Originally published in Spanish by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Translated by irlandesa
On bricks, curtains and fish
(Dialogue between Durito, Juan de Mairena and a superfluous nose)
I must publicly apologize: the present text, in its basic corpus, does not belong to me, rather it is the transcription of a recorded tape. Said recording tape (or “cassette” for the rabble), has been surreptitiously extracted from the backpack of someone who looks extraordinarily like a beetle.
It could be seen as astonishing and scandalous that, in this digital age, someone would still resort to a “cassette” for recording and reproducing, but that would be nothing compared to the stupefaction that would arise from knowing that the individual in question is, in effect, a beetle. And from there deducing (it cannot be forgotten that it is a fortunate presentation which makes the audience and the reader feel verrry intelligent) that that beetle calls himself “Don Durito of La Lacandona,” is a fairly regular, that is, light to moderate, step.
Accepting this small but thick package of facts, regardless of whether they take place in real reality or in our bedeviled imagination, is an achievement for which I applaud you all. During these times of political platforms being defined in their proper dimensions (that is, as publicity “spots”), of “passes for the network” and polls which do indeed summon the entire Nation (those having to do with what place the Mexican football team will have in the World Cup), of “deep” analyses of the “correlation of forces” by pedants who call themselves the part and the whole of “progressive intellectualism,” of situating the government spokesperson in policemen’s penises (Atenco) and in grenade launchers (Atenco and Oaxaca), of the “high-level” of columnists and editorial writers who comment on and analyze what is said by…other columnists and editorial writers. In sum, in these times of “political realism” the fact that there are still people (well, it seems as if some of them even have jobs) who allow room in their hearts for accepting the existence of a beetle who professes to the misunderstood profession of knight errantry is, to put it modestly, simply marvelous.
Not just because that means I’m no longer alone with the heavy burden of knowing of the existence of this strange being, but also and above all because it is irrefutable evidence that there are still people willing to be astonished by the marvels which walk below and which, therefore, are only perceived by those who know how to see the path and the way.
The beetle in question calls himself, as almost no one here will know, Don Durito of La Lacandona, I.C. of A.I. of I.I. (for its initials: Individuality Known of Invariable Anti-capital of Unlimited Irresponsibility), Copyleft no of the Circle but Squared of Knights Errant, of which, incidentally, he is lifetime President and sole member.
Taking advantage of the fact that he is not, I believe, present, I will divest Durito of all the paraphernalia flaunted by his form of address, and I will call him “Simply Durito”.
Durito, without being invited, has traveled a good part of the lands of this unhealed wound which we call “Mexico” to be here with us in order to demand liberty and justice for the prisoners of Atenco.
He arrived, as is law, at dawn, carrying his baggage in one of those backpacks carried by the secondary school/corner/with/degree/poorly/paid/job/and/or/unemployed/but/safe/getting by/safe kids.
He was not invited to this writers’ meeting, despite the fact that he professes that exhilaration for the written word which the organizers would have had to reproach. Although perhaps they didn’t invite him because they feared he wouldn’t keep his word and would display that irresponsibility for which knights errant have been so famous, ever since that of the sad figure who exhibited said quality on the roads of Iberian La Mancha.
One cannot make serious plans with Durito. Not because he lacks formality (let us not forget that he is, yes, a beetle, but also a knight errant), but because he will suddenly grab his skateboard and head downhill, and I want you to see a security bubble here.
Yes, sometimes he just goes away. Other times he goes leaving a note which laconically states:
“My dear Face of the used shorts: Here I go then. Don’t get into (too much) trouble. Sincerely, Durito. Postscript – I took the tobacco.”
Well, so as not to tire you out too much, I’ll tell you that, when trying to recover my tobacco, I found a cassette in the backpack along with a note that read:
“For the new book, “Impossible Dialogues.” Listen: tell the redundant nose to organize an auction between the publishing houses to see which one is going to get this best seller. Author’s rights for the film, as well. The Da Vinci Code “fanfirulea” me.
End of note.
I don’t know why Durito decided to give his new creature a title like this, but we won’t worry about that now.
The dialogue we are presenting takes place between Durito, an individual about whom more will be known shortly, and the person who is making this presentation.
I said previously that I had transcribed a tape recording. When I heard it for the first time, I remembered the scene, since I had been there. It was in the “Comandanta Ramona” café, next to “El Rincon Zapatista” shop. If someone wants to go there, it’s very easy to find the place: head out as if you’re going there, but then make a U-turn where it says: “U-turns Prohibited”, and then there are a lot of traffic lights, and, when you see a good number of cops from all the agencies, bored and acting as if they’re keeping watch, there it is.
I will proceed…
It was dawn. The moon was illuminated hip of desire, although without the longed-for cleft. In the dream, a long, a long and damp kiss was opening the flower of desire and was key for opening the closed and silent heart of time.
But in the half-sleep I was picking up the mess, trying to digest some “buzzards of the world, unite” beans, and looking to see if there were a carcass of some pecan ice cream left. I had been up late listening to an alternative radio station which calls itself “La Ke Huelga”. During the program, the announcers had been digressing about dislocations.
And they moved from ankle dislocations to those of ideas, because they had been talking about love in times of revolution for a bit, and then that they agreed we were for the mobilization for the Atenco prisoners, and they moved on to love in times of repression. From there they went on to giving a lecture called “Measures against repression” or something like that, or what to do when the cops are already charging the respectable to shouts of “Against the left of below, the rule of law of above”.
I took note because of that thing about freezing. In addition to the quite classic, and of proven effectiveness, “run until you see a sign that reads ‘Welcome to Guatemala’”, they provided other measures and advice.
For example, the psychology school recommended denial, or, when the club is already on its way to its destination, shouting “No!!!!!” most convincingly. The law school would recommend, I believe, the technique of legally overwhelming the cops, shouting “Señor police officer, you are violating such and such articles of the constitution which notes that no individual can be beaten by the police if a television program has not previously intervened which presents him as a criminal” (here the riot cop wonders if the one being presented as a criminal is he, or the aforementioned against whom the rule of law is being directed, and then to feeling up, man, I’ll tell you later). The school of “instant recruitment” would advise slogans of “the uniformed peoples are also exploited” type just before, paradoxically, the tear gas grenade explodes.
There was lengthy and abundant, good and ingenious, information in the radio chat by those colleagues of “Ke Huelga”, a station I highly recommend and which broadcasts at 102.9 megahertz FM. And I’ll take the moment to send an embrace in solidarity to the compas of Radio Plantón, attacked yesterday by the police of the Oaxaca government and to all the alternative media which, below and to the left, keep us informed and recharge our batteries.
Where was I? Ah, yes! Well, it so happened that at one of the little tables in the “Comandanta Ramona” café, the only one that didn’t have books, newspapers and magazines on top of it, said Durito was sitting with an individual who was known as Juan de Mairena and who, he said, was a great friend of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado.
Durito was bogged down in Pancrema cookies and a cappuccino, with two pairs of his feet on top of the table, while Juan de Mairena, sitting quite properly, was elegantly taking a cup of tea of love.
The recording which I have faithfully transcribed here picks up some parts of the dialogue which took place between these two individuals and the “heavy duty” napkin.
It begins with the beetle speaking to me…
Durito: Listen, my dear antonym of a small nose, to the following arguments of Don Juan de Mairena:
“1. - If every exception proves a rule, a rule with exceptions will be more of a rule than would be a rule without exceptions, which would lack the exception which would prove it.
2. - A rule will be that much more of a rule the more it abounds in exceptions.
3. - The ideal rule will contain nothing but exceptions.
(Continuing this chain of reasoning , until the vortex of stupidity is reached)” (“Juan de Mairena”. Antonio Machado. Alianza Editorial, p. 40)
Me: It seems to me to be clever…and useless…reasoning.
Durito: That’s true, but not completely. Sometimes questioning the obvious leads one to a linkage which will make you forget about the Tlalpan-Taxqueno crossroads. But other times you will find that that evidence is nothing but repetitious lies…
Me: For example?
Durito: The today, that created entity, cherished and adored by modern society, the one that is arranged around the media. Is it not true that “today” is no longer a present with a past and future, and it turns into the eternal? Before it, chaos. After it, nothing.
Me: I don’t know where you’re going.
Durito (with a complicit look at Mairena): The converse would surprise me. Look, Juanito, there’s the capitalist system. Is it not true that it presents itself as eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent?
Juan de Mairena: Certainly.
Durito: Is it not true that its presence is accepted as an inevitable, primary destiny, and later as the only one possible, and then later again as the best one we have had?
Juan de Mairena: “It is what happens always: a fact is noted, afterwards it is accepted as fate. Finally it is turned into a flag. If it is discovered one day that the fact was not completely true, or that it was completely false, the flag, more or less faded, would not stop waving.” (Ibid, p. 77).
Durito: Right, a faded flag waving. That, and nothing else, is what the apologists for capitalism are doing. Now, what would happen if we were to question that whole construct?
Me: (feeling the need to contribute something to the debate): Hmm…I don’t know…we’d get bored?
Durito (looking at me disapprovingly): Besides that?
Me (with the need to go and “cincuentear”): Hmm…We’d get into trouble?
Durito (applauding with those paws which were not on top of the table or occupied with the Pancrema cookies): Correct! You got it right, my dear face of the undershirt of come/come/breaking/breaking/the/blow/warning! We would have knowledge that would get us into such predicaments that you would forget about the Hidalgo metro station at rush hour…
Me (boasting): Since we’re on the subject of public transportation, I want to denounce that the other day I went down to the metro, and they copped a feel [tortear, from torte, sandwich]…
Durito: Come on! Don’t act like a rag doll!
Me: Yes, they sold me a sandwich with ham that was as skimpy as the Governor of the State of Mexico’s brain.
Durito (stating this to the abovementioned Mairena): I am afraid, my dear sir, that we are getting off the subject. We were questioning the capitalist system. Or, better, questioning its omnipresence…
Me (focused on the issue): And the beans didn’t agree with me. They wouldn’t have passed inspection.
Durito (openly angry now): The level of debate is declining.
Juan de Mairena: Yes, yes, proceed.
Durito: Thank you, Don Juan. The elemental tools for questioning have to do with history. By studying it, we will see…
1. That this system, the capitalist one, has not existed forever.
2. That its origin has nothing to do with the spirit, the deity of choice or idealism, but with dispossession (or theft), exploitation, repression and contempt, in sum: crime.
3. That its growth and development go hand in hand with that which gave it life.
Me (putting my spoon into the conversation and into a bottle of past its used-by date pecan ice cream): But this just leads to proving the omnipotence of capitalism, in that the bad who are seen as good always win.
Durito (opening another package of cookies): I have not finished…What are the founding and fundamental tricks of this system? Equality and liberty. Capitalism says and repeats unto death that it is based in an egalitarian society and, therefore, it turns itself into the guarantor of that equality. In capitalist society we are all human beings and, therefore, we are all equals. Equal before the law, for example.
Me (lamenting the inequality which makes Durito devour all the cookies while I’m left to sweep up the mess he leaves): But that’s not true, or at least some are more equal than others. Here are the Atenco prisoners, and here are the Bribriesca children of Martha Sahagún. As if there were two laws: one for below and one for above.
Durito (throwing a fork at me for the obvious purpose of stifling the free expression of my ideas): According to capitalism, human beings are free, free to work, to become rich, to vote, to be an official, to express their thoughts.
Juan de Mairena: “The free expression of thought is an important, but secondary, problem to ours, which is that of freedom of thought itself. For one, we ask ourselves whether the thought, our thought, that of each of us, can take place with complete liberty, regardless of the fact that, then, we are allowed, or not allowed, to express it. Let us ask rhetorically: Of what use to us would be the free expression of an enslaved thought?” (Ibid, p. 179)
Durito: Good point, Don Juan. But let us go on questioning, even if they label us skeptics.
Juan de Mairena: “A devastating argument has been put forth against skepticism: The one who denies the existence of truth, assuming that is the truth, and affirms in the conclusion what was denied in the premise, contradicts oneself. I assume this argument will not have convinced any of the purebred skeptics (…) Skepticism is a vital, not logical, position, which neither affirms nor denies, it limits itself to questioning, and it is not frightened by contradictions.” (Ibid, p. 47).
Durito: Cheers for that! Then let us ask: Are we equal? Are we free? And when do we ask these questions? Let us agree to ask them now, since it is above the affirmative response to both that entire edifices of ideas…and of bricks…shall be raised.
If we answer “yes”, excuse me if I’m being rude, then I don’t understand what we are doing here. And I’m not referring to here, in this zapatista corner or to that meeting of writers for liberty and justice for the Atenco prisoners, to which they did not invite me, but to this Mexico which, below and to the left, is trying to build a path and a way, without being clear about anything other than the agreed destination.
