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When the Box Is Empty

When the Box Is Empty

by Andreas Clark

Let’s say you are 30 years old. OK, 30 something. Or maybe a little less, and you are still navigating in the waters of the twenties. Now sociologists, psychologists and even anthropologists are starting to look at you with their magnifying glass, as if you were some weird insect. They start poking at you with their rubber-fingered gloves, that is, whenever they dare poke at you at all. They attempt the impossible task of trying to classify you because everything you do, every minimum detail of your life, appears to them as if it was a changeable anomaly, something extraordinary or, even worse, something totally unintelligible.

So what is it that interests the scientists so much? It’s because you are provocatively acting very near the edge or definitely on the other side of that statistical red line, which they have taken so many years, so many hours, sitting in their exact laboratories to put together.

Fighting anything that is expected, you have been busy stretching the boundaries of anything you can during the short span of your teenage years, in fact you have been even enjoying it. You have also been immersed in taking very lightly that thing everyone else calls “work.” If your parents viewed work as “sacred,” “a sacrifice” or a sort of altar upon which they should lay down their premature adulthood during long, hard hours every day, then you, in contrast, see work as something that shouldn’t tire you out so much. Or at least it should barely tire you out; in fact, you should like doing it. And if you don’t like doing it you should abandon it immediately, fluttering away without a second thought: no guilt, no regrets.

And you also leave home to live on your own, or with your partner without even getting married. Marriage doesn’t concern you too much, not now. You feel far removed from the imperious and primordial necessity of starting a family that your parents felt, much like it was the be-all and end-all to everything on this earth. That is just one example of how you find solutions “outside of the box.”

Unsatisfied with all those signs, add the fact that you live surrounded by devices. Your parents managed with hammers and nails, saws and pliers, set squares and their calloused hands; but you want nothing to do with that. You wander around with your ubiquitous laptop slung over your shoulder and your right hand poised on your cell phone that never ceases to call for your attention. And that’s not even mentioning the IPod, Tablet, earphones and any other tactile novelty that has appeared as if by magic on the market. For everyone else, you are called by the name of Millennials. And here comes the crunch: do we really have any Cuban Millennials?

It’s complicated: there has to be a different measuring tape for Cubans. How on earth can you leave home on an island where there is a housing shortage? It’s a miracle when Cubans manage to do this. How can you update all the apps for your devices when the Internet is hard to get, and when you get it, it’s slow and also expensive? But it can be done. Yes, it can be done and all you need is the rare quality of being Cuban. We even have all those IPods, Tablets and Macintosh marvels even without having the market that sells them.

I would dare to say more: I have heard of a very Cuban architect who lives in London, surprising her young British colleagues when she opened her laptop and started to work. They were all amazed at her very up-to-date programs because it was all too expensive for them to have something like that. Of course our Cuban hadn’t paid a cent for it all. All the stuff had been pirated, gotten on the black market. As devastating as the US blockade on Cuba is, there are some twists and turns and shortcuts to be had. When markets and their laws are so distant, the penalties for violating them are also distant and even impossible.

And that’s how it is. The gaping technological breach, as deep and as wide as it is, becomes much smaller when you have the desire and the need to leap over it. Cuban artists, entrepreneurs, and young people are a little like hungry dogs: they sniff around as much as they want, wherever they want, going through the back doors, anywhere where others may find it to be too much.

If seeking out solutions “outside of the box” seems to be the common factor linking all Millennials no matter where they are, it is the trademark of Cubans. It is their denomination of origin, their genetic map and the light of their souls.

We all know that Cubans are practical beings from another galaxy, another dimension or another race. It couldn’t be any other way because of more than half a century of shortages, Cold War (that has really not ended for us), blockade, difficulties and having to invent solutions on a daily basis has not only taught us, it has forced us to live outside of the box.