Che and our generation

By Hollie Russon Gilman

I recently saw The Motorcycle Diaries for Spanish class. It is the story of a young Che Guevera on a journey with his best friend, Alberto Granado. However, what is most powerful about this movie is that it strives not to be a historical film, but rather a coming of age tale that results in political aspirations. Thus, the movie does not start by acknowledging Ernesto Guevara as Che the revolutionary. Rather, the movie begins with a young medical student who makes a trip with his friend to escape civilization.

The movie has three disparate strands. One is the theme of medicine; another is youth; and the last is inequality. In a way, all three of these ideas tie directly to our campus. I am sure some people are studying medicine here. Moreover, Ernesto and Alberto are learned and young—sound familiar? We are all young people looking for meaning. Everyone on our campus is striving for something. We are all wandering. Lastly, inequality constitutes the most vague and yet perhaps the most essential idea of the three. As the men tour Latin American, they are increasingly disillusioned by the widespread poverty they see. These lands, which once held the greatest achievements of the Incas, have been destroyed by the Spaniards through colonization. The men see the virulent consequences of colonization and are deeply disturbed.

Right here in Hyde Park there are huge disparities in socioeconomics that I believe warrant concern and outrage. In the backyard of our campus there are people being paid surprisingly low wages and working multiple jobs to survive. Not to mention Hyde Park is far from the worst example of the increasingly large gap between the wealthy and the poor in America.

Our generation has its own causes to be passionate about. We have deeply rooted societal problems that are worthy of our outrage. I am advocating a type of peaceful revolution. We need not take a yearlong trip to realize the necessity of reform in our nation. However, modernity has ushered in a buffer between those who need help and those who can give help. It is all too easy to live within one’s own comfort zone and never realize the atrocities of the world around you. My own buffer zone was the Upper East Side of Manhattan. For others it’s a sparkling suburb, replete with strip malls and Target stores. And for us all it is the comfort of the mind—a temporal and desirable satisfaction with the present conditions of things. There are days when I want to believe our President when he says that our are economy is strong and things are good at home and abroad. These ideas are all too seductive. However, the reality is our generation must take ownership of our own causes. I would argue that gay rights is our generation’s social calling.

One of my favorite lines of the movies is when Alberto says to Ernesto, urging him to dance with a girl, “The bird of youth flies away and never returns.” As college students, we have the golden opportunity to determine how we want to spend the rest of our lives and what change we want to will. We must never be content in the illusions of security, which are just as tempting as they are mistaken.