For a little more than a year I lived in Palestine. This text is not about that time but rather a phenomenon I first encountered there. That would be, in an overarching sense, the experience of the normalization of the expectation of the abnormal event. In this context, an abnormal event refers to an incident or circumstance that is outside the range of normative human experience and often beyond the capacity of the human psyche to make sense of or healthily integrate. During my time in Palestine, abnormal events were occurrences such as the nighttime raids of villages or homes, killings, woundings, beatings, kidnappings, tortures, and home demolitions carried out by Israeli military forces or settlers. (This is limited to the West Bank and would be much more devastating if expanded to include Gaza. Also left out are scenarios such as protests, which one enters into knowing that Israel will utilize varying levels of violence.)
Israeli forces carried out these actions with a consistency accompanied by an intentional unpredictability. In practice, this meant holding in one’s awareness the knowledge that something bad was going to happen, and soon. There was no if. When, where, and how bad? were the ever-lingering questions. And, given the limited territory on which these events occurred, would it involve those one knows or perhaps even oneself? To daily hold the apprehension, dread, or anxiety of the knowledge of an impending but unknown calamitous event is psychologically and physically exhausting. Its presence festers in the background, tingeing even the most positive or enjoyable of activities with an ambiguous darkness, an ill-at-ease that can not be put aside. For at any moment, the phone may ring or text may arrive with the news that something has happened.
With a sense of urgency, several collectives, organizations and adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, as well as support networks for the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG), met on May 9 to agree upon actions against the increased military and paramilitary presence in Zapatista territories.
The collectives also spoke out against the recent increase in attacks, including the killings of members of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI), particularly in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca.
For these reasons, the organizations agreed to hold a Global Action on May 31 against the militarization of Zapatista territory and in defense of the land, territory and autonomy of the indigenous peoples and communities of the CIG-CNI.
For the indigenous peoples of Mexico, the winds of war today seem to be the same as those of previous governments. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) government has been in power just four months and the imposition of development projects, dispossession, persecution, harassment, forced disappearances, and murders continue as before.
On May 4, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, indigenous Nahuas belonging to the Popular Indigenous Council of Guerrero – Emiliano Zapata (CIPOG-EZ), held a meeting to coordinate actions at state and federal agencies to pressure them into meeting their social and political demands that had been rejected by the three levels of government. At the end of the meeting, at approximately 6pm, an armed group in Chilapa, Guerrero, kidnapped and later murdered José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián, both members of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI).
Splat…splat…splat. Over and over. Butterflies. Mile after mile of hundreds and hundreds of butterflies. The painted ladies are doing well this year. Unfortunately for them, their migration route is intersected by Interstate 40. Here, outside of Ludlow, California, I’m committing vehicular lepidopteracide at an alarming rate. In a manner that is both macabre and hypnotic, I’m captivated by the split second before each impact when time seems to stop: the butterfly hovers mid-flight only feet away in crystal clear profile against the blue, late-morning sky, orange wings outstretched as it strives towards its singular purpose, oblivious to impending calamity. That suspended instant unfailingly passes as Chronos reasserts his reign and 3,000 pounds traveling at 75 miles an hour collides with 0.5 grams of Vanessa annabella. In a most unnatural metamorphosis, butterfly transforms into yellow smear on windshield with an onomatopoetic splat.
Crows line the highway, feasting on carcasses. At rest stops, every car appears to be covered in egg yolks or to have been shot with yellow paintballs. I think of the thousands of vehicles daily covering this stretch of interstate and wonder at how many butterfly fatalities that must add up to. Of unintended consequences in this seemingly desolate landscape of high desert. Of how I-40 killed Ludlow itself – now with a population of 10 and consisting of a gas station-cum-Dairy Queen – when it superseded Route 66. Of how I came to be driving it at that moment, saying goodbye to more than just butterflies and ghost towns.
The military industrial complex companies that are feeding the wars and authoritarian regimes of the Middle East and North Africa with weapons and technology are also the main beneficiaries of border security contracts attempting to isolate European Union countries from the flow of migrants coming primarily from the Middle East and North Africa.
A report by the Transnational Institute, a research body based in the Netherlands, implicates weapons and biometric security manufacturers in particular who have benefited from the crisis: first feeding repression and conflict in these countries and, later, obtaining multimillion-dollar contracts to provide border surveillance equipment and technology. “The companies benefit from both sides of the refugee tragedy. The companies create the crisis and then benefit from it,” says Nick Buxton of the Transnational Institute.
A couple of weeks ago, the mainstream media began covering the multitude of migrants who sought entry into Mexico in order to pass through it and reach the United States. Coming mainly from Honduras, with some from other Central American countries, they were able to enter the country using the caravan as a strategy, though not without first receiving a welcome from the Mexican police – an incident that Mexican society in general was highly critical of.
Now being in Mexican territory, their reception in Chiapas was contrasted between people who were in solidarity with them with others who complained of their presence. A few days after their arrival, the government sprayed them with pesticides while they slept before dawn. On their passage through Veracruz, the situation became more complicated. There is talk of a kidnapping by organized crime disappearing more than 100 migrants – mainly women and children. However, the actual figure or what really happened in unknown. The only sure thing is that the route through that state, where these types of events happen most frequently, is one of the most dangerous for migrants.
In this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we speak with two ongoing IGD contributors Peter Gelderloos and Scott Campbell about the shifting terrain of US empire globally as well as internally. Touching on everything from new global free trade agreements which seek to remove the United States from the equation, the continuing possibility of world nuclear war, as well as continued attacks at home on workers, migrants, and the poor, we look at life in the US one year under Trump.
But as we discuss the current terrain, our guests return again and again to the reality of declining US hegemony and power, as well as the question of what that means for humanity. The fact that we are living in a country that is losing both economic as well as military supremacy, both in terms of influence and control, is now not a controversial statement, but one of growing academic discussion.
Recently, I happened across a news article that unexpectedly sent me drifting more than 15 years into the past. Upon arriving there and sifting through its dusty, neglected contents, I meandered back to the present following the thread of a certain activity that had its origins in that seemingly forgotten corner. Though it spanned years of time and thousands of miles of distance, the recollective detour lasted perhaps 30 seconds. When I came back, I found myself doing the very same act that I’d used to return me to the present: I was translating.
The article in question was about 12 rappers from the collective La Insurgencia who were recently sentenced to two years in prison in Spain for “promoting terrorism” due to lyrics about a now-defunct leftist group. Such a sentence for lyrics is of course absurd, but the Spanish state, especially since passing the Ley Mordaza in 2015, has excelled at zealously targeting political expression which does not reify its own power and image. Another radical hip-hop artist, Pablo Hasel, is currently facing 12 years in prison for the contents of his opinions and songs. Francoism hasn’t gone anywhere, as made clear by events surrounding Catalonia’s push for independence last year, it just wears the cloak of democracy.
There is an ever-spreading idealistic, romantic, and superfluous tendency regarding the existence of a pristine, virgin, and idyllic nature that has never been touched by human beings and that must be preserved without having any contact with our species. There are many, many problems and shallow reflections regarding this stance about a pristine and virgin nature.
First of all, we must be aware of the context in which we are currently living: in the Anthropocene, an era in which the industrial human being has caused the greatest changes of the past 300 years. “Climate change has disrupted all ecosystems in the world.” That is to say, the industrial human being, by contaminating the water, earth, and air, has negatively disrupted all the planet’s biomes, that is, there is no pristine, untouched nature left in the entire world. All ecosystems have been touched by climate change.
Now, another issue originating from this Christian idealization and myopic romanticization of virgin nature is the belief that the human being in general, our species in its essence, is inherently ecocidal and destructive of nature, which is entirely false and erroneous.
Below is a translation of the most recent statement from the Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (CODEDI) following the ambush and killing of three of their members last night. In the audio interview below, Abraham Ramírez Vázquez, the head of CODEDI and former political prisoner, states the ambush was orchestrated by the judicial police (the armed wing of the state prosecutor’s office) and was ordered by the governor of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat. For background on CODEDI and its origins in Santiago Xanica, see this article.
The organization CODEDI (Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights) is an autonomous organization that works for the indigenous communities of the Southern Mountains, Central Valleys and Coast of Oaxaca, in solidarity with all just causes. We currently work with 50 communities, creating the dream of living in autonomy through daily practices, with more than 20 years serving the peoples of Oaxaca. We are part of different alliances in the state, country, and world; alliances based in processes of autonomy and struggle. The leader of our organization is Abraham Ramírez Vázquez, an indigenous leader from Santiago Xanica who was imprisoned from 2004 to 2011 by order of former governor José Murat, the father of the current governor.