Multiplicity,Identity and Development
Modern Cuban culture theory by Lezette Vila
24 Oct. 2000
(A) Multiplicity of culture and its protection
1. The presentation of "Diversity" : To raise objection to globalization
It is the viewpoint of confrontation with "globalization" that Vila brought forward at first. It might be a kind of surprise for audiences who were expecting the talk about arts or pictures of Cuba. However, in Vila's view, culture and the value system of people relate inseparably with their lifestyle. Moreover it is her viewpoint about modern times that just "globalization" is the main situation at which life of world people are facing directly.
Vila regards globalization as unified rule of the world by major powers. From the cultural viewpoint, she looks it as "negative equalization." It is a "stereotyped and mediocrity world of a monoculture" on which McDonald (appetite culture) or Hollywood (video culture) rules.
Vila thinks about such a "false culture" (rule of single culture) as what stands in the opposite pole of true culture. Vila says, "To enforce a unified way of thinking unilaterally will result in pollution and destruction of other cultures." And she spotlights the different nature between cultures of peoples, as the opposition axis.
Here I would like to call it "Diversity".
2. Cuba used to insist on "Diversity"
"Respect of different nature" is the lesson that Cuba introduced during the tough struggle of past 40 years, which was obliged by barbarous attacks from a great power of the north.
Moreover, Cuba is a senior nation of globalization. It had been changed a dominion since above 100 years before by US. Globalization has occurred not only in the field of politics. Most of its land had become sugarcane field (single cultivation) in order to produce more sugar for America. Monoculture of sugar and single rule of culture by Hollywood are both sides of one same fact.
Since the triumph of Revolution 41 years ago, Cuba has made and maintained its own cultural individuality that is diverse from US culture. Vila says in this way. Cubans were able to maintain splendid Diversity that "we were nobody but us" just because we had to keep the position at any field against the Big Power.
3. "Individuality and Multiplicity" as the contents of "Diversity"
From here, Vila makes immanent the thought of "Diversity", and generalizes it as her original culture theory. I will try to chase the way of logics, containing some of my own interpretation.
The thought that I expressed by a word of "Diversity" at once, has a side that could be called "Individuality." Individuality means the defference from any other culture, which insists its originality and independency. And consequently, it posesses another side of charactor. That is mutual approval of "Individuality", which leads to the respect of "Multiplicity." According to Vila's expression, it is "to respect fully the differences that are affirmative and unavoidable".
However, if her thought stays there, there are little differences from what ordinary liberalists point. The point of "Diversity" will be converged in harmless one, which is the respect to variosity in general ultimately. Because, "Individuality" is to be summarized up into "variosity" or privacy categorically, which will become considered as an accessory thought of general idea of personality.
For example, the more "Multiplicity" of broadcast seems to be guaranteed when there increases TV channels reaching 10 to 20 stations. However, the more TV stations increase in number, in reality you know, their line-ups becomes rather resembled closely each other. And the market logic, named as the audience rating will come to penetrate and degenerate in false "Multiplicity." If anyone intends to refuse to be buried in gray-colored "Multiplicity" under liberalism market economy and mere formal democracy, "Originality" may have no way to be expressed as "Paganism".
On the contrary, Vila pursues "Originality" thoroughly strictly. And she is going to hoist a flag of "respect of Multiplicity" on its extension line of daily practice. Sometimes, it is told revelately that there is "an element of resistance to coercion of the only way of thinking" in practice of "reinforcement of culture."
4. Protection of true "Multiplicity"
Vila does not adhere so much to the word of "Multiplicity" itself. For example, she says "Multiplicity in a good meaning" or expresses as "creative Multiplicity" while quoting a document of the United Nations. Rather she is interested in the practices to guarantee "Originality" at its maximum level, and to protect "Multiplicity" by that.
Vila expresses this practice plainly. "It is necessary to destruct the unnatural wall between elites and the common people, and to fight against market logics that is going to disgrace the products of culture." If anyone intends to resolve the separation of mental work and manual labor, citizen and villagers, or to work to remove range between races, as a strategic task, concrete practice will be gathered in two fields like below.
One is education to prize original culture of their nation. Another is to "treat mass culture rooting among us powerfully with respect and wisdom." The latter is self-negating and stoic attitude, examining one's culture consciousness in mind, and going to overcome its duplicity covered there.
5. "Community" and "Self-dependency" to secure "Multiplicity"
By the way, aren't there any dangers that the practice to protect the Multiplicity as above originally, may bring the results to harm Multiplicity? What are the guarantees to evade such dangers?
Vila will step into such an argument. These may be the hardest section of this article. Vila pursues the security in ideas of community on one hand, and Independency on the other one. Grounds of "community" theory are as below.
