Gustavo Esteva, La Jornada, 27 October, 2014

Protego ergo obligo, Hobbes wrote. In nation-states, the protection governments give to citizens creates citizen obligations.

No one today would argue that the Mexican government is protecting its citizens. It is the opposite; it even robs them of their autonomous protections. Despite their cynicism, officials are being forced to disguise with all sorts of euphemisms their failure to perform their principal function.

Noncompliance is not exemption. The fact that the government does not fulfil its obligations does not mean that we cannot, indeed, we must, continue demanding that it do so. The current slogan of the demonstrations includes the increasingly faint hope that they must return them [43 students disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero] alive, but it is above all a denunciation: we know that they took them. They must accept the consequences.

There are solid grounds behind the general desire to see the mayor of Iguala, his wife and the governor in jail. But the federal government is using these legitimate and well-founded sentiments as an excuse to avoid its own responsibility. Raúl Zibechi is right: "The state has become an institution where the narco criminal and politician merge to control society" (ALAI Amlatina, 24/10/14).

There was both action and neglect by the federal government in the crimes of Ayotzinapa, and it is complicit in many of the crimes that have been committed in Guerrero and the rest of the country. Whether or not this is legally shaky ground is the responsibility of the established authority. But instead of legal instruments suitable for revoking the mandates of elected or appointed government officials and terminating their impunity, they formulate and implement laws to protect themselves and to control and punish citizens.

Having become an entrepreneur of violence, the government is now the principal source of what is spreading across the country. Again, I quote Foucault: "The arbitrariness of the tyrant is an example for potential criminals and in its fundamental illegality, even a license for crime. Indeed, who will not be allowed to break the law when the sovereign who should promote, implement and enforce it, claims the ability to distort or suspend the law or, at the very least, not apply it to himself? Therefore, the more power is despotic, the more numerous criminals will be. The strong power of a tyrant does not make evildoers disappear; rather, it multiplies them."

This is about something even worse. There is a moment, Foucault believes (Abnormalities, FCE, 2006, pp. 94-95), in which the roles are reversed:

"A criminal is one who breaks the covenant, who breaks it occasionally when he needs or desires something, when his interests call for it, i.e., when in a moment of violence or blindness, he makes prevail the reason of his interest, despite the most basic calculation of reason. [The criminal is] A transitory despot, a dazzling despot, a despot out of blindness, fantasy, fury, it matters little. In contrast to the criminal, the despot exalts the predominance of his interest and his will; and he does it permanently … The despot can impose his will on the entire social body by means of a state of permanent violence. He is, therefore, the one who permanently … exercises and exalts his interests criminally. He is outside the permanent law."

Foucault carefully carves out the profile of the legal monster that "is not the murderer, not the rapist, not the one who breaks the laws of nature; he is the one who breaks the fundamental social pact."

Make no mistake. As Javier Sicilia said long ago, we are as completely fed up with government officials as with the criminals. As he also says, and as Francisco Toledo repeats, we are left speechless before the level of degradation that has now arrived. We are before the mystery of Evil, which cannot be reduced to sociological or psychological causes.

But we cannot close our eyes. The fact is that we are suffering all sorts of crimes and a growing barbarism, such that it is no longer possible to distinguish [barbaric acts] committed by career criminals and amateurs from those that are the direct responsibility of government functionaries at all levels. This is the state at which we have arrived.

Let us say it clearly. And let us recognize with integrity that this is the nature of the struggle we need to engage in. This is about transforming the pain that overwhelms us in this infamous time into the dignified rage that will lead us to rebellion and liberation. We just remember the Zapatistas:

"It is with rage and rebellion, not with resignation and conformity, that we below take offence."

Translated by Jane Brundage



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