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.