Ten years ago, when the Zapatista army of National Liberation (EZLN)first opposed U.S. neoliberalism, NAFTA, etc. they created a way to resist and understand globalization and its long lasting efffects. My mind turns to this in the aftermath of my lecture on the Plains Indian Wars of the 1860s-1880s, which always affect my students with appropriate horror. I never know how to end the lecture myself, but at the end of today, all I could think of was to say, "well that's you know, genocide," or something like that.
The excitement that I get out of an effective performance, a successful lecture on something so horrible really freaks me out, but at the end of it, I'm just at a loss, especially when I see the students depressed and disgusted faces. The story for example, of the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862, or of the robbery of the Black Hills. When you hear it for the first time, it's so shocking, and their shock wakes me out of my numbness. Now,it is time to recall another time, recalling another time:
(from Subcommandante Marcos..........March 11, 1995 -- while hiding in the jungle.)
(Neoliberalism seen from the Lacandon Jungle.)
It was the tenth day, with less pressure now. I went away a little to put up my tarp and move in. I was going along, looking up, searching for a good pair of trees that didn't have a dead hanging branch. So I was surprised when I heard, at my feet, a voice that shouted, "Hey, watch out!" I didn't see anything at first, but I stopped and waited. Almost immediately a little leaf began to move and, from under it, a beetle came out who began to demand: - Why don't you watch where you put your big boots? You were about to crush me! - he yelled.
This demand seemed familiar to me.
- Durito? [little hard guy] - I ventured.
- Nabucodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] to you! Don't be a leveler! - answered the little beetle indignantly.
Now I had no room for doubt.
- Durito! Don't you remember me? Durito, I mean, Nabucodonosor, just kept looking thoughtfully at me. He took our a little pipe from within his wings, filled it with tobacco, lit it, and after a big puff which brought on a cough that wasn't at all healthy, he said: Mmmmh, mmmh.
And then he repeated: - Mmmmh, mmmh.
I knew that this was going to take a while, so I sat down. After several "mmmh, mmh," Nabucodonosor, or Durito, exclaimed: Captain? The same! - I said, satisfied to see myself recognized.
Durito (I believe that after recognizing him, I could call him that again) began a series of movements of his feet and wings that, in the body language of the beetles, is a kind of dance of joy and to me has always seemed like an attack of epilepsy. After repeating several times, with different emphases, "Captain!," Durito finally stopped and fired the question I so feared: - Got any tobacco? - Well, I...- I drew out the answer to give myself time to calculate my reserves.
At that, Camilo arrived and asked me: - Did you call me, Sup? - No, it's nothing... I was singing and.. and don't worry, you can go - I responded nervously.
- Oh, good - said Camilo, and retired.
- Sup? - asked Durito, surprised.
- Yes, - I told him. - Now I'm a subcommander.
- And is that better or worse than Captain? - Durito asked insistently.
- Worse - I told him and myself.
I changed the subject quickly and held the bag of tobacco out to him saying: - Here, I have a little.
To receive the tobacco, Durito performed his dance again, now repeating "thank you!" over and over.
The tobacco euphoria over, we started the complicated ceremony of lighting our pipes. I leaned back on my pack and just looked at Durito.
- You look the same as ever - I told him.
- You, on the other hand, look pretty beat up - he responded.
- It's life - I said, playing it down.
Durito started with his "mmmh, mmh." After a while he said to me: - And what brings you here after so many years? - Well, I was thinking, since I had nothing better to do, I said to myself, why not take a turn around the old places and get a chance to see old friends - I responded.
- Old mountains still get green! - Durito protested indignantly.
After that followed a long while of "mmmh, mmmh" and of his inquisitive looks.
I couldn't take it any longer and confessed to him: - The truth is that we are withdrawing because the government launched an offensive against us...
- You ran! - said Durito.
I tried to explain to him what a strategic withdrawal is, a tactical retreat, and whatever occurred to me in that moment.
