By Yordan Rey
HAVANA TIMES — Walking through Old Havana, I saw a target practice booth, something which is traditional here in Cuba ever since times of “the war of all the people” in the ‘60s.
These booths, and prizes, have been on the decline over the years with the country’s economic crisis. Those which survive are frequented by people who just enjoy going to shoot a few rounds.
Now, what really caught my attention was that everyone I saw practicing with those guns were children.
“All Cubans must know how to shoot… and well.” -Raul Castro
This is the motto that decorated the booth.
“A bullet put in the right place is worth more than any peaceful protest,” Ernesto Che Guevara used to say, the role model who is flaunted in schools. “Pioneers for communism, we shall be like Che.” “Guerrillero, live in peace, guerrillero, in freedom… make peace with war,” “Move ahead, Cubans… as we are soldiers who are going to free our homeland, clearing the way with fire,” “Cuba, Cuba, study, work, rifle”… are all things which Cuban children are made to sing ever since the Revolution triumphed.
Military Preparation is a compulsory subject on the national curriculum. Military service is compulsory even for teenagers who naturally reject violence. Psychological traumas and even suicides are common.
We have compulsory National Defense Days, Fighting People’s Marches, military parades, 26th July celebrations (a national “holiday” in spite of the fact that so many young Cubans were killed that day) and the whole military paraphernalia which we don’t even recognize, out of habit.
If we were a country at war, this fervor would be justified, but, where’s the war? Who are our enemies?
Why are so many generations being trained to kill while we call ourselves “peace loving” at the same time? Why is there so much propaganda for violence in games, songs, photos, TV series?
Isn’t it enough that we have military schools and the armed forces?
“They don’t even carry weapons, just some sticks.” These were Cristobal Colon’s words when he first came into contact with our Taino ancestors in 1492.
Taino means “good”. This proves, whether it’s with memes* or genes, that we are a people who lean towards pacifism and nonviolence, more so than what one might think. However, we are taught that we are a people of historic violence, of revolutions (the Bayamo fire, independence wars). Do we not have any other history that isn’t warring?
It’s been verified that everything we consume is information, that it becomes part of our lives, thoughts and actions in some way or another. People talk about responsible diets, pesticides and GM foods, and how these can affect us on a personal and global level, but, nothing has been said or taught enough about the effects of consuming violence from a very young age.
A few days ago, the government press published an article about how several cats had appeared mutilated, hanging from trees. Any child in Havana can see religious offerings in the form of decapitated turtles, rams and fowl, which have been killed in the most savage way, in the city’s streets. At least as parents we must have the right to choose what kind of doctrine is being instilled in our children. As least as humans we must have the right to demand that this kind of propaganda which attacks most people’s sensitivity must stop.
In every society, there are levels of violence and cruelty, especially in marginal sectors, but… in a literate society created by a Socialist Revolution, where the “new man” is supposed to be born? In a country whose late historic leader, Fidel Castro, received the Olive Branch of Peace Award in 2011 from the World Peace Council for “being an example of the constant struggle for peaceful coexistence between nations”?
“The only way humanity can free itself from violence is by practicing nonviolence,” Gandhi said.
The Cuba that our children will inherit is a country on the brink of war, on a war alert, hysteric, neurotic, fearful… all of this in the name of peace.
*In theories about cultural diffusion, a meme is a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another or from one generation to the next. (Wikipedia)