Caught in the wave


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.

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14 thoughts on “Caught in the wave

  1. ” 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 how is that any different to what little kids in capitalism do? DO you know that in many countries a religious “education” is obligatory and kids, in their black skirts and white shirts are forced to sing the praise to an official “god” and cry “In god we trust” even if they do not believe in it? ANd They are told that they live in a superior social system too. Yet, today we can see clearly that capitalism was even greater illusion nad a plain farce, given the speed with which it is falling apart. And every capitalist government is doing the “socialist thing” to save their faltering economies.

    If a capitalism were any good it would have never had a crisis, yet it has one every 5-7 years. And if it were that good, it would not have to use now socialist economy theory and practice to salvage what little is left to salvage.

    Dissidents and people like you are just a different brand of people. Who like what others have, and think other people’s success is from the sky and “we just have to do what they do and we’ll be great”.

    Such a cry-baby attitude is only destructive. Nothing good can ever come out of it.

    “he feeling of belonging to a collective project that would be a lesson to the world faded like the false essence of a cheap perfume.” Another example of pure capitalist-style propaganda that has no reflection in reality. Cuba is a symbol of independence and desire to be different. To be unique. Only a disgruntled and never happy individual who has never seen the utopia that s/he talks about can come up with such a nebulose.

    As Goethe said in Faust, “Travel my friend, travel to see and understand the world. And learn. Who knows, maybe one day you wil even understand something.”

    You my dear blogging lady, certainly have much to learn about world, before you decide to comment on it, even when it is your own home you are talking about it. Just because you live in a house, it doesn’t mean that you know anything about it.

  2. A man said in a video “People & Power – Cyber Cuba”, “Majority of Cubans have never seen a Declaration of Human Rights. If that helps on one in the world did. Bevcause it does not exist. A Charter of Human Rights is a document that 90% of people in the whole world have never seen and probably even heard of. As an argument in favour of “freedom of speech” it is a poor and an ignorant argument. Ignorance is prevalent among dissidents in many countries around the world. Especially among the right-leaning dissidents. I liked the man in the red shirt, bioengineer selling home-made sweets on the street. He did recognise that returning to capitalism would be the end of Cuba. First the independence, then the pride, and slowly the whole country would simply disappear into the hands of foreigners who have more money than local population. And then Cubans would be free to complain forever about how they have sold their souls and their land to foreigners, yet they did not really want to do that…

    I only have to look at ex Jugoslav republics, which were 15 years ago economically and freedom-wise in a much, much better position that Cuba today. But today foreigners own the country, the governments are involved in international crime (Croatian prime minister resigned under the pressure of Germany and Austria, among others for his direct involvement in money laundering of muslim Albanian mafia) to see where will Cuban dissidents, in their passionate but misplaced “freedom-fighting” fever, take Cuba tomorrow. For a fistful of dollars, the country will fall back into the hands of capitalist hyenas who have destroyed even their own countries for money.

    Thisty percent of USA people live below poverty in one of the richest country in the world, the USA, 5% of people control 95% of the money. THAT is the price of “freedom of speech”. Between the freedom to say whatever I want and free schools and medical security I vote for the latter two. The rest is just a farce because in capitalism, you can say whatever you want but you get killed anonimously on the street for it.

    But, how would Cuban “freedom-fighters” even know that when they believe what they read on the internet…They would need to go and live a little in that “freedom” to see how bad it really is, before they start appreciating their own, no matter how little that may seem right now.

    There is no turning back. You would all do better to look at how to improve the current system, not how to get rid of it. Because what is awaiting Cubans, should you choose to change, is much worse than you think. Knowing our Jugoslav dissidents, I think Cuban “freedom-fighters” know that but choose to continue with their “protest” because they are just another bunch of incompetent and ignorant dissatisfied whiners…

  3. In uniform all day,learning how to operate an AK before my age,and basically saying or pledging your allegiance to a government that never really bothered with it’s people,unwillingly.Now i’m starting to understand the difference between Pakistan & Cuba.

  4. What a pitiful existence the youth in Cuba lives.
    No aspiration but to own a Pituza and some Nike’s, The New man that Fidel has Created a society full of Cowards, My admiration goes to the Iranian Youth And The Honduran People that won’t take the Bullsh** from their Caudillo Want to be.

  5. Answers to Post No. 9

    “The more you persist in your comments the less you are going to get me in your side”

    Ans: I’m not necessarily trying to bring you on to my side. Only you can bring you on to whatever side you choose. On the other hand, I’m trying to bring and provide exposure to others who may be unsure about the situation in Honduras, perhaps by listening to mindless, and extreme right wing radio stations, and think it legitimate to arrest, expel and depose a legally elected president, just because it provides some kind of instant gratification, instead of thinking of the long term consequences.

    “Get the facts straight. I don’t know why you are bringing Batista into this exchange”

    Ans: Batista is a good case study, close to home, of how a lesser thug, can provoke and bring on an extreme reaction, which opens up the doors to incredibly vicious and psychopathic dictators.

    “This is not a question, If Zelaya violated the Constitution. He did and I have the right to express my opinion on the subject as any one else.”

    Ans: Of course you have the right to opine on whether Zelaya violated the constitution or not. My point is that only the Honduras court has the right to opine and make it binding, and they did not do it ahead of the arrest and coup.

    “Of course you are “Dreadming” when you expect the Honduran Court to decide if what Zelaya’s is doing is unconstitutional, being President, he probably have enough power to control the Court in his favor, like his friend in Venezuela has done”

    Ans: Actually, it appears that the Honduran Congress, the Courts, the military, even his own party and the majority of the people all wanted Zelaya out. So it shouldn’t take much courage for politicians to throw him out.
    The situation in Venezuela is different. Yes, the regime has taken advantage of the system to appoint his own Judges, and amend the constitution. But I’ve talked to a number of Venezuelans, and even thought the Ape is still in power, they still enjoy considerable freedoms, and free elections. I’m hopeful he’ll be thrown out of office when the next election comes around.

    “When you mention Italy and Great Britain you are talking about established democracies not Latin America, where the strong’s always try to impose their will”

    Ans: Why shouldn’t Latin America become established now, just like those other countries. The people of these countries all have the same concerns to varying degrees, – i.e. corruption, unemployment, etc.

    There hasn’t been any new ironclad dictator in at least fifteen or twenty years in Latin America, why start now. As much as we dislike the leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, they were all democratically elected and will face elections down the road.

    Statue of Liberty, your namesake carries a lot of responsibility, including standing for the rights of all, not just those that agree with us.

  6. Regarding your comment #3, I already replied to you under “Thugs & caudillos” however you seems to be persistent and I can’t help but to give you the same answer as before.

    “The more you persist in your comments the less you are going to get me in your side.

    Get the facts straight. I don’t know why you are bringing Batista into this exchange.

    Let’s examine your previous statement: “As far as Zelaya, if he violated the constitution that is not for us to judge. That is up to the courts in Honduras which is charged with interpreting the constitutionality of what the president does. If what he did is unconstitutional, he should be tried period.”

    This is not a question, If Zelaya violated the Constitution. He did and I have the right to express my opinion on the subject as any one else.

    Of course you are “Dreadming” when you expect the Honduran Court to decide if what Zelaya’s is doing is unconstitutional, being President, he probably have enough power to control the Court in his favor, like his friend in Venezuela has done.

    When you mention Italy and Great Britain you are talking about established democracies not Latin America, were the strong’s always try to impose their will.

    I know both of us are against totalitarian regimes but you and I have different ways of dealing with thugs like Zelaya, Ortega and Chávez.

  7. Sandokan:

    There is joke related with the slogan.

    A drunken guy was passing by the school, when suddenly, he heard the slogan very loud (screamed by the kids):

    “Pioneers for Communism!!!!! we will be like Che”.

