Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | Che Guevara

Jan/19

9

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….

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Aug/15

30

The Cult of Suffering

JesusMexicoIn the course of commenting over on the Corner to a list of the ‘ten best revolutionaries’ (yes, the list was as dumb as you can expect), I included an extract from Paul Berman’s excellent Slate response to The Motorcycle Diaries, a hagiographic Che movie made about ten years ago.

Some of Berman’s piece was an attempt to insert a little accuracy into the historical record, but this too caught my eye:

[T]he entire movie, in its concept and tone, exudes a Christological cult of martyrdom, a cult of adoration for the spiritually superior person who is veering toward death—precisely the kind of adoration that Latin America’s Catholic Church promoted for several centuries, with miserable consequences. The rebellion against reactionary Catholicism in this movie is itself an expression of reactionary Catholicism. The traditional churches of Latin America are full of statues of gruesome bleeding saints. And the masochistic allure of those statues is precisely what you see in the movie’s many depictions of young Che coughing out his lungs from asthma and testing himself by swimming in cold water—all of which is rendered beautiful and alluring by a sensual backdrop of grays and browns and greens, and the lovely gaunt cheeks of one actor after another, and the violent Andean landscapes.

The cult of suffering—the idea that suffering is itself somehow ennobling—has long been a feature of some of the more morbid outgrowths of Christian tradition, and it can easily be detected in some of the opposition to assisted suicide.

In the course of an article for the Boston Pilot,a nun, Sister Constance Veit, wrote:

Compassion, or “suffering with” another, manifests what is best in us as members of the human family. As Little Sisters of the Poor we often witness the extraordinary things that happen at the bedside of our dying residents — striking acts of faith, graces of personal conversion and family reconciliation and exceptional gestures of empathy on the part of our staff members.

This past winter we were hit with a particularly tough strain of the flu. Several residents succumbed to the illness, including a woman who had been caught in the downward spiral of Alzheimer’s disease for over 15 years. In his funeral homily the priest, a family friend, suggested that as Alzheimer’s progressively robbed her of all that she had enjoyed in life, he had been tempted to wonder, “Why is she still here?”

The priest had a ready response to his own question, though: despite her silence and complete dependence this woman remained among us for so long to bring out the best in her caregivers, to teach us how to love. Father’s answer echoed an insight that St. John Paul II had shared 30 years ago in his apostolic letter on human suffering:

“We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one’s ‘I’ on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. The world of human suffering unceasingly calls for, so to speak, another world: the world of human love; and in a certain sense man owes to suffering that unselfish love which stirs in his heart and actions.”

What a mystery — these suffering souls whose mission it is to call the rest of us to a more noble existence, a more loving and generous gift of self! The graces bestowed on those who care for the ill and dying parallel those received by the sick who recognize God as the Master of Life and entrust themselves to him. One of the reasons why assisted suicide is so tragic is that it would deprive the sick and those who accompany them of these important graces.

That last paragraph is, I have to say, disgusting. Sister Veit’s argument that those wrestling with the later stages of a cruel disease are on a “mission” on behalf of the rest of us, a mission that they had never asked to be on, is an expression of fanaticism, terrifying in its absence of empathy for her fellow man.

We are often to told that assisted suicide could represent a slippery slope to moral catastrophe. To read Veit’s words—and to understand what, in practice, they really mean— is to realize that we are already there.

Links
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/423275/lovable-rogues-all-andrew-stuttaford
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2004/09/the_cult_of_che.html
http://www.thebostonpilot.com/opinion/article.asp?ID=173351

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Aug/10

21

Che!

The cult of Che Guevara (all those posters and tee-shirts, not to speak of the recent movie hagiography) is a persistent—and rather annoying—reminder of the way that the crimes of communism still rank oddly low in the popular imagination.

But if the Che cult is bad in the United States, in Argentina—the land of the murderer’s birth—it is worse. Please see below a few pictures I took recently in Buenos Aires. Some of this tat must have been aimed at the tourist peso, but I suspect that it also reflected a certain pride in a local boy made, uh, good, a pride about as perverse as, oh, I don’t know, maybe irony-free US tee-shirts commemorating “Charles Manson, American”, a design that may somewhere exist but, if it does, remains mercifully rare.

Well, you get the picture.

Then again, back in the USA there is this…..

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