Vantage point

Monday, November 21, 2005

Osama Bin Laden - A Mascot of Freedom?

Like many others, I too oppose several aspects of America's foreign policy. I think through their blind support for Saudi Arabia, they are helping perpetuate one of the most oppressive, dictatorial and medieval regimes of our times. They were instrumental in bringing up the Taliban too. Over the years they have supported many dictatorial regimes in various parts of the world. So whenever I see American Presidents espouse the cause of "freedom" and "democracy", I laugh. What they do is purely governed by self-interest. They are selfish. They don't care about freedom, democracy or principles. America just cares about America.

But then, China cares about China. Russia cares about Russia...and I am sure even the tiniest nation cares about itself. It is not that America is the only country that pursues self-interest. It's just that America has been the most successful at it, so we view it as a super villain.

Super villain or not, the fact remains that their policies, pursued in the name of "freedom", and "opposition to terrorism", do end up actually oppressing or snatching away freedom, and breeding terrorism.

Osama Bin Laden is currently America's Enemy Number 1.

Now think of this as a logical reasoning question.

America's policies lead to suppression of freedom
Osama is opposed to America
Therefore Osama is the mascot of freedom

So we should declare Osama as the new mascot of freedom and peace. American policies lead to suppression of individualism, not by design, but as a fall out. Osama opposes America, so Osama is a symbol of individuality?

So ideally, Osama t-shirts should be "cool". Osama's mug should be considered a symbol of individual spirit, constructive rebellion against oppression, and freedom. Right?

I am sure that as you are reading this, even if you are the most ardent opponent of American policies, you are repulsed by the very idea of Osama being a symbol of freedom or of anything "cool". That is because though you know America's sins, you know Osama's sins too. You have seen him on TV, calmly provoking hatred, advocating murder of innocents, and praising terrorism. You have seen his minions murder thousands of innocent people. You have read what he has to say and it is all hateful crap.

Sadly, the media wasn't as evolved in the 60s as it is today. And sadly, communism worldwide is pretty much on the wane, so there is no incentive for the Western world to keep refreshing our memories with what the "other side" did then. Right now, what Osama does is more relevant. If only there was some way in which people could become aware of the events in the 50s and 60s, the way they are aware of the events of the past ten years, their revulsion at the thought of an Osama t-shirt would be easily matched by something else.

The revulsion at the sight of a Che Guevara t-shirt.

My earlier post was basically a joke, a wordplay on the name "Che". But I guess I was trying to provoke his "fans" when I described him as a murderer, a bandit and a terrorist. Sure enough one of them was provoked enough to write me a mail of protest.

Yes, I stick by what I said. Che Guevara was no different from Osama Bin Laden. His enemies then might have been doing wrong, the way Osama's are. But in no way does it make him a hero. And if you people today separate right from wrong enough to realise that Osama is no hero, you should be able to denounce Guevara too. All that is lacking is awareness of the right information, which, ironically, is so freely available nowadays.

Che Guevara is presented as a symbol of cool "rebellion", and of "freedom". Rebel he was, but then, so is Osama. A rebel should only be admired if he does not subscribe to oppressive views similar to those of the authority he is rebelling against. If he does, then he isn't truly a rebel. He is just a warlord, who wants to usurp power. If a rebel's mind-map is no different from his "oppressors", then what he is leading is no "rebellion". It is a plain and simple gang-war of sorts.

What were Che Guevara's beliefs? Has anyone bothered to find out? Yes, he fought against regimes which were oppressive, dictatorial and cruel. But his own beliefs were no different.

This symbol of freedom was totalitarian by beliefs. He subscribed to the soviet-style school of leftist thought. There were several people in the Cuban revolution who favoured a democratic or a democrat-socialist direction (much like India in fact). Che opposed them overrode them and imposed his own ideas, putting in place the dictatorial Cuban state that is still crushing freedom. Just google the name "Raul Rivero" and you'll realise what sort of a state he set up.

It was Guevara who set up Gulag-style "labour camps" in Cuba. Political dissidents, liberals, gays are all tortured in these labour camps.

It was Guevara, the darling of leftists, who was in favour of a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis.

It was Guevara who glowingly spoke of hatred as a strong tool to turn soldiers into zombies, something OBL would approve of.

Just because he opposed a cruel dictator Batista does not make him peaceful, compassionate and freedom-loving. He and Castro put in place a regime which is as tyrannical, if not more. After Cuba, he tried tried to start violent murderous terrorist struggles all over Latin America. But he met with tremendous failure. In fact one thing not mentioned in the hugely embellished and romanticised accounts of his death is rather telling. He was killed in Bolivia where he was carrying out his nefarious activities. This so called "insurgent guerrilla movement" that he was carrying out in Bolivia, did not manage to get support from the Bolivian peasants. He was leading a group of non-Bolivians spreading terror in Bolivia, and was caught and killed.

I started out thinking of Che Guevara as a cool symbol of rebellion too. But over the years I used the information available on the Internet. I read his essays and speeches. And I realised how I had been taken in by a very quasi-Goebbelsian bit of propaganda. This man did not deserve to be a symbol of freedom or even rebellion. And it seemed even more ridiculous that there were several people in India who denounced Gandhi but loved Che. I realised it was nothing but a triumph of shrewd branding over truth.

So go online. Read his essays, understand his beliefs. Read about his life after the Cuban revolution right up to his death. And tell me if you see any major difference between Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and Osama Bin Laden? Make Che Guevara the poster child for communism, naxalism, maoism.... but a poster child for freedom and the spirit of rebellion? Excuse me while I barf.

He was, I repeat, a murderer, a bandit and a terrorist.