Them and Us: four new essays by Subcomandante Marcos

  • January 25, 2013

Land & Liberation

In a new series of essays, Subcomandante Marcos of the EZLN lays out the differences between those in power and those who choose to organize from below.

Part I – The (Lack of) Reason from Above

Translated from the original Spanish by Kristin Bricker.

Those from above say:

We’re the ones who make the rules. We’re more powerful, although there are fewer of us. We don’t care what you say-hear-think-do, as long as you are mute, deaf, immobile.

We can impose halfway intelligent people in the government (although they’re already getting to be difficult to find within the political class), but we chose one who can’t even pretend to know what he’s talking about.[1]

Why? Because we can.

We could use the police and military apparatus to persecute and jail real criminals, but those criminals are a vital part of us. Instead, we choose to persecute you, beat you, detain you, torture you, jail you, kill you.

Why? Because we can.

Guilty or innocent? Who cares if you are one or the other? Justice is just another whore in our little black book, and believe us, it’s not the most expensive one.

And even if you follow the rules that we impose to the letter, even if you don’t do anything, even though you might be innocent, we will squash you.

And if you insist on asking why we do it, we’ll respond: because we can.

That is having Power. A lot is said about money, riches, and those things. But believe us when we say that what excites us is that feeling of being able to make decisions about anyone’s life, liberty, and assets. No, power is not money, it’s what you can have with it. Power is not just exercising it with impunity, it is also and above all, to do it irrationally. Because having Power is to do and undo without having any other reason than the possession of Power.

And it doesn’t matter who stands out in front, hiding us. Right and left are only references so that the chauffeur can park the car. The machinery runs itself. We don’t even have to order them to punish the insolence of defying us. Large, medium, and small governments all over the political spectrum — as well as intellectuals, artists, journalists, politicians, and religious leaders — fight over the privilege to please us.

So fuck you, screw you, rot in hell, die, get discouraged, give up.

To the rest of the world you don’t exist, you are no one.

Yes, we’ve sowed hate, cynicism, rancor, desperation, theoretical and practical don’t-give-a-fuck, conformity with the ‘lesser evil,’ fear turned into resignation.

And, nonetheless, we fear that which has transformed itself into organized rebellious rage, without a price tag.

Because we control, manage, ration, and feed the chaos that we impose. Our ‘law enforcement’ forces impose our chaos.

But the chaos[2] that comes from below…

Ah, that… we don’t even understand what they say, who they are, how much they cost.

And they’re so rude that they don’t beg, await, request, plead — instead, they exercise their freedom. Have you ever seen such obscenity!

That is the real danger. Those who look to the other side, who leave the mold, or break it, or ignore it.

“You know what’s really worked for us? That myth about unity at all cost. To only understand oneself with a boss, leader, ruler, or whatever they call themselves. Controlling, managing, containing, buying one is much easier than many. Yes, and cheaper. That and individual rebelliousness. It’s so wonderfully useless.

Rather, what’s really dangerous in a true chaos is when everyone becomes a collective, group, crew, raza, organization, and they learn to say ‘no’ and ‘yes,’ and they reach agreements amongst themselves. Because the ‘no’ is directed towards those of us who give the orders. And the ‘yes,’… jeez… that really is a disaster. Imagine if everyone built their own destinies, and they decided who to be and what to do. It would be like pointing out that we’re expendable, excessive, that we get in the way, that we’re not necessary, that we should be in jail, that we should disappear.

Yes, a nightmare. Yes, of course, for us. Can you imagine how bad that world would be? Full of Indians, blacks, browns, yellows, reds, dreadlocks, tattoos, piercings, studs, punks, goths, cholos, skaters, that ‘A’ flag without a nation to buy it, youth, women, whores, children, the elderly, zoot suiters, drivers, peasants, workers, tacky people, proles, poor people, anonymous people… others. Without a privileged space for us, the ‘beautiful people'[3]… or, so you understand us, the ‘good people’… because we can tell by the way you talk that you didn’t study at Harvard.

Yes, that day would be night for us… Yes, everything would be ruined. What would we do?

Hmm… we hadn’t thought about that. We think, we plan, and we execute what to do so that it doesn’t happen, but… no, that hadn’t occurred to us.

Well, in any case, well… hmm… I don’t know… perhaps we would look for who to blame, and then, well, we’d look for, I don’t know, a Plan B. Of course by then it would be useless. I think that then we would remember what that damn red Jew said… no, not Marx… Einstein, Albert Einstein. I think it was him who said: ‘Theory is when you know everything and nothing works. Practice is when everything works and no one knows why. In this case we have combined theory and practice: nothing works… and no one knows why.’

No, you’re right, we wouldn’t even be able to smile. A sense of humor has always been a non-expropriable patrimony. Isn’t that a shame?

Yes, without a doubt, these are times of crisis.

Hey, aren’t you going to take pictures? I mean, so we can fix our hair and put on something a little more presentable. Nah, we already tried that in ‘Hola'[4]… oh, but what are we saying, it’s obvious that you haven’t gotten past [the comic book] ‘El Libro Vaquero.’

Oh, we can’t wait to tell our friends that someone so… so… so… different came to interview us. They’re going to love it. And, well, it’s going to make us seem so cosmopolitan…

No, of course we’re not afraid of you. Regarding that prophecy… bah, it’s superstition… so… so… native… yes, so Region 4 [5]… hahahaha…what a good joke, let’s write that down for when we see the kids…

What…? It isn’t a prophecy…?

Oh, it’s a promise…

(…) (the tee-tu-ta-ta-tatatata sound, from the smartphone)

“Hello, police? Yes, I’d like to report that someone came to see us. Yes, we think he was a journalist or something. He looked so… so… so different, yes. No, no, he didn’t do anything to us. No, he didn’t take anything. It’s just that, as we were leaving to go to the club to see our friends, we saw that someone painted something on the entrance to the garden. No, the guards didn’t see who it was. Of course not! Ghosts don’t exist. Well, it’s painted with a lot of colors… No, we didn’t see any paint cans nearby… Well, as we were saying, it is painted with a lot of colors, so colorful, very tacky, very different, not anything like the galleries where… what? No, we don’t want you to send a squad car. Yes, we know. But we’re calling to see if you can investigate what the painting means. We don’t know if it’s a code, or one of those strange tongues that the proles speak. Yes, it’s just one word, but we don’t know why it makes us shudder. It says:


(to be continued…)

From any corner of any world.

Planet Earth
January 2013

Translator’s notes:

  1. Referring to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is turning out to be at least as inarticulate and factually challenged as George W. Bush.
  2. Marcos wrote “chaos” with the letter “k” in Spanish: “kaos.” Like anglophone anarcho-punks and other rebellious youth, Mexico’s young rebels often replace the “c”s in certain works with “k”s in the written language.
  3. “The beautiful people” is written in English in the original. Bourgeois Mexicans like to sprinkle English words and phrases into their vocabulary.
  4. Hola! is a Mexican magazine for women. It featured exclusive photos and interviews regarding current president Enrique Peña Nieto’s fairytale wedding to soap opera star Angelica Rivera.
  5. Region 4 is the DVD region code for Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and much of Oceania. Mexico also uses Region 1, the region code for the US and Canada.
  6. A Mapuche phrase that means “we will win one hundred times over.”
  7. “Pachuco” means “zoot suiter” in Mexico. Marcos uses a lot of Mexico City slang here and is making reference to another Maldita Vecindad song called “Solín,” which is about a poor man who reads about Mexican comic book hero Kalimán and decides to change his name and make a living as a carnival psychic. Maldita Vecindad is a classic Mexican ska/punk band that has supported many Left causes since the band’s inception in the 1980s. The band is still popular and active, but they haven’t put out an album in years — much to Marcos’ chagrin, apparently.

Part II – The Machine in Almost Two Pages

The salesman speaks:

It’s amazing, very “cool”, you understand. It’s called “neoliberal globalization version 6.6.6,” but we prefer to call it “the savage” or “the beast.” Yes, an aggressive nickname, one with initiative, very grrr. Yes, I learned that in a self-help course called “How to sell a nightmare”… but let’s get back to the machine. Its operation is very simple. It is self-sufficient (or “sustainable,” as is sometimes said). It produces, yes, exorbitant profits… What? Invest part of those profits to alleviate hunger, unemployment, lack of education? But those shortages are exactly what makes this baby run! What do you think of that? A machine that produces the fuel it needs to run: misery and unemployment.

Of course, it also produces goods, but not just that. Look: let’s say that something completely useless is produced, something that no one needs, something without a market. Well, this gem doesn’t just produce useless stuff, it also creates a market where that useless stuff is turned into a basic necessity.

The crises? Of course. Just press this button right here… no, not that one, that’s the “eject” button… the other one… yes. OK, push that button and ta-da! There you have the crisis you need, everything is right there, with your millions of unemployed, your water cannons, your financial speculation, your droughts, your famine, your deforestation, your wars, your religious apocalypses, your supreme saviors, your jails and cemeteries (for those who don’t follow the supreme saviors), your tax havens, your aid projects with theme songs and choreography included… of course, a little bit of charity always looks good.

But that’s not all, let me show you this demo. When you put it in “destruction/depopulation-reconstruction/restructuring” mode it performs miracles. Look at this example: do you see those forests? No, don’t worry about those indigenous people… yes, they’re Mapuches, but they could be Yaquis, Mayos, Nahuas, Purépechas, Mayans, Guaranís, Aymarás, Quechúas. OK, press the “play” button and watch how the forests disappear (and the indigenous people, but no one cares about them), now watch how everything becomes a wasteland, wait… here come the machinery and voila! There you have your golf course that you’ve always dreamed of, with its exclusive parking and the works. Ah, it’s wonderful, don’t you think?

It also comes with the latest software. You can click here where it says “filter” and your TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube will only show psalms and praise for you and yours. Yes, it eliminates any sort of commentary, writing, image, noise, all the bad vibes that every now and then those anonymous, dirty, ugly, bad, rude proles try to slip in.

It has a lever on the floor (even though you can put it on autopilot with just one click); a heliport; no plane ticket, because sometimes there’s no place to run to, but it does include a spot on the next departing space shuttle; it also has a super-hyper-mega exclusive mall; a golf course; a minibar; a yacht club; a framed diploma from Harvard; a summer house; an iceskating rink… yes, I know, what would we do without the modern Left and its quick wit? Ah, and with this gem you can be in “real time” simultaneously in any part of the world, it’s as if you had your own exclusive global ATM.

Hmm… yes, it includes a papal bull to ensure you a V.I.P. spot in heaven. Yes, I know, but we’re already working on immortally. Meanwhile, we can install an accessory (at an additional cost, of course, but I’m sure this isn’t a problem for someone like you): a panic room! Yes, you’ve seen how those vandals think they have the right to demand what’s theirs with that “the land belongs to those who work it.” Oh, but you have nothing to worry about. That’s why we have rulers, political parties, new religions, reality shows. But of course, that’s an assumption*, because if they fail at some point? Of course, when it comes to security, no expense should be spared. Of course, let me write that down: “Include Panic Room.”

It also includes a study for TV, one for radio, and an editor’s desk. No, don’t get me wrong. They’re not for watching TV or listening to the radio or reading newspapers and magazines, that’s for jerks. They’re for producing information and entertainment for the people who run the machine. Isn’t that neat?

What? Oh… OK… yes… I’m afraid that problem hasn’t been solved by our specialists. Yes, if the raw material, I mean, if the plebeian masses revolt nothing can be done. Yes, the “panic room” could be useless in that situation. But we shouldn’t be pessimistic, just keep in mind that that day… or night… is very far off. Yes, I also learned all that “new age” optimism from a self-help course. Huh? What? I’m fired?

(to be continued…)

From any corner of any world.

Planet Earth.
January 2013.

*Translator’s Note: Instead of using the Spanish word for “assumption” (supuesto), Marcos (speaking as the salesman) uses supositorio, the Spanish word for “suppository.” He’s making fun of the salesman with a play on words that can be best explained with the classic English saying: “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.”

Part III – The Overseers

Somewhere in Mexico…

The man hits the table, furious.

– Annihilate them!

– Sir, with all due respect, we’ve been trying to do that for 500 years. Each successive empire that has arisen has attempted to do so with all of their era’s military might–

– So why are they still there?

– Err…we’re still trying to figure that out — the lackey glares reproachfully at the man in a military uniform.

The aforementioned man gets up and, standing at attention, extends his right hand frontward, with his hand out[1], and shouts enthusiastically:

– Heil!… Sorry, I meant to say that I salute you, sir — After shooting a threatening look that shuts up the snickering from other guests, he continues:

– The problem, sir, is that those heretics don’t confront us where we’re strong, they turn around and attack us where we’re weak. If it were all just a matter of lead and fire, well, those lands, with their forests, water, minerals, people, would have been conquered a long time ago and you would have been able to offer them up as a tribute to the great Ruler, sir. Those cowards, instead of confronting us with just their heroic bare chests, or with bows, arrows, and spears, and go down in history as heroes (beaten, yes, but heroes), they prepare, they organize, they reach agreements, they give us the slip, and they hide when they take off their masks. But we wouldn’t be in this situation if you would have listened to me when everything began — and he glares reproachfully at the guest whose place card says “chupa-cabras version”[2]

The aforementioned guest smiles as he says:

– General, with all due respect, we didn’t have an atomic bomb. And even if we could have acquired one from our allies (the guest who has the ambassador place card expresses his thanks for the mention), we would have been able to wipe out the aboriginals, but we would have also destroyed the forests and the water; moreover, the work of mining exploration and operations would have been impossible for, say, a couple of centuries.

Another one of the lackeys speaks up:

– We offered them songs and poems praising their sacrifice, ballads, movies, roundtables, essays, books, plays, statues, their name in golden letters when they died. We told them that if they insisted on resisting and staying alive, we would spread rumors and doubts about why they haven’t disappeared, why they haven’t died, and we would say they were of our own creation, that we were going to bring forth a smear campaign that would even include the support of some intellectuals, artists, and progressive journalists — The aforementioned guests make a gesture of approval, although more than one appears displeased by so many “-ists.”

The man impatiently interrupts:

– And?

– They responded with this gesture — (the lackey shows them a hand balled into a fist but with the middle finger raised).

The guests squirm indignantly and clamor:

– Proles! Degenerates! Louts! Plebeians! Hood rats!

The lackey still has his hand up, facing the man. The man rebukes him:

– I get it! You can put your hand down.

The lackey slowly lowers his hand winks at the rest of the guests. Then he continues:

– The problem, sir, is that these people don’t worship death, but rather life. We’ve tried to eliminate their visible leaders, buy them, seduce them.

– And?

– Not only have we not succeeded, we haven’t even realized that the bigger problem is the invisible leaders.

– OK, let’s find them.

– We already found them, sir.

– And?

– They’re everyone, sir

– What do you mean, everyone?

– Yes, everyone. That was one of the messages they sent on the day the world ended. We managed to keep the media from talking about it, but I think that we can say it here without fearing that someone else will find out. They used a code so that we would understand: he who is on the stage is the leader.[3]

– What!? 40,000 leaders?

– Err… sir, excuse me, those are the ones we saw, you’d have to add in the many more that we didn’t see.

– Then buy them! I imagine we have enough money — he adds, addressing the guest with the place card that says “non-Automated Teller Machine.”

The so-called ATM begins to stammer:

– Well, sir, we’d have to sell off a State asset, but we don’t really have anything anymore.

The lackey interrupts:

– Sir, we’ve tried.

– And?

– They’re not for sale.

– Then convince them.

– They don’t understand what we say to them. And to tell you the truth, we don’t understand what they say, either. They talk about dignity, freedom, justice, democracy…

– Ok, then we’ll act like they don’t exist. That way they’ll die of hunger, curable diseases, a good media blackout, no one will even notice until it’s too late. That’s it, let’s kill them with oblivion.

The guest who bears a striking resemblance to a chupa-cabras makes a sign of approval. The man thanks him for the gesture.

– But sir, there’s a problem.

– Which is?

– Even if we ignore them, they insist on continuing to exist. Without our charity, sorry, what I meant is without our help, they built schools, they made the land productive, they built clinics and hospitals, they improved their homes and their diets, they lowered crime rates, they did away with alcoholism. And not only did they prohibit the production, distribution, and consumption of narcotics, they raised their life expectancy and theirs is almost equal to that of big cities.

– Oh, so it’s still higher in the cities — content, the man smiles.

– No, sir, when I said “almost” I meant that theirs is higher. The life expectancy in the cities went down thanks to your predecessor’s strategy, sir.

Everyone turns to look with mockery and reproach at the man with the blue tie.

– You’re saying that those rebels live better than those who sell out to us?

– Absolutely, sir. But you don’t have to worry about that, we’ve initiated an ad hoc media campaign to put a lid on it.

– And?

– The problem is that neither they nor our people watch television, or read our media, or have Twitter, or Facebook, or even a cell phone signal. They know that they’re better off and our people know they’re worse off.

The guest with the place card that says “modern left” rises to her feet:

– Sir, if you’ll allow me. With the new program called Solid…sorry, I meant to say “National Crusade”…[4]

The lackey impatiently interrupts:

– Enough, Chayo[4], don’t start with another one of your speeches for the media. All of us agree that the main enemy is those damn Indians and not the other unmentionable. We have that one good and infiltrated and completely fenced in by people who belong to this man here.

The man with the “chupa cabras” place card nods with satisfaction and gratefully accepts the pats on the back that nearby guests give him.

The lackey continues:

– But you and I and everyone else who is here knows that all of this about social programs is a lie, that it doesn’t matter how much money is invested, at the end of the bottleneck there’s nothing. Because everyone takes their cut. After the señor, with all due respect, you take a big chunk, everyone else here does, too, and then the governors, the heads of the military zones, the local legislatures, the mayors, the commissioners, the leaders, those in charge, the cashiers, so little or nothing is left over for those below.

