Monday, August 01, 2005

Listening to the Wind

marjorie says...

A lot of folks I know have been feeling particularly hopeless lately, and wondering what to do in a world so at odd with their values. This is a perennial question, but it seems particularly prevalent ever since last November.

I came across an excerpt on NarcoNews from an early 1994 essay by Subcommandante Marcos that was published as the Zapatistas were emerging in Chiapas. This excerpt, from Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds, A Storm and A Prophecy,
speaks to our malaise, being who we are and living where we live:

Not everyone hears the voices of hopelessness and conformity. Not everyone is carried away by hopelessness. There are millions of people who continue on without hearing the voices of the powerful and the indifferent. They can’t hear; they are deafened by the crying and blood that death and poverty are shouting in their ears. But, when there is a moment of rest, they hear another voice. They don’t hear the voice that comes from above; they hear the voice that is carried to them by the wind from below, a voice that is born in the Indigenous heart of the mountains. This voice speaks to them about justice and freedom, it speaks to them about socialism, about hope…the only hope that exists in the world. The oldest of the old in the Indigenous communities say that there once was a man named Zapata who rose up with his people and sang out, “Land and Freedom!” These old campesinos say that Zapata didn’t die, that he must return. These old campesinos also say that the wind and the rain and the sun tell the campesinos when to cultivate the land, when to plant and when to harvest. They say that hope is also planted and harvested. They also say that the wind and the rain and the sun are now saying something different: that with so much poverty, the time has come to harvest rebellion instead of death. That is what the old campesinos say. The powerful don’t hear; they can’t hear, they are deafened by the brutality that the Empire shouts in their ears. “Zapata,” insists the wind, the wind from below, our wind.

This is a powerful statement on what we are to do. Where are we on the spectrum between the powerful and the poor, and how does our position affect our ability to hear? Are we deafened by the brutality of Empire? What voices are most relevant to us - the voices from above or the voices below? Frankly, I think we listen way too much to the voices of the powerful. We live our lives on this merry-go-round of CNN, C-Span, Fox news, the internet, etc. etc. -- hashing out the intrigue and the ins and outs of little political maneuvers in U.S. party politics (case in point: see my most recent post) because that’s what is presented to us as the totality of the political spectrum when in fact it is just a narrow slice. And it is entirely deadening for those who think fundamental change is absolutely necessary for advancing equality and justice. Having a broader vision of how social change can happen, of where to look for leadership, of the meaning of solidarity, is key to feeling empowered rather than hopeless. If you're feeling hopeless, it could be you simply need to break out, find new avenues for social change work. Hard to do perhaps, but a much better option than checking out.