(In which the absent, the biographies are reflected upon, it tells of Durito’s first encounter with the Cat-Dog, and talks about other matters which are irrelevant, or unrelated, according to what the impertinent postscript will go on dictating)
Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.
Herman Melville “Moby Dick.”
For a while now I have held that the majority of biographies are nothing more than a documented lie, and sometimes, not always, a well written one. The average biographer has a previous conviction and the margin for tolerance is very reduced, when not nonexistent. With this conviction he begins to rummage around in the puzzle of a life which is foreign to him (the reason for his interest in making the biography), and goes on collecting the false pieces which allow him to document his own conviction, not the life in review.
The fact is that perhaps we can know with certainty the date and place of birth and, in some cases, date and place of death. Aside from that, the majority of biographies should be categorized as “Novelized History” or “Science Fiction.”
What is it that is left then of a life? A little or a lot, we say.
A little or a lot, depending on memory.
Or, rather, on the fragments which on collective memory that life imprinted.
If this does not matter for biographers and editors, it is of little importance for the common people. It often happens that what really is important does not appear in the media, nor can it be measured in surveys.
Ergo, of an absent person we only have arbitrary pieces of the complex puzzle made from shreds, tears, and tendencies which are known as “life.”
So, with this confusing beginning, allow me to lift up some of those fragmented pieces to embrace and embrace ourselves for the step that today we are missing and need…
A concert in the Mexican silence. Don Juan Chávez Alonso, Purépecha, Zapatista, and Mexican, makes a gesture like shooing off an annoying insect. It is his answer to the apology which I give him for one of my clumsy outbursts. We are in Cucapá territory, in the middle of a sandy plot of land. In those geographic coordinates and when on the calendar the Sexta 2006 is marked in the Northwest of Mexico, in the large tent which serves as his accommodations, Don Juan grabs the guitar and asks if we want to hear something which he composed. He had just finished tuning and a concert begins which, without any lyrics, tells of the Zapatista uprising from January First 1994 until the presence of Comandanta Ramona in the formation of the Indigenous National Congress.
A quiet then, as if it were one note more.
A quiet in which our dead silenced out loud.
Also in the Mexican northwest, Power’s bloody craze paints with absurdities still unpunished the calendar of below. June 5th, 2009. Governmental greed and despotism have lit fire to a daycare. The mortal victims, 49 boys and girls, are the collateral damage when incriminating files are destroyed. The absurdity of parents burying children, is followed by that of a weak and corrupt justice: the responsible do not receive an arrest warrant, but rather positions in the cabinet of the criminal who, under the blue of National Action, will try to hide the bloodbath into which he plunged the entire country.
Where biographers close their notes “because a few years of life are not profitable,” the history of below opens its notebook of other absurdities: with their unjust absence, these children have given birth to other men and women. Their fathers and mothers have raised since then the greatest demand for justice: that for injustice not being repeated.
“The problem with life is that in the end it kills you,” Durito had said, whose fantastic knightly stories so much entertained Chapis. Although she would have asked, with that impertinent mixture of naïveté and sincerity which disconcerted those who did not know her, “and why is that a problem?” Don Durito de La Lacandona, beetle by birth and knight errant by trade, would have avoided arguing with her, since, according to a supposed rule of knight errant-hood, one must not contradict a lady, (above all if the lady in question has influence “high up,” added Durito who knew that Chapis was religious, a monk, sister, or however you wish to call women who make of faith, their life and profession).
Chapis did not know us. I mean to say, not as those who look at us from outside and about us write, speak… or misspeak (you now see how fashions are fleeting). Chapis was with us. And she was some time before an impertinent beetle appeared in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast to declare himself knight errant.
And maybe from being in us it was that that thing of life and death did not appear to trouble Chapis too much. Like that attitude so much ours, of the Neozapatistas, in which everything is invested and it is not death which worries and concerns us, but life.
But Chapis not only was in us. It is clear that we were only a part of her walk. And if now I tell you something about her it is not to provide notes for her biography, but to tell you what here we feel. Because the story of this believer, her story with us, is of those who make the fanatic atheists doubt.
“Is religion the opium of the people?” I do not know. What I do know is that the most brilliant explanation that I have heard about the destruction and depopulation which neoliberal globalization brings about was given, not by a Marxist-Leninist-atheist-and-some-more-ists theorist, but… by a Christian, Apostolic and Roman Catholic, adherent to the Sixth Declaration, and exiled by the high clergy (“for thinking a great deal,” he told me as if apologizing) to one of the geographical deserts of the Mexican Altiplano.
I believe (maybe I am mistaken, it would not be the first time and, certainly, will not be the last), that many people, if not all, who approached what is known as Neozapatismo, did so looking for answers to questions made in the personal histories of each one, according to their calendar and geography. And who took only the minimum amount of time to find the reply. When they realized that the answer was the most problematic monosyllable in history, they turned elsewhere and started walking. It does not matter how much they say and tell themselves that they are still here: they left. Some people more quickly than others. And the majority of them do not look at us, or they do so with the same distance and intellectual disdain as that which calendars brandished before dawn broke January 1994.
