Lots of ink has been spilled over Che Guevara becoming an icon here in the center of the capitalist world, the United States that is. Che was executed on October 9th of 1967 and some 40 years later I’ll add a bit more ink.
Reading Che’s speech to the UN in 1964 one sees little reason why an average American would want to sport a Che T-Shirt. He condemned this country as an overbearing imperialist power. Yet today wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his image is a ‘downtown’ fashion staple. But why would Che be fashionable?
US teens enjoy much of what Che would have opposed. The idea of individual wealth is not something we often question, so from $100 sneakers to time-churning video game machines, US youth seem somewhat out-of-step with Che’s Marxist ‘buy only what you need’ ideals. That is just not our current credo here in the States. That said, the picture of Che we so often see is a great image. The photo was taken by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda.
Che is fashionable because today the social and political revolutions that roiled the ’60s have been replaced by others such as the technological revolution, which is for sale. And the symbols of Che’s era from Chairman Mao to the Soviet-style iconography used to hawk high-priced vodka have morphed from symbols of Enemies of the State, to some that offer a simple nostalgia for another time with a kind of soft rebellion built-in sans the intellectual or political ramifications. And as Apple’s now famous Orwellian “1984” commercial illustrated, selling to the rebel in us all can create big bucks.
John N. Pasmore • New York, NY • Very.fm