Lest you yourself be judged, that is the catch. You will be judged by the standards by which you judge others. Fidel Castro died this week, my wall of heroes is dead, when I was young I had Samora Machel, Sankara, Gadaffi, and Castro in my scrap book. I was always a leftie, I was influenced by the idealist soldiers in our midst who saw Cuba as a model, a small country punching above their weight. They were attracted to the underdog and looked at their ideology as key to success. Cut to today, we go live to Little Havana to dancing crowds celebrating Castro’s death.
“He was a murderer, he supported terrorism, he made his people poor, he oppressed the LGBT community, he was against free speech!” Even his great record fighting apartheid is dismissed because he did bad things. That is how we evaluate historical figures “Do I like this person?” then “Would this person like me?” and finally “How do they fit my current moral values?” Great does not mean Good, we use it to mean good, how’s your coffee? GREAT! Great just means you had an impact, for good and sometimes bad. The age of heroes is gone, it was replaced by twitter polling, you become a meme and gain immortality and infamy. Who could live up to this scrutiny? The solution is separate echo chambers, even the Left is split in 2 camps, Café Pink Lefties hate his Human Rights abuses, especially LGBT abuses. Then the old ideological Left love him, not the Cultural Left, hate him. The New Left loves Salvador Allende, who died pure, a victim, before he locked up anyone and he never even got a chance to, like an singer artist who dies after one perfect album. Ideology is defined by cultural wars like abortion and gays, not on economic because both Left and Right agree 100% on Neoliberal predatory capitalism.
Today Napoleon is a racist, misogynist, homophobe, if you read his letters. Is that all he is? Should I hate Napoleon because he wouldn’t like me personally? Should I dismiss his role in History down to a few words or actions? Or should I see a person as complex and flawed but also brilliant. So I find it absurd that people judge Castro on modern uberliberal standards, while ignoring the role America played in deaths of millions in recent times. People who judge today will be judged tomorrow. In the past we had so many intolerable attitudes, then we had a talk and we decided any person who continues is going to jail, but we understood it was different before that. Future generations will judge us harshly for things we now do casually, maybe Napoleon and Stalin will be judged on their carbon footprint. Maybe meat-eaters and farmers will be seen as cannibals and slavers of animals. Sometimes the difference between the sacred and profane is a matter of minutes. Behaviour may be okay one minute, then banned the next, same with watching TV from the 70’s and it’s all racist jokes.
The Devil his due
I start in Haiti in 1790 because it set off a chain-reaction of Leftist populist uprisings before Marx ever wrote Das Kapital. Pettian of Haiti gave assistance to Simon Bolivar who led the independence of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia. Bolivar was not the only one, Gen San Martin who freed Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Uruguay, also relied on Haiti support for troops and arms. These men like the Black General Paez, Santander, and San Martin were Caudillos – Populist Generals who raised armies to fight Guerillas (little wars) against a bigger and better equipped army. These Caudillos relied on the people so they had a populist message of social justice and change. Castro is in that line that predates Marx, a more primitive communism. Cuba was always a lawless paradise, just 80 miles off the Florida coast made it perfect for every sin prohibited in USA. It started with prohibition in the 1920’s when all alcohol was banned, so was brewing, distilling and processing of alcohol. All breweries were closed, but the thirst was still there, so Cuban rum became the most profitable and brewing relocated to Cuba and Canada. The Mafia also started to run away to Cuba where they could live in plain sight but safe from the FBI, then they took over hotels and casinos to attract rich Americans who want booze, sex, gambling, sex, beaches, sex, and sunshine, sex. Major corporations had owned Cuba since 1901 when a Newspaper Magnate William Randolph Hirst started a war with Cuba to sell more papers and forced USA to colonize Cuba. Every American multinational was based there, bananas, tobacco, sugar, corn, all grown in old slavery conditions intact since Spanish left. The words Banana Republic originally referred to the Central and South American countries controlled by the United Fruit Company in order to supply bananas and fruit to American supermarkets.
