Reading about Cuba’s “lines”, ie queues

There is an article in today’s Havana Times that compares the Cuban way with standing in line with the way travellers, particularly one group of Australians, cope with that.

I am not sure what the message is. Maybe its just a description or observation of tourist behaviour, and how that can carry the “imperial” mentality. Maybe its suggesting how in Cuba there are just too many “lines” and that “under Cuban socialism” this is part of the trial of daily life. That the way the tourists do it has something going for it. Maybe.

My experience in Cuba. I like the Cuban way for waiting for your turn. Its relaxed, its friendly, its cooperative (not competitive). Its humanist. That’s an apt word from a previous commentator. There are queues in Cuba, but for the traveller who tries, its a great chance to practice Spanish and learn from the people. If you want to.

Make no mistake, there are queues in Australia and other places. In Australia enough people stand in line with great impatience to make the queue a trial … as if they are blaming the others in the line, or the workers doing their best to handle each enquiry. I dont like Australian queues. At airports there are security guards everywhere to make sure your frustration is kept under control. There are usually long queues in post offices because of staff cuts in the name of efficiency and doing things better.

In the USA there are queues all over the place: the homeless trying to get a meal, for example. The people in the queue are waiting also for decent health care, coherent public transport, and a few other basic things like language and literacy support. Those people seem to be pretty patient. Or, are they just worn out? Or maybe they enjoy watching the queue across the road where a few – usually overweight – in smart clothes wait for their gigantic cup of coffee.

The worst queues in Australia are the Help Desk queues. That is your telephone queue. Except no one sees each other getting frustrated.

Don’t tell me that Cuba’s queues are bad. Capitalism can do queues really bad.

This Michael Roberts’ summary and analysis of the fiscal cliff agreement stage 1 agreement reached in the USA on New Years Day. Of interest and importance he highlights not just what is wrong with the Republican Austerian position and, also, the inadequacies of the “neolaboralist” position put forward by Democrats and supported, at least in part, by some progressive economists, eg Paul Krugman.

There is an award for the Littoral Combat Ships in this article. Are these the same ships that have been bought and will be built here in Australia?
“The LCS is a very fancy, shallow water warship with lots of bells and whistles (at $700 million apiece it ought to have a few of those) with one little problem: “It is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment,” according to one Pentagon weapon’s tester. Since combat is generally “hostile” that does restrict what the ship can do. And given that cracks and leaks in the hulls are showing up, it might not be prudent to put them in the water. So while it may not work as a traditional ship—floating, that is—according to the LCS’s major booster in the Congress, U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala) “It’s going to scare hell out of folks.”

Particularly the ones who serve on it.”

Highlights of reading in 2012

I read books, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, journals, and of course a lot of work related reports and so on.

2012 saw some extra reading because of a long recovery from an operation. On the book front there were several highlights.

in fiction, I really enjoyed Tom Kenneally’s The Peoples Train, Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table, and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. However, the highlight for me was Anna Funder’s All That I Am.

I bought Eric Hobsbawm’s How to Change the World just before he died, but did not work my way through this important and usually beautifully written work until a couple of weeks after that. It is a major work and a very significant challenge to the opponents of the Marxist view, and also to those who treat that world view in a doctrinaire and sloganistic way.

Right now I am finishing off the collection of essays on American unionism and social movements – Wisconsin Uprising, Labor Fights Back, edited by Michael Yates.

However, the outstanding book for the year, for me, was Mary Gabriel’s new “biography” of Karl and Jenny Marx, Love and Capital – Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution. The strongly referenced story brings to life the dynamic and powerful relationship between Karl and Jenny, and their extended family of Engels, their children, and other political activists of the Victorian era, including the refugee and émigré communities in London. This is no hagiography of Marx as we see at close quarters that Marx’ master work, Das Kapital, and much of his other writing in collaboration with Engels, was also a product of Jenny and their relationship. How very heroic and human they all were.