Desde América, con amor on Fri, 22 Mar 2002 02:10:54 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Apprentices of God vs Earths devotees

What capitalism and zapatism have in common? Why they
could share a long fight not only in Chiapas? How
people involved in progressive movements could
position and act in this context?

(The Spanish version of this article can be found

Apprentices of God vs Earth’s devotees

Let’s consider some suppositions as being true.
Capitalism is not only an economic system and zapatism
is not only an indigenous revolt. The power of
capitalism is not as infallible as it shows and the
strength of zapatism is not restricted to a part of

With all its differences, capitalism and zapatism have
some basic coincidences. Both are revolutionary
movements that feel themselves as old as time and both
are in the beginning of a phase they consider decisive
in the framework of their respective utopian horizons.
As all good revolutionary movements, both justify
themselves in a remote past, mythical, simultaneous to
the birth of humanity, to which they pretend to return
once their transformations are completed. Both have
freed themselves from the limitations of individual
people and structure themselves on collective bodies
that work with agendas that go far beyond a person’s

Capitalism and its Knowledge Society

In the beginning liberalism relied in our condition of
animals fighting for the survival of the fittest, so
its was told by darwinist theories of evolution. It
was also maintained by a strong individualism, which
led to the interpretation of this evolutionary fight
in individual terms (each one of us competes with the
rest to see who is the strongest) and not from a human
specie perspective (closer to reality: species compete
between them, individuals of the same species
cooperate between them).

Another myth combined with the previous ones: the
return to the Paradise we were expelled from. Not in
vane has capitalism been gestated in Jewish-Christian
cultures. That was the objective of the Industrial
Society: progress to suppress physical effort,
eliminate diseases and transform shortage into
abundance. Get back all that we lost because of that
small apple bite.

In a theoretical level, the industrial achieved those
objectives, even though this present day they haven’t
been put into practice. Among other things because
classic liberalism mutated into global capitalism and,
instead of finishing the tasks of the Industrial
Society it preferred to leave the work half-done in
order to create the Knowledge Society.

Or in other words, not settling with returning to
Paradise as redeemed sinners, the industrial elite has
opted to commit the most devilish of sins: aspire to
become gods.

Elongate and design the lives of humans, control and
recreate Nature, understand the origins of matter and
the Universe in order to obtain the keys that allow
its domestication, build worlds and virtual realities,
surpass the limits of speed and time to live in and
dominate an eternal present. Be immortals, grasp in a
fist the keys of creation and control from a distance
everything that surrounds us. That is the utopian
horizon of the Knowledge Society.

The capitalist rising occurred on the moment
corporations became insurgents of the limitations of
States. Corporations are the collective bodies that
can confront this march towards divinity. Freed from
the barriers of the minds of lonely individuals and of
the phases of a single lifetime, these organisms grow
through generations of humans, progressively,

Their presence in our environment manifests in the
form of omnipresent and omniformed trademarks and
logos, like the Holy Trinity and the image of the
cross were in the old days. These collective
individuals are propelled by a breed of humans willing
to transcend far beyond their humanity. At an
individual level they collaborate internally. At a
collective level corporations compete between them
respecting some common principles, while submitting
the rest of the mortals, even more mortals.

The revolutionary insurgence of capitalism bases
itself in money and the market. “To us, everything; to
the rest nothing.”

Zapatism, to give it a name

The zapatism of Chiapas came to the public eye on 1994
after more that a decade working in the shadows of
misery. But behind the label of ‘zapatism’ operates a
vision of humanity and its function in the world that
has existed in every moment of history, in various
places of the planet.

Zapatism justifies itself in a belonging of men to the
Earth, creating a harmonic whole, in organic and
spiritual planes. The zapatists don’t feel themselves
sinners; they don’t seek the return to a Paradise from
which they were expelled. They feel part of that
paradise that already is the Mother Earth that make us
born. And they become insurgents to rebel against
those who appropriate of Nature’s kindness for their
own benefit, at the cost of the work of brothers they
don’t consider brothers anymore but simple instruments
of their ambition.

Zapatists also seek contact with the divine but not
aspiring to become gods, but living close to Mother
Earth and leaving this world in a fusion with her.

