Stupid improvisation directs the Cabinet. Neoliberalism: chaotic theory of economic chaos: Durito

To the national weekly Proceso:

To the national newspaper El Financiero:

To the national newspaper La Jornada:

To the local newspaper of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Tiempo:

17 July, 1995

Ladies and gentlemen:

This is Durito writing you, because el Sup isn't here right now. He climbed up the highest peak and is watching the horizon. He hopes that so many presents will arrive for his birthday that they'll need "the Grandmother of all Caravans" to reach the mountains of southeastern Mexico. He says that we'll be able to appreciate the long line of trucks from far away. Poor guy! He doesn't realize that everybody already knows that his birthday is the 30th of February.

O.K. Here come the communiques, and a postscript that I found thrown away here.

Finally we can breathe calmly! The government has now declared that within two years, we will all be ve-e-e-ery happy. Now the only thing left to do is wait and see who can weather the 730 days that separate us from Paradise.

Farewell, then. I wish you good heath, and hope that they don't put Mejma Barsn in the government team for the dialogue in San Andris.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,

Don Durito of the Lacandon Jungle, Mexico, July of 1995


Towards the West, the Moon lowers itself down between the parted legs of two mountains and rests its cheeks on their belly, where the river stirs up its sex, dripping a serpentine rumor. Some excited clouds stroke the trees with their moisture. In the East, there's lightening and tremors, the crickets piped up with their alarms, and now only a few scattered stars will be surprised by the storm that announces itself to the South. The watchful airplane purrs its threat and recedes into the distance.

Another daybreak of waiting and tobacco. Everything calm. An excellent occasion for the uninvited (as usual) appearance of . . . .

DURITO VI! (Neoliberalism: the Catastrophic Political Management of Catastrophe).

A glow-worm is shining on Durito's shoulder. A stack of newspaper clippings serves as a bed-chair-desk-office for my master, the illustrious Don Durito of the Lacandsn Jungle, maximal representative of the noblest profession that any human being has ever practiced: knight-errantry. Through the smoke of his pipe, I observe and guard the last and greatest righter of wrongs, the famous knight for whose security I pass a watchful night, and for whom I keep myself alert and ready in case . . . y-a-a-a-a-awn.

"Yawning again, knave!"

Durito's voice interrupts a blink which, he says, lasted for hours.

"I wasn't asleep!" I defend myself, "I was thinking . . ." I look at my watch and I notice that . . .

"It's three o'clock in the morning! Durito, can't we sleep?"

"Sleep! Thou thinkest only of sleep! How canst thou aspire to achieve the supreme station of knight-errantry if thou dost occupy the most opportune hours in sleep?"

"Right now, I only aspire to sleep," I say as I yawn and curl back up against the backpack that serves as my pillow.

"Do so, then. I, until Apollo scratches the skirt of the night with his golden knives, I will devote myself to thoughts of the highest and most dignified lady that any knight has ever chosen for his flag and desire, the one and only, the best, the one without equal, the . . . are you listening to me!?" I hear Durito shout.

"Mmmmfg," I respond, knowing that I don't need to open my eyes to notice that Durito must be standing on his stack of newspaper clippings, with Excalibur in his right hand and the left hand on his heart, and the other right on his belt, and the other fixing the armor of the other . . . Actually, I don't remember how many arms Durito has anymore, but he has enough, more than enough for the gestures he has to make.

"And what keeps thee up, my sluggardly shield-bearer?" Durito asks, with evident will to keep me awake.

"Me? Nothing, if it weren't for your midnight speeches and studies . . . Really, what is it you were studying?"

"The governmental cabinet," Durito responds, returning to his papers.

"The governmental cabinet?" I ask with surprise, doing what I didn't want to do-opening my eyes.

"Of course! I have discovered why the members of the cabinet contradict each other, why each one takes off in his own direction, apparently forgetting that the boss is . . .

"Zedillo!" I say, losing interest in the talk.

"Error! It isn't Zedillo," says Durito with satisfaction.

"No?" I ask at the same time that I feel around in my backpack for the little radio that I use to listen to news. "Did he resign? Did they get rid of him?"

"Negative," says Durito, enjoying my sudden activity.

"There it is, just where we left it yesterday."

"So?" I ask, now completely awake.

"The boss of the governmental cabinet is a character who, for the sake of convenience and discretion, I will now call, 'Character X'."

"Character X?" I ask, remembering Durito's enjoyment of police novels, "and how did you find him out?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson."

"Watson?" I manage to stammer out, upon noticing that Durito has turned the cacati shell that he uses as a helmet, and I see that it looks like a rapper's cap (although he insists that it is a detective's deerstalker hat). With a magnifying glass, Durito examines his papers. If I didn't know him better, I'd say he isn't Durito, but . . .

"Sherlock Holmes was the Englishman who learned from me to assemble apparently unimportant details, to unify them into a hypothesis and to look for new details that would confirm or refute it. It's a simple exercise of deduction like those which my pupil Sherlock Holmes practiced when we were out drinking in the bad neighborhoods of London. He would have learned more from me, but he went off with some Conan Doyle who promised to make him famous. I never heard about him since."

"He got famous," I say lazily.

"I don't suppose he became a knight errant?" asks Durito with some interest.

"Negative, my dear Sherlock became a character in a novel and got famous."

"Thou dost err, my dear big-nosed Watson, fame only arises in knight-errantry."

"O.K. let's leave this and get back to all this about the governmental cabinet and this mysterious 'Character X.' What's going on with this?" Durito begins to review his magazine and newspaper clippings.

"Mmmmh . . . Mmmmh . . . Mmmmh!" exclaims Durito.

"What? Did you find something?" I ask on account of the last admiring "mmmmh."

"Yes, a photo of Jane Fonda in Barbarella," says Durito with a look of ecstasy.

"Jane Fonda?" I ask-lift-myself-up-stir.

"Yes, and au naturel," he says with a prolonged sigh.

A photo of Jane Fonda "au naturel" is enough to wake anyone with a little self-respect up, and I have always respected myself, so I get up and ask Durito for the clipping, who refuses to give it to me until I swear that I will listen to him attentively. I swore and swore again. What else could I do?

"All right. Attention!" says Durito with the same emphasis with which he clamps down on his pipe. He puts one of his many pairs of hands behind his back and begins to pace up and down in a straight line as he speaks. "Suppose that we have some country whose name is accented on the antepenultimate syllable and which happens to be located, unfortunately enough, beneath the empire of the chaotic stars and stripes. And when I say, 'beneath," I mean just that, 'beneath.' Suppose that this country is struck by a terrible plague. Ebola? AIDS? Cholera? No! Something more lethal and more destructive . . . neoliberalism! All right now, I've talked to you before about this sickness, so I won't waste time in repeating myself. Suppose now that a young generation of 'junior politicians' has studied abroad how to 'save' this country in the only way in which that generation conceives of its salvation, that is to say, without knowing its history and annexing it to the tail of the fast train of brutality and human imbecility: capitalism. Suppose that we manage to get access to notebooks full of notes from these students without countries. What do we find? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Does this mean they're bad students? By no means! They're good and quick students. But it so happens that they've learned one single lesson in each subject that they studied. That lesson is always the same: 'Act like you know what you're doing.' 'This is the fundamental axiom of power politics under neoliberalism,' their teacher has told them. And they asked her, 'and what is neoliberalism, dear teacher?' The teacher doesn't respond, but I can deduce from her perplexed expression, her red eyes, the drool that drips from her parted lips, and the evident wear on the sole of her right shoe, that the teacher doesn't dare to tell the truth to her students. And the truth is that, as I discovered, neoliberalism is the chaotic theory of economic chaos, the stupid exaltation of social stupidity, and the catastrophic political management of catastrophe."

As Durito stops to light his pipe, I seize the moment to ask,

"And how did you deduce all of this from the teacher's face, drool, eyes, and shoe-sole?" but Durito doesn't hear me. His eyes are glowing, and I don't know if it's from the lighter or from what he says as he continues.

"All right. Let's move on. The aforementioned students return to their country, or what remains of it. They arrive with a messianic message that nobody understands. While the respectable person deciphers it, they make off with their booty, that is to say, the power. Once they have that, they start to apply the only lesson they ever learned: 'act like you know what you're doing,' and they use the mass media to build that image. They obtain exquisite levels of simulation, to the point that they construct a virtual reality in which everything works perfectly. But the 'other' reality, the real reality, marched on, and something had to happen. Then, they started to do whatever occurred to them: this way one day, that way the next. And then . . .

Durito stops, examines his pipe and looks at me in silence. . .

"And then what?" I urge him on.

"And then . . . the tobacco ran out. Have you got any more?" he responds. I don't want to take the time to warn him that the strategic reserve is about to run out, and I throw him the little bag I have in my hand. Durito refills his pipe, lights it, and continues.

