What Drives a Handsome Doctor (like Che Guevara) to Become a Militant Revolutionary?

Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. The handsome medical doctor from Argentina, who was executed at age 39 (.. in 1967, when LBJ was president & while the war raged in Viet Nam). The man the CIA called the 'most dangerous man on the planet.' His hands were cut off .. as tho they feared him, even in death. [ "Try shooting a machine gun now, Señor." ]

Ernesto 'Che' GuevaraYou've seen his revolutionary image printed on countless t-shirts & posters. It's the world's single most reproduced image. Ever! In the history of the human race.

"But what about Jesus?" my friends ask. Uh, nobody ever took his photograph. "Oh, that's right."

After watching the movie 'Che' last month, I got curious about what might lead a person to risk (sacrifice?) their life in order to (try to) bring social justice to the peasants of Latin America? .. and economic independence to the people(s) living there?

Guevara was born in 1928, so I knew his life coincided with the Great Depression, which began in October of the following year (.. when the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday).

A League of Nations report said Chile, Peru, and Bolivia suffered the world's worst depression. Argentina couldn't have been very far behind. Perhaps that global influence played a part, but there had to be more.

He was a little boy once. Were his parents nurturing or abusive? Educated or ignorant? Attentive or indifferent? Encouraging or critical? Affectionate or cold? Loving or manipulative? Wealthy or destitute? Was there harmony in the home or did his folks quarrel?

What were his strengths & weaknesses? People who excel in certain areas often have deficiencies in others. (The blind often compensate by developing their sense of hearing & touch .. to a remarkable degree.)

The movie is based on the "staggeringly researched" book (1997) by Jon Lee Anderson (« a stud in his own right) titled » Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life.

On my way to the coffee shop early one morning recently, I swung by the library to return a DVD before they opened .. hoping to avoid paying another late fee. Sitting outside were two bags of books, which someone had left there as donations (.. a fairly common sight).

Buried in the second bag was a copy of Anderson's 800-page book .. in perfect condition. Score! Seemed fortuitous, so I grabbed it.

I was only interested in the Argentine's childhood, hoping to find clues as to what might've led him down the perilous road to revolution .. where you "either suceed or die trying." I wanted to get inside his head, you might say.

Like technology, people interest me. Always have. What drives somebody to do radical things? What do they see?

••• today's entry continues here below •••

Chapter 5 is titled 'Escape to the North,' which begins on page 70 and deals with his trip chronicled in the film the Motorcycles Diaries. I've seen that movie, so I have a good idea of what happened on that trip. So I was mostly interested in the first 70 pages .. which takes us to age 23.

And what richness did I find in there! Wasn't long before the question changed from 'What drove him to become a revolutionary?' to » 'How could he NOT (become one)?'

I'd like to distill down my findings into a short synopsis, but it won't be easy, as there is much info. Won't be able to include it all. Which parts to omit? Decisions.

As always I underline key passages & scribble beaucoup notes in the margins. This book is very marked up .. with stars, double- & triple-stars, exclamation points and little lightbulbs. My own system to identify and rank key passages.

Little Ernesto was the oldest of four (.. 2 sisters, 1 brother). First curio I came across (on page 2) said:

He must be one of the rare public figures of modern times whose birth and death certificates are both falsified.

The most surprising thing I discovered was how well-read he was. A reading machine. A declassified CIA biographical and personality sketch dated 1958 notes Guevara's wide range of academic interests and intellect, describing him as "quite well read" while adding that "Che is fairly intellectual for a Latino."

In the coming days, I'll try to assemble a little ditty of what I gleaned in those first 70 pages. I'll try to avoid any judgmental aspects (as Anderson politely avoided) and focus on insightful facts (.. such as, he was more interested in ethics than politics).

Did you know that Diego Maradona, the colorful coach of Argentina's soccer team (and one of the greatest players of all time) has a tattoo of Guevara on his right shoulder?

Seeing today is Independence day (my favorite holiday of the year), when we celebrate our own radical revolutionaries, who gave the finger of freedom to the Brits, and risked their lives fighting for political & economic independence, here's an article on "the LEAST Free Places on Earth," beginning with North Korea.

I've been to South Korea .. a few times, and read that article in an effort to expand my provincial outlook.

Speaking of my favorite holiday .. you shoulda seen the Bug runnning around the backyard a few nights ago, chasing two girls, all 3 of them carrying sparklers, which illuminated their faces in the dark .. revealing the enchantment of innocence. Laughing .. uncontrollably at times, especially when the girls chased him.

Made my heart sing to see his little face lit up like that .. with happiness. (They burned thru all 10 boxes.) He's now back East for the holiday, but I can still see that enchanted expression on his glowing face .. burned into my memory.

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query > ernesto che guevara cuban revolutionary jon lee anderson book

I'll post back here when I complete my synopsis of Guevara's childhood.

UPDATE: August 15, 2010 .. Here is my answer » Answering the Handsome Doctor Question

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This page contains a single entry by Rad published on July 4, 2010 7:04 AM.

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