What Che Guevarra has in common with me and the Nameless Man who light himself on fire

To begin with I want to share a story which I think changed my life at a very young age. I am not sure how old I was, maybe five years old or even younger when my mother took my sister and me to the park. As we were playing at the playground my mother was sitting on a bench eating an apple. Another kid, younger than I was (and I remember this in an incredibly vivid manner) ran-up to my mom with his hands reaching out.

The kid’s own mother was a little further away and before she can make it over, my mother asked the kid if he wanted her apple. When he made some exciting sounds, still with his hands extended, my mother handed him her apple. The kid’s mother came and apologized for her son’s disturbance and wanted to give my mom her apple back but she refused saying that there was no problem; we had more apples at home. That example of taking food from your own mouth to give it to someone else was a lesson in compassion and charity I have never forgotten.

I have always been impressed by those who are willing to help others and even give their life for such a cause. Growing up in a ferocious dictatorial regime sparked a revolutionary-fire in me at a very young age. I witnessed many injustices and although at the time of the Romanian revolution I did not know that the CIA had been involved in starting it up, I did appreciate the masses of people who walked-out on the street in order to change the status-quo. I realized then, that often real change in a society comes at the cost of people’s lives.

Che Guevara knew this as well and he chose to lead by example. He did not need to live a revolutionary life. He was a trained physician who attended medical school. He had a wife and two children, yet he chose to fight for poor and oppressed people and ultimately gave his life for that cause. How many people are ready to leave their family and children, pick-up an AK-47 and fight for change?

Some are. I am. I fight with the pen now but I can very well fight in other ways too. I have no kids, no wife or girlfriend, or mother and I have one rule to which I keep true to: I do not get attached to anything in life that I can’t “walk out in thirty second flat” on if I “feel the heat around the corner” (Heat). Some say this is a sad life but I am true to myself and my beliefs – “the political hero erects the fortress of his will” (author unknown to me although I believe he was of Spanish origin).

I hear some people say: “Patience, things change on their own.” Yes, I agree. Things do change: the middle class is disappearing, people are living in tent-cities, education is a bad joke and overall living standards are now on a down-spiral in North America. I see how things have been changing; on their own … we will soon be again in the situation where society is split in two: the aristocracy and everyone else.

When I was nine or so my parents would send my sister and me to ski classes every winter. We did that for about three or four years in a row at Poiana Brasov (a tourist area of Transylvania where many foreign nationals would come to ski or just spend their vacation). I always felt strange going there and seeing people from other countries because I knew as Romanians, we were not allowed to leave the country. I felt as if the entire nation was grounded.

In the late 1980s the situation in Romania was quite tragic. People were hungry and cold. We would walk around the house with three or four layers on in the winter and two pairs of socks. We had electric heaters in every room in the house (and those were illegal). Being at the ski resort was like being in heaven though. The dictator Nicolae Ceausescu made sure that hotels and in general areas where tourists would be attending where impeccable in all senses of the word. Thus, going to ski classes was one of the greatest escapes of my childhood, worry-free.

I think it was 1987 or 1988, and we were at Poiana Brasov for a few days already when one afternoon we went to eat and I over-heard my mother and father talking about how a part of the ski resort was closed off because somebody died. As a nosy kid I pestered them enough that they told me the story: a man in his forties, doused himself in gasoline, light himself on fire and went down a hill on his skis in protest of the brutal dictatorial political regime in Romania. With tourists from other countries around it was a good media stunt, I must admit. I never found out anything more about that man but I always think of him. I suppose he felt like there was nothing else left to do. The anger in him was so great that he felt screaming or fighting would be useless so he light himself on fire.

For all those who think that people just give lip service to the idea of change, think again. There are indeed many people who are ready to act and when enough people will have such an attitude, things will change. More and more people are becoming aware of the nature of our existence and that is encouraging. We all have a part to play whether we play it or not.

Apathy, despair, disillusionment … this is only a phase, a chapter you may call it. Nothing stays the same: not in Nature, not in Life and not in any society of any period of human history. We just took a wrong turn after the Age of Enlightenment, that’s all. So, if you happen to be beside someone who’s still sleeping, give them a gentle nudge and tell them it is time to wake-up.

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Comments 20 comments

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Light yourself on fire, blow yourself up with a bomb -- and in the end, what have you accomplished besides destroying yourself? Change is taking place all around you whether you can see it or not, and by this I don't mean only the negative consequences. People work for change without destroying themselves.

