(This is the first in a two-part series.)

I’m not going to lie, I don’t really even like drinking rum or smoking cigars. But when I got my first chance to travel to Cuba and look inside the Castro hype, I was in from day one.

IMG_6054With the help of the leadership team and our amazing Bluegrass Chapter at YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), we secured a license as a humanitarian group taking medicine and aid, and supporting local artists while studying their world-renowned arts.

This would give all of us our first real chance to take a deeper look at the communist political model up close and personal. The ‘Marxist Revolutionary’ school of thought has been our greatest ideological competition, and really, our greatest enemy for the last 100 years.

From the beginning, it was Fidel’s revolution and his partnership with Che Guevara, combined with other historic events, that have kept governmental resentment sky high, even now.

In a reflective way, I could not help but wish to have them be present today. I craved their presence so he could see how wrong his prophecy really was, and still is.

There was such a deep, imminent belief in both leaders that the Marxist Ideology could sincerely eliminate poverty throughout the 19 South American countries. They were arrogantly sure of it. We all want to eliminate poverty in the world more than anything, but this trip confirms everything I previously believed, which is that this is not the way whatsoever!

It was openly programmed into me, as a red-blooded American with a union brick layer father, the need for fair labor practices, the importance of private and public partnerships concerning key things like apprentice programming, and that ownership needed to make a honest profit for the risk they take daily – that if these things took place, then everything would be always be fine. These were the common sense fundamentals I grew up with!

We can also look at the irony of Peter Drucker’s 1954 classic, ‘The Practice of Management.’ Drucker believed CEO pay should not exceed 20 times the line-staff employee, which we may need to consider in the U.S. now more than ever, where CEO salaries are now at 330 times the basic employee in our capitalistic revolution 60 years later.

That epic work used to build our for-profit corporate organizations in America is a far contrast from Che’s early 1950s writing, which believed the exact opposite. But there are lessons in there somewhere for all of society.

IMG_6271Sony and I wandered by ourselves to real-life in Cuba on a Saturday afternoon, eating at a government-owned pizza cafeteria that was beyond gross and in the midst of beggars, hustlers and aggressive black market entrepreneurs all trying to find a way to survive on the government salary of $20 per month that 90% receive. I wanted Che Guevara and a healthy Castro, the original partners of New Age Communism, to have to peek together into every window with us so they could understand what disengagement really creates.

We saw three generations cramped into unsafe conditions with rationed foods, stolen American cars from the early days of the revolution band-aided together with bubble gum, a declining national population where boats do not even exist on the island for fear more will try to leave again, and workers packed into repair lots with one worker active and at least four watching because there are no parts.

What would Guevara and Castro’s conversation be today, as old men? Would they admit they were actually wrong, or wonder what they really accomplished?

IMG_6044Would they claim their ideologies had produced a ‘utopia,’ even under these conditions? How wrong were the Marxist doctrines of Guevara’s youthful writings, anyway?  I would just love to eavesdrop on their private conversation as we walked through the Museum of the Revolution, with cracked walls and missing light bulbs, and open mockery of many U.S. presidents on the walls. Would they whisper about their own mistakes, and how their prophecy failed in the end?

On the last night, Castro’s longtime personal chef cooked a wonderful dinner in one of the few private restaurants popping up now because the tone toward any private enterprising is starting to grow like mustard seeds. I stood next to him thinking he knows where Fidel is right now, and what if we could ask a few questions before leaving of the longest-running president in the world?

Was this what the final chapter of Ayn Rand’s 1957 classic ‘Atlas Shrugged’ would look like if the prime movers just walked away at once, in America or any country, as she eloquently depicted?