Saddened by Uniforms

Kabir Vegas Castellanos

Cuban students. Photo Juan Suárez.

HAVANA TIMES — Largely by personal experiences and also having a grip on how the small world of Cuba works, seeing teenagers in uniforms gives me a mixture of shock and sadness.

I’ve seen my own friends from junior high, and even elementary school, still subject to the struggle for a twelfth grade diploma they will later throw in a drawer. They don’t question whether they are actually learning anything. Not even those studying in a polytechnic school think they are going to work in the field they are learning.

The goal is to tolerate the time remaining in the school: “This is to not have any problems; after graduating my father will put me to work with him.” Even college graduates end up as part of a business unrelated to their careers.

I know many graduates of a technological institute and pre-university, and what are they doing? They go around collecting bets on the “la bolita” [illegal] lottery.

Then there are those who do complete their degrees (and ultimately their lives are not so different from when they were students), there are three options before them:

– Moving up the ladder without scruples, latching on to anyone and destroying others as is necessary
– Making use of certain advantages of their profession and with the help of others with the same scruples, thrive through corruption.
– Or work a lifetime without reaching anything they’ve dreamed of, accumulating resentment and bitterness, knowing that a miserable old age awaits them.

Many criticize me for getting into what doesn’t correspond to someone of my age. When I was in high school the only thing that interested me was to opt for the pre-university and then study computer engineering, or computer technology.

My first choice was computer technology studies and I went to the interview that assessed whether or not they accept you. More than an interview they give you a questionnaire to fill out. One of the questions was whether after graduation you would be willing to be placed in any of these job categories: “Programmer, Designer, Network Administrator and Professor.”

I replied that I was willing to work in all except the professor. Conclusion: I was the only one that showed up from my school that failed the interview. The funny thing is that some people thought the same as me but simply lied, thinking that when the time came they could manage to avoid having to teach.

In my favor was having good grades and I did got into a pre-university, but all this accumulation of events has left me a kind of phobia of uniforms.

In the end they denied me the right to study for not submitting to the rule of military haircuts for males. Likewise the students are constantly blackmailed with things like: if you do not attend the march on May 1st you’ll lose the right to request a career; if you do not participate in as many political activities as occurs to them, and put up as long as seems totally absurd, you’ll be categorized as conflictive and they’ll put a stain on your record.

At that time I only reacted instinctively to what I considered unfair but now, seeing it from a distance, I see so clear that we were never prepared to be good citizens, people with an individual conscience and true knowledge to be applied in a role of our choice in society.

We are just chess pieces, and they place us according to where they need us. It doesn’t matter if we are fit to be queens, its the player who decides if our end is to stay as pawns.

4 thoughts on “Saddened by Uniforms

  • Kabir, one thing I get from your writings is that you are an extraordinarily thinking
    person. That’s good but can make life somewhat difficult as well. I grew up in NYC Roman Catholic and to attend school you needed uniforms, allegiance to dogma’s and attend rally’s. Similar to your environment? Probably not but when you place your head on the pillow at night perhaps. Things seem to be changing in Cuba and I no longer subscribe to the Roman Catholic doctrine’s but they too have changed radically since the decades ago experiences I had. Suggestion is keep your friends close but your enemies closer! We both know that alludes to so meditate a bit more and think a bit less. Good post and stay positive!

  • Away from the tourist spots and the beach, Cubans lead a dreary life. The rations are sufficient for about 18 days and require a payment almost equivalent to the monthly old age pension of 200 pesos ($8 US). The medical professionals are capable, but work in hospitals with broken windows and missing door handles. The concept that the only alternative is to revert to a Battista type goverment lacks credence. There are numerous capitalist countries with excellent socialized medical services, the US is peculiar unto itself. With regard to the revolution, on 2nd January 1959, speaking from the balcony of Santiago de Cuba city hall, Fidel Castro said: “I do not seek power and I will not accept it.” Revolution should be for liberty and freedom of the people. Even the most naive cannot suggest that Cubans have either. Walk the streets of non-tourist parts of Cuba, look at the people sitting around with nothing to do, look at the shacks with the residents trying to sell a few avocados or bananas for 5 pesos, join the people waiting for up to 40 minutes to buy a 200 gm loaf of bread for 5 pesos. Fifty five years later that is the measure of the success of “Socialismo” and the Castro administration.

  • Sorry to burst your bubble, it is similar in the US, worst, college graduates can’t get a job, and contrary to Cuba there is no socialized medicine or food rations.

  • As bad as things are in Cuba, do you think surrendering to U.S. demands and reinstalling capitalism and a government that totally supports the totalitarian and poverty inducing capitalist system would IMPROVE conditions in Cuba ?
    What was the Cuban revolution all about in your opinion ?
    Remember that you cannot reform a capitalist society but you may well still be able to reform Cuba’s systems once the U.S. embargo ends and normal life returns to the island.
    Be careful what you wish for.

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