Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Che Guevera Effect

When it comes to heroes, no political figure has been deified as much as Che Guevera, atleast in the last century. This photo has become synonymous with youth, revolutionary ideals, socialism, and hipsters trying to be ironic.

The beret with the star, a ragged face with a month old beard, this pic had a lot to do with the cult of personality that revolved around him, a meme whose effect can be seen even now. You can see it in documentaries about Argentina's economic meltdown, and worker led factions that usurped corporate ownership and turned them into cooperatives. (You call it stealing? We call it expropriation) Hell yeah.

Latin America has always had a bit of fire in their belly, sanctified by the ghost of Che, his grim, smug mug looking someplace up high, challenging you to share his vision. Or perhaps, it's arrogance that stems from vanity; the relative ease with which the Spanish colon-ised the native population there.

In any case, all firebrand revolutionaries who talk about the power of the people and quote poetry are like the pigs in Animal Farm, and it's not long before high minded ideals give way to use of low brow force. As long as there's a government, it doesn't matter if it's communist, socialist, capitalist, or dictatorial; as long as there's power concentrated in the hands of a few, there will be injustice. A government cannot exist without the threat of, or the use of force.

With good PR, any form of ownage is possible.

Some heroes don't translate too well. Myths have to be borne out of the soil, which is why rock will never be as popular in India, Qawalli will never be popular in the south, or Carnatic music in the north; the twain shall never meet. It's the same reason why Che Guevera will never be revered in India; simply because of geography1. Point is, Communism failed in India because its PR machinery never got a chance at capturing the people's consciousness. Perhaps that's a side benefit of being a country so divided on religion, ethnicity, and subcastes. Nepotism takes precendence over ideology.

But there's one guy that the commies missed out on. Veerappan. He's the closest thing we have to Che Guevera. The spoke Tamil, so it doesn't matter what he said or believed in, because most of India wouldn't understand. You could have four maoist poets planting heart rending quotations for him on Wikipedia. Some say he was a sandalwood smuggler, but that can be used to fuel his Robinhood complex. Throw in a bit of Thoreau, and a few Thiruvalluvar quotes, and you would have had a serious rumble in the jungle..

1. Marxism was spurred on by a sacred text called The Communist Manifesto, is therefore exempt from the trappings of geography, in the same way that religion is.

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