Chesus

It does not take much detective work to understand that Marxism is, in many respects, another branch of the Judeo-Christian tree, most notably in its millenarian fantasies, but also in, one way or another, its sanctification of poverty.

Many religions, of course, have saints and in this intriguing piece for Quillette, partly based on his father’s own acquaintance with Guevara, George Schifini looks at the cult of Che. There’s so much in this article about the transformation of an almost certainly psychotic killer into a saint that it’s hard to know where to begin.

One aspect of the piece that is perhaps worth highlighting is how quickly Che’s transformation into something with a touch of the divine about him began:


“The cult of Che began within hours of Guevara’s execution by a Bolivian army sergeant. After his body was placed in the Vallegrande, Bolivia, hospital laundry room, hospital nuns, the nurse who washed his body, as well as several women of the town, had the impression that the dead Argentine resembled Jesus Christ and clipped snippets of his hair to keep for good luck. “

And that cult has endured. Helped, doubtless, by that iconic photograph of Guevara taken by Alberto Korda, it has been shown, to use a wonderful phrase of Schifini’s, to have “the wattage to light up the religious circuits of the human mind for the long haul.” Put another way, the circumstances of Guevara’s life and death and the iconography (including some of the photographs of his corpse) that came with it have offered enough for the ‘God gene’ to work with.


“In the village of Vallegrande… some of the locals pray and attribute miracles to San Ernesto. A nurse who washed Guevara’s body said, “None dies as long as he is remembered. He is very miraculous”…. In Cuba, the Afro-Cuban faith Santeria has incorporated Guevara (as a black man) as a divine entity that can, for the supplicant, intercede with God…. But it’s the secular world that keeps the Che cult from withering.”

That’s not so surprising. The secular world has the technology and the money to keep a cult going, and it has, for many of its inhabitants, a spiritual gap to fill. The God gene does not switch off in what are nominally secular societies. It merely finds a different outlet. It didn’t hurt, of course, that what Guevara was preaching was merely a variant of a long-established template.

And this also helped:


Ernesto Guevara was born, raised, and died in the Latin American milieu of Christianity. The Bolivian women who tended to the corpse of Guevara reported that he resembled Jesus Christ, and not, unsurprisingly, Osiris, Zoroaster, Krishna, or Buddha. As we have seen, many analyses by secular intellectuals of Che instinctively draw on analogues with Christianity and its eponymous divinity. In Latin America, and arguably Western society, the “mythic lore” of Jesus Christ is one the “filaments of myth that are everywhere in the air” acting as magnets to “the great and little heroes of the world” (Campbell, 1964). Guevara’s narrative, in particular his death—the whereabouts of Che’s body was unknown for decades—contains a strong field of mythic magnetism to attach itself to the Christ myth…

…When Campbell wrote of the filaments of myths that floated in the “air,” he argued that myth did its heavy lifting in the human mind. He defined a “functioning mythology” as a “corpus of culturally maintained sign stimuli” that catalyze a release of energy. Myth functions as a sign, stimuli triggering an innate releasing mechanism, terms borrowed from ethology, the science of animal behavior.

Schifini’s father had asked what could keep the cult of Che from becoming a religion.

After all:

The Ernesto “Che” Guevara narrative, now more mythology than primary source history, and the Korda photo contain an abundance of “sign stimuli.”

To Schifini’s father, the way that religions began was that “a messianic man kills and is killed and decades, perhaps centuries later, is worshiped as a deity”:

Schifini’s father was astonished that his path had crossed, however briefly, with such a man:

“My father didn’t believe in religion…He probably didn’t believe in a god or gods, although I can’t be sure because we never explicitly discussed the topic. I wish he were still around to talk of all these things. “

We should be grateful that the son still is.

Read the whole thing….