Cuba Libre: Parte Dos

Varadero, Cuba
Wednesday, July 5, 2017



Cuba Libre: Parte Dos

Although endless topics come to mind when traveling in Cuba, I pursue two psychoanalytic ideas — idealization and devaluation — and one political one — world peace.

The 1959 Cuban revolution promised universal, utopian ideals which, if spread throughout the globe, would bring harmony to the world.

These ideals have been barely achieved in Cuba. Every citizen has work. Homelessness does not exist. You see few beggars on the streets. Violent crime is rare. Citizens, and even most police officers, cannot buy and do not carry guns.

However, wage equality brings a striking lack of incentive. Many doctors and engineers work in resort hotels because they make more money from the tips they earn. Infrastructure crumbles throughout the country. Although healthcare is free and readily available, modern medical equipment, medications, and instruments are not.

Also, the country lacks an effective banking system. Some small businesspeople take advantage of the opening of the country to private enterprise. All large businesses remain operated by the communist government. However, families can rent out a few rooms. Citizens can open private restaurants, but are limited to having eight tables and a total of 32 chairs.

These entrepreneurs keep their earnings entirely in cash.

They do not have bank accounts.

These banking limitations make travel in Cuba challenging. You have no access to ATMs. You cannot use credit cards. Some of that results from the US’ embargo on Cuba; some results from the country’s lack of a sophisticated banking system.

When you travel here, you carry large amounts of cash. Every purchase requires it, whether renting a room or riding in a taxi. Fortunately, and as I already noted, robberies are rare. You feel quite safe — even though you might have $1000 or more in cash in your pocket.

How does this political review of Cuba relate to idealization and devaluation?

Because it is extremely difficult to access the “truth” here, in the US, or anywhere.

Reality is  difficult to define, and often depends on the source of your information.

As Nietzsche first noted, we interpret the world around us, viewing it through our own lenses. We have a propensity, by utilizing our imaginative capacities, to idealize reality — seeing it as highly positive — and to devalue it — viewing it as highly negative.

The common view of Fidel Castro here exemplifies idealization. Cubans speak of him with religious reverence. I asked one fellow to describe why, if Castro brought such a humanistic system to Cuba, he failed to initiate more of a social democracy. He replied:

We do have elections here, but Fidel always won them. He was always the best choice.

Another Cuban displayed the propensity to idealize when talking about America. I asked him about the access to American movies. They seemed readily available, usually via DVD, including recent releases.

He then told a joke about the US:

America has two great things: The movies, and … everything else.

Obviously not true given our appalling lack of universal health care — the only major nation in the world without such a system.

And of course there’s the election of Trump.

As I write, Trump flies on Air Force One, en route to Germany for a G20 summit. He almost certainly is watching cable news networks, fuming about allegedly fake news. The media anticipates a tepid welcome for him in Europe.

Intelligence agencies have prepared notebooks for him to review, describing major policy issues in large print and with easy-to-understand charts and graphics. He is clearly the least-prepared and least-intelligent among the world leaders gathering this week.

Actually, listening to Trump speak, or reading his tweets, literally provides daily examples of idealization and devaluation. He commonly uses words like “great,” “fantastic,” and “wonderful;” he commonly uses words like “bad,” “awful,” or “crooked.”

Excessive levels of idealization and devaluation reflect primitive mental functioning. When working as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, you strive to help patients modulate their use of these extreme viewpoints. In general, you facilitate maturation.

However, these “splitting” defenses are necessary. (Splitting refers to this process of digitally categorizing the world into good and bad.) They cannot and should not be entirely eliminated.

How could you look forward to a vacation without idealization?

As you imagine it, you visualize wonderful sunsets, interesting tours, new friends. You do not anticipate possible disappointments like falling ill, arguing with your travel companion, or disliking your destination.

How could you fall in love without idealization?

The entire concept of being in love rests on the capacity to idealize. You imagine perfection resting in the arms of your beloved. She is ideal; he is ideal; we are ideal!

Devaluation allows for the release of normal envy and competitiveness. You see the young, handsome man in the well-tailored suit. You envy him. You assume he’s stupid, living off a trust fund, or working for the evil petroleum industry.

Ah, that feels better!

We citizens of the world share many more commonalities than differences. We love; we work; we play.

We could all benefit from moderating our capacities for idealization and devaluation.

Equally important, we need the capacity for open dialogue and communication — gleaned of excessive idealization and devaluation.

How frightening that I write as Trump soon meets Putin and other world leaders. Even if primitively organized themselves, they at least understand, as they say in AA, to “fake it until you make it.”

Trump understands so little…

Am I devaluing?

I think not.

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