HAVANA TIMES — The times taught people at either end of the political spectrum many a lesson. To this day, people continue to say that those in the opposing camp were more violent than one’s own. In practice, violence was a form of expression for everyone.
It is of course true that, in pursuit of its imperialist interests, the United States invaded Cuba at the close of the 19th century and the rest of Latin America at the beginning of the 20th. On this issue, I am in full agreement with all of the world’s anti-imperialists (and consider myself one of them, unreservedly).
But, as soon as we begin to justify the crushing of the Kronstadt revolt by the Bolsheviks (which took place when Lenin was still alive), the millions of deaths by starvation, violence and overcrowding brought about by Stalin, the invasion of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, the Gdansk revolt, the bombing of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union or the Cuban army’s interventions in the African continent, we are no longer being all that coherent as anti-imperialists.
I am a pacifist to the last consequences. I believe killing is immoral, cruel, anachronistic and always counterproductive as a means of deterring crime. Massive wars are for me the most criminal actions imaginable. They are followed by torture and repression, and then by violent, individual murders in general. As I see it, no one has the right to kill anyone.
It doesn’t matter what country, army, ideology or person is doing the killing, or whether they are dressed up as a soldier or serial killer. One always has the choice to say: “no, that is not the solution.” Eating the cannibal doesn’t put an end to cannibalism.
I condemn anyone who came before the Sierra Maestra rebels who took up arms to kill other human beings, to torture, repress or invade others. But, if the rebels were guilty of the same evil, if they were guilty of the same practices, the physical elimination of one’s opponent, we must also condemn them – for the simple reason that this measure only breeds future hatred and permanent fear.
In the course of our lives, we all experience pressing needs, hunger, addictions, lack. In my case, I always looked for the answers within myself and in the good people I met along the way, people who were like guardian angels for me, total strangers who became close to me and taught me the principles I hold dear, affection and the value of loyalty. All of this took place far from the domain of “power” – luckily, it had turned its back on me as decidedly as I had turned my back on it.
We do not love one another.
When I began the uphill journey of recovery, I felt as though I was at once wandering in a desert and finding respite in an oasis of love and goodness. It was only some three years ago, after meeting Adrianne, an incredible person who was forced to leave Cuba while still a child as part of the exodus of 14,000 teenagers known as Operation Peter Pan, that I was able to see the other side of the coin.
We became very close friends. We wanted the same thing: wellbeing for the world and all its people, particularly the mistreated people of Cuba. She had every reason in the world to hate those who had forced her to leave the country, as I to hate the Argentinean and Latin American fascists and to wish their deaths. But, after our respective journeys through life, we knew that that was the surest way of perpetuating the problem.
I am convinced the cycle of violence and revenge humanity has known since it gained dominion over all other species is unnatural and fuelled by petty interests.
Closing the cycle, putting an end to it and starting a new era of progress without bloodshed depends entirely on every one of us and on how we use the immense courage needed to break a cycle of this nature.
The human animal is a potential rapist: in a natural context, it would jump on the first rear end that struck him as attractive and could only be held in check by the owner of the said derriere or by other courters. But we have managed to neutralize such impulses (with greater and lesser degrees of success) in order to able to live in a society and to become slightly more refined animals.
If we have managed to channel our drives, to freely control our libidos (though perhaps not as successfully as we would like to admit), perhaps we could attempt to do the same thing with other impetuous animal impulses, impulses that are perhaps, admittedly, less profane, but doubtless far more harmful, such as the physical destruction of an enemy.
This is, ironically, how I came to terms with my uncle Che Guevara, I who had distanced myself from any and all of the privileges stemming from this kinship, who had criticized the way in which he and his writings had been used.
Since he left an indelible mark on my childhood and adolescence, since he haunted my formative years, I came to terms with him in order to explore his own youth.
I agree with those who say that speaking one’s mind is the most important thing one has to say.
The truth of the matter is that what I value most about my uncle is the lonesome, adventurous romantic, that time in his youth (when he was only fourteen) when he was capable of heading off into the wilderness with his brother Roberto.
I value the years when he was still studying medicine and had yet to join any political party in a politically unstable Argentine, when he was more interested in literature, poetry, political philosophy, sports, when he hit the road on a motorcycle, to travel thousands of kilometers, like a rocker in Easy Rider, or like a pre-Rock-era James Dean.
I value the years in which he developed profound feelings of solidarity towards others, writing, discovering both the outer and inner worlds.
I have always felt intimately identified with this aspect of his personality, because of my own tastes, because of my inherent sensibilities, and not because of any kind of ideological indoctrination.
That is all I choose to retain.
On the other hand, I fully reject anything having to do with that slogan one is taught in Cuba at a very early age: “Pioneers of communism, we shall be like Che.”
To get a sense of the kind of effects such slogans have, suffice it to put up a typical sign reading “Do not step on the lawn” and watch how the eternally rebellious souls react.