The man intervenes:

– Well we have to do something fast, because if we don’t, the Ruler will look for other overseers and you are all well aware, ladies and gentlemen, of what that means: unemployment, ridicule, and maybe even jail or exile.

The person marked “chupa cabras” shudders and makes an affirmative gesture.

– And it is urgent, because if those Indians with the cracked feet… (the man’s daughter makes an expression of disgust, the woman sits there, suddenly indisposed, and turns so green that, well, forget about the Green Lantern). The woman leaves, saying something about a pregnancy.[6]

The man goes on:

– If those fucking Indians unite, we’ll have serious problems because…

– Ahem, ahem, sir — the lackey interrupts.

– Yes?

– I’m afraid there’s a bigger problem, that is, worse, sir.

– Bigger? Worse? What could be worse than an Indian insurrection?

– Well, if they reached an agreement with the others, sir.

– The Others? Who are they?

– Hmm… let me see… OK, well, peasants, workers, the unemployed, youth, students, teachers, employees, women, men, the elderly, professionals, fags and dykes, punks, Rastafarians, skaters, rappers, hip-hop artists, rockers, metal heads, chauffeurs, tenant farmers, NGOs, street vendors, crews, races, hood rats, plebes…

– Enough! I get it… I think.

The lackeys look at each other with a knowing smile.

– Where are the leaders we bought? Where are the ones we’ve convinced that the solution to everything is to be like us?

– They’re believing them less and less, sir. They have less and less control over their people.

– Look for someone to buy! Offer them money, trips, television programs, candidacies, seats in congress, governments! But above all money, a lot of money!

– We’re doing that, sir, but… — the lackey looks doubtful.

– And? — the man prods him on.

– We find more and more…

– Magnificent! More money is needed then?

– Sir, what I mean is that we find more and more who won’t sell out.

– Terror, then?

– Sir, there’s more and more who aren’t afraid of us, or if they are, they have it under control.

– Deception?

– Sir, more and more think for themselves.

– We have to finish off all of them, then!

– Sir, if we make everyone disappear, we would disappear, too. Who would sow the land, who would run the machines, who would work in the corporate media, who would serve us, who would fight in our wars, who would praise us?

– Then we have to convince them that we are as important as they are.

– Sir, not only are more and more people realizing that we’re not necessary, it appears that the Ruler is doubting our usefulness, and by “our” I mean all of us.

The guests sitting at the man’s table shift uncomfortable in their seats.

– Well then?

– Sir, while we look for another solution, because the “Pact”[7] didn’t work at all, and seeing that we have to avoid the embarrassment of once again hiding out in a bathroom[8], we’ve acquired something better: a “panic room!”[9]

The guests stand up and applaud. The all crowd around the machine. The man gets in and takes the controls.

The lackey nervously warns him:

-Sir, just be careful you don’t hit the “eject” button.

-This one?

– Nooooooooooo!

The make-up artists and puppeteers run to provide first aid.

The lackey addresses one of the cameramen who recorded everything:

– You have to erase that part… And tell the Ruler to get a replacement doll ready. This one always needs resetting.

The guests straighten their ties and skirts, comb their hair, cough, trying to draw attention. The the cameras’ clicks and flashes overshadow everything…

(to be continued…)

From any corner of any world.

Sup Marcos.
Planet Earth.
January 2013.

Information from Report #69 of the Autonomous Intelligence Service (SIA in its Spanish abbreviation) regarding what was heard and seen in an ultra-arch-extremely-hyper secret meeting which took place in Mexico City, in the backyard of the United States, latitude 19° 24´ N, longitude 99° 9´ W. Date: a few hours ago. Classification: eyes only. Recommendation: do not make this document public because they’ll burn us alive. Note: send more pozol because Elías[10] drank it all when someone shouted: “Eat while there’s lots of food!” and he’s skanking to the Nana Pancha cover of the Tijuana No song “Transgresores de la Ley” [Law Breakers]. Yes, the song is cool, but it’s tough to go in the mosh pit because Elías is wearing steel-toed boots.

Translator’s Notes:

The “Ruler” is the United States government, “the man” (el señor) is current president Enrique Peña Nieto, “chupacabras” is former president Carlos Salinas, and the “man with the blue tie” is former president Felipe Calderón.

