Friday, January 25, 2013
THEM AND US
Where and when did the violence start?
In front of a mirror, on any calendar, and in any geography…
Imagine that you are different from everyone else.
Imagine that you are something very other.
Imagine that you have a certain skin or hair color.
Imagine that they look down on you and make fun of you, that they persecute you, that they jail you, that they kill you because of it, for being different.
Imagine that since the day you were born, the system has repeatedly told you that you are something weird, abnormal, sick, that you should be sorry for who you are and, after blaming it on bad luck or divine justice, you should do everything you can to change this “factory defect.”
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Imagine that, in spite of all your efforts and good deeds, you can’t seem to hide your skin or hair color.
Now imagine that a campaign is launched to eliminate all of those who are like you.
It’s not that there’s an event to kick it off, or a law that establishes it, but you realize that the whole system starts to work against you, and against people like you. The whole society turns into a machine whose goal is to annihilate you.
First there’s looks of disapproval, disgust, distain. Then there’s the insults, attacks. Then there’s detainees, deportees, prisoners. Then there’s cadavers here and there, legal and illegal. Finally there’s an actual campaign, the machine at full capacity, to disappear you and all of those who are like you. The identity of those who make up society is maintained through hatred towards you. Your crime? Being different.
You still don’t see it?
Ok, imagine that you are… (use masculine, feminine, or other pronouns, depending on the case).
An indigenous person in a country dominated by foreigners. A flock of military helicopters is headed toward your lands. The press will say that the wind farm occupation impedes the reduction of pollution or that the jungle is being destroyed. “The eviction was necessary to reduce global warming,” says the Interior Minister.
A black man in a nation dominated by whites. A WASP judge is going to sentence him. The jury found him guilty. Amongst the evidence presented by the prosecutor is an analysis of his skin color.
A Jew in Nazi Germany. The Gestapo officer stares at him. The next day the official report will say that the human race has been purified.
A Palestinian in present-day Palestine. The Israeli army’s missile is aimed at the school, hospital, neighborhood, house. Tomorrow the media will say that they took out military targets.
An immigrant on the other side of any border. The border patrol approaches. The next day there won’t be anything about it in the news.
A priest, nun, layperson who sided with the poor, in the middle of the Vatican’s opulence. The Cardinal’s sermon is against those who meddle in worldly affairs.
A street vendor in an exclusive mall in an exclusive residential zone. A truck full of riot police parks. “We defend free trade,” the government delegate will declare.
A woman by herself, day or night, on public transportation full of men. A small tick in the “gender violence” statistics. The cop will say: “it’s that sometimes they provoke them.”
A gay by himself, day or night, on public transportation full of machos. A small tick in the “homophobic violence” statistics.
A sex worker on a strange street and someone else’s corner… a squad car pulls up. “The government is cracking down on white slavery,” the press will say.
A punk, a Rastafarian, a rudeboy, a cholo, a metal head, on the street at night… another squad card approaches. “We’re putting a stop to antisocial behavior and vandalism,” says the elected official.
A graffiti artist “tagging” the World Trade Center… another squad car pulls up. “We’ll do everything necessary in order to have a beautiful and attractive city for tourism,” says some official.
A communist at a rightwing fascist party meeting. “We’re against the totalitarianism that has done so much damage around the world,” says the party president.
An anarchist in a communist party meeting. “We are against the petit bourgeois deviations that have done so much damage to the global revolution,” says the party’s chairman.
A segment from the “31 minutos” news broadcast on the CNN news ticker. Tulio Triviño and Juan Carlos Bodoque look at each other, disturbed, but they don’t say anything. 
An alternative band trying to sell its CD at a concert starring Lady Gaga, Madonna, Justin Bieber, whoever comes after them. The cops approach. The fans scream like crazy.
An artist performing traditional indigenous dances outside of the great cultural center where the (yes-gala-invitation-only-we’re-sorry-ma’am-you’re-getting-in-the-way) Bolshoi ballet company is performing. Security proceeds to reestablish calm.
An old man in a meeting chaired by Japanese finance minister Taro Aso (he studied at Stanford and just a little while ago asked that the elderly “hurry up and die already” because it’s really expensive to keep them alive). Social spending is cut even further.
An Anonymous criticizing a Microsoft-Apple shareholders meeting about copyrights. “A dangerous hacker behind bars,” the media will say.
A young Mapuche who, in Chile, demands his ancestors’ territory as he watches the olive-green offensive roll in with tanks and carabineers. The bullet that fatally wounds him in the back will not be punished.
A youngster and/or student or unemployed worker at a military-police-civil guard-carabineer checkpoint. The last thing he heard? “Shoot!”
