HAVANA TIMES — Due to my inability to access the Internet, I had to read the comments and post titled “Controversy Around the Word ‘Terror’” in fragments and late. Still, I was left with the same questions turning around in my mind:
Can fear be measured? What authority can demarcate where fear ends and terror begins?
It’s understood that there are circumstantial definitions, such as delineating the terror exercised by paramilitary troops (clearly visible) or drug traffickers, especially so as not to create confusion when this is read by people who associate the term with another context.
But is the view of the majority always the required reference?
I can’t help but to wonder how this applies to the case of Cubans. For example, if a citizen publicly opposes the government and is violently suppressed, this violence doesn’t qualify as “terror” only because it’s not massive? In any case, the standard for the policy of terror was the masses themselves, which didn’t support the protester.
On the other hand, only this “exercise of terror” has the ability to intercept any contagion and transmute discontent into rumors that very soon dissolve, with the current of time.
I insist that a government sustained by fear is a system of potential terror. And although there are different degrees of terror, they all start from the same source and have the same goal.
It is claimed that control begins with education, which is affected through the indoctrination of still virgin minds into which are implanted a pattern that is reproduced: obedience to the state, to the leader, to the controller – like a pet obeying the commanding voice of its master.
But this training cannot be implemented without the cooperation (even unconsciously) of previous generations. To this is added to the inertia of obedience out of faith, effervescence, imitation… and also by the direct experience of terror, or a reference to it.
The monster beneath the silence
The theory of “morphogenetic fields,” demonstrated with conclusive experiments, suggests that within every entity of the universe — be it a particle or a galaxy, a protozoan or a human being — there is a link operating at a sub-quantum level, allowing information to be instantly transmitted without any spatial effects.
For example: an action that an animal species, for specific reasons of survival, incorporates into its learning in an area of the Earth is immediately assimilated by members of the same species elsewhere on the planet.
According to that theory, a cow that goes into a slaughterhouse, even without it having seen any sacrifice, senses its death through the death experiences of other cattle. The people who lead them can palpably feel their change of attitude, their terror, their resistance.
I base this premise on a personal anecdote that I can share here. In the 90s, during the height of the Special Period crisis, I met two Mexicans who picked me up hitchhiking. Along the way, they asked me all sorts of social and political questions about Cuba, to which I freely said what I thought. I didn’t feel the slightest fear.
For some reason, those tourists first had to stop by the house where they were staying. I remember I wanted to go to the bathroom, but I waited in the living room for them to come out and return to the car. There, looking at the size of the house, sparsely furnished, breathing an atmosphere that I defined in my mind as unusual, and in a heavy silence… I was absolutely certain that these people were from the political police and that I was trapped because of everything I had said.
I remember the terror I felt, an absolutely irrational and paralyzing feeling. I began to cry, with tremors and spasms. At that very moment the two tourists returned to resume the journey. You can imagine their faces of surprise and fright to find me in such a trance.
Yet, they didn’t think I was ridiculous for the misunderstanding. In fact, they didn’t convince me that it was a misunderstanding. And for the rest of the trip they had to appeal to several reasons for me to calm down before dropping me off and heading on their way, quite struck with the enormous fear we Cubans have.
I remember that for a long time, whenever I would think back to that incident, I would ask myself why I had reacted that way. How had that fear been born in me?
I don’t remember anyone directly telling me in my childhood or my adolescence that I couldn’t criticize the government. In my family there were never any political activists; no one even had a record of being a common criminal. Nor did I have any neighbors, friends or acquaintances who told me about any experiences with the repression of dissidents.
But I found out in the 80’s when those people who wanted to leave the country were “repudiated.” The limits of this repudiation were diffuse, with there even having been cases of people being beaten. Anonymous, unforeseen, uncontrollable. It was something terrifying. And in that rarefied atmosphere, where reason and sense of entitlement are displaced by panic, people (like my own family) took care to carefully hide any intention of wanting to emigrate.
Only years later I learned of one instance (an uncle of my son’s father) was actually killed in one of such beatings (anonymous, unpunished) while trying to leave for the airport.
Now if the mere willingness to emigrate could cost that, just think what the price would be for opposing the government. I think from those first “exercises” against anything that smelled of sympathy with the Batista dictatorship (dubious and arbitrary, like any catalyst mass hysteria), the purifying fire of the UMAP work camps, or cultural “parameterization,” these actions had set the tone by activating paranoia which would sustain itself for a long time. This cleared the path.
To complete and affirm this process, together with the totalitarian control of the state institutions and companies and the media, a system of mutual surveillance was set up along with a structure for material compensation for political loyalty.
In addition to every citizen being subjected to a convoluted bureaucracy in order to leave and return to the island, the landscape became splattered with towering billboards, for example, that dictated (and still do) “Socialism or Death.”
Though this seems to be a psychological device aimed at displacing negative thoughts, it invokes just the opposite. Fear is created instead of “courage.” How much damage has been done to us by those grim, sinister and gruesome phrases?
They are subliminal warnings of punishment, examples of an iconography of terror that replaced nature and art, and this was the aura in which we grew up.
Meanwhile, among whispers or silence, or flowing through the ignored morphogenetic dimension, the experience of alienated horror continued traveling, planting itself in the subconscious of Cubans and there, in the dark, it became the monster that paralyzes us.
Another interesting twist to the controversy was contributed by fellow Havana Times writer Osmel Almaguer when he commented “Could it be that instead of speaking of terror we should refer to our own cowardice?”
But I wonder: where does cowardice come from except from fear? From that same fear that was implanted and inoculated.
When my son was little, one time I discovered that he had hidden a broken toy. Why did he hide it if, as he told me later, he had accidentally broken it? It was because he was afraid. Apparently, on some previous occasion I had blown up out of anger over his inadvertent clumsiness, so out of self-preservation this led him to lie by omitting information to avoid punishment.
That shocked me so much that from then on I tried to do everything to show all the trust possible so that, at least with me, he wouldn’t feel himself having to cower in the shadow of absolute and punitive power.
I think fear comes from an intentional distortion of reality. Governments, whether controlled by religious or political leaders, create the illusion that they are the only objective authority, an arbitrary authority that inexorably expiates or rewards.
The consciousness of God (which has nothing to do with religion because it’s an individual and transferable experience, and it’s impossible to condition with human laws) helps people to dismantle the myth of this power and, of course, its moral force.
However, a system in which the citizen has no opportunity to exercise their civil initiative will find their will atrophied and will reaffirm the illusion that power resides outside the individual.
According to Gandhi, not only is time needed but also taking of concrete actions and the experiencing of partial successes for individuals to regain the consciousness of their own power.
I don’t know how much time it will take for Cubans to understand this and mush less for the majority to go from understanding, to expressing and acting. But I believe that, little by little, people will prefer to opt for changes here before continuing to cooperate with so many forms of masks that never provide real happiness.
Otherwise they will have to decide to confront the official terror (implicit) instead of challenging that other terror, the sea, the one of chance, hazards and sharks… choices that to me also require tremendous courage.