“If our epoch thinks this way,” the world says to itself, “who is (no)one to say otherwise”? Who are the politicians to do so if they should obey us? Who are the judges to do so if their decisions are obligated to reflect and please us? Who are the journalists and essayists to do so if their opinions should meld with our own? Who are the thinkers to do so…given that they aren’t even necessary to us? Who are the law makers to say otherwise if they are supposed to establish laws following our dictates?”
–Javier Marias, “When Society Is The Tyrant.” (from El País Semanal, May 13, 2018) *
(*) I don’t know if citing Javier Marías (whose novels A Heart So White andTomorrow In The Battle Think on Me eased the sleeplessness of the now deceased SubMarcos during the nights after the betrayal which took place in February of 1995) makes me part of the conservatives’ and neoliberals’ “mafia of power.” I mean, I bring this up given the fact that Javier Marias has worked with the Spanish newspaper El País and that he tends to sharply question the evidence when others tend to swallow it hook, line, and sinker without so much as a whimper and that he’s intelligent and can’t (nor do I think that he wants to) hide it. In addition, let’s not forget that that he’s a monarchist because he is king, Xavier I, of the Kingdom of Redonda and a member of the Royal Academy of Spain. All of these reasons are more than enough reason to tag him as a “conservative/neoliberal/enemy of the people and its vanguard which is marching inexorably to the fulfillment of all history,” by the new thought police that we now suffer. As I’m sure you all know by now, I care a lot about “what people say” about me because I have a reputation to protect. Given this concern I had to think carefully and in all seriousness about this citation…for all of a fraction of a second. At that moment I saw hashtags, trending topics, likes and dislikes, facebook rants, whatsapps, instagrams, morning press conferences, and opinion columns all flash before my eyes filled with condemnations and damning tags.
In my defense, I thought I could mention the fact that along with the Javier Marías books that the now deceased SubMarcos carried during those dark days, you could also find books by Manuel Vazquez Montalbán as well as Miguel Hernandez’s Expert in Moons. I thought I could also bring up the fact that Javier Marías is a fan of (or was a fan of—support for a football team is like love—it’s eternal, until it ends) Real Madrid, that Manuel Vázquez Montalbán is a fan of Barcelona, that Mario Benedetti is a fan of Nacional from Montevideo, Almuneda Grandes supports Atlético Madrid, Juan Villoro backs Necaxa and that I, in contrast, with my provincial chauvinism which is all the rage, support Jaguares from Chiapas.
(N.B.! Instead of using Baseball, the sport that has become the official sport and the sport of officialdom, I prefer to use soccer as my referent. So, make sure to add these additional sins onto my sentence.)
I imagine that with a backpack packed with these “weapons”—it’s also rumored that the backpack contained a bilingual edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the two volumes of The Ingenious Hidalgo, Don Quijote de La Mancha, and an absurd French-Spanish-French dictionary—the deceased SubMarcos must have envied Guy Montag to no end for having found a library filled with texts that had been bound in the brains of the outlaws found in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 Fahrenheit 451. It must have been SubMarcos’ wet dream to command a human library instead of troops: “Attention! This is the battle plan: First, Joyce and Beckett will sow bewilderment and confusion among the enemy ranks; next, Saramago, Neruda, and Gelman will flank the enemy to their left and Vargas Llosa, Paz, and Solzhenistyn will do the same but to their right. At the same time García Lorca, Wilde, Sor Juana, and Woolf will flip their positions, and the rest will move as a single block. Ok, you should already know this but, if there’s a lot of them we’ll run, if there’s few of them we’ll hide, but if there’s no one there then “forward! We were all born to die! Ok, any questions, doubts, anxieties, anger, fuck yous? No! Dylan, you’re on the tambourine!”
One time I ask the now deceased SubMarcos if he actually read all that stuff that he was carrying. He told me he didn’t, that he carried it so that if they killed him his executioners would at least have something they could entertain themselves during the time it took him to finally die. Yes, I know, SubMarcos’ dark humor wasn’t well received…well, it wasn’t just his dark humor that wasn’t liked.
