Nevertheless, not despite but as an embrace of our commitment to release the figure/window of the hologram, we must not forget the lessons we learned from SCI Marcos. It is indispensable to recognize that the figure Marcos has served as an important pedagogical bridge for many of us, not only in understanding the Zapatistas’ unique and unwavering ethical and political perspective and practice, but in providing contours, momentum, example, and energy for the necessity and possibility of a radical commitment to a politics below.
In addition to the political treatises and formal EZLN communications he penned, SCI Marcos served as the voice and imagination behind the literary characters and tropes of Old Antonio, Don Durito, Elias the peasant EZLN intelligence agent and Magdalena the transgender woman he falls in love with, Sombra the warrior, Little Leaf the girl skateboarder, and dozens more who illuminated the struggle and life “below” with insight, humor, respect, and perspective. In the impoverished basement of the hierarchy of privileges we were shown a richness unprecedented at any other level.
In leftist, intellectual, academic, and activist worlds, Zapatismo, most visibly and audibly through the figure of Marcos, has continually and relentlessly shot holes through the self-serving careerism and political opportunism carried out in the name of being ‘down’ with the struggle, but usually in ways that put one’s name on the map of People-On-the-In.
In a world that worships visibility—even of things grown better in the shadows—and makes self-promotion a virtue, often manifesting on the left as the confusion of marketability and political effectiveness, it has been hard for people interested in a different politics to find an expression of that impulse without falling into tropes of gimmicky political profiles designed through a range of online, intellectual, artistic, or creative but hollow initiatives that are better at bringing attention to one’s political positions, personal creativity, or activist profile than trodding down the rocky path of constructing the community-based political processes and collective structures necessary for a long-term, far-sighted struggle.
For us, the words penned and signed by SCI Marcos served as a constant reminder that the people who will come together to change the world are not easily (or even desirably) incorporated into market niches or media-snagging endeavors, and their daily lives do not permit or promote the kind of individual entrepreneurship and mobility—even on the ‘alternative’ political or cultural scene—often associated with actors on the left.
This has helped us, for example, distinguish between holding righteous political positions propped up by associating oneself (individually or collectively) with interesting and/or radical movements, and engaging in the marvelous and agonizing processes of building and organizing political structures from below that can act by and for themselves.
And in that effort to construct not a political position but a political body, there is only long, collective, protracted struggle, firm in its own calendar and geography and usually far, in logic if not in distance, from any that earns recognition.
For us, this is what Zapatismo as a whole and the words of SCI Marcos have expressed explicitly: solidarity is fine and necessary, but what we need you to do is build your own communities in struggle.