Soccer and Soap Operas / Yoani Sanchez

Children and teens playing in the street. Photo: Luz Escobar
Children and teens playing in the street. Photo: Luz Escobar

“When the teachers aren’t listening, what do the students in your classroom talk about?” I asked my son a few months ago. He barely paused before answering. “The boys talk about football and the women about telenovelas,” he replied, sure of himself. I confess, I expected more. I had imagined slightly risqué topics like sexuality, or problems such as drug use or, in some cases, political controversies. But no, the long minutes of the breaks between one class and another are dominated by Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and the latest wickedness of the Brazilian soap and its heartthrob who shows his face on the small screen every week.

My first reaction was dismay. “If, at the most rebellious age, this is what they talk about… we’re in bad shape.” But then I stopped myself. I was not going to fall into what older people had warned me of when I was a teenager. “Your generation is lost,” they told me, followed by an enumeration of everything they themselves had accomplished. So, before answering Teo, I tried to understand why the reality of the country, its serious problems and possible solutions, occupy so little time — or none — in our young people’s conversations. Apathy, escapism, indifference… were some explanations. After the initial moment of disappointment, I felt relief. Comforted knowing that even this inertia is a way of bringing the current system to an end.

The Cuban model needs people who applaud wildly, committed soldiers, ideologically convinced individuals. Indolence will never be the soil where rebellion grows, nor will it foster partisan fervor. As I’ve said many times, “I prefer apathy over fanaticism.” From apathy, one can wake up, from fanaticism, I have my doubts. Frivolity is also corrosive to a sober and outdated totalitarianism.

These young people of today, they still have plenty of time for their civic consciousness to awaken.

10 November 2013