    Then, the drunken guy asked to himself:

    “ASTHMATIC ???????”,,,,,,,what a crazy idea!!!!!!

    Candido

  8. Che Guevara: The Fish Die by the Mouth

    Quotation: Cuban schoolchildren begin their classes each day with the following slogan of indoctrination: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che.” They will be then the new men; fanatics, liars, assassins and failed men, reaching the total realization of being like Che. Hatred to the enemies of the revolution is inculcated to the children in scholastic age. This quote of José Martí condemns hatred: “The haters should be declared traitors to the Republic. Hatred does not construct”

    A great article, very concise and at the same time comprehensive. A lot has been written about Che, but I hadn’t see a compilation such complete and effective like this article.

    Link: http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y09/enero09/23_O_3.html

  9. Candido
    Julio 7th, 2009 at 12:40

    Well done Honduras!!!!!,,,there is a point where the people have to decide, taking to the left or to the right,,,, there is not any other choice, because if you stay in the middle, then, the best example during more than 50 years has been CUBA!!!!!

    Honduras has been under Zelaya’s Government for several years, then, Honduras people, has been able to see that the way for Honduras’s Government was right to be a Communist System or whatever you wan to call it,,,,,,but, there is not doubts that Zelaya was sucking Chavez boots, licking his hands and following the indications and expertise of the Cuba’s Government.

    Then, it will be better to get one big “eruption” just in a few days than to get thousand of little eruptions for so many years!!!!.

    At the end, just Jesus Christ was the only one who put his cheek over and over,,,,without protest,,,and what happened?,,,he was crucified!!!,,,that is why Honduras now, is doing exactly the right thing, after been debating, getting agreements, etc, etc, to reject the bad policy of Zelaya.

    That’s it,,,well done Honduras I wish Cuba would have done the same thing 50 years ago,,,just God knows how much suffering would have been avoided!!!!!

    Candido

  10. It is hard to understand the mind set of people bred in another culture. I like to think I have lived among them and married into them enough to have at least a little understanding of it. These people have grown up in tyrany and have adverse reactions when it rears its ugly head. I believe they had tried to reason with Zelaya and he ignored their council. I believe they were just trying to avoid bloodshed and a uprising. For although Zelaya´s follow is small in comparison to the population of Honduras, much harm can happen. Many of these people know only oppression of the poor. If you are born poor you will always be poor, that is why they either give up trying or they fight with all their might. I say all that for this. They just want the chance for FREEDOM and HOPE. They need our encourgement not our critizism. Leave these people alone and let them handle their problem their own way. Give them the voice they deserve and hope for a better future. They chose Freedom over tyrany and they chose it so that there would not be a revolution with much bloodshed. If they had waited any longer, in 4-10 years there would be a revolution with much bloodshed and they chose to avoid that. Venzuelans may one day revolt, right now they seem too afraid, even their words are being silenced by the government closing and taking over radio stations. Cháves dangles a little meat in front of them to appease them for a while. I am hopeful that the Cubans may get one with less bloodshed as their leaders die off after such a long rule, but who knows for sure. Cuban-Americans are great planners so we shall see. The Chinese may never have a chance, I feel so bad for them. And in Iran they try so hard, but religion seems to stop any progress there. I hope and pray that Pres. Obama does not get the opportunity with the Youth Brigades that he hopes for in October. It sounds too much like Hitler´s Youth Brigades for my comfort. I hope that Germany will not let us forget what happened to them. I hate it when History repeats itself, it is like we are to depraved to learn from our mistakes. I am afraid that our FREEDOM OF SPEECH might be compromized in the guise of Racism and Terrorism. And I am neither, as my family and friends are a mix of Races and Religions. My God bless the Honduran people for choosing Freedom with their voice and hearts. I pray that it works out, I know many Hondurans personally and over the internet and I would love to visit their beautiful country.

