May 1st – I’m going back to Cuba.

The analogy I’m working here will probably be impenetrable to many and possibly most, if not all, but the epiphany came over the weekend and I have Viv (and Jan who brought Viv) to thank for it.

I learned a lot of things last weekend and one of the most important (I probably knew it but had forgotten it, put on the bottom of the pile of ‘things you know but don’t think about enough’) is this:

Sometimes in trying to explain yourself, you find yourself.

Now. In any ‘real’ sense I am not lost. I have not been ‘lost’ for years and I’ve been very happy with where and who I am for a good 10 years now.  But I realise that in a ‘virtual’ sense I’ve been more lost over the last year than I understood.  I was busy working my way down one path and I’ve been ambushed and hijacked. And held at times, against my will.


teaching in the jungle

Time for the analogy to kick in. While explaining to Viv (at length, that’s the way I do it folks) something about Che Guevara – something beyond my familiar ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant’ mantra, I realised something.  I’m in the Congo. I’ve been in the Congo for quite some time. And in the Congo Che got a bit of a thrashing.  And the next step after the Congo was Bolivia. And we all know how that ended. Not well. Not unless you call getting shot in the leg, then murdered and becoming an immortal poster icon well. Personally I don’t.

And I’ve often wondered why Che didn’t just stay in Cuba. The revolution was successful there. Why move on?  Some of my thoughts (answers?) to this question were explored in my screenplay FIGHTING FOR BREATH which you can download for free  for all ebook formats. But there’s more to it.

I’m still thinking about exactly what it might be. But this weekend I realised that sometimes, when you’ve achieved what you set out to, going and trying to adapt it elsewhere won’t always work.


happy days.

The Cuban revolution was successful even though essentially it was started by 12 men (and a boat) Sucessful because a) the conditions were right b) the people were right and c) the timing was right.    But once you ‘achieve’ your lifetime goals and you are not at the end of your life, you have to work out what to do.  You could choose to stay in the sun enjoying life. But more likely you’re going to try and follow through on the achievements. In Che’s case this meant getting more heavily involved in economics and finance than possibly either he or I would ever be happy doing. In my case it meant sorting the wheat from the chaff directionally in my creative life and working out how to keep on the path I believed in without falling into an elephant trap.  There are ‘commitments’ for the true revolutionary when the revolution has succeeded, and seems to me that both Che and I made a wrong choice. We thought we should ‘move on’ and try and make it work again somewhere else rather than stay put and keep making it work where we were. Why? Well that’s a bigger question I’m still working on.

The commonality I now see is that we  both ended up in the Congo.  Che made a more obvious choice to do it – but I’m beginning to understand on a deep level why he did. And I think it was a mistake.  The conditions were not right. The timing was not right and the people were not right.

In the Congo, the Cuban guerrillas had a hell of a job a) dealing with the ‘leaders’ of the resistance locally and b) training the Congolese.  An abiding memory (obviously I don’t remember the actual thing, I mean a memory of my reading of the ‘story’ of it through biography/diary) is of a particular battle where the Congolese all juiced up on the drug they took which guaranteed them ‘immortality’ were on the front line and the experienced Cuban rebels were behind them. As soon as the enemy started firing the Congolese lost their nerve and ran – firing their weapons indiscriminately – back through their own ranks, killing some of the Cubans.


a revolutionary in disguise

I have felt like that too many times over the last year. Too many times when I’ve tried to engage in the ‘world’ of indie publishing I’ve found that far from being a group of revolutionaries all aiming for the same thing – to give a voice to the unvoiced, to get new voices and ideas out there, to take the means of production into our own hands and create a new, revolutionary order in publishing – too many times has the response been the literary equivalent of coming under ‘friendly fire.’    Now I can equate that to ‘being in the Congo’ I personally feel much happier about it.

And it’s given me a depth of understanding. I have some very specific beliefs about publishing and indie publishing. And ethical standards. And a whole world view.  It’s NOT a political view such as Marxism. It’s not even my own personal anarchic view. But it is complex and coherent and one I will not bend from.  And it increasingly seems that others only buy into some parts of it.


a revolutionary in the making

For me (thus far) there has been no moment such as Che experienced when he first met Fidel Castro. No moment when more than one person has come together and truly committed to what I  believe could BE the e-revolution.  Everyone has their own angle.

