The comrade revolutionary
Of late, most of us have been consuming some amount of revolution as part of the evening fare on television. As we listlessly munch on our dinners, our eyes remain fixed on the stories (or reality) of angry, poor and frustrated people in some faraway desert land, trying to attain the power that allows you to choose and change your rulers.
It must be a fine time to be a child, for it’s not everyday that such desultory, archaic concepts like revolution take form and come alive in your drawing room. It’s a good time to be an adult too and find out that you were only being misled when told that the far-reaching changes in digital technology were the only revolution you would witness in your lifetime.
It’s just as well that the 88-year-old Alberto Granado chose such an interesting moment in political history to take his final bow. Granado knew a thing or two about revolutionaries. In 1952, he had embarked on a life-changing journey across South America with Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, an account that would be immortalised in the 2004 movie The Motorcycle Diaries, based on the separate journals published by the two friends (Granado’s in 1978, Guevara’s posthumously in 1992).
The journey took them from Argentina, across Peru and Chile, to Venezuela (where they parted ways), the first part on Granado’s 1939 Norton 500 motorcycle, a beat-up, sputtering and finally collapsing machine, ironically named ‘La Pederosa’ or The Powerful One.
The trip started uneventfully, more a couple of 20-somethings loafing around rather than a pious mission to unearth injustice. It was the exposure to the grinding poverty and exploitation of the people during the course of their travel that changed their political consciousness.
In life, Che, along with Fidel Castro, went on to spearhead the 1959 Cuban revolution before being killed in Bolivia in 1967. Granado moved to Cuba in 1961, spending his days in scientific research and basking in the glory of being comrade to the ultimate romantic icon of rebellion around the world.
Icons are hard to come by these days, though revolutions are not. The milling crowds in teeming city squares have been mostly leaderless; the call to gather or to raise arms more through an unknown polyphony of voices travelling via social networking sites rather than one charismatic Che-like icon inspiring men and women. The rebels in Libya are on their own, the TV informs us, and there is no hierarchical command structure. A truly people’s revolution, which is just as well.
Maybe the time has indeed come to remove the bearded godhead with his flowing hair off our keychains, T shirts and other merchandise, replacing him with that mass of people in whom all power supposedly resides.