Those of you who follow my writings, specifically my treks to Cuba have seen references to my dear friend Esteban Dominguez Morales. I know him as “The Professor.” Planning for my Cuba trek in November I just found out from his wife, Katia that he unexpectedly passed away while visiting family in Columbia.
The Professor left this world a better place and as I pen this article, I mourn his passing and praise God for allowing our lives to intersect.
Like many who have not been to Cuba, the country is known to have an intriguing appeal. Due to the common sense approach the Obama administration fostered about developing a better relationship with Cuba, I was able to make my first trek in 2015 Planning for that trip I stopped by Eso-Won books in Leimert Park to see if there were any new titles about Cuba. Tom pointed me to two books, and I purchased both. One of the books “Race and Culture” seemed interesting so I set my sights on reading it once I returned. After reading it I had many questions and reached out to the author. Lo and behold he responded and that was the beginning of the friendship with Esteban Dominquez Morales. Following that communication, I was determined to visit again and gain first-hand knowledge of some of the things we communicated about. Following Obama’s term as president I had to brush up on my entry requirements since Trump took office and created ridiculous antics making it more difficult for United States citizens to visit. Luckily, I was a published author and was able to boot-leg on my credentials so that I could enter the country and safely return without suffering any penalties. With the professor’s help I was able to set my focus to study and gain a better perspective on Racism in Cuba and the Negro League’s presence in Cuba. In creating my itinerary and scheduling time to meet various authors, activist, and other officials, including the Professor he suggested I stay at his apartment since he had a legitimate casa particulares. That was perfect.
Over the years the Professor and I spent countless hours in his office and his home talking about the culture, the politics and other issues which were important to me. On occasions, Katia would pop in and offer input Even though he was retired from teaching at Havana University, he agreed to take me to the campus as well as one of his meetings with the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). The reverence other professors gave him once they knew he was on campus was incredible.
“The surprise death of Esteban Morales pains us. We will miss his intelligent, incisive and committed assessment of the problems of our time. My condolences to his family, friends and the Cuban intelligentsia, which he gave prestige to with his work”. Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez
Esteban Dominguez Morales was a very decent person, and I am so grateful of the time we spent together. I will cherish the memories and pray that Katia and his family recover and continue their journey in living a positive life. Thanks to them I have gained an invaluable perspective of the Cuban culture. In 2021 I was not able to make the trek as the remnants of Covid and international travel saw air travel triple if not quadruple in prices. Since then they have come down.
That, in absolute terms, is not true. Class distinctions are present and expressed in a sometimes catastrophic way, under the coronavirus pandemic. Becoming the very basis of the conditions under which the individual is obliged to face the pandemic
It is true that anyone can get sick, in biological terms, but neither the way to get sick, nor the way to face the disease, is the same for all individuals. This is determined by the social conditions in which each one lives . A time when their class status is decisive.
Biologically speaking, anyone can acquire the virus, but certain circumstances play an important role in this, which are inextricably linked to class status.
This is the result of the contagion with the virus is quite determined by the living conditions in which people survive and those that have occurred, and capitalism had already predetermined them very strongly, before the pandemic arrived.
By the way, I am not referring to personal conditions, related to the suffering of certain chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, respiratory problems, heart disease, etc. But to those living conditions, which do not have to do directly with the disease as such.
These, pre-existing to the pandemic, are the following:
The monetary income received, determines, above all, the conditions in which one lives. The neighborhood, the quality of the house, the social and material environment and the type of environment and people around us.
The medical care you receive, even if it is free, can be better or worse, and this is decisive, because it contributes to some extent to the conditions, better or worse, in which each person faces the virus and a possible disease in general.
Diet and its quality, in general, is decisive, in the conditions with which each person faces any illness. If you are well fed, you have energies that are decisive for recovery.
Moving by car is not the same as traveling by public transport. The risks with which you must face a possible contagion differ greatly.
It is, then, that in general, the material life conditions in which the individual finds himself, are determining factors to overcome the possibility of acquiring the virus, or any disease.
