La Otra Campaña Tijuana: Revolution on Our DoorstepSan Diego 22 Oct 2006 07:08 GMT
Sub-Commandante Marcos is a rebel of the Zapatista Army of Liberation, which in 1994 took over most of the Mexican state of Chiapas by force. He is an insurrectionist who fought federal troops and state police, and a revolutionary who seeks to overthrow the Mexican government. He has many outstanding arrest warrants. Yet, here he stands, on stage, before thousands, in the heart of the city, streets closed for blocks. He is open, defiant.
What a beautiful man! No wonder the rich and powerful of Mexico (that 10 percent which control 90 percent of the Mexican economy) fear him so much; why corporate CEO’s in the United States tremble at his name. He gives without reward, just the clothes on his back. For ten years, he wandered around the Lancadon Jungle talking with villagers, listening, learning their experiences, creating thousands of transforming, personal dialectical encounters between notions of exploitation and liberation; between poverty’s individual helplessness to collective power and solidarity.
Marcos came to Tijuana, last Wednesday and Thursday, October 18th and 19th, within the shadow of our wall of shame, to bring Zapatismo to Mexico’s fourth largest city through the “La Otra Campana” tour. A series of forums held over the last year in 31 Mexican states which says that there is a better way to do politics than stolen elections, bribed congress persons, corrupt, violent governors, and corporate thievery. Politics from the bottom up, not top down; where all the stakeholders in civil society; workers, peasants, students, women, gays, indigenous groups have the power to control the economic, social and political processes that influence their lives.
In Tijuana, just steps from Ft. United States, he talks of a new nationalism contra de xenophobia of the U.S. Where love of “Patria,” one’s country, is not about GNP, SUV’s, a house in the country; vampire economics that suck at the blood of existence - the world’s resources. Rather, Zapatismo is about sharing, community, local government, sustainable energy use, decent wages, ending hierarchy, basic civil and human freedoms for all.
U.S. corporate owned media, shrills for the new world order of neo-liberalism (high costs, cheap labor) down-played his visit. The San Diego Union-Tribune, the city’s only large newspaper, sent a 2nd stringer reporter, without a camera - and then failed to even run a story about the two-day event or Marcos’ speech. Even the normally progressive weekly, City Beat, teeters on nervousness; running a short, insulting, dismissive piece focusing on grandstanding and violence. Right-wing officials in San Diego government openly question why he is not arrested.
WE ARE ALL MARCOS!
Mexican officials, from the President of the country to the police officer on the street, cannot touch him. He is a symbol to the common people, their link to the hope and promise of their early Twentieth Century revolution. His enigmatic persona, his parables of common folks under the yoke of oppression, his integrity and strength of character, give him an influence and energy shared by all revolutionaries from Jesus to Castro.
He has become a Father Teresa to millions of indigenous mothers, trying to feed their families, get their children educated and accepted as full human beings. He is betrayed Emiliano Zapata (returned) to millions of indigenous fathers; farmers who fight wealthy landlords who covet their lands and powerful corporations who would steal their meager profits from harvest. He is Saul Alinsky to union activists; Che Guervara to students. He is hope, possibility, freedom; the knight on white horse, lance aimed at the dragon from the north, defying the beast’s possessive madness, its searing wars and violence to protect its gluttony.
Incarcerated, he would become even more powerful. A magnet, the focal point; his freeing would become a single, defining act of hostile engagement for millions. Rather than a slow, difficult process of self-actualization, empowerment and solidarity which spreads across Mexico today in thousands of encuentros, teach-ins, and conversations; revolution would be spontaneous. The government, and its corporate masters, would have a place, un lugar de fortaleza, a Bastille, to defend.
Marcos, as one of the 21st Century’s first heroes, is general as well as personal, macro and micro, physical and spiritual. During the tour he is known as Delegate Zero; just another organizer among hundreds, the face of the giant compensino bull that will slay the arrogant matador dressed in red, white and blue.
Mexican workers, the poor, students, crowd the street (Avenida Constitution, how prophetic!) late into the second day of the Tijuana gathering, to soak in strength for the dark times ahead, of a country, a world, under the fascism of corporate domination. White faces from “otra lado” gather in expectation. Like a shaman, he draws the selfish pus of North American selfishness and greed out of our wounds, giving strength to a new identity as universal humanists beyond borders, class, theology or ideology.
My young lover, who labors in the maquiladora industry to support his mother and younger brother, yet is caught by the cultural imperialism from the north, yearns for a fancy car, x-box games and designer clothes, stands below the platform. Listening to Mexico’s greatest statesmen, a modern RFK - more radical, Luis Ricardo begins to see his own mask. For the first time, he understands why I have one foot out the door of this evil Empire to the north; running, reeling from its militarism, its materialistic madness. He senses a world beyond his needs of body and ego, above the cares of friends and lover, to a true Mexican in solidarity with a revolutionary past and a future of world freedom and personal liberation.
Zapatismo Challenges a Corporate Owned World
What is it about the Zapatista movement that those in power fear so much that they dare not attack it with force? Why does the United States oligarchy not demand Mexico suppress its rebels, like in Columbia and numerous other countries?
