INTRODUCTION: Come along reader, on an epic interdisciplinary journey to explore what led a dynamic rapidly growing nation to be fatally looted.
If one accepts the notion that similar societies encounter roughly similar milestones in their development, then one accepts possibility of societal forecasting. Lets see if Cuban past can teach us anything about America's future. A model of societal forecasting is presented which takes into account the physical size of the country as a key factor in the speed of development.
Social, economic, cultural, and political changes can take place rapidly within a geographically small piece of land. This is due to sheer logistics. A small plot of land, like Singapore, can go from a port with peasant farmers supporting it to a 100% urban city state in less than 200 years. We're talking about third world peasants reaching world's 5th highest GDP per capita by just creating an exponential historical burst of activity. Singapore went through the process that Dutch port in lower Manhattan had gone through, only quicker. Since it was a country in itself it became hyper-efficient, the way Manhattan would be if it had to be its own nation.
In a way, same historic pattern can rapidly "speed up" in a tiny country given proper conditions, even if it began later. At some point, the developmental curve of a society becomes more exponential and history rushes with great speed. The physical energies expanded to say, turn a whole country into a city state, are much greater the larger the country is. Physical efforts and developments of travel, logistics, communication, and migrations all require greater raw power to spread through an area the larger it is. Corresponding social symptoms of the physical efforts like these (like changes in political, social, cultural patterns and trains of thought) are thus also slower to spread through an area the wider it is.
The model presented shows that if two countries, differing in size, share the same physical developmental pattern, the smaller one can complete it earlier even if it started later. In essence, if very general patterns exist one can look into the social future of a society by observing the past of a smaller society that had similar physical development. Social aspects, of the underlying physical arrangement/development of a society, are manifest by country's political structure, economy, cultural views, etc. How does the rate of technology ( that is inching towards exponential by mid 21st century) affect all of these physical developmental patterns that in themselves reach an exponential point? Technology allows one to do a thing with less energy such as communicate, travel, transport, and build. Thus, it allows a physical pattern, such as urbanization towards the city states mentioned above, to a accelerate.
For a mathematical demonstration lets use a clean example for now. Lets say two identical settlements start simultaneously at 10 sq kilometers. They are inside a computer simulation where each has an isolated chunk of identical land (in terms of resources) and no contact with outside. One has enough land to grow into country A (with maximum area of 100 sq kilometers) and one into country B (with maximum area of 2000 sq kilometers). They have access to same technology and grow at a rate of 100% a year utilizing same expansion techniques. In a way, they are just cloned virtual mold. Country A would achieve urban saturation in its 4th year of existence and country B would reach saturation in its 8th year of existence. Even if B started out a year earlier it would still finish earlier. Even if B was given futuristic technology that allowed it to expand 110% faster AND started a year earlier it would still finish later than A.
All these are solid points and but ignore the definition of what a pattern is. These points do not touch upon the sheer usefulness of observing physical flux of the world, categorizing it, putting what's observed into groups and clusters, and then finally acting upon these observations. How do we know Sweden is VERY unlikely to go on a murderous jihad against Norway this year? How do we know that a congregation of KKK members will probably not contribute to third world humanitarian aid? After all everything is in flux and motion and maybe Swedish society is far more open to influence from fundamentalist Muslim clerics through watching television than we think. How do we know Somalia is unlikely to become an economic powerhouse in next 20 years even if a few super-geniuses come of age in it to become Somalian political leaders?
Most societies are now stuck in the framework of states with borders that aren't warring too much. It became much easier to categorize, compare, see patterns, and yes even use that to learn from and predict near future flux they will be in. If one thinks that the inside of a country is perhaps too fluid (because people keep moving, trading, learning, fighting, and leaving ) then how can one ever justify categorizing and predicting behavior of a smaller unit of people such as goths, elderly christian fundamentalists, and so on. Those groups have patterns of development even if they are right in the middle of great diversity of social and physical forces. If giving more advanced technology to feudal religious fundamentalists just makes them more technologically advanced and capable zealots, then a pattern of fundamentalist strength and longevity can be established. If giving them advanced technology makes them into kind Social Democrats like those in Sweden, then a pattern of technology making people enlightened and politically progressive can be established.