  1. The Mexican military salute looks a lot like the Nazi German military salute.
  2. The chupacabras is a mythical Mexican vampire beast that sucks the blood out of goats. It was allegedly invented by Carlos Salinas to distract people’s attention from the fact that he was running the country into the ground.
  3. Referring to the December 21, 2012, mobilization in which 40,000 Zapatistas took to the streets in silence. The Zapatista communique released that day stated: “Did you hear? It is the sound of their world crumbling. It is the sound of our world resurging.”
  4. “Solidaridad” (Solidarity) was a public works program initiated by Carlos Salinas, who is Enrique Peña Nieto’s godfather and widely considered to be the latter’s puppet master. So it was no surprise when Peña Nieto recently announced his new campaign, the National Crusade Against Hunger and Poverty, to which the Zapatistas responded with the middle finger.
  5. Chayo is a nickname for a woman named Rosario, in this case referring to Rosario Robles, the head of Sedesol, Mexico’s Social Development Agency, which is responsible for implementing the National Crusade. Here she’s referred to as the “modern left” because she defected from the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) to join the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which currently rules Mexico.
  6. Mexican indigenous people who live in rural areas often have cracked feet because they walk barefoot. During the presidential campaign, Enrique Peña Nieto’s daughter retweeted a tweet from her boyfriend referring to her father’s critics as “a bunch of idiots” and “proles.”
  7. When Enrique Peña Nieto took office, he announced a “Pact for Mexico” that would supposedly solve the country’s problems. Not many people were particularly impressed.
  8. During the presidential campaign, Peña Nieto was confronted by student protesters at the private Ibero-American University… so he hid in a bathroom. The Ibero protest sparked the massive #YoSoy132 student movement.
  9. Panic rooms are being constructed in some Mexican courthouses to protect judges.
  10. Comandante Elías Contreras is the EZLN’s head of intelligence. Pozol is a corn drink popular in Chiapas and Tabasco, the two states with confirmed Zapatista presence.
  11. Son Jarocho is a folksy musical genre from Veracruz. Zapatear is how one dances to son jarocho; it involves stomping on a wooden platform in hard-soled shoes to make noise. Fandango is a Son Jarocho dance party.

Part IV — The Pains From Below

January 2013.

How many times have the cops stopped us on the street for the crime of “having a suspicious face” or a mohawk, and then after a beating and extortion they let us go?

“Repression and Criminalizatoin,” Anarchist Black Cross-Mexico. January 2013.

– And [what do you say] to the young people who see you as a hero and an example of a person who has been unjustly punished by a repressive system?

– That I’m not a hero. That every one of the young people who hit the streets every day to organize and change this unjust society and this economic and political system are heroes. They organize, they defend themselves… That they shouldn’t be afraid, that fear is going to change sides —

Alfonso Fernández, detained in prison after N14 in the Spanish State, interviewed by Shangay Lily in Kaos en la Red. January 2013.[1]

“An enemy is needed to give the people hope. (…) That said, the feeling of identity is based in the hatred of those who aren’t the same. It is necessary to cultivate hate as a civil passion. The enemy is the people’s friend. They need someone to hate so that they feel justified in their own misery. Always. Hatred is the true primordial passion.”

Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery.

Where and when did the violence start?

Let’s see.

In front of a mirror, on any calendar, and in any geography…

Imagine that you are different from everyone else.

Imagine that you are something very other.

Imagine that you have a certain skin or hair color.

Imagine that they look down on you and make fun of you, that they persecute you, that they jail you, that they kill you because of it, for being different.

Imagine that since the day you were born, the system has repeatedly told you that you are something weird, abnormal, sick, that you should be sorry for who you are and, after blaming it on bad luck or divine justice, you should do everything you can to change this “factory defect.”

And of course, look, we have a product that easily works w-o-n-d-e-r-s with congenital defects. This way of thinking relieves rebelliousness and that annoying complaining about everything. This cream changes skin color. This hair dye gives you a fashionable shade. This course about “how to win friends and be popular on the internet” gives you everything you need to be a modern person. This treatment will give you your youth back. This DVD will show you how to act at the table, on the street, at work, in bed, during illegal muggings (robbers), during legal muggings (banks, government officials, elections, legally established businesses), at social gatherings… what? Oh, they don’t invite you to social gatherings? … OK, it also tells you how to make it so they do invite you. In short, here you will know the secret of how to succeed in life. Leave Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber in the dust on Twitter with your number of followers! It includes a mask of your choosing. We have them all! Even a CSG [Carlos Salinas de Gortari] mask… OK, OK, OK, that was a bad example, but we do have one for any need. So they won’t look at you with disgust anymore! So they no longer call you a degenerate, Indian, prole, black, region 4, zombie, zapatistaphile!

