If George Orwell were alive today, he would be snickering at Cuba’s growing decline in population. He might even tweet out a simple “serves you right” aimed at anyone who has supported Cuba’s Communist government over the past five decades or so. It turns out that Cuba and the author’s classic dystopian novel, “1984,” have one specific thing in common: fewer children.
Unlike the totalitarian world of Orwell’s “1984,” there’s no Junior Anti-Sex League in Cuba that’s keeping people from procreating, but there’s also no stigma surrounding abortions, either. And, as the New York Times reported today, people are so poor, they can barely support themselves, much less a baby. The average state salary is just $20 a month. Yes, $20 a month.
Cuba’s citizens have been more or less impoverished since Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution of 1959. After Castro came into power, he staged mass purges (executions) of teachers, journalists and anyone else who supported the previous leader, Fulgencio Batista. It’s the side-effects of Communism that Orwell warned folks about with his book, published in 1949. But surely no one knew the political shift would cause Cuba’s birth rate to plummet.
It has been falling ever since the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, when Castro allowed thousands to flee Cuba. Now, with America’s change in political heart regarding Cuba, youths are leaving the island, hoping they can become naturalized US citizens before any policy changes occur.
According to the Times, sociologists predict that 50 years from now, a third of Cuba’s population will be gone. Although the country has a life expectancy comparable to that of the US and other first-world nations, more than 40 percent of Cuba will be older than 60 by that time.
Trying to fix the issue, Cuba’s government (led by Castro’s brother, Raul) has started a pro-pregnancy campaign and may even try to coax their expatriate population back home (yeah, good luck). Still, bringing more babies into such poverty won’t help anyone.
What will make a difference is family planning, mentioned Hazel Denton, an economist and student of Cuban demographics. Denton told the Times that a properly educated woman will have more choices than simply denying pregnancy. Instead, they can finish school, marry at an older age and have kids when they are ready.
This is the type of society Orwell was promoting with “1984” — a society of choice. Although Cuba’s citizens fell victim to the worst aspects of Communism, their government seems willing to rectify its past mistakes. Hopefully, then, Cubans will realize that the path to change starts with children.