Thursday, October 01, 2009

Storytelling: An act of revolution

Because we just read about a the power of the story (and the carrier of those stories) in The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa, I thought I'd share an excerpt from a piece I wrote last spring about the Zapatistas that captures how they have used storytelling to both share their movement with the world and to inspire a visionary politics that is able to see beyond hegemonic ideas and structures. You can find all of their communicados here:

"The Zapatistas have crafted a revolutionary political discourse – a vernacular dialogue fashioned out of poetry. Over the last fifteen years they have released hundred of communiqués that condemn repression in the Zapatista territories and around the world, that present alternatives and tell stories that are rich with allegory and wit. These stories are clever yet simple, using characters like Old Antonio, a wise old Zapatista who supposedly died in the 1994 uprising, and a proud beetle named Don Durito to mock the empty rhetoric of the politicians and dismantle the machinery of the dominators into a simple language accessible across class, race, and language. And thanks to the internet and a few translators, the number of people these stories reach around the world has been unbelievable.

In one story, Don Durito gives his two cents about the trap of freedom presented by the Powers. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the author of the majority of the Zapatista communiqués, writes, “Durito puts a vase with water on the little table, which is made of sticks, tied together with liana, and he says,
‘The Powers tell us, for example, that we have to choose between being optimists or pessimists. The pessimist sees the glass as being half empty, the optimist sees the glass as half full. But the rebel realizes that neither the vase, nor the water which it contains, belong to them, and it is someone else, the powerful, who fills it and empties it at his whim. The rebel, on the other hand, sees the trap. But he also sees the spring from which the water issues forth. (Subcomandante Marcos. “Durito and One About False Options.” Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion, Documents, Communiqués and Images from 1994 to 2004/5. March 2003. )