"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
The War on the Free Market
January 4, 2007
For a man who's been dead for close to 40 years, Che Guevara still stirs up a lot of trouble. In December, Che's mug was spotted gracing (or defiling) the cover of CD cases (hasn't he done enough damage to T-shirts?) at Target stores. Protests poured in from many sectors, but mainly from those who suffered the most from Che's worldly actions, Cuban exiles. But in her Wall Street Journal commentary about Target and the dead communist, Maria Anastasia O'Grady added yet another twist to the ongoing Cuba saga: Christianity.
Ms. O'Grady's article rightly points to Mr. Guevara's murderous inclinations and the many shortcomings of the system that he and Fidel Castro brought to Cuba . But then Ms. O'Grady takes a mindless leap of faith (is there any other kind?) by arguing that the main reason that hope is still alive in Cuba is due in large part to the survival of Christianity. Her statements like, 'Thousands of Cubans have perished in daring attempts to get off the island because they preferred the risks of flight to a life in which Christianity has been forbidden,' border on dementia. Cubans are leaving Cuba because of real world economic plight, not for some 2,000 year-old superstitious beliefs. In reality (something many Christians have a problem with), most Cubans leaving the island today are atheist or agnostic with little or no desire to be enslaved by yet another bankrupt ideology. Contrary to Ms. O'Grady's own blind beliefs, communism and Christianity are a lot more similar than different.
Both Christianity and Communism are extremely dogmatic and require a blind adherence to faith. Failure to conform to the scriptures of Christianity or laws of Communism can have very grave consequences. In the Old testament, treated by Christians (and Jews) as words inspired by God, we find this: (Deuteronomy 13: 7-11) 'If your brother, the son of your father or your mother, or your son or daughter, or your spouse whom you [and perhaps your gardener and/or your pool guy] embrace or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you [not unlike Jim Baker, Ted Haggard or your parish priest] saying 'let us worship other Gods' . . . You must stone him to death.' This explains a lot of things, including the Crusades, the Inquisition, Copernicus and Galileo's imprisonment, abortion clinic bombing and shooting of doctors. This could have easily inspired Lenin's Red Terror (a policy of 'open and systematic terror').
Communism depends on an ever-vigilant state that employs various forms of surveillance to keep its subjects in line. For Christians (and most other organized superstitions), God--who is (according to the faithful) invisible, omniscient and omnipotent--watches every person's move and monitors his every thought (communists are still working on the latter). In Havana , a phone call to a member of the opposition, contact with the wrong tourist or earning a few dollars on the side can land you in jail or worse. The faithful believe anyone who clicks on the wrong website, ponders 'impure' thoughts, engages in premarital sex or sex without the intent of procreation, or not in the prescribed position (remember he sees everything, some kinky folks might actually enjoy this) and do not repent (re-education is the communist term) are damned to an eternity of suffering (watching reruns of 'Oprah' and listening to endless speeches by Fidel Castro).
Since both communist and Christian dogma make the present so bland, boring and hopeless, both systems pin their victims' hopes on the future. The communist rulers of Cuba and the former Soviet Union ask their subjects to make sacrifices in the present so that they may enjoy better things in the future. Unfortunately, for most of the folks doing the sacrificing, death seems to be the only 'future improvement' of circumstances under communist rule. The Christian faithful are asked to deny themselves earthly pleasures in the promise that these sacrifices will win them eternal bliss in heaven (which sounds pretty boring and probably means that all their crazy and sinful family members are probably going somewhere else that is a lot more fun). Of course, no one has ever come back from heaven, nor have they returned from the communist future to tell about it. (Why would they return, after allegedly escaping their mentally unbalanced relatives in heaven or after living in McMansions, driving Mercedes and skiing in Vail in the communist future?)
Christianity and communism also ask that you make sacrifices for your fellow man no matter how unworthy or ungrateful he may be. Karl Marx's words 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' could have easily been said by the biblical Jesus Christ himself, who is alleged to have said 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth' (I guess heaven is no place for the meek) during the Sermon on the Mount, or 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god' (Olstein, Falwell, Robertson and the Pope will surely burn in hell?). Basically both communist and biblical writings 'inspired by god' put hard working, intelligent beings on the same level with a crazy or lazy crack-addicted drunkard living under a highway overpass or worse at his disposal.
Ms. O'Grady accurately describes how some victims of Che and Fidel would defiantly scream, "Long live Christ the King, down with communism," as they were murdered and sent into oblivion to verify the existence of God according to their faith. Castro, not to be outdone, came up with his own slogan to rally the masses: 'Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!' (Fatherland or death, we shall be Victorious). Both expressions are similar in that they rely on blind faith in their respective dogmas and vilification of an opponent. She also states, 'The Christian faith has survived Che and Fidel and decades of brainwashing,' which is obvious because, as she states, communist indoctrination only spans a few decades, while Christianity's is measured in centuries. It is also possible that Jesus (if he said and did the things he is credited with) would have more than likely embraced many of the tenets of modern communism (he also allegedly violently destroyed private property at a Jerusalem marketplace), so it makes little sense to praise him while at the same time asking for the fall of a system he might have mostly agreed with. As for Castro's version, it asks for the ultimate sacrifice for the fatherland or state, just replace 'state' or 'fatherland' with 'god' or 'Jesus' or 'Jehovah' or 'Mohammed,' and you have religion. I'm sure we will not see Fidel rise to the heavens (or sink into the depths of hell) three days after his death; it's also doubtful such an event took place 2,000 years ago. But ironically, according to Christian dogma, if Castro were to ask God for forgiveness and accept Jesus as his savior, even just moments before his death, he would enjoy eternity in heaven (I'm not sure if he gets 72 virgins, but I'm sure Saddam won't mind sharing his).
Relying on a dogma created for the minds of the 3rd Century, and an invisible, wrathful, all-powerful being to liberate Cubans is plain and unadulterated stupidity (it hasn't worked in 48 years). The ineffectiveness of the Pope's visit to Cuba (1998) and the erroneous predictions over the years by Santeria's (Afro-Cuban superstition) high priest of Fidel's demise are more than enough proof. With the exception of those blinded by communist dogma, everyone can see that most people in Cuba are oppressed both socially and economically. In fact, no dogmatic or organized religion would free Cubans, but merely enslave them on another level. What Cubans and everyone else on the planet needs is a free-market system, one that includes the absolute and uncompromising protection of private property, accompanied by a respect for the rights of the individual to think and express even the most vile and ignorant thoughts (many might even say this column meets both those qualifications), and absent the power to impose them on others.