Saturday, 3 January 2009

Che 50 Years On

There are a few essential things that a student must have when he leaves home and moves into Student accommodation, one of them is the obligatory poster of the left wing pinup, Che Guevara, to hang on the bedroom wall.
Despite being killed by Bolivians in 1967 aged only 39, the iconic image of Che is still as well known today as anytime over the past 50 years even if the story of how he and Fidel Castro overthrew the Cuban dictator Batista is hazy to today's teenagers.
They can quote his famous and defiant last words ("Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man") and they can tell you how he risked his life to overthrow a corrupt dictator for the downtrodden Cubans while tending to wounded enemy soldiers although not telling, or possibly just not knowing, how he cold-heartedly signed orders to execute prisoners without trial.
Mostly what they don't see is the irony of the man's image who died for his Communist beliefs, can now be bought on any number of tacky merchandise which would of horrified Che but shows that his image has continued to resonate.
Che's image is kept alive by today's new Socialists such as the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who has certainly helped to burnish the image as has Bolivian president Evo Morales who also says he is continuing to spread the message carried by Che. Nelson Mandela referred to him as "an inspiration for every human being who loves freedom".
To today's young the image stands for rebellion and a man who stood up for the little guy against a more powerful foe, fighting and dying, for his beliefs while to the generation of older hippies and socialists he also stood for an ideology.
The 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and the Steven Soderbergh film 'Che' will drive renewed interest in the one time Argentinian medical student and may even fuel some curious reading into Marxist ideologies but the left has yet to find an icon as appealing, romantic or as instantly recognisable as the high contrast black and white photograph of Che Guevara.


Don said...

Fucked up and ironic, isn't it? If we want inspiration of the little guy fighting impossible odds against corrupt power we only have to look to the people of Cuba, still enslaved by the bankrupt ideology that Che had good people (and bad) put to death to "defend". Goes to show popular culture is no more tied to truth than religion and politics.

Lucy said...

It's how the business of historical myths work Don, the bad points are forgotten and the good points accentuated.

Annie said...

my former employer even had che on one of their coffees...

sometimes there would be angry phone messages on the voice mail system-from expatriate cubans that did not glorify che.

Noah "Nog" M. said...

He died with his Rolex on.

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Oh, and then there's the not so defiant surrender "Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead."