Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic recently had the high honor of interviewing Fidel Castro, tin-pot dictator emeritus of Cuba. He writes:
I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.
“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” he said.
This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, “Never mind”?
One of Goldberg’s friends then chimed in to provide either some context or some cover for Fidel’s comment, but it remains surprising nonetheless.
Well, I wonder what finally gave it away. Was it the economy? The low wages? The food rationing? The housing shortage? The collapse of the sugar industry? The dismal capital markets? Michael Moore singing the praises of Cuban health care? The standard of living that by some measures isn’t too much better than in 1959, despite all that sugar, nickel, tobacco, and (apparently) petroleum? Was it the thousands upon thousands of people who risk death every year trying to escape Cuba via inner tubes, rafts, and truckboats?
Perhaps he got the idea from looking off-island. Perhaps it was the realization that the fastest-growing economic sectors in Red China are the ones being privatized. Perhaps it was the gap in per capita incomes between the remaining communist countries and everybody else. Perhaps it was the stark contrast between North and South Korea. Or between Hong Kong and the rest of China. Or maybe he caught a news broadcast from 1989 and he noticed some differences between East and West Germany, or between eastern and western Europe, or that quite a few formerly communist nations just aren’t there anymore, and most of those that are still there gave it up a while back.
Maybe the illness that drove him from office somehow purged just enough of the evil and just enough of the stupidity to allow him to make his minor concession.
And just what did Fidel mean by “anymore”? Had communism been working down there at some point and we all just missed it?
Does hearing him say “never mind” make up for not killing/deposing/debearding him 50 years ago?
[UPDATED 9/11/10]: Fidel claims to have been misinterpreted. Oh well, his moment of clarity didn’t last.