Last week I simply forgot Cultural Monday, but this week here it is.
Resistance and culture. Revolution and culture. Nowhere does any of this come together in a closer relationship than amongst the Zapatistas. Read their communiques and you don't find the old staid left wing tracts we are all so used to. Instead, you find stories and myths and gods and corn and the past and the present and the future all rolled into one. Fascinating stuff really and a new way to communicate and to build and to organize and to counter Global Capital and Empire.
No one makes better use of myths and symbols then the EZLN and the Zapatista movement. No one has caught the attention of the world with the fewest gun battles then the EZLN and the Zapatista. No one has threatened the State without even striking to seize the State than the Zapatistas.
We have much to learn from them.
In that spirit, I am not going to harrangue you with my own Marxist verbage on what is going on down there in southern Mexico and, for that matter, all around the world.
Today I will simply give you and example of another way to do that that I found at "Letters from Subcomandante Marcos."
The real, but myth-like Subcomandante Marcos writes of, "a story as it was told to me by old Antonio, the father of the Antonio that appears in "Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds, a Storm and a Prophecy"'
Old Antonio is a character often referred to by Marcos in his "communiques and stories." Is he real? Does it matter? Anyway who is to say. Writes Kasim Tirmizey at Left Turn:
In these stories, Old Antonio smokes cigarettes and tells Marcos tales of the Mayan gods, who love to dance and walk while asking questions. Through these stories we can understand some of the philosophies of the Zapatistas.
Enjoy, think and understand...
"The streams, when they descend, have no way of returning to the mountains except beneath the ground."
"In the time before the world came into being, the gods came together and decided to create the world and to create men and women. They thought to make the first people very beautiful and very strong. So they made the first people of gold, and the gods were very content because these people were strong and shining. Then the gods realized that the golden people never moved; they never walked or worked because they were so heavy. So the gods came together again in order to figure out a way to resolve this problem. They decided to make another group of people and they decided to make this group of people of wood. The wooden people worked and walked and the gods were again content. Then the gods realized that the golden people were forcing the wooden people to work for them and carry things for them. The gods realized that they had made a mistake, and in order to remedy the mistake, they decided to make some people of corn, a good people, a true people. Then the gods went to sleep and they left the corn people to find a solution to the problem. The corn people spoke the true tongue, and they went to the mountains in order to find a path for all the peoples. . . " Old Antonio told me that the golden people were the rich, the whites, and the wooden people were the poor, the ones who forever work for the rich. They are both waiting for the arrival of the corn people. The rich fear their arrival and the poor hope for it. I asked old Antonio what color was the skin of the corn people, and he showed me several types of corn with different colors. He told me that they were of every sort of skin color, but that nobody knew exactly, because the corn people don't have faces.
Old Antonio has died. I met him ten years ago in a community deep in the jungle. He smoked like nobody else I knew, and when he was out of cigarettes he would ask me for some tobacco and would make more cigarettes. He viewed my pipe with curiosity, but the one time I tried to loan it to him he showed me the cigarette in his hand, telling me without words that he preferred his own method of smoking.
Two years ago, in 1992, I was travelling through the communities attending meetings to decide whether or not we should go to war, and eventually I arrived at the village were old Antonio lived. While the community was discussing whether or not to go to war, old Antonio took me by the arm and led me to the river, about 100 meters from the center of the village. It was May and the river was green. Old Antonio sat on a tree trunk and didn't say anything. After a little while he spoke, "Do you see? Everything is clear and calm. It appears that nothing will happen. . . " "Hmmm," I answered, knowing that he wasn't asking me to answer yes or no. Then he pointed out to me the top of the nearest mountain. The clouds laid gray upon the summit, and the lightning was illuminating the diffuse blue of the hills. It was a powerful storm, but it seemed so far away and inoffensive that old Antonio made a cigarette and looked uselessly around for a lighter that he knew he didn't have. I offered my lighter. "When everything is calm here below, there is a storm in the mountains, " he said after inhaling. "The mountain streams run strongly and flow toward the riverbed. During the rainy season this river becomes fierce, like a whip, like an earthquake. Its power doesn't come from the rain that falls on its banks, but from the mountain streams that flow down to feed it. By destroying everything in its path, the river reconstructs the land. Its waters will become corn, beans and bread on our tables here in the jungle. Our struggle is the same. It was born in the mountains, but its effects won't be seen until it arrives here below." He responded to my question about whether he believed the time had come for war by saying, "Now is the time for the river to change color. . . " Old Antonio quieted and supported himself on my shoulder. We returned to the village slowly. He said to me, "You are the mountain streams and we are the river. You must descend now." The silence continued and we arrived to his shack as it was growing dark. The younger Antonio returned with the official result of the meeting, an announcement that read, more or less, "We, the men, women and children of this village met in the community's school in order to see if we believed in our hearts that it time to go to war for our freedom. We divided ourselves into three groups, one of men, one of women, and one of children to discuss the matter. Later, we came together again and it was seen that the majority believed that it was time to go to war because Mexico is being sold to foreigners and the people are always hungry. Twelve men, twenty-three women and eight children were in favor of beginning the war and have signed this announcement." I left the village in the early morning hours. Old Antonio wasn't around; he had already gone to the river. Two months ago I saw old Antonio again. He didn't say anything when he saw me and I sat by his side and began to shuck corn with him. "The river rose," he said to me after a bit. "Yes," I answered. I explained to the younger Antonio what was happening with the consultations and I gave him the documents that outlined our demands and the government's response. We spoke of what had happened in Ocosingo during the offensive and once again I left the village in the early morning hours. Old Antonio was waiting for me at a turn in the road. I stopped alongside him and lowered my backpack to look for some tobacco to offer him. "Not now," he said to me as he pushed away the bag of tobacco that I was offering him. He put his arm around me and led me to the foot of a tree. "Do you remember what I told you about the mountain streams and the river?" he asked me. "Yes," I responded whispering as he had when he had asked me the question. "There is something I didn't tell you," he added looking at his bare feet. I answered with silence. "The streams. . . " he was stopped by a cough that wracks his entire body. He took a breath and continued, "The streams, when they descend. . . " Once again he was stopped by a cough and I went for a medic. Old Antonio turned down the help of the compasero with the red cross. The medic looked at me and I made a sign that he should leave. Old Antonio waited until the medic left and then, in the penumbra of the dawn, he continued, "The streams, when they descend, have no way of returning to the mountains except beneath the ground." He embraced me rapidly and left. I stayed there watching as he walked away, and as he disappeared in the distance, I lit my pipe and picked up my backpack. As I mounted my horse I thought about what had just occurred. I don't know why, it was very dark, but it seemed that old Antonio was crying. I just received a letter from the younger Antonio with his village's response to the government's proposals. He also wrote me that old Antonio became very ill and that he had died that night. He didn't want anyone to tell me that he was dying. The younger Antonio wrote me that when they insisted that I be told, old Antonio said, "No, I have already told him what I had to tell him. Leave him alone, he has much work to do."