Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The end of a sordid era

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I played a prank in 1962, unofficially opening Masterton’s new Post Office from a nearby rooftop 10 minutes before the Postmaster-General Mr Arthur Kinsella was due to do so officially. I had a false beard and moustache attached intending to be unrecognisable. The incident gained notoriety nationally and even internationally and I was described as a “Castro-like” figure.

Fidel Castro was persona-non-grata at the time and I hadn’t intended to impersonate him.

I was mortified by the comparison.

Castro took over Cuba in 1959 with a rebel army, ousting right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista. He and his deputy, Argentinian doctor Che Guevara slaughtered thousands of dissidents by firing squad and the pair ushered in socialism-induced poverty.

He died last month and the comments from world leaders were diverse. Canada’s youthful Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted out a statement expressing his “deep sorrow” about the death of the Cuban dictator and describing him as “a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century.” Trudeau added Castro, who was a friend of his late father, was a “controversial figure” but also said that the Cuban people would maintain “a deep and lasting affection for el Comandante.” He concluded it was a “real honour” to meet Castro’s family on a recent visit.

Reaction was scorching. Social media lit up with a satiric hashtag #Trudeau Eulogies in which posters imagined Trudeau’s farewells to other tyrants.

Donald Trump was more circumspect. He tweeted “Today the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of human rights.”

Trumps popularity in Florida, where many Cubans had fled to during the revolution, will have gone up markedly.

In his bestselling book Eat the Rich P. J. O’Rourke travelled to Cuba and found the city of Havana a place literally falling apart as the buildings had deteriorated and the roads were in complete ruin. As a result of the lack of infrastructure there were hardly any businesses, except for a few government restaurants, and even fewer private ones. Due to the dearth of employment available, people crowded the streets with nothing to do and nothing to sell since their currency was essentially valueless.

And yet despite this evidence and so many other examples there are people who still believe socialism is the nirvana. Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity in England and Bernie Sanders’ in America are both living proof that many people don’t learn from history.

The left mantra of “social justice” really means the “equality of poverty.”

I see that the post office building that I opened is now up for sale. I watched it being built from the confines our butcher’s shop over the road at the time. It was solidly constructed by Mr W. Dickson and his hardworking team of tradesmen.

Surprisingly there is no brass plaque on the premise to commemorate the opening. Had there been I’m sure Mr Kinsella would have got the credit. Neither I, nor Mr Castro for that matter, would have rated a mention.

“There has to be a balance between freedom and equality, but freedom is always more important” - Joe Klein


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