- You ran - said Durito, this time with a sigh.
- Well, yes, I ran - and what about it? - I said, annoyed, more with myself than with him.
Durito didn't press. He stayed quiet a good while. Only the smoke of the two pipes formed a bridge. Minutes later he said: - It seems like there's something more that's bothering you, not just the "strategic retreat."
- "Withdrawal," "strategic withdrawal" - I corrected him. Durito waited for me to go on: - The truth is that it bothers me that we weren't prepared. And it was my fault we weren't prepared. I believed the government did want dialogue and so had given the order that the consultations for the delegates should begin. When they attacked us we were discussing the conditions of the dialogue. They surprised us. They surprised me... - I said with shame and anger.
Durito went on smoking, waited for me to finish telling him everything that had happened in the last ten days. When I finished, Durito said: - Wait for me.
And he went under a little leaf. After a while he came out pushing his little desk. After that he went for a chair, sat down, took out some papers, and began to look through them with a worried air.
- Mmmh, mmh - he said with every few pages that he read. After a time he exclaimed: - Here it is!
- Here's what? - I asked, intrigued.
- Don't interrupt me! - Durito said seriously and solemnly. And added: - pay attention. Your problem is the same one many have. You refer to the economic and social doctrine known as "neoliberalism"...
"Just what I needed... now classes in political economy," I thought.
It seems like Durito heard what I was thinking because he chided me: - Ssshh! This isn't just any class! It is the Chair [as in university] par excellence.
That about the "Chair par excellence" seemed exaggerated to me, but I got ready to listen to it. Durito continued after some "mmmh, mmmh"s.
- It is a metatheoretical problem! Yes, you start from the idea that "neoliberalism" is a doctrine. And by "you," I am referring to those who insist on frameworks that are rigid and square like your head. You think that "neoliberalism" is a capitalist doctrine to confront the economic crises that capitalism itself attributes to "populism." Right? Durito didn't let me answer.
- Of course right! Well, it turns out that "neoliberalism" is not a theory to confront or explain the crisis. It is the crisis itself made theory and economic doctrine! That is, "neoliberalism" hasn't the least coherence; it has no plans nor historic perspective. In the end, pure theoretical shit.
- How strange... I've never heard or read that interpretation - I said with surprise.
- Of course! How, if it just occured to me in this moment! - says Durito with pride.
- And what has that got to do with our running away, excuse me, with our withdrawal? - I asked, doubting such a novel theory.
- Ah! Ah! Elementary, my dear Watson Sup! There are no plans, there are no perspectives, only i-m-p-r-o-v-i-s-a-t-i-o-n. The government has no consistency: one day we're rich, another day we're poor, one day they want peace, another day they want war, one day fasting, another day stuffed, and so on. Am I clear? - Durito inquires.
- Almost... - I hesitate, and scratch my head.
- And so? - I ask, seeing that Durito isn't continuing with his dissertation.
- It's going to explode. Boom! Like a balloon blown up too far. It has no future. We're going to win - says Durito as he puts his papers away.
- We? - I ask maliciously.
- Of course, "we"! It's clear that you won't be able to without my help. No, don't try to raise objections. You need a superadvisor. I'm already learning French, for continuity's sake.
I stayed quiet. I don't know what is worse: discovering that we're governed by improvisation, or imagining Durito as a supersecretary in the cabinet of an improbable transition government.
Durito attacks: - I surprised you, eh? Well, don't feel bad. As long as you don't crush me with your big boots I will always be able to clarify for you the road to follow in the course of history, which despite its ups and downs, will raise this country up, because united... because united... Now that I think of it, I haven't written to my old lady - Durito lets out the big laugh.
- I thought you were serious! - I pretend to be annoyed and throw a little branch at him. Durito dodges it and keeps laughing.
Now calmed down, I ask him: - And where did you get those conclusions that neoliberalism is the crisis made economic doctrine? - Ah! From this book that explains the 1988-1994 economic project of Carlos Salinas de Gortari - he answers and shows me a little book with the logo of Solidarity.
