There's something about Che Guevara that convinces older European men that they will become cooler through association with his "brand." We saw that again yesterday when Mercedes-Benz Chairman Dieter Zetsche launched a new car under a banner picture of Guevara. Years ago, an equally desperate Anglican clergyman tried to stem dwindling congregations with a poster of Guevara wearing a crown of thorns. The hip slogan? "Meek and Mild? As if."
The Anglican Church continues to, ahem, have its problems attracting people to an increasingly troubled denomination. As to whether communism will help a luxury car maker sell a lavish lifestyle, well, let's say I remain agnostic. But the occasion to comment on the appropriateness of using Che Guevara to market anything cannot be passed up.
Che Guevara, not to put too fine a point on it, was a psychopath whose sadistic lust for blood was not easily quenched. He killed for pleasure.
He had, moreover, little time for youthful rebellion and none at all for individualism. Lastly, Che Guevara was a racist who specifically held blacks in contempt. I think about this often when I see deluded young African-Americans wearing a t-shirt with his likeness. But a German born a handful of years after 1945 really ought to have known better.
Much has been written about how Guevara executed men and boys in prison in the early revolutionary years in Cuba, disposing of such bourgeois niceties as trials. This little snippet from a 1966 speech by Guevara ought to have given Zetsche some pause:
Hatred is the central element of our struggle! Hatred that is intransigent...hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him violent and cold- blooded killing machine...We reject any peaceful approach. Violence is inevitable. To establish Socialism rivers of blood must flow! The imperialist enemy must feel like a hunted animal wherever he moves. Thus we'll destroy him! These hyenas are fit only for extermination. We must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm! The victory of Socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims!
But rebellion was something only reserved for Guevara and others in government. In an earlier speech spurning "the spirit of rebellion", in 1961, he made clear that government was in charge. "Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates," he said.
As for Guevara's views on race, he did not mince words. After the Revolution's victory in 1959, he famously said, "We're going to do for blacks exactly what blacks did for the revolution. By which I mean: nothing."
And no, it wasn't just hard feelings over how Cuban blacks had supported the biracial dictator Fulgencio Batista. With Guevara it was more of a conviction, as we can glean from another quote. Speaking of blacks he said: "The ***** is indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent."
Yes, quite a model that Che Guevara. You'd buy a car from him, wouldn't you? What will Mercedes-Benz come up with next? The Baader-Mienhof super coupe?
Update: To Mercedes-Benz's credit, it apologized 48 hours after the event. A statement said, in part,
"Daimler was not condoning the life or actions of this historical figure or the political philosophy he espoused. We sincerely apologize to those who took offense."
A spokesman also said, "It was very thoughtless not to realize that by doing that, it would offend a large number of people," adding of the PR person who thought up the use of Che Guevara's image: "It was absolutely stupid that somebody did it."