Dissidents in Cuba
We run various sites in defense of human rights and need support to pay for new servers. Thank you.

Raul Castro and the ‘Cargo Cult’

Raul Castro and the ‘Cargo Cult’
[21-04-2015 12:53:09]
Cuba Transition Project

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- In March 2014, hoping to attract new
investments, Cuba adopted a new foreign investment law it described as
“strategic and transcendental.” As of this writing -a year later- only
one new investment has been reported as approved. The law, part of
Chieftain Castro’s economic reforms, is based on the idea that one can
influence something based on its resemblance to another thing- a
delusion social scientists call “cargo cult.”
A “cargo cult” involves the performance of various ritualistic acts that
practitioners believe will lead to the appearance of an abundance of
material wealth (cargo). Cargo cults often emerge and develop under
conditions of social stress and usually involve leadership with a new

The “cargo cults” of Pacific Melanesia offer the most widely known real
life examples. During World War II, the Melanesian islanders- many of
whom had never seen outsiders before- saw the prodigious amounts of war
material, canned food, clothing, and other goods that were air-dropped
and landed to supply U.S. military bases.

The islanders were astounded by the wondrous possessions of the U.S.
visitors who, incredibly to the islanders, enjoyed these belongings
without making them themselves. The goods simply arrived from airdrops
and aircraft that descended from the sky. No U.S. visitor was ever seen
making them. This observation confirmed for the islanders the
metaphysical nature of the goods. They learned that this abundance from
the sky was known to the Americans as “cargo.”

When the war ended, the military bases were abandoned, thus ending the
miraculous and seemingly effortless flow of goods from the sky. To
summon the cargo back the islanders mimicked the rituals they had
observed U.S. servicemen use. They cleared their own landing strips, and
erected control towers with rope and bamboo, carved headphones from
wood, lit torches to light up the runways, and even waved the landing
signals while standing on the runways.

Renowned physicist Richard Feynman popularized the metaphorical use of
“cargo cult” to describe attempts to recreate successful outcomes by
replicating circumstances associated with those outcomes when the
circumstances are either unrelated to the causes of the outcomes or
insufficient to bring about the outcome.

In the Caribbean island of Cuba, using effigies for correspondence- not
unlike the sympathetic magic (sorcery) of the Melanesian islanders-
Chieftain Raul Castro hopes to attract the material goods that flow from
American investments with his version of metaphorically fabricated
airstrips and control towers. The General, poorly mimicking a few random
characteristics of a free market, seeks the landing of the American
cargo. He will be as unsuccessful as the Melanesian islanders.

Investors will be intrigued by the Cuban fabrications, but after taking
a closer look they will reject the Chieftain’s simulated runways. On
paper, the new Cuban investment law purports to allow 100% foreign
ownership of a project. But this has never been permitted, and foreign
investors have been reduced to being minority shareholders in
partnership with the Cuban military as the controlling shareholder. The
law also stipulates that the foreign investors’ assets may be
expropriated for reasons of public utility or social value. All this, in
an environment of systemic corruption, where there is no independent
judiciary to adjudicate any claims by a foreign investor.

The Cuban foreign investment law also imposes an Orwellian staffing
process in violation of international labor protocols. Foreign companies
are not allowed to hire their own employees. Instead, they must request
whatever staff they require from a Cuban government agency. The agency
will provide the employees and will invoice the foreign company for the
employees’ salary to be paid to the government agency in convertible
currency. In this “worker’s paradise,” the government agency will then
pay employees in Cuban pesos, retaining, for the state, approximately
92% of the employees’ salary.

This exploitative practice is “Slavery by Another Name” to borrow the
title of Douglas A. Blackmon’s book which explores the forced labor of
imprisoned black men and women through the convict lease system used by
state governments, white farmers and corporations in the southern United
States after the American Civil War.

No responsible U.S. company- particularly one publicly traded and
subject to governmental oversight and investor scrutiny- is going to be
enticed to invest under these conditions to serve a relatively small and
impoverished market of eleven million with an average monthly income of
twenty dollars.

The Cuban Chieftain may believe he has recreated, with his voodoo doll
replica of economic reforms, the correspondent conditions to attract
foreign investments. But, puncture, pinch, and squeeze as he might, the
American cargo will not be forthcoming.

**The metaphorical use of the anthropological term “cargo cult” is
employed by social scientists in myriad ways and contexts. With respect
to Cuba, the earliest usages I can find are:

o Rieff, David. The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami. (New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1993), 187.
o Hawisher, Gail E., and Cynthia L. Selfe. Global Literacies and the
World-Wide Web.(London: Routledge, 2000), 218
o Gonzalez, Servando. . (Oakland, CA: Spooks Books, 2002), 192. The
Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Source: Raul Castro and the ‘Cargo Cult’ – Misceláneas de Cuba –

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *