“Repetition is the mother of learning,” an old professor of Military Preparation in my high school used to say. He wasn’t, however, referring to the repetition of a phrase in order to learn it, or of a particular mathematical operation to memorize it. In fact, he was referring to punishment, the correction which, according to him, should be insistent to generate respect. So he overwhelmed us with shouts, unnecessary reports and even insults of “slackers” when we didn’t know how to handle a rifle or crawl through the grass. But instead of cementing in us the knowledge he imparted, we all feared and detested him.
This same logic of applying repression over and over again is used by the State Security apparatus every December 10th. On World Human Rights Day we live through 24-hours of clubs and threats. Every year it’s the same thing and a little more, because like all correctives it seeks to paralyze its victims. Arrests, besieged homes and threats delivered ahead of time to the members of the different civic movements are all part of this “ritual of terror.” They’ve also added cutting off cellphone service — with the complicity of the Cubacel company — and sending apocryphal messages to sow confusion among activists.
But the repeated penance isn’t working. The numbers of those who engage in some demonstration for Human Rights are increasing, not declining. The old pedagogy of beatings no longer serves as an example, but rather fans the reasons to speak out. On the other hand, there are people who don’t belong to any critical organization or to any dissident group who are witnessing and taking note of these repressive waves. Witnesses of the moment when some Ladies in White are forced into cars or when an independent journalist’s camera is taken from her. After seeing something like this, you can no longer say you didn’t know, you will no longer be the same.
The repetition of repression only stirs up nonconformity, it doesn’t dampen it. Insistent beatings don’t teach us… because the lesson of meekness is not one we want to learn.