Victims of Repression, Those Who Deny it Won’t Come Out Unharmed

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

On the corner. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Repression is horrible, inhumane and makes us slaves. It inflicts fear and pain on its victims, but it also degrades the person who gives rise to it, in a direct or indirect way.

I feel repressed; my wife, my family. I have colleagues, friends and acquaintances who feel repressed. Excellent people who suffer, sometimes for no reason whatsoever. At least not for any ethical or legally justifiable reason.

NO, we aren’t confused. We know very well what repression is. We experience it on a daily basis. The car that stopped in front of my house is now suspicious. Or the stranger who has been hanging out on the street corner for a while now. We aren’t criminals. Maybe, we are too honorable.

Yes, it’s true they haven’t pulled out our nails with pliers. They haven’t chopped off our testicles. They haven’t put our heads in buckets of water. It isn’t extreme and visible torture that they make us suffer. It would be very uncouth and dirty for our assassins’ “redeeming” image. It’s another kind of repression, more sophisticated, intelligent and effective. And better yet, it doesn’t leave any marks, you can deny it.

Repression in this context “is the act of repressing a political or social protest with violence.” Violence “is the use of force to achieve an outcome, especially to dominate someone or impose something.” It can be physically put into practise, or via persuasion and threats.

There is physical and psychological violence; both kinds of repression exist. And psychological repression is the worst and most effective kind.

I used to think that I could understand and judge opinions about repression before. I didn’t get it then. You don’t get it until you are on the receiving end. Only now can I see the dark side of the moon. And I am aware that what I receive is just a pittance compared to what others have to suffer. So many others!

Of course, I am no hero or martyr, I know that. Nor do I want to be. I just want to be a citizen. Although being a citizen in Cuba, or even attempting to be one, is almost like a heroic feat in itself. Personal suicide. Social shunning.

The police, who were public protectors up until yesterday, now appear as the enemy. A potential enemy. If they approach you, your body reacts. It didn’t use to. Your hands shake, your heartbeat speeds up. They pass you by, good!, it wasn’t a repressor. Not this time.

The body reacts, it’s inevitable. Feeling afraid is part of being a human. And I want to be a human. Being brave and resisting repression with your head held high, but still afraid. Without losing my humanity. Being useful without being a merciless hero. I’m more afraid of that than repression. I’m afraid that this might mean I have to lose my humanity.

It isn’t baseless paranoia. Repression exists. We are all victims to it but very few of us feel it. Only those of us who step over the line. The line that separates modern slave robots, the indoctrinated, collectivized serf and the miserly accomplice, from decent citizens. From the man or woman who demands to be free.

Stepping over that line heals the mind, but it makes your body sick. Strange and painful reactions as a result of repression sweep over us. It’s like living in a lion’s cage. And if your beautiful country were to suddenly become a dark and dangerous forest.

Having your own ideas or ideas that differ from the government’s in Cuba is a crime, or at least is treated like one, which is the same thing. Being a journalist is my crime and the crime of my colleagues. Being an artist or painter or a business person or politician is also a crime, if you don’t drag your feet along, if you don’t lower your head and if you don’t close your eyes.

Me being a journalist has meant that my mother suffers, as if she were climbing into the abyss without a safety rope. Now, she would prefer it if I was further away, on the other side of the sea. She used to beg me to stay close so that she could see me, touch me, kiss her grandchildren, in spite of all the shortages. “This is what’s really valuable in life,” she told me. She doesn’t say that to me anymore.

Repression nipped that bud of desire. She wants me to be far away, not from her kisses, but from my persecutors. Yep, the same ones who seemed to be heroes yesterday. Do you see why I don’t want to be a hero now? No more heroes, we just need citizens.

My mother knows I am honest. My neighbors know this. Everybody knows. And they have seen them treat me like a criminal, arresting me twice, my hands cuffed, locking me up with real thieves. Without visits, phone calls, a lawyer, rights.

They searched my home and took away my things, I’m not allowed to leave the country. They call me a mercenary and someone on Imperialism’s payroll; when I am only guided by my own ideas; as I can’t be bought. And I’m just a journalist.

Does anybody else want to be a citizen? Does someone still not understand why our people seem submissive or satisfied? Does anybody doubt the power of repression?

Repression exists, and it works for them, but it also pulls them down a notch. This is their Achilles’ heel.