Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Motorcycle Diaries

One of the most revered and hated figures of the twentieth century was Che Guevara, In any assessment of the man, rather than the myth, it is important to dive his life into four phases: His childhood, education and first travels throughout South America; His participation in the Cuban revolution; His period in the Cuban Government and then what became his last campaign to spread the revolution to the rest of South America and his execution with the help of the U.S.A assassination

He was born ten years before me as was killed in 1967 aged 39, I like what his father said of him The first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels, the Spanish conquistadors and the Argentinean patriots. Evidently Che inherited. There was something in his nature which drew him to distant wanderings, dangerous adventures and new ideas. I know nothing of the father except that Jesuit expression give me a child for seven years and I give you the adult,

Che as be became known through the world had grown up in a left wing and revolutionary household as his father supported Juan Peron and socialism and Spanish republicans visited their home. He learned to play chess at he age of 12, I taught myself about that time with a small pocket board with press in figures, playing lunch times at school with a class mate. And later through a correspondence league and playing for Croydon Local Authority against teams form other local authorities across London for one season until I was dropped after a losing run. We shared some of the authors who interested him, although in my instance most were after I left school including William Faulkner, Andree Gide, Walt Whitman, John Keats,, Jules Verne, Franz Kafka, John Paul Sartre, H G Wells, Robert Frost, Jack London and Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud. The fundamental difference between us was his father’s influence and my Catholic fundamentalist childhood brought up by aunts.

We both became missionaries.

Three years after entering University to Study medicine he undertook a year off from studies to embark on a motorcycle trip throughout South America with a friend and witnessed the poverty and oppression of ordinary people throughout the continent, also spending short time at a Leper Colony in Peru. His diary of the trip was made into a film, The Motor Cycle Diaries in 2004 which was one of the film highlights of the year.

With me the defining moments were the decision to read two reports of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, the six month prison experience and the decision to switching to child care after working among exceptionally poor an derived families in Salford Manchester during the summer of 1962 with the Family Service Unit. I was an emotional missionary while he became an intellectual one, never appearing to question or change his belief in revolution through violence and that a Marxist dictatorship was the only alternative to rampant capitalist imperialism

He completed his studies and qualified as a doctor in 1953, He then decided to travel again visiting Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador After six months on the road he reached Guatemala. Here is was introduced to leading members of the left government and also had contacts with Cuban exiles linked to Fidel Castro’s and his attack on a Baptista military barracks on 26 July 1953, Che tried to gain medical work but was advised to leave the country after the CIA sponsored coup following the arrival of Soviet arms into the country. The overthrow of thee government effectively by the USA confirmed his belief in the adverse effects on ordinary people of USA capitalist imperialism in the Southern continent. After taking refuge in the Mexican Embassy he made his way to Mexico. There he met Raul Castro and then Fidel who was plotting to overthrow the corrupt USA crime based regime. As a result of this meeting he decided this was the cause for which he had been looking, Eighty seven Cubans plus Chet set off from Mexico to Cuba in a leaky boat and only 22 survived the landing and of these only twelve were to enter Havana as the revolutionary victors.

As the film Che Part one- The Argentinean accurately portrays he was a ruthless fighting leader as well as caring doctor. Fidel described him as intelligent, daring and an exemplary leader but that he also took too many personal risks. There is nothing in the film to explain his dedication as a doctor and emotionally detached fighter and military leader, except that he and Fidel possessed am earth planet vision and recognised they were only temporary influences. The great part of the film deals with the military role of Che during the revolution, his ongoing work as a doctor, the emphasis providing the poor and illiterate with an education and his initial loyalty to his wife and child in Mexico, and then his growing attachment to a Cuban who offered her services divorcing his wife and marrying her after they entered Havana.

The film ends with his successful battle to take Santa Clara on New Years Eve 1958 and Baptista fleeing on learning that his generals were negotiating a separate peace with the rebel leaders. The ending is distinctly odd, except to indicate that it was only the first part of his life as a revolutionary and that he attempted to maintain his code of appropriate behaviour even in the moment of triumph.

It is noteworthy that President Obama who is attempting the third way revolution has accept the resignation of two of his government nominees following the disclosure that they were federal tax avoiders. The non payment of federal taxes appears to be a long standard activity among government official in the USA. I still remember my sense of shock and horror on being told by a USA government visiting party of top officials and representatives looking at the new British system of Social service local authorities in 1971 how they avoided paying taxes by renting out slums to the poor and others devices. They appeared to have no moral or ethical basis for their work in social welfare.

The film in which Che played by Benicio Del Torro has a documentary feel as the writers and producers attempt to recreate his Memoir Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War. The chronological account of the progress made after meeting with the Castro brothers to making the journey into Havana is intercut from time to time with a black and white recreation of his 1964 interview a Journalist in New York after addressing the UN. The five demands he made to the UN have echo’s of President’s Obama views in 2008.

I continued with my Bruce Springsteen fest throughout the day enjoying two live performance records, Barcelona and then New York.

Atlantic City 7.10 (Everything dies that is a fact perhaps everything that dies comes back); Because the night, The Rising 7.20;7.30 Dancing in the Dark; Youngstown .35; The Ghost of Tom Joad 8.40; Always a Friend 8.50;eth July Asbury Park Sandy 10.25 Turn Turn Turn; Long Walk Home 10.30 Radio nowhere; You will be coming down; Living in the future; Your own worst enemy.... Come to town; Girls in their summer clothes...pass me by; Gypsy Biker11.00; I’ll work for love; Magic; Last to Die; Devil’s Arcade and Terry’s song. Barcelona Live: Empty Sky; Waiting on a Summer’s day. Badlands, Darkness on the edge of Town. Mary’s Place, proving all night, She’s the one; Lonesome Day, The Rising; Worlds Apart and Dancing the Dark listened to again 12-1.130 the Disk 2. Incident on 57th Street; Born in The USA; Land of Hope and Dreams; Counting on a miracle; Thunder Road; Night; Ramrod; and Born to Run;

Thunder Road; Adam Raised Caine; Spirit of the nights; 4th July Ashbury Park; Paradise by the C; I’m on Fire; Growing Up; It’s hard to be a saint in the city; the Backstreets; Rosalita; Raise your Hand; Hungary Heart; Two Hearts, Cadillac Ranch; You can look; Independence Day; Badland’s, Because the Night; Candy’s Room; Darkness at the Edge of Town; Racing in the Street; This land is your land; Nebraska; Johnny 99; Reason to Believe; Born in the USA; Seeds, The River; War; Darlington County; Working on the Highway; The Promised Land; Cover me; I’m on Fire; Bobby Jean, My Hometown; Born to Run; No surrender; Tenth Avenue Freeze; Jersey Girl.

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