Marcos: An inverted periscope
(or memory, a buried key)


Translated by Monique J. Lemaitre

" that this theory of the Hollow Earth gives body, so to speak, to the millenary hermetic intuition: what lies underground is the same as what lies above ground!"
Umberto Eco. "Foucault's Pendulum"


In the midst of a beach of clouds so that the Sea may rest from her weariness (fourth key), the full moon is a pearly star, so fat that its edges seem filed down. Leaning back as we are, I tell the Sea the story Old Antonio told me on a dawn like this, but with tobacco smoke instead of clouds.

With a last spiral of smoke we completed the circle which, without saying so, we had been laying out around the moon to fix it in the sky. It was useless, she kept on going, vanquishing hours and clouds. We were quiet, stalking a "tepescuintle" (type of cava or large guinea pig.) Old Antonio was set on demonstrating to me that one can also "shine" the "tepes" under a full moon.

-There it is! Do you see it?- Old Antonio shouted to me in a whisper.

-Yes- I lied, while I uselessly searched for the emerald color eyes that Old Antonio's flashlight's beam was supposed to draw up.

The cane shone with a dry sound which soon died down under the tenacious drum beat of the crickets. I ran towards the spot Old Antonio's flashlight had signaled. A "tepescuintle" of about one meter in length was shaking, with the blunt edge of the machete I completed the meal begun with Old Antonio's cane. I picked it up and carried it to where Old Antonio was rolling another cigarrette.

-You didