw summary executions, so anything praiseworthy about the nation of Cuba in the 50 years since is inherently false.

If it weren't for the sloppy "viva la revolucion" cult of Che, nothing Cuba has done would be noteworthy at all.

But it's precisely because of the romantic Che worship that we notice Cuban "progress" at all, because among some, these notions of progress, however meager, serve as justifications for the Che and Castro versions of revolution. "Hey, Cuba has free medical care. Therefore, American government is worthless. Let's overthrow it, just like Che did, and then we'll have free medical care, too!"

Fuck that.

This Yankee-wonderment about Cuban progress is a lot like watching the Special Olympics. Yeah, they're working real hard, having some successes and deserve some applause. But they're still retarded.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:27 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Che Guevara is burning in hell.

And in the nightmares of Capitalists all over the world-- assuming there's a difference.
posted by jamjam at 9:09 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow -- what a great documentary! Mahalo, elpapacito.

Canadian, of course.

Everyone in Hawai'i should watch this -- island states are going to have to take a very different tack on the future (very soon!).

And ... re: che-haters, LOL. Rage on, robots. Someday Cuba will be turning away starving boat people.
posted by Surfurrus at 9:54 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


So while it's just too convenient to just name-call Cuba, it's actually a lot harder to digest the mere IDEA that they could be doing something very very good; even harder to swallow the idea that the economy may look efficient and brilliant, but it's actually a delayed trainwreck.

Was that directed at me? I would be the first to say that Cuba sometimes wonderful, innovative, and "very very good". In the face of a crippling and absurd embargo. But it doesn't ring true to call the economy as a whole as "efficient and brilliant", either.
posted by ~ at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2007


Cool Papa Bell writes "Yeah, they're working real hard, having some successes and deserve some applause. But they're still retarded."

Eh, I'd like to see what you could do after years of embargo sanctioned by the world greatest superpower, losing all the economic support of the 2nd superpower and working under a semi-enlightened police state.

What they have done is nothing short of fucking amazing, and certainly wasn't fruit of a capitalist culture. A.k.a, demonstrates capitalism , capital and finance isn't the only force behind technical achievements, contrary to the popular notion that rich people earned all they get or deserve all of it, because they make others richer.
posted by elpapacito at 10:05 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they're working real hard, having some successes and deserve some applause. But they're still retarded.

And that's your problem CPB. You think (using the term loosely) that there's nothing we can learn from them.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:50 PM on October 28, 2007


Eh, I'd like to see what you could do after years of embargo sanctioned by the world greatest superpower, losing all the economic support of the 2nd superpower and working under a semi-enlightened police state.

Well, the first thing I'd do is change the government from a murderous experiment in Stalinism to a free and fair democracy. And then we wouldn't need to stand around congratulating ourselves at the ability for some people to keep '57 Chevy's running with homemade parts because we'd have, you know, new cars and shit.

What they have done is nothing short of fucking amazing

Again, that's not saying much (insert nasty quip here about being the smartest retard in the Special Olympics). It only proves that the Castro regime is skilled enough to keep an otherwise intelligent, hard-working populace from really showing what it can do.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:52 PM on October 28, 2007


You think (using the term loosely) that there's nothing we can learn from them.

There's plenty we can learn from them. I just happen to think the equation is upside down. It's not that we can all learn to do more with less. It's that some people can do a whole hell of a lot more with more.

One thing we can't learn from them is that mindless adherence to a notion of "revolution" when that revolution is really "everyone do what I say" will get anyone anywhere.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:56 PM on October 28, 2007


Cool Papa Bell writes "One thing we can't learn from them is that mindless adherence to a notion of 'revolution' when that revolution is really 'everyone do what I say' will get anyone anywhere."

True enough, we don't need to learn that from them, many of us already do with our politicians (whatever color). So I guess we could just learn to do better or the same with less, because it makes us a little less or differently dependant from others.

Yet you maybe are too young to remember the time in which people were so parsimonious they actually learned to repair and maintain, not because they were "cheap and poor" (that's so not posh to look poor these days ! ) ...actually they were significantly less rich, but also appreciated some level of indipendence many of us no longer appreciated.

For instance I remember an adorable client of mine, more or less 70 years old, who recently passed away : she said to me that she liked the computer and what one could do with it, but at the same time she perceived a new level of dependency (the so called digital-divide) and she said she didn't like that at all...she would have liked to book a cheap flight by internet, but she wasn't good enough so she tought he could have phoned the old way.

Except that the old way didn't exist for that company, no phone booking thank you. She wasn't annoyed by the event, but by the fact she perceived a society changing in which she had LESS opportunity , as opposed to society in which she grew that gradually gave MORE opportunity even to laypeople....and she was comfortably rich, so she didn't NEED...yet she felt this divide and felt sorry for her daughter.
posted by elpapacito at 4:37 PM on October 28, 2007


insert nasty quip here about being the smartest retard in the Special Olympics

Do you even understand what the Special Olympics are all about?

Disabled != Mentally Handicapped

Christ, what an asshole
posted by mkultra at 5:11 PM on October 28, 2007


Do you even understand what the Special Olympics are all about?

Do you even understand what a hyperbole used in the service of an analogy is all about? If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times...

Christ, what a politically correct idiot
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:45 PM on October 28, 2007


Christ, CPB is wearing his Political Incorrectness as a badge of honor. He could have just as easily used an analogy to being the top scorer in wheelchair basketball - or donkey basketball. You're never going to rank up there with Michael Jordan, because... you're sitting your ass on an ass! But no, he had to go for the 'retards', a comparison that's as rank and rude as it is ill-fitting. But the biggest reason why using the Special Olympics analogy is stupid? Don't tell me you've never seen this. Anyway, you win, Papa. I'm not going to argue with YOU.

But if anyone's looking for an apt analogy, the Castro dictatorship keeps Cuba with one arm tied behind its back. The loss of Soviet Union support and the American embargo ties its other arm behind its back. So there's no way Cuba's going to excel at shooting basketballs... but damn, can it play soccer!
posted by wendell at 11:58 PM on October 28, 2007


So the other day I'm reading this righty-tighty blog and they attempt to ridicule Canada by saying that their health-care system is on par with Cuba or North Korea. Hmmmmmm.....
posted by telstar at 1:46 AM on October 29, 2007


Christ, what a politically correct idiot

Taking offense at your reducing the Special Olympics to a bunch of "retards" doesn't make me politically correct. It makes me not an asshole.
posted by mkultra at 7:04 AM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


« Older Curiosities of Literature...   |   So he didn't read the baby boo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments