cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Tag: che guevara

Che’s New Man

Drawing on his own life as an example, Che told the crowd that when he began to study medicine, he had dreamed of becoming “a famous researcher.” “I dreamed of working tirelessly to aid humanity, but this was conceived as personal achievement.” It was only upon graduating, he said, and traveling through a Latin America riven by “misery, hunger, disease” that his political conscience had begun to stir. In Guatemala, he recalled, he began studying the means through which he could become a revolutionary doctor, but then had come the overthrow of Guatemala’s socialist experiment. “I became aware, then of a fundamental fact: To be a revolutionary doctor or to be a revolutionary at all, there must first be a revolution. The isolated effort of one man, regardless of its purity of ideals, is worthless. To be useful it is essential to make a revolution as we have done in Cuba, where the whole population mobilizes and learns how to use arms and fight together. Cubans have learned how much value there is in a weapon and the unity of the people.”

At the heart of the revolution, then, was the elimination of individualism. “Individualism as such, as the isolated action of a person alone in a social environment, must disappear in Cuba. Individualism tomorrow should be the proper utilization of the whole individual at the absolute benefit of the community.” The revolution was not “a standardizer of the collective will”; rather, it was “a liberator of man’s individual capacity,” for it oriented that capacity to the service of the revolution.

In his talk, Che tried out a phrase that crystallized a concept he had been developing for some time, and which would soon become synonymous with him: the “New Man.”

How does one reconcile individual effort with the needs of society? We again have to recall what each of our lives was like, what each of us did and thought, as a doctor or in any other public health function, prior to the revolution. We have to do so with profound critical enthusiasm. And we will then conclude that almost everything we thought and felt in that past epoch should be filed away, and that a new type of human being should be created. And if each of us is his own architect of that new human type, then creating that new type of human being–who will be the representative of the new Cuba–will be much easier. (478-479)

Requisites of a modern New Man: discipline; honesty; joy (שמחה); critical intelligence; courage; strength.


Notes on Che

  • What was it about Che that so magnetized [his peasant fighters]? He could have not been more different from most of them. He was a foreigner, an intellectual, a professional, and he read books they did not understand. As their leader, he was demanding, strict, and notoriously severe in his punishments–especially with those he had selected to become “true revolutionaries.” … But Che was different, and they knew it. He demanded more of himself, so he demanded more of them, too. Each sanction he meted out came with an explanation, a sermon about the importance of self-sacrifice, personal example, and social conscience. He wanted them to know why they were being punished, and how they could redeem themselves. … [B]ecause he lived as they did, refusing extra luxuries due to his rank, taking the same risks as they did in battle, he earned their respect and devotion. (340-341)
  • “In spite of everything, one can’t help admiring him. He knows what he wants better than we do. And he lives entirely for it.” (356)
  • CHE GUEVARA, by Nicolás Guillén

    As if San Martín’s pure hand,
    Were extended to his brother, Martí,
    And the plant-banked Plata streamed through the sea,
    To join the Cauto’s love-swept overture.

    Thus, Guevara, strong-voiced gaucho, moved to assure
    His guerilla blood to Fidel
    And his broad hand was most comradely
    When our night was blackest, most obscure.

    Death retreated. Of its shadows impure,
    Of the dagger, poison, and of beasts,
    Only savage memories endure.

    Fused from two, a single soul shines,
    As if San Martín’s pure hand,
    Were extended to his brother, Martí. (380)

