27.11.16

No eulogies please, it's Fidel Castro

Evolution of man? (Photo montage: Fox)

A 90-metre long cigar as commemoration on the 90th birthday might fit in more with a dictator or a feudalistic leader in any part of the world rather than a perennial rebel.

That cigar, though, was an over-the-top representation of Fidel Castro, much as most symbolism tends to be. It is an overt image that might have nothing to do with beliefs and actions. In fact, Castro had stopped smoking 30 years ago.

This imagery has sustained, although he is not as big a character on the T-shirt market as his compatriot Che Guevara. Castro was what seemed like almost a gentleman politician who had to hobnob with world leaders. Even though he would be dressed the part of a rebel, it was more like a uniform when it was not seen as an affectation.

I say all this now.

In years when one was acquiring knowledge beyond books, I got to read about the Bay of Pigs. Suddenly, John F. Kennedy became the bad guy. It is not Islamist terrorists that made me appear to be politically anti-US, but these superpower tactics that had not as yet appeared anywhere on the Middle East horizon. The fact that a small bunch of brigand-like leaders could challenge this mighty power had all the trappings of grand romance.

Of course I did not know too much, which is how romances work anyway. Only the peripheral mattered: That Castro was dressed for the part. That he was with Che. That he smoked a cigar (which, incidentally, looked so Hollywood – but the irony of that didn't hit me just then). That the US tried several times to get him killed. That he did not like capitalism ("I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating... because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition.").

This was probably naïve and, some might suggest, hypocritical. Cuba under Castro was like an island known best to the outside world for the stuff that its leader smoked. In that, the freedom-seeking rebel Castro was Cuba, and by appointing his brother Raul as President in his later years, it does seem like he was protecting the cult.

However, there is also a tendency to strip a person of the gloss that perceptions form of him. It might not be inherent, so it is really not his to make or mar. Socialism, which Castro stood for, is indeed an ideal for any society to aspire to. It is not easy to implement in its purest form, though, because somebody 'ushering in equality' is itself an imposition.

US President-elect Donald Trump said, "Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty."

The comment, coming as it does from this man, only proves that what he says about Castro applies to him as much. This statement was not his first. His initial reaction was simply, "Fidel Castro is dead!"

The King is dead. Long live the King. Trump seems to herald his own accession rather than grieve for the Cubans.

In death, should one choose to highlight the good or the evil? Can the evil be interred with him or should it be aired for the sake of verity, of history, even though the truth would be based on who and where you are?

I wonder if Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was thinking about all of this. He paid a fulsome tribute to Castro that has been rebuked. He said: "While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for 'el Comandante'."

What? Why? Wtf! Such have been the reactions. I notice that many are conservatives; one of them even wants him to retract his statement and not attend his funeral.

Given how the West operates as extrajudicial keeper of democracy in lands not belonging to it, many in those parts of the world would mourn for none.

The hashtag #trudeaueulogies did a nice tongue-in-cheek turn with examples such as these:

“While a controversial figure, even detractors recognize Pol Pot encouraged renewed contact between city and countryside.”

“Today we say goodbye to Mr. Mussolini, the former Italian prime minister best known for his competent train-management.”

"While Emperor Nero was controversial, his dedication to song and writing poetry signaled a Roman artistic renaissance."

He shall remain remarkable and legendary because he stood up against the mighty. It's a pity his people who suffered could not.  They will remember Fidel Castro the most.

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Meanwhile in India, we remember that Castro gave Indira Gandhi a hug in Delhi at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in 1983: