An interesting article by Alexandre Trudeau, son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau who was prime minister of Canada from April 1968 - June 1979 and again from March 1980 - June 1984.
- From: periodistalibre@xxxxxxx
- Date: 13 Aug 2006 14:05:36 -0700
[An interesting article by Alexandre Trudeau, son of Pierre Elliot
Trudeau who was prime minister of Canada from April 1968 - June 1979
and again from March 1980 - June 1984. The story is remarkably
personal and absent of the vitriol and destain expressed by most
politicians in service of capitalist nations. Marcel Hatch]
PHOTO CAPTION: Cuban President Fidel Castro holds baby Michel as
Pierre and Margaret Trudeau look on during their state visit to Cuba
in January 1976. Castro presented Margaret Trudeau with this photo
just hours before Pierre Trudeau's funeral in 2000.
The last days of the patriarch
EXCLUSIVE | Pierre Trudeau had a friendship with Fidel Castro that
went beyond politics. It was a mutual admiration between two men who
put their unmatched intellects at the service of their country. On
Castro's 80th birthday, an essay by Alexandre Trudeau
Aug. 13, 2006. 07:38 AM
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
I grew up knowing that Fidel Castro had a special place among my
family's friends. We had a picture of him at home: a great big man
with a beard who wore military fatigues and held my baby brother
Michel in his arms. When he met my little brother in 1976, he even
gave him a nickname that would stick with him his whole life:
A few years later, when Michel was around 8 years old, I remember him
complaining to my mother that my older brother and I both had more
friends than he did. My mother told him that, unlike us, he had the
greatest friend of all: he had Fidel.
For many years, Cuba remained Michel's exclusive realm; whenever
someone would accompany my father there, it would naturally be
Michel. It wasn't until after both my father's and brother's deaths
that I got a chance to visit Fidel and his country, Cuba.
Fidel may have been at first a political contact of my father's but
their relationship was much more than that. It was extra-political.
Indeed, like my father, in private, Fidel is not a politician. He is
more in the vein of a great adventurer or a great scientific mind.
Fidel doesn't really do politics. He is a revolutionary.
He lives to learn and to put his knowledge in the service of the
revolution. For Fidel, revolution is really a work of reason. In his
view, revolution, when rigorously adopted, cannot fail to lead
humanity towards ever greater justice, towards an ever more perfect
Fidel is also the most curious man that I have ever met. He wants to
know all there is to be known. He is famous for not sleeping, instead
spending the night studying and learning.
He also knows what he doesn't know, and when he meets you he
immediately seeks to identify what he might learn from you. Once he
has ascertained an area of expertise that might be of interest, he
begins with his questions. One after the other. He synthesizes
information quickly and gets back to you with ever deeper and more
complex questions, getting more and more excited as he illuminates,
through his Socratic interrogation, new parcels of knowledge and
understanding he might add to his own mental library.
His intellect is one of the most broad and complete that can be
found. He is an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines,
on stock markets. On everything.
Combined with a Herculean physique and extraordinary personal
courage, this monumental intellect makes Fidel the giant that he is.
He is something of a superman. My father once told us how he had
expressed to Fidel his desire to do some diving in Cuba. Fidel took
him to the most enchanting spot on the island and set him up with
equipment and a tank. He stood back as my father geared up and began
to dive alone.
When my father had reached a depth of around 60 feet, he realized
that Fidel was down there with him, that he had descended without a
tank and that there he was with a knife in hand prying sea urchins
off the ocean floor, grinning.
Back on the surface, they feasted on the raw sea urchins, seasoned
with lime juice.
Fidel turns 80 years old today. A couple of weeks ago, he shocked the
world by turning power over to his brother Raul after holding it
without interruption since the 1959 revolution. In newspapers across
the world, pundits solemnly declared that even giants are mortal and
that no revolution is eternal. Historians even began to prepare the
space that will be granted Fidel in history books.
Fidel may seem an anachronism: a visionary statesman in a world where
his kind have long since been replaced by mere managers, a
20th-century icon still present in the 21st century.
There is also wild speculation about what fate awaits Cuba after
Castro. It is important to note, however, that while the whole world
works itself up about the matter, Cubans themselves play it cool.
Some of my shrewder Cuban friends even say that this temporary
withdrawal from power is another one of Castro's clever strategies;
that it is something of a test and that he will soon be back at the
helm. They say that, on one hand, Castro is allowing the Cuban
people, and more specifically the Cuban state apparatus, to become
accustomed to the leadership of his brother Raul. On the other hand,
Castro is carefully watching for hints as to how the world - and,
more importantly, the United States - will react to his final
Cubans remain very proud of Castro, even those who don't share his
vision. They know that, among the world's many peoples, they have the
most audacious and brilliant of leaders. They respect his
intellectual machismo and rigour.
But Castro's leadership can be something of a burden, too. They do
occasionally complain, often as an adolescent might complain about a
too strict and demanding father. The Jefe (chief) sees all and knows
all, they might say. In particular, young Cubans have told me that an
outsider cannot ever really imagine what it is like to live in such a
hermetic society, where everyone has an assigned spot and is watched
and judged carefully. You can never really learn on your own, they
might say. The Jefe always knows what is best for you. It can be
suffocating, they say.
I met a young man in the small provincial town of Remedios who worked
there as a cigar roller. We shared a great love for the works of
Dostoyevsky. When I expressed to him my excitement at meeting a
fellow aficionado of Russian literature, he flatly told me: "Yes,
Fidel has taught me to read and to think, but look what work he sets
me out to do with this education: I roll cigars!"
Cuba under Castro is a remarkably literate and healthy country, but
it is undeniably poor. Historians will note, however, that never in
modern times has a small, peaceful country been more subjected to
unfair and malicious treatment by a superpower than Cuba has by the
choice. Either Castro had to submit himself and his people toFrom the very start, the United States never gave Castro's Cuba a
America's will or he had to hold his ground against them.
Which is what he did, in the process drawing the Cuban people into
this taxing dialectic that continues to this day. Cubans pay the
price and may occasionally complain of their fate, but they rarely
blame Castro. The United States never fails to make the Cuban people
well aware of its spite for this small neighbouring country that
dares to be independent.
With the possible exception of Nelson Mandela, already well into
retirement, Fidel is the last of the global patriarchs. Reason,
revolution and virtue are becoming more and more distant and abstract
concepts. We will perhaps never see another patriarch.
We thus have to conceive of the departure of the last patriarch in
psychoanalytical terms. The death of the father doesn't signal our
liberation from him - quite the contrary. The death of a father so
grand and present as Castro will, rather, immortalize him in the
minds of his children.
It is true that Cubans may eventually cast away the communist
orthodoxy of the revolution. They will become tempted by American
capital and values as soon as the embargo against them is lifted,
something that will surely follow in the not so distant future. They
will have new opportunities for individual fulfilment and downfall.
Without a doubt, Cuba without Castro will not remain unchanged.
But Cubans will continue to be subjected to Castro's influence.
Whether they like it or not, they will continue to be called out by
his voice, by his questions, by his inescapable rationality, which,
whether they heed its call or not, demands they defend the integrity
of Cuba and urges them to seek justice and excellence in all things.
For a generation to come, they will be haunted by the vision of a
society that never existed and probably never will exist, but which
their once-leader, the most brilliant and obsessed of all, never
stopped believing could exist and should exist.
Cubans will always feel privileged that they, and they alone, had
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