Fidel Castro: My Life

I was reading the book I bought as soon as I reached Manchester a month ago, Fidel Castro:My Life when my reading was interrupted by the module I fondly and excitedly wrote about previously. It is such a shame that I have to put my reading on hold for the module (my leisure reading, that is) to give way for a book that is worth 10 credits. I will soon write about it, the book ‘Capitalism as If the World Matters’ by Jonathan Porritt I chose (and agreed by my supervisor who sensed my preference on this particular to the other 3 books I shortlisted), but for now, I would love to put some notes on interesting bits on this particular man’s biography.

I somehow wish that there were more books written this way. The truth is I am skeptical when I read biography, even autobiography to some extent. Biographies allow less transparency – the author would have to take side, now matter how neutral he or she is trying to be (recall that it is human nature to behave that way), and the person who writes his or her own life story would have choose what is to be written, and no matter what he or she chooses to include, be it good or bad things he or she has done, would give him/her a better image. If it is good, then that person will be perceived as good. If it is bad, one will be seen as honest and either way will just increase that person’s attractiveness (except for me who changed my mind about Rooney as soon as I found out that he don’t read newspapers and only watches sports channel). And most of autobiographies are co-written by someone else.

But this book is a compilation of 100 hours of interviews between Ignacio Ramonet and Fidel Castro himself. That means this is a primary source, though I have to admit that the questions asked were probably pretty much influenced by the interviewer’s view on the interviewee. You won’t ask killer questions to a mate who’s running for a parliamentary seat which will expose his weaknesses, will you? But at least this is book is the exact words of Castro himself, rather than interpretations of his words.

Most of what he said on how he turned to be a rebel answered my questions on why some people are just inclined towards activism while some could not care less. I wish i could explain it here, but here’s an excerpt of his answer on the question on whether his own personal history that pushes him to begin a political life, he said:
I told you that I sometimes went hungry; I told you a lot of things, the things I went through. It was very easy for me,then, to understand that we lived in a society of inequalities and injustices.

It is the upbringing and experience that perhaps shaped one person’s view on these things, on whether whatever that is happening worth fighting to have it changed or not.

An another thing that had me stopped and spent my time thinking how grateful I should be is his view on Marx and Lenin.
If Christopher Columbus hadn’t had a compass, he wouldn’t have got anywhere. but the compass existed. I had a compass; it was what I found in Marx and in Lenin. and the ethics – I repeat – that I found in Marti.

That is the second time he mentioned how he is very much influenced by Marx and Lenin and Marti, that these are his compass. That had me questioned myself : he is so thankful that he got Marx and Lenin and Marti to guide him in giving values to things :

From Marx I received the concept of what human society is ; otherwise someone who has not read about it, or to whom it has not been explained, it’s as though they were set down in the middle of a forest, at night, without knowing which way north is, or south, east or west.

And I, from whom or what I came to know my west, east, north and south? Is it from a human or some divine being above?

Islamic epistemology (or the origin of knowledge) told us that Quran and As-sunnah is the supreme (in the consequence written here) source of knowledge, which should help us to construct our worldview, or maybe tells us the concept of human society.

I am way far from having a worldview that is perfectly built on what Islam says, but I am still grateful that whenever I am torn between two I always believe that there will be a light showing me which one to choose.

The strangest example was when I was contemplating on the fundamental behind environmentalism. I read environmental philosophy during summer, well, the introduction to it, but then I started to question my stand on environmentalism, asking the nature of our relationship with nature; how far should we go utilizing it, and then upon balancing my view (so that I won’t jump into being an extremist and radical in this area – which might include choosing to be childfree or a vegetarian Muslim) I have this one last statement that comforted me : ‘Of course there is something that God have taught us regarding this’ and yes, indeed there is. That is when I figured out that studying the environmental philosophy according to Islam and other religions is a must – and of course there are good materials on these to be read.

Back to Castro.

Another thing that struck me is the story he mentioned on a guy named Chibas., described as ‘the leader of a popular party’ and ‘fiercely opposed to theft, speculation,corruption’ who denounced a minister of education as corrupted, having a farm in Guatemala. The man defied Chibas to prove it, and it turned out that the source Chibas had trusted gave him information without the necessary proof. He then came under terrible pressure of slandering and lying.

Here’s what wikipedia says about him:

On August 5, 1951, during the radio broadcast on which he was expected to present the evidence supporting his claim that education minister Aurelio Sanchez Aurango was embezzling money, he instead talked about other topics, warned that Fulgencio Batista might attempt a military coup, and made a farewell statement. Chibas, who was also a senator, killed himself during this broadcast as the congressmen who were going to give him the evidence in support of his claim refused to do so and Chibas believed that killing himself was the only way he could apologize for his inability to keep his promise. He was planning to have the radio listeners hear the gunshot that would kill him, but he was cut off the air because his speech was too long.

That is what I would call dignity and integrity, though it could not be the best thing to do. But to take a look on whatever that has happened (and happening, of course) in my very own country will only make me less proud; we have a deputy prime minister sent to jail, for a false accusation, while having the accuser set free and can’t stop talking for instance. Not that I am fond of the victim to take his side, but I can’t wait for the court to reach the verdict on the latest accusation of sodomy (again) – if it turns out that it is a false claim – should that 23-year-old guy do what Chibas have done?

And I bet Castro is impressive, on how he trained and recruited his army of 1200 young men for the assult he planned:

‘I spoke to each one of them; I strove assiduously to do that – hours and hours everyday’

That was the personal touch, knowing every single soul in your army. Perhaps that was why the won – every single man admitted in such an important, crucial action has been screened. A lesson to be learned of course.

Maybe I should continue reading this soon, bedtime reading perhaps – or else I will delay many other lessons from Castro!

p.s. I have bought a new laptop, alhamdulillah, half of the cost was funded by my friends. My prayers are with you, may Allah bless you and forgive you all.



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