In the past few decades I've watched considerable change for the better, particularly in those fields in which I was most active -- children's rights and protection.

To work within, to slowly progress, this takes strength and patience. Any fool can blow themselves up.

Most of us are motivated by our love for those around them and do not choose a solitary life. Most of us draw strength from our attachments. We don't spurn them in the name of some nebulous higher calling, or fear of loss.

You do many of us a disservice, and should remember those that appear to sleep may only be deep in thought.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Our views do differ here Mrs. Lynda. The problem is that being a conformist and trying to change the system from within doesn't always succeed and in the end it may not be you who changes the system but the system who changes you.

I do not think any fool can take their own life unless they have a serious mental illness. I also believe that Che Guevara fought for a righteous cause and his death inspired and still inspires many to stand-up (this can be done in any way one can think of not necessarily in a violent manner) against oppression and that is important.

I do bow to those who do change the system from within. That is how things should work but they do not always do. As I said, I have chosen my fight to be with a pen for now but many options are available as well.

I do chose a solitary life so I don't have much to lose indeed. There is very little to hold against me or to hold me down and I like it that way.

I am not sure who I am doing a disservice to and exactly how but I do appologize for I have had no such intentions.

I did not talk about people who blow themselves up either. That is a topic I purposely stayed away from for specific reasons. The man who burned himself only took his own life. Buddhist monks are generally known to have taken this form of protest in the past.

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

Some people have changed the course of history through their actions.

I will never forget the day when a single MAN stood in front of a convoy of moving tanks ready to enter the Tiananmen Square and end the demonstration of thousands of students gathered to protest China’s communist regime. It was June 3, 1989 and the courage of this MAN marked the beginning of the end for the brutal dictatorship that affected the lives of millions around the world.

Yes, one man can make a difference! All fires start with a single spark!

The incident you are talking about and the Romanian man who set himself on fire was not reported by the communist media (surprise, surprise), but eventually everybody found out about it. His desperation was shared by millions of Romanians that for too long have thought they could not do anything to change their fate. The tragic death of one person inspired others and gave them hope; that is a lot for one human being to accomplish.

Spartacus, Pancho Villa, Che Guevara and many others have done the same and that is a hell of a legacy. Changes take human sacrifices and, while it is tragic to see a hero die, it is just as tragic to see millions suffer.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

Oh Happy -- you miss the big picture in my words, but that is not surprising. And me -- a conformist? Not hardly.

Doing us a disservice? Speaking to us as though we have not seen and thought for ourselves? You talk of change, change, change -- but to what? And what if the majority doesn't want change? What then?

As Che Guevara wrote, if you ask the peasant to create revolution for a better bus service, once he has the bus service, the revolution is over. Unfortunately for Che, he learned that lesson too late. It cost him his life. (You are surprised I know something of his life?)

You now live in Canada -- are you suggesting a revolution is necessary in that country? I'm afraid you will find yourself a very tiny minority. Most Canadians are all together very comfortable with the status quo, and quite unlikely to take kindly to a new immigrant who tells them otherwise. This I do know, being Canadian myself. I've traveled that country from one end to the other, and a country less likely to enter into radical change you could not find.

I know from previous discussions you rail against the financial establishment and other monoliths of our age. They will fall when their time comes, but you will never stir Canada to revolution -- never! Not free, wealthy, comfortable, safe Canada. To what should we aspire to become that is not becoming already?

That is the big question -- what would you have us become? What should we change? And what kind of a price will such change cost in human suffering?

As to the burning Budhists -- yes, I saw them in protest in Vietnam in the 60's -- on television that is. With my own eyes.

I don't understand your call to arms. Change is going on even while I write this -- some for the better, some not. Watch, learn, wait.

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

I am not sure that Lynda and I saw the same movie… The way I read your story had nothing to do with a “call to arms”.

There is a call, all right, but it is a wake up call for people to start thinking for themselves and say NO to brainwashing. I see it as a call of more needed awareness not as a call to pick up arms and start a bloody revolution. Without that awareness, people like Lynda would not have dedicated her life to fight against abused children.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Mrs. Lynda I am sorry you think I misunderstood you and I am also sorry you thought I labeled you a conformist. I did not. I was speaking in general terms as in sometimes those who conform and try to change the system end up being changed themselves... My appology again for that.

Change to what you ask? Change to the corruption in politics, change to the unhelathy business practices ... change in the way we think!! Hence I wrote on my Poor People article that the revolution has began - the revolution in the way we think.

