Within Cuban society, especially among the younger generations, there are latent tendencies to apathy and lack of motivation. These are triggers for the demolition of life projects and the destruction of personal futures, both material and spiritual.
By: Javier Gómez Lastra
Nevertheless, the main shortcoming of these teenagers is the lack of accurate guidance in their lives.
However, all three agree on something: they are determined not to work for the state for a simple salary; because any business brings in more money than spending the whole month working in a factory, and in the end what you get paid is not enough. In their view to do that is to sacrifice for nothing.
In the struggle
The deep economic crisis of the early 90s of last century affected almost all the families in the island, and brought all kinds of material and spiritual changes among the people.
The new style of coping with everyday existence was dubbed “the struggle”. It describes the legal and illegal mechanisms designed to cope with the drastic decline in living standards. There were many urgent readjustments families had to make in order to survive and these included substantial alterations in their way of thinking and acting which were imposed by the prevailing harsh reality.
Silhouettes of young people with bubbles
“At the same time, the situation broke the link –which had existed until then– between education and working conditions; that is, the chain: instruction-occupation-income dissipated because there was a proliferation of work proposals that did not require a high educational level, but did offer attractive incomes.”
“It should be added that this combination of elements individually and collectively impacted their vision and interpretation of reality, and many individuals did not hesitate to take on new strategies in order to solve everyday economic demands which could not be postponed.”
“Likewise, their aspirations of material wellbeing in many cases could not be satisfied by the previously generally accepted mechanism (study-work-pay). Therefore new ways emerged –some formally promoted, and others informally, or even illegal such as the activities of the underground economy. A number of sources of income and immediate benefit were welcomed regardless whether they were associated with prostitution, pimping, begging, drug abuse or crime.”
“Other behaviors stigmatized until then –like not being involved with study and work, felonies, or other such behaviors– gradually stopped receiving all the rejection they deserved, and within some social groups they gained a certain degree of approval that legitimized them. Meanwhile the coexistence rules present in other times were challenged,” said Elaine, author of the study: “Marginalization of Adolescents and Young Persons: An Analysis in Cuba.”
I got tired of being without money
Finding alternatives to address their economic needs became a major concern. This began to occupy a prominent place in Cuban daily life since the crisis began.
Amid these conditions, many young people took the strategy of migrating to provincial capitals in the country, or abroad. Selectivity of employment increased and many did not perform the job for which they were trained in their studies but did something else that could guarantee higher pay and better conditions to the detriment of personal motivations.
Among the advantages associated with formal employment is the way in which individuals are inserted into and integrated into society, and the potential for instructional upgrading and the diversity of perspectives offered to do so. Work linked to the state entails a level of security and stability that had been traditionally associated with the guarantee of salary and social security with retirement pensions for years of service, age or health conditions.
The main disadvantages of this sector are: income limitations that do not offer adequate compensation given the demands and responsibilities; lack of material stimulation; controls to which the worker is subjected; rigid schedules and inadequate conditions for the performance of the tasks in the job.
With a fuming head
The employment problem of young people is, in the current conditions of the country, another very complex and controversial issue. However, work continues to play a key role in structuring the country’s institutions and the lives of individuals, according to María Josefa Luis Luis, historian and researcher at the Centro de Estudios Sobre la Juventud [Center for Studies on Youth], in her analysis “Considerations on Work Socialization.“
She explains that “irregularities in the labor market, unemployment and underemployment rates, as well as instability and precarious working conditions are realities faced by workers around the world. For young people, these abnormalities affect personal development and conceptions about work. Although the traditional model (livelihood, rights, moral responsibility, sense of accomplishment) is valid for most, in practice it is very difficult or impossible to attain for a good number of them.”
“In Cuba, there are numerous contradictions related to employment that significantly damage employment relations and the role of these as an effective means of socialization and education of the new generations.”
“The economic crisis eroded the material and technological foundation of the workplace due to the lack of means of work, or the obsolescence of others. The rules of organization, protection and hygiene, individual and collective productivity, as well as work motivation, were affected.”
“This, in turn, had an impact on individual expectations and possibilities for job satisfaction, as well as contributions and income. It generated frustration and dissatisfaction and reduced job stability.”
The slogan promoted years ago by a domestic soap opera is a way of thinking for some Cubans for whom life is perennial leisure. They don’t realize the damage this ideology of leisure can cause.
It also indicates the boasting of a supposedly superior status, based on the myth of money, and encourages reaching that level at any price. It becomes a philosophy of lack of interest and apathy that dangerously gains ground.
Young people are a highly impressionable group, ready to make changes in search of better educational opportunities, more access to culture and employment, among other factors. In this regard, it is essential to know the expectations they have, as well as their ability to make plans and realize them under current conditions.
To meet those material goals or aspirations is not a subject for reproach. On the contrary, to live without them –doing nothing to achieve them– means a real problem, or extremely harmful conflict from a spiritual point of view.
We must not clip the wings of those who have aspirations and wish to embrace them. On the contrary, we should lead them to the realization of their goals, always on the right track; since the key issue is related to the methods or the means chosen in order to achieve these objectives.
When there is no experience, going off the right track to achieve success can be easy and have negative consequences that would last a lifetime. We must encourage and guide young people based on sound principles, openly, without reservations or fear of sacrifice, always aided by study and honest work.
The lack of real joy, in the short and medium terms, makes a dent in young people who are vulnerable to the frustration caused by repetitive promises of a bright future, in contradiction to what they live from day to day, suffering disappointment at not being able to see the announced steps to progress.
Cuba’s national hero, Jose Marti taught us: “Being educated is the only way to be free”. Under this strategy we must guide the formation of the people and especially of the new generations.