I believe I have said it before, in some other missive, I am not sure. But however it may be I say, or repeat here, that that dangerous monosyllable is “you.” Like that, with lower case letters, because that answer was and is intimate to each one. And each takes it with respective terror.
Because the struggle is collective, but the decision to struggle is individual, personal, intimate, as is that to continue or capitulate.
Am I saying that the few people who stayed (and I am not referring to geography but to the heart) have not found that answer? No. What I am trying to say is that Chapis did not come looking for that answer to her personal question. She already knew the answer and had made from that “you” her walk and goal: her being a believer and person of principle.
Many others like her, but different, had already been answered in other calendars and geographies. Atheists and believers. Men, women, and others from all calendars. They are those who always, alive or dead, place themselves before Power, not as victims, but to challenge it with the multiple flag of the left of below. They are our compañeras, compañeros, and compañeroas… even if in the majority of cases nor them nor us know it…yet.
Because rebellion, friends and enemies, is not the exclusive heritage of the Neozapatistas. It is humanity’s. And that is something which must be celebrated. Everywhere, every day, and at all hours. Because rebellion also is a celebration.
They are not few nor weak the bridges which, from all corners of planet Earth, have been held to these soils and skies. Sometimes with looks, sometimes with words, always with our struggle, we have crossed them to embrace that other who resists and struggles.
Maybe “being compañeros” is about that and not about something else: about crossing bridges.
Like in this embrace made letters for the sisters of Chapis who, like us, miss her and, like us, need her.
“Impunity, my dear Matías, is something which only justice
can grant; it is Justice exercising injustice.”
can grant; it is Justice exercising injustice.”
Tomás Segovia, in “Cartas Cabales.”
I have already said before that, in my humble opinion, each one is the hero or the heroine of their own individual history. And that in the soothing self-satisfaction of telling “this is my personal history,” facts are edited, the most incredible fantasies are invented, and the narration of anecdotes looks too much like settling the accounts of the miser who steals what isn’t his.
The ancestral urge to transcend death itself finds in biographies the substitute for that elixir of eternal youth. Of course, also in descendants. But the biography is, to say it in some form, “more perfect.” It is not about someone who is resemblant, it is the “me” extended in time thanks to the “magic” of the biography.
The biographer of above goes to the documents of the period, maybe to testimonies of family members, friends, or compañer@s of the life whose death is appropriated. The “documents” have the same certainty as weather forecasts, and the testimonies walk the fine line between “I think that…” and “I know that…” And so the “veracity” of the biography is measured by the quantity of footnotes per page. For biographies it is of the same value as for the receipts documenting expense on governmental “image:” the more voluminous they are, the more true they are.
In the present, with the internet, twitters, facebooks, and equivalents, the biographical myths round away their fallacies and, voilá, the story of a life is reconstructed, or fragments of it, which have little or nothing to do with the real story. But it does not matter, because the biography is published, printed, circulated, read, cited, recited… just like lies.
Check in the modern documentary sources of future biographies, that is to say, Wikipedia and the blogs, Facebook, and the respective “profiles.” Now compare it with reality:
Does it not send shivers down your spine to realize that, maybe, in the future…
Carlos Salinas de Gortari will be “the visionary who understood that selling a Nation was, in addition to a family business (of course, understanding as family the blood family and the political family), an act of modern patriotism,” and not the leader of a band of traitors (don’t play tricks, there in the “mature and responsible” opposition are several of those who supported the reform of Constitutional Article 27, the watershed moment of the National State’s surrender in Mexico);
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León will not be the “Statesmen” who took a whole Nation from one crisis to another worse one (in addition to being one of the intellectual authors, together with Emilio Chuayffet and Mario Renán Castillo, of the Acteal massacre), but who took the “the country’s reins” with a peculiar sense of humor… to end up being what he always was: a second-rate employee in a multinational;
Vicente Fox will be the proof that the position of president of a republic and of a soft drink subsidiary is interchangeable… and that both positions can be occupied by useless people;
Felipe Calderón Hinojosa will be a “brave president” (so that others would die) and not a psychopath who stole the weapon (the presidency) for his war games… and who ended up being what he always was: a second-rate employee in a multinational;
Enrique Peña Nieto will be a cultured and intelligent president (“all right, he is ignorant and stupid but skillful,” it is the new profile which is constructed in the political analysts’ huddles), and not a functional illiterate (what can you do?, as the popular proverb goes: “what nature does not give, Monex does not buy”)…?
Ah, biographies. More than a few times they are autobiographies, even if they are the descendants (or buddies) those who promote them and thus adorn their family tree.
