Evil is something which is ingrained in people's characters and cannot be uprooted any more than goodness can. Repentance is possible but always unlikely since self-justification is of more importance to most people than self-correction. In modern times there is no more remarkable an example of this than Herbert Matthews, who knew Cuba at its apex and helped it to reach its nadir. Matthews, more concerned about his feeble place in history than the great harm which he had done to generations of Cubans, died in Australia defending his Frankenstein's monster to the last. I did not know but should have supposed that there had to be a Canadian Matthews. There is always a Canadian equivalent of anyone who is odious and grotesque in the U.S. Being derivative is their identity (mark that sentence; it is the entire history of the Canadian people). Much as they try to differentiate themselves from their Southern neighbor, Canadians always manage to be more of the same, only blander, in that supernumerary, surplus kind of way.
The Canadian Herbert Matthews is called Michael Maclear. He was born in London and you can't get more Canadian than that. He was a tv correspondent in Cuba at the time of the triumph of the Revolution and his reportage from there "launched a hugely successful career as a foreign correspondent and documentary filmmaker," according to the Montreal Gazette, which interviewed him. So Maclear has good cause to say "Gracias, Fidel" and he still does. At 77, he returned to Cuba to survey the cost of his "hugely successful career." He even filmed, wrote and narrated a documentary about his return trip, which will premiere tonight on Canadian television. Cuba is still grist for his mill.
His hatred for the U.S., which is as ingrained in the Canadian MSM as in its American counterpart, enables him to still see Castro as a "hero," although having been there at the beginning he knows that being a revolutionary "hero" has nothing to do with heroism and everything to do with propaganda (i.e. using tools like Matthews and Maclear himself). He acknowledges that Castro used him and others more notable than him during his ascent to power to foster the myth of "Fidel Castro as poet/warrior." Castro is no more a poet than he is a warrior, but it is the warrior part that Maclear rejects: "Really, it wasn't like there were any great battles then. Batista's army basically laid down their arms, and Batista fled the country." That's good. There was no revolution; only random terrorist acts. This is the only myth about the Cuban Revolution that Maclear is, well, mac-clear about, much clearer in fact than Matthews, who saw mighty legions in the Sierra Maestra where there were only a handful of campers in camouflage. In the 1950s, Maclear was young and cynical and could see through such ruses, while the besotted Matthews, who shilled for Franco in the Spanish Civil War, was too invested in siding with the "angels" this time to realize that Lucifer was an angel too. Also, Castro and his henchmen were Maclear's contemporaries, and this also gave him an advantage over the sexagenerian Matthews.
But let us not give more credit to Maclear than he deserves. With the passage of time, he has become Herbert Matthews and now sees Cuba as dimly. He claims to still have a "fondness for the Cuban people" and "empathy" for their situation. He shows it by dismissing the 48-year tyranny that Castro has exercised over them as the cause of their woes, preferring, instead, to see them as victims of the "the world's longest-lasting David and Goliath confrontation." In Cuba's case, however, David has been aiming his slingshot at his own people rather than at the giant. Although he claims to have interviewed Cubans critical of the regime for his documentary, Maclear does not deny his bias, which is all the more shocking because he doesn't pretend that Cuba is something it is not. Elections there, he effortlessly concedes, are no exercise in democracy. Still, they are all the Cuban people deserve or want: "Cubans well know theirs is not a democracy, but it is theirs, no longer some colony for sale. It is a nation, hard won." Well, not so "hard won," as Maclear earlier admitted; more like ceded to them. Maclear does not say who "won the nation." The answer, of course, is the Castroite oligarchy. It is they who took Cuba, all of Cuba, 48 years ago as booty and have never relinquished "their" prize. If Cuba was an "American colony" before the Revolution, it was not by Cuba's doing. The fact that Cuba was made into a Soviet colony for 30 years and now into a Venezuelan province is entirely Fidel Castro's doing. When colonialism is imposed by a stronger state on a weaker one, it is a tragedy. But when it is agreed to by small clique in order to control a majority of the population, then it is treason.
In the documentary, Maclear uses archival footage of an interview which he conducted with Fidel Castro in 1959. In it he is told by Castro that "Cuba would have free elections, a multi-party system and not nationalize foreign companies." He does not blame Castro for lying to him or the Cuban people. He blames the U.S., instead, for not "reaching out to Castro when he was eminently reachable," that is, for not bribing him out of his Communist convictions and anti-American fanaticism. Maclear believes that Cuba was auctioned in 1959 and the Soviet Union was the top bidder. If so, it is Castro who closed the bidding.
Still, things have not turned out so badly for the Cubans, who are now the happy subjects of their homegrown tyrants, which Maclear confuses with the triumph of nationalism. He doesn't want Cuba to be judged by "First World standards" though he should know that Cuba was once a First World country like his own. He is transfixed by the fact that Cubans supposedly pay no taxes, though their blood and sinew bankroll the regime. Rents in Cuba are a nominal $1 per month, or so he claims. He fails to mention that although Cuba's population has doubled since 1959 its housing stock has decreased by one third and much of what remains is in a state of near-collapse. University is "free" he also claims, but fails to note that it was free before the Revolution for poor students and that no political test was ever applied for admission there before Castro. And, of course, universal [bad] health care is the Revolution's greatest achievement.
Most horrific of all, Maclear purports that Cuba is not a police state, or not so bad a police state. He rejects "the usual stereotypes of police being on every corner, of everybody being oppressed and downtrodden and in revolt. Cuba may be far from perfect, but it's just not like that, either." Of course, it is exactly like that and worse. He blames "the U.S. media" and the "anti-Castro faction in Florida" for perpetrating this image of Cuba on innocent Canadians like himself. "Westerners," he explains, "tend to look at Cuba through the standards of a first-world nation, but we have to accept the fact this is a very poor country trying to survive."
Though he lives very comfortably in the First World and would never approve of a Cuban solution to Canada's congenital colonialism, which is no less a national obsession for being largely illusory, Mr. Maclear is quite content that Cuba be governed by Third World standards, which requires it to forgo democracy and the Rule of Law in exchange for plutocracy and the rule of tourists.
Maclear's documentary, After Fidel, which should have been entitled "After Fidel, Raúl," airs this Friday in Canada on History Television at 8:00 PM. No doubt it shall find its way to some PBS channel soon.