by Martin Murie
(Swans - January 15, 2007) Subcomandante Marcos sent a short story to a ten-year-old girl in Mexico City. It's about a beetle who had stolen his tobacco. Marcos followed a trail of tobacco, found a beetle sitting at a desk, smoking a pipe and studying a bunch of papers. Marcos was indignant, but the beetle used a foot to return the tobacco. "Don't get angry, Captain," the beetle said.
Marcos, feeling better, took a liking to the beetle, asked his name.
"My friends call me Durito," the beetle replies. "You may call me Durito, Captain."
Marcos asks what he is reading. Durito replies that he is studying "neoliberalism and its strategy for dominating Latin America."
"And what good does that do a beetle?" Marcos asks.
Durito, offended, says that it is important for beetles to know how long they will have to put up with people's heavy boots coming down on them. "Besides," he says, "a beetle should concern himself with studying the world he lives in, don't you think, Captain?"
The conversation goes on. Durito tells Marcos that he and his compañeros will win, and Marcos tells Durito that he knows that. But how long will it take, he wonders.
Durito answers that that is hard to say; it depends on the balance of forces, et cetera. Later, he says, "You may call me tu, Captain."
There's more, but I don't want to totally spoil it for you: future reader, I hope. This little story is, for my money, worth the price of the whole book. Why? Because here we have a revolutionary leader taking back talk from another species, and a rather "low specimen" at that. There are gentle hints at big truths here, such as the beetle claiming the importance of his tribe's taking an interest in the world, studying it, working out their own conclusions. Species do that, you know. Oh yes they do, by paying attention to myriad happenings, including our destructive acts. They adapt as best they can. A beetle is hard pressed to go about its business with the added burden of watching for heavy, careless, boots. (Shadows of Tender Fury. The Letters and Communiques of Subcomandante Marcos and The Zapatista Army, Monthly Review Press, 1995.)
An attitude of forgiveness and respect pervades the story. I'm sure this is deliberate, because the Zapatista movement insists on dignity. They claim that they will die fighting rather than cast off their insistence that each and every human deserves a life of dignity. This is a far cry from El Norte culture's casual disdain for our common humanity. We are addicted to quoting Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
This story (pages 491-493) shows that respect for nature is alive and well in those fighters and peace mongers of the mountains of Chiapas, people who work the land, people who pay attention to all inhabitants of the land, and the land's messages and its terrors and blessings.
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