Finally, the culture of the individual is also decisive in the face of the reality of the disease. Well, the individual conscience before the possibility of getting sick or facing the disease as such, are determined by the level of culture that the individual possesses. Cultural level that is determined, first of all, by social origin, access to education and living conditions.
All the situations mentioned are closely linked, it could be said that, determining, the conditions in which the individual can face the adversity of becoming ill.
All the aforementioned conditions are present in any company. We would say, the same in a society like that of Cuba, as in any other society.
In all known societies, until now, individuals differ in their living conditions, which is decisive when facing the disease.
The Coronavirus pandemic has served to make even more evident, substantial differences, how an individual copes with the disease within a society like that of Cuba and the rest, of the majority, of the existing societies in the world.
Being true that, biologically speaking, the virus makes no distinction of class, social group, race, cultural level, etc. Well, he attacks anyone who opposes him. Although the conditions in which each person must face such a situation, particularly the danger of becoming infected, differ, since such situations are influenced by the living conditions of each individual, already mentioned above.
However, the pandemic has also clearly shown that it unfolds with more or less aggressiveness, depending on the health policy followed by the countries that suffer from it. Becoming clear that in such circumstances the political will of governments has influenced, to face the pandemic. The following becoming evident:
Countries that, by prioritizing the economy, over health, such as the United States, have begun to suffer the pandemic, due to the lack of an efficient health policy, through contagion, neglect of early detection of the virus and the lack of material conditions for the care of the sick.
The pandemic has also clearly shown how the neo liberal policy followed in recent years has affected health budgets, which have been systematically lowered, resulting in the fact that, when the pandemic arrived, many countries showed that they lacked health policies, budgets and resources to face the situation.
The pandemic has also shown that only with international collaboration and solidarity is it possible to face it. But, the fierce competition that neoliberal policies have brought, the harsh trade confrontation, the military confrontations at the regional level, the policies of international sanctions, the territorial usurpations and the theft of oil resources, among others, have shaped an international, negative environment. for confronting the pandemic. Because such an environment, prevalent in international relations, is incompatible with the type of relations needed to face the pandemic.
In particular, the policy followed by the United States has not been more negative regarding the behavior of the President. According to the Washington Post of April 8, 2020, “on January 3, Trump had already received formal notification of the existence of the virus. Trump was also informed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, on January 18. But when asked publicly about the virus, on January 22, he said: we have it totally under control: he is a person who comes from China. ”
Trump, after being alerted to the virus, spoke at eight rallies and six times played Golf, as if he had nothing to worry about.
Trump began to speak of the “Chinese Virus”, unloading on this nation the responsibility for the pandemic. By characterizing it this way, Trump then forces us to argue, reacting to a racist projection of the “scapegoat” type. And it is that this is precisely what he is pursuing, because it allows him to divert our attention, from which the fundamental questions should be right now: Where are the missing beds? Where are the masks and tests? Where is the federal policy that should be followed to counter the pandemic? While Trump does so, in addition, achieving a sounding board within American society, among many people, racists, xenophobes and neoliberals, who follow him and who do not measure the consequences of his policies.
Not enough to do so, Trump even acts against the World Health Organization (WHO) by threatening and blackmailing it by lowering or suspending its financial contribution to it.
Trump , flatly refuses also to put aside the sanctions policy against countries like Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, etc .; assuming at all times a arrogant attitude and not just genocidal, even mocking the predictions and recommendations of science. A policy that also denies collaboration with its historical allies , while cynically receiving and accepting solidarity aid that has come from China and Russia. Undoubtedly, it cannot be more cynical.
The United States cannot be consistent in its policy on pandemic response at the international level, because it is not at the domestic level. As a consequence of which, they have become the nation most affected by the new coronavirus.
The prevailing ideological values in American society also put citizens in a critical situation today, representing a danger to their own survival.
In the external order, the slogan of “America first”, and internally, individualism, consumerism, messianism and other very negative values that are its own, put the worst situation in American society, to achieve the degree of coherence policy that is needed to beat the pandemic. So all this becomes very difficult situations to overcome. Being Trump’s most optimistic projection, that the virus will kill between 100,000 and 240,000 citizens in the United States.
