The Chinese (Chi) and the Cuban (C) return for their second meeting.
Chi – Make money for what, was the question, correct? C – Yes. Chi – I think of money as freedom. It lets me do what I want. But you can get trapped by it, too, C – Trapped as in…? Chi – Thinking that money is life itself. C – Hmm. Chi – If money is all you think about, well, then, you’re a poor rich person.
Chi – Most of us want to do this, that or the other. Money can let you do that. C – Or you can watch it pile up. Chi – There was an American businessman who traded in silver, two brothers in fact, the Hunt brothers if I remember correctly, from Texas, who said, ‘Money is like manure, if you spread it around it does a lot of good, but if you pile it up it stinks like hell.’ C – (smiling) You can’t buy life with it. Chi – Well, it can get you great medical care if you need it, but a pile of it does not mean life well lived. C – If a person does what they want with their lives, then you could say they are rich. Chi – I agree. C – But there has to be a great pleasure to know that you can make money whenever you need it. And have some to spare also. Just in case. Chi – Yes. Money equals freedom. If you’re not a slave to it. C – I have done many things with my life… but there are more things I’d like to do. Living in Cuba restricts my freedom. Chi – That’s too bad. C – Have you done what you want with your life? Chi – I have not. C – Would you call yourself rich? Chi – No, but I have some money saved. C – What are you saving it for? Chi – I’d like to get married to a very good looking woman. C – I see. Do you think that the more money you have, the more beautiful a woman you will attract? Chi – (smiling) Yes. C – That may be a problem. Chi – Why? C – Because she will be marrying for money. Chi – Maybe. But this is how I see it. Having money works to attract the woman, then it’s up to me to see if we have a good fit. But if I don’t have the money, they won’t come close enough for me to see if we have a good fit. C – Maybe that works. I would worry, though, that the person would pretend to have a good fit just so they get married. Chi – The woman would have to be a good actor. C – Would you like to be married to a good actor? Chi – Good question. I never did think of it that way. Are you married? C – No, but I’ve lived with the same woman for 21 years. Chi – How did you attract your wife? C – I still don’t know what she saw in me.
C – But she sees something because she’s still around. And I don’t even dance. Chi – Cuban and you don’t dance? C – Don’t dance or sing. Chi – That’s funny. C – But I’m a good listener… and she likes to talk. So I’ve listened to her for the last 21 years and she still wants to stick around. Chi – Is she beautiful? C – I think so. Chi – Interesting. She became attracted to you just because you could listen. C – Yes. And I was all right in bed. That was the bonus.
C – I mean, she’s never complained… and neither have I. Chi – That’s funny. C – Believe it or not, it keeps getting better. Chi – You’re a lucky man. C – I am. Poor but lucky. Chi – Can money buy you good sex? C – I don’t know. People are so different. Some need more, some less. One of the characters in a novel by the Colombian writer Garcia Marquez says that ‘Sex is a talent.’ Some have it, some don’t. Chi – Money can’t buy talent. C – I think being able to make money is a talent. Some have it and some don’t. Goes back to the hierarchies you were talking about, at our first meeting. Chi – Yes. And we can’t have everything we want. C – That’s true. Chi – We have to live with that… no matter how much money we make. C – My wife and I have a good friend, Esmeralda, she’s a brilliant filmmaker. Teaches at the university. One day she will be famous. Neither my wife nor I have that talent. Chi – Is she beautiful? C – I think so. Chi – Hmm. I would like to meet her. C – Sure. Next time you’re in Cuba I’ll introduce you. Chi -Thank you. C – So, going back to what you said at the start… thinking of money as freedom. Chi – Well… it has limitations… like everything else. C – Do we fetishize money? Chi – We do… but while it will not get you all you want… it will get you things you could not have otherwise. C – Is it worth being obsessed with it? Chi – No. Let me ask you… do you like what you do? C – It’s okay. Would prefer to try something else. Chi – Money would allow you time and space to explore. C – We’ve agreed on that. Chi – It won’t change your character… but it can buy you time. C – I want to think of money in that way… buy me time… and the opportunity to make other choices… so I can be all I can be. Chi – I like that. So, next time I’m in Havana, will you introduce me to Esmeralda? C – Of course. Chi – Thank you.
To be continued. This article was written on 9/14/20 but never posted. Got busy with something else. Original title was ‘A Chinese and Cuban Talk Politics. Part II’
Oscar Valdes is the author of several books – all self published – available on Amazon.
C – It’s amazing what you’ve done with your country in such short time. Chi – Thank you. C – You are now a rival to the United States. Chi – And pretty soon we will be the most powerful economy in the entire world. C – Wow. And to think we both started out as communists. I can’t help but wonder why you’ve grown so much and we haven’t. I mean, are you even communists anymore? I know you started as such, but it seems you then took a turn. Chi – We did. We had that whole Mao experience as you know… lots of years of being very regimented… deprived, in fact… very traumatic the whole thing… had to read Mao’s little Red Book, again and again… I could recite it in my sleep… but slowly we came to realize that we needed to produce more and to do that, we needed creative and enterprising people. And we needed markets. C – So you let the creative and enterprising people come out and do their thing? Chi – Yes. We began to allow people to have their own businesses… and when you do that, then people with those abilities get to work. Up till then, the system was burying them… and they weren’t making money and no one else was making money, and we could say we were all equal… but what’s the point of being equally poor? C – I get you. That’s what’s happening in Cuba. We can all say that we’re brothers and sisters and we’re all equal but we’re not. Not really. And those people with ideas for commerce and other things, they’re held back. Chi – Right. Finally, we realized we had to try something different. When we did, we began to see how new hierarchies began to form. Hierarchies of talent and ability, in all fields, hierarchies that have always been there, no point in denying them. They were there during Mao. The Chairman got to have all the girlfriends he wanted. C – Same with our leaders. They eat and dress and live better than the rest of us. Chi – Right. So we said to ourselves, that’s the way the world is. Some people have more than others because nature gave them more. In the jungle, you’ve got the lions and the tigers and the gazelles and the rabbits and the pigs, and the stronger gets to eat the weaker. That’s how nature works. C – But we’re humans… Chi – Sure, but we’re not all created equal. C – Under the law we are. Chi – Right. And that’s about it. Men and women are at their best when they have the chance to exercise their differences. And the better systems let you do that. C – Exercise your difference? Chi – Yes. Of course, you have to show some restraint so the stronger human doesn’t eat the weaker one. C – But isn’t that what Capitalism has been doing? Chi – Unchecked Capitalism, sure. But I’m talking of Regulated Capitalism. Regulated Capitalism gives us a safety net, allowing for workers to have rights, pensions, education, health care, days off and so on. And to do that the system taxes the people who make the money. The more money you make, the more we tax you. Regulated Capitalism – we call it State capitalism – needs to keep improving but we’re moving in the right direction. C – You’re not against billionaires? Chi – Not at all. We love billionaires. But they have to be accountable and pay their taxes. The communist party sends an emissary to be part of their governing board. C – In Cuba we hate billionaires, or pretend to, when in reality we would like to have a chance at it. Chi – Why the hate? C – Our leaders believe a person can only become a billionaire if they corrupt others, so to allow billionaires would mean they’ve allowed corruption. Chi – Corruption is a big issue, everywhere. We have it in China. The Chairman has been working on rooting it out. But some people can make a lot of money without corrupting others. They can make money just with their ideas, their creativity and hard work. C – You really believe that? Chi – I do. Of course, becoming a billionaire doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a fair or good person. They can be assholes, too. You have some and we do, too, but if they create jobs then that’s great. It’s up to government to make sure they pay their fair share. C – There was an American presidential candidate recently who said billionaires shouldn’t exist. Chi – Right. And what happened to him? C – He lost. And there are famous economists who think the same. Chi – I think they’re envious of billionaires. C – Hmm. Interesting. Let’s go back to the issue of equality. Chi – We’re not equal. Some people will always have more than others, be it brains, muscular power, beauty, musical ability, anything. If a system is wise, however, it will allow those with the greater gifts to rise. Then the system will work to make sure the benefits are spread out. But it gets tricky when you start spreading the benefits. You don’t want to give out too much that it dampens the desire to work. Of course, there will be those who look at the billionaire and say, life is not fair, why can’t I do those things the billionaire does? The answer is there is a hierarchy. Good governments ought to make that clear. And remind people that if they keep trying, well, who knows, something might happen and they, too, will become wealthy. C – That’s like promising something that will never happen. Chi – You never know, if you keep trying. Anyway, that’s the trick of governing, always give hope. C – You’ve heard of the expression, ‘pie in the sky?’ Chi – There is hope that is realistic and hope that is false. Autocratic leaders preach false hope. In State Capitalism we give realistic hope, like we’re doing in China. For an instance of false hope, take what’s happening in Venezuela. That regime has persuaded the people that government will lift them to a comfortable and satisfactory life. But it won’t happen unless people work hard. But work hard for the betterment of humanity? No. That’s too abstract. You work hard because you have incentives, because you can make money. The Venezuelan government is not letting people make money, and are scared that if they do, those people will undermine them. So they prefer to keep everyone poor. Except the rulers, of course. They always eat and dress well and get to travel. C – The government can’t create enough jobs but then it doesn’t let those who can create them do so. Chi – And they have the guns to intimidate everyone. Guns to tell everyone that the real meaning of life is to work for the betterment of humanity, without worrying about material rewards. They’re delusional. Man is simply not like that. We are part of the animal kingdom. Not of the celestial one. We’re not angels. We love our money and what it can do for us. C – You don’t have to go to Venezuela for that one. That’s what’s going on in Cuba too. Chi – It’s very sad. And we both know there are lots of very talented Cubans and Venezuelans. C – Our governments are afraid of them, afraid of what they can create.
They pause for a moment.
C – We’re not equal… I get it. Chi – We should treat everyone with respect and encourage them to do their best. Everyone should get that. That’s how equality should be viewed. Equality under the law. Not equality of results or pay or position. Hierarchies are part of life. C – What do you think of the economic embargo the United States has on Cuba? Chi – We know how it started. The Castro brothers nationalized American businesses that were making big money in Cuba. C – Right. Chi – That could’ve been done a lot differently so as not to piss off the Americans. C – True. Chi – Terms to repay could have been set… and the likelihood is that would’ve allowed business between the two nations to continue. C – Maybe. Anyway, it didn’t happen. The Castro brothers couldn’t think that far. Chi – But they sure have got a lot of political capital out of the embargo. C – They have. They keep blaming the embargo for the misery Cubans live in. Chi – Get someone else to blame for your own inadequacies.
C – Going back to China, do you think you’ll ever become a democracy? Chi – That’s a good one. C – Or are you getting comfortable with being ruled by the Party and its State Capitalism? Chi – I think that eventually we will become a democracy. Eventually. The more and more successful we become economically, the more we will want to have political power also. C – It is a unique phenomenon in history, what you’ve done. Chi – It is. We’re very proud. Even with the restrictions we live under. We are wary, though, that democracy carries with it some risks, corruption of course, and the possibility that some leaders will emerge that will not care for maintaining the unity of the nation. We see what is happening in the United States with Trump and realize it could happen to us, too. So, yes, one day we will want to become a democracy, but not anytime soon. Before we do that, we will want to become the most powerful nation in the world. We are getting closer to that. C – How much intimidation do you live with in your country? Chi – A good bit. We don’t like it, but the government lets us make money, and lots of it. C – So long as you can make money… Chi – Yes… we love to make money. Wouldn’t you? C – Yes, I would.
They pause again.
C – One thing, though, I admit that if Cubans were allowed to make money things would be different… but the embargo has hurt. Chi – You are right. If it hadn’t been for the American market and all those companies that came to China to make their products, we would not be this far along. So we are thankful to the Americans, although they made a pile of money, too. C – And you stole and copied the technology, and spied to get whatever else… did you not? Chi – We did. But… we worked with what we stole and copied, and then improved it. Let me give you an example. We asked America to let us in on the Space program. They said no. Well, we gathered what we had to gather, and our scientists landed us on the other side of the Moon, the dark side. No one had done that. We did it. So, the fact that we have stolen and copied does not mean we’re not creative and have vast brain power. C – Good point. And as far as Cuba is concerned… even with the embargo… if we created something to trade… we could do business with the rest of the world. Chi – Yes. C – But first we have to figure a way of allowing ourselves more incentives. Chi – True.
C – We have talked about the importance of incentives… to make money… but make money for what? Chi – Ah, yes. Good question. I can think of a two part answer to it. But let’s take it up next time we meet. C – Deal.
To be continued. This article was written on 9/14/2020
Oscar Valdes Oscarvaldes.net. medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts