Yesterday I came across this article in the Gainseville Times, which was written by a Gainseville resident, Frank Norton Jr. The son of an American father and a Cuban mother, Norton decided to take a trip down to Cuba with a United Methodist mission team to provide assistance to fellow Methodists on the island as well as to experience firsthand the Cuban side of his heritage.
The opening paragraphs of Norton’s article do an excellent job of articulating the reality of life in Cuba.
Today the people of Cuba are living under a form of the Stockholm Syndrome: Smiling contentedly, living day to day on the government babble and the food dole.
Just as kidnappers shape the long-term victim’s relationship with the captor, Cuban leadership has used starvation, deprivation and indoctrination, to forge an alliance with its citizens. Any thought of running away is buried deep in the dark recesses of the victims’ mind.
Today, the Cuban people have lost all personal freedom, lost all personal property and now occupy government-owned, rotting, worn-out buildings that are crumbling around them. There is no pride of ownership, little pride of country; the communist government has taken much of this away from the once thriving Garden of Eden. Alas, poor Babylon.
The rest of his article, which I recommend all of you to read, details his observations of the misery and the oppression that make up the daily lives of every Cuban on the island. By keeping the Cuban people constantly in search of food, clothing, and shelter, they are left with little time and energy to worry about things such as freedom, and luxuries such as toilet paper.
However, I would like to go back to the author’s initial observation and more to the point, his use of the term “Stockholm Syndrome.”
I believe Norton is correct in surmising that Cubans on the island do suffer from a syndrome similar to Stockholm Syndrome, but the differences between the syndrome suffered by Cubans and the classic Stockholm syndrome are too great. The Cuban version of the syndrome does not produce within the captives an empathy for the cause of their captor. It may produce allegiance to a person or an ideology, but that comes more from the ever-seductive point of a gun than some psychological syndrome.
There is another, and very important difference in the Cuban version of the syndrome in which it not only affects those who are being held captive, but also those who are not within the grasp of the captors. In fact, this syndrome, which we can call the “Castro Syndrome,” seems to be more effective and more prevalent amongst those who are not captives of the Cuban regime than the captives themselves.
What I found most interesting about Frank Norton’s article is that after he was able to recognize how the Castro Syndrome seems to keep the Cuban people in check and downtrodden by using starvation and deprivation as weapons, it is apparent that he himself unwittingly fell victim to it. During the last part of his article he detailed some of his observations of life in Cuba and had this to say regarding the US embargo.
The embargo: Our days passed and our opinion of the anti-Castro embargo has changed. It does not hurt Castro or his oblivious government; it hurts the children, old men and women and everyone in between.
Cubans have become adaptable, compliant and resilient. Everyone seems well fed but at the same time starving for basic needs: toilet paper, toothpaste, medicine, clothes, light bulbs, meat and eggs. Despite the great minds in Washington, Cubans will not rise up from within and overthrow Castro. They are too beaten down, unknowing, too tired to overthrow anyone.
After Mr. Norton spent a good amount of time detailing how the Castro regime controls every aspect of life on the island, he suddenly deviates from that narrative and proclaims that it is the embargo, and not the vile regime who starves and deprives the Cuban people. The Castro Syndrome seemingly produces in Mr. Norton a belief that it is the US embargo and not the Cuban dictatorship that is denying the Cuban people “toilet paper, toothpaste, medicine, clothes, light bulbs, meat and eggs.”
Toilet paper, toothpaste, medicine, clothes, light bulbs, meat, and eggs are produced all over the world, not just in the US, and there is no reason to believe Mr. Norton is not aware of this fact. And there is also no reason to believe that he is not aware of the fact that the regime either produces or purchases all of these items from the rest of the world. But this sudden shift in blame for the misery of the Cuban people from the regime to the US embargo is a classic symptom of the Castro Syndrome, which apparently has now afflicted Mr. Norton.
In Cuba there is no shortage of food, or medicine, or any other basic necessity; what exists is a massive shortage of Cubans who have access to those items. None of the elites in Cuba are short of food or medicine. There is not one European or Canadian tourist in Cuba who has to wipe their bottom with a page from Granma or troll through dumpsters to find some food to feed their children. The foreign currency stores are replete with every food item and luxury item imaginable. The only thing keeping the people of Cuba from these items is the regime.
I am sure that Mr. Norton had good intentions with his visit to Cuba and his subsequent article, and this post was not written with the intention of belittling his experience. However, it is only fair that Mr. Norton be made aware that in his quest to diagnose what ails the Cuban people, he unknowingly became a victim of the Castro Syndrome himself.