Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Ethics of a Warrior

by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

[Fragment from the Conference “Ethics and Politics” in the Ché Guevara Auditorium, June 8, 2007]

The ethics of a warrior can be summarized in the following points:

1. To be constantly willing to learn and to do. The fundamental phrase that is essential to being a warrior is “I don’t know”. At the same time the “Big Heads”, as Comandante Tacho once said, give their opinion over all matters and pretend to know everything, the warrior watches the unknown with the same capacity and admiration that one has with something new. As we progress on the path we walk with the Sixth Declaration, we do not destribute judgements nor formulas. We listen and we see in order to learn. Not to supplant our ideas or to direct others actions, but to resepect the work others are doing. Respect to other men and women, is how we come to know each other as “compañero”, “compañera”.

2. To be at the service of a material cause. It’s not about struggling for unattainable goals, nor to be deceived by our enemies, battles, defeats and victories. We know that there have been and will be future anguish, some without reprieve, like the anguish of the death of Alexis Benhumea, our compañero and a student at this University, who was murdered by the state only a year ago. There are also others who bring us to a rabid state, like the knowledge that our compañeras and compañeros who remain in prison from Atenco: Nacho, Magdalena, Mariana, to mention just three.

But we also know that these injuries that do not heal have a path, a destiny, an end. And that the grand cause that motivates us does not inhibit nor subordinate the causes of all sizes, rather through them materializes.

3. To respect our ancestors and those who came before us. Memory is the sustenance of the warrior. The water we irrigate our movement with is our history. Not limited to our identity as Zapatistas, as Indigenous, and as Mexicans. Where others read and focus on failures, in order to justify surrender, we read teachings and ways of being. Where others see personalities, charismatic leaders and heroes, we see entire communities embodying the function of teachers that go the distance, over time, geographies and way of being. The history of below is nothing less than an immense collective memory.

4. To exist for the good of humanity, in other words, Justice. It’s important to differentiate, I did not say in order to “take power”, nor “to achieve a political appointment”, nor to “become a part of history”, nor “to solve all of the oppressed problems from above”. On the contrary, I’m advocating to voice by naming and to bring forward that grand void, silence, interstitial space in the walk of those below and to the left: Justice. Not because it can be found somewhere, hidden, waiting to be discovered by some illuminated being who will save us that our calendars will be filled with monuments, busts and statues of this grand savior, but because it is something that is constructed, built the way everything that makes us human beings is constructed, collectively.

5. For this struggle that we know is difficult and endless I would add, we need to build up an arsenal of weapons and toolkits that have nothing to do with what is already found in the pages of any newspaper or in the TV news. Weapons and tools like the sciences, technical knowledge and the arts. And most of all our word.

For circumstances that I will not digress upon today, Zapatistas tend to look for and seek worlds of possibilities where there is currently no words in the dictionary to describe.

But just as we see towards the horizon as if it were at the turn of the corner, we also acknowledge the local and present with the commitment of time and distance that we create with our own geography and our own calendar.

The most important (and also most forgotten) point is that a warrior needs to cultivate a capacity to see towards the horizon, to imagine a completed and meaningful end, to overcome the valleys and crests of the road getting there, the misfortunes and their solutions. A warrior needs to be wise in the struggle, this means: to determine what are the essential points of a situation, where efforts should be applied and what battles need to be won and which ones can afford to be lost.

The warrior needs to pay attention and dedicate themselves to the small things and the big, the superficial and the profound, and to generate a three-dimensional map where each part has a precise understanding and there is an analysis of the big picture, that the big picture is accountable, legitimates and gives reason to all its parts.

It is in this manner, that the warrior should seek a rhythm, in other words, the connections between the parts of the big picture. And not succumb to the urgency of rash action that in the end leaves out the most important cause in order to deal with the immediate threat.

In this ethics, therefore, is about not thinking outside of dignity, to not be or act in a dishonest manner. To always be open to learning, always be preparing oneself, to know all the avenues possible, their geography, their pace, their rhythms. Not to be a part of each individual struggle, but in order to know them, and with them walk together and arrive together.

It is not the present, the immediate, the ephemeral, that we see. Our gaze is focused further. Towards the horizon, where where we see a random man or a random woman, arise with a new and tender anguish of knowing that they must decide upon their destiny, walking through the day with the uncertainty that gives them the responsibility to fulfill the meaning of the word “liberty”.

Our gaze is in that moment, in that time and place where someone is giving a gift to someone else. It is so far that we cannot yet distinguish if the gift being offered is a red flower or a star, or the sun, or the moon.

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