Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Zapatista at 20

Zapatista at Twenty, by Laura Carlsen via Foreign Policy in Focus.

"What reporters missed as they snuck into celebrations closed to the press is the significance of “autonomy.”

Zapatistas say the word with pride, much as you’d talk about your children or grandchildren. These communities have moved steadily off the traditional power grid. Disappointment at the Mexican government’s betrayal in rejecting its own signature on the San Andres Accords of 1996 led to a decision to de-prioritize pressuring institutions and instead build from below."

Someone like Patrick Henry would understand that very well. This sounds an awful lot like what the Founding Fathers of America created. Early America was not a rich nation. Early America didn't wave foam fingers at the world proclaiming that they were number one. They weren't number one in anything except liberty.

Imagine communities where local officials rotate to avoid accumulating power, political parties have no role or presence, and state and government programs — long used to buy off advocates for a more equal society — are banned. Much of the food is produced by the community, cooperatives do buying and marketing, and decisions are made collectively rather than being imposed by a state. The Zapatistas have attempted to resurrect this model, practiced for centuries in indigenous Mexico prior to the Spanish conquest.

Easy to imagine. All we have to do is to look to history, and find that this is a description of the communities that Americans created when they were trying to find a way to create a free society in which to live. Town hall government, short terms of office, term limits, community decisions on important questions, these are all hallmarks of early American government.

Thomas Jefferson once said:

"Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801. ME 3:318
So, look around you. Do you see these signs of freedom from early America in America today? Opponents of the US Constitution were shocked at the idea of sending someone off to Congress to represent them for two whole years without an election. I've heard at times arguments in the corporate media that every two year is too often to have these bothersome little elections and that Congress should be elected for four years. And of course term limits is one of those things that those out of power like to propose, but few if any have the integrity to actually try to pass once they hold the office themselves.

Why does this matter? Because rotating officials or term limits creates a society where those who would lead also return back into the society as regular citizens on a regular basis. Its at least harder for someone to become the sort professional politician where they do nothing but hold office and run for office. Thus its less likely to create a politician who is separate from the citizens.   Its more likely to create the ideal that early American citizens strived to create which was that of a citizen statesman. A person who never stops being a citizen, but who also serves the nation by holding office. Or at the very least, one who knows they will return to ordinary life in a few years. Which of course creates a different mindset from someone who for instance has been in Congress for a decade and who has no vision of any other life other than holding that or some higher office and being a politician until they retire and work as a lobbyist.

Modern American propaganda creates the vision of an America where the Zapatistas are extreme radicals with crazy ideas that can be labeled Marxist or Communist.  And thus their ideas are, by the very definition of the applied label, unwise, unsuitable and even unpatriotic to hold. And yet, when you get away from the corporate propaganda, you find that the details of what the Zapatistas want to create look a lot like what the founding fathers of America tried to create here after their revolution.

How is it that we've managed to somehow change the very meaning of "America" to one where these Zapatistas ideas are somehow considered dangerous and radical, when by and large the very same ideas were the very core of the freedom and liberty that America's founders tried to establish here? At some point, does a wise person start to consider that our current government of the bankers, by the bankers and for the bankers might not be the very core of the American dream like we've been taught? Is it possible that the American dream was something other than signing a mortgage with a bank? Is it possible that the American dream was something other than a car commercial tag line? Is it possible that you've been lied to?

These days, I can far more easily see people like Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson sitting by a bonfire in a Zapatista autonomous community than I can see them sitting in a modern American state or national legislature. And it seems like they'd be a lot more at home there.

This is a nice article about the Zapatistas from Laura Carlsen. Follow the link at the top and its well worth the read. Another world is possible. She visited that world, and came back with a story to tell.

No comments: