Megalomania is defined as a delusional mental disorder that is marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur. In today’s world there are too many narcissists to count, yet there are far fewer people that are truly megalomaniacs. Of those that are megalomaniacs, there are even fewer that wind up in a circumstance whereby they can rise to absolute power and have free reign to execute their deranged vision. In the history of the world, however, it seems like there are many examples of how megalomaniacs with the right amount of genius, character and gall can come into power and kill with impunity (i.e.Hitler, Stalin, etc…). In this post we’ll look at the psyche of one of these megalomaniacs: Fidel Castro.
Castro viewed himself as the destiny of Cuba and he was bent on becoming the country’s dictator. There can be little doubt about his brilliance in executing power and his talents in positioning himself to rise to the top. This is especially true with Castro’s understanding of propaganda and using the media to sway public opinion . But, what was not known during his ascent to the top was the lying, bluffing, and deceit he was committing to propel himself. The most striking example of Castro’s hypocrisy has to be his political manifesto titled La Histroria Me Absolverá (History Will Absolve Me). You may recognize the title or it may ring a bell with you; this is because it’s a rip-off from Adolph Hitler’s Rathaus Putsch speech in 1924 when Hitler said “Pronounce us guilty a thousand times over: the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to pieces the State Prosecutor’s submissions and the court’s verdict; for she acquits us.”
A megalomaniac is at war with the world and will do whatever it takes to carry out the vision in his mind’s eye. He will make alliances and forge partnerships to carry out his goals, but the foundations of these partnerships will be only the lies he feels those partners need to hear. Even though a megalomaniac may be surrounded by people and exude charisma, he is truly a loner. For in his mind, he is the supreme being and therefore cannot relate to anyone else beneath him. He can be a master of pointing out the evils in other people because those are truly the evils that exist within himself; this is what I call hypocritical projection theory. I believe that when Castro was describing Fulgencio Batista in his manifesto, he was able to paint such a vivid description of him because subconciously he was describing his vision of himself. In a way, he was jealous of Batista because Batista had the power and abilities that he coveted so much.
Castro showed signs of mental disorder from early in his life. In Tom Gjelten’s book “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba,” the author recounts a story from an interview with Juan Grau who grew up with Fidel Castro. I found the story very telling in the way it shed light on how Castro thinks. When Grau found out about the Moncada attacks and had heard that Fidel Castro was the command leader, the story had fit pretty squarely with his recollection of Castro.
Castro and Grau took an expedition in 1943 while they were both members of a Belén mountaineering club. Castro, who was seventeen years old at the time, told a school priest that he and a younger friend intended to ascend a 2,300-foot peak in western Cuba called Pan de Gaujaibón. The priest had thought this was dangerous and had sent Castro’s friend Juan Grau over to try to talk him out of the climb and convince him that it was just too dangerous. When Grau went over to talk to Fidel, however, it was Fidel who ended up doing most of the talking and convinced Grau and another friend to come along on the climb.
The climbing expedition was a near disaster. Fidel hadn’t brought along any maps and the boys were lost almost as soon as they had set out. After three days of hiking, they had still not reached the summit and they were starting to run short on rations. The only food they had remaining was some bread and a single can of condensed milk. They settled in for the night before they were to make their final push for the summit. In the middle of the night, Grau awoke to find Fidel drinking that last can of condensed milk.
“Fidel, what the hell are you doing” he said. “You can’t drink the milk like that!”
“Yes I can”
“But Fidel,” Grau said “in the morning we can go to some farmer’s house and get some coffee and put the milk in some coffee and make it last longer”
“I’m drinking it this way,” Fidel said. When Grau continued to object, Fidel snarled “Es que tú eres un comemierda” (You can eat shit.)
At that point Grau had jumped out of his sleeping bag and charged Fidel yelling “don’t call me a shit eater” and the other boys had awakened. The other boys separated Grau and Castro and the fight was over. Two days later, the boys arrived back at Belén. Grau would never forget that night. And even though Grau speaks of his old friend Fidel Castro with grudging respect as a courageous leader he still said “Fidel is loco”, which is the point I’m trying to make.
This story, indelible in Juan Grau’s memory, was the first thing that popped into his head after hearing about the Moncada attacks on July 26, 1953. To me, the story is telling in the sense that it shows a disregard for others in a dire situation. I like to think of these types of events as rare moments when the curtain gets pulled back and you get a startling insight into someones true character. When you are camped in the mountains, lost, and have few remaining supplies, most people would work together to find equitable solutions for everyone in the party. Not Castro, he was only thinking of one person: Fidel Castro.
The planning exhibited in the climbing expedition above was consistent with the planning for the Moncada attack July 26, 1953. Castro lost nearly half of his men in battle that day yet somehow managed to build his reputation on the event. He was helped by the brutality of Fulgencio Batista’s regime and Batista’s commander in Santiago, Colonel Alberto del Río Chaviano. Chaviano executed many of the moncadistas in cold blood but had arranged their bodies to make it look as though they had been killed in battle. When photos emerged to show that the men had in fact been killed in cold blood, public favor turned majorly in favor of Castro and his rebel fighters. I don’t know why Batista didn’t have Castro killed, but one theory is that Batista thought it strategic to have rebels fighting in the mountains to justify him sending out his military for whatever reason under the guise of fighting rebels.
