The hour of disobedience

Zapatista women and men performing at CompArte in Chiapas.

By: Gustavo Esteva

It’s only natural that Mr. Trump would boast of having several multi-millionaires in his cabinet and would add that, obviously, he doesn’t want any poor people there. What ought to worry us is that many poor people share that judgment. The rich would be there because of a personal aptitude that would also give them the ability to govern; the opposite would be applied to the poor, who would be considered inept.

This aberrant configuration of the mind, which forms entrenched convictions and general behaviors, is also applied to the belief in a supposedly democratic form of government, in accordance with which Mr. Trump was elected and that currently dominates on the planet. Discontent with existing governments increases, but doesn’t affect that generalized belief in the validity of their formative training and in their reason for being. When someone questions its legitimacy, his removal can be proposed through “democratic” proceedings, as has been done in Mexico since Calderón and is now done through Mr. Trump’s Russian dossier. But the system itself, based on a hierarchical structure that converts citizens into subjects that ignore their condition or don’t know how to get out of it.

A deviant mentality, the same one that makes the rich apt and the poor inept, would give the rulers the right and the ability to act as they are doing, at the service of the 1 percent and not of the majority of the people, who they oppress in every conceivable form. That mentality processes this fact with an illusion: the next one may be better; he will use the power we give him in our benefit.

We need to examine carefully the roots of that mentality and the conditions that made it possible. Because of that mentality, many people deposit their faith in a charismatic leader, a party, an ideology, a coalition of forces or any combination of these elements. They trust that their electoral victory will remedy our evils and will make the situation we face bearable. With a good “country project,” appropriate advisors, effective commitments and, above all, an honest and capable leader at the top, we’ll get out of the current horror actual. All that can be applied without difficulty, for example, to the millions that still continue to follow López Obrador, to militants of his party and of other institutes, to savvy analysts and to prominent intellectuals, who all share that mentality.

Its origin is clear: colonization. Having that mentality is a necessary consequence of the way in which they colonized us. Since long ago, in countries like Mexico, colonization does not necessarily suppose the loss of political sovereignty, but our “independence” has become more and more relative… and sovereignty more and more illusory.

The origin of that mentality can be traced to the formation of what we call the West. It does not seem useless to resort to a classic formulation of Plato, who wrote the following in The Laws:

“Of all the principles, the most important is that no one, be it a man or a woman, ought to lack a boss. Neither should anyone’s spirit become accustomed to being permitted to work following one’s own initiative, whether at work or for pleasure. Far from that, in war as in peace, every citizen will have to look up to the boss, faithfully following him, and even in the most trivial matters must remain under his command. So, for example, he must get up, move, bathe, or eat… only if he has ordered him to do so. In a word: he must teach his soul, through long-practiced habit, to never dream of acting independently, and to become totally incapable of it (…) There is no, nor will there ever be, a law superior to this or better and more effective for assuring war’s salvation and victory. And in times of peace, and starting with earliest childhood, that habit of governing and being governed must be stimulated. In this way, the last vestige of anarchy must be erased from the life of all men, and even from the beasts that are subjects at their service.”

This formulation is politically incorrect today. No one would dare propose the system that is called democracy and dissembles in a thousand ways the condition that Plato describes. But all those veils cannot hide the submission to a structure in which there are the rulers and the ruled, some who govern and others that obey, and even less hide the fear of “anarchy,” of resistance to being governed, the deep desire to govern themselves… which is very general.

From the West itself, however, resistance to that state of things was affirmed a while ago. Howard Zinn, for example, said not so long ago: “The world is upside down, things are completely wrong. It’s not about civil disobedience. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty, hunger, stupidity, war and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient when the prisons are full of small-time crooks while the big crooks are in charge of the country. That’s our problem.”

That is truly our problem. And it’s not resolved changing the leader, but rather by abandoning the hierarchical system, which is truly the option that the Indian peoples that have 500 years of confronting colonization have created from below.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, July 17, 2017

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


One Comment on “The hour of disobedience

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis from CHIAPAS SUPPORT COMMITTEE | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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