At first, multiplicity would be assured when every person shouldering culture stands for the common sense of value. It is the value system that the most important matter is to keep "Multiplicity" for promoting culture.
The second ground is due to such relation. that is, community is a guarantee of multiplicity by itself, when many people from various standpoints cooperates with the common value system.
Grounds of "self-dependency" will be summarized as below.
Self-dependency is to be brought by the approval from other cultural groups, when each individual group acts independently with their own just cause. And each independent cultural subject becomes the subject to support Multiplicity simultaneously, when they will accomplish metamorphosis from disorderly crowd to united groups with the common will.
At a glance, it seems a go-around, but some important points are added in these logical process. Those are ideas of community, collectivity, self-dependency, and practicity. In other words, when collective practices by the common subject are realized, independency will get a live self-dependency, and the true multiplicity will emerge for the first time.
6. Practical negation of the Cultural Pluralism
Thinking simply, multiplicity and community are positioned reversely each other. Multiplicity can be insisted from a point to deny community thoroughly.
It is the situation that atomized "personality" is general, and resolves "Diversity" in it. I will call it "absolute pluralism of culture" here. In this case, pluralists cannot but premise that any culture is indifferent each other. Or otherwise they cannot but assume to be indifferent.
Vila does not take a direct subject for discussion about cultural pluralism with reference to Multiplicity. However, she denies pluralism of culture practically. Because, she cannot be a person of indifference from every culture. And because she cannot stand still at the point of pluralism in general, so long as she seeks the change and development. (But the point will be a little different at the level of cultural administration)
7. What kind of concept is "true Multiplicity?"
What kind of characteristics will be there in true Multiplicity that would be realized as above? Where are the differences from formal Multiplicity in principles of market economy, or from absolute pluralism?
If I daringly draw even what Vila does not say, from the context of her lecture, the idea of true multiplicity may be defined as the set of originalities which are glittering vividly and lively. It must be a kind of collective noun.
The word compared with monoculture may be polyculture or multiculture. However, "multiplicity" to say of Vila is not only an idea to be confined as polyculture. Rather it should say a united culture.
It is Multiplicity that should be come true by uniting and supporting each other of multiple cultures. At the same time, it is also a process in which self-dependent and self-struggling culture subjects touch mutually, conjugate with others, and transfigulate themselves.
In the word, "Multiplicity" involves the thought of "multiplicity in a development process of each culture". Of these united and conjugated Multiplicity, I would like to appeal the essence of Cuban culture. I want to call it CONJUGATA or fusion. It differs clearly from the sociological term of "culture complex". It has far dynamic process from every aspect.
But unfortunately, it was not the subject of her lecture of this time.
In thoughts of Vila, Self-dependency, collectivity, or practicity as a condition to guarantee Multiplicity, is no longer a mere condition but seems to be substances itself of Multiplicity. Multiplicity is realized and secured with premises of existence of the joint subject.
8. Eyes to the weak or minority of culture
I am afraid you may be hard to see the concrete image of respect of Multiplicity only by the general remarks. We should also enter into her feelings through works, which she directed.
Two picture works were shown this time. The objects of the works are transsexuals in one, and seriously handicapped people in another one. Both are minorities in the world of culture, and in particular, the former is even heretical. Her viewpoint is consistent when she works. It is the true "respect of Multiplicity." Consistent is the viewpoint to "respect fully the affirmative and unavoidable difference". Sufficient fully are the points of jointness, collectivity, and practicity.
Constitution of the video-work is almost common to both. Insistence and wishes of the main subject are shown in the beginning. Successively, surroundings of theirs are drawn, and they are positioned in collective and dynamic structure. They are recognized not personally but collectively. And last, their insistence is taken once again in the streams of their life and practice developing.
Through such a development of constitution, it is explained that every miniculture subject is also the joint subject of our living world.
Then it is proved that they are not the heresy stood alone, but surrounded by the substantial community with potential ability of autonomic development.
Finally, it is understood that they are the active practice subjects, and that they are creating a kind of culture.
No sugar or tears are added there, however it smells flavor named "hope" spontaneously from the works.
B Cultural Identity : in case of Cuba
9. What "integration of culture" does means
It is the thought of Vila that an easy-going integration of cultures obstructs its development, because culture is vivid just in multiplicity. She might prove it persuasively not only through general remarks, but also through her works concretely. To approve one culture is to approve one's lifestyle and community, to approve one's true human rights, and to approve one's development. It is a kind of practical work. Multiplicity is respected truly only through these work.
Nevertheless Vila dares to insist on integration of culture. Vila tells like this. "Cultural works of ours are for the sake to get the unification about the image on Multiplicity in a good meaning." And she positions "integration of culture" rightly as the practice to promote "Multiplicity in a good meaning."
