02 January 2015

Pack in ‘Humor’ when you collect rebellion-essentials

This is the fourteenth in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'.  Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

There will be down days.  This you know.  There will be days when you wonder whether the effort is worth it, when people you trust betray or desert you, when outcomes fought for with utmost passion don’t materialize, when defeat as they say is snatched from the jaws of victory.  A rebel’s life is full of such moments.  The lucky ones get to Victory Day, but for the most part and even for those who do reach destination it is all about one disappointment followed by another. And another.

There are many ways to deal with the D-Days, that’s ‘Down Days’ by the way.  Review and self-criticism, it goes without saying, are exercises you can avoid only at great cost.  Refuse to do this and the chances are you’ll repeat mistakes.  You have to do this if you are to come out with a thing called ‘lessons learnt’.  Invaluable in the long run. 

Defeats and disappointment cause people to lose heart.  They make it hard to keep the company intact.  Self-doubt is a formidable enemy (which is why it makes sense to do things that make the enemy lose heart).  The rebel will often be called upon to summon whatever resources available within him just to keep the spirit of the team. 

First of all, you can’t lie to people about what happened and what is happening.  Even if the ill-informed are convinced, the true picture will emerge sooner or later and that’s it – you will lose comrades and fast.  Even if it is not prudent to tell all that you know, it would be erroneous to talk of the unknown as though it’s known, to treat conjecture as fact and so on. 

Keeping things real, then, is important.  That’s basic.  You can build from there.  Here’s something that might help you along.  Humor. 

Someone once said ‘man was given an imagination to compensate for what he is not, a sense of humor to console him for what he is’.  Down days are days where some consolation is required and there’s no console-medicine that works as well as humor does, it can be argued.

There is a man who called himself Subcommandante Marcos.  He was the spokesperson for the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, often referred to as the Zapatistas) who gained prominence in the late nineties for his sharp, insightful and even hilarious communiqués.  His communiqués are on the internet and are classics in the art of pamphleteering not just for style but content, the attention to details and the particularities of the political moment commented on as well as understanding of the wide sweep of history, the ways of oppressor and oppression, economic as well as cultural.  He drew heavily from things traditional, especially from the EZLN’s political home, Chiapas of Mexico and the indigenous people of that continent. 

Now Marcos, among his other exceptional qualities, had the ability to laugh at himself.   He conjured a dung beetle whom he called ‘Durito’ with whom he created amazing conversations which he ‘transcribed’ into his various communiqués.   I believe those ‘conversations’ are now collected in a book.  There was one classic Durito-moment when the rather serious and politically astute dung beetle described a particularly ‘down moment’ as ‘strategic retreat’.  Marcos’ version was on the lines of ‘fleeing with tail between the legs’.  That’s funny.  That’s also a lesson. 

There are ways to say the ‘as is’.  Many ways.  Inject a little humor and it cleans the blood streams.  Makes things more palatable.  Lifts spirits.  Turns desperate individuals lined up at a border and ready to enter a country called Capitulation think twice.  That might make a big difference.  Humor does that, at times.    

Other articles in this series