The American fear industry got a great start in Havana with the Cuban missile crisis. It’s proved to be so successful that even though the Cuban missile crisis and Soviet style communism no longer exists, the fear industry boys are reluctant to let it go. You can understand why, Cuba used to be the franchise. Now of course, there’s terrorists under every bed and the need for Cuba no longer exists, but people always have a hard time moving on.
What the blockade of Cuba has done is force the Cubans much against their will to create the most independent, sustainable city and country on the planet. Ever hear of the world rushing to Cuba’s aid when a fearsome hurricane strikes? They have no oil. No hydro power to speak of, no foreign shipping. You can sit on the graceful logia of the Nacional hotel and watch the great container ships heading for Miami on the horizon of the Straits of Florida – ship after ship like an enormous marine train. In a week, I saw one half loaded ship come into Havana’s port, a city which is the size of Montreal. The Cubans have had no choice. They’ve had to learn how to run their principal cities by themselves without cheap everything from everywhere.
If you want an image of a very successful post apocalypse city, it’s Havana. There’s enough food to eat. Not fancy but sufficient. The streets are quite safe. There is excellent medical care if you need it, but my lord, there’s nothing in the stores. Zero. Imagine a world where you couldn’t shop until you drop. In fact, you couldn’t shop. And all those fancy high rises with the exception of a couple for tourists like the Nacional have been abandoned because the electrical supply just isn’t reliable enough to run elevators. The buses are something called camals, Volvo truck/trailers converted into long buses. The cars on the street are few and ancient. People make do everywhere. Streetcorner food markets. Make your own music. There’s an amazing lack of ‘stuff’. I had my fancy surfing shorts stolen from the hotel room. (They are hard to get.) Old cigar boxes are used to put your keys and change in the airport security check and so on.
All said and done, Havana gave me hope. It can be done. People can live civilized, safe lives without ripping off the environment or child labour in China, but it’s a whole different life. One that will come to a city near you if we don’t learn to live within our environmental means, because sooner or later the Mother Nature will do to the planet what the American embargo has done to Cuba. In the meantime, expect the Cuban embargo to be lifted. One day soon the greed for all that pent up buying power and pristine, environmental gold of Cuba will overcome the fear industry’s old franchise embargo.