Week 8

This weeks video made me think of the famous line from The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” While certainly not from the world’s most profound movie, the line seems to resonate with some of the revolutionary themes mentioned by Professor Dawson. The lasting popularity of Poncho Villa and Emiliano Zapata as revolutionary figures, could be attributed to the fact they both died before, as Dawson puts it “they could disappoint.” It is also worth noting that even in life, both figures bordered were almost mythical. Given that they were romanticized to such a high degree, their deaths, despite being in itself a reminder that they were human, prevented the inevitable let down that all heroes, revolutionary or otherwise, seem to put their followers through. It begs the question; once a revolution has been started, is its leader of more use dead or alive? In a practical sense, a living human can still fulfill tasks that may be vital to the continuation of the revolution- planning, fighting and the like. But if we consider the main importance of a leader is to act as a figurehead for what his/her struggle represents, dying may seal their legacy as a martyr and lend only more conviction to their cause. After all, if we measure our dedication by our sacrifices, it is hard to go beyond giving up ones life.

Building more on the first point, which is death before disappointment, Dawson provides example the example of The Death of Artemio Cruz, a novel on the passing of a soldier & revolutionary who has rather outlived his charisma. It is revealed, both through his own account and through various audiotapes that he lead a very corrupt existence. One of Dawsons lines in particular that caught my attention regarding the deaths of Villa and Zapata was “by being killed by a revolution that many Mexicans came to see as corrupt and cynical, they’re the early victims of a process that is ultimately becomes like spoiled milk.” Despite the two individuals personal involvement in the revolution, and despite the ultimate feeling that the revolution was corrupt and cynical, being seen as victims of it absolves them of any crime, by association or otherwise. It seems to me that the ideal leader for a revolution is one who stands up for what they believe in, then promptly dies.


Thanks for reading

2 thoughts on “Week 8

  1. Ruze Guvenc

    Really great analysis of what it means to be a hero in a revolution! I think its interesting because even though revolutions always have good intentions and the initial support of the people, once they resolve and it becomes time to actually put into place the change that was promised, they tend to fail. I don’t think this is because revolutionary leaders are lacking, but rather that the concept of revolution is inherently doomed to fail the majority of the time due to the difficulty of it. While most revolutions are able to overthrow the current regime, the practical problems that come with establishing a whole new government that appeases the whole movement make it seem nearly impossible. So I agree that it might be best for revolutionary leaders to die before they actually have to follow through on the large promises they made during the initial stages of the revolution, since it is so difficult to fulfill all those extreme changes.

  2. Matilda

    Your question of is a leader more useful dead or alive really struck me. I’ve heard of cases in which politial leaders have been hesitant to assassinate a revolutionary for fear that they would be martyred and cause even more of an uprising. Maybe this links back to the idea of living long enough to become a villain, the governments in this case knew that killing their enemies would take away the probability that they would fail their followers, so keeping them alive may leave the state better off in the long run.


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