FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ana Belén Montes at Year’s End

A friend asked “Why write for the left? It’s preaching to the converted”. The question reflects an error. The appeal of wide reach. It is why friends of Cuba despair. They say Cuba should abandon socialism because the world’s not following. It can’t beat the propaganda of the internet. The youth won’t listen.

They miss the point. It’s age old, and still alive in Cuba: the power of direction, of example. Fidel Castro said about Che Guevara that he never lost faith in example. One life, reflecting and living truth, has durable effects. It changes relations. It changes thinking. But it takes time, focus, dedication.

Of what will you convince multitudes? Victor Hugo writes: “This sincerity of muck pleases us … When you have passed your time on earth enduring the spectacle of high and mighty airs put on by reasons of … political wisdom … it is a relief to step into a sewer and see the sludge that rightly belongs there.“ [i]

He means history and daily life. Some readers skip Hugo’s lengthy diversion into the sewers of Paris. But it matters. Drawn by “high and mighty airs”, you don’t “breathe in the enormous fetidness of social catastrophes”. Mao Tse- Tung said the same about how to know reality.[ii]

Critics say Che Guevara’s death was useless. The conditions for revolution didn’t exist in Bolivia. He didn’t achieve political success and so he can be dismissed. They’ll say the same of Ana Belén Montes, who completed her 16th year in a US jail. She’s over sixty, suffering cancer, still silenced.

Her cousin, Miriam Mock, writes that, at year’s end, Ana is the same caring, engaged, studious person as when she was apprehended. She’s allowed to communicate with only a few friends and family members. They’re not allowed to quote her. Her prison-mates supported her through cancer.

But psychologists insist: “There are no single brains”. [iii]  They use concepts like “mirror neurons”. Attitudes and orientations are passed around by “emotional transmission”: within families, workplaces and social networks.[iv] Psychologists don’t see how the idea of shared thinking is radical.

It has political implications, or should. It means that unless you do the hard work to discover and to live truth – some truth about human beings – you think like everyone else. You won’t know your humanity. You can’t, because the society you obey is a dehumanizing one, thoroughly.

Hence, the continued silencing of Ana Belén Montes. With a prestigious job and a comfortable life, she cared about truth. She told the judge in 2001 that she stood before him because she obeyed her conscience. She stepped into the sludge and knew truth about US foreign policy. She acted on her concern for people who were dying, innocent folk getting in the way of US power.

José Martí said “To think is to serve”. He meant, for one thing, that you don’t get truth by “mere thinking”. Einstein knew it. He said great scientists, as opposed to good ones, are capable of solitude. They are capable of caring – for the universe perhaps, and for the people in it. [v]

Einstein recognized relations. He said the truth of socialism is obvious because if you see a group of happy people, you’ll notice passers-by smiling. Marx was one of many smart, sensitive philosophers (ones we don’t teach) who noticed what psychologists have now established: We don’t think alone. The Buddha was another: He said half the job of living ethically is walking with the right people.

They speak to you, silently, with their lives. Thomas Merton warned about filling the world with words, “expressing [ourselves] like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark where there is no enemy.” There is an enemy, of course. We just need to identify it, properly. It takes work.

It’s our own shared thinking, rooted in social practises. It is why the Left must talk to and listen to each other. Finding the way forward is not about, as Merton says, “boring through silent nature in every direction with our machines … pretending to have a purpose”.

Yes, purpose. It’s an idol. Liberal philosophers say you need purpose to have reasons. They call it “instrumental rationality”: You act reasonably when we act for ends, for purpose. They say it is uncontroversial, or at least academic philosophers do. Some even say you need purpose to live.

It is not true. You need relations, the right sort of relations. It is how more adequate purpose is discovered.  It takes time. It’s worth the effort. It’s why Ana Belén Montes needs to be known. Her example is a real threat to dehumanizing liberal ideology. Otherwise she would not still be silenced.[vi]

We need her for direction in 2018. Please sign petition here.

Notes.

[i] Les Misérables (tr. Julie Rose) 1034-5

[ii] Talks at the Yenan Forum on art and literature http://collections.mun.ca/PDFs/radical/TalksattheYenanForumonArtandLiterature.pdf

[iii] Cozolino, L. The neuroscience of relationships: Attachment and the developing social brain (Norton, 2006) 6

[iv] Mauss et al, 2001; Larson and Almeida, 1999; Hill et al 2010 all cited in Michal Barnea-Astrog, Carved by experience (UK: Karnac Books, 2017)

[v] “Science and religion” and “Religion and science” in Ideas and Opinions (NY: Wings Books, 1954)

[vi] http://www.prolibertad.org/ana-belen-montes. For more information, write to sarahnes@cubarte.cult.cu or cincoheroes@listas.cujae.edu.cu

 

 

More articles by:

Susan Babbitt is author of Humanism and Embodiment (Bloomsbury 2014).

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail