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.
Originally posted on It’s Going Down.
In the past two weeks, social movements in Mexico racked up significant victories while continuing to organize in the face of constant state repression. Detractors will point to the several successes won in the courts as examples of the reasonableness and functionality of a democratic government. Those on the ground know that it was not due to a wise and benevolent judiciary that they won, but through years of organization, mobilization and struggle that forced the state’s hand. Even in victory they remain on guard, knowing that the state cannot be trusted and these battles are part of a larger war. That war rages daily as neoliberal capitalism, racism and patriarchy continue to plunder the peoples and territories of Mexico and beyond.
Readers may have heard of the assassination of indigenous land and water defender Berta Cáceres in Honduras on March 3. Wounded during the attack was Gustavo Castro Soto, a member of Otros Mundos from Chiapas. Fearing for his safety, he attempted to leave Honduras only to be detained by authorities and ordered to remain in the country for 30 days. A few days later on March 14 movements around Mexico participated in the International Day of Action Against Dams and in Defense of Rivers. The Chiapan Front in Defense of Water, Land and Life held an action in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, while the Mexican Movement of those Affected by Dams and in Defense of Rivers (MAPDER) released a map documenting the 40 people from Mexico to Colombia killed since 2005 for organizing against dam construction. The map quickly became outdated the following day when Nelson García, a member of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) – the same group Berta Cáceres belonged to – was assassinated.