Sometimes, it's just a cigar

This is our truth, tell us yours

Thomas Mair and Fidel Castro

Why the awkward, slightly clickbaity conjunction in the title? Castro is dead, and Mair is imprisoned until death for the murder of Jo Cox.

That’s not enough reason to pair them up though.

What is enough reason to pair them up is the question of whether you can ever excuse bad things done because of the motives or the principles of the individual doing the bad thing.

Jem wrote persuasively and well about Cuba and the need to be less binary in our appraisals of Cuba here. As I’m one of the people inher close circle who was uttery scathing about Castro’s track record about LGBTQ people specifically and human rights in general Jem was cautious about not giving offence. That’s a measure of both her decency and her care to be even handed.

In the process she administered a gentle corrective to my thinking, by indirectly asking me if my view of Castro had been coloured by the miliu I grew up in. Dear reader, I have to confess, I have hung out with lots of Trots and Communists in my life, and many of them had a soft spot for Castro because they assumed he was one of theirs. My bitterness about Castro was really a bitterness about the shallowness and shabbiness of the British left that would forgive Castro his dictatorship and his human rights abuses because of his adherence to the kind of Marxist orthodoxy in speeches that were as far removed from reality as the claims about Cuba’s health service (perfect in principle, poverty stricken in practice).

If Castro had been your run of the mill Latin American dictator, without the adherence to badly understood and barely implemented Marxism, he would have been laudable by comparison with Rafael Trujillo. The conundrum is that by adhering to Stalinism in one country, he raised expectations of how he would behave, and disappointed many when he became a run of the mill El Jefe, trampling on dissent and using the othering of  LGBTQ people as just another tool of repression.

There’s not been a lot of Thomas Mair in this blog so far. There’s a reason why he’s here though. In the aftermath of Mair’s conviction and exemplary sentence there was a torrent of complaints that he had not been tried as a terrorist.My timeline was awash with such stuff; amongst it the plaintive question ‘why wasn’t Mair tried on terrorist charges?’ Mair became the flipside of Castro, a figure to be despised for the reasons why he killed Jo Cox, to be treated in exemplary fashion because of what he claimed to believe in. Just as Castro’s crimes do not become more or less culpable because he claimed to be a marxist, Mair’s crimes do not become more or less culpable because of the things he apparently believes in.

The test of our principles is how we apply them to every case, not just the cases that make our pulse race. In a continent ravaged by the dominance of American foreign policy and interests, Castro was a run of the mill dictator, no better or worse than many around him facing the same challenges, but not quite a Pinochet or Trujillo. Thomas Mair is your average man who who murders a woman, using his anger and imagined slights as an excuse for his brutality. I have no problem with Mair being imprisoned for the whole of his life since that seems like sensible risk management to me, but he is not that different to every other man who takes a woman’s life to make himself feel better about his failures. It took Jem’s wisdom to makeme see that.


2 comments on “Thomas Mair and Fidel Castro

  1. Mark Bryant
    November 30, 2016

    Interesting how much these two have brought out everyone’s latent hypocrisy. The fact is that Castro was the man for his time, he was a dictator, relatively benevolent compared to some of those that the Americans at the time lauded as ‘democrats’, but still interested in power and maintaining himself in that position by coercion. Mair’s actions are being portrayed, particularly by the right wing press as the result of random insanity, but the fact is that her murder was a political act, partly instigated by the atmosphere of bigotry and intolerance which some of the press and the political right have tacitly encouraged. I actually don’t have much time for principles – as you get older you see that everyone adapts and changes principles when they become inconvenient, better to try to believe and act with kindness and generosity in the moment.


    • jemima2016
      December 7, 2016

      the hypocrisy has struck me too, and the slight of hands being pulled to make either represent something they are not. I think your non-principle, of kindness and generosity are both motivators for carter and i when we write


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on November 29, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: