Scale of Values

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Living in a society where chaos reigns (despite the excessive vigilance) makes it hard to determine what is good and bad, to distinguish the greater evil from the lesser. Therefore, it is almost impossible to prevent social actions that are dangerous to the community.

When a political group decides what conduct is to be prohibited according to their interests in retaining power, the scale of social values is lost, and a reign of disorganization sets in. In Cuba, for example, the criminal penalty for slaughtering a cow or a horse is more severe than for committing murder. To illustrate the extremes, the story of an incident in my neighborhood could be illuminating.

A few weeks ago, two blocks from my house, there was a party. The street was full of young people dancing. Rowdiness, merriment, alcohol and who knows what else. The commotion ended before midnight, with about thirty people throwing rocks at the house of my neighbor, Katia Vales.

After several calls to 911, the police arrived. By then the rowdy young people had gotten tired of throwing rocks and hassling bystanders, and had left. The neighborhood was left stunned and terrified. Because they were known in the area, a number of the perpetrators could be arrested.

Someone asked me what punishment I thought these boys should receive. Fortunately, no one whose house had been stoned was injured, and damage was minor: a broken lamp and some smashed aluminum window coverings.

I put myself in the place of a judge. I evaluated the act, not by the material damage it caused, but by the possible consequences. What would have happened if some of the residents, emboldened, had come out to defend their homes and families? A tragedy could have occurred because of the anger these young men stirred up.

I replied that if I were the judge, I would charge them with disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault. As a preventive punishment, I would sentence them to correctional labor in agriculture, so the next time they would think twice before committing another act of vandalism.

But I was wrong in my predictions. The young people were given a fine, and an official warning … we’ll send you to bed without your supper!

Of course, my scale of values differs from that of the authorities. For me, it is more important to preserve the public peace, which is supposed to be the primary task of the revolutionary police.

But for them it is more important to prosecute dealers and traders who try to survive the ongoing economic crisis that for decades has stifled the population. Because it allows them to gain an advantage, thanks to a system riddled with corruption. And perhaps because one of the objectives of their superiors is to prevent the rise of those whom the regime has labeled the “new rich”.

These are the consequences of living in a society where the political interests of a class struggling to remain in power predominate. Meanwhile, the governed are sinking ever deeper into poverty, corruption, violence, immorality, and despair.

Laritza Diversent

Photo: Johaaaaanna, Flickr

Translated by: Tomás A.

  1. Tomás A.
    January 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    To the site manager:

    Thank you for your kind words. But my efforts really do warrant close scrutiny. The last sentence of the second-to-last paragraph has an extraneous “who” that should be deleted. And on review, I think I screwed up the subject/verb agreement in the first sentence of the last paragraph: the last word should be “predominate.”

  2. warflb
    January 22, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Tomás: The who is gone and we now ‘predominate’ rather than ‘predominates’! I removed my laudatory comment of course… how could I leave it when there was an extra “who”? NO NO NO… just joking. Well I don’t want all the other translators to feel slighted… we really have an amazing team of people that has just “appeared” and started to help change the world… or at least this little corner of it. But… I didn’t know where else, but on the entry itself, to leave you a note you’d see.

    Thanks again!

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