You seldom see a picture of Che Guevara without his famous beret or with it pulled back, but he had a cute widow's peak, just like Paul Ryan. Not many people have noticed that. I notice things like that. Worse, I talk about those things in my blog posts, making the posts even longer.
Paul Ryan was born after Che was executed, and Paul Ryan is 42 years old, and Che never saw 40, but they both had black hair and widow's peaks. Hey, I'm trying to find common ground here. That's about as close as I can come.
Che Guevara, an Argentinian, while still in medical school in Buenos Aires in 1950 and 1951, took two lengthy journeys (2,800 miles, then 5,000 miles) of exploration by bicycle and motorcycle, throughout Argentina, and then through most of South America's rural provinces. He and a friend went up the Amazon, and spent time volunteering at a leper colony. Che was enraged at the working conditions of Chilean miners, and by the way the poor people lived and how he saw poor people being exploited wherever he went. Peasants worked small plots of land owned by wealthy landlords. While in the leper colony, he was impressed by the camaraderie of the lepers.
"The highest forms of human solidarity and loyalty arise among such lonely and desperate people," he said. He soon came to hate the evils of capitalist exploitation, so rampant in Latin America mostly from the United States or U.S. Companies, such as United Fruit Company (later Chiquita Foods.) He began to form his vision of a borderless Hispanic America, a single liberated entity, controlling its own destiny.
He returned Buenos Aires and completed his medical education. He published a best-selling book called "The Motorcycle diaries." Then the newly-minted "Dr. Ernesto Guevara" returned to the rural provinces and tried to make a difference in the poverty, hunger and disease. Frustrated at "the inability to treat a child because of lack of money [for medicines]" he gradually came to the conclusion that, to make a difference, he would have to leave the field of medicine and enter the world of political struggle through armed conflict. Che began to fight instead of heal.
Che worked and Che traveled. Bolivia. Peru. Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador. What he saw intensified his hatred for the United Fruit Company and other U.S. "capitalistic octopuses" who controlled huge HUGE amounts of land and kept the common people - the rightful owners, as Che saw it - in grinding poverty.
In December, 1953, Che arrived in Guatemala. A new popular president was trying to enforce land reforms, taking unused land from United Fruit Company and giving it back to the people. Che was introduced to the President. He also was to meet two brothers during this time period, Raul and Fidel Castro, who had been involved with the July attack on the military barracks in Santiago, Cuba. Birds of a feather. Idealists. Pissed off at The Establishment and capitalists - America and it's minions and puppets.
Throughout the world, whenever the vast majority of a population is being oppressed - enslaved - in hopeless poverty by dictators and other tyrants, the situation becomes ripe for a communist revolution.
Communism is a system of politics and economics - a method - by which an existing government is taken over because they are corrupt and unresponsive to the will and needs of the people. Communist take-over is the continual story of Central and South America since the 1940s. There is really no one to blame but our greedy capitalistic selves. In retrospect.
Communist takeover is usually a two-stage affair in which the population is infiltrated and propagandized until a covert militia resistance is formed; the second stage being the actual military conflict. It isn't hard to gain support and soldiers from an impoverished and oppressed population, and all the guerilla leaders have to do is wait for the inevitable major blunder by the existing government to ignite the revolution.
As part of the initial propaganda campaign, the people are told that the land will be taken back from the rich undeserving aristocrats, and will be divided among the deserving long-suffering poor.
Of course, history shows us that what actually happens is that the land is placed in the custody of the "provisional government" (pending elections, of course) and then a new group of tyrants arise from the ashes of the old tyrants - the leaders of the glorious revolution get the best of the spoils and live in mansions and get driven around in big black Mercedes just like the old dictators did, and they rule the poor people with an iron fist. The people are told they must endure hardship and sacrifice for a short period of time while the economy stabilizes. You've watched it happen time and time again. The trouble with communism is that the economy NEVER stabilizes and the temporary sacrifices never end. But, except for the fat cat leaders, you must admit that the common people are become equal again in their new hopelessness. Viva la revolucion, eh?
Incidentally (speaking of "eh?") that's what "Che" means in Spanish. Which is to say, it means nothing at all. "Che" is just a conversation-filler, something to say when you pause between sentences or to seek agreement with what you've just said. Eh. Umm. Ernesto said it so often it became his nickname.
Anyway, the above scenario is the story of the Russian Revolution, the story of the Cuban Revolution, the story of every communist governmental overthrow everywhere. The common people and workers are never really liberated; the workers' paradise never quite materializes; the elites who run the show live in marvelous luxury and privilege. Communism, promising the purest form of democracy, is, in truth, democracy denied.
Quickly we must add that capitalism is not the panacea either. Hardly. Capitalism unchecked is what causes the oppressed and destitute and exploited class in the first place. Yet, paradoxically, it is capitalism, when properly controlled and regulated by honest leaders, which holds the real key to lifting the poor to a higher station, generation by generation. The only thing - it never seems to be properly controlled and regulated, though, probably because of a lack of honest leaders. Power corrupts. Greed begets short memories.
I'm not sure if there is an ideal political or economic system that has been invented. I do know such a system is not capitalism and it's not socialism. I have long advocated a combination of both and a proper balance. However, without honest leaders, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Wasn't that a song? "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but in the meantime - in between time - ain't we got fun?"
Next: A very short history of Guatemala. You should know about this. Honest.
Remember dear little Eddie Munster? Of course you do.