Lately I’ve found myself thinking a fair bit about Che Guevara and, for the first time in years, went back and revisited some of his writings (there were a few quotes that had come to my mind and I was thinking about them a lot, so I wanted to read them in context).
He is a pretty fascinating character…. yet I’ve noticed that many of those currently involved in “activism” or “counter-cultural activities” desire to avoid any mention of Che. This isn’t simply because Che espoused violence, whereas all the poseur radicals are some of the most morally righteous and thoughtful pacifists you’ll ever meet. No, this is because of the way in which the image and memory of Che has been successfully branded and marketed so that, while Che came to be a symbol of genuine revolution back in the day, the image of Che today represents those who pretend to be revolutionary but, in fact, are nothing more than poseurs whose pseudo-activism actually contributes to the smooth functioning and expansion of global capitalism (the sort of thing explored in Heath and Potter’s great little book, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t be Jammed — appropriately, the cover of that back, in the edition I have, features a picture of a mug bearing the image of Che).
So, in a way I suppose that it’s appropriate that most of the “activists” avoid Che’s image. They don’t want to appear to be poseurs and so, instead of acting in genuinely revolutionary ways (as Che did), they simply pose like non-poseurs by avoiding the images associated with poseurs. This is as it should be — such people should not be associated with Che (and maybe they know that, and hate being confronted with their own hypocrisy, so that may be another reason why they avoid the t-shirts… altogether too uncomfortable).
The solution, however, is not to allow those who brand and market the image of Che to control his legacy. The solution is not to bear the image of Che but to act like Che (and thereby end up bearing the brandmarks of Che upon one’s body, as Paul says about another state-executed terrorist in Galatians 6:17). Here are the two quotes I have been meditating upon. Both are from his message to the tricontinental:
[Solidarity] is not a matter of wishing success to the victim of aggression, but of sharing his fate; one must accompany him to his death or to victory.
Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.
Che, again like Paul, was an apostle of love (remember the motorcycle diaries?). This hatred is a symptom of his love and his solidarity with “the victim of aggression.” Let us meditate upon these things.