"Then it happens that they lose their understanding of the real reality and start to believe that the virtual reality that they created with lies and simulation is the 'real' reality. But this schizophrenia isn't the only problem. It turns out that each student started to create his own virtual 'reality' and to live according to it. That's why each of one dictates measures that contradict those of the others."

"That explanation is pretty . . . mmh . . . . let's say . . . bold." Durito doesn't stop, but continues with his explanation.

"But there's something that gives coherency to all of this governmental incoherence. I've been analyzing several different clues. I read all of the cabinet's declarations, I classified all of its actions and omissions, I contrasted their political stories, I analyzed even their most minute acts, and I arrived at a very important conclusion."

Durito stops, sucks in air to give himself importance and lengthen the pause so I will ask,

"And what is the conclusion?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson! There's an invisible element in the cabinet, a character which, without making itself evident, gives coherence and a systematic quality to all of the government team's brayings. A boss under whose command all are subject. Zedillo included. That is to say, 'X' exists, the real governor of the country in question . . ."

"But who is this mysterious 'Mr. X?" I ask, unable to hide the shiver that runs up my spine as I imagine that it might be . . .

"Salinas? Something worse . . .," says Durito, putting away his papers.

"Worse than Salinas? Who is he?"

"Negative. It's not a 'he;' it's a 'she'," says Durito, blowing smoke out from his pipe.

"A 'she?'"

"Correct. Her first name is Stupid, and her last name is Improvisation, and note that I say, 'Stupid Improvisation.' Because you ought to know, my dear Watson, that there are intelligent improvisations, but this isn't the case here. 'Ms. X' is the Stupid Improvisation of neoliberalism in politics, neoliberalism made a political doctrine; that is to say, Stupid Improvisation administering the destinies of the country . . . and of others . . . Argentina and Peru, for example.

"So you're insinuating that Menem and Fujimori are the same as . . .?"

"I'm not insinuating anything. I'm affirming it. It's enough to ask the Argentine and Peruvian workers. I was analyzing Yeltsin when my tobacco ran out."

"Yeltsin? but wasn't it the Mexican cabinet you were analyzing?"

"No, not only the Mexican one. Neoliberalism, as you should know, my dear Watson, is a pestilence that plagues all of humanity. Just like AIDS. Of course, the Mexican political system has an enchanting stupidity that is difficult to resist. But nevertheless, all of these governments that are depopulating the world have something in common: all of their success is based on lies, and therefore, it's base is only as solid as the bench you're sitting on."

I jump up instinctively and examine the bench of sticks and creepers we've constructed and make sure it's firm and solid. Relieved, I tell Durito, "but suppose, my dear Sherlock, that the bad guys are able to maintain their lie for an indefinite period of time, that this false base remains solid and they keep having successes." Durito doesn't let me finish. He interrupts me with a shout of . . .

"Impossible! The basis of neoliberalism is a contradiction: in order to maintain itself, it must devour itself and, therefore, destroy itself. That's where we get the political assassinations, the blows under the table, the contradictions between the statements and the actions of all levels of public functionaries, the squabbles between 'interest groups,' and all of those things that keep the stockbrokers up at night . ..

"It kept them up at night. I think they're getting used to it already, because the bolsa is going up," I say with some skepticism.

"It's a soap bubble. It will burst before too long. Remember me," says Durito as he smiles with an a know-it-all air and continues,

"What keeps the system going is what will bring it down. It's elementary. All you have to do is read Chesterton's three riders of the apocalypse to understand it. It's a police story, but as is well known, life ends up imitating art.

"Sounds to me like your theory is pure fant . . ."

"I wasn't finished talking."

As I sat down on the bench of sticks, it fell down with the muffled sound of my bones hitting the ground and my not so muffled cursing. Durito laughs as if he's about to smother. When he calms down a little bit, he says:

"You were going to say that my theory is pure fantasy? All right, as you can appreciate from your current low position, nature proves me right. History and the people will also give their help."

Durito ends his talk there and lies back against his newspaper clippings. I don't even try to get up. I pull my backpack over and lie down against it again. We fall silent, watching how in the East, a wheat and honey colored light pours through the space between the legs of the mountain. We sigh. What else could we do?

Farewell, good health, and may neither history nor the people wait long.

"El Sup" with a tender pain in his flank.

(translated by Peter Haney, Accion Zapatista de Austin)