The criminals of the Mexican political class who have misgoverned these lands will continue to be, for those who suffer their mishaps, unpunished criminals. It does not matter how many lines are paid for in the media; nor how much is spent on spectacular things in the street, in the written press, on the radio and television. From the Díaz (Porfirio and Gustavo) to Calderón and Peña, from Castellanos and Sabines to Albores and Velasco, the only mediator is the overlooking (through social networks, because in the paid media they continue to be “responsible and mature people”) of the ridiculous frivolity of the “newbies.”
But the world is round and in the politics of above’s continuous rise and fall, it can pass, in a short time, from the front page of “Hola,” to “WANTED; DANGEROUS CRIMINAL;” from NAFTA’s December debauchery, to the hangover of the Zapatista uprising; from “man of the year,” to the “hunger strike” with “chic” brand bottled water (what can you do my dear, even for protests there are social classes); from applause for the bad jokes, to putative filicide about to take shape; from nepotism and corruption adorned with incidental ideas, to investigation for ties to drug trafficking; from XL military uniforms, to fearful and blood-stained exile; from the debauchery of defeatist December to…
With all this and what follows, am I saying that one must not write/read biographies? No, but what makes the old wheel of history go round are collectives, not individuals. Historiography feeds on individualities; history learns from peoples.
Am I saying that one must not write/study history? No, but what I am saying is that it is better to do it in the only way that it is done, that is to say, with others and organized.
Because rebellion, friends and enemies, when individual is beautiful. But when collective and organized it is terrifying and marvelous. The former is the material of biographies, the latter is what makes history.
And not with words we embrace our Zapatista compañeros and compañeros, atheists and believers,
those who at night carried on their backs a backpack and history,
those who took with their hands lightning and thunder,
those who put on their boots without future,
those who covered their face and name,
those who, without expecting anything in return, in the long night died,
so that others, everyone, one morning still to come,
may be able to see the day as it must be done,
that is to say, head-on, on their feet, and with gaze and heart upright.
For them neither biographies nor museums.
For them our memory and rebellion.
For them our cry:
freedom! Freedom! FREEDOM!
Vale. Cheers and may our steps be as great as our dead.
P.S. ON OBVIOUS INSTRUCTIONS.-Now, do be so kind as to read, in reverse-date order, from Rewind 1 to 3, and maybe like so you’ll find the cat-dog and some doubts will be clarified. And yes, be certain that more questions will arise.
P.S. WHICH RESPONDS TO, ASKS OF THE PAID MEDIA.- Ah! Moving is the effort of the opposers in the paid media to try to provide arguments for the few opposer readers/listeners/viewers who they have left. But, feeling generous due to the Christmas season, I send you here some tips for you to use as journalistic material.
-If the conditions of the Zapatista indigenous communities are the same as 20 years ago and no part of their quality of life has advanced, why does the EZLN—as it did in 1994 with the paid media—open up with the escuelita so that people from below may see and know directly, WITHOUT INTERMEDIARIES, what there is here?
And already being in a “questioning mood,” why in the same time period, also exponentially, was the number of the paid media’s readers/listeners/viewers reduced? Psst, psst, you can respond that you do not have less readers/listeners/viewers—that would reduce advertizing and payola—that what is happening is that now they are more “selective.”
-You ask, “What has the EZLN done for indigenous communities?” And we are responding with the direct testimony of tens of thousands of our compañeros and compañeras.
Now, owners and stockholders, directors and bosses, respond to this:
What have you done, in these 20 years, for the media workers, one of the sectors hardest hit by the crime adopted and encouraged by the regime which you so adore? What have you done for the journalists, the threatened, kidnapped, and murdered journalists? And for their families? What have you done to better the living conditions of your workers? Have you raised their salary so that they can have a dignified life and not have to sell their word or their silence in the face of reality? Have you created conditions so that they may retire, after years of work for you, with dignity? Have you given them job security? I mean to say, does the job of a reporter no longer depend on the editor-in-chief’s mood or on the sexual “favors” or those of another type, which are demanded of all genders?
What have you done so that being a media worker may be an honor which does not come at the price of loss of freedom or life for being honest?
Can you say that your work is more respected by the rulers and governed than 20 years ago?
What have you done to counter imposed or tolerated censorship? Can you say that your readers/listeners/viewers are better informed than 20 years ago? Can you say that you have more credibility than 20 years ago? Can you say that you survive thanks to your readers/listeners/viewers and not due to advertizing, mainly governmental?
There you may respond to your workers and readers/listeners/viewers, just as we respond to our compañeros and compañeras.
Oh, come on, don’t be sad. We are not the only ones who have eluded your role of judge and executioner, begging for your acquittal and receiving always your conviction. There is also, for example, reality.
Vale de nueve, o, mejor, de sesenta y nueve.
El Sup saying that a thumbs down is better than a middle finger up.
It is Zapatista territory, is Chiapas, is Mexico, is Latin America, is the Earth. And it is December 2013, is cold like 20 years ago, and, like then, today a flag blankets us: that of rebellion.
Translated from Spanish by Henry Gales
Originally published on December 28th, 2013