• the thought fox

apolitical intellectuals - otto rene castillo

Today's poem is once again on the theme of apathy of those "apolitical intellectuals" whose hypocrisy works tirelessly to catch up with their actions. What I like about this poem is that it doesn't attack these individuals with the threat of personal experience - "what will you say when they come for you" - but takes the battle to them on their own terms. Otto Rene Castillo's famous poem echoes what Debojit Dutta terms the "generation's motto" - “poet is a form of moral behaviour”. Castillo's poem makes the direct link between an ordinary lived reality, the everydayness of fascism and the "shadow of the total lie" of a dictatorial state. Like other rebel poets, and artists in exile, Castillo's poetry resounds with the raw reality of conflict and oppression; but also with the certainty of belief. His tone is not angry like Dhasal's or romantic like Neruda's. These are the words of a measured resistance, of one whose own life is an embodiment of resistance and defiance of an inhuman regime. He builds up a difficult argument slowly to a final clenching moral imperative - "A vulture of silence/will eat your gut./Your own misery/will pick at your soul" Dutta enunciates how Castillo "lived and died for his ideals" - "When a U.S-backed coup led to the fall of the Jacobo Arbenz government in 1954, the 20-year-old Otto Rene Castillo was forced into exile in El Salvador....This generation valued action. Castillo having sneaked back to Guatemala joined the Rebel Armed Forces (FAR) and became their propaganda and education chief. After 15 days of eating “nothing but roots” while hiding in the mountains of Sierra de las Minas, he was finally captured and killed along with various plantation workers." He died a rebel at the age of 33.

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