But we are here and there for something. Perhaps, within that infinite and chaotic universe which is the “something”, it is because we answer “NO!” to those questions “Are we equal?”, “Are we free?” And with this “NO!”, we are not only putting in jeopardy the entire legal foundation of that which is called the “Rule of law” (a name which, obviously, is posited against what would be the “State of the left”), we would also be starting to question the evidence that turns into tombstones for lack of critique. We would stop swallowing what they administer to us every day from above as if it were something true.
Juan de Mairena: “It is a normal tendency for men to believe something true when it proves useful to them. That is why there are so many men who are capable of falling for things.” (Ibid, p. 67).
Durito: Then capitalist politics in the modern age would be the art of making the greatest possible number of persons swallow things. And, nonetheless, it is increasingly difficult, or at least when more “others” appear who reject the indigestion those truths provoke. As if the politics of above is no longer what it was, and I’m not saying that nostalgically, but noting a fact. It is chaos now.
Juan de Mairena: “One must demand of the public man, and most especially of the politician, that he possess the public virtues, all of which can be summed up in one: fidelity to one’s own mask. (…) a public man who is bad in public is much worse than a public woman who is not good in private. Joking aside – (…) – take note that there is no political imbroglio that is not an exchange, a confusion of masks, a bad comedy rehearsal in which no one knows his role.” (Ibid, p. 81).
Durito: Excellent, Don Juan! You have precisely defined what politics in Mexico is now: a bad comedy in which no one knows his role. That is why there is so much mistrust of politics and so much reluctance to construct a new politics.
Juan de Mairena: “Politics, gentlemen – Mairena went on – is an extremely important activity…I would never counsel being apolitical, but, as a last resort, scorn for bad politics which makes social climbers and cushy jobseekers with no purpose other than that of gaining profits and securing positions for their relatives. You should engage in politics, although I would tell something else to those who try to do so without you and, naturally, to those against you.” (Ibid, p. 136)
Durito: Then another politics would be necessary. Necessary, urgent, merited. And it seems to me that here the role of critical thought, of the intellectuals, is very important.
Juan de Mairena: “It is said that intellectuals have not done anything useful in politics thus far. Intellectuals are confused with pedants.” (Ibid, p. 54)
Me: Well now, what’s this about pedantry?
Juan de Mairena: “The specifically pedantic is denying things when they are not the way we think them to be. But things are never the way we think they are, they are much more serious and complex.” (Ibidem)
Durito: Then what would be the role of critical intellectuals? That of luxuriating spectators while society is being destroyed in the theater of politics?
Juan de Mairena: “But have you not yet noticed that almost always, when the curtain is lifted or opened in the modern theater, a room appears with three walls, lacking that fourth wall which the rooms we inhabit have? Why are you not amazed (…) by that terrible lack of verisimilitude? Because, without the absence of that fourth wall (…), how could we know what was going on inside this room?” (Ibid, p. 152).
Durito: I understand. The work of the intellectuals would be exactly that, taking down the fourth wall of the political space, showing it as it is, without anything being concealed, so we can all know what is going on in that room, and acting accordingly. Today there is a hidden injustice in the room of Power: the one that killed Alexis Benhumea Hernández, the one that raped the Atenco prisoners, the one that is illegally keeping upright men and women imprisoned, the one that represses in Oaxaca and in all the corners of the Mexico of below and to the left. That is why…
The recording ends here. I have decided to bring his transcription here because I know quite well that there are writers, bright critics, here, willing to protest against the injustice which murdered Alexis, which raped our compañeras, which keeps social activists imprisoned, which chooses repression instead of dialogue.
Because there are, among these writers, those who produce plays and, through that, are raising the curtain which allows us to see not only what is going on up above, but also inside us. Because not a few are also making poetry with the slippery bricks of words. Slippery, like a fish.
“Poetry is,” Mairena said, “the dialogue of man, of a man with his times. That is what poetry tries to make eternal, taking it out of time, difficult work which requires much time, almost all the time the poet has. The poet is a fisherman, not of fish, but of living fish, let us understand each other: of fish which can live after being caught.” (Ibid, p. 106).
Cheers to these fisherwomen and fishermen who, with words, help us to look, to look at ourselves and who are, along with us, demanding liberty and justice for the prisoners of Atenco.
From the Other Mexico City.
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, June 15 of 2006.