The Concept of Property

Veronica Vega

Photo: John Haffner

HAVANA TIMES — When I was a little girl, I would accompany my mother to go and visit her younger brother, my uncle, at a unit where he was doing his military service.

The linear buildings, the inhospitable environment, the crowd of bodies in uniform, hair shaven so they were almost bald, seeing my uncle thinner and with a somber expression, all had a huge impact on me.

Years later, life forced me to experience this firsthand. It was only then that I understood what that expression on my uncle’s face was: stupor, maladjustment, sadness.

I visited the psychiatric wards where boys who reject this kind of legal kidnapping and forced containment, without a military vocation or ideological conviction, end up.

I especially remember a young man from Pinar del Rio who had tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrists. When his time was up at the hospital and an official from his unit came to collect him, he had to put on the same bloodstained uniform.

He seemed so downhearted that I hugged him as if he were my son. He mumbled that he was going to escape into the mountains if he wasn’t discharged.

I met a young, well-built man in that same room, who had tried to shoot himself. When I asked him why he had done it, he replied that he couldn’t bear the claustrophobic feeling any more. He looked like he had grown up in a marginalized environment, trained in social coarseness; however, he broke when he suddenly lost his autonomy.

There was also a young man with a personality disorder and a long history of depression. A young man who could have been a model but cut himself 45 times in the arm in a fit of rage when his superior gave an arbitrary order. Another young man who lived in the country’s East, who was caught hanging himself and would have died a couple of seconds later had they not found him.

Photo Luciano Guerendiain

Once I was back on the street, I watched people stunned; mothers with male babies in their arms, or sleeping peacefully in their laps and I thought: “They don’t know that one day their having given birth and this and blood relationship will mean nothing and their instinctive anguish will clash against the impassivity of walls, regulations, with tradition’s indifferent voracity.

It will clash against the inertia which sets things out of convenience or panic; for an alleged security. And on the basis of preventing something far worse (unthinkable, unmentionable), they will ask their children: “Adapt”. Bear it, pretend. Let them destroy your identity, judgement, individual will. Kill this useless, embarrassing hindrance called sensitivity.

The young people I met inside those white walls, with barred windows to stop them from jumping into an abyss, were assessed using complex tests which try to rule out “disabling illnesses” and reinsert them into the same environment which had broken their lives, but with some adjustments. Unappealable decisions come from the higher level, which doesn’t deal with lives but figures that uphold the economy.

Have they survived? I find myself asking sometimes. Those who have managed to do so, did so at the price of renouncing values like respect, honesty, transparency. Faith in humankind and society.

All of them felt a heaviness upon them which left them paralyzed. Officials, and psychiatrists even, told them over and over again: “For two years, you’re State property.”

9 thoughts on “The Concept of Property

  • Thank you for your insightful article. I recently visited Cuba and have been curious to find out more about it’s people than what I was told by the tourist industry.

  • I think Chris is over the top even by government propaganda standards!!

  • I have to repeat a view I have expressed in the past in these pages. The Havana Times is about Cuba, not about providing disgruntled Americans with opportunity to vent their spleen about the faults errors and omissions of their own country. We who are not Americans grow weary of it.
    If jon keller you think that Cuba is preferable to the US, then move there! If on the other hand your purpose is to deplore your own country, please do so in a more appropriate site.
    As Michael Whitaker touchingly described the article by Ms. Vega, it was profoundly moving and insightful. That was because it was describing actual personal experience.
    Re-read it jon!

  • Here’s some more US bashing.
    There are 100,000’s of homeless here. Many are veterans. They commit suicide frequently. There were some 60,000 opioid deaths last year. Opioid and alcohol deaths are less in states with medicinal and/or recreational marijuana use. The police murder a Black person every 28 hrs on average. Especially if they are holding a cell phone!

  • 90% of the incarcerated in the US are falsely convicted? Really? How do you know this? Please provide your source. As an African-American man, I know the system is unfair but 90% seems to be on the high side. The anti-US bashing on HT is raging the week. Seems that the Castro propaganda trolls are focused on this blog. You can always tell them by their over-the-top comments and their generic names like…Chris.

  • Wow, Chris, sounds like you need a hug. Spoiler alert: All evil does NOT begin in the US. New iPhones yes, but evil no. You can also thank Property Owners and Real Estate Developers for providing safe, affordable,clean, and updated housing. This means that buildings don’t fall down and kill people after it rains….like they do every few weeks in Havana.

  • Psychiatric wards he in the u.s. are big business. Just about every hospital has one. You can very easily get placed in one for complaining about the smallest problem caused by a doctor. The police use them to entrap women into sex slavery. And the doctors who work in concert with pharmacuetical companies highly encourage enlistment of new patients from the police all across the u.s. for the sake of getting people hooked on prescription drugs and to basically ruin people’s lives. I could go on. Not too much different from the u.s. prison system. And if you know that the u.s. has the highest prison population in the world, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to imagine the high numbers of people that get involuntarily placed in these places when really nine out of ten times they don’t belong there.

  • Here in the u.s., where all evil begins, people get evicted from their homes by the thousands on a daily basis because the rents are so unaffordable. You can thank property owners and real estate developers for this.

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