I didn’t manage to see, during the exhibition of German cinema, the controversial film, The Wave. A few days later, however, I rented a copy with subtitles in Spanish through the underground distribution network. We watched it at home with some friends and our debate continues to this day because there are too many coincidences in it for us to consider it pure chance.
Many of the elements that the movie shows as characteristic of an autocracy don’t surprise me. I was a uniformed Pioneer—in the end I’m glad, because I only had one change of clothes from the school uniform of a red skirt and white blouse—and every day I repeated that gesture that, compared with the undulating arm of The Wave, seemed like a game of delicate children. My hand was tensed and with all the fingers united I saluted at my temple while promising to be like an Argentinean who’d died fifteen years earlier. That military salute was pointed at my head like a weapon, a kind of self-threat that I was forced to perform with, “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che.”
I also believed I had been born on a chosen Island, under a superior social system, guided by the best possible leaders. Those who ruled us weren’t “Aryan”, but they were self-titled “revolutionaries” and this seemed to be a more evolved state—the highest rung—of human development. I learned to march, I dragged myself to interminable classes on military preparation and knew how to use an AK before turning fifteen. Meanwhile, the nationalistic slogans we shouted tried to hide the exodus of my friends and our dependence on the East.
But our autocracy produced unexpected results, far from fanaticism or veneration. Instead of stern-faced soldiers, it bred apathy, indifference, people with masks, rafters, infidels, and young people fascinated by material goods. It also had its pack of the intolerant who formed the Rapid Response Brigades, but the feeling of belonging to a collective project that would be a lesson to the world faded like the false essence of a cheap perfume. Nevertheless, the autocrats remained with us, professor Wenger continued standing in front of the classroom shouting and demanding that we get up from our chairs over and over.
Ours is not an experiment that lasts a week, nor one that involves a few students in a classroom. Our current situation is that of being caught in The Wave, swallowed and drowned by it, without ever being able to touch the beach.