  • “Why does the guerrilla fight? … The guerrilla is a social reformer. The guerrilla takes up arms in angry protest against the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in opprobrium and misery. He strikes against the special conditions of the established order at a given moment and dedicates himself to breaking the molds of that order, with all the vigor that the circumstances permit.” (398)
  • Che, more than anything, is an example that encourages one to fight for morals, principles and ideals, to defy mediocrity and have the courage to do what is right.
  • “Something which has really developed in me is the sense of the massive in counterposition to the personal; I am still the same loner that I used to be, looking for my path without personal help, but now I possess the sense of my historic duty. I have no home, no woman, no children, nor parents, nor brothers and sisters, my friends are my friends as long as they think politically like I do and yet I am content, I feel something in life, not just a powerful internal strength, which I always felt, but also the power to inject others, and an absolutely fatalistic sense of my mission which strips me of all fear. (433-434)
  • “Che told me: ‘Look, revolutions are ugly but necessary, and part of that revolutionary process is in justice at the service of future justice.’ I will never be able to forget that phrase. I replied that that was Thomas More’s Utopia. I said that [mankind] had been fucked by that tale for a long time, for believing that we would achieve something not now, but in the future. Che looked at me for a long time and said: ‘So. You don’t believe in the future of the revolution.’ I told him I didn’t believe in anything that was based upon an injustice.” “Even if that injustice is sanitary?” To which Quintana replied: “For those who die I don’t believe you can talk of sanitary justice.” Che’s response was immediate: “You have to leave Cuba. You have three choices: You leave Cuba and there’s no problem from me; or thirty years [in prison], in the near future; or the firing squad.” (458-459)
  • Che’s mystique had grown, and when the famous French couple [Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir] went to see him, they talked for hours. For Che, it must have been a very gratifying experience, playing host to the renowned French philosopher whose works he had grown up reading. For his part, Sartre came away extremely impressed and after Guevara’s death, gave him the highest possible tribute; to the Frenchman, Che was “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age.” (468)

the white road journey

Lately I’ve been confused and struggling with the need to do what I can to keep my head above water and trying to understand how to fit in living according to the principles I find so important to cultivating integrity. And then I run into this, from Raising the Bar: Integrity and Passion in Life and Business.

You must take a leap of faith

You must listen to your gut

You must travel light

Detailed map required

It’s about simplicity — eat, sleep, ride

You desire to find new roads — sometimes there is no road

Hundreds of choices

Risk in is your hands

It’s fun

You must be sensitive to local culture

You must be creative

You must be open to change

Sense of humor needed

It’s quiet

You must be honest

You must trust your fellow riders

It’s often adventurous

There is freedom


Eat. Sleep. Ride.

Eat. Sleep. Ride.
Eat. Sleep. Ride.

Eat. Sleep. Ride.


Eat. Sleep. Ride. Get the point?

Jay and I stripped our lives down to the basics on our white-road journey. Simplicity became the trip’s theme.

Somehow, someway, I will find a way to live my life in a way that is positive, even if set in a system that is fundamentally based on a zero-sum game in which one’s ascent depends on another’s fall.

As an aside, my response to Che’s Marxist idealism is Burgess’ message in A Clockwork Orange: evil is chosen bad or forced good.

Riots in Greece

What’s with all this Mediterranean inequity and violence? Rioting in Greece, Arab-Israeli conflict going strong, Egyptians carrying on with their female genital mutilation… Must be something in the water.

Those Greek Riots,” Robert Kaplan

Several things stand out:

  • If I were Che, I would hitchhike and sail my way over to Greece during the summer and see what’s up. While I were there, I would find fellow Argentines all over the place and sleep with beautiful women.
  • Amazing to see “Latin American-style interference” used to describe the US’s intervention in Greece in protection of it from Balkan communism—intervention so heavy-handed that it elicited strong antipathy towards the US in Greece
  • “…[S]weeping international trends of uneven development, in which the uncontrolled surges and declines of capitalism have left haves and bitter have-nots, who, in Europe, often tend to be young people.” I wonder, is it a good idea for educated, vigorous youth to be have-nots? Isn’t that a recipe for unrest and trouble? Or are people similarly docile and biddable across age groups?
  • Finally, a point for the ICT geeks among us (i.e., Christine and her Station C crowd, et al.): “these young people now have the ability to instantaneously organize themselves through text messages and other new media, without waiting passively to be informed by traditional newspapers and television. Technology has empowered the crowd—or the mob if you will.” So the revolution will not be televised, but we’re to believe it will be mobilized by Blackberries. Why do I find this hard to believe?