Kabir Vega Castellanos
HAVANA TIMES — Submissiveness is something that I’ve been aware of in Cuba ever since elementary school, my first social milieu. There was a teacher who was treating us abusively, and while he was out of the room all of us agreed to speak our minds to him. Nevertheless, when the time came, I was the only one who was willing to act.
In middle and high school, it was exactly the same. We all spoke terribly about the teachers; we complained, planned to rebel, but in the end the only thing that everybody turned out to be in full agreement with was to give up.
Several friends have recently been telling appalling stories about their experiences in military service: the oppressive atmosphere, the hunger, the degrading treatment and the general discontent of the young men who are drafted against their will.
Those that can’t stand it opt for extreme solutions like fleeing, which is also useless, self-harm or even suicide.
Comparing the testimonies of those who are now undergoing this experience with that of friends who went through it years ago, it’s evident that there have been some minimal changes, although we don’t know if it’s because of these same cases or due to complaints that reached a higher or further ear.
Nonetheless, as far as organized protests are concerned, I don’t know of anybody who has heard of such a thing. One acquaintance told me how the level of discontent in his unit was such that it seemed impossible to contain. They talked about rebelling, and even came up with some strategies, but at the crucial moment, they melted into cowardice. The most that happened was to see the energy deflected into jokes.
Perhaps one of the strangest examples is that of the state salaries. Everybody – no exceptions – complains and suffers day by day because they aren’t enough to live on even for a week, not to mention a month. But the same people continue on at the same jobs, waiting for a retirement in which the only thing guaranteed them is every kind of neediness in their old age.
Maybe this is just one more detail about how the human mind works in this world, or perhaps it’s a tendency specific to this society where one of the first things you learn is to accept everything that doesn’t work and with which you really don’t agree.
Nevertheless, I still can’t understand how those affected by a situation could decide to do absolutely nothing to try and change it.