‘To live in Havana’, Graham Greene once wrote, ‘was to live in a factory that turned out human beauty on a conveyor belt.’ To work as Cockburn does, as an underfed Grub Street hack, is to work in an industry that turns out pointless emails on a conveyor belt.
Every now and then though a real diamond rolls out of the coal chute. On Friday The New Republic invited its readers on a Caribbean jaunt – to Raúl Castro’s Cuba. Under the heading ‘Discover Cuba and Support the Cuban People’ the email read:
‘While Trump petulantly restricts travel to Cuba, The New Republic invites you to discover the culture, society and politics of the island, and most of all bolster the people of Cuba when they need it most.’
Our tour guides continue:
‘Under the “Support for the Cuban People” category of legal travel, our March 2020 trip will be hosted by Professor Charles Bittner and lead you through the cobblestone streets to historic landmarks, traditional restaurants, independent art studios and museums, and discussions with social and political thought leaders.’
Cockburn was shocked to realize that Cuba’s secretive prisons, where euphemistically named ‘instructors’ still practice techniques first developed by the KGB, are not on the tour itinerary. Will discussions with social and political thought leaders include the three LGBT activists arrested by the Cuban police last month?
Then again, for The New Republic and its readers, the resident’s ‘petulance’ is likely more of an affront to good taste than the continued existence of a grotesque little dictator state on America’s doorstep.
Before they decide to book, dedicated useful idiots should be aware that seeing all those lovely art studios and landmarks will set them back a cool $4,575. All proceeds will (no doubt) go to the Cuban people, rather than the military holding companies that dominate tourism on the beleaguered island.