By: Gustavo Esteva
Once in a while we get a compañero out of prison, stop the machines that come to destroy, stop a megaproject, impede a dispossession… Resorting to the law, to judicial proceedings, still produce results. But that should not be the only reason to continue using them, with all foolishness.
Before anything else, we must recognize that space is closing. In many cases, we only get what we want when we add social and political pressure to the legal. It becomes more difficult all the time to make the law or our rights work. What according to Benjamin was only a tradition of the oppressed is extended to a wider spectrum of the population: the rules of the state of emergency, the situation in which the law is used to establish illegality.
In prison, the nature of power doesn’t need to be dissimulated: it can show itself in all its nudity and crudeness. It thus takes on the sense of John Berger’s observation that prison is the word that best defines the current condition in the world: we are incarcerated. What is experienced now is that power shows its nature without inhibitions. We even see that it is deploying its worst aspects and that it now makes an object of exhibition and spectacle that it previously lied about or hid under the rug. It now forms part of the strategy of intimidation.
Continuing to use judicial proceedings should not have only pragmatic motives. The law should conserve its strength and significance until circumstances like the current ones, when the entire judicial apparatus is contaminated by illegality, corruption and injustice; when it is openly at the service of the privileged; when it is only useful for hanging a curtain over the despotic nature of the regime that administers it.
Those circumstances should not make us discard the very idea of the law, the formulation and application of norms. Judicial proceedings cannot be separated from political proceedings: they are structurally interwoven. Both shape and express the structure of freedom inside of history, and it is that structure which we now need to reconstruct or which we must elevate to where it never existed. It is the key to stopping the horror.
The parties have lost all credibility and the governments have lost the little legitimacy that they had. One another, together with technologies and systems, they have been converted into mere strategic devices of power with which it manipulates and controls us. It seems clearly impossible to save from ruin as whole world that falls violently into pieces around us, causing as much damage to nature as to culture. In this situation, in times so clearly apocalyptic as the present, nothing remains but to resort to reconstruction.
To reconstruct now, as a supreme expression of resistance, is not to repair or remedy institutions that are more counterproductive, threatening and irrational all the time. In rigor, nothing can save them. What we are starting to see is that some of their more astute operators have realized it and are running for safety, like the rats that they are. Others attempt to protect themselves from the multiple collapses in different institutional lairs. Others escape towards the future, and there are many, even at the first levels, those who don’t seem to realize anything and close their eyes tightly so as to not see the disaster of which they are a part.
What must be reconstructed isn’t there, but rather below. It’s true that we have been dispossessed of a good part of what we won in the last 200 years and that they continue mutilating the political liberties on which our conviviality was put in place, but we are still able to resort to ordinary language and to formal proceedings for reconstructing or reformulating our own norms in communities and barrios, within the bosom of our renewed organizations.
From there, in the tight weave of real men and women that are known to each other, who can see what is in the eyes of the other, in the spaces in which being ourselves is a state of things and a way of being, we are able to seriously tell the truth, tell it to each other. There, we are able to denounce the irremediably cancerous and unhealthy character of the formulas and dominant institutions and to nourish, against the desperations of the whole spectrum they germinate around, the hopes that are derived from an authentic autonomous construction.
Those hopes do not represent the triumph of optimism over reality. They are not mere illusion. They emerge from the perception that organized autonomous persistence, which comes from below, which is affirmed in dignity in the face of all disasters and knows that to live is to fight, extends farther all the time and begins to appear as a network of interconnected and self-sufficient shelters in the midst of the storm that announce another possibility.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Monday, April 25, 2016
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee