I'm reminded of the classic Monty Python lines: "Look, I'm being repressed! See the violence inherent in the system." But seriously, is this Cold War-era holdout still a relevant force in today's world? Yes, and here's why:
Cuba offered 1,100 doctors to help out with the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina, that could have been in place last Wednesday. The US State Department said "no thanks." Sure, we could construe this as political manuevering on Castro's part, but he has accepted US post-hurricane aid in the past few years, so that argument doesn't hold much water. This is the same Castro who is dealing remarkably well with the huge loss of subsidy from the former USSR, and is on the cutting edge of adapting to a post-peak oil world. Is he a repressive and autocratic figure? Sure. Is he turning away a thousand desparately needed doctors because he thinks that politics take priority over the welfare of poor, black people? No, but the US government is.
What Castro, and his friend and ally Hugo Chavez in Venezuela are doing is exposing the violence inherent in our system. They are exposing the real priorities of our hierarchal, capitalist system, as Steve Thomas pointed out in a recent article at Anthropik.net. Chavez has also showed us a bit of his future plans, with an initial offer to sell cut-rate gasoline to poor Americans, just like he is currently doing around the Carribean.
Are Castro and Chavez's motives any more pure than Bush & Co.? I don't have any reason to think so. What is still relevant is that the aftermath of Katrina will highlight the difference between the Castro/Chavez and Bush camps, regardless of their motives. Perhaps even more interesting will be to watch how the mainstream media covers this, and how that impacts the publics perception of these events--will it be yet another whitewash?
Castro and Chavez are relevant, and a significant threat to Bush, Kerry & Bros. because they represent an alternative. An alternative solution to government, to economics, to peak oil, etc. Do I think that they are necessarily an example that we should adopt? No, but the very existence and visibility of a real alternative is potentially devastating to our system that pretends that our only "choice" is between Republicans and Democrats...