November 01, 2006

Cult Of Personality

Living Colour. Here's the video. Not my favorite tune by them (for example Broken Hearts, Broken Hearts [acoustic], What's Your Favorite Color?, Open Letter To A Landlord, Funny Vibe & Love Rears Its Ugly Head get more play on my music engine) but it is a good example of what they're capable of, & generally I dig their sound cause they're a damn good band.

Without going into too much detail (I am psuedononymous after all) I was someplace doing non-gun nut things & saw a very pretty woman. I viewed her from the back & side at an angle & could tell she was very attractive. She also looked a little lost & I was almost contemplating walking up to her & striking up a conversation (or attempting to). Then she turned around & after I noticed her smile what I saw disgusted me so much I gave up any notion of communicating with her. It wasn't her face or body or the way she styled her hair; she had a t-shirt on with a pic of Hitler. & it was not a satirical thing at all; it seems she admired him.

Now y'all are with me right? It'd be a waste of time to approach her when her "hero" is such a polar opposite of anyone I'd respect. The correct thing to do would be to simply shun her right?

But it wasn't Hitler on her t-shirt. It was another mass murderer who was not as talented at his craft (but was just as brutal) as Hitler. The face on the shirt belonged to Che Guevara.

Paul Berman penned an article entitled The Cult of Che; Don't Applaud the Motorcycle Diaries.

Now why on earth would young people who seem reasonably intelligent wear a shirt featuring "The Butcher of la Cabaña"? Well it's something like the principle expressed in one of my favorite Reagan quotes:

"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."

What they see in that two-bit wanna-be thug isn't the petty tyrant who used force to impose his vision on his (& other) people. What they see is a man of vision who saw the oppression of capitalism & risked all to fight against it. They see the Time article which grants him the martyr status he always wanted. (you can find it here cause I'll be damned if I hotlink that piece of journalistic tripe )

They remember this:

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality."

& not this:

"The great lesson of the guerrillas' invincibility is taking hold among the masses of the dispossessed. The galvanization of the national spirit; the preparation for more difficult tasks, for resistance to more violent repression. Hate as a factor in the struggle, intransigent hatred for the enemy that takes one beyond the natural limitations of a human being and converts one into an effective, violent, selective, cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be like that; a people without hate cannot triumph over a brutal enemy."

Or this:

"I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: 'Yank it off, boy, what does it matter.' I did so and his possessions were now mine." * Diary entry from Sierra Maestra on the shooting of fellow Eutimio Guerra which he suspected of passing on information (1957)

(All Guevara quotes are from the Wikipedia entry)

Guevara would have been as bad as Hitler or Stalin or Mao if he'd been any good at what he was trying to do. But he was a punk. A brutal punk to be sure but he failed. When he was killed ("murdered" as The Times article puts it) he was trying to get his revolution on in Bolivia. Now according to the Berman article linked above he hadn't been able to recruit any of those Bolivian peasants he was allegedly fighting for.

As Alex Singleton put it:

"...It always seemed odd to me that people wanted to associate themselves with someone they knew so little about. In reality, supporting Che was just about making a statement - of sticking it to companies, America and the West.

Making Che Guevara into someone worthy of admiration is the most successful thing the 'Left' has managed to do in the past fifty years. This is the man who had no shame in murdering innocent civilians, was a major human rights violator, and put gays (who were 'deviants'), religious minorities and other undesirables into concentration camps. Some hero."

But I've seen the following attributed to Guevara (though I cannot find any source or citation):

"I fight not out of hate but out of love"

Bullshit. The only love he fought for one that of his own power & ambition.

Kathyrn Jean Lopez has noticed the trend in Guevara t-shirts & is not enamored with them:

"Is a Che t-shirt on the Christmas wish list of someone you love? If you love truth, justice and basic human rights don't fulfill that request. Give your loved one a quick history lesson instead...a complete Che Guevara portrait would include an executioner's soundtrack. As a biographer wrote: '... Che, as supreme prosecutor, took to his task with a singular determination, and the old walls of the fort rang out nightly with the fusillades of the firing squads'."

Anthony Daniels in an article called The Real Che relates the following:

"With few exceptions, the devotees of the cult of Guevara know little about him or what he actually stood for. This has always been the case. In 1968, only a year after Guevara’s death, a professor of international relations at San Francisco State University, John Gerassi, published a collection of Guevara’s speeches and essays, in whose introduction he relates the impact news of the death of Guevara had upon his students:

On October 9, 1967, the first news of Ernesto Che Guevara’s alleged death reached the United States… . I was approached by a nineteen-year-old coed. She had tears in her eyes and a 'Make Love Not War' button on her breast. 'You don’t really believe it, do you?' she asked. 'I mean, he couldn’t really be dead, could he?' … [T]here were many liberals and many pacifists [in the class], in addition to the radicals. And yet to all … the news of Che’s possible death was very upsetting and very personal. Che had obviously caught their imagination. They respected and admired him. They knew very little about his life… . But they knew enough to know that he was an idealist… . Thus it became apparent to me, as we talked that day, that these liberal and pacifist students felt, incredibly, as if Che had died for them."