With enough data, we can connect the dots, and start learning from groups of people who have perhaps taken a route in the past so similar to ours that their past resembles our future. If say, their past resembles our future just 30%, then combined with all of our current knowledge we might even have up to 1/5 shot (taking into account resemblance not discovered and gaps in analysis) at getting the future right and planning for it. 1 in 5 is still very daring for countries but perhaps not as daring as predicting that a marriage will last a certain amount of years, that a business idea will fail, or that suburbia will always be an oasis of American ingenuity, wholesome nuclear families, and parked flying cars.
Now we can look at Cuba since Cuba is small and much older than we think (the way Japan is much older than Chinese think) with a much richer history to teach us.
In part 1, we've established a model with which it might be possible to predict development of one society by looking into the past of another. Why look at Cuba to potentially learn about future of United States? Why not, say Puerto Rico, where the land area is smaller (thus accomplishing whatever historical pattern rapidly)? Conversely, why not Brazil which is the third largest in the hemisphere and closer to United States in terms of energy levels needed for urbanization and expansion? Wouldn't Brazil ( where settlement started earlier than in US and had its white ruling population dip below 50% much earlier than US) be a better indicator of American future even though historical process didn't burn through it as rapidly as Cuba?
Brazil, however, does potentially offer some opportunities for learning when it comes to:
1) Post-racial solidarity of the educated class
2) Urbanization and its effects on the rural poor
4) Amassed urban wealth over generations and its effects on cultural values of each urban generation. Think how urban American grandchildren ( of people that rural slave morality calls "hipsters" these days) will view rural and suburban people in the future.
But that's for another day. Lets do a clear cut intellectual exercise and do a simple retelling of Cuban history with a new lens. We'll speed through from the arrival of Spaniard conquerors to right after independence from direct Spanish rule in early 20th century.
Veterans of fighting and mop up operations in Spain (and butchering of Muslim civilians) arrive in Cuba. Many have no social mobility and further employment in Spain and are escaping poverty or the law. After months of miserable dangerous voyage without women present they proceed to exterminate the native men on the island and enslave their women. A lot of aggressive genetics (manifest as ESTP/ESTJ/ENTJ/ENTP personalities by Myers-Briggs test) are introduced into the women who are then absorbed into Spanish settler population. The island becomes a transit point but many settlers remain and import slaves to grow tobacco and sugar. Higher levels of sugar and nicotine consumption, compared to other colonies, gives an element of agitation to the culture that began in violence and control (a tongue in cheek suggestion). Descendants of individualistic mass murderers become pillars of the community with 18th century equivalent of picket fences (only two slaves in every garage instead of cars).
Although Cuba started out a century earlier than the first Dutch/English colonies, its economy begins to stagnate under Spanish mercantile rule. However, the elites feel it's still more profitable for them to be
With new sugar extraction methods, the entire island is connected and elites make enough money to consider pursuing similar development as in United States. Enough of the wealthy are capitalist liberals now and create an alliance with poor white workers to end slavery so both don't have to compete against free labor. It took them longer to reach this level of development because Spanish imperial regulations prevented structures necessary for capitalism and industry to flourish. Cuba reaches level of social development where Confederate States of America would be in the 1960s if it broke away.
Successful struggle for independence commences and many non-whites rise in the military and social ranks during the common struggle. Lighter mulatto populations have already assimilated significantly into society before slavery was ended and now significant number of blacks are doing the same. Considering the society began with ethnic cleansing of natives and intermixing, elites are comfortable with the assimilation and just continue class and educational discrimination.
Spain is pushed out but US military occupies and allows American oligarchs to buy 10% of best land and majority of exports. Iraqi-nization continues as the occupiers graft an early 19th century US democratic system onto an older racially mixed society. Only educated Cubans with enough property are allowed to vote. US creates a hearts and minds campaign of public works projects to bring health/education for the poorer citizens so they aren't used by independence elites as much (similar to strategy Union emancipating slaves to weaken Confederate elite power). The first and only candidate on the presidential ballot is a Maliki type character who fought against Spanish rule in the past but now acquired substantial connections with American rich. United States pulls out of Cuba and allows them independence on condition they attach favorable export terms to the constitution and allow a US base to operate indefinitely.
Sugar can be sold freely without inefficiencies and an economic boom commences. What does one of the oldest new world societies do with a flood of money now that it got democracy to play with in a small area?
We continue an overview of Cuban history started in Part 2 up to Fulgencia Batista's loss of power.
In part 2, we've began to take a general background look at Cuban history up to the moment of its independence.
Founding fathers, heroes of the independence struggle, rule Cuba for the first 30 years. One of these founding fathers, Gerardo Machado, starts out as a liberal and wants to turn Cuba into "Switzerland of the Americas". To achieve this long term vision, he decides to go against the constitution (partly written by Americans), stay in office longer, and become a developmental authoritarian. Communist party supports him since he engages in mass infrastructure construction and social projects that require higher taxes on the rich. He might have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for that dastardly Great Depression. Some modernizing authoritarians just come along at the wrong time to be tolerated. Central Asian presidents for life and Putin wouldn't be where they are today if the world depression we're experiencing hit us 8 years ago. Price of Cuba's equivalent of oil, sugar, dropped even before the international depression.
Regardless of the economic downturn, Machado tries to whip country into shape even if it means machine gunning protesters here and there. People's psychological expectations of continuing growth are thwarted by economic reversal and they take the anger out on the government. A coalition of elites across the entire political spectrum is formed and pressure the senior military to remove the forcefully developmental president since Peter the Great type tendencies don't fly in the 20th century.
The usual suspects emerge.
2) The oligarchs who think he is taxing them too much for a useless thing like "modernizing" and strengthening national power, building things for the poor, and regulating the economy to point it in direction where it's less dependent on American demand.
3) Leftist elites and labor unions who think the government is in cahoots with the oligarchs by not taxing them too much or going further with its reforms. These people think that unless a leader is ideologically leftist, the person is not good enough.
4) Rural conservative elites who think a government supported by communists is unacceptable. The people who feel religious, poor, and Catholic Cuba is better than a strange modern wealthy industrial Cuba that lost its roots.
Well these impatient know it alls got their wish, destabilized the country, and got American support which made senior military ask Machado to leave. Good job guys. The pragmatic tyrant who knows how to compromise and does what works is removed. Orange revolution accomplished. Chaos ensues.
archetypical INTJ, he stages free and fair elections for himself at the right time and is popularly elected. He is also supported by the Communist Party who sees in him a multi-racial modernizer truer to form than bourgeois Machado was.
Batista creates one of the most progressive (as in MoveOn.org/Sweden progressive) constitutions in the world. He provides a wider social safety net than in United States. He understands that staying unconstitutionally
Corruption overflows the government. Batista's work is about to be undone and he stages another coup in 1952. At this point however, Batista is 51 years old and has grown hedonistic and thus weak while out of power. Fidel Castro is 28 years old and at the top of his physical and mental strength. Batista's decadent physiology is incapable of forcefully transforming society and he tries to just ride along till death like Nursultan Nazarbayev. Fidel senses weakness and lack of spirit in his modernizing equal. He learns from Batista's mistakes. He strikes,utilizing support from some usual suspect elites as well as organized criminals. He wins.
The rest is history.
people to flee to Florida? How bad did it get that a communist revolution happened? Were they eating each other? Zimbabwe-esque famine? Surely the country was going down the drain that a communist was needed to modernize it? Cuba must have been dirt poor compared to United States? Industrial workers probably had zero safety nets? Unions were forbidden? Probably had Laizze Faire fascist hyenas running the show?
None of the above.
A look at Cuba's socioeconomic situation before Castro's take over and comparison to today's United States.
In part 3 I have summarized the political developments of Cuba until Fidel Castro's take over. Now it's time to see what the socio-economic situation was like for the people at large. I hinted that it wasn't really terrible overall (contrary to what a communist revolution might indicate). This makes it all the more troubling that a redistributive revolution occurred.
Now lets summarize a few points for a feel of economic situation right before Fidel Castro takes power. We can see that it wasn't 5% gilded age oligarchs sitting on top of endless poverty like in 1916 Russia. Old theories, that Cuban pre-revolutionary society was economically stagnant, unfair, and/or neo-colonially exploited by US do not hold water. Lets see how it really was in Cuba in the 1950s:
1) A large advanced middle class compared to most of the world and noted by UN
2) 8th highest industrial salary in the world (higher than Denmark, Belgium, France)
4) 1 month paid holiday, 8 hour workday, 9 days sick leave, 6 weeks holiday before and after childbirth
5) Havana fourth most expensive city in the world (Key piece of information) and with more cinemas than New York
6) Third lowest mortality in the world and death rate that fell from 22.4 per 1000 in 1903 to 10.7 per 1000 in 1953
7) Highest rate of education spending in Latin America
8) More doctors per capita than United Kingdom
9) Largest labor union privileges in Latin America with bans on dismissal. Politically powerful labor.
10) GDP per capita equal to Italy and higher than many countries like Japan (admittedly no big achievement since many countries were ruined in the war)
11) 4th highest literacy in the region and higher than in Spain (economy could sometimes not keep up in demand for education ) (Key piece of information)
12) One of the highest ownership rates for radios and cars in the world. 4th highest Latin American consumption of printed media
13) Lowest infant mortality in Latin America.
14) One of five most developed countries in Latin America in terms of agricultural population with only 46% of people living in the countryside (Key piece of information)
15) Key destination country for talented immigrants. Proportionally, a bigger target of emigration than United States
16) Was successfully in the process of diversification from being an export based economy in the 50s. Used high sugar profits to create a stabilization fund to absorb economic shocks and aid in diversification. Tourist industry and non-traditionally exports began to bring substantial money and the economic prospects for growth looked good.
17) Between 1949-1958, Cuba's annual share in average income paid in worker's remuneration (wages, fringe benefits, pensions) was 65% and only behind US, UK, Canada
We see that things on the average national level kept rapidly improving. So why were people of all political stripes so angry? Well, the urban professional class (the industrial workers), still made 1/6 as much as American workers. Cubans oriented themselves on United States. (Key piece of information)
The psychological reasons of reality clashing with expectations explains the discontent of the urban dwellers but not the severity of the criminal looting that arrived from the rural areas.
At this point we know about the Gini index and that the average GDP of a society can be high while income/social disparities are enormous. When a billionaire walks into a poor bar, the average wealth drastically rises. However, considering Cuba had a large solid middle class, we know this was not the case. Cuba definitely had a fatty middle of people with medium incomes to stabilize the social situation.
URBAN/RURAL SPLIT IN CUBA IN 1950s
became much sharper in every category. The rural data presented here refers to rural workers working for third parties rather than peasants who worked for themselves. The urban data refers to professional/industrial workers in 6 provincial capitals with Havana bringing the urban average up.
54% of Cuban people lived in urban areas. That compared to 80% in today's US but US urban description includes sub-urban areas where whites escape supposed inner city rot.
(side note: In the next few decades in United States as:
1) whites flee economically dying cities like Detroit
2) inner cities are reversed with suburbs in terms of where the poor people live 3) rent culture takes over from home owning culture, we can expect to see more of stark contrast develop between city and country in US future as suburbia disappears.)
