More and more often you hear “don’t sweat it,” repeated every time anyone tries to challenge what they don’t like. The expressions “you’ll give yourself a heart attack,” “just ignore it,” or “that’s not going to accomplish anything,” appear to hold first place in popular phraseology. A widespread call to inaction, in the name of preserving mental hygiene – which is an illusion – has taken over the ability of Cubans to act.
The one who complains or demands their rights is seen as “some kind of weirdo,” while people hide behind silence for fear of making problems for themselves. Solidarity is scarce if you protest waiting in line, because people fear losing the opportunity to buy something or to acquire a service for which they have waited so long.
Most ironic is that, frequently, the one who prevents you from doing something looks for your complicity and silence. This happened to me recently when I tried to access the internet from the government-owned telephone company (ETESCA) site in Obispo Street and the official told me, “Mommy, you know very well that I cannot let you do that. Don’t give me a bad time but this is for tourists.” The opportune voice of conformity showed up this time in the mouth of a woman who was waiting to pay her telephone bill, “Ahh, my dear, don’t make problems when in the end it’s not going to change anything.”
Among all the calls “not to get upset,” we Cubans have come to believe that cardiac health conflicts with the demand for our rights and that a stroke is the inevitable outcome if you demand good service. I imagine enormous billboards along the highway warning: “Criticizing, insisting and demanding will damage your health.”