EZLN: What Comes Next I: Then and Now
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés
January 3, 2017
Good evening everyone. We just want to say that this is going to take a while, so now is the moment to leave or take a nap.
So first of all, just like the compañera said who spoke here about Viejo Antonio [Old Antonio], the name says it all, Viejo Antonio.i His time is over. There are some things we might be able to recover from that moment, but now times have changed.
We Zapatistas want to tell you that truly, seriously, we want to learn what real science is. Not the kind that Viejo Antonio employed, which was useful in its time, a time now past. Now it’s different because life now is different. We want to talk to you about what it’s like for the compañeras and compañeros who are here as a commission of delegates, what they’ve confronted through their struggle in resistance, and the fact that even though they’d like to live the way their fathers and mothers did, it doesn’t work for them anymore.
For example, in the Lacandón Jungle when they plant their corn, they know that in three months the kernels should grow, but now the kernels come in earlier. In the highlands, near Oventik, the Caracol Oventik, it used to be that in six months there would be kernels, and now it happens in five. This makes it difficult because before they knew when to plant. They knew when to start, using the old method like Viejo Antonio did, but now that has changed. How did it change, and who changed it? That’s where all this interest comes from. And just like with everything else, we’re not making things up, as Sup Galeano has said these past few days. Because Viejo Antonio did in fact know when the cold would come, when to go get firewood, charcoal, how to be prepared, but this method doesn’t work anymore.
That’s why we started to wonder who could explain this to us, and we’d heard people say that there are scientists, and we wondered what kind of work they do. Could they assist us? Because they say these people study in order to be able to explain, to be able to understand, and then to be able to explain to others if something can be done and what can be done.
Our compañeros and compañeras need these kinds of things, because it turns out that in their 23 years of autonomous governance, many needs have arisen, needs that can no longer be addressed the way Viejo Antonio used to. He was resisting and surviving, but that way doesn’t work anymore. The compañeros and compañeras are constructing something else, and they’re putting it into practice. When they engage in these practices, that’s when they start to discover what’s missing.
For example, so that you understand what I’m saying, among the compañeras who are Zapatista bases of support entered the struggle 33 years ago, none of them dreamed that their daughter or son would learn how to operate an ultrasound. Now it turns out that their daughter operates one, because many compañeras do. It’s mostly compañeras because they’re the ones who want to see how the baby is doing while it’s growing, that’s why it’s mostly compañeras who do this.
I’m going to tell you about a need and a lack we have encountered, because it was a lack as well as an error, a failure, which we recognize as such. Because the compañeras, compañero, well they’re recovering the good parts of the culture and leaving behind the bad parts.
So there are [health] promotores, as well as midwives, both men and women, in the communities. In one community a compa went to the midwife and the midwife checked the compañera and told her: it seems you’re going to have twins, compañera. And the compa was happy about the twins, but he knew that in the clinic, in the Autonomous Hospital, there’s an ultrasound, and the compa wanted to be sure that they were really going to have twins. So they went to the hospital and had the photograph taken, I’m not sure what you call it. But first the compa says to the compañera who knows how to operate the ultrasound, “the midwife told me it looks like it is twins, so I want to check using the machine to see if it’s true, no?” And so they check and take the photo or whatever it’s called and the compañera tells him, “Yes, it’s twins.” So then the compa is even happier.
So then when it was time for the twins to be born, they went to the government hospital because there was trouble with the birth because the compañera was having a lot of pain. So as an emergency they went to a government hospital in Guadalupe Tepeyac, and they attended to her there and gave her a caesarean. So the compa goes to see his two twins, right? And it turns out there’s just one. So the compañero says, “No, I know that they were twins,” and starts to argue with the hospital director. “No, I know that they’re twins. You’re trying to steal one from me.”
The director says, “No sir, no Zapatista, there’s only one. Let’s not argue here, let’s go to your wife because she saw everything.” So the director and the compa go to the wife and the compa says, “Why are you letting the hospital directors steal one of our babies?” And the compañera says, “No, there really was only one.”
“But how? If the compañera who did the ultrasound told us it was definitely twins and the midwife also told us it was definitely twins?”
