Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Paul Berman rips apart The Motorcycle Diaries, the cult of Che and so-called "American intellectuals" in a blistering article on Slate.

The Cult of Che
Don't applaud The Motorcycle Diaries.
By Paul Berman

The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster. Many of the early leaders of the Cuban Revolution favored a democratic or democratic-socialist direction for the new Cuba. But Che was a mainstay of the hardline pro-Soviet faction, and his faction won...

I wonder if people who stand up to cheer a hagiography of Che Guevara, as the Sundance audience did, will ever give a damn about the oppressed people of Cuba—will ever lift a finger on behalf of the Cuban liberals and dissidents. It's easy in the world of film to make a movie about Che, but who among that cheering audience is going to make a movie about Raúl Rivero?
I've always been intrigued by Che's mystique but know relatively little about him beyond Salomé's extreme, and understandable, disdain for him and even moreso for his cult following. For me, he's always been guilty by association w/r/t to the type of people I usually see wearing his face on t-shirts, ie: college-aged pseudo-activists living on trust funds and/or "slumming" in expensive, shared apartments on the lower east side. Stereotype, yes, but where there's smoke there's usually fire.

Read the article, do some more research, make up your own mind. (NOTE: The picture has nothing to do with the article.)


Xia Diaz said...

I'm going to have to agree with you on the stereotype. I am always tempted to ask Che t-shirt wearers--Why? Would they sacrifice their comfy lifestyle to become a guerilla warrior and kill people for a living? Or is it just nicer to fantasize about the adventure?

Eliel Lucero said...

Okay Guy, I don't know much about Che. All I have seen is Che in the Fidel Castro miniseries on Showtime, and Motorcycle Diaries, which I just saw last night. At one point of the movie he said to his partner, "There can be no Revolution without Shots." That is the closest that he came to being a gun slinging whatever that was mentioned on the Article. The movie was great. Fuck the motives, and ideas the movie was great. If I may be so bold to say that I really don't care too much about who he was. Not to the extent where I am going to buy a t-shirt. Even though I will say that the T-shirt does look cool. Hey just because JAY-Z wore it on his MTV unplugged, doesn't mean I am going out and buying it. Most of us who live here will never understand the frame of mind that would lead someone to those extremes. The truth is that are hardest hard times are paradise compared to other worlds. I want to learn about Che, just because it would be good at cocktail parities, but the honest truth is that the Movie did move me. Made me pensive. Challenged my view of the world. Made me laugh and cry and do other shit. Aint that enough?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Eliel, no offense but no, it's not enough. Not for me, at least. I'm glad you enjoyed the movie and that it "moved" you, but "move" implies some sort of action and if you're curious about Che purely for cocktail conversation...well, to each his own, I guess.

Of course, unless your cocktail conversation is limited specifically to the movie itself - like most discussions of the Passion of the Christ preferred to be - you owe it to yourself to dig a little deeper. If anything, from what you've said here, I'd think you'd be "moved" to find out more about him as opposed to being satisfied with a single point of view - predominantly his own, I might add - and such a limited time frame.

Jan Van E said...

Che has definetely become an icon in pop culture, which has more to do with ordinary commerce than ideology. In my view this excuses the politically unaware majority of the public.

Personally I'd never wear such a t-shirt or logo, although it is visually attractive.

The man just killed too many. Any form of governance, be it Soviet or neo-liberal, that is established or maintained with guns is dispicable.