& Mr. Daniels makes a very valid point about the film The Motorcycle Diaries:

"...It is as if someone were to make a film about Adolf Hitler by portraying him as a vegetarian who loved animals and was against unemployment. This would be true, but again would be rather beside the point."

Jay Nordlinger also wrote of the real Guevara

The fog of time and the strength of anti-anti-Communism have obscured the real Che. Who was he? He was an Argentinian revolutionary who served as Castro's primary thug. He was especially infamous for presiding over summary executions at La Cabaña, the fortress that was his abattoir. He liked to administer the coup de grâce, the bullet to the back of the neck. And he loved to parade people past El Paredón, the reddened wall against which so many innocents were killed. Furthermore, he established the labor-camp system in which countless citizens — dissidents, democrats, artists, homosexuals — would suffer and die. This is the Cuban gulag. A Cuban-American writer, Humberto Fontova, described Guevara as 'a combination of Beria and Himmler.' Anthony Daniels once quipped, 'The difference between [Guevara] and Pol Pot was that [the former] never studied in Paris'."

Sean O'Hagan in a piece called Just A Pretty Face? quotes Christopher Hitchens:

"Che's iconic status was assured because he failed...His story was one of defeat and isolation, and that's why it is so seductive. Had he lived, the myth of Che would have long since died."

So more or less what probably explains the fascination with Guevara is simple ignorance. The kids with the Guevara t-shirts simply don't know who the hell he was. they only know what they think he was - a romantically tragic figure who lived & died for his ideals. & that'd be all well & good but his ideas included constructing labor camps for artists & writers who didn't get this whole revolution thing, not to mention putting bullets into people who were not under arms or posing a threat - they just simply disagreed with him.

I have some ideas & principles that'd I'd fight for. Some of them I'd kill over & some of them I'd die for. But not one of those involves imposing my will on anyone else (except the one about imposing my will to live on anyone who tries to kill me, but that's a semantic point). & generally it is good to have ideas or principles that mean more to you than your own well being does. But it's the substance of those ideas that matter.

If you'd kill someone over your desire to have the coolest shoes on the block I'm going to judge you as being morally bankrupt. If you'd die to keep a neighbor of a different ethnicity from being herded into a cattle car by an oppressive government then I'd have some admiration & respect for you.

Guevara - I cannot stress this enough - the boy was a punk. A mark ass ig'nent thug-wannabe scraggly headed punk. He wasn't any different than the guy Capone had running around the neighborhood collecting protection money. The only thing to be regretted about his death is that it didn't come much sooner in his life.

His ideals & goals, if realized, would have enslaved everyone under his dominion. Marxian beliefs when realized afford the greatest tool of the tyrant that modern day man has known. In order to exercise enough power to control an economy to that degree you necessarily have the power to control the individuals within that economy & most people do not have the will power to resist using that control. Sure, they rationalize it; it's just to hasten the ideal state, etc... but they use it just the same. & to the same ends. Those ends are invariably the limitation & in some cases the extinction of personal freedom. Whether it's the main goal or just an unintended consequence is irrelevant.

He is seen possibly as a rebel fighting for the Rights of the people, but in actuality he was a rebel who disrespected the Rights of those he claiemd to be fighting for. Such is the way with most Marxists.

But Guevara lives on the chests of young men & women across this country. There's an anti-Guevara movement (which I understand is especially strong among Cuban born Americans) but it pales next to the cult of Che that seems to spring up anew every year from the colleges.

I must point out this anti-Guevara site complete with anti-Guevara t-shirts. & here's an amusing story from Babalu Blog about wearing an anti-guvara t-shirt in Miami. Here's a site with more anti-Guevara t-shirts.

But perhaps my fav anti-Guevara merchandise can be found here.You'll see it at the top. It says: "My American revolutionary kicked your commie revolutionary's ass!" I’d buy it & wear it the next time I’m in Boulder, but I’d hate to be filmed for an episode of “When Pacifists Attack”.

So next time you see someone, especially a youngster, wearing a Guevara t-shirt, try to take some time & explain who Guevara really was. It's better to believe that these kids simply are ignorent of history. The alternative is to believe that they know who Guevara was & want us (as in us capitalist Americans) to die as badly as he did, which would really ruin my faith in the american fast food system.

Posted by Publicola at November 1, 2006 05:50 AM | TrackBack


"Marxian beliefs when realized afford the greatest tool of the tyrant that modern day man has known. In order to exercise enough power to control an economy to that degree you necessarily have the power to control the individuals within that economy & most people do not have the will power to resist using that control. Sure, they rationalize it; it's just to hasten the ideal state, etc... but they use it just the same. & to the same ends. Those ends are invariably the limitation & in some cases the extinction of personal freedom. Whether it's the main goal or just an unintended consequence is irrelevant."

That is utterly brilliant, sir.

Posted by: -B at November 6, 2006 10:06 AM