Big Brother of George Orwell’s 1984 still lives, and he’s right in our backyard. Yoani Sanchez has documented how Big Brother works through her depiction of the Cuban government in her new book Havana Real.
Cuban repression often takes the form of a group of thugs rather than the organized police. It targets people who are outspoken and harbor anti-regime opinions. Even Sanchez and her friends were kidnapped and beaten because of their blogging and their opposition to the Castro regime.
Sanchez wrote, “How can I describe the despotic faces of those who forced us into that car [or] their visible enjoyment as they beat us.” Bruised and in pain, Yoani and her companions emerged from the kidnapping with emotional and mental wounds. The message is clear: Against us you have no rights; our power is limitless.
Beyond kidnappings, Cubans are frequently imprisoned without warrant:
Over the years, hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned in Cuba for the peaceful expression of their views.… Harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention and criminal prosecutions, all continue to be used to restrict the expression of views critical of the government.
Government regulation of the Internet has severely limited Cubans’ ability to communicate with each other and the outside world. Twitter, Facebook, and even Sanchez’s blog, Generation Y, are blocked by Cuban authorities. Access is highly restricted as well. In Havana, many native Cubans must resort to dressing as tourists or speaking foreign languages just to get past the guards in Internet cafes.
So what does Big Brother want? He wants a cadre of true believers who will run the party, the state, and the army as organs of repression. He wants worker bees who will labor for the glory of the hive. He wants other Cubans to remain apathetic and fatalistic.
As Sanchez notes, “The person who complains or demands his rights is seen as ‘some kind of weirdo.’” Sanchez further observes a general malaise that can be seen through the Cuban choice of language. She says that phrases like “Don’t sweat it,” “You’ll give yourself a heart attack,” “Just ignore it,” and “That’s not going to accomplish anything” are sayings frequently heard in Cuban culture. Reflected in the language of many in Cuba is a worn-out spirit that has lost its will to fight for what truly matters: freedom.
This the way the Castro brothers want it.
Olivia Snow is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. Click here to learn more about interning at Heritage.