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Erasmo Calzadilla: My parents named me Erasmo 34 year ago, when I was planted in a neighborhood of retired military personnel situated toward the southern city limits of Havana. I don’t know why, but I’m impassioned with thought, philosophy, art, science, friendship and music; in short, everything good that has stirred the passions of humans, nature, and God – or whoever was the creator. Actually I graduated in pharmacy, but I work as a professor at institutions that believe in me and are welcoming. It is important to highlight that I also hold a well-defined political position: I am a bitter opponent of those who are bossy, abusive, and imposing, those who believe they hold the truth, etc., independent of their attire. To them, I occasionally dedicate a few angry words.

Making Us Feel Like Kids

April 10, 2012 | Print Print |

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES, April 10 — This title is my answer to the question of what the police are seeking when they stop us and ask us for our personal documents while on the busiest streets in town?

Sustaining a system like this one requires and seeks the indefinite extension of the psychological stage of childhood. Indeed, many things are set up in this society so as to ensure this effect.

It’s so organic that it doesn’t seem to depend on anyone, but I suspect there’s an intelligence behind it all, one which is also organic.

It’s great that we all have free health care, right? But it comes accompanied by alienation in that people lose track of how their work pays for those health care services, and they then begin looking at it as a gift from Daddy State.

And if to this is added the impersonal treatment that is generally provided by physicians, with a few exceptions, then the circle becomes complete.

Nothing is more effective for diminishing dignity and taking us back to the infantile stage than some impersonal stranger, being paid by someone else, rifling through every nook and cranny of our being for “our own good.”

Free and generalized education for Cubans is another powerful tool to convert the nation into a giant childcare center and to perpetuate this condition in which the individual doesn’t rebel against their loving parents. Instead, they virtually require that these adults use a hard hand on them once in a while.
What we have is an educational system in which children are no more than patients in a process of indoctrination that doesn’t even end at the university level.

From my point of view, the official government program known as “The Formation of Values” isn’t the most harmful, because (almost) nobody believes in it.

What’s worse is that teachers widely resort to verbal abuse (yelling and using harsh words) to maintain order in the classroom. There’s nothing worse for diminishing dignity that shouting.

I know many Latin Americans who are delighted that there are no children beggars in the streets of Cuba — and rightly so — but something terrible is happening behind the walls of schools.

But I’ve gone off the track; I have wanted to talk about the police and their carding people on the street. On the main streets (which are full of cameras and guards) there’s always a group of these uniformed officers asking pedestrians (respectfully, to complete the full effect) for their identification documents, to search their bags etc.

Of course they’re not doing any actual law enforcement or public safety work per se. Their real role is, in my view, to psychologically engender a sense of vulnerability, a sense that at any time they can arrest you and take you into the station. “Arrest and jail”: Isn’t that exactly what’s done with children?

If you behave well, you won’t suffer the worst consequences. The other day a friend came out of police station with a fine, but there remains embedded in him and in us around him a certainty and a macabre sense.

It’s a feeling that while Daddy may pick me up off the floor and scold me harshly whenever he wants, but deep down he cares for me and is protecting me.

That’s something more intelligent and more “human” than tear gas grenades or high-pressure water cannons – don’t you think?


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    One evening after sunset while walking up La Rampa (Calle 23) near Calle M with a female Cuban friend of mine who happens to be a criminal lawyer in Havana, a policemen overheard my accented Spanish and immediately knew that I was a foreigner. At least that is what I believe. No surprise then, he beckoned my Cuban friend to stop and present identification documents. My Cuban friend stopped and in a tone of authority, asked the policeman if he was aware that according the Cuban law (she cited the precise statute), police are required to have probable cause to ask for identification, and moreover, if the policeman was only asking for the Carne de Identidad because he overheard my foreign accent. If this was so, this too was in violation of Cuban law which permitted association with tourists. Let me tell you, this mouth-breathing guajiro stood there a long 3 seconds, then muttered something about being sorry to have bothered us, saluted and turned on his heel and went the other way. Moral of the story, Cuban cops get away with this disrespectful practice because Cuban citizens let them.

  • Dianna

    @ Moses,

    Wow. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Michael N. Landis

    While THEORETICALLY in agreement with you, I’ve always found it better IN PRACTICE to be totally subservient to an officer of the law–or at least feign ignorance! A few years ago, for example, I was riding a Greyhound bus when, in the middle of the night, at a rest stop in Salisbury, Maryland, a half-dozen Maryland State Troopers made everyone get off the bus, while they roughly searched everyone’s luggage, even those of 80 year-old black grandmothers. I COULD have remonstrated with them about the unconstitutionaligy of their warrantless search. On quick reflection, however, I realized that such remonstrances would most likely lead to unpleasant, nay even unappetizing, consequences; hence it was “Yes, Sir! ” “You’re absolutely right, Officer!” etc. Another time, I was stopped by a policeman who asked me: “Why did I just stop you?” Although I knew the cause, I just feigned ignorance. He informed me one of my headlights was out, and after suitably feigning surprise, he sent me on my way with a mere warning to get it fixed within a week! On the other hand, there are those occasional instances when rebellion breaks out, especially when there is chance of success. A few years ago when a local cop tried to pull me over at a speed trap, when I observed he was outside, and at some distance, from his patrol car, I suddenly “floored” it. Seeing him running in my rear-view mirror (but not very fast, since he was even chubbier than me) I turned off on a dirt road a half-mile north, thus making a successful escape! What a feeling of satisfaction!