The Shortcut


Disclaimer: directly related to previous post.

The year was 1952. He walked the narrow, cobblestone streets in the chilly Andean city. The locals dressed in colorful garb, speaking in tongues he did not understand. These people he observed were poor, victims of a torturous past and a bleak present. The city, of course, was Cusco, the former heart of the majestic Incan Empire. The man: Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an often misinterpreted historical figure.

Hurtling through time to June 2007, I walked through the same streets as “Che” and was probably equally in awe as he was. He was 23, I was 22. What he saw profoundly affected his outlook on the world. He wanted to end poverty’s egregious injustice. I do, too. Che’s path towards that goal, however, will not be the one I choose. He took the shortcut.

Not more than a decade later, “Che” and his good buddy(at the time) Castro, boarded the fateful Granma in Mexico and set the course for the Carribbean island of Cuba. The small band of guerilla fighters slowly(and not without many losses) trekked towards Havana, seeking to overthrow Fulgencia Batista, the Cuban dictator at the time. Miraculously, they succeeded. Che, under the new Castro regime, earned a high position in the Cuban government. In 1952, Che was a young medical student exploring South America. In 1956 he was a revolutionary guerilla fighter. In 1959 he held high positions in the Cuban government. It appeared that he would be in a perfect situation to effect his goals of alleviating the poverty of the world. Unfortunately, for him, and for those he wanted to help, his method was hopelessly flawed.

“Che” latched onto marxist theory and would not let go. This, to him, was the only way of ending poverty. He murdered in cold-blood for it, executing scores of fellow Cubans who were suspected Batista supporters. He was willing to do much more. This excerpt from his “message to the tri-continental” aptly describes what this man of good intentions was willing to do:

Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism, and a battle hymn for the people’s unity against the great enemy of mankind: the United States of America. Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome, provided that this, our battle cry, may have reached some receptive ear and another hand may be extended to wield our weapons and other men be ready to intone the funeral dirge with the staccato singing of the machine-guns and new battle cries of war and victory.”

Simply interpreted: Che was willing to sacrifice millions to reach what he thought would save the world’s poor: a perfect communist society throughout the third world. Fortunately, he did not progress much in the fulfillment of this goal. Instead, he was summarily executed in the obscurity of the Bolivian jungle. Even when attempting a perceived just act, the sacrificing of innocent lives undermines everything. If Che got what he wanted, the world would be in a worse position than it was when he found it. A shortcut to justice–especially on such a large scale–will without fail create more injustice.

Two lessons can be gleaned from Che Guevara’s volatile life. 1) No matter what horrific events occur, one cannot–in one fell-swoop–fix it and 2) One can take the zeal that Che Guevara possessed and employ it towards a realistic solution to the world’s ever-existing problems.

Despite his flaws, he inspired me. He was the rare person that sincerely acted on his beliefs. That much, at least, is something to admire.


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