So there they are with the compañera saying that there was definitely only one and the compa is saying it has to be two because that’s what the midwife and the health promotora said and the people from the hospital are saying it’s definitely only one.
So then they have to bring in the compañera who did the ultrasound in the Zapatista hospital clinic. The compañera arrives, so there are four different people there now: the compa, the compañera who had the caesarean, the compañera who did the ultrasound, and the directors of the hospital. And they start talking there, and the attending doctor starts explaining that it depends on how the image is taken for the ultrasound, and the compañera who did the work of the ultrasound says, “yes, we did in fact take it from the side.” So then the doctor says, “That’s what happened, because of the reflection it seemed like there were two, because the image wasn’t taken the way it should have been.” Then the compa, the father of the baby, starts to understand that there was a mistake, an error in the way the work was done by the Zapatista health promotora.
So that’s where we learn that we can’t say, this is fucking capitalism’s fault, because this wasn’t about capitalism; we were lacking science. That’s why a failure isn’t just about saying they don’t know, or the people from the hospital robbed us because it’s run by the bad government. We can’t say these things. We recognize that we were lacking something, that we were lacking something as Zapatistas. It’s not that we’re autonomous and that therefore we can’t fail. We failed at science.
So there are a lot of other things like that, and Viejo Antonio didn’t have the opportunity to learn them because his time has passed. But thanks to Viejo Antonio who had a form of resistance and rebellion, [our people] were able to survive at that time.
So for example, the person speaking to you, whose name is Moisés—this Moisés has changed three times. Because if the Moisés in his community was still in his community he wouldn’t be here talking with you, right? And what would this Moisés be like if he was still in his community? Who knows. Not even Moisés himself knows.
Okay. But then that Moisés that was, is no longer. Then Moisés entered into the clandestine organization, so that Moisés changed again. He was no longer the same Moisés in clandestinity that he had been in his community. Then Moisés went out, learned, and we’re not going to repeat everything here, but he learned the science that we applied in 94. And now after 23 years, the Moisés who was in clandestinity is not the same Moisés who has been in the public light for 23 years because of what he and his compañeros and compañeras did. Right?
So the Moisés of right now, today, January 3, 2017—this Moisés now sees other things. This Moisés sees many things, not what he saw before during the 10 years of clandestinity; things have changed. But we have to study this change scientifically, with science, for the good of the people, in order to love life even more.
So what are we going to do when we realize, with science and scientifically, that something’s not right? What good is it just to say that something’s wrong and then just leave it at that?
So that’s what’s happening to our compañeros and compañeras: they run into these needs, they need this [knowledge] not for the good of a few, but for thousands, or perhaps the millions of us in this country called Mexico. And perhaps this could take wing and fly off to another world, no?
Because today, 23 years later, there are many things the compañeros are putting into practice, and they run into these needs. They need theory and they need practice. We indigenous people do things in practice. That is, it is through practice that we are convinced of something. And when that happens, then we do not tire when we hear the theory. But if it’s all blah, blah, blah, well we get sleepy. But if it’s through practice, then yes, we become focused because we’re seeing how things move and how they work. If we like what we see and think that something will solve many of our needs, then our eyes become sharper than an eagle’s.
So when we engage in practice and see that yes, something does in fact solve our needs, then we begin to ask: if I do it like this could it turn out like that? And if I do it like this what will happen? Could it be that someone could teach us even more? Could they tell us even more about how to do it? Then in that case we need theory, because we were encouraged by what we saw, because we saw that it solved our needs or problems when we saw it in practice.
There is the problem that sometimes it’s really hard for us to present the theory, but we can do it in practice. Perhaps it’s possible to see if there’s an image or something to help understand how things are in practice. Take for example this instance I’m about to tell you about, which our compañeros and compañeras have basically obligated me to keep in my head.
These men and women have their autonomous government, and they’re struggling and struggling for it to be half and half. If there are 40 members of the Junta de Buen Gobierno [Good Government Council], it should be 20 women and 20 men, and if there are 20 members of the Zapatista Autonomous Municipalities in Rebellion, it should be 10 women and 10 men, and so on.
So they do their work according to what they’ve understood of the 7 Principles of Leading by Obeying. They make the word Democracy their own, which means that the people lead and the government obeys. Men and women discuss their own laws, they develop education in the way they think boys and girls should learn, and what the education promotores should learn, according to what their communities need.
So in what some might call primary school, and other Caracoles might call first level, but in any case the compañeros, compañeras, the fathers, the mothers, say: what we want is for our children to learn to read well, to know how to write papacito and mamacita. And they’ve seen how the young people have learned a shitload like that. It’s the same in the area of health too; there are many areas of work like that. There is the work with medicinal plants which continues, and the compas have detected various needs there, because they want to know, they say for example: when the plant is green, or the husk or the root, what substance does it contain? What about when it dries, does it preserve or lose that substance? But that’s where we realize we have our limits, because for that we need science to do a study in a laboratory, and many other things like that.
They have their community radios, and sometimes certain pieces of the machines burn out, so they want to know how to fix that. The other communities want to listen to what is being produced and transmitted, so they want to make the signal reach them, but the signal doesn’t reach. So the radio broadcasters ask, might there be a way to invent something so [the signal] is stronger, so it reaches further?
But their fathers and mothers had never dreamed of this. Moisés in clandestinity had never thought of it. Things changed, and now it turns out that these young men and women—because we’re working with the compañeros—they tell us that this thing or that thing is lacking, and so now Moisés can no longer say… because it’s easy to order people around, to say enough, shut up, go back to work, go check on your cornfield, go… no? But we understand there are needs. So that’s why I’m saying that Moisés isn’t the same as he was in clandestinity, not after 23 years with the communities, with their autonomous government.
Well, for more than a year now we’ve been talking about the capitalist hydra, the monster, along with our compañeros and compañeras in the communities. And this is truly what we’re seeing, it’s like it reared its head when we mentioned it. So the compañeros and compañeras in the communities say that the way we’ll resist is that we must have food and we must have medicine, we need these things to be able to confront this. So that’s where they begin to think seriously about how to make this happen with land that doesn’t produce anymore, no matter how much we work and work and work it, it doesn’t produce anymore. So they’ve heard people talk about boron, magnesium, sulphur, molyb…molybdenum, or something like that, or zinc, or the pH…but they only know that people say that these are things that can help the earth. But how can we know, even if I grab a piece of earth, how can I know what it needs?
So, the compañeros ask: who are the people who study this? Who are the people that say this? This need starts emerging from various places, the desire to learn, to study the earth without harming it.
So, among many other things that they do, the compañeros are identifying needs, seeking [answers]. Before all this, before these needs began to develop more, there were other compañeros who were seeing other needs emerge around how to construct autonomy. For example, a group of compañeros saw that a lot of gasoline was being wasted to generate electricity in the Caracol. So they began to wonder, why does the gasoline make the motor turn and then produce electricity, energy? They said, that just means there has to be a way to turn the motor. So why don’t we adapt, find a different way to start the motor? Like in the case of the water mill, where they grind the sugar cane. It has a water canal and wheels and containers where the water flows into, and that makes the mill turn. So we should look for a way to adapt the motor, or the generator. And they did it, but it was very slow, and they couldn’t get past that point because they didn’t know how to multiply the force… I’m not even sure how you say it. So, where are the people who know the science of how to do this? Because then we wouldn’t need petroleum to be able to make gas, or oil, but rather we could make use of nature itself for this. Well, at least for one part, because the pieces of the motor are metal and plastic and all those things.
So the compañeros and compañeras really want to learn new things, whenever they can find someone to teach them. But…it’s not like it was before for the young men and women, like in the days of Viejo Antonio. They’re not going to just let things be if their question isn’t answered. They won’t be satisfied if they don’t get the right answer to their question, and worse so if you try to tell them otherwise.
