By Amrit

HAVANA TIMES, April 6 — Since I read the post “Guilty until proven innocent,” on several occasions I felt compelled to respond to its author, who posted her thought’s here on this Cuba focused online magazine.

However, firstly for not having Internet access to insert a comment (I receive the articles through e-mails) and secondly because my comment would have been too long, I decided to write this article.

The situation that Danae Suarez described reminded me of a bitter incident that I experienced in the ‘90s out at the Havana airport.  An employee, one of those who have the task of checking travelers’ documents before leaving the island, gestured to me and the friend I was accompanying to come over to him in his booth.

At that time we both were unaware that once we passed through the little door — “abracadabra!” — Cuba had ended and the world had begun.  That space would then be transformed into a living hell.

The official, with his gleaming name tag and the initials MININT [Ministry of the Interior] on his uniform, immediately tried to coerce me into having sex with him.  He claimed that he could accuse us of attempting to leave the country illegally or of being jineteras [prostitutes] simply because we had asked some tourists to carry some letters for our family members in Europe.

My friend was terrified because she had lost her identity card at that same airport.  I, without knowing why, was also afraid, but my sole more or less conscious sense was that it was my fault for being Cuban.  Somehow I felt that this was a crime sufficient to justify that man even trying to grope me, unperturbed by my pleas or tears.

When I — desperate — tried to appeal to another official about what had happened, his response was a mundane “but it’ll only take a minute…then you can leave.”  The first official cynically added that it wasn’t a big deal and that they did it every day.  There were many young women who they could extort with the same threats; it was their way to “liven up” their long 48-hour work shift.

I know that my bewilderment before unexpected situations almost always prevents me from reacting with objectivity, but still today I think that my stupor in the face of that abuse was the sole alternative in my consciousness.  Like most Cubans who don’t have defenders (protective friends or family) among the elite in power, I knew that no one would shield me from those men.

Like all “ordinary” Cubans, I had learned the lesson well concerning my civic powerlessness.

Fortunately, apparently fed up with my non-stop and uncontrolled sobbing, the official made a gesture of annoyance and indicated that we should leave.  Of course we obeyed instantly.

In name of the guilt

The feeling of guilt, of being at fault, has been exploited millennially by almost all the systems of power.  The Catholic Church is attributed with having committed extortion longest (and deepest) in the exercise of the manipulation of thought and the control over individual will.

Totalitarian systems reproduce the same exact scheme.  It doesn’t matter if the flag hoisted is that of communism, whose propositions around equality and justice have dragged down entire nations much more easily than any explicit despotism.

Guilt is established in one’s subconscious and can become well rooted, especially at an early age.  But even as an adult it is easy to establish guilt through the use of terror. This is generally done by publicly punishing someone or openly announcing the consequences of certain actions.  It doesn’t matter if this “warning” is couched with humanism and good intentions, because the true purpose is always control.

Nations as well as individuals mature slowly and through painful experiences.  But to shake off the sense of guilt requires much more than confronting the source of the pain; it requires the lucidity of those who seek the truth, for them to not only to see the mechanism that engages the act of manipulation, but to also resist it.

Guilt can create and sustain a long and vicious inertia that dissolves the consciousness and awareness of what are our rights.  It can be activated in the form of collective hysteria, whereby verbal violence becomes physical violence through an inevitable domino effect (like what happened in Cuba in the “repudiation rallies” in the 1980s).

In cases of rape, especially of children, the majority of offenders escape the consequences of their crimes for many years, as the victims require that time to process their experiences, precisely because the memories of this are embedded and silenced in inexplicable feelings of guilt.

Civil unawareness is a lethargy that needs the experience of some partial victory to stretch its muscles.  One needs to “see to believe” because an often-repeated lie can distort our sense of reality.  But to live the most sincerely possible helps to reposition roles and concepts, because the values that are sustained in the functioning of the world are universal; arbitrary laws are only established with the consent of citizens.  To practice unawareness is a form of consent.

I believe that Cuba is waking up from its long sleep.  I think that we are increasingly seeing the objects defined, that the colors are so strong they hurt our eyes.  I detect this in very key questions that I hear posed at random on the street, at the bus stop and in the bus by people of any ages.

In the alternative movement teeming across the island, we find expanding artistic, scientific and social initiatives that are defending autonomous existence and discovering (in cyberspace and in physical space) the weakness of bureaucracy, censorship and this false sense of guilt.


One thought on “The Cuban People’s Guilt

  • June 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm
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    Amrit, did you get the officer’s name? Did you consider reporting this criminal behavior? All involved should be held accountable or this just grows. If you didn’t was is just the sense of guilt or shame that stopped you? Or were you afraid and believed you wouldn’t be believed.

    While I can understand all of these possibilities, I do urge all those mistreated or assaulted to fight back in the best way possible.

    In my trips in and out of Cuba, I have only encountered two incidents of corruption – and being an older white guy, no one would want to proposition me. In the US I was threatened by a US customs agent who insisted I must have secret notes or illegal items from Cuba. I didn’t and told him all my writings were in Spanish and my notes were in my head. The dimwit gave up finally.

    One time only, leaving Cuba a customs agent saw that my bag was overweight and indicated he wanted a substantial sum to let it pass. I was pissed not only at his corruption, but that he did it in front of another agent. I asked him how much over and what was the penalty. He got a bit irritated and said whatever you wish. So I gave him $5 thinking it was a bargain and made him look a bit silly. He got back at me by flagging my bag for inspection, which I almost missed hearing over the PA system. However, the 3 agents who inspected my bag in front of me were all quite proper and it did make sense to see what was all that weight and electrical stuff anyway! I had meant to give away a quantity of extra batteries and had a printer and other photographic equipment. Nothing was taken and I was on my way home.

    My point is, I didn’t go through what you experienced, but I hope any government agent who missuses their power and responsibility gets caught.

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