75% of rural housing in Cuba was classified as either in bad shape or ruinous compared to 30% in urban areas.
24.4% of rural housing was classified as in moderate or acceptable shape compared to 50% in urban areas.
.6% of rural housing was classified as in good shape compared to 20% in urban areas.
Havana and other major cities were noted for high level of land/housing speculation that drove up the prices enormously. Their housing bubble didn't pop before revolution. It was unprofitable for private developers to build in the countryside and government had other more important concerns, like education/healthcare, than building affordable good rural housing.
Cuban society 60 years ago was far less complex technologically than US society in 2009. We all know these days that finishing college/grad school in 2009 is like finishing high school/college in 1960. Same thinking must be applied to 1950s Cuba that was lagging behind 1950s US.
of Cubans who never went to school (1.5 million), 67% lived in rural areas
of Cubans who reached middle school (86,000), 95.3% lived in rural areas
of Cubans who reached high school (88,000), 95.7% lived in rural areas
of Cubans who reached college (1,292), 2.4% lived in rural areas (KEY)
23% of Cubans older than 10 years were functionally illiterate and 46% of these people lived in the countryside. Number of illiterate sharply rose in older adults. We see that vast majority of elites were based in urban areas from which political power flowed and decided national destiny.
did not have enough consciousness to understand and properly express their socio-economic interests. Many of the rural illiterate poor just served as seasonal labor for either agricultural industry or to serve city dwellers in unskilled tasks.
Agricultural sector of 1950s Cuba could be compared to its modern equivalent of food preparation, packing, and working in McDonalds or supermarkets. Those rural Cubans that got some schooling probably had enough consciousness to realize that its very difficult/expensive to live in Havana so they tried to make something of their life in small towns. Illiterate Cubans thought they might as well make some money in the cities even if it means living in suburban slums if necessary.
As American elites increasingly and disproportionately live in urban areas, we can begin to see the political power of urban areas rise dramatically. Serious modernization efforts will then become possible with EU as the role model society. However, as we have seen in Cuba in part 3, even militant rapid modernization efforts can fail to prevent violent redistributive social environment. They might not be fast enough to satisfy the real demand of rural areas or the psychological sense of progress amongst the urban educated. United States also lacks a solid export based way to bring income for modernization.
We see the supply of education not satisfying demand and that is compounded by the illiterate equivalents of modern society having higher birthrates. The birthrate disparity due to modern contraceptive education, provides another difficulty for United States that Cuba did not have (at least to the same degree). Education cannot build upon itself. Even if forceful militant public efforts at providing it (versus the private oligarchic control of supply) are undertaken, it might not be enough. The government is still in only the early stages of assessing the full educational dilemma.
PART 5: Focus on similarities of widening gap between city and country, cultural trends of power elites, and difficulty of modernization.
Conclusion of Cuban analysis to hopefully catch glimpses of socioeconomic future awaiting United States.
Part 4 touched upon rather uncomfortable similarities between pre-revolutionary Cuba and modern United States when it came to educational disparities. Part 1 explored a framework with which to compare evolution of similar societies based on land area they occupy. It hinted that some of the patterns that are about to occur in United States have already occurred in Cuba. What does that mean?
Slavery in United States didn't end on its own after naturally burning out like it did in Brazil and Cuba. In Brazil and Cuba, poor white workers pushed to politically end competition from free labor in their own country. Some large urban capitalist businesses (that relied on more skilled workers) also wanted to eliminate competition from businesses that utilize free labor. A rural capitalist making same product as his urban competitor can increase profits by utilizing slave labor for janitors and construction workers to cut costs. Urban business, for which utilizing slave labor is more difficult if not illegal, cannot effectively compete and thus joins an alliance of poor whites and liberals to end slavery.