She summarizes its grounds in three and discusses it.
First, it is the reason why one must unite and resist against coercion of single culture. I mentioned about this already, so I do not repeat it here.
As for the second reason, she argues that people have to unite for develop their own country, because development of the land and the nation are the same as development of culture. It is, so to say, submission from a viewpoint of national culture theory. Frankly speaking, this is a big problem to affect a general idea of identity of the nation, and "development." We know there is great difference in accepting the thought of patriotism between big powers like Japan and developing countries like Cuba. I will think about it a little at the next clause.
As for the third ground, she says "because culture never grows unless through the work to bring up". These words seem to refer to cultural education. But I think it suggests, at the same time, an idea of "production or creation of culture" being aware of double meaning of "culture = civilization, cultivation". I want to say about it in the last chapter.
10. Insistence of autonomy as the thought containing Multiplicity in it
At the outset of lecture, Vila raised the idea of Diversity, as the refusal against the compulsion of monoculture.
Consequently, she divided Diversity into two sides, those are Individuality and Multiplicity. And then, she immanentiated them.
Getting a culture theory filled with much of Multiplicity, Vila again now, comes back to argument of coexistence of culture between countries.
Now, cultural independency is no longer discussed as a counter idea against the compulsion of globalism or monoculture, instead enriched as the thought of national culture from the viewpoint of development of cultural multiplicity. Development and identity will become keywords here.
11. Identity of the people : Being the Cuban nation
A flow of argument around Multiplicity interrupts once now. Vila developed thoughts about the development at the next, but I think the flow seems to be rather clear to argue about the identity before the development.
It is especially strong consciousness of identity that Vila emphasizes. Cuban people has been obliged to grow with this consciousness, which is never to experience either in US or in Japan. Actually, Cuba was near to the target of genocide in Kennedy's era. It comes thoroughly from geopolitical circumstances instead of differences of culture.
However, I may lose sight of point of argument while I remain about this point. The important is that this strong consciousness of identity is to be one of whetted ultimate figure of "cultural identity".
Identity of the people of Cuba is never heresy in the world. It is the point for Vila to want to say. The style of expression seems rather rough, but therefore, essence of "identity of the people" is brought into relief clearly.
Vila calls to pay attention right on it. Vila tells further.
"In poorly small countries including my country, culture means liberation of a nation essentially. Therefore, to defend its cultural identity is understood as the same thing as to realize self-determination of a nation or social justice".
Vila says repeatedly that identity of the nation is culture itself.
The outer bounds such as geographical condition, law or system do not prescribe identity necessarily. Instead, expressive or impressive character of people living there defines it. It may be called "Cubanidad". It is assumed as a universal idea, beyond the limits and specialty of Cuba.
Vila emphasizes one more point. That is, the identity of Cuban people is not consistent from ancient days. It has been is formed and strengthened particularly during these ten years through so hard fights.
The impressive word is that "We decided that what we must protect at first was culture, when the most difficult time begins from 1989"
It was followed "Because culture is the soul of a country", and therefore, "Because it is the most important savings of the country".
12. It was Cultural Revolution
Vila has a glaringly vivid consciousness on eras. For her, these ten years are right the present days when she declared that "what we must keep at first is culture", and fought through hardly.
Perhaps her consciousness of ages is double-imaged with consciousness of carrier of the history. Vila and her comrades would be confident that they protect the mother country for these ten years from catastrophe, instead of the first generation of revolution.
They are no longer the sons of William Tel, who put an apple on his head and expect the success of his father. There are phrases that remember the special period reminiscently. I will quote them a little longer.
In a field of culture or art, it had become a kind of chaos. Its perspective was looked like a mode of Dante.
The meaning of the word "future" was lost. Conviction about correctness or strangeness of conventional social project, were lost, too. And a lot of people have got surrendered. However, we chose to think the same way as Jose Marti thought.
“ Hunger passes away. However, does not pass is disgrace"
We were absorbed in working, pushing the other's backs. And the result is as you see. The situation of my country has improved significantly from the beginning of the revolution by an end of 90's.
It is remarkable particularly in the field of arts. Cuban art becomes known in the world. Great creators of the past and the present age are praised, and stand in the center of public attention".
There are remarkable words of "beginning of the revolution" in her speech. Obviously, she uses these words pointing 1989, the year when the special period began. She and maybe her comrades seem to insist that they fought another revolution different from the revolution of Jose Marti or Castro.
Vila looks it as a revolution by culture calling to realize the true Modernism. The modernismo is a theory raised by Jose Marti in the last years of 19th Century. The substance of this revolution means the integration through Multiplicity, which leads to divertive expansion of Cubanidad.
