Last night I watched the movie “The Motorcycle Diaries“, which tells the true story a young Che Guevara and his friend who traveled through South America on a motorcycle (and various other means of transportation) in the 1950s. Che Guevara was in medical school at the time and the second part of the movie focuses on three weeks that the two spend in a leper colony in Peru. The movie itself is really good, probably one of the best movies I have seen (this was in fact the second time I watched it). It has adventure, but it is not just adventure; it also shows the variety of injustices that the men observe during their travels (including within the leper colony). Overall, the story is told with both sensitivity and a sense of fun, and Che is depicted as a sensitive man who is deeply moved by the injustices they see.
It is difficult for me to reconcile this depiction of Che Guevara with who he was later in life: a communist revolutionary who was deeply involved with Cuba and is known for leading men in guerrilla warfare. I realize that the way he is portrayed in the movie is not necessarily entirely accurate of who he actually was, but it is based on the journals that he kept, and in these journals, according to the wiki page about him, he does describe being moved by injustice (the following is from a 1960 journal entry:
I came into close contact with poverty, hunger and disease; with the inability to treat a child because of lack of money; with the stupefaction provoked by the continual hunger and punishment, to the point that a father can accept the loss of a son as an unimportant accident, as occurs often in the downtrodden classes of our American homeland. And I began to realize at that time that there were things that were almost as important to me as becoming famous for making a significant contribution to medical science: I wanted to help those people.
I find it a bit sad that someone who so deeply wanted to help people felt that the way to do this was through violence. I suppose that he was not the only revolutionary like that. In fact, I imagine that many of the people who start or participate in revolutions are in fact trying to fix a perceived injustice. Why do so many people so readily turn to violent means to accomplish such lofty goals?
I too am saddened by the injustices I see in the world, and I too want to help people. But I feel strongly that they way to do this is most definitely not through violence. I think that the most significant way to make this world a better place for everyone is through helping to create lasting peace. An idealistic goal, I know, but what else are ideals for? I believe that peaceful revolutions are possible, and that it is not necessary to use violence to remedy injustices.
In spite of my misgivings about Che Guevara’s later life, I do highly recommend “The Motorcycle Diaries”.