The biggest complicating factor for a smoother comparison of US to Cuba is how slavery ended. The above mentioned process never burned out naturally in United States since slavery was ended by Union bayonets rather than by voluntary adherence to local law. This is not to say that Cuba didn't have post-slavery de-facto Jim Crow and social discrimination for many years. It occurred but was milder like in American northeast in the 70s and was helped by large amounts of interracial marriage. The involuntary end of American slavery retarded conditions where poor whites and non-whites can start developing economic post-racial class solidarity and common political interests. As such, many modern uneducated whites still feel more nationally integrated and "American" than their co-equal non-white "other". This allows elites' appeals to nationalism to work better in southern states from which poor white American soldiers disproportionately come from.
History caught up. Now Republican Party will have to become multiracial, redistributive, and in cahoots with empathies of urban liberals in order to survive. As it re-organizes (if it ever does), migration of educated to urban areas will be mostly complete. The sheer concentration of masters and doctorates diplomas in urban areas should start to resemble educational breakdown of Cuban 1950s society. The housing bubble collapse, weakening dollar, and greater competition for declining white collar jobs should speed up the process. By 2020s/2030s, the income divide between the countryside and urban areas will become enormous (that is if authorities manage to prolong capitalist world order a while longer). Many cities will not make it and will be abandoned to continuously shrink like Detroit while others will attract the best talent.
In the first half of the 20th century, Havana had more entertainment for an advanced urban aristocracy such as stripclubs, more hedonistic nightlife, and an amazing cosmopolitan cuisine. That's one of the reasons it became a tourist attraction in an era when plane tourism was dangerous and expensive. However wealthy Americans didn't go to Havana because they could indulge in socially liberating hedonistic gratification at the expensive of poor peasants. They went because they saw the sophisticated urban wealthy educated Cubans at the stage of development which will be reached by wealthy educated Americans in 2020s/2030s and so on (using the model of analysis developed in part 1).
In a way, visiting Americans were able to taste futuristic advanced hedonism of their great grandchildren. That's not saying that the general poverty of the rural Cubans did not create appeal of sex workers and such. Cheaper sex workers and wonderful beaches however exist throughout other Latin American countries and were just a garnish on the Havana steak. Cuban nightlife/entertainment was years more advanced than one that existed in the prudish New York City or Las Vegas. Things that are only now appearing to become more publicly popular amongst children of American rich (such as sexual swinging) happened amongst European wealthy and educated as far back as 19th century and beyond. Cuban urban class (living in 20% of the best housing in the country) was already as "spoiled" (in the eye of Puritan morality) and socially conscious/accepting/tolerant as middle class New Yorkers a generation from now.
United States might be beyond ability to engineer peaceful decline into the 21s century at this point. That is because modernization efforts on the scale needed require:
1) enormous national resources
2) united political center
3) a lot of political capital
4) popular legitimacy
5) solid economic base
and most importantly
6) time and patience over generations
Even then they are potentially very destabilizing. They can create psychological sense that government is incompetent, not doing enough, corrupt (which it will be, Iraq war and bailouts are just appetizers), and too weak to do what is needed. Elite adherence to tradition and constitutional law (so far done relatively successfully in US) gets strained enormously in such an environment.
If technological stop gap measures for education (like advanced Internet learning) are not found, then we are looking at potentially devastating turn of events. We might even see some violence in future years once some elites find out how to exploit the rural discontent and find allies in urban areas. With fertility rates of the uneducated higher, the task becomes more difficult by the day.
allow us to find solutions to manage the national decline peacefully so United States of 2020s and 2030s meaningfully contributes to European economy. Cuban rural population looting the cities, taking over residences left by those fleeing to Florida, and providing education/healthcare for themselves violently under guidance of urban elites (who betrayed their urban educated neighbors out of desire for power) serves as a lesson. It probably wont get to that point in US any time soon or if it does it'll take on a brand new strange form. However we can learn from how an old, progressive, wealthy, and growing American republic with a lot of potential ended up dying. Now instead of having skyscrapers Havana still has cars driven from its golden age of civilization.