In 1957, Octavio Paz (whose centenary we celebrate this year) published one of the greatest poems in the Spanish language of the 20th century – Piedra de Sol (The Sun Stone). Inspired by the Aztec Calendar and the 584 days it takes Venus (Quetzalcóatl) to move towards the Sun, the poem speaks of cronos (the time of history, violence, and power) and kairos (the time of God – poor, free, and full of love – through which He breaks into the cronos to free it).
“The world is born when a couple kisses…
The laws are rat food,
The bars of banks and prisons,
Those of paper and wire,
Of stamps, barbs, and thorns,
The monotonous call to arms,
The greasy scorpion with a hat…
The Chief, the shark, the architect,
Of the world yet to come…
The decaying masks that divide humans,
Are ripped apart by humans themselves,
For an immense instant,
In which we catch a glimpse,
Of our lost unity,”
The poem is cyclical like the Aztec Calendar, referring to the love that is restored and renewed every time two people fall for each other, and to the violence that appears over and over again in more complex and terrible forms. Although inspired by the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, the verses are woven together by the author’s own experiences of love and, as a Mexican, of the monolithic power of the PRI dictatorship. Eleven years after the poem’s publication in 1957, Paz would live the horrific repression of 1968, leaving the Indian Embassy and suffering the persecution of the Dirty War.
The PRI is back once again, but its violence doesn’t just belong to the ‘Universe of State Violence’, as Paz referred to power. As Michel Foucault said, its violence is better referred to as a sophisticated form of “biopower”. Far from being a simple apparatus of domination based on ‘legitimate use’ of force, it is a mixture of methods of management and control which are more refined and brutal.
In less than two years, the PRI has managed to turn the violent war of Felipe Calderón into a management process at the service of a modernising agenda. The war between the cartels and the State generates terror throughout the country and among its many victims (mostly poor migrants), and the displacement of around 350,000 people (which the government has tried to keep silent until now). Meanwhile, the government’s structural reforms do not only show the contradictions and irrational elements of Calderón and Peña’s politics, but also aim, in a wide-ranging project of life management, to serve large capitalist corporations by experimenting with new forms of controlling power. They are new and unprecedented ways of what the Nazis, Stalinists, and military juntas (or Francoism and Priism in the times of Paz) tried to develop as part of their logic of modernisation.
The political chaos of Peña Nieto’s government could also be compared to the colonial politics of the 19th century. The latter, for example, used the excuse of a ‘civilising mission’ to destroy indigenous forms of production and societal organisation in Asia, Africa, and Oceania, managing the chaos and famines as a way of keeping populations submissive. President Peña, meanwhile, is using Mexico’s own political disorder to subjugate, reorder, and segregate citizens as a means of implementing a new form of economic colonialism. The country’s injustices (in the form of disappearances, terror, assassinations, displacements, structural reforms, criminalisation of protests, and attacks on and assimilation of community police forces) continue to spread, and seem to fit into the administrative logic of a new form of totalitarianism. This system favours a new, ‘modern’ Mexico or, in terms of government propaganda, a country ‘on the move’.
The PRI, together with its theatrical extras (the other political parties), is transforming Mexico through terror and through its ‘modernising’ political ‘reforms’. The politicians want us to believe they are not responsible for the tactics of terror, but in reality they allow, foster, and even administrate such strategies. They are the equivalent of an open-air prison in which our bodies – submitted to fear, segregation, and death – give violent birth to a ‘new’ Mexico. The axis of this “biopower” is not State violence, but the government’s economic policies which ‘control’ and ‘regulate’ the movement of its citizens like animals in a flea market.
So while we kiss, love, resist, defend ourselves, and search for that “lost unity”, the government has decided to administrate violence, disgrace, and horror in the most perverse ways in order to preserve the country that Paz revealed to us in his poem. The laws are still eaten away by rats, the fences and bars of banks and jails still fill the country, and the monotonous calls to arms and crime continue to serve societal elites.
We must demand that the San Andrés Agreements are respected, and that all Zapatista prisoners are freed. The Costco-CM of the Jungle Casino must be torn down, and those responsible for the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez must be brought to justice. The jailed protesters of Atenco and the community police forces must be released, and Ulises Ruiz must be tried for his crimes. And, finally, the victims of Calderón and Peña Nieto’s wars must be compensated and the failed ‘security strategy’ brought to an end.
Translated and adapted from an article originally written by Javier Sicilia on April 28th, 2014 at http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=370818