Cuba’s Communist revolutionary was a bigot, a tyrant and a murderer. But if eulogies are to be believed, he was none of the above
Hypocrisy may not yet have a gene cluster associated with it unlike homosexuality but it runs the world, providing charlatans an element of self-respect, allowing them to grow their tribe. It may appear harmless but is as dangerous as religion. Any cognitive attribute that permits self-deception and propagates defunct and virulent ideologies has to be.
When an individual’s ethics and morality are judged on a case by case basis – depending on their fit or suitability to the judge’s own ideological beliefs, hypocrisy is born; when moral transgressions are wiped away or forgotten, hypocrisy takes it first baby steps; and when leaders gain succour from such omissions, hypocrisy breeds. Today you deceive yourself, tomorrow the world.
Fidel Alejandro Castro died the other day. He was a tyrant, an oppressor, a womaniser, a dynast, a bigot, and a murderer. But if the eulogies are to be believed, he was none of the above. The very people who fight for gay rights and freedom of speech now proclaim Castro – a violent dictator and a virulent homophobe – to be a hero and an idol. They have judged Castro’s morality on a case by case basis, like they had earlier Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and all the other despots forged from the same metal – melted hammer and molten sickle.
An exhaustive account of the horrors of Communism can be found in a book called The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression. In it are detailed Castro’s excesses, from the time he overthrew Batista to take control of Cuba, to the present when he still called the shots, both literally and figuratively. The crimes are too many, the words available to list them few. That these crimes can be ignored and Castro still be called a hero is not just a litany of impertinence, it is the magna carta of hypocrisy.
But first to the enchanting question: Why are people hypocrites? Does hypocrisy confer some evolutionary advantage? Prof Daniel Batson has spent his entire life trying to find the answer to such questions. “People,” says Prof Batson, “have learned that it pays to seem moral, since it lets you avoid censure and guilt. But even better is appearing moral without having to pay the cost of actually being moral.” David DeStano, another psychologist who has worked on the subject of hypocrisy thinks it is to do with Moral Relativism: “We apply the same moral relativism when judging the actions of people like ourselves. When “people like us” torture, it is justified; when people unlike us do, it is an atrocity.”
To be sure, the workings of the brain are an enigma not yet fully cracked by scientists and so this quarter lobe may for the time being be ceded to the psychologists. That said, it is no one’s gripe that moral justification by the observer of an act is as important as the act itself, for sermon and disease must both spread if they are to cause havoc. And in the case of Fidel Castro spread they did.
Castro, who felt homosexuals could never truly be revolutionaries or Communist Militants – his partner in crime Guevara called them faggots – set up labour camps where gays could be interned and “corrected”. Called Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), these camps turned out to be nothing more than torture chambers for thousands of gays and lesbians. Forced to work in labour camps, then shut out from employment opportunities when released, the life of a homosexual in Castro’s Cuba was little better than that of Virgil in Dante’s Inferno.
When in 1980 thousands of Cubans fled by boat to the USA, many among them homosexuals, Castro called them worms and sexual perverts. The 1984 gut-wrenching documentary Improper Conduct shows the extent to which homosexuals were victimised in Castro’s Cuba. Exploited, tortured, treated as vermin – this in a communist haven so admired by people like Noam Chomsky. A fierce defender of gay rights Chomsky, quiet on the treatment meted out to them by his beloved Fidel, has only profound appreciation of the “very high social standards” achieved by Cuba after the 1959 revolution.
In 2010, Castro himself admitted to the grave atrocities committed against homosexuals in Cuba, but added – in a style typical of undaunted despots – that even though he accepted responsibility his preoccupation with other worries was really to blame. To accept responsibility for setting up concentration camps while pulling thoughtfully on a cigar is indeed praiseworthy. Well, when you are the duotone symbol of utopia-promising revolutions you can get away with anything, even recruiting members of the dreaded Nazi SS to train your Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Among the flurry of sugary condolence messages following Castro’s death was one by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Government and people of Cuba on the sad demise of Fidel Castro. May his soul rest in peace. We stand in support with the Cuban Government and people in this tragic hour. Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”
Although not as cringe-inducing as the one by his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, it still beggars belief. Could rank ignorance of Castro’s crimes be the reason for Modi’s eulogy, or the fact that he, too, gains his wits and wisdom from an organisation called the RSS whose representative Dattatreya Hosabale (a bigoted homophobe himself) was even more pained at the demise of El Comandante?
Whatever the reason, the tribute was not perplexing given that Modi has his own favourite dictator, the late Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. When Mr Yew died last spring, Modi wrote: “A far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s life teaches valuable lessons to everyone. News of his demise is saddening. Today, the flame is no more, but this was a torch that lit the lamp of hope in many new nations. As long as these lamps flicker, he will continue to inspire, eternally. I bow to this committed Karma Yogi, this great man. On behalf of all Indians, I pay homage to him.”
The lion and Karma Yogi Lee Kuan Yew, it may be recalled, was a ruthless dictator who suppressed freedom of speech and expression, human rights, and political freedom with terrifying lethality.
Lee and Castro belong to the same bunker, except that they professed diametrically opposite ideologies. Like all dictators both tried to cushion their dictatorship with peace, calm, wealth, and prosperity. Only Lee succeeded. But he was still a dictator, though his worshippers tried to lessen the insult by calling him a Benevolent Dictator.
A Benevolent Dictator. Quite. The extent to which humans can justify anything. He who shows you the oasis has the right to whip you towards it.
There are no degrees of truth; no degrees of freedom; no degrees of dictatorship. Had the Emergency delivered 12 per cent growth year-on-year, and history not intervened in 1984, perhaps we Indians would still be happily allowing the 99-year-old Indira Gandhi to continue to rule over us.
Then there are those – the so-called Liberal journalists, especially – who never tire of fawning over Henry Kissinger, the other tyrant who, with the added benefit of a democratic sanction, orchestrated genocides and butchered millions.
Venerating despots and evil men, making matinee idols out of mass murderers, cannot be because of one’s ignorance, it can only be due to Moral Relativism. You are revolted by the sight of your hero pinned to the dissection table; your hands shake, the scalpel drops, you look away.
You want to be like the people you admire and in wishing so you are willing to forgive their crimes; you are willing to risk derision on account of your hypocrisy, so taken in are you by your fantasy. But you forget: When you are so enamoured with your vision that you want to thrust it upon others, you are not visionary, you are blinded. Sooner or later, you will get called out, people will lose trust in you and your ideology. Until then, this world is yours to inherit. Viva la Hypocrisy.