14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 February 2021 — They wake up after ten in the morning, the rest of the day passes between standing in lines to buy food, staring at the screens of their cellphones, or sitting in front of some video game console. They are older than 17 and younger than 25, but this February 1st they could not restart their university studies because the rebound of Covid-19 in Havana has prevented it. And freedom from face-to-face studies also saves them from ideological indoctrination sessions.
Karla, Mateo and Jeancarlo are in their first, third and fifth year of technical specialties and humanities in higher education centers in the Cuban capital. Long months have passed since they stopped attending classes, and that is noticeable not only in the quality of their spelling and their silent alarm clocks, which no longer wake them up early, but also in the disconnection from the ideological indoctrination mechanism that until recently marked the passage of their student life.
“I don’t watch anything on the television schedule,” confesses Jeancarlo. “If I don’t have to go to school, I’m not going to torture myself with the news,” argues Karla, while for Mateo it is clear that although there is nostalgia for his fellow students, “it’s a relief not to have to listen to the same political song every day.” All of them have left aside the official indoctrination that, until recently, was an inseparable part of their student lives.
With the November 27th protest in front of the Ministry of Culture and its most recent follow-on, two months after that initial date, it has been shown that political control of the universities is a vital element for the Cuban ruling party. The morning assemblies filled with slogans, the use of students as shock troops in the repudiation rallies, the public acts of supposed revolutionary vindication, and the demonization campaigns against critics that are deployed in the classrooms, all of these activities are “missed.”
Instead, the pandemic has forced a focus on reputation-killing campaigns against independent artists, activists and journalists in the official digital media, on national television and in pro-government social media accounts. The problem is that outside of the obligatory thought mechanisms that are imposed in the University, and with the students confined in their homes, they do not see the official channels.
“Nothing in the world can make me spend my time on that. If something good comes out of this quarantine, it’s not having to pretend so much,” admits Karla. With her friends, they communicate on WhatsApp, they talk about fashion, about new couples who, despite the distancing, have formalized relationships among their group of friends, about the music they are listening to, and the future. “A professor sends us some content via Telegram so we don’t forget entirely how to study, but who would think of reading a political communication there,” she jokes.
A regime that has needed to ideologically control the individual to maintain itself from very early on does not know very well how to act when people are distant, almost inaccessible. The poor attempts to regain that “revolutionary enthusiasm” included the calls to gather in various parks of the country to respond to the protest of the artists in Havana, but the popular rejection of the epidemiological risk that these mobs would represent must have made even the most fervent defenders of the partisan hubbub desist, because they have not been convened again.
In front of a video game screen, on the thread of a courier service, or splayed out on the bedsheets after having stayed up all night watching series and movies, little can be learned about history, grammar or science, but nor do these entertaining sites host ideological excesses. Due to the suspension of classes, these will be the young people who will have the most difficulties in the coming years doing mathematical operations, identifying an artistic style or specifying the date of a medieval battle, but they will also be more impervious to ideology. They have been away from this constant downpour of political indoctrination for too long and have become used to using umbrellas.
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