Leaders: Do we need them? Thinking about Fidel and Hugo
May 18, 2015 1 Comment
All my life I have had a problem with leaders. I think the main reason I line up with the movement, whatever you call it (more in a minute, in the next paragraph), is my deep distrust and antipathy toward hierarchies, and toward most of the leaders that top those hierarchies. That antipathy, plus a love for things working well — the solid, practical things of our lives and the less tangible things of our spirits — keep me active.
To describe the “movement” that I feel aligned with: it is a movement toward a world where decisions and choices are made by people at the closest level to themselves as possible. And I don’t mean rugged individualism. The “people” I’m talking about include individuals as well as families, communities, and regions. People power vs. concentrated power. Real democracy vs. de facto oligarchy.
I wonder, however, whether leaders just might be necessary, or at least very useful. I am reading a book about Cuba that was recommended to me, and I highly recommend it to you. One evening our Eco Cuba Network tour of 16 people met with the author at the Hotel Presidente (and he managed to ruffle the feathers of many of us!). The book is Cuban Revelations: Behind the Scenes in Havana (hardcover published in 2013; paperback in 2015 with a brief update about normalization of relations with the U.S.). The author is Marc Frank, a U.S.-born journalist who has lived in Cuba more than 20 years. I’m loving his book.
My favorite part so far is the two-page section entitled “Hugo Chávez” on page 24 and 25 of the paperback version. Hugo Chávez was a breath of fresh air not only for me and others who were inspired by the 2003 documentary film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, but also for Fidel Castro almost 10 years earlier.
It was 1994, and Cuba was struggling during the “special period” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Hugo Chávez had just been released from prison after a failed coup attempt two years earlier. (To learn more about Hugo Chávez, see my blog from two years ago when, so sadly, he passed. For a very quick read, just read the 10 headers. HERE.)
Marc Frank wrote, “According to my sources, the two men talked day and night on that first visit by Chávez to Havana . . . When the two men appeared in public, it was to heap praise upon one another, and scorn on the Americas Summit and the U.S.-proposed trade agreement. I had never seen him so happy and content. The Cuban leader acted like a giddy child in Chávez’s company as they inaugurated a statue of Simón Bolívar on Presidente Boulevard in Vedado, and then went on to Havana University. There Chávez delivered a televised speech, endlessly praising Castro in Cuba, trashing U.S. trade plans, and predicting that the two countries would join ‘as one river flowing toward better future for the region.’ ”
Two strong leaders, visionaries, revolutionaries.
When people say that leaders are always power-mad, and that there are no good politicians, I say no, there are some who are the “real deal.” Not sold out. To believe there are no good people in the world of politics is to discount people power, i.e. the power of people who want to serve in the world, who want to make a difference, contribute to the public good, do what they can. When I think about my own life, I know that at times I have shown courage, but so many times I have backed away, into what? Comfort, going along to get along? Don’t worry, I’m not blaming myself (not too much!). I’m just sayin’ what’s true about so many of us. Good people, sure, but held back.
There’s a wonderful interview of Hugo Chávez by Larry King in which Hugo says that personally he’d rather have been a baseball player, and play in Yankee Stadium! The whole interview is amazing, and remarkable how Larry King could not actually hear what Chávez was saying, even about undisputed facts. The link is HERE. The baseball bit is near the end, at minute 22:30.
Fidel and Hugo are definitely not perfect — and who is? Nevertheless, it seems to me they were born to take the positions they took in the world. They did what they were led to do. Followed their hearts; committed themselves to a better world. They would not stop.
* * *
This blog about leaders will be continued in the future; there’s a lot more to say. Your comments are welcome.