A clarification: Many times, when we use “los Zapatistas” we are not referring to the men, but to the Zapatista peoples. And when we use “las Zapatistas”, we are not describing women, but the Zapatista communities. So you will find that gender “jump” in our words. When we refer to gender, we always add “otroa” to point out the existence and struggle of those who are neither men nor women (and that our ignorance on the subject prevents us from detailing — but we will learn to name all the differences).
Now, the first thing you should know or understand is that the Zapatistas, when we are going to do something, we first prepare for the worst. We start from an assumption of failure, and, in the inverse sense, we prepare ourselves to face it or, in the best of cases, to avoid it.
For example, we imagine being attacked, the usual massacres, genocide dressed up as modern civilization, total extermination. And we prepare for those possibilities. Well, for January 1, 1994, we did not imagine defeat, we assumed it was a certainty.
Anyway, maybe that will help you understand the reason for our initial astonishment, our hesitations and a perplexing improvisation when, after much time, work and preparation for ruin, we found that… we lived.
It is from this skepticism that our initiatives develop. Some small, others larger, all of them crazy, our calls are always directed to “the other,” that which is beyond our daily horizons, but which we recognize as something that is necessary in the struggle for life, that is to say, in the struggle for humanity.
In this initiative or gamble or delusion or absurdity in its maritime iteration, for example, we prepared ourselves for the Kraken, a storm or a stray white whale to wreck the boat, that is why we made canoes — and they traveled with Squadron 421 in La Montaña until they reached Vigo, Galicia, Spain, Europe.
We also prepared ourselves not to be welcome, that is why we sought consent for the invasion, that is, the visit beforehand… Well, we are not very sure about being “welcome” yet. For more than one or two, our presence is disturbing, to say the least, if not downright disruptive. And we understand, it may be that someone, after a year or more of being in confinement, may find it at least inopportune that a group of indigenous people of Mayan roots, as little as they are producers and consumers of merchandise (electoral and otherwise), wants to talk in person. In person! (do you remember that this used to be part of your daily routine?) And, moreover, that their primary purpose is to listen to you, to fill you with questions, to share nightmares and, of course, dreams.
We are prepared for the bad governments, on both sides, to prevent or hinder our departure and arrival, that’s why some of us Zapatistas were already in Europe… Oops, I shouldn’t have written that, delete it. We already know that the Mexican government will not stand in the way. It remains to be seen what the other European governments say and do –because Portugal and the Spanish State did not oppose it.
We are prepared for the mission to fail, that is, for it to turn into a media event and, therefore, fleeting and inconsequential. That is why we primarily accept invitations from those who want to listen and talk. Because our main objective is not massive events –although we do not rule them out–, but the exchange of stories, knowledge, feelings, assessments, challenges, failures and successes.
We will prepare for the plane to fail, that’s why we made parachutes with embroideries of many colors so that, instead of a “D-Day” in Normandy (oh, oh, does that mean that the air landing would be in France?…. eh? … in Paris?!), it will be a “Z-Day” for Europe below, and it will seem then that from the sky, flowers will shower as if Ixchel, the mother goddess, rainbow goddess, accompanied us and, by her hand and with her flight, open a second front for the invasion. And safer because now, thanks to Galicia of below, the 421st squadron has managed to secure a beach stronghold in the lands of Breogán.
In short, we always prepare to fail… and to die. That is why life, for Zapatistas, is a surprise to be celebrated every day, every hour. And what could be better if it is with dance, music, and the arts?
During all these years we have learned many things. Perhaps the most important is to realize how small we are. And I am not referring to stature and weight, but to the size of our commitment. Our contacts with people, groups, collectives, movements and organizations from different parts of the planet have shown us a diverse, multiple and complex world. This has reinforced our conviction that any proposal of hegemony and homogeneity is not only impossible, but above all criminal.
Because the attempts (not infrequently hidden behind papier-mâché nationalisms in the shop windows of electoral politics) to impose ways and viewpoints are criminal, because they seek the extermination of differences of all kinds.
The other is the enemy: the difference of gender, race, sexual or asexual identity, language, skin color, culture, creed or non-belief, conception of the world, physique, beauty stereotype, history. Taking into account all the worlds that exist in the world, there are practically as many enemies, actual or potential, as there are human beings.
And we could say that almost any affirmation of identity is a declaration of war on what is different. I said “almost,” and it is to this “almost” that we cling as the Zapatistas that we are.
Because it turns out that, also by studying and analyzing, we have discovered something that may or may not be important. It depends.
Taking for granted that this planet will be annihilated, at least as we perceive it so far, we have been investigating the possible options.
That is, the ship sinks and up above they say that nothing happens, that it is passing. Yes, as when the tanker Prestige sank off European coasts (2002) — Galicia was the first witness and victim — and the business and government authorities said that only a few spurts of fuel had spilled. The disaster was not paid for by the boss, nor by his foremen or wholesalers. It was paid for, and continues to be paid for, by the people who live from fishing on those coasts. By them and their descendants.
And by “Ship” we mean the planet homogenized and hegemonized by a system: capitalism. Of course, they may say that “that is not our ship,” but the current sinking is not only of a system, but of the whole world, complete, total, down to the most remote and isolated corner– not only that of its centers of power.
We understand that someone thinks, and therefore acts accordingly, as if it is still possible to mend, patch, paint a little here and there, to refurbish the boat. To keep it afloat no matter what, even selling the fantasy that mega-projects are possible that not only do not annihilate entire villages, but also do not affect nature.
That there are people who think that it is sufficient to be very determined and to put a lot of effort into the make-up (at least until the electoral processes are over). And who believe that the best response to the cries of “Never again” –which are repeated in every corner of the planet — are promises and money, political programs and money, good intentions and money, flags and money, fanaticism and money. Let them be faithful believers that the world’s problems come down to a lack of money.
And money needs roads, big infrastructure projects, hotels, shopping malls, factories, banks, labor, consumers… police and armies.
The so-called “rural communities” are classified as “underdeveloped” or “backward” because the circulation of money, i.e. goods, is non-existent or very low. It does not matter that, for example, their rate of femicides and gender violence is lower compared to that of urban areas. Governmental achievements are measured by the number of areas destroyed and repopulated by producers and consumers of goods, as a result of the reconstruction of that territory. Where once there was a cornfield, a spring, a forest, now there are hotels, shopping malls, factories, thermoelectric plants,… gender violence, persecution of difference, drug trafficking, infanticide, human trafficking, exploitation, racism, discrimination. In short: c-i-v-i-l-i-z-a-t-i-o-n.
Their idea is that the peasant population will become employees of this “urbanization.” They will continue to live, work and consume in their town, but the owner of all their surroundings is an industrial-commercial-financial-military conglomerate whose headquarters are in cyberspace and for whom that conquered territory is only a point on the map, a percentage of profits, a commodity. And the real result will be that the original population will have to migrate, because capital will arrive with its own “qualified” employees. The native population will have to water gardens and clean parking lots, stores and pools where before there were fields, forests, coasts, lagoons, rivers and springs.
What is hidden is that, behind the expansions (“wars of conquest”) of the States –whether internal (“incorporating more population into modernity”), or external with different alibis (such as that of the Israeli government in its war against Palestine)–, there is a common logic: the conquest of a territory by merchandise, that is, by money, that is, by capital.
But we understand that these people, in order to become the teller who administers the payments and fees that give life to the machine, form electoral political parties, fronts — be they wide or narrow — to compete for access to government alliances and “strategic” ruptures, and all the subtleties in which life and efforts are engaged that, behind small successes, hide great failures. A little law here, an official dialogue here, a journalistic note there, a tweet here, a like there, and yet, to give an example of an ongoing global crime, femicides are on the rise. In the meantime, the left goes up and down, the right goes up and down, the center goes up and down. As the unforgettable Marisol from Malaga sang, “life is a raffle”: everyone (up) wins, everyone (down) loses.
But “civilization” is just a flimsy alibi for brutal destruction. The poison keeps gushing (no longer from the Prestige — at least not only from that ship), and the whole system seems to be willing to contaminate every last corner of the planet, because destruction and death are more profitable than stopping the machine.
We are sure you will be able to add more and more examples. Display buttons of an irrational and yet, still active nightmare.
So, for several decades we have been concentrating on the search for alternatives. The construction of rafts, canoes, boats, and even larger vessels (the 6th as an improbable ark), have a well-defined horizon. Somewhere it will be necessary to disembark.
We read and we read. We studied and continue to do so. We analyze then and now. We open our hearts and our eyes, not to current or old-fashioned ideologies, but to the sciences, the arts and our histories as native peoples. And with that knowledge and tools, we have found that there is, in this solar system, a planet that could be habitable: the third of the solar system and that, until today, it appears in school and scientific books with the name of “Earth.” For further reference, it is between Venus and Mars. That is, according to certain cultures, it is between love and war.
The problem is that this planet is already a pile of rubble, of real nightmares, and tangible horrors. Little is left standing. Even the stage rigging that hides the catastrophe is cracking. So, then, how shall I put it, the point is not to conquer that world and enjoy the spoils of the victor. It is more complicated and requires, yes, a worldwide effort: we have to do it over.
Now, according to the great Hollywood film productions, the solution to the world catastrophe (always something external –aliens, meteors, inexplicable pandemics, zombies resembling candidates to some public office), is the product of a union of all the governments of the world (headed by the gringos) or, worse, of the US government synthesized in an individual (because the machine has already learned that the farce must be inclusive), who may have the politically correct racial and gender characteristics, but who bears on his chest the brand of the Hydra.
But, far from these fictions, reality shows us that everything is business: the system produces destruction and sells you tickets to flee from it… into space. And for sure, in the offices of the big corporations, there are brilliant projects of interstellar colonization… with the private ownership of the means of production included. In other words, the system is transferred, in its entirety, to another planet. The “all included” refers to those who work, to those who live on top of those who work, and to their relationship of exploitation.
But sometimes they don’t just look at space. “Green” capitalism strives for “protected” areas on the planet. Ecological bubbles where the beast can shelter while the planet heals from the bites (which would take just a few million years).
When the machine speaks of “a new world” or “humanizing the planet,” it is thinking of territories to conquer, depopulate and destroy, and then repopulate and rebuild with the same logic that now has the whole world facing the abyss, always ready to take the step forward that progress demands.
You may think that it is not possible for someone to be so imbecilic as to destroy the house where he lives. “The frog does not drink all the water in the puddle in which he lives,” says a proverb of the native Sioux people. But if you pretend to apply rational logic to the workings of the machine, you won’t understand (well, neither will the machine). Moral and ethical assessments are of no use. The logic of the beast is profit. Of course, now you may wonder how it is possible for an irrational, immoral and stupid machine to rule the destinies of an entire planet. Ah, (sigh), that is in its genetics, in its very essence.
But, leaving aside the impossible exercise of endowing rationality to the irrational, you will come to the conclusion that it is necessary to destroy this monstrosity which, no, is not diabolical. Unfortunately, it is human.
And, of course, you study, read, confront, analyze, and discover that there are great proposals to move forward. From those that propose a shave and some make-up, to those that recommend moral and logical courses for the beast, passing through new or old systems.
Yes, we understand you, life sucks and it is always possible to take refuge in that cynicism so overrated in social networks. The late SupMarcos used to say: “the bad thing is not that life sucks, but that they force you to eat it and still expect you to be grateful for it.”
But suppose that no, you do know that, indeed, life sucks, but your reaction is not to withdraw into yourself (or into your “world,” that depends on the number of your “followers” in the social networks there are and to be). And then you decide to embrace, with faith, hope and charity, one of the options presented to you. And you choose the best, the biggest, the most successful, the most famous, the one that is winning… or the one that is close to you.
Great projects of new and old political systems. Impossible delays of the clock of history. Patriotic nationalisms. Shared futures by virtue of this option taking power and staying in it until everything is solved. Is your faucet leaking? Vote for that one. Too much noise in the neighborhood? Vote for that one. Did the cost of transportation, food, medicine, energy, schools, clothes, entertainment, culture go up, are you afraid of migration, do dark-skinned people, of different beliefs, incomprehensible languages, different heights and complexions bother you? Vote for…
There are even those who do not differ from the objective, but from the method. And then they repeat above what they criticized below. With disgusting tricks and claiming geopolitical strategies, support is given to those who persist in crime and stupidity. It is requested that the peoples endure oppressions for the benefit of the “correlation of international forces and the rise of the left in the area”. But Nicaragua is not Ortega-Murillo and it will not take the beast long to understand this.
In all those great offers of solutions in the murderous supermarket of the system, many times it is not mentioned that they are the brutal imposition of a hegemony, and a decree of persecution and death to all that is not homogeneous to the winner.
Governments govern for their followers, never for those who are not. Social media stars feed their followers, even at the cost of sacrificing intelligence and shame. And “political correctness” has to suck it up, when later they have to devour those who counsel resignation “so as not to benefit the principal enemy.”
Is Zapatismo one more great answer, one more answer, to the world’s problems?
No. Zapatismo is a bunch of questions. And the smallest may be the most disturbing: And what about you?
In the face of the capitalist catastrophe, does Zapatismo propose an old-new idyllic social system, and with it a repeat of the imposed hegemonies and homogeneities that are now “good”?
No. Our thought is as small as we are: it is the efforts of each one, in his geography, according to his calendar and way, that will allow us, perhaps, to do away with the criminal, and, simultaneously, to remake everything. And everything means everything.
Each one, according to their calendar, their geography, their way, will have to build their path. And, like us, the Zapatista peoples, it will stumble and get up, and what it builds will have the name it wants to have. And it will only be different and better than what we have suffered before, and what we suffer today, if it recognizes the other and respects them, if it refuses to impose its thinking on that which is different, and if it finally realizes that there are many worlds and that their richness is born of and shines in their difference.
Is it possible? We do not know. But we do know that, to find out, we must fight for Life.
So, what are we doing on this Journey for Life if we do not aspire to dictate paths, routes, destinies? What if we are not looking for adherents, votes, likes? What if we are not going to judge and condemn or absolve? What if we are not calling for fanaticism for a new-old creed? What if we are not looking to go down in history and occupy a niche in the moldy pantheon of the political spectrum?
Well, to be honest with you as the Zapatistas that we are: we are not only going to confront our analysis and conclusions with the other that struggles and thinks critically.
We are going to thank the other for its existence. To thank them for the teachings that their rebellion and resistance have given us. To deliver the promised flower. To embrace the other and tell it in its ear that it is not alone, alone, alone. To whisper to her that it is worth the resistance, the struggle, the pain for those who are no longer here, the rage that the criminal is unpunished, the dream of a world that is not perfect, but better: a world without fear.
And also, and above all, let’s seek out accomplices… for the sake of life.
June 2021, Planet Earth
Originally Published in Spanish by Enlace Zapatista
Sunday, June 27, 2021
English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas
Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee
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