One of the subjects that constantly pops up round this corner of the blogosphere is the ubiquitous Che Guevara t-shirt, and it seems to provoke howls of something approaching anguish from some sections of the commentariat.
The something mostly centres on the quite correct opinion that Mr. Guevara was not a very nice person (to put it mildly), and I’d guess partly because that famous image decorated the digs of the lefty students that grew up to be the Enemy Class of today and to see that image still portrayed on the clothing of the young and ignorant arouses some quite uncomfortable feelings.
I think Che Guevara t-shirts are a Good Thing, and to explain why I’d like to take you on a little trip through time, back to when young Master Wh00ps was a sunday-school attending christian.
Back then, and possibly still, one of the frequent lessons was the one about people who professed no faith wearing crosses merely as a decoration. It was -perhaps predictably- the fault of celebrities and it was a grave threat. It devalued the faith to have its symbol used indiscriminately by people who knew very little of what it represented. Those people were possibly correct, although perhaps the irreverent use of crosses is more a symptom than a cause of their church’s decline.
The same thing applies I think to the use of the Che image. Although back in communism’s heyday the image was used by lefty students and hardline fellow travellers, these days most of those wearing the t-shirts, putting up the posters or even drinking the soft drink have no idea of the history of the subject let alone notions of following his example. Quite apart from the irony of using a portrait of a communist revolutionary to do something as banally capitalistic as selling t-shirts, the idea that his legacy is to become a mere pattern, something only as powerful as paisley or the willow pattern is quite an attractive prospect and a sign that his particular brand of Marxism is dead in the water, at least in most parts of the world.
Bring on the day when Gramsci, who’s ideas and legacy are arguably more of a threat to Western Liberal Civilisation than Guevara’s are or ever were is merely a pattern on a t-shirt and no longer the godfather of the slow-burn incrementalist revolution we currently suffer. I’ve never seen Gramsci Cola on the shelves, a fact that is, perhaps, telling.