- But Salinas isn't president anymore.. it seems - I say with a doubt that shakes me.
- I know that, but look who drew up the plan - says Durito and points out a name. I read: - "Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon" - I say, surprised, and add: - So there isn't any break? - What there is is a cave of thieves - says Durito, implacable.
- And so? - I ask with real interest.
- Nothing, just that the Mexican political system is like that dead tree branch hanging over your head - says Durito and I jump and look up and see that, sure enough, there is a dead branch that is hanging threateningly over my hammock. I change places while Durito keeps talking: - The Mexican political system is just barely attached to reality with pieces of very fragile branches. It will only take one good wind for it to come down. Of course, when it falls, it's going to take other branches with it, and watch out, anyone who's under its shade when it collapses! - And if there isn't a wind? - I ask while I check whether the hammock is well tied.
- There will be... there will be - says Durito and looks thoughtful, as if he were looking at the future.
We were both left thoughtful. We lit our pipes again. The day began to get underway. Durito kept looking at my boots. Fearful, he asked: - and how many are with you? - Two more, so don't worry about being stomped - I said to calm him. Durito practices doubt methodically as a discipline, so he continued with his "mmmh, mmmh," until he let out: - But those coming after you, how many are they? - Ah! Those? Like some sixty...
Durito didn't let me finish: - Sixty! Sixty pairs of big boots on top of my head! 120 Sedena [Defense Dept.] boots trying to crush me! - he yelled hysterically.
- Wait, you didn't let me finish. They aren't sixty - I said.
Durito interrupted again: - Ah! I knew so much disaster wasn't possible. How many are they, then? Laconically, I answered: - Sixty thousand.
- Sixty thousand! - Durito managed to say before choking on the smoke of his pipe.
- Sixty thousand! - he repeated several times, crossing his little hands and feet together with anguish.
- Sixty thousand! - he said to himself desperately.
I tried to console him. I told him that they weren't all coming together, that it was an offensive in stages, that they were coming in from different directions, that they hadn't found us, that we had rubbed out our tracks so that they wouldn't follow us, in short, I told him everything that occurred to me.
After a while, Durito calmed down and started with his "mmmh, mmmh." He took out some little papers that, as I started to realize, looked like maps, and began questioning me about the location of enemy troops. I answered the best I could. With each answer Durito made marks and notes on his little maps. He went on a good while, after the questioning, saying "mmmh, mmmh." After some minutes, and after complicated calculations (I say this as he used all his little hands and feet to do the figuring) he sighed: - What's said: they're using "the anvil and hammer," the "sliding lasso," the "rabbit hunt," and the vertical maneuver. Elementary, it comes from the Rangers manual of the School of the Americas, - he says to himself and to me. And adds: - But we have one chance to come out well from this.
- Ah, yes? And how? - I ask with skepticism.
- With a miracle - says Durito as he puts his papers away and lies back down.
The silence settled down between us and we let the afternoon arrive between the branches and vines. Later, when night finished falling from the trees, and flying, covered the sky, Durito asked me: - Captain... Captain... Psst! Are you asleep? - No. - ...
What is it? - I answered.
Durito asks with pity, as if afraid to hurt me.
- And what do you intend to do? I keep smoking, I look at the silver curls of the moon hung from the branches. I let out a spiral of smoke and I answer him and answer myself: - Win.
P.S THAT TUNES IN TO NOSTALGIA IN THE QUADRANT
On the little radio someone, to a blues rhythm, tears out the one that goes: "All its gonna right with a little help of my friends..." [sic]
P.S. THAT NOW, REALLY, SAYS GOODBYE, WAVING A HEART LIKE A HANDKERCHIEF.
So much rain and not a drop to sate the yearning...
Go on again.
Health, and be careful with that dry branch that hangs over your heads and that pretends, ingenuously, to shelter you with its shade.