Governing ourselves

Nochixtlán Mural

Street art in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, that reads “killers.”

By: Gustavo Esteva

Cornered in their alley, disconcerted and pathetic elected officials look for an exit from their impossible predicament: they cannot ignore/be unaware of, nor recognize their own disgrace, the fact that their “security forces” operated like bands of criminals in Nochixtlán, just like in Ayotzinapa. The worn out formula of the scapegoat no longer functions. The media campaign produces the opposite desired effects. Desperate, they seem ready to jump off the precipice, no matter the cost. And that cost would be immense for everyone.

On Tuesday the 21st, at the funeral of one of the murdered boys in Nochixtlán, the son of a teacher, health minister of the town council of Apazco, we all felt the family’s pain. We were moved even further by the father’s reflection: “Yes, this is the price that we had to pay. But the struggle must continue, the struggle cannot stop here. These are not the first deaths, nor will they be the last. No matter. We are learning things like this in the struggle.”

A couple of days later, at a meeting of campesino producers in La Mixteca, the conversation became more agitated. What had brought them there was put aside. The attack of the teachers felt like their own, but they were no longer mobilizing just in solidarity. They had reached their limit. It was the moment to struggle for themselves, for their own survival, with the conviction that united it would be possible to change a state of unbearable things.

The front lines (of the battle) are multiplying under very different configurations and styles. It’s not the same in La Mixteca as in Monterrey. What remains clear is that the teachers’ struggle articulates generalized discontent that seeks its best form of expression.

Governments, commercial media, impresarios, the so-called “real powers,” continue yelling at the top of their lungs because of the challenge they face. They look for reasons and pretexts that justify the heavy hand, for which they prepare for public opinion. Some common people share their demand to “reestablish order.”

They insist like that from above, that time is running out and it is urgent to return calm to the millions of affected citizens. They sweep the way in which they lost it under the rug. The teachers tried all the possible forms of struggle and administrative procedures before taking the current course. Three days before last year’s elections the government broke off negotiations and refused to return to the table until Nochixtlán obligated it to do so.

Nochixtlán is on the dialogue’s official agenda, where the government pretends to “repair the damage” with mere economic compensation. It can include labor issues like arbitrary stoppage, lowered and withheld wages, and even political prisoners and other abuses. But nothing more, nothing about the heart of the matter. They do not understand people’s reaction. When one of the victims of Nochixtlán tells them that they were at the crime scene “because we believe that we have to throw out this reform,” they need to attribute this behavior to manipulation, to “ideological fabrication,” and even, like in Chiapas, to the meddling of “extremist groups.” They don’t want to appear informed about what is happening.

The authorities are deriving the worst from the lessons of the mobilizations of ten years ago. In creating the 2007 commission that investigated what happened in Oaxaca, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the police forces “physically affected a large number of people in an inhumane and cruel way,” resulting in wounded and tortured individuals and deaths, and it affirmed that “a de-facto suspension of constitutional rights” had been produced. The Court appeared interested in realizing justice. What it did, however, was extend a certificate of impunity to the violators. It seemed that “the use of public force was legitimate”…although late: they should have done what they did earlier. Against its own statute and its own words, the Court ruled that the authorities can and should violate constitutional guarantees.

Today the authorities want to shelter themselves under that umbrella. They let loose all our demons just like that. Before the disaster that is outlined, the source of hope can be in the possibility that people exercise from below the capacity to govern, upon confirming that those above have lost that capacity. The first steps have been taken on that path, as the changes in the strategy of mobilization demonstrate.

We citizens, men and women, standing up at a barricade like those among the leaders of the CNTE, we should make decisions as a government. The teachers of Oaxaca can start implementing their Educational Transformation Program with its sensible system of evaluation and innovative pedagogies. We would begin in that way to disregard the meddling of corrupt bureaucrats of the SEP in the content and form of education.

In any case, it would be suicide to continue trying to get water from a rock, waiting/ hoping for these political classes to do what is needed. It’s our turn. Doing what is necessary in this critical circumstance will serve as practice for us for what is to follow.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, July 4, 2016

Translated by Rebecca Gamez


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: