The protracted youth of David Aaronovitch

davidaaronovitch“The hero of my youth was just another tyrant,” writes Mr Aaronovitch of The Times with a note of nostalgia for his youth and Castro, now both departed.

Fair enough, we’re all stupid in our youth. For example, when I was 20, I thought A Hundred Years of Solitude was a great novel. How much dumber can one get?

Until 25 or so, our brains aren’t even wired properly, so what do you expect from youngsters? As long as they realise the error of their ways upon reaching maturity?

Aaronovitch evidently has. He has called Castro a tyrant, hasn’t he? As an adolescent, he thought Castro was a romantic hero, but now he knows better. Nature has taken its course.

Here he is, writing about his silly youth: “In 2001… I was still prepared to defend Fidel.” And: “… a little bit of salsa and cigar remained in my soul until that day in 2008 when it vanished.”

This gives an insight into Aaronovitch’s developmental timeline. Still an impetuous child in 2001, he had grown up by 2008, having purged his soul of all that salsa and cigar nonsense.

One infers that Aaronovitch’s biological maturity occurred somewhere in between those chronological milestones. Still a teenager in 2001, say 19 years old, he turned 26 or so in 2008, his brain now functioning at full capacity, all inane illusions left behind.

Just in case, I googled Aaronovitch to confirm the chronology. And what do you know? He was actually born in 1954. That makes him 47 in 2001, when his soul was still filled with salsa and cigars.

By any medical standards this has to be a case of retarded development. Aaronovitch’s youth lasted into his mid-40s and still lingered on seven years later. Must be some kind of hormonal imbalance, or else perhaps his mother dropped baby Davie on his head when breast-feeding him.

So what Damascene epiphany happened to young David, now 54, in 2008? He went to Cuba and was warned at a police station to watch whom he was talking to – or else. Flash! The retarded youth fell off his high horse and saw an image of Castro in the sky, saying: “Why do you love me so? Can’t you see I’m a tyrant?”

That experience broke through the dam of ignorance, and Aaronovitch started writing about Castro’s concentration camps, executions and boat people, rather than just Cuba’s free medical care.

Of course until 2008 he hadn’t known about Castro’s concentration camps, executions and boat people, although he had known about Cuba’s free medical care. Until then Aaronovitch must have been working down in the mines, where his access to information was limited and it was too dark to read anyway…

Hold on, the same Wikipedia article says he had by that time been a top journalist for at least 30 years, having enjoyed a brilliant career at the BBC, The Independent and The Times.

Thus he had access to some of the best data banks in the world, which means he knew all along about Castro’s concentration camps, executions and boat people. Curiouser and curiouser.

Hence, until he grew up in 2008, young Davie saw nothing wrong about a regime that murdered and imprisoned political opponents, spied on everybody, destroyed free press and – while at it – a previously thriving economy. A regime so ghastly that people were prepared to risk their lives to run away – with 77,000 dying in the process.

Therefore his sudden change of mind means he either didn’t have much of a mind to begin with or didn’t change it at all – or, actually, both. Aaronovitch was in 2008 and still remains an inveterate, unreconstructed leftie, whose understanding of the world hasn’t advanced from the time he indeed was a child.

Having tried to sell one cock-and-bull story, he then tries to flog another: “Now I know I am a latish convert to liberal democracy, though I don’t think I’m overzealous for all that; one lesson I learnt was to eschew heroes and over-complete ideologies.”

What matters in this instance isn’t so much what he converted to as what he converted from. Once a communist, always a communist, I say (making an exception for those undergoing a religious conversion).

Specifically on the subject of Latin America, Aaronovitch’s newly discovered commitment to liberal democracy didn’t prevent him from adoring Hugo Chávez, albeit with less ardour than Castro.

You see, unlike Chile’s Pinochet, who saved his country from Castro’s proxy Allende, Chávez was democratically elected, as indeed was Allende. Riding the wave of their electoral success, both Allende and Chávez nationalised industry, collectivised agriculture, supported every terrorist regime or organisation on earth, had their opponents silenced or arrested, and plunged their countries into penury.

But that’s fine with our new, not overly zealous, convert to liberal democracy. Chávez and Allende were democratically elected, so what’s the problem?

Of course they share that distinction with Messrs Hitler, Perón, Mugabe, Putin and Ahmadinejad, whom Mr Aaronovitch probably dislikes. Yet that doesn’t make him ponder that perhaps it’s not method of government that matters but what kind of society it brings forth.

That would be delving too deep for our eternal adolescent. Anyway, you can’t expect him to find time to think. He’s too busy forming opinions.

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