In sum, as I was saying, I was doubting whether I should cite Javier Marías instead of Lenin, the two Marxes (Karl and Groucho), Malatesta, Trotsky, Mao, or that Manual of Historic(al) Material(ism)—Polyester. I weighed all the pros and cons of doing so and since I found no pros and so many cons I decided I would definitely have to cite him so that in that way I could add to my already immense popularity among the intellectuals of the Fourth Transformation [IV T]. I should make clear that Javier Marías is entirely innocent in this assault against political correctness due to the simple fact I’ve never spoken to him. I hope that if he finds out about this that he’ll have the generosity to simply, as they say over there [in Spain], “look past me” with the same face that one would look at the passing of an untimely insect—an insect that might very well be a beetle. _*_ If modernity consists of the fact that, instead of throwing stones at what people don’t understand (which is what makes that thing “different”) now they use tweets and dislikes, well then, the world must be making progress. From stoning into the bonfire, from there to the gallows. Next, up against the firing squad, followed shortly thereafter by exile and the pogroms. After that, concentration camps and strategic hamlets. Closer to home, the walls, the border patrol, “votre papiers, s’il vous plait.”
Social Media simply isn’t enough to “purify” the newly enthroned Aryan race: ignorance. The system also requires the violence of the state institutions in order to “complete” its raids. I don’t know if the aversion to what is different was already in the DNA of the founding Big Bang of the Universe, but ignorance has always persecuted and attacked knowledge and what makes it possible: intelligence.
If the dark ages used to move at the pace of carts and galleons, today it travels in yottabytes (a yottabyte=a 1 followed by 24 zeros of bytes) and the speed of light. We might even say that social media has the government that it deserves. But even there on social media there are those who resist and rebel. There’s always someone who doesn’t follow the pied piper of the latest trending topic and who instead decides to reflect, to analyze, to doubt, to question. It’s a tiny minority that’s been cornered and swept away by “influencers” and other such cretins who have discovered that stupidity can also get you fame and social recognition. Still, the very potential of social media is also its limit: the fleeting is what leads attention by the nose and pressing pause isn’t a possibility if one is to stay up on the latest. The worst enemy of a scandal is the next scandal that follows it almost instantaneously. Traditional media is dragged back and forth by this virtual drunkenness. Almost the entirety of the printed press does nothing but try to recycle what’s already trending on social media, but no matter how much effort they make they’re always bringing up the rear. A press that can fill this vacuum by investigating, by eliciting reflection, by feeding intelligence and giving wind to the sails of knowledge has yet to be seen.
In the way it sees fit, and with an enormous technological apparatus at its disposal, the system fights off reality in the most effective way possible, by creating another reality and drawing all the attention and energy of the people-people toward this alternate reality. For example, you look upon and evaluate governments, whether positively or negatively, not by referring to their acts, their decisions, their capacity to respond to unforeseen circumstances, but rather by pointing to their virtual popularity. In this way, bad governments can triumph on these “darned” social media while real reality insists on marching us all toward the abyss. Virtual reality clothes the naked emperor in modesty; the tyrant is presented as a democrat; the reactionary as transformational; the imbecile as intelligent; and the ignorant as a sage.
But that’s not it. The system has also rediscovered that hunting down those who are different will provide you with followers and therefore the utterances and judgements of characters like Trump, Bolsonaro, Macri, Moreno, López Obrador, Ortega, Piñera, Putin, Macron, Merkel, Tsipras, Johnson and ____________ (fill in the blank) provoked howls of approval on social media. That’s how judgments and sentence are passed down today that are much more than just words and that should scandalize anyone with even a minimum of decency. The migra [in both the U.S. and Mexico], the minutemen in the U.S., and the National Guard [Mexico’s] enforce the sentence that has been passed against migrants, while the “left radicals, that in my eyes are nothing but conservatives” (dixit López Obrador) are forewarned by the hitmen that shot Samir Flores Soberanes. Meanwhile the washing of hands continues unabated, Trump will condemn the massacre in El Paso and López Obrador will say, while he’s in talks with big business, that he’ll investigate Samir’s assassination.