For example, at the end of the Little School in 2013-2014, we had an Assembly to evaluate it. There it came out that one of the students had been saying how great it is that we’re indigenous, that we should never lose our indigenous identity, and therefore… but then that we’re no longer truly indigenous because we wear shoes, that we should stop wearing shoes. We have to touch [the earth] with our skin, with the soles of our feet, that’s how we’ll keep being indigenous. And in the Assembly people were saying that person who said that, we should call him in the rainy season, when there’s lots of mud and sometimes your feet sink 50 or 80 centimeters, and you don’t realize there’s glass or sharp rocks underneath. Let’s see him walk there then. Then they said, and we work in the brush, we’re going to ask him to please take his clothes off and work there naked, let’s see what he thinks then.
I’m telling you this because they don’t let buy this anymore; when these young people are able to understand that what’s being said isn’t going to resolve their needs, they simply say: let’s see, you do it first and then we’ll see.
So this all means—and it has to do with you, brothers, compañeros, compañeras, sisters—as has been said here, as you’re seeing, if you see and understand that things are really rough, well then there’s much work to be done. First, what is it that needs to be done, among you who study science, scientific matters, what needs to be done? And furthermore, the compañeros and compañeras have questions, and they need you to answer them, and answer them scientifically, right? Then there’s also the fact that they want to learn, they want practice. That’s another thing, because that’s the only way the compañeros and compañeras will feel that they are being taught, through practice as to how they might possibly resolve the issues that come up, or things that they need. The only thing is that we have to be careful that it’s not a deceitful trick, that’s what they don’t want. They want to see the results of what they’re told.
In that regard, according to what we’re hearing, although it’s not over yet, we see and feel that with this practice we’re engaging in now we’re making twice the effort. Because for example: I’ve heard you here while you’re participating as scientists—you’re speaking among yourselves, as scientists. And the idea was for you to speak to the compañeras and compañeros. So the compañeros are asking, what are they saying? Because you’re speaking from one scientist to another. And then the delegates try to speak with the participants, but you’re all listening and maybe wanting to debate what another participant is saying, and we’re missing something.
So what we see is that it would be helpful to have another gathering in which you speak to one another, scientists to scientists. You would speak to one another and we want to see how you discuss; we want to hear, in the end, how you reach agreements like in the communities. In the communities, among the peoples, they get into it and then they say, okay, we’re going to let it go because we have an agreement. That’s what they do. So we want to learn, because if not, how are we going to learn how to be scientists?
What we are doing here, which I’ve already told you about, is something of a science. This new government system that the compañeros have, it’s small, but the compañeros are putting science to work in this act, and because of it, this small act, they’ve brought us together here. That is why we’re talking here today, thanks to the science of self-government, thanks to the compañeros.
So I don’t know how you all will see it, maybe it seems like a long time away to plan for you to come in December, in order to have this meeting where we can see how you debate among yourselves, to see what agreements arise about what to do or how to do it. Also, if you are able, either collectively or individually, we could somehow reach an agreement for you to come here, go to a Caracol, set up your workshop… the only thing is that if you need a laboratory that includes more than an axe and a machete…well, we don’t have laboratories, but if you can bring it you’re welcome to. And there will be no lack of pozolito.ii It might be sour, but there will be plenty. There will be beans, vegetables, and no lack of students with the desire to learn. Above all, to learn in practice, as I told you.
So, this is the problem we’re presenting to you, wondering how you might help the compañeros who need not just medicine and land, but many other things which you’ll see when you come, when you go to the Caracol or Caracoles. There you’ll hear a lot of, “listen, how can we do this, or that, or this other thing.” And you’ll say, “the thing is I’m not a technician, I’m not an engineer, I’m a scientist.” It’s just there are so many things the compas need right now.
So now you have some months to think about it, and then you can send us your word, your thoughts and your plans so that we can see the fruit of what we’re doing here. Then we can also reach an agreement about the next gathering in December. And we’ll see about where, or we’ll ask our compañero here, the Doc, if it can be here, or we’ll think about where else it could be. That’s what we wanted to talk about with you, compañeros, brothers and sisters. Thank you very much.
iEl Viejo Antonio is a character in the early writings of the defunct Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos who plays the role of indigenous teacher and guide for the young insurgent during the early days of clandestine organization.
iiA drink made of ground maize and water.