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Johnson-Figueredo: It’s time to face socialism

A Cuban take on socialism.

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A photo of a classic car common to Cuba via Pexels.

OPINION

Michel Johnson-Figueredo
Columnist
The Avro Post
Our Opinion Policy.

A new poll says socialism has increased in popularity in the United States, but have we forgotten what socialism truly entails?

With the increase in liberalism and further leftist ideas within global culture, socialism and ‘the fight for equality’ has taken hold of the conversation. But why is socialism considered an ideal form of government and now seen as the only solution?

I’ve known about it since I was young. Born from a Cuban mother, in a rundown military hospital known to locals as ‘Hospital Naval’, it was my introduction to socialism. When my mother tells me of that day, it’s often filled with glimpses into socialism that aren’t mentioned in the mainstream.

Socialist systems cause a strain on production of goods and services, often leaving the general populace to suffer.

No needles, expired anesthesia, and recently graduated doctors with little experience tended to my mother. It was horrible staying in that hospital, my mother tells me. That was 1996, and in 2019, it has only fallen further.

Socialist propagandists or ‘activists’ like to claim that government control of major industries and businesses is the fairest way to service and provide for those within a country’s borders.

I beg to differ.

As we move towards a more progressive societal mindset, liberal ideology has become the norm within educational institutions and social groups. The groupthink surrounding socialist platforms has taken hold of the mainstream and people have grown fond of them.

Of course, who wouldn’t grow fond of the things preached by modern day pilgrims as they journey towards a socialist utopia.

U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016 began using the term Democratic Socialist, differentiating his socialist policies from those which would be compared to my own country.

Democratic Socialism is nothing new, being represented in many governments around the world including Portugal, where it continues to be popular.

Bolivia, another democratically socialist country, is in the midst of a revolt against their president, as accusations of fraud grow after the presidential election in October.

Communism and dictatorships were often connected with socialism but now we are given a new light of socialism, re-branded, a new and improved look, Democratic Socialism.

Apart from the other issues within socialism, the form that has been imported into the U.S. is violent, un-democratic, and silences the voices of many.

I know what you’re thinking.

Michel, how could you say that? These representatives of socialism are the voice of the working people.

Well, thats the thing, they aren’t. They are representatives of ideals they strongly believe in and continuously reject evidence against. They constantly feel as though the importance of implementing socialist policies triumphs their eventual result.

Someone once told me that ANTIFA are anti-fascists because thats what ANTIFA means. Well, by that logic if a man goes by the name of ‘Tiny Tim’ that doesn’t necessarily mean Tim is tiny. Tim could be 280 lbs and 6’2.

ANTIFA, a group stating they fight fascists, have only harmed and alienated working class people with opposing political views. Silencing, threatening and often attacking average citizens who don’t agree with them politically.

I spent two years living in Cuba when I turned 20 years old, encountering a vastly different place. Nowhere to be seen is the paradise constantly spoken by those privileged enough to promote socialism here in Canada.

I saw a country which had revolutionized to become better, but became a land of anti-demonstration, police brutality, corruption, and massive wealth inequality.

Government control and subsidies of societal needs crumble under socialism.

While living in my hometown it was not strange to experience water shortages for weeks. An entire city running on tank water, to cook, bathe, and everything in between.

Government managed garbage trucks break down due to poor maintenance and few spare parts available, government stores sell limited products. Those who look for other options turn toward black markets where competition exists.

Behind the pile of trash, lies a government run daycare. Camilo Cienfuegos, La Habana. Photo by Michel Johnson-Figueredo.

Supermarkets and mini-marts not having any sort of food is also common, except for canned peas and tubes of ‘Picadillo de Soya‘, a government provided favourite that no one seems to know what it’s made of.

The issue with modern day socialists is their lack of real experience within socialism. Waking up in the morning, eating stale bread, topped with soy based oil, and a glass of water with sugar is a reality these ‘preachers’ have never seen.

The failure of socialism lives on in Cuba; forcing the government to sell off government property to outside investors, opening up private businesses to stimulate growth because ‘government’ cannot be the solution to every problem.

But as they take one step forward, they take three steps back. As soon as businesses and options are created for the typical consumer, it is taxed and regulated until businesses struggle to survive.

Receiving a university degree in Cuba, even studying medicine or engineering, is worthless. Yes, government covers tuition fees but doctors are paid a measly $25 to $50 a month.

After graduating, everyone must work for the government for a small wage of $5 CUC a month, for a period of up to two years. A longtime family friend, who’s wife is also a full-time doctor, works as a taxi driver on the side just to maintain his family.

If this is what socialism is about, why don’t we hear the media criticize it? Why is there no public outcry? Why don’t the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren take a step out from their shell, visit Cuba, and defend their socialist policies?

Well, in a 2016 interview with ABC News, Sanders was asked about comments he made regarding Cuba in 1970, speaking on education and healthcare. He clarified his comments, saying the economy in Cuba is a disaster. But he continues with this idea that Cuba has a good education and healthcare system.

A healthcare system that is reduced everyday by doctors being sent away to foreign countries in exchange for aid. As hospitals continue to decline in quality, President Miguel Díaz-Canel can’t even supply enough hospital beds for the aging population. Doctor’s constantly told my family that a bed wasn’t available for my uncle, until it was too late, and he passed a day after he was admitted.

As many Canadians and other tourists take advantage of discounted resort deals in Cuba, they see happy faces. They see Cubans dancing and enjoying life, not in anger or despair.

So the system must be working, right? Why wouldn’t it be if we’re not constantly voicing our opinions and calling for change?

The miscommunication here is that is who we are, as a culture and a people. In the worst of circumstances, the typical Cuban takes it as just another day he or she needs to survive.

In Canada, we live in luxury, constantly taking rights for granted; free speech, the right to vote, the right to protest and other fundamentals that are critical to our livelihood. But we continue to promote and protect ideologies that have long risen, crashed, and burned.

As the entitlement among my generation grows, institutions and governments match their rhetoric. Diversity of thought has been lost as we nit-pick what we like from socialism and believe we can use the same formula while solving for a different answer.

Humber College is among one of the many educational institutions that follows this mainstream standard. Hiring politically biased professors in general elective courses that continue to maintain one set idea of liberalism.

Courses which were once made to explore the arts, has now turned into a conditioning experiment by educators.

Instead of questioning the norm, professors and other students support the mainstream. Consistently dismissing the idea of challenging these narrative ideals set by our surroundings.

Those with opposing views to how I see socialism tell me I don’t know anything or that their kind isn’t the bad one. To me, socialism is socialism, no matter how you coat it.

Maintaining an open mind and discussing ideas through civil discussion is the only way to maintain our core values. I encourage you all to take advantage, as some of my family and friends in Cuba have never had that liberty.

Michel Johnson-Figueredo is a columnist at The Avro Post and a second year Bachelor of Public Relations student at Humber Lakeshore Campus. ■

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Humber College said it is monitoring the novel coronavirus outbreak and its “potential impact on the institution” in a statement posted online last week and updated on Monday.

Toronto Public Health told the college that “there are no particular actions required” at this time.

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