I can see how some would take this article as a militant expression but I did not think of it only that way although it can be. The main point was to say that we have to exit our little safe bubbles (and please do not think I am speaking of you here - you do more than enough as I said before and if everyone was as involved as you are within their community/society, the world would be a much sweeter place) and take-up challanges, quests, tasks ... Some sort of sacrifice is needed in order to persevere in anything really. We have to mobilize and take part in what is happening around us.

I know you said things are not that bad but nobody would want to let things get as bad as Mrs. Petra and I have experienced in the dictatorial regime we lived through. It wasn't fun and games.

I just think North Americans and many of the people whom I know personally (not including you Mrs Lynda and I am sure there are many more like you), are very relaxed while Europeans are on the streets as we speak. I am looking for unity. I do have to wonder how the Patriot Act was implemented without riots and demonstrations - at least I would have wanted to see some resistence ... anything.

Alrighty, I do wish you get my point. I wasn't calling for a bloody revolution but a revolution in thought and in the way we do things or not do things.

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

I am starting to feel ignored here :-)))

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

lol I am sorry Mrs. Petra, I totally agree with your comments and sometimes when I agree I tend not to say anything which is bad, I know. Thank you so much for the comments!

PS I am glad that the story about that man is known and remembered by people! His death was definately a sign of courage which was most needed at that time.

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

I get it now. You like controversy and you are right; it is a lot more stimulating than being in agreement with a position. The good part about it is that, after making a point, you are capable at defending your position with other intelligent and valid arguments.

Now that we understand each other, would you do me the favor of just calling me Petra? Doamna I am not!

d.william profile image

d.william 6 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Well, personally i absolute loved your hub. It personifies everything i believe and i am an American citizen. Your entire hub could have been written by me, in my sentiments toward the downward spiraling of American politics and the 'ungodly' changes taking place in our religious institutions. Keep your ideals, and share your thoughts with others. Education/information is the only sword i will carry in this lifetime. I pray that i can change at least a few minds to rally against oppression in this country and around the world.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

This was a difficult blog to write for many reasons. I appreciate people taking the time to comment. All the best!

rakuba 6 years ago

Something has led me to this hub ...

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Is this not what you were looking for? Thank you for visiting Mr. Rakuba.

rakuba 6 years ago

I wasnt looking for this. I was thinking about this.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Even better. Thank you for stopping by again. Cheers!

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Thank you for remembering Che. What a brave and wonderful man who did little for himself and so much for the broken and trampled.

A violent revolution would not work in the US anyway. Not soon. But yes, we need a revolution of the minds. The CIA, itself is enough to quell in erupting bubbles. The CIA is too strong, too secretive, too "accepted". Che did it anyway. God bless!

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

I'll take any revolution Mr. Mickey ... as long as it has a progressive outcome where the lives of the majority of the people is improved.

As long as the playing field levels out and opportunity is available for all then, a revolution of any kind would have been successful. The less violence the better. With that in mind why are billions of dollars spent on the military? Why did we Canadians spend 2 billion dollars on security/police at the G-20 and the G-8? Why is so much money invested on violent things? Not just the military but games, movies, etc. It's all bloody violence.

From what I have heard up here, lately Americans have been stocking-up on guns and ammunition ... surely that says something.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

You go Mr. Happy. I'm with you. America hasn't a clue about who the enemy really is. America is knowledgeable about some chip that will be implanted in their heads and eschew none of the propagandist that is implanted. America elects lawyers to make laws and lawyers get around those laws and put their money in the Caymans and the poor in prisons. The land of the free is the land of the most imprisoned.

God bless!

Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 3 years ago from Isle of Man

I love this hub and I was actually looking for that scene in Heat only yesterday when Robert De Niro says those words that describe his life path with no attachment. It has to be my favourite quote of all time.

In the scheme of things we are both in agreement on many things and though the destination for both of us is the same our paths are different. Just as Martin Luther King and Malcom X strived for freedom for their people they both went about it differently. Malcom X advocated violence, Martin Luther King advocated passive non violent resistance.

For me there are many ways for people to wake up and wake up they will inevitably do. It just depends on how more they can take before the sleeping lion wakes up!

Thank you for another insightful and thought provoking hub. I will share.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Greetings Mr. Spirit Whisperer,

let's just aim at a different destination than Martin Luther King and Malcom X got to ... being assassinated doesn't entice me much LOL

Thank You for the visit.

All the best!

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