Sunday, November 03, 2013

T-shirt Christ

John Sweeney:

I covered the revolutions of 1989 in Prague and Bucharest, and have spent time reflecting on the hollow promises and grim tyranny of the communist nightmare endured by so many. This book evokes the counterargument beautifully: back in the early 1960s, bliss was it in that dawn, etc. There is no doubt that the bliss grew cankerous, yet one cannot read of Che's death and Ciro Bustos's gloom at the news without a sense that something remarkable had been snuffed out.

Oh, please. Sic semper utopianism. Even at my most romantic/anarchistic, I never was a member of the cult of Che, never wore the t-shirt. My first reading about him was an anarchist pamphlet, mainly making use of quotes from Jon Lee Anderson's sympathetic biography, and that was enough to make him unappealing to me.

I remember one paragraph that stood out for me: "Che reflected his environment but did not transcend it. He was a mirror image of the Peronism, romanticism, machismo and xenophobia so prevalent in 1950s Argentina. His sympathy for Stalinism was something shared by most intellectuals of the time. Even his bohemianism fit the common pattern for well-read upper class youth. The truly Great Man or Great Woman transcends his or her era and social environmental influences, breaking the time-worn habits and giving rise to a new set of ideas. Che, stripped of his immense courage and fanatical zeal, was therefore essentially an average man."