But, in addition, Golmann Sachs has calculated that social distancing measures have already caused a 34% contraction in GDP.
As if that were not enough, 33% of households, with incomes below $ 50,000 a year, have some unemployed member.
There are 16.7 million citizens without medical coverage.
“According to a study by the director of the Brookings Institute, the 50 counties hardest hit by the coronavirus, contribute 30% of employment and 36% of the country’s GDP.” Which is a serious problem to face in the perspective of a possible recovery.
It is insisted that Trump must classify Covid deaths, according to skin color, since serious studies have shown that the pandemic affects 70% of Afro-descendants in the United States.
Trump, in reality, did not foresee the polarization that has occurred with his policy, both in the world and within the United States, but has used it, dramatically increasing it. And that polarization is truly one of the greatest dangers facing American society.
The United States, and Trump in particular, did not learn the lessons of 2008-2009, when Wall Street was rescued, after the bankruptcy of Lehman Bross, at which time, as now, large masses of money were injected. However, no measures were then taken to prevent certain high-level sectors from benefiting to the detriment of the rescue of the real financial balance. Nor were there limits on investment banks on how to use the bailout. As a result, the current bailout is perceived as a new opportunity for companies to do business and make easy money.
The attitude of the Donald Trump administration puts the United States and the world in serious danger to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
It is that, for the United States – that is, for the system – the first thing is money and then everything else. This has been clearly demonstrated in its policy of prioritizing financial issues and attention to the economy above all else. Hence his insistence that the economy in general should be recovering by April Easter, and the country as a whole, when until now the situation has only worsened, without any light being seen at the end of the tunnel. .
Significant resources and money are obviously necessary to overcome the pandemic, which in particular is proving very expensive, particularly within the United States, without being able to calculate even how much it will cost to overcome Covid-19. However, there is really no shortage of money or resources on the planet. What there is is an order of priorities that, demanded by the neoliberal policy followed, prioritizes profit, expenditure on armaments, waste, concentration in a few hands of resources and money, over satisfaction of basic needs. human. Reasons that explain very well how the pandemic has far exceeded the available hospitalization capacities and resources for medical care in general, within a rich country like the United States.
Meanwhile, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia and China, mainly, are standing out for their political behavior in the face of the pandemic, which earns the respect of the peoples of the world, showing great solidarity in this battle and also highlighting the character deeply. negative of US foreign policy, in the face of President Trump’s interest in taking advantage of the pandemic, with the aim of advancing his intentions to control the world.
Being a global problem, the pandemic requires a global approach, global collaboration and solutions of the same nature. Because it is required to share medical equipment, as well as not to impose controls that affect the export of medicines, food and other essential products.
However, the United States does not react with a policy in tune with the situation to which it has led its population and the planet as a whole. So his obvious abundance of resources and money, to help the world and help himself, means very little. This represents an incalculable danger, because it is not possible to suppose that the pandemic can be globally overcome, if the United States does not end up collaborating to overcome it.
So, until today, the possibility of overcoming the pandemic appears to us as something fraught with uncertainties, dangers and potentially negative predictions.
The experience that the pandemic brings to date is not positive for capitalism. He has highlighted the incapacities of a system, which, in the face of the danger that affects the world, seems not to be in a position to assume adequate policies, even though its own salvation may go its way.
All of which is the consequence of a model of accumulation, in which only the benefits of capital, large corporations, large banks and that of a single part of society are prioritized. A very minority. So the rest of humanity could disappear , without causing the slightest concern.
Only now, the Covid-19, has demonstrated that the economic principles and values of capitalism are potential causes of its possible destruction. Because, as never before, it has been demonstrated that the world is one and that its survival does not depend only on a single part of it, but on all those who have the true will to save it.
Which, dialectically, confirms that it is also true that the coronavirus does not make class distinctions, especially when considering how we should save ourselves from the pandemic. Because we all share the same spaceship.
Havana, April 14, 2020
This article was reprinted with permission from the author, Professor Esteban Dominguez Morales who is a distinguished author and lecturer. Professor Morales hails from Cuba and his perspective is sought worldwide on social and economic matters related to Cuba.