Working in cyberspace and developing our own projects on the Internet, raises all the issues of citizenship that are too big for Cubans to handle.  We haven’t been able to become citizens in the real world, so we find it difficult to act like citizens in the virtual world.  In this case, there are no shortcuts.  We can’t simply skip over interim stages like we did with videocassettes (which were never sold in the ‘peso stores’* anyway), and tape recorders, and 5-1/4″ floppy disks; instead we must first educate ourselves in civics here in real life.

Let’s see if I can understand the twisted logic of Cuban cyberspace.  “It is not possible for a Cuban citizen to establish their own web domain and house it on a server in Cuba; but it is illegal for them to establish a web domain hosted on a server in another country.”  “Cuba’s ‘official’ bloggers reflect the only true reality.  We, the alternative bloggers, therefore, are puppets of some foreign power.”  “The internet is the terrain where the so-called Battle of Ideas* is fought.  The one principle that defines this battle is: Intolerance.”  In short, in addition to the mutilation of our society, we enter cyberspace — our virtual society — with several pieces missing.

At this point, we see the same behavior on the Internet that we see on our streets.  When placed in front of cameras and microphones, people’s first reaction is to show enthusiasm and ideological fidelity, but their behavior is pure “froth.”  That is why, on the Internet, we call ourselves folklorists and environmentalists.  It’s fine to post employment ads and classified ads, or to distribute free music online, but one needs be careful about expressing opinions.  On the World Wide Web we must hide behind the same masks that we wear in our daily lives.  Having cyber-rights will have to wait, to see if there comes a day when we can at least make a start on becoming citizens.

Translator’s notes:

Peso stores:  Stores that take ‘moneda nacional’ (national money), the currency in which Cubans are paid their wages.  Cuba uses two currencies; the other is the “Cuban Convertible Peso,” (CUC), which is the money sold to tourists.  Many products are sold, even to Cubans, only in CUCs.  The exchange rate between moneda nacional and CUCs is about 24-to-1.

Battle of Ideas:  Readers are encouraged to search on this term to learn more; an explanation would exceed any reasonable length for a footnote.

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