Symbolic Violence in Anti-Cuba Politics

By Omar Olazabal Rodriguez on May 20, 2020

I have found no other way to define the current permanent attacks against our reality and our people than to turn to Pierre Bourdieu and his concept of ‘symbolic violence’. The famous French sociologist managed to explain it in a masterly way, the schemes of acting, thinking and feeling in accordance with social position. These schemes, which arose in a pre-capitalist stage, are definitively evident in developed capitalist societies, and gain greater force in those more closely related to imperialist action.

The inflaming of some attitudes is closely linked to the directives emanating from the political and economic power. Something that was usual in the 90s, when many were rejoicing about the hardships of our people due to the Special Period crisis, was returning with greater restlessness since 2018 when the policies of the Trump Administration marked a total distancing from the steps taken by Barak Obama at the end of his mandate.

On February 4 the journalist Gisela Salomon of AFP, in an article reproduced in the Chicago Tribune, wondered if intolerance had returned, in the cultural sphere, to Florida, “Since he assumed power in January 2017, Trump has again imposed sanctions and restrictions demanded by the most conservative sectors of the Cuban exile community in Miami, a small but influential group in local politics and coveted by politicians who seek their votes”. The Miami city legislature, meanwhile, passed a resolution in 2019 asking the Congress to end cultural exchange with artists from Cuba. “We’re back in the Cold War,” said Andy Gomez, a political analyst and former director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies. He added that much of the offensive against Cuban artists was related to the 2020 elections, both locally and nationally.

Physical and economic violence is then accompanied by a more subtle, but no less explicit form. It translates into calls to continue drowning our country in sanctions, disguising the harangues with a promised bright end for a people, no matter what the consequences. Behind these calls there is a well thought out scheme to maintain a permanent presence in the public arena, which, in addition to coinciding with the airs and graces blowing from the Trumpista government, allows for the retaking of positions of power to a certain extent lost a few years ago. It may seem to be a disorganized movement, but it cannot hide its similarities when they come together in some steps they have taken, whether they are “protests” or supposed attempts at “aid”, another of the forms described by Bourdieu behind which the demonstrations of symbolic capital and violence are hidden.

New alliances are created in the light of the times. These links, which are translated into the use of social networks and accompanying streaming, can bring together companies and people who are far from each other in their economic action radius, in such a way that some finance and others propagate. In the end, they take over the new ways of communication. And in doing so they exercise that symbolic violence to which the French sociologist refers. Either you thank me and I don’t attack you, or I lead you to the loss of what you have gained. It reminds me of Bush’s famous phrase in 2002: “You are either with me or against me”.

In the face of these realities, those who see no other way to subsist than by bowing down to the new and not so new masters, resort to the posturing of champions of the struggle against socialism in any of its forms, as publicly dictated by Washington policy. In this subsistence to whatever it gives, the limit of sanity is lost to offend and make the Cuban people seem like a meek flock. Disrespect for everything that emanates from our history is a daily matter. The past was better, they shout. In 60 years nothing has been done, only destroyed, they claim.

The worst thing is that the language is getting more and more toned as November approaches. With that injected conviction that it will not change anything in the coming elections, they continue to take up space. Behind that rush is also some underlying fear. If things don’t go as planned, at least they will have taken advantage of the spaces and encouragement they received to gain more money and presence. This is the logic of symbolic capital, which leads to the exercise of this violence, also symbolic, in its concept of defense of symbols.

It is more difficult for these characters to see, helplessly, how an organized country has been carrying out a strategy in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic, which is based, above all, on the defense of human life. Finding no way to deny a visible example, which crosses borders, they then move towards continuous attack and, most violently, mockery. Because there is no more cruel way to exercise violence than to make fun of shortcomings. And on that same cart are those who, in the midst of a world situation like the present one, have forgotten that only human solidarity will save the world. Taking advantage of this moment to attack a system that defends life, places them as models of the “identity depreciation of social groups” to which another French sociologist, Philippe Braud, referred, because they lose the compass of how to act in a moment of human definitions.

To the extent of their own intellectual capacities, which many lacks, the language of their symbolic violence is defined.  The less that capacity, the more violent the diatribe. Some openly call for the death of all communists and offend those of us who defend socialism with dirty words. Others, perhaps having received an education in our country, use it to demean Cuban achievements, perhaps embittered by not being able to stop saying that they are graduates of our schools and universities. But in the end, it is violence. One less symbolic than the other. But its intrigue is the same: if to end an example you have to destroy all those who live in it, go ahead. If Bourdieu called victims those who take refuge in symbolic violence, then we could define that these supposed “victims” are convinced of another role in their identity disorientation: that of victimizers.

Let us understand then that the verbal aggressors, in their eagerness to show loyalty and achieve survival, submissively accept the proposed violence and claim the role of spokespersons for the offense and the smear campaigns. No matter where they are or what their job is, by repeating over and over again the induced concepts, they become conscious victims of a system that received them and demands infinite obedience. They are instruments handled by another higher power. Bourdieu perhaps did not think about them concretely in his moment of creative splendor. And many will be offended when this concept is applied to them, but I think the best way to define them is that. It’s like my grandmother used to say: Let them cook in their own juices.

Source: El Ciervo Herido, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau