Support My Writing

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The night Che Guevara kept me from sleeping: Sometimes a T-shirt is more than just a T-shirt

I am tired. I worked hard today and I wanted to go to bed early and get a good night's sleep, but now Che Guevara won’t let me. The last thing I want to do right now is write a blog post, but sometimes  “the muse” isn’t a beautiful young woman or man who inspires your creativity, it is a damned T-shirt sold at an overpriced and over-rated clothing chain, which targets empty-headed 20 somethings.

Here’s what the “all-knowing one”, Wikipedia has to say about it-
Urban Outfitters has been described as selling hip, kitschy, and ironic merchandise, for example, T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Jive Turkey" or "Atari". They are known for catering to "hipster" culture and fashion, which incorporates an influence from past decades.

According to their website, Urban Outfitters' "established ability to understand our customers and connect with them on an emotional level is the reason for our success."

 The site says that "the reason for this success is that our brands... are both compelling and distinct. Each brand chooses a particular customer segment, and once chosen, sets out to create sustainable points of distinction with that segment" and that "the emphasis is on creativity. Our goal is to offer a product assortment and an environment so compelling and distinctive that the customer feels an empathetic connection to the brand and is persuaded to buy."

And it goes on to have an entire section titled: “Urban Outfitters' products have been the subject of multiple controversies, particularly concerning religious and ethnic issues.” – See the page for more examples of their “clever and hip” clothing items. Excuse me if I don’t find the humor or creativity in hate.
Well, “kitschy and ironic” is no excuse for outright offensive and obnoxious. And if their goal is to offer something “compelling and distinctive”, they have failed epically this time with their new Che Guevara T-shirt.

This isn’t their first controversy, and I loathe giving them attention, as it seems that is part of their marketing “edgy-ness” and makes them feel like they are making some profound political statements or SHOVING free speech down people’s throats. Whatever. It is manipulative and ugly. It isn’t cute and the REAL irony is that people with too much expendable income are spending WAAAAAAAAY too much money on an icon of the Communist “revolution”.

I am not going to go on a political rant about Communism or how it has destroyed the lives of millions and millions of people. I think that has borne out and most of us who live in a free society understand that it is a system which denies people rights and destroys every conceivable remnant of freedom. I have very personal insights into Che Guevara, as my father is a Cuban √©migr√© and that chapter of Cuba’s sad history is part and parcel of my life history. (For another time, when I am not about to drop from exhaustion).

Needless to say, I was heartened to see that a piece was run in the Huffington Post (so much for the liberal media) which was an actual letter, which was written by Thor Halvorssen-  Founder, Human Rights Foundation. In his letter, Mr. Halvorssen states:

We urge you to consider that the image of Guevara represents tyranny and repression for the millions of people who have suffered under communism. Fifty-three years after Guevara's rise to power, Cuba is still ruled by the Communist party, while all alternative political parties and dissenting civil society groups are outlawed. Any expression of dissent is considered a subversive act, a free press does not exist, and the government regularly imprisons those who speak out. Mr. Marlow, the Cuban government of today, a legacy of Guevara, is the most repressive regime in the Western hemisphere.” 

He goes on to say- “For the sake of the 1.47 billion people still living under the yoke of communist rule, for the sake of the thousands who perished in the Cuban revolution, and for the sake of the 11 million Cubans who still endure a totalitarian system, we hope Urban Outfitters will reconsider its marketing strategy and set a moral example for the apparel industry.”
Bravo, and THANK YOU, for saying it so eloquently and well. NOW I can go to sleep!
Even though they butchered his name, how appropriate, this is damned funny!