  11. It’s great to have such a good writer like Yoani put events into perspective, to clearly show the ideocy and ignorance of these, childlike brothers, constantly making errors and having the population pay the consequences. Since they themselves don’t hurt nearly as much, they repeat each mistake as often as they feel like it.

    This is what happens when incompetent leaders, who don’t even recognize or have awareness of their own ignorance, start making economic and political decisions. What compounds the problem is that they are unable or distrustful of hiring expert advisors who excel in their fields. Just like children who don’t want to hear bad news or be admonished by their teachers or parents.

    That’s why I cringe when the military takes power in any country, as they know nothing of the complexities of running a country – as in the case of Venezuela – and only bring unintended consequences, violence and misery.

    I can only hope that the Castro agents who read this blog, use their superior human brain to recognize the reality of this regime, and have the courage, even if privately at first, to abandon these old, nasty, decease ridden dynosaurs. for the good of their children and family.

  12. Cold in Chicago
    Julio 6th, 2009 at 21:58

    Statue of Liberty:

    I’ve been away, but here we go in answer to the earlier post, and speaking of unintended consequences:

    Ok, so if we follow your logic, it was Ok for Batista to commit a coup in 1952 because he and his thugs thought that Prio was going to continue in power and not allow free elections. Following Batista’s coup, other parties and many in the population, disgusted at what took place, now looked for a new leader, anybody, as long as he is against Batista and promises villas in the clouds. And where does that lead…. I don’t think I have to tell you.

    As far as Zelaya, if he violated the constitution, that is not for us to judge. That is up to the courts in Honduras which is charged with interpreting the constitutionality of what the president does. If what he did is unconstitutional, he should be tried period. This is the twenty first century, not 1952. We all should stick to the rule of law, and accept who the people elect. We can then protest, take them to court, run for office next time around, or do what you peacefully and lawfully have to do to defeat the elected official if he is not liked. Otherwise, it’s going to be the law of the jungle again in Latin America. The picaros, thiefs, self-serving thugs will take over.

    As I said earlier, I don’t like some of the leaders you mention any more than you do. But their term will run out, and the people can decide who they want. Again, I’m not necessarily for Zelaya staying in power, but I do advocate his lawful removal if found guilty.

    By the way, what do you mean about “dreaming”. This is not a dream, this is done the world over in many democratic countries. Prime ministers, presidents, etc. are periodically and lawfully removed on a regular basis. I recommend reading up on what is happening in Italy, Great Britain, where the prime ministers are hanging by a thread, and may be replaced in short order. No dreams here, just trying and advocating, so as to prevent thugs from unlawfully taking over. If on the other hand you are suggesting that Latin Americans are somehow handicapped and not able evolve to have a system where the rule of law is respected by all, then you should back up that position. I’d love to hear your explanation.

  13. Excellent article! Having grown up in the United States, I could only read about life inside Cuba and other Soviet satellite nations. For me, it’s thrilling to connect in a more direct fashion (through the internet), with the Cuban experience. Thanks Yoani!

  14. “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.”

    Very well said this is the law of unintended consequences. The things our little human minds can’t grasp on the complexity of life. If you push on one place a balloon it may bulge at some other unpredictable place. That’s exactly what happen in societies like Cuba. They make choices some very bad choices and they get the consequences but they are never accountable for their actions since we can’t criticized them because if you do they call you a traitor!
    So they will never recognized errors.
    Remember hearing multiple times about rectification of errors in Cuba.
    They seem to be stuck in phases or periods as they called
    “the period of rectification of errors in the construction of socialism”
    “the special period” etc
    does anyone remember more?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unintended_consequence

    One day they may push the old balloon too hard and it will blow up!
    this will happen inevitably because with so many prohibitions life always find
    a way. Cubans will find ways to do all the prohibited sins.
    So we who have been there know that the “new society and most perfect system” they intent to have is a Mirage. Is all propaganda.

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