This is the base belief of many religions, almost all
of them. The exceptions are the three religions that
sponsored the birth of capitalism -Jewish, Christian
and Islamic- who interpret Nature as a gift from God
to men, His favorite sons. Even though not by chance
renovating postindustrial currents of these three
great creeds are uniting that same integrated vision
of men in Nature. And this same perception often
becomes base belief for those people who, not having a
religious affiliation, try to think about the sense of
existence before ‘I’ am born and after ‘I’ am dead.

In zapatism the individual ‘I’ can’t be understood
without first understanding the collective ‘I’. The
individualistic culture in which we bathe those of us
who live in capitalist environments thrives us to look
for the key of zapatism in a vanguard of commanders
with individual identities hidden under the balaclava.
But the key of zapatism is in the communities, those
little towns disseminated in the rainforest and the
mountains. There the majority of chores and roles are
rotary and collective, they are executed in a
decentralized way as well as integrated, in a
continuous way from generation to generation. In the
communities the individual ‘I’ is born and dies giving
it’s activity to the collective ‘I’, which maintains
itself and gets more mature. Very similar to what
happens in corporations.

The relation between communities is of cooperation,
even with those who coexist with them without being
zapatists. Zapatistas only conceives the competition
against the enemies that seek their destruction. For
zapatism, capitalism is the main enemy. For capitalism
everything that isn’t capitalism will be an enemy
sooner or later.

For zapatism, capitalism is the enemy because it
aspires to transform the greatness of Mother Earth
into the slave of the corporations that wish to
substitute it transforming into our mothers. Because
the capitalists trying to be gods pretend to enslave
the mortals making them believe that they are their
legitimate children and for that they owe them
respect, their work, even their love.

The revolutionary insurgence of zapatism bases itself
in dignity and love. “To everyone, everything; to us,

And in the middle of this antagonistic systems, us

We see then that capitalism and zapatism constitute
two antagonistic projects, though nurtured with
elements and recognizable aspirations. These
structural similarities are what makes them
irreconcilable, as irreconcilable as Muslims and
Christians or Communists and Capitalists were in their

Both define themselves compatible with the two types
of traditional powers: States and Churches. Their
battle isn’t against institutions, at least nor
directly. State and Church are no longer a purpose for
them, in all cases a way. What leads one to think that
capitalism and zapatism carry the germs to overcome
the State and the Church as we have known them in the
Industrial Society.

Almost all of us are in the middle of this
irreconcilable systems, specially those of us who
participate or try to participate in these social
progressive movements in the process of regeneration.
Zapatists by heart and capitalists in most of our
actions, we live a schizophrenia from which only
dreaming asleep or awake we can escape. Opening our
eyes again is the equivalent of feeling once again
that ambivalence that on many occasions degenerates in

The traditional left wing is extenuated, the dreams of
that collective ‘I’ that was the working class are
disintegrated. We live in a capitalist world without
feeling capitalists and we declare solidarity with the
pretensions of zapatists or similar ones in all the
world. But we still donpt take the step that puts
ourselves in by their side, not just affectively but

Where is the way out of this situation? We can hardly
see it, out there where we set our sight we see
capitalism. There seems to be no way out, there
doesn’t seem to be feasible alternatives. We are
blinded by the glow of money and the market. We are
clinging to the caramel that capitalism has prepared
for us so that we fulfill efficiently our function as
mortals at its service. That caramel is the
individualism raised to the level of selfishness. Or
saying it in another way, the consumerism.

We are also clinging to our individual life, with its
phases and its end on the day that ‘I’ die. The
efforts whose results we don’t see in life seem
useless, a waste of time. This limited perspective
puts us in a lower level (less competitive, more
innocent) in this battle between antagonistic systems.

Where is the way out of this situation? Maybe the ones
closer of it are those who know how to add to the
individual ‘I’ a collective ‘I’ of which they feel an
organic and spiritual part (or ideological, or ethical
if you prefer). Those who create social tissue with
their actions. Those who conceive the individual and
collective actions in a historical process that
started way before they were born and that will go on
for much longer after they die.

Those who bring up these reflections in the first
person will possibly have a better understanding of
what is at stake and the steps to take after that. Be
it to turn into an apprentice of god, into a devotee
of the earth or in any other transcendental role that
hasn’t been mentioned here. That is your choice.

More (in Spanish): Desde el muncipio autónomo de
Morelia (Chiapas)

Quim Gil

>From San Cristóbal de las Casas (Chiapas), with love

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