Imagine that, in spite of all your efforts and good deeds, you can’t seem to hide your skin or hair color.

Now imagine that a campaign is launched to eliminate all of those who are like you.

It’s not that there’s an event to kick it off, or a law that establishes it, but you realize that the whole system starts to work against you, and against people like you. The whole society turns into a machine whose goal is to annihilate you.

First there’s looks of disapproval, disgust, distain. Then there’s the insults, attacks. Then there’s detainees, deportees, prisoners. Then there’s cadavers here and there, legal and illegal. Finally there’s an actual campaign, the machine at full capacity, to make you and all those who are like you disappear. The identity of those who make up society is maintained through hatred towards you. Your crime? Being different.


You still don’t see it?

OK, imagine that you are… (use masculine, feminine, or other pronouns, depending on the case).

An indigenous person in a country dominated by foreigners. A flock of military helicopters is headed toward your lands. The press will say that the wind farm occupation impedes the reduction of pollution or that the jungle is being destroyed. “The eviction was necessary to reduce global warming,” says the Interior Minister.

A black man in a nation dominated by whites. A WASP judge is going to sentence him. The jury found him guilty. Amongst the evidence presented by the prosecutor is an analysis of his skin color.

A Jew in Nazi Germany. The Gestapo officer stares at him. The next day the official report will say that the human race has been purified.

A Palestinian in present-day Palestine. The Israeli army’s missile is aimed at the school, hospital, neighborhood, house. Tomorrow the media will say that they took out military targets.

An immigrant on the other side of any border. The border patrol approaches. The next day there won’t be anything about it in the news.

A priest, nun, layperson who sided with the poor, in the middle of the Vatican’s opulence. The Cardinal’s sermon is against those who meddle in worldly affairs.

A street vendor in an exclusive mall in an exclusive residential zone. A truck full of riot police parks. “We defend free trade,” the government delegate will declare.

A woman by herself, day or night, on public transportation full of men. A small tick in the “gender violence” statistics. The cop will say: “it’s that sometimes they provoke them.”

A gay by himself, day or night, on public transportation full of machos. A small tick in the “homophobic violence” statistics.

A sex worker on a strange street and someone else’s corner… a squad car pulls up. “The government is cracking down on white slavery,” the press will say.

A punk, a Rastafarian, a rudeboy, a cholo, a metal head, on the street at night… another squad card approaches. “We’re putting a stop to antisocial behavior and vandalism,” says the elected official.

A graffiti artist “tagging” the World Trade Center… another squad car pulls up. “We’ll do everything necessary in order to have a beautiful and attractive city for tourism,” says some official.

A communist at a right-wing fascist party meeting. “We’re against the totalitarianism that has done so much damage around the world,” says the party president.

An anarchist in a communist party meeting. “We are against the petit bourgeois deviations that have done so much damage to the global revolution,” says the party’s chairman.

A segment from the “31 minutos” news broadcast on the CNN news ticker. Tulio Triviño and Juan Carlos Bodoque look at each other, disturbed, but they don’t say anything. [2]

An alternative band trying to sell its CD at a concert starring Lady Gaga, Madonna, Justin Bieber, whoever comes after them. The cops approach. The fans scream like crazy.

An artist performing traditional indigenous dances outside of the great cultural center where the (yes-gala-invitation-only-we’re-sorry-ma’am-you’re-getting-in-the-way) Bolshoi ballet company is performing. Security proceeds to reestablish calm.

An old man in a meeting chaired by Japanese finance minister Taro Aso (he studied at Stanford and just a little while ago asked that the elderly “hurry up and die already” because it’s really expensive to keep them alive). Social spending is cut even further.

An Anonymous criticizing a Microsoft-Apple shareholders meeting about copyrights. “A dangerous hacker behind bars,” the media will say.

A young Mapuche who, in Chile, demands his ancestors’ territory as he watches the olive-green offensive roll in with tanks and carabiñeros. The bullet that fatally wounds him in the back will not be punished.

A youngster and/or student or unemployed worker at a military-police-civil guard-carabiñero checkpoint. The last thing he heard? “Shoot!”

An indigenous Nahua in the offices of a transnational mining company. Men in uniforms kidnap him. “We’re investigating,” say respective governments.

A dissident in front of a grey metal fence that’s been erected, while on the other side the Mexican political class bites their tongues about yet another imposition. He’s hit with a rubber bullet that causes him to lose an eye or break his skull. “It’s called uniting for the good of the country. It’s time to put the bickering behind us,” say the talking heads on the news.

A peasant in front of an army of lawyers and police hearing that the land that he works, where his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on were born and grew up, now belongs to a real estate company, and that you’re depriving the poor businessmen of something that legally belongs to them. Jail.

Someone who opposes the electoral fraud sees how 40 thieves and their boot-lickers are exonerated. The mockery: “We’ve got to turn over a new page and look forward.”

A man or woman approaches to see what all the ruckus is about and is suddenly surrounded by law enforcement. While they shove, beat, and kick her or him as they take her to the squad car, you manage to see that a well-known television channel’s cameras are pointed somewhere else.

An indigenous Zapatista in the bad government’s (PRI-PAN-PRD-PT-MC) jail for years.[3] He reads in the newspaper: “Why did the EZLN reappear now that the PRI has returned to power? Very suspicious.”


Are you still with us?


Do you feel with certainty that you’re out of place?

Do you feel the fear from being ignored, insulted, beaten, mocked, humiliated, raped, imprisoned, murdered just because of who you are

Do you feel the impotence of not being able to do anything to avoid it, to defend yourself, to be heard?

Do you curse the moment that you went to that place, the day you were born, the hour you began to read this text?


Several of the aforementioned examples have names, calendars, and geographies:

Juan Francisco Kuykendall Leal. The compa “Kuy,” adherent to the Other Campaign, professor, thespian, director. Skull smashed open on December 1, 2012, by a shot from “law enforcement.” He planned to do a play about Enrique Peña Nieto.

José Uriel Sandoval Díaz. Young student at the Autonomous University of Mexico City and member of the Student Struggle Committee. He lost an eye in the repression on December 1, 2012, as a result of a “law enforcement” attack. He was planning to resist the imposition of Enrique Peña Nieto.

Celedonio Prudencio Monroy. Indigneous Nahua. Kidnapped on October 23, 2012 by “law enforcement.” He was planning to resist the plundering of Nahua lands by mining companies and loggers.

Adrián Javier González Villareal. Young student at the National Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon’s Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Department in Mexico, murdered in January 2013 by “law enforcement.” He was planning to graduate and become a successful professional.

Cruz Morales Calderón and Juvencio Lascurain. Peasants taken prisoner in Veracruz, 2010-2011, by “law enforcement.” They were planning on resisting the plundering of their lands by real estate companies.

Matías Valentín Catrileo Quezada. Young indigenous Mapuche, murdered on January 3, 2008, in Chile, Latin America, by “law enforcement.” He was planning on resisting the plundering of Mapuche land by the government, estate owners, and transnational companies.

Francisco Sántiz López, indigenous Zapatista, unjustly imprisoned by “law enforcement.” He was planning on resisting the government counterinsurgency campaign of [former Chiapas governor] Juan Sabines Guerrero and [former president] Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.


Now… don’t despair, we’re almost done…

Now imagine that you aren’t afraid, or you are but you get it under control.

Imagine that you go and, in front of the mirror, not only do you not hide anything or cover up your difference with makeup, and instead you emphasize it.

Imagine that you turn your difference into a shield and weapon, you defend yourself, you find others like you, you organize, you resist, you struggle, and without even realizing it, you go from “I’m different” to “we’re different.”

Imagine that you don’t hide behind “maturity” and “good judgement,” behind “now is not the time,” “the conditions aren’t right,” “we have to wait,” “it’s useless,” “there’s no way to fix it.”

Imagine that you don’t sell out, that you don’t give up, that you don’t give in.

Can you imagine it?

OK, well even though neither we nor you know it yet, we’re part of a “we” that’s bigger and has yet to be built.

(to be continued…)

From any corner of any world.

Planet Earth.
January 2013.

Translator’s Notes:

  1. N14: the November 14, 2012, general strike called by Spanish unions.
  2. 31 Minutos is a Chilean mock news program anchored by puppets. Triviño and Boduque are puppets on the show.
  3. PRI = Institutional Revolution Party; PAN = rightwing National Action Party; PRD = center-left Democratic Revolution Party; PT = Workers’ Party, a front for the PRI; MC = Movimiento Ciudadano, a PRD splinter party. Marcos mentions all of the major political parties, even the so-called leftist parties, because the Zapatistas oppose all of them. The PRD ruled Chiapas for years, and during that time the government and PRD party members attacked the Zapatistas (frequently physically) just as the other parties had done.

Subcomandante Marcos

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, now known as Galeano, was the spokesman of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

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Magazine — Issue 11