We’re not going to offend anyone by insisting that we told you so (but…we did tell you so).
The serpent, now free of its shell, stretches out and rejoices. It celebrates and applauds itself while slowly, ever so slowly, the constrictive embrace of one-dimensional thought does its work. No one should oppose the powerful! No one should defy his omnipotence over the press, social media, or the academy. No one should oppose his disdain for the arts, for science, no one should call out his corrupt financial practices, his benedictions and damnations from the pulpit—a pulpit built upon a foundation of lies, simulations, threats already delivered upon, and the attacks (virtual and real) by those maroon shirts that slowly begin to turn brown. No one should dare to recognize reality as their referent and therefore look beyond the angry and tedious sermons and diatribes of the one who appears alone, and only, on stage.
Awww, we know, so much confusion! Up there they say that everything is fine and here below we tell you everything is fucked and it’s going to get worse. But for now, all critical thought, all scientific analysis, and all art that reveals and rebels, has in front of them not reality but a tag that labels them “right wing,” “conservative,” “reactionary,” or “fifi” or whatever might come to the lips of the inquisitor-in-chief and overseer that’s charged with dishing out damnations and condemnations on this plantation we now suffer.
And by the way you’re right, the comic tantrums thrown by Felipe Calderon, by Vicente Fox, by a rancid PAN, by a PRI that survives only by bribing the coroner into setting back the time of death, by a PRD that will some way have to demonstrate that it still exists, and by those “thinkers” that accompany all of these, seem to have been created by the ruling party itself because all they are able to accomplish is: They provide material that can easily be refuted even by someone who seems totally lost. This serves to perfunctorily disqualify any criticism or observation that might actually be based in rigorous research and analysis. Which also means that any criticism, that might not even come from the left but from progressive sectors or liberal democrats, starts to sound like another brick in the wall of a plot or “soft coup” (the latest fashionable hoax) behind which the supreme leader can hide indefinitely.
Naturally, you would expect a bit of seriousness, more analysis and less sloganeering from each side. But there isn’t any seriousness nor analysis and there won’t be any either. The sectors of the right that are fighting it out, and that have reduced the left and the progressive sectors to mere spectators, are at war. Some are at war so that they can stay in Power (or at least in what they think is Power) and others so that they can return to that same privileged location, so that they can return to the pulpit from which they might once again reign.
But who can I believe?
That’s right: nobody.
Not even reality?
Look, listen, feel, smell, speak, and suffer your reality because, yes, we know that it’s raining everywhere and on everyone. Maybe some are just barely starting to feel the first cold drops beating down on their body. But for others, and not only for indigenous peoples, this rain today is coming down after another rain, after another, after another; dispossession, theft, threats, persecution, jail, disappearance, rapes, poundings, death…and yes, sometimes even charity.
Can we make a list of those it’s raining on? That would be difficult but a first attempt might look like this:
-The family of the imprisoned, the murdered, the disappeared who are searching for truth and justice and an answer to that question for which there will never be a reply: “Why!?” That great absurd chaos that today distributed absence just because, because of statistical probability, like the lottery. If death can be terrible, not knowing what happened or why it happened is simply outside of all human logic and yet it’s a level of cruelty that could only be the result of the machinations of the human mind.
-Others, who have finally found equality with women of all ages, children, the elderly, men, all of them assassinated and disappeared. Death and that incredibly cruel limbo of disappearance finally creating equality across genders, races, and colors.
-Peoples under invasion by the most absurd megaprojects, humiliated by the same hand-outs as always under a different name but with the same requirements as before: Lower your head! Obey! Kneel! Humiliate yourself! Give up! Disappear! In addition to that weapon wielded by that “progressive” hitman who killed Samir Flores believing that by killing him he would die, that by killing him, they would kill his cause.
-Journalists censured by threats, blackmail, harassment (virtual and real), disappearance, jail, murder.
-Workers from countryside and the city, weighed down with work until yesterday, today or any day, unemployed and indebted.
