The triumph or defeat before the system, in two fictional stories:


Winston Smith was at room 101, it is the place where the torturer will use his fears to convert him to the Big Brother doctrine. “Rats,” Winston feared, “I can’t stand rats …” as the man of the party approaches, precisely, with a small cage occupied by the creatures. As Winston is shown, the cage is going to cover his face and allow rodents to feast on the meat from his lips and eyelids …

This is the situation in which Orwell puts his protagonist from the novel 1984. The purpose of the party’s torturers is that Winston betrays his accomplice, the woman with whom he has had a romance prohibited by the regime and prays that it is she, instead of him, who bears the torment of rats. If Winston surrenders and gives away the woman that he has loved … there will be nothing left of self-respect, nothing to rebel; Winston will have lost his humanity and will never again trust that there is something outside that regime that dresses, feeds and indoctrinates him. Winston will be a man defeated by the system.

In another fictional story there is a similar message: when Eve’s character is subjected to imprisonment in a dungeon, by an anonymous and masked rebel who calls himself “V” as “Vendetta”; she believes that he has been imprisoned by the fascist government that reigns a futuristic version of London, a regime she thought she had adapted enough to accommodate. There she was, however, facing a terrible sentence due to an unfortunate coincidence with “V”. The rigors of the wet stone, hunger and confinement, are breaking the will of Eve, who continually cries.

After a few days, she begins to receive handwritten notes from an alleged cellmate, who tells her about her imprisonment for the crime of being gay. Eve follows the chronology of events: the romance and commitment she felt for her partner, the rejection of the system and the way she faced execution, savoring the pleasant memory of having consummated her love. It is in the solidarity that Eve builds with this partner, and in her story of intimacy and affirmation, without remorse, when a transformation takes place in the character’s attitude. She feels that she is ready to be finished by her captors, she no longer fears for her life, but for losing the human warmth that she has shared with her unknown companion, her accomplice of destiny. It is at that moment, that the bars opens and Eve can leave the prison of lies that had been elaborated for her.

Winston, Eve and multiple protagonists of stories and heroes of our history, have faced the dilemma of humanity itself. The system requires you to report a conscientious objector, even when you have sympathy for the person; or the policeman, who warns you about that friend with political ideas, who can bring you problems; or the officer who invites you to repudiate a critic of the system, to become part of the group that boasts of moral supremacy; or the one who tells you to invite those other who do not subscribe to one or another political slogan, to leave the country, as if the ideas occupy that space where they no longer fit together. Every system of domination tries to eliminate us as self-worthy, critical and independent subjects, to control ourselves as fearful addicts of our little privileges and comforts.

There is only one way of affirmation and resistance: always act to make yourself more dignified and human. And do never accept less

Text originally posted in Spanish at my personal Blog:

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  1. “A man defeated by the system”. Isn’t it the purpose of every totalitarian regime? I think you answered that question yourself at the end. “Every system of domination tries to eliminate us as self-worthy, critical and independent subjects, to control ourselves as fearful addicts of our little privileges and comforts.”. Well said… and you’re right, we should keep fighting, defending our dignity as humans. And never accept less.

  2. Thank you Laura, indeed! its something I have learn after having to deal with a totalitarian Cuba and its people: always look for those little things that the system wants you to give up, most of all, your own solidarity with others and your own humanity. I believe its a simple principle that every progressive should keep very close.