Paradoxes of the State

Yenisel Rodriguez

Cuban Folklore

HAVANA TIMES, July 23 — The omnipresent control strategy implemented by the Cuban State presents one with the most perplexing situations.

I don’t think this a question of people’s political naiveté.  One can come to understand the logic of the how the system works but never be able to predict with total accuracy the diversity of ways they can employ the machinery of civil surveillance.

One becomes conscious that any non-orchestrated or independent initiative signifies a threatening action for the government.  Its taking place is seen as being in opposition to the system.

In this vein, it doesn’t take a single soul by surprise that they’ve installed a surveillance camera over the stage where performances are given by Lili, a seal at the National Aquarium.

Imagine yourself invigorated amid of deafening cheers of hundreds of children reveling in the comedy of a sea lion dancing to reggaeton, when suddenly…poof, at a lift of your head, there you spot the all-seeing eyeball of our “Lord of the rings”!

Weeks earlier I visited a workers’ social center in western Havana.  Although it was being prepared to undergo a meticulous and dispassionate inspection, I couldn’t predict what would finally happen.

First, the line to enter the center was not formed in front of the main entrance that identifies this complex as a recreational facility; instead it was located at the rear service entrance, almost beside the Pelota Basque courts, with the entrance through a narrow iron door.  Second, when the moment of the opening arrived, a battalion of security agents began rushing out of this door. They were accompanied by a bureaucrat with a rough voice and look.  All of this just to organize the entry of members?

The bureaucrat directed himself at us ordering, “Everybody in line!” He was a real platoon leader, so we thought.

It seemed like some kind of performance to us, something that —together with the insult produced by the disrespect of our civic rights— could make you die laughing.

As an additional surprise, as I prepared to respond astutely and effusively to this platoon chief’s authoritarianism, he threw me a good-natured look, putting his arm on my shoulder and told me, “Welcome!”

I was absolutely disconcerted.  Here I was: sucker punched when I expected kisses; kissed when I recoiled in defense. In this way, from the duality and ambiguity generated by total or almost total State control, battles are won and lost (luckily for us).

When you mistakenly judge the individual who represents the system, they too lose along with you, because they expose the chinks in their armor.  When what seems outside the structure of control insults you, the government wins – because for a few seconds (minutes, hours, etc.) it becomes hegemonic.

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

2 thoughts on “Paradoxes of the State

  • Hold on, mightn’t this be to protect viewers from pickpocketers? I’m no fan of big brother, but putting a surveillance camera in a crowded, public place is not authoritarianism. It’s not a street, it’s not a school, library or university, it’s an aquarium. In those, where critical expression or free movement is common, I can understand some discomfort at public surveillance. But in a place like a university, state spies have more precise and dangerous tools than a few public cameras. And state spies have better targets than some kids at an aquarium.

    I’m more disturbed by the second story, which sounds like a silly and childish show of machismo. It reminds me of a cuban movie i watched a few days ago called Elpidio Valdes. Specifically, it reminds me of how they depict the Spanish, not the brave Cuban Liberators.

  • Let me point out that the imperialist countries & their puppet states operate by exactly the same logic — except to the extent they do not feel threatened. & they do, more & more today than since perhaps the 1930s. Only the relatively abundant availability of resources allows the basic police-state nature of class-rule here to be obscured. But when the resources are not available — then what happens in impoverished states like yours becomes the norm. Just wait to see much, much more of this in the West in the next period.

    All that aside, I keep repeating — since this very website exists because of the situation — the only solution to the lack of democracy is democracy. So deep-six stalinism ASAP & institute communal councils in cuban society at all levels. This is imperative if you people do not want to see Cuba collapse into some version of Guatemala or Ayiti. You will NOT become a Costa Rica — or a Miami — under the jackboot of capitalist imperialism.

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