The Zapatistas and consciousness

Compañera Lizbeth reads her statement.

Compañera Lizbeth reads her statement.

The other day I was reading statements made by Zapatista women at the “Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra” seminar organized by the Zapatistas in May. In her remarks, compañera Lizbeth said:

“We are going to explain a little bit of how we have been living and doing our autonomous work after the 1994 armed uprising. We as Zapatista youth today, we are no longer familiar with the overseer, with the landowner, with the hacienda boss, much less with El Amate [a prison in Chiapas]; we do not know what it is to go to the official municipal presidents so that they can resolve our problems.”

That same day I was reading a book on the work of Carl Jung, in particular about individuation and synchronicity. I’m not going to pretend to know much about either of those things, however I do know they have to do with the development of consciousness, and how, if what he postulates is correct, the places we can reach through our consciousness are much more profound than where most of us currently are.

This led me to wonder what the difference is, if any, between the consciousness of someone born and raised in Zapatista territory after 1994, like Lizbeth, and someone born and raised under the previous system, before 1994? I believe there would be a difference, and this is the beginning of attempting to answer my own question.

First off, on the individual level, imagine being born into and growing up in a post-1994 Zapatista society and culture where one is told one matters, where one is equal to everyone else, where the focus is on autonomy, collective self-determination, integrity, justice, accountability, freedom and so forth. Where as an individual one is held up in esteem and respect, and where the cultivation of one’s authenticity is a priority, yet one is also a part of a compelling project much bigger than oneself, though of which one is an integral part, as an individual participating in collectivity.

From that starting place, it would seem that one is already ahead, consciousness-wise, of most of the world. One does not have to unlearn all the coercive and oppressive norms that industrial civilization indoctrinates us with from the instant we are born (or earlier). And one has already been inculcated with a healthy sense of worth and purpose instead. As a result, one is already a more integrated human being from the start, leaving one more time over the span of a life to becoming even further integrated and whole.

Perhaps this advanced consciousness would instigate more advanced thought processes leading to developments in forms of knowledge typically classified as the sciences or the humanities. However, these contributions may require time to be integrated by such preexisting fields, due to seeming initially unrelated as a result of having emanated out of a more developed consciousness (and from an indigenous rebel group in the global south). This in part is already happening as Zapatista statements are now being studied in the academy for their literary, as well as socio-political, qualities.

Such wondering may come across as naïve or off the wall. Rather, it is simple, it is a blog post, after all. I understand the Zapatistas are not immune to the cultural penetrations of capitalism, and that oppressive behaviors still exist there. It is not a hermetically-sealed utopia. Furthermore, living in a situation of low-intensity warfare with limited resources for self-actualization may cancel out – psychologically – the anti-authoritarian advances in consciousness, as extra time and space must be devoted to wrestling with the psychic and physical wounds of trauma and scarcity. As well, my argument rests on the premise that the orientation offered by Zapatismo is a positive development, both socio-politically and psychologically. Obviously, I believe it is. Certainly it is preferable to what the hegemonic system of neoliberal capitalism offers.

Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Primary School - “Autonomous education builds different worlds where the truths of many true worlds fit.”

Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Primary School
“Autonomous education builds different worlds where the truths of many true worlds fit.”

That said, and holding the previously discussed individual “advanced consciousness” in mind, there is more to be contemplated. If the consciousness of the parents and grandparents of Lizbeth shifted and expanded as a result of the uprising and the conditions of life created afterward in liberated Zapatista territory, then an argument can be made that Lizbeth’s consciousness inherited this expansion in addition to entering into a more consciousness-favorable environment as a result of being born in already-liberated territories.

Might these circumstances allow for this freer and advanced consciousness to have a higher likelihood of successful individuation? Of being closer to reaching wholeness? If thousands of Zapatista individuals become closer to wholeness, would this not propel the development of consciousness another step forward, as well as potentially pass that development along to be included in the collectively held experiences of the human species as well as one’s direct descendants? It sounds extravagant, but really it comes down to humans becoming more human, us becoming more ourselves, and how the Zapatistas may be contributing to that process in more ways than one.

Aside from not really having any idea what I’m talking about, I can see two other flaws with this approach. One is that if the advances of Zapatismo impact consciousness, then so do the beliefs of the dominant culture. Presumably, the contribution of Zapatismo to consciousness is available to all of us. That development in and of itself is significant, even if most humans do not hold it in conscious awareness. And perhaps for someone such as Lizbeth, this more-developed consciousness, plus being born and raised in Zapatista territory, pushes things in favor of the Zapatismo consciousness being more consciously accessible. The second flaw is that I am not aware of any dialog between depth psychology and Zapatismo, so it may appear that I’m attempting to put a Swiss psychoanalyst’s office in the Lacandon jungle, where it does not fit. I do not think the two are mutually exclusive, however, they just stem from different traditions that have not interacted much.

This is as far as my wondering has reached for now. While a bit of a departure from the typical discussions surrounding the Zapatistas, I do think it is worthy of consideration, especially for those of us who find in the Zapatistas a source of inspired resonance and motivation.

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