The Zapatista Army is the first revolutionary army in history that doesn’t seek to seize power but to disperse it. No elite vanguard to administer the state in the name of the people; its soldiers aim to hand over the resources, land, fair wages, and human dignity to all, not a few. The Zapatista Front, is a broad coalition of individuals and groups throughout the country, working in social and economic organizing activities to build a movement around those goals.
The evolution of Zapatismo began in the Lancadon Jungle in the 1980’s, where indigenous villages under the gun of neo-liberalism and its attack on subsistence farming, began to organize. Marcos, as a young, disillusioned teacher from Mexico City, went into the jungle on a quest. Searching for a personal hermitage, a civil monastery, he found oppressed people who began to trust his integrity, honesty and, above all, his ego-less, organizational capabilities. Like the saga of a youthful Luke Skywalker, he was drawn into a reality, a struggle, far beyond his imagination - and he became a general in the Fourth World War.
Like the appeasers of Hitler and those who refused to fight his totalitarian quest for world domination in the Second World War, Marcos suggests that those of us too old and tired, or too young , to remember the Third World War - Capitalism vrs. Communism - will soon be forced to chose sides in the coming conflagration. Whether National Socialism (fascism), Communism or Capitalism, the premise is the same, he reminds us. Wealth, power, and privilege, for the few, at the expense of the many. The Fourth World War pits the wealthy fat asses of the north and our insatiable greed, fear and laziness against the vast peoples of the south. Seizing their resources through economic imperialism and threats, destroying their natural eco-systems to feed our opulent life-styles, exploiting their labor for cheap goods and, even, endangering our communal planet by our material addictions.
The Zapatista movement, the members of which Marcos calls “shadows of tender fury,” are prepared to fight for the “soul” of their Mexican nation, their Patria, either armed or unarmed. For 10 years, they have laid down their weapons, reserving the right to continue the revolution.
How tragic that we in the United States whimper about the loss of our civil liberties and freedoms under Bush and lose sight of our own revolutionary tradition that fought a bloody war in 1776 against wealth and imperialism on the premise that governments serve the people not the other way round. The flame of freedom; lit by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and particularly, Patrick Henry, who along with 15 others fought the wealthy, landowners who drafted the Constitution to include a Bill of Rights, has long since burnt out.
Briefly, in the 1960’s, a counter-culture sputtered alive, only to fall into the sinkhole of North American individualism, the isolation of hundreds of personal issues. Fear and laziness turned us into protesting liberals, mouse warriors, pesky chihuahuas biting the corporate-owned, capitalist hand that feeds us.
Sixth Declaration Commits Zapatistas to Offensive Ceasefire
Over the years, since their January, 1994 uprising, the Zaptatista command has issued six declarations; their first “Ya Basta,” (Enough) outlined the indigenous struggle in Chiapas and its oppression under neo-liberalism and so-called “free trade” agreements that favored subsidized U.S. farming corporations over Mexican compensinos. Others followed, reminding Mexicans their movement will not falter; “We will Not Surrender,” “The Motherland Lives” which called for a national liberation movement beyond the mountains of the south, the 4th - “We Are Here, We Are Rebel Dignity,” the 5th - “We Are Here! We Risist!” in July 1998, and, finally, last year, the “Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona” which sums up their years of struggle and focuses on the struggle ahead.
The Sixth Declaration has become a kind of manifesto, a working Declaration of Independence. It invites all the disenfranchised, poor compensinos, laborers, students, housewives, the brick and mortar of civil society, the “humble and simple, the dignified and rebel,” to join with the “exploited and dispossessed” Indian peoples to build a national program of struggle, another way of doing politics, “La Otra Campana.”
In this spirit, a delegation of Zapatistas have fanned out across the country, visiting all 31 Mexican states throughout 2006, in hundreds of town squares, village parks and city plazas; listening, sharing the fire of revolution. They are practical, with the demand for a new Constitution; and, visionary, the evolution of a new social consciousness that liberates one from fear, isolation. A newer world order that says our personal existential experiences have social dimensions that must be protected and nurtured.
How intoxicating to watch my young lover sign his name as an “adherente” of the Sixth Declaration, to become a soldier in this Fourth World War, another “noble heart of simple and humble people who resist and rebel against injustices all over the world.”
How comforting to these aged eyes of a bitter North American activist, almost spiritual; as I watch the young gather and wander about the crumbling old building in Tijuana, once the glittering Cine Bujazan; built for wealthy patrons in the 1930’s. Its sagging lobby, multi-colored chips of plaster falling in my coffee, huge Roman columns of fading plaster leading to the main theatre; stripped of seats, the roof long since fallen in, twisted walls, four stories high, leaning inward, darkened with burnt spots, smeared with graffiti.
Here, amid the ruins of the former world of the Tijuana rich, young people commit themselves to authentic lives and autonomous communities free of greed. They do not fear the loss of material comforts or jail. A new culture of resistance begins to take shape as Mexico rediscovers its continuing revolution. There is, indeed, hope.