Them and Us
VI.- The Gazes 4.
4.- Look and communicate.
I'm going to tell you something very secret, but don't go around telling it… or do, you decide.
During the first days of our uprising, after the ceasefire, there was a lot of commotion regarding the eezee-elen. It was, of course, all of the media paraphernalia that the right tends to use to impose silence and blood. Some of the arguments that were used back then are the same ones as now, which demonstrates how outdated the right is and how antiquated its thinking is. But that is not a topic for now, and neither is the topic of the press.
But well, now I will tell you that at that time people were starting to say that the EZLN was the first 21th century guerrilla organization (yes, us, who still used sticks to sow the land, who had only heard rumors about yokes and oxen--no offense---, and who only knew about tractors from photographs); that supmarcos was a cybernetic guerrilla who, from the Lacandón Jungle, launched into cyberspace the Zapatista proclamations that would turn the world upside down; and that he had satellite communications in order to coordinate subversive actions that would be carried out all over the world.
Yes, that's what they were saying, but… compas, in the days leading up to the uprising, the "Zapatista cybernetic power" that we had was one of those computers that used those big old floppy disks and it had a DOS version -1.0 operating system. We learned to use it with one of those old tutorials, I don't know if they still exist, that told you what key you should push and there was a voice that said in a Madrid accent, "Very good!"; and if you messed up it told you, "Very bad, idiot, try again!" In addition to playing Pacman, we also used it for the "First Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle," which we reproduced on one on those old dot matrix printers, which made more noise than a machine gun. The paper came on a roll and it jammed all the time, but it had carbon paper, and we managed to print off about two copies every couple of hours. We made a shit-ton of copies, about 100, I think. They were divided up amongst the five commanding groups that would, hours later, take seven municipal seats in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas. In San Cristóbal de Las Casas, which was the one I was supposed to take, once the plaza had fallen to our forces, we used masking tape to hang up the 15 copies that were ours. Yes, I know that that doesn't add up, that there should have been five, but who knows where the missing five ended up.
Well, when we pulled out of San Cristóbal, in the pre-dawn hours of January 2, 1994, the wet fog that covered our withdrawal unstuck the proclamations from the cold walls of the magnificent colonial city, and some floated around the streets.
Years later someone told me that anonymous hands had snatched some and that they were kept carefully guarded.
Then came the Cathedral Dialogues. At that time I had one of those portable lightweight computers (it weighed six kilos without the battery), "Scrap" brand, 128 ram, and I mean 128 kb of ram, 10 mb hard drive, I mean, it could save e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, and a really fast processor that, when you turned it on, you could go prepare your coffee, come back, and you could still re-heat your coffee, 7 times 7, before being able to start to write. A fantastic machine. In the mountains, to make it work we would use a power inverter connected to a car battery. Later, our Zapatista Department of Advanced Technology designed a contraption that would make the computer run off of D batteries, but it weighed more than the computer and, I suspect, had something to do with the PC expiring with a sudden flash, yes, very flashy, and a plume of smoke that kept the mosquitos away for the next three days. The satellite telephone that the Sup used to communicate with "international terrorism?" A walkie-talkie with a maximum range of 400 meters on flat land (there should be some photos still around of the "cybernetic guerrilla", ha!) So internet? In February 1995, when the federal military was pursuing us (and not for an interview), the portable PC was tossed into the first stream that we forded, and the communiques from that era were made on a manual typewriter that the ejidal commissioner from one of the towns that protected us loaned to us.
That was the powerful high technology equipment that we the "21st century cybernetic guerrillas" possessed at that time.
I'm really sorry if, in addition to my battered ego, I am destroying some illusions that some might have had, but that's how it was, exactly as I am telling you now.
Finally, afterwards we learned that…
A young student in Texas, USA, perhaps a "nerd" (as you would call him), made a web page and he called it only "ezln." That was the EZLN's first web page. And this compa began to "upload" there all of the communiques and letters that were being published in the written press. People from other parts of the world, who learned of the uprising from photos, images, and video recordings, or from news articles, looked there for our word.
We never met that compa. Or maybe we did.
Maybe one time he came down to Zapatista lands, just like any other. If he did come, he never said: "I'm the one who made the EZLN's page." Nor: "Thanks to me people all over the world know about you." And certainly not, "I've come so that you might thank me and pay me homage."
He could have done it, and the thanks would have been few, but he never did.
And maybe you don't know, but sometimes there are people like that. Good people who do things without asking for anything in return, without payment, "without a commotion," as we say, we the Zapatistas.
And then the world kept on spinning. Some compas came who did know about computation, and other pages were created and we are how we are now. That is, with a damn server that doesn't run like it should, not even when we sing and dance "the colored monkey" to a cumbia-corrido-ranchera-norteña-tropical-ska-rap-punk-rock-ballad-popular rhythm.
Also without creating a commotion, we thank that compa; may the firstest gods and/or the higher being in which he believes or doubts or disbelieves bless him.
We don't know what became of that compa. Perhaps he is an Anonymous. Perhaps he's still surfing the web, searching for a noble cause to support. Perhaps he's disregarded due to his appearance, perhaps he's different, perhaps his neighbors, his co-workers or classmates look at him suspiciously.
Or perhaps he's a normal person, one of the millions who walk in the world without anyone recording what they do, without anyone watching them.
And perhaps he manages to read what I'm telling you, and he reads what we write you now:
"Compa, now there's schools here where before only ignorance grew; there's food, but not very dignified, where at the tables hunger was the only daily guest; there's relief where the only medicine for pain was death. I don't know if you were expecting it. Perhaps you knew. Perhaps you saw something of the future in those words that you relaunched out into cyberspace. Or perhaps not, perhaps you just did it because you felt that it was your duty. And duty, we Zapatistas know a lot about it, it is the only slavery that is embraced under our own free will.
We learned. And I'm not talking about learning the importance of communication or of knowing the ways of the sciences and techniques of information technology. For example, aside from Durito, none of us has been able to solve the challenge of making a tweet communique. Faced with 140 characters, I'm not only useless, falling and refalling back on the commas, (the parentheses), the dots… and my life is passing me by and I lack characters. I think it is improbable that I could one day do it. Durito, for example, has proposed a communique that stays within the tweet limit and says:
123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 123456789 1234567890
But the problem is that the code to decipher the message occupies the equivalent of the 7 volumes of the "The Differences" encyclopedia, which all of humanity has been writing ever since its regretful walk over earth began, and whose editing has been vetted by the Power.
No. What we learned is that there are people out there, far away or close, whom we don't know, who perhaps doesn't know us, who are compas. And it's not because they have participated in a support march, have visited a Zapatista community, wear a red bandana around their neck, or have signed a printout, a registration sheet, a membership card, or whatever it's called.
It's because the Zapatistas know that just as there are many worlds that inhabit the world, there are also many forms, ways, times, and places to struggle against the beast, without requesting or expecting anything in return.
We send you a hug, compa, wherever you are. I am sure that you can answer the question that one asks him or herself when s/he begins to walk: "Will it be worth it?"
Perhaps later you find out that in a community or in a base, a Zapatista computer lab is called "he," just like that, in lowercase. And perhaps you find out later that if one of the invited people ran into the lab, stopped in front of the sign, and asked who was that "he," we responded: "we don't know, but he does."
Ok then. Cheers, and yes, it was worth it, I think.
From etc. etc.
We Zapatistas from the eezee-elen dot com dot org dot net or dot whatever it's called."
And all of that is relevant because perhaps you all have realized that we place a lot of trust in the free and/or independent media, or whatever it's called, and in the people, groups, collectives, organizations that have their own ways of communicating. People, groups, collectives, organizations that have their web pages, their blogs, or whatever they're called, who give a place for our word and now, the music and images that accompany it. And people or groups who perhaps don't even have a computer, but even if it's just chatting, or with a flier, or a broadsheet, or graffiti or a notebook or public transportation, or in a play, a video, a homework assignment, a song, a dance, a poem, a painting, a book, a letter, they look at the letters that our collective heart sketches.
If they don't belong to us, if they're not an organic part of ourselves, if we don't give them orders, if we don't command them, if they're autonomous, independent, free (which means that they command themselves) or whatever it's called, why do they do it then?
