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RIP Fidel Castro: Musings on The Janus Face of his Legacy RIP Fidel Castro: Musings on The Janus Face of his Legacy
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2016-11-27 11:40:22
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“Gentlemen, the issue is not whether I live or die, for death comes to us all sooner or later, the issue is whether corruption which is faster than death, catches up with you and once it has caught up, it may not easily let you go.” 

                                                                                                --Socrates

Indeed, sooner or later, we will all die; there is little doubt about that. But what may still remain in doubt is whether or not death will find us prepared for it; whether or not we will confront it as heroes or as villains, as the father of Western philosophy wisely reminded us some two thousand plus years ago.

As we speak, there are older Cuban-Americans who are dancing in the street in Miami at the news of Fidel Castro’s demise at age 90. They seem to be saying “good riddance; it was time after half a century.” But the festivities are a bit premature and deceptive. In the first place, the undemocratic repressive regime remains in place via Fidel’s brother Raul. In the second place one notices that few if any younger Cuban-Americans have joined the exuberance. They seem to be ok with a rapprochement between Cuba and the US allowing them to visit Cuba as tourists, even relocating or opening a business there; a situation that greatly benefits trade and commerce between the two countries; something that was interrupted by a one sided fifty-year imposed blockade motivated mostly by ideology.

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Which brings to my mind a personal anecdote going back a couple of decades ago when I conducted a class visit to a Cuban-American professor who taught history. The professor had the reputation of being a great disciplinarian. He did not disappoint a bit. Later, while praising his discipline and control of the class, I also pointed out that he ran his classes like a little dictator: no interruptions to his lectures were allowed; nobody could speak unless they raised their hand first; there was little if any dialogue; in short the whole class had an intimidating atmosphere. This was not the Socratic Method. Although I did not put those comments in the report, I got the strange feeling that there was in insight to be derived here: the reason why some Cuban-Americans hated Castro with a vengeance may have been due to a Junghian projection of some kind: they saw too much of themselves in him. By the way, this is the same professor who when confronted with the fact that Castro brought universal literacy to Cuba, retorted: “and what good is that if you do not leave people free to read what they want to read?” To which I retorted “that may be, but perhaps we can agree that to be an educated slave is better than to be an uneducated one; and that in fact, being educated may be the first necessary step toward ultimate freedom.”

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That kind of ambiguity can also be found on the island itself where the average Cuban may also harbor ambiguous views on the recently deceased dictator. Yes, a good number of them may be willing to acknowledge that their freedoms were curtailed and violated, that democracy was never delivered, that their will ought to have been better respected, but then they also remember that before the left-leaning Castro dictatorship arrived on the scene in the late 50s, there was in place already the right-leaning corrupt dictatorship of Fulgenzio Batista in collusion with the US Miami mafia. The classic movie The Godfather portrays such a situation quite well.

They also remember the comment of an American politician: “Batista was a son of a bitch, but he was our son of a bitch.” So, the problem with Fidel was that he was the ungrateful Russian bear’s son of bitch and not our grateful son of a bitch. The fact is that the average Cuban as well as the average American knows and cares precious little about Marxist-Leninist ideology, but knows full well when his stomach, his wallet and his mind is empty.

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That brings us to another ambiguity: before Castro’s era some 90% of Cubans were poor and illiterate. Today many of them are still poor, but most of them are literate; that is to say, both their bodies and their minds are better taken care of, even if their stomachs remains empty. The same thing applies to health care which, before Obamacare came into effect in the US, was in some way better for the vast majority of Cubans than for the majority of Americans. It certainly was not the health care which congressmen and senators enjoy in the US but it was universal, better and adequate enough for most Cubans; certainly better than the 40 million Americans who did not enjoy health insurance. Castro even exported his model of Medicine to Africa and other places when he sent Cuban doctors there. It may have been done for propaganda reasons but he would not have sent them if they were bad incompetent doctors.

I dare say that most Cubans, on the island, and even here in the US are fair-minded enough to give credit where credit is due. Fidel may have been ideologically misguided and repressive and anti-democratic in his methods, but he did have the common good in mind, something that can hardly be said for a Battista who was doing business with crime families and benefitting only himself and his business interests. They also will not easily forget that not since the revolution of independence from Spain had Cubans felt a sense of national pride in controlling their own destiny—hunger and all—independent of colonial powers’ manipulations and pressures. As was said by a Chilean in another context, that of the Chilean election of Allende to the Chilean presidency: “this may still be a shitty country, but it is my shitty country.” We know how that ended, with Pinochet, our very own son of bitch, installed by the CIA, Nixon and Kissinger.

Of course one can make the case that ultimately Fidel was trapped by the Socialist ideology and ended up in the clutches of the Soviet Bear; but one ought not ignore the attempt of the CIA to poison him, to have his beard fall off, to discredit him, and ultimately to have Miami Cubans invade the island. An invasion which greatly embarrassed JFK and prepared the way for the Cuban missile crisis. Is it any wonder then that Castro, in desperation, resorted to Russia’s protection?

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Indeed, Castro presents us with a Janus face. It is quite possible to like his reforming spirit, his sense of the common good while condemning the other side of the coin: his repressive dictatorial ways. It is, in fact, the only way, to be fair and balanced about his heritage and predict how history may ultimately remember him.

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Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them for FREE HERE!
 
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Emanuel Paparella2016-11-27 17:34:00
Errata: the reader should be aware that there is a typo throughout the article; the last name of the Dictator who preceded Fidel Castro in 1959 should not be spelled with a double "t". It is "Batista"


Emanuel Paparella2016-11-27 18:00:02
P.S. For three days now, we have been inundated by a veritable tsunami of post-mortem analysis of Fidel Castro’s character, deeds, and the meaning of his political legacy; all explained by self-proclaimed experts and pundits of history and culture who write regularly for newspapers. What remains bizarre to my mind is that while the harmful traits of an admittedly flawed man are all duly mentioned and decried ad nauseam, very few such experts, that I have been able to discern, bother to even mention the name of the brutal dictator whom Castro was fighting and whom he eventually replaced. Is this culpable or accidental ignorance, or what? Be that as it may, there is plenty of food for thought in this very strange modern phenomenon of selective memory.


Emanuel Paparella2016-11-27 19:46:52
P.S.S. Continuing the psychological Junghian reflection above alluded to on projection, and aside from the ideological differences between Batista and Castro, one wonders if the latter had, over time, became the nemesis of the former. By the time Castro had completed the struggle with Batista, he too, who had originally started with a belief in legal and democratic means to bring about social changes, had become, much like his enemy, dictatorial and tyrannical in his governing modes, justifying the bad means by the laudable ends, albeit retaining till the end an ideological care and concern for the people as a collective and a universal idea. In his extremism coming close to fanaticism, he felt that he had to defend the revolution by any means and at any cost, and that history would justify his enormities. Eventually the bad means destroy the good ends too. On the more individualistic particular level he could in fact be quite ruthless and uncaring, even toward his own immediate family, some of them living in Miami nowadays; that too he had probably learned from the monster Batista. I suppose the psychological caveat here is that one must be weary of the enemy one chooses to fight; one may, willy nilly, become a monster too.


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