Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Reading Che

This is one of the books I'm reading at the moment. Unlike most biographies, Jorge Catañeda's Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara is an engaging account of a near-mythical figure in revolutionary times.

Che clearly wishes to help others (usually patients) and concurrently sketches a broader vision of 'the order of things.' He is appalled by the poverty and desperation stemming from inequality and helplessness of the poor, but has reached a level of sophistication where he establishes a causal link between the deplorable destiny of 'the proletariat around the world' and an 'absurd sense of caste' - that is, the economic, social and political status quo.

Yet the remedy he proposes is still quite limited. It is a typically middle-class lamentation, within the most simplistic common-sense approach. Governments must stop spending on their own exaltation (like Peron), and pay more attention to the poor. Little is said of why governments act as they do, or what can be done beyond the ritual incantation that they should stop acting as they habitually do. Che's appeal is moral, not really political, arising from an individual, ethical stance against the way things are. With time, his political acumen would become more focused and complex, as befits a leader. But it would never entirely lose that original innocence, springing from the young medical student's encounter with pain and suffering, and strangely but also lastingly, from a certain distance, a deliberately assumed marginal position.

Thanks to B for pilfering this from his school's lost and found. Hehe.

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