The Life and Opinions of Adam Villani, Gentleman
posted by Adam Villani @ 6/13/2007 06:10:00 PM
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"It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth. (Many Rastafarians would renounce Haile Selassie if they had any notion of who he really was.) It is not surprising that Guevara’s contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth [...]."But don't myths serve ideals as well as facts? Does either the Old or New Testament have to be literal historical fact for them to be important?Just because an idol has feet of clay, doesn't mean it shouldn't be looked up to. Or, perhaps, the idol should not be looked up to --as it does have feet of clay -- but the myth of the idol should be looked to, instead.
I see what you're getting at, but I think the Che hagiography fails on a couple of points. It's one thing when you find out that, say, Martin Luther King cheated on his wife. Yeah, that's a bad thing to do, but it doesn't really have a bearing on his civil rights work. Or even when it is relevant to the myth --- take how Thomas Edison was more the head of a big laboratory than a lone tinkerer. We can still admire the achievements of Edison's labs even if Edison himself wasn't solely responsible for them.With Che, though, this notion of some lone revolutionary fighting for freedom takes a hit when the "fighting" part means "executing hundreds of people" and the "freedom" part means "tyranny."He's also not far enough back in history. Unsavory characters like Christopher Columbus or even bloodthirsty conquerors like Genghis Khan lived centuries ago, and it's a lot easier to blame their negatives on the different mores of their times, or at least acknowledge their ills alongside their achievements. But Che was alive just 40 years ago, and there are still people suffering directly for the things he's done. And exactly what "myth" are the t-shirt-wearers celebrating, anyway? By and large, all the myth of Che is is just that image and some vague knowledge that he was a revolutionary. That's not much to go on. To sidestep Godwin's Law a bit here, let's just say that it's akin to putting Osama bin Laden's face on a t-shirt.
Right ... what the Che T-shirts really advocate is "revolution" as a free-standing Good Thing (the wearers know little or nothing about the actual person).And that idea is simply a complete and irredeemable error.
I've always thought that the notion of a popular socialist revolution in the United States was absurd, because socialism is not popular in the United States. Plenty people have beefs (legitimate or not) with one aspect or another of the American system, but I seriously doubt you'd get any kind of majority of the people to agree to any change in the system big enough to be considered "revolutionary." Except maybe scrapping the Electoral College, which I kind of like, personally.If, hypothetically, Americans were to scrap their current system of government and replace it with something new, the result would probably be (A) very similar to the Constitution we have now, except (B) not written with anything approaching the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, and thus built on a rotten foundation.
Terrific article. Thanks for featuring it.I have to admit, I didn't know Che's back story until I read this, and, based soley on the t-shirt image and its ubiquity, imagined him to be an altruistic leader. Not to mention handsome in silkscreen. Kind of like Johnny Depp meets Robin Hood. What an animal he was.This quote from Che sounds like a description of Cheney and Rove:“He belonged to that special class of men the species produces every so often, in whom a craving for limitless power is so extreme that any suffering to achieve it seems natural.”
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