Castro was put on trial for his role in the Moncada Barracks battle and defended himself in the courtroom but there was no recorded account of his four hour long oratory lambasting Batista and justifying his revolutionary fighting. Castro was sent to the Isle of Pines prison for a two year term where he would have a wide open schedule to later write his account of his courtroom speech which he would publish as his manifesto: “La Histroria Me Absolverá.” This document is what really opened my eyes to the duplicity of Castro’s written and spoken words versus his true intentions as evidenced by history. This is where the megalomaniac behavior really took over. Let’s examine some of the written declarations of his manifesto.
Castro wrote (this is translated from Spanish):
First of all, the dictatorship that oppresses the nation is not a constitutional power, but an unconstitutional one: it was established against the Constitution, over the head of the Constitution, violating the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. The legitimate Constitution is that which emanates directly from a sovereign people.
At the time, I’m sure that quote sounded great. It’s easy to see why people would be so excited to have a guy with rhetoric like this at the helm. It sounds like something our American forefathers would say. In fact, Castro does quote the American Constitution in his manifesto.
Another quote from his manifesto:
What heart is not set aflame by the promise of freedom?
This next quote from his manifesto needs a little context. Castro was railing about Batista’s soldiers being good men trapped by an evil dictator.
On the other hand, the soldiers endure a worse tyranny than the civilians. They are under constant surveillance and not one of them enjoys the slightest security in his job. Any unjustified suspicion, any gossip, any intrigue, or denunciation, is sufficient to bring transfer, dishonorable discharge or imprisonment. Did not Tabernilla, in a memorandum, forbid them to talk to anyone opposed to the government, that is to say, with ninety-nine percent of the people? … What a lack of confidence! … Not even the vestal virgins of Rome had to abide by such a rule!
I find the quote above very telling on many levels. This quote supports my coining of the term hypocritical projection theory. In the quote above, it’s as if Castro is describing how he himself will act in just a few short years. In March of 1959 a military tribunal acquitted forty three airmen from Batista’s air force who had been charged with mass murder. The men could not bring themselves to bomb their fellow Cubans as instructed by Batista and had dropped their bombs on rural unpopulated areas and falsified their flight reports. Upon hearing that the men had been acquitted, Castro was outraged. He ordered another trial and with his word being law, one was hastily organized. The men were convicted even though no new evidence had been presented and they were sentenced to long jail terms. This action even shocked many of Castro’s own supporters. To this Castro said “Revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral convictions”. In essence, Castro was stating that it doesn’t matter if they’re guilty or not; because they belonged to the military of Batista, they’re criminals.
I had about ten more quotes from Castro’s manifesto that I was going to put into this post. My point being the hypocrisy of his words necessary to gain the support of the people. In order to reinforce my point about Castro’s megalomania, I planned to go on about how Castro made the July 26, 1953 Moncada Barracks Battle out to be the most important battle in world history. I didn’t mean to undermine the courage it took to bet your life on fighting a rightful injustice. I didn’t mean to scorn the Cuban people for not seeing through Castro’s lies. I can honestly understand how easily he would be the people’s hero for liberating them all from such tyranny. My point is to show the psyche of a true megalomaniac. Someone who would do or say whatever is necessary to vault themselves into absolute power. Someone who exhibited complete disregard for the value of human life based on perceived threats and delusions.
I’ll leave you with one last quote from Castro’s manifesto. After you’ve read it, subsitute the name Fulgencio Batista with Fidel Castro and see if you think the quote is still applicable.
Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time there was a Republic. It had its Constitution, its laws, its freedoms, a President, a Congress and Courts of Law. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write with complete freedom. The people were not satisfied with the government officials at that time, but they had the power to elect new officials and only a few days remained before they would do so. Public opinion was respected and heeded and all problems of common interest were freely discussed. There were political parties, radio and television debates and forums and public meetings. The whole nation pulsated with enthusiasm. This people had suffered greatly and although it was unhappy, it longed to be happy and had a right to be happy. It had been deceived many times and it looked upon the past with real horror. This country innocently believed that such a past could not return; the people were proud of their love of freedom and they carried their heads high in the conviction that liberty would be respected as a sacred right. They felt confident that no one would dare commit the crime of violating their democratic institutions. They wanted a change for the better, aspired to progress; and they saw all this at hand. All their hope was in the future.
Poor country! One morning the citizens woke up dismayed; under the cover of night, while the people slept, the ghosts of the past had conspired and had seized the citizenry by its hands, its feet, and its neck. That grip, those claws were familiar: those jaws, those death-dealing scythes, those boots. No; it was no nightmare; it was a sad and terrible reality: a man named Fulgencio Batista had just perpetrated the appalling crime that no one had expected.