I’m not trying to force people to my way of thinking. But I thought I might find other likeminded individuals who would be interested in taking on the guerrilla fight.  This hasn’t transpired.  And that makes me conclude that unless I could find the ‘cadres’ who are willing to give their all in a cause they believe in – I am stuck in the Congo.  Stuck in a place where there are a few likeminded and dedicated pe0ple, but no common purpose – and a lot of friendly fire and ‘enemy’ fire.  The fight is not worth taking on in the Congo, is my conclusion for myself and for Che. He shouldn’t have stayed there as long as he did. And he should NEVER have moved on to Bolivia.  Even less were the conditions, timing and people right there.  It took Bolivia some 40 years (and Hugo Chavez) to understand what Che was trying to achieve.   Bolivia was where Che’s life ended. He didn’t deserve to die there. His cause was just but dying for it in a place where people didn’t deserve his efforts was the ultimate waste in my mind. And it’s not a mistake I’m going to repeat if I can help it.


a revolutionary at leisure

So, on this day, May 1st I’ve made a unilateral declaration of intent to myself (and anyone who can work through the analogy) which is that I’m GOING BACK TO CUBA and I’m NOT going to be tempted into believing that any time in the future I should leave Cuba and head for Bolivia to try to engage others in my personal view of the e-revolution.

I am happy in Cuba. I must now do the creative work I know is my contribution to the e-revolution IN CUBA and not go out into the international arena trying to engage others in ‘the cause.’  Anyone who wants to join in ‘my’ fight will have to come to Cuba for training. I’m NOT going back to the Congo and I’m definitely not going to Bolivia to help people out. I’ve been the wrong side of a virtual lynching enough times now. And I just know there’s someone out there with a carbine trained on my leg. And ready to shoot me dead.

At that point Che is reported to have said ‘shoot coward, you are only killing a man’ and I respect that view.  However ,the one area where Che and I diverge are that I am an out and out pacifist (I’m lucky, culturally I come from a situation where I can maintain this moral stance) and do not have to compromise my ‘principles’ for a greater cause. Che and Nelson Mandela were both in such situations in their lives that they had to adopt an armed struggle to achieve the greater goals. I don’t. And so I won’t.  I won’t pick up a weapon.  I know the fate of pacifist people.  They also get shot.  And when they come to shoot me, I hope I will also have the courage to say ‘shoot coward…’  but I’m not going looking for them. They’ll have to come find me.  And as we already know, I’m pretty invisible in cyberspace. I’m going to turn that to my advantage from now on.


Dead. A life wasted.

And in case it seems like I’ve shot myself in the leg/foot here. I haven’t.  I’m going to do more valuable work here in Cuba.  It’s what Che should have done. Then he too might have made it to 80 instead of being murdered at 39!

I don’t apologise for this extended analogy being incomprehensible to most.  There are places you can go to make more sense of it.  All of my writing to some extent.  But here are the most apposite.

A Fishing Line – expounds my ‘view’ of life and economics.

Another World is Possible – explores a fictional version of what could have been my life.  I had insight at that point. I realised that I might have suffered Roisin’s fate had I note chosen ‘Cuba’ as my resting place. Roisin and Che died at 39. I didn’t. I should remember that and remember the reasons why!!

Brand Loyalty – which is ‘my’ Cuban Revolution. Again in one respect its another fictional version of an aspect of my life (projected into my 70th year) which really explores a world view from a personal and more universal aspect.  And the lessons I learned from Che and from Orwell while writing this are lessons I should have learned. Yet, like Che, I moved on from that successful revolution, thinking I could replicate it elsewhere. And ended up in the Congo.

If you are really interested in exploring what I’m talking about then you’d need to read those works (and I’d be happy to discuss them with anyone as part of my ‘revolutionary creed’). They are not just ‘stories’ to be enjoyed. They are more than that.

If on the other hand you think that Che Guevara was a bloodthirsty terrorist and Cuba is a communist dictatorship then I can only wonder why you’ve read this far, and suggest that it’s not worth engaging in comments with me from your perspective. Because you are a Bolivian. And I’m not going to Bolivia.  And I’m trying to keep away from the Congolese as well thanks.  But I’m happy to chat with ‘Cubans’ any time.

And for the visual learner – here is my short film on Che from 1999


About callyphillips

5 Responses to May 1st – I’m going back to Cuba.

  1. Up the revolution Cally! I’m becoming an environmental guerilla – not sure where the paths of eco-literature are going to take me, but the forest looks intriguing. Expect there are wolves though . . .

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m going to check out some of your books. I enjoyed Fishing Line and am sure I’ve read it before though I didn’t know it was yours. Great song in the film too. I’m surprised I don’t know it. I’ve found out what it is, but I don’t think I’ve ever it or even of the band. Interesting choice for the film.

  2. Ricardo says:

    Amazed by your analogy, it explains so much what I’ve struggled with over the past few years, and offers a way forward. Can’t wait to read more, keep up the struggle!

  3. A very interesting post, Cally. I suspect that I may know the source of your epiphany (I could well be wrong, though!). I agree that a writer should stick to what he/she believes to be right and not let anyone divert him/her from his/her chosen course. That’s what an artistic vision is all about, being true to yourself.

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