-Doctors and nurses who have to ask their patients to bring their own gauze, their own needle, their own bandage, their own medicine, “because there’s nothing and all I can tell you is what’s going to kill you which at this point is already a lot given the situation. But look, let me give you a list of the promises that the government has made. That’s right, in the meantime I would recommend that you wait to get sick until next year and maybe then….”
-Organizations, groups, and political and social collectives on the left that are faced with the choice: surrender or be persecuted.
-Any random person who has been assaulted, extorted, kidnapped, disappeared, murdered, or dispossessed of that which they earned through their work, or who have been robbed of freedom and of their life.
-Scientists with no funding, Artists and other creators with no place to work, Intellectuals who sin by just thinking (“Oh come on man! Thinking isn’t a sin, it’s just saying what you think that’s the sin, get it straight.”). Everything is neoliberal and “fifi” until the proper accreditation from Power has been verified in the morning press conferences that are meant to kill news columns, analysis, reports, research, knowledge, and intelligence.
-Migrants that are after the American Dream and yet only find Mexican nightmares wearing the badges of the Mexican National Guard that looks for legitimacy by proving that that cruelty against that which is different can also have citizenship in that place where the stamp depicts an eagle devouring a serpent.
If you are not on this list and you don’t have any family, friends or acquaintances who might fit into one of the categories on this list then I have no idea what you’re doing reading this. Oh! Maybe you got here because of google! Oh, Google and Youtube, “How unsearchable are your judgments and how inscrutable are your ways” (Romans 11:33.) Yes, I googled it, I couldn’t help myself and anyway today it’s all the rage to cite the Bible willy nilly.
You’re still here? Ok, but it’s on you. I’m warning you that you’ll have to read and reading my friends is like making love—there’s lots of positions, ways, calendars, geographies, technics, and technologies. But even so we’ll always be lacking a Kama Sutra for reading.
Are you ready? Grab a coffee? A soda? A water? Some tobacco? Some legal or illegal substance? Here we go…
But first, let’s use a little imagination. Let’s take a look at one possible reality. After all, thanks to science (which today btw has been displaced by the frivolity of the pseudo-sciences, by a clean shaven esotericism, by new age and its holistic rear end summed up in a note, “Looking to trade my laboratory for a yoga studio!” and by the “like” button as a criterion of truth) we know that fiction is but another feasible reality.
Ok, tell me, the rain that’s about to fall, will it be hard? How hard? Have you ever seen the rain comin’ down on a sunny day?
(To be continued….)
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
(Practicing my Ommmm so I can apply for funding from Conacyt[i])
Mexico, August of 2019
From the Notebooks of the Cat-Dog:
-The tyrant abhors intelligence. Not only because intelligence questions and defies them but also above all else because they don’t have it. Since intelligence remains unreachable for the tyrant, they prohibit it and persecute it. Fear the boss who is agile and sly but doubly fear the boss who is ignorant because ignorance dehumanizes through consensus and ends up enslaving us. And more times than not naïve hope is nothing other than a well-dressed ignorance.
-Ignorance will always have more followers than intelligence and knowledge. Not only because ignorance is just easier but also because ignorance never goes out of style and is always popular and therefore attractive.
-Ignorance is more profitable than intelligence and knowledge and also cheaper.
-Ignorance is the mother of cowardice, betrayal, and forgetfulness.
-The tyrant always sows and grows ignorance. The ignorant will always need a pastor to lead them. The tyrant will always need a flock to follow them.
-Intelligence is the fruit of growth through knowledge and its thirst can never be quenched even when it is watered by other sources.
-With knowledge, intelligence discovers that the tyrant is not only unnecessary but also has an expiration date, which is the same date as the exhaustion of the patience of the slave.
-Intelligence does not die, it does not surrender. Perhaps at times it hides and waits for the right moment to become a shield and a weapon. In the Zapatista communities of the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, intelligence transformed into knowledge is also referred to as “dignity.”
I bear witness.
The Undocumented Cat-Dog
Rrruff-meow (or is it the reverse?)
Mexico, August of 2019, The rain begins to fall.
[i] Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia, or National Council on Science and Technology.