An indigenous Nahua in the offices of a transnational mining company. Men in uniforms kidnap him. “We’re investigating,” say respective governments.
A dissident in front of a grey metal fence that’s been erected, while on the other side the Mexican political class bites their tongues about yet another imposition. He’s hit with a rubber bullet that causes him to lose an eye or break his skull. “It’s called uniting for the good of the country. It’s time to put the bickering behind us,” say the talking heads on the news.
A peasant in front of an army of lawyers and police hearing that the land that he works, where his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on were born and grew up, now belongs to a real estate company, and that you’re depriving the poor businessmen of something that legally belongs to them. Jail.
Someone who opposes the electoral fraud sees how 40 thieves and their boot-lickers are exonerated. The mockery: “We’ve got to turn over a new leaf and look forward.”
A man or woman approaches to see what all the ruckus is about and is suddenly surrounded by law enforcement. While they shove, beat, and kick her or him as they take her to the squad car, you manage to see that a well-known television channel’s cameras are pointed somewhere else.
An indigenous Zapatista in the bad government’s (PRI-PAN-PRD-PT-MC) jail for years. He reads in the newspaper: “Why did the EZLN reappear now that the PRI has returned to power? Very suspicious.”
Are you still with us?
Do you feel with certainty that you’re out of place?
Do you feel the fear from being ignored, insulted, beaten, mocked, humiliated, raped, imprisoned, murdered just because of who you are?
Do you feel the impotence of not being able to do anything to avoid it, to defend yourself, to be heard?
Do you curse the moment that you went to that place, the day you were born, the hour you began to read this text?
Several of the aforementioned examples have names, calendars, and geographies:
Juan Francisco Kuykendall Leal. The compa “Kuy,” adherent to the Other Campaign, professor, thespian, director. Skull smashed open on December 1, 2012, by a shot from “law enforcement.” He planned to do a play about Enrique Peña Nieto.
José Uriel Sandoval Díaz. Young student at the Autonomous University of Mexico City and member of the Student Struggle Committee. He lost an eye in the repression on December 1, 2012, as a result of a “law enforcement” attack. He was planning to resist the imposition of Enrique Peña Nieto.
Celedonio Prudencio Monroy. Indigneous Nahua. Kidnapped on October 23, 2012 by “law enforcement.” He was planning to resist the plundering of Nahua lands by mining companies and loggers.
Adrián Javier González Villareal. Young student at the National Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon’s Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Department in Mexico, murdered in January 2013 by “law enforcement.” He was planning to graduate and become a successful professional.
Cruz Morales Calderón and Juvencio Lascurain. Peasants taken prisoner in Veracruz, 2010-2011, by “law enforcement.” They were planning on resisting the plundering of their lands by real estate companies.
Matías Valentín Catrileo Quezada. Young indigenous Mapuche, murdered on January 3, 2008, in Chile, Latin America, by “law enforcement.” He was planning on resisting the plundering of Mapuche land by the government, estate owners, and transnational companies.
Francisco Sántiz López, indigenous Zapatista, unjustly imprisoned by “law enforcement.” He was planning on resisting the government counterinsurgency campaign of [former Chiapas governor] Juan Sabines Guerrero and [former president] Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.
Now… don’t despair, we’re almost done…
Now imagine that you aren’t afraid, or you are but you get it under control.
Imagine that you go and, in front of the mirror, not only do you not hide anything or cover up your difference with makeup, and instead you emphasize it.
Imagine that you turn your difference into a shield and weapon, you defend yourself, you find others like you, you organize, you resist, you struggle, and without even realizing it, you go from “I’m different” to “we’re different.”
Imagine that you don’t hide behind “maturity” and “good judgement,” behind “now is not the time,” “the conditions aren’t right,” “we have to wait,” “it’s useless,” “there’s no way to fix it.”
Imagine that you don’t sell out, that you don’t give up, that you don’t give in.
Can you imagine it?
Ok, well even though neither we nor you know it yet, we’re part of a “we” that’s bigger and has yet to be built.
(to be continued…)
From any corner of any world.
Listen and watch the video that accompanies this text:
“Born Free” by M.I.A. (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam). Video director: Romain Gavras (son of Costa Gavras). Photography: André Chemetoff. Produced by: Mourad Belkeddar. Executive Producer: Gaetan Rousseau / Paradoxal. This video was censored by YouTube due to its content.
“Burnin’ an Lootin” by Bob Marley. Video is the beginning of “La Haine” (“The Hatred”), written and directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995. Subtitles in Spanish.
Translated from the original Spanish by Kristin Bricker.