My Civil Defense Professor

Daisy Valera
Daisy Valera

All Cuban Universities require students to take philosophy, political economy and civil defense whether you are studying for degrees in the arts or the sciences. The names of the classes would have us suppose that students would receive some very useful knowledge for the world they will be entering as future workers in a socialist society. Unfortunately it’s not so.

Since I’m in the fourth year of my career, I’ve already taken philosophy and political economy. Now it’s time to take civil defense, a subject meant to prepare us to act in times of disaster.  A few weeks ago the new professor for this subject arrived. He’s new in our center, having transferred here from the University of Information Sciences (UCI). He’s a retired military officer of about 60, a member of the Cuban Communist Party.

The professor manages to annoy me three times a week.  He acts like someone who is not only new to our center but also to Cuba. My nine classmates and I have to put up with military tirades related to our good image and hairstyles, as well as expressions that clarify: “I’m the boss around here and anyone who disagrees will perish.” Added to this are threats to suspend anyone who is undisciplined.

Civil defense seems to be going down the path of my previous required classes, economy and philosophy. It’s of little use to me. I believe that many of us Cubans have ceased to believe in a future attack from the United States. We can’t help but see this as a form of paranoia that tires our ears more each day and pushes aside much more important issues.

If these unconvincing arguments represent an introduction to the subject, no wonder we consider it unnecessary because it hasn’t been adjusted to reality.

Our best class was the first one, although we had to listen to the notion that the salary in Cuba is perfectly adequate to live on, since the professor earns 1,000 pesos (US $40.00) and is doing fine. It seems that he is unaware that in Cuba almost nobody makes that amount.

Still, what was good about that first day was that he let us talk about national and international news, and everyone became enthusiastic, as talking about the news led us to debate issues among ourselves. But the answers that this professor gave to our questions were obsolete. Cuban youth, many of whom are university students, can recognize the achievements of the Revolution, but we have grown tired of words like “resist” and “wait.”

My civil defense professor believes that it’s necessary to be led without ever worrying about who is leading. He defends bureaucracy, which is a problem in Cuba. He also believes that Stalin was the genius who saved Russia, without ever having discovered that he was the main proponent of the bureaucracy that destroyed socialism in the USSR.

We never talked again about Cuba in our classes. Our professor says that we can’t “waste time” because we have to get through the course, which is tied to a syllabus that was created a ton of years ago. The last classes are about wind speeds during a hurricane.

With professors of this type the youth of a country can’t get ahead. They form part of a mechanism that strengthens the machinery of immobility in Cuba, doesn’t stimulate debate, and doesn’t offer accurate answers. It seems that my professor is also unaware that there can be no civil defense if a people don’t achieve a real cohesion of their different ideas.