Speaking of the Cultural Revolution, we remember Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution raised by Mao Zedong. It was a anticultural action contrary to its name, and destruction of civilization and humanity. Remembering that nightmare, I feel the practice that Vila and others did would be right suitable for the name of Cultural Revolution.
(C) Thought of "development":
As the joint connection of multiplicity and identity
13. Cultural activities and economic activities: Commonality of means
When looking culture from the side of creative activity, there needs material means for creation essentially.
For example, artificial work is almost a kind of material production activity by itself. Musical practice also needs instruments or amplifier. Plays can hardly be performed without material support such as stage setting or illumination. If there is not a publishing company, novelist finds no way but to hang himself.
Cuba of 90's was right in the situation that seemed to want to hang herself. As a result of economic shrinkage, the culture has withered.
At that moment, they decided that what they must keep first was culture. Vila says
"Cultural development and development of economic activities make parts of the same body."
And appeals the absolute necessity of culture that "If they are divided, the body of them will become lifeless.
However, this is a very difficult problem how they share materials under the situation that even materials to eat seems to lack. It is hard to come out the idea to turn production material for culture even if to cut down production of consumption supplies. It may be not so far to say a kind of noble hobby.
By the way, there was a precedent in Cuba. In the beginnings of 1961, Castro and government declared to promote the campaign to sweep away illiteracy. They pushed forward this exercise even if the operation of factories or companies is reduced due to it.
A lot of economic experts made objections against this campaign. They insisted it should be given priority to maintain the production, and to keep life of people, during then difficult time after the revolution.
However, the literacy movement was developed overwhelming a lot of objection. School lasted vacant for several months, and students became a teacher. They walked in the heart of mountains and remotest places. Factory workers also took a revolution holidays, and joined the Crusade. Some of them became a victim of the counterrevolutionary guerrilla who lied hidden in mountains.
Evaluation is divided whether this campaign was successful. There are objective statistics to show that "the rate of the literate increased temporarily, but the person who needs not use letters has forgot it immediately". There were young men who dislike thought mobilization named literacy campaign, and left Cuba.
However, everybody would be sure that the fundamentals of culture have to be constructed by hard works and a good long time. It is , so to say, "the investment that does not demand a direct reward."
14. Culture cannot be indifferent to development of economic activities
There are some points a little difficult to understand in Vila's opinion about development. The word "Desarrollo" has a nuance of material or economic development rather than of culture or spirit.
Possibly she might say that cultural activities can pull up economic activities in a certain circumstance? However I am afraid of interpreting wrong. It is certain the leading role, which saved Cuban economic crisis was tourist industry.
But if the cobalt-colored Caribbean sea, coral reef, glittering sunshine, white sandy beach, and coconuts trees are not a monopolized patent of Cuba. Rather such a scene lets me feel unnatural, which are often seen at the recently built resort hotels.
However, the Cuban greatest resources for tourist business are originated from its culture and people. And the affluence of the peoples mind, which will never be evaluated by money. Therefore, once visited Cuba, nobody would be able to resist to be repeaters before long, and ultimately addicts of her.
So, Vila tells with her head lift high that "The most important savings of a country is the abundant culture". Because it would be a guarantee to maintain the national projects of Cuba. Now, all the cultural works of us are holding development."
15. Culture and the prospects of humanistic and ideal development
Perhaps Vila's complacent remarks of millennium will be this.
"That being of culture seems to be the child who has just come out of the inside of the carnivorous beast which starved"
Her "development" view is condensed here. I wonder she seemed to have given this lecture wanting to say this.
Culture, being social legitimate child between modern human societies as "the carnivorous animal, which starved ," Culture just born and weak, is seeking for the conservation by people.
However, it is sure that he will overcome like David to the starving and cruel giant someday, and open up doors to "the true human history." Therefore, we ought to protect and bring up it heartedly with sense of awe, at the risk of our life. Such ideas are coagulated in this word.
Practice of culture is likely as the relation between to raise and to be raised with raising. Such as above, culture is positioned historically in humankind development .
Now, I will pick up the later words a little more.
We work for Cuba directly, but that work would be connected in an obligation to secure the lives and minds of people on the earth, and to let culture develop. It is for human intellectual spirit to overcome utilitarianism of blindness. Culture now growing up is never only a passive being.
Vila emphasizes that Culture will play a great role in order to promote humanistic development of mankind.
"The philosophy of the empire" did call and justify inequality, betrayal, and life-risky competition as "natural rules".
"We must oppose with positive and humanistic theories of development against this savage challenge."
And for this purpose, we must understand the mental, moral, and ideological role, which culture should serve. And now Vila declares manifest destiny of Cuban people proudly.
No matter whether social rank one belongs, every intellectual people of Cuba concern it as the most important subject that the power of culture should be spread on the earth. Because, only culture have powers to get mankind develop to higher spirituality.