Into this world, steps a brave man, a man whose message can translate to the people who have seen their dignity stripped and led a Populist revolution where the people thronged in their masses and the Government had to flee. He nationalized the industries, this angered the Americans, they would try to assassinate him 700 times. He often felt safest in New York while attending the UN summits where he would give 4 hour speeches, because Americans couldn’t kill him on their soil. He invited Khrushchev, president of USSR to base nuclear weapons in Cuba, this angered Kennedy who threatened all our thermo-nuclear war, and luckily for the world the Russians backed down and withdrew them on condition that Cuba was left alone. Like the chain going back to Haiti, he saw himself as obligated to spread his anti-colonial brand of ideology around the world. Alongside his comrade Che Guevara they spread the tools of freedom, organizing, intelligence gathering, secret communications, investigation, agitation, sabotage, as well as military training. This was due to a quirk of nature, Russians couldn’t survive in tropical zones but Cubans could due to living in the tropical lands and having African blood, this made them perfect agents for Africa. The American had billions to spend, but the Cubans matched them with ingenuity. The groups which got assistance from Cuba are so many that one cannot imagine Africa as it is now without help from Cuba, FRELIMO, MPLA, ZANU, ZAPU, SWAPO, Katanga Tigers, Kabila in the 60’s, CCM, FRONASA, NRM, SPLM, Ethiopia, and even RPF owes them a debt of thanks. The battle of Cuito Carnavale in Angola saw the Apartheid Govt defeated in 1988 by the Cubans, this led to direct talks with ANC speeding up the end of Apartheid. America supported the Racist Apartheid Government and declared ANC a terrorist organization, but they still curse Castro in his death when they were on the wrong side of history.
Today we accept Capitalism as the only way, but for a time there were alternatives, true alternative lifestyles for nations to adopt. Money is not everything, there has to be more to life than just money, money, money. Money is a tool to get what you want, it is not the objective, but we have come to view is everything. Castro will one day be seen as a defender of Human Rights, but we have to expand our view of human rights. In the west the only right that matters is free speech because it is seen as guaranteeing all the others, but after you speak nothing changes because the means of production are locked in the hands of an elite like in USA. In USA, health is not a right, education is not a right, food is not a right, housing is not a right, but you are free yet none of your needs are guaranteed. We need to see health as a right to understand Castro, he silenced his critics but gave them healthcare, education, food, shelter, the whole Maslow scale was catered for but people call him an oppressor. Future Generation will judge all of us harshly, human ethics and morals change, Castro later regretted his excessive repression and dogmatism on many issues. Leaders can evolve yet we are too quick to judge, something a person said or did ages ago is seen as disqualifying even if they evolve their position. Castro imprisoned and deported gays, later his daughter became a LGBT activist and helped him understand and shift his position, that is called maturity but we dismiss it.
A sum of their parts
No man is perfect, no man is all good or all bad, you are a sum of your parts that make a whole. The real reason I love Castro is he was not a hypocrite, he didn’t pretend to be a democrat, he did bad things and didn’t sanitize them. An American president has to lecture the world on democracy and human rights while secretly torturing people without any real cause or transparent process. Of all the African Presidents, I have a strange respect for Yayah Jammeh in Gambia, he doesn’t pretend to be a democrat to shake the hands of the powerful in the West, while running secret torture chambers. He just runs open torture chambers that are easier to monitor. It is what it is. Castro fought disease and provided $100bn worth of Medical aid to the world, he made his people 100% literate, he gave them a life so they can spend time with their family instead, have leisure time, relax and repeat tomorrow. They are poor because of the blockade and sanctions, so the West must take some blame for their poverty. Gaddafi did the same, he gave every Libyan $25,000 a year as their share of the national pie, now they miss him and are starving. Cuba is well-positioned to succeed, high education and skills levels, proximity to USA, cheaper labour, and a government that genuinely cares about their people. So farewell to Castro, judge him lest you be judged, as future generations will judge us. Let us just take every life lived as a lesson in good and bad, no one fits neatly in a box but they have something to impart.