Perhaps because they think that information is everyone's right, and that everyone has the responsibility of what they do or undo with that information. Perhaps because they are in solidarity and they have the commitment to support in that way whoever also struggles, even if it's with other methods. Perhaps because they feel the duty to do it.
Or perhaps because of all of that and more.
They will know. And surely they have it there written, on their website, their blog, in their declaration of principles, on their flier, in their song, on their wall, in their notebook, in their heart.
That is, I'm talking about those who communicate and with others they communicate that which they feel in our hearts, that is, they listen. From who looks at us and looks at themselves thinking about us and they turn into a bridge and then they discover that those words that they write, sing, repeat, transform are not the Zapatistas', that they never were, that they're yours, everyone's and no one's, and that they are part of one score that who knows where it's at, and then you discover or confirm that when you look at us looking at ourselves looking at you, you are touching and talking about something bigger for which there still isn't an alphabet, and that isn't in that way belonging to a group, collective, organization, sect, religion, or whatever it's called, but rather that you are understanding that the step towards humanity is now called "rebellion."
Perhaps, before you click on your decision to put our word on your spaces, you'll ask yourselves, "Will it be worth it?" Perhaps you ask yourselves if you wouldn't be contributing to Marcos being on a European beach, enjoying the wonderful climate of these calendars in those geographies. Perhaps you ask yourselves if you wouldn't be serving an invention of "the beast" to fool people and simulate rebellion. Perhaps you respond to yourselves that the answer to that question of "Will it be worth it?" lies with us, the Zapatistas, and that by clicking on the computer, the spray can, the pencil, the guitar, the CD, the camera, you're committing us to respond "yes." And then you click on "upload" or "publish" or "load" or the first chord or the first step-color-verse, or whatever it's called.
And perhaps you don't know, even though I think it's obvious, but you're really cutting us a "break" as they say around here. And I'm not saying that because our page "goes down" sometimes, as if it were in a mosh pit and when it dove off the stage there weren't any comradely hand to relieve the fall that, if it is on cement, will keep hurting without its calendar or geography mattering. I point that out because on the other side of our word there are many people who don't agree and they say so; there's even more who don't agree and don't even bother to say so; there are a few who do agree and who say so; and there's a few more of those few who do agree and don't say so; and there's the great immense majority, who don't even know about it. It's those last ones who we want to talk to, that is, look at, that is, listen to.
Compas, thank you. We know. But we're sure that even if we didn't know, you know. And that is precisely what we the Zapatistas believe is what all this about changing the world is all about.
(To be continued…)
From any corner of any world.
P.S.- Yes, perhaps there is, in the letter to him, a clue to the next password.
P.S. THAT UNNECESSARILY CLARIFIES.- We don't have a Twitter or Facebook account, nor an email, nor a phone number, nor a post office box. Those that appear on the web site are those of the site, and these compas support us and send us what they receive, just as they send out what we send them. Moreover, we're against copyright, so anyone can have their Twitter, their Facebook, or whatever it's called, and use our names, although, of course, they are not us nor do they represent us. But, according to what they've told me, most of them clarify that they are not who they supposedly are. And the truth is that we have a lot of fun imagining the quantity of derision and insults (which aren't minty*) they've received and will receive, originally directed at the eezee-elen and/or whom it may concern.
Listen to and watch the videos that accompany this text.
From Japan, the song and dance "Ya Basta" [Enough] by Pepe Hasegawa. It was presumably presented in the prefecture of Nagano, Japan, in 2010. The truth is that I don't know exactly what the lyrics say, I just hope that they're not insults that aren't minty.*
From Sweden, ska with the group Ska'n'ska, from Stockholm. The song is called "Ya Basta" and it appears on their album "Gunshot Fanfare."
From Sicily, Italy, the band Skaramanzia with the song "Para no olividar" [To not forget], part of their album "La lucha sigue" [The struggle goes on].
From France.- "Ya Basta - EZLN" with the band Ska Oi. From the album "Lucha y fiesta" [Struggle and party].
Translated from the original Spanish by Kristin Bricker.
* A play on words that only makes sense in Spanish. "Mentada" is insult, but it also sort of sounds like "menta," which means mint.