The relationship between capitalism and communism is something I have studied in history class since the ninth grade. The inherent struggle between the selfishness that fuels accomplishment and the sense of community that prevents such gains has always permeated my courses in some way or another, from examining the Soviet Union to Communist China. Yet as much as I had believed I understood the differences between the two political and economic systems on paper and how I fit into both of them, my conceptions were shattered after merely a three week stay in one of the few remaining truly Communist nations in the world today, Cuba.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Everyone in Holguin seems to have what they need to live, and no one really seems worried about that changing. Although most people are living in comparative poverty, they still have a fantastic health care system and one of the premier education systems in the world. I was astounded by the amount of all-around educated people I met, from civil engineers to world-class musicians, all living modestly and working for the betterment not of their own status, but for their country. We saw these people everywhere, from the beaches of Hibara and Guadalavaca to the streets of Santiago. That form of selflessness is so rarely seen in American culture, especially in fields that traditionally make a lot of money, like in medicine. I was inspired by people’s desires to not just be successful for their own benefit, but for the betterment of their community and country.
Yet for all the aspects of active communism that seemed to benefit the people, there were a few glaring issues that I was informed of and witnessed myself. In a system where no matter what kind of work you do, you receive payment, people tend to take advantage, as I was told by an older church-going Cuban man. He told me that many people do not fulfill their weekly work quotas, and overall have no desire nor incentive to work hard, as there is no way for them to really reap the benefits of their work. If they do not go to work, their boss doesn’t care either, as he also still receives money. Competition as far as the business world goes, is non existent. For example, our group went to a hotel in the city to swim and relax for the day, only to find that the service was awful, the pool was dirty, and it was overcrowded. Naturally we were puzzled at first, but we came to realize that this was the consequence when it was the only hotel for a thirty mile radius. Without competition as an incentive, like in capitalism, there is apparently no reason to work harder than the next person, save for national pride.
Clearly both systems have their pitfalls and their benefits, yet the only way to truly work towards a better society is to not segregate the ideals in both systems from one another. The stark contrast in why people are motivated to achieve between Cuban and American cultures is illustrative of my own reasons for wanting to be successful. I want to not only influence the way people perceive their worlds across the globe, but also to work to benefit those close to me as well as my society as a whole. Seeing both ideals in practice, in my eyes, the only way to truly work to accomplish both betterment of oneself and ones society, both the opportunities and competition provided by capitalism and the selfless work ethic emphasized in communism must be blended together.
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