Tuesday, April 25, 2006

IRC Americas Program | An Uprising Against the Inevitable

IRC Americas Program | An Uprising Against the Inevitable :

" 'The inevitable' has a name today: fragmented globalization,the end of history, the omnipresence and omnipotence of money, the substitution of politics for police, the present as the only possible future, rationalization of social inequality, justification of super-exploitation of human beings and natural resources, racism, intolerance, war."
- Subcomandante Marcos"

The need to spread power, the Foucault vision, and the chameleon-like nature of power in modern life are basic themes of most currents of feminism. Early feminist critiques of hierarchical power also focused on empowerment rather than taking control of centralized power. To rule by obeying and empowerment imply a profound reconstruction of power, both its content and its distribution. In this sense, women and Indian peoples share the experience of being the “other” usually located outside the realm of power. From there, or rather from a multitude of ‘theres,' they construct a vision out of resistance; a rejection of the formal structures of domination but also of a hegemonic way of thinking and formulating the world that subordinates or represses all other ways. It follows that to build a deep democracy, the power of the state must fundamentally change and not just change hands.

The Zapatista concept of democracy, like the indigenous concept seen in other countries of Latin America, challenges the liberal formulation by positing the central role of difference in society. It does not view citizens as indistinguishable cogs in a democratic machine, each with an identical function that corresponds to the exercise of individual rights—mainly voting to delegate representation. Rather it sees the “others”, marginalized for diverse reasons by the economic system, as the building blocks of a new world. These new social actors are not defined exclusively by their relationship to the means of production nor by an immutable identity politics; “the other” posits a new way of affirming identity without congealing it. Ideally all this comes together at some point much as the magazine Rebeldía describes the Zapatista Other Campaign: “…many collective actors begin to recognize each other as ‘others' and begin to imagine what it would mean to be part of a political project that didn't try to homogenize or hegemonize.” Imagining, according to the Zapatista philosophy, is half the battle.

This critique of power then goes beyond the nation-state and runs as deep as the human psyche and as broad as the entire architecture of global society. As such, it becomes clear that neither a revolutionary vanguard nor an elected government can confront a challenge of this magnitude. Both inevitably wind up reproducing the structures of domination, albeit with different names or appearances. For the Zapatistas, the only solution is to build from the ground up something that will be defined along the way.

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