I always found the extensive use of Che Guevara’s face, looking ardently into the distance, on merchandise, somewhat ironic. Here it is, an Argentinian doctor turned revolutionary, whose face is shorthand for, ‘I oppose the status quo’. As a Marxist, and therefore an anti capitalist, socialist and, a man who travelled Latin America where he was exposed to dire poverty which profoundly affected him. The change in Guevara was immortalised both in literature, with his Bolivian Diaries being published, and a film of the same name being made in the early 2000s. Guevara is a brand, Guevara is a face of rebellion. He’s found on shirts, on bags, and in Latin America, even on cigarette packets.
He founded the labour camp system, which systemically annihilates ‘undesirables,’ gays, dissidents, and opposers to the regime. Even now in Cuba, if you oppose the regime of Castro, you will not be eligible for a place in a higher learning institution. The use of Guevara as a freedom fighter, however, has conveniently brushed over these facts. Painted as opposition figure, in reality, Guevara shot boys as young as fourteen, and whilst he adorns clothes of those who think of themselves as ‘edgy,’ he tried to banned rock and roll, and jeans.
Everything done in his memory since has painted a Christ-like mythological martyr, an adoring picture of him, when in reality Guevara was a deeply flawed ‘freedom-fighter’.
A man who opposed capitalism in all its manifestations, is now the darling rebel sweetheart on a global scale: ironic much?
The same goes for the Keffiyeh. A traditional Arabian scarf worn by farmers, its pattern being symbolic of fishing nets, a trade strong in the Middle East, and a national symbol of the Palestinians during the Arab Revolt of the 1930s. Its internationalisation is possibly owing to Leila Khaled, a political guerilla Palestinian Liberation Organisation (or PLO for short), who was giving huge coverage during 1970, when she led one of the plane hijacks during the international hijacking crisis now known as Black September. Still, something that happened forty years ago, doesn’t explain why there are so many keffiyehs, in every single rainbow colour that exists to man.
Or perhaps it’s down to Yasser Arafat, who tied it in a triangular manner, as a personal trademark.
Unlike the activists, revolutionaries, or people who support these causes, the people who adorn their bodies in terrorist chic are not connected with their fashion; they are iressponsible, reckless, and frivolous. On one hand, I love them for being so ignorant, but on another, I think it’s ill-minded, and the use of terrorist chic glorifies things that should not necessary be glorified.
Terrorist Chic has also been named ‘Prada and Meinhof,’ a play on words on the revolutionary German faction, known as the Red Army Faction (or Rote Armee Fraktion), who were responsible for a string of bombings in Western Germany pre-reunification, and the fashion house Prada. Their logo, a red star, and before it the acronym RAF, in white bold letters, on a side ways facing gun, has been turned into a wide range of merchandise, and Joe Strummer, of the Clash, was seen on occasion wearing a Red Brigade t-shirt, a Marxist-Leninist active terrorist group in Italy who are known for their assassination of Italian officials.
M.I.A., most famous for her 2008 hit ‘Paper Planes,’ has been criticised for her active, and blind, support for the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan separatist group, who are currently prescribed as a Proscribed Terrorist Group, under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Attracting controversy still was her song ‘Sunshowers,’ where one lyric reads, ‘Like PLO, I don’t surrender.’ Many of her lyrics, art, and imagery, is laced with war-related imagery.
What to make of it? Are the symbols themselves even linked to the causes, now that they’ve become so famous? I mean, not everybody who wears a keffiyeh can possibly be aware of the plight of the Palestinian people, and nor everybody who goes out wearing a Guevara shirt can be well-informed of the struggle of Cuban liberation. Is it a statement, or is it just irony, and poking fun?
After all, Che Guevara shirts were being sold in Primark for just three pounds recently, following exposure that Primark used child sweat-shops to make its clothes … whatever would El Che think? Forget that, what would Arafat think of keffiyehs being available in New Look?
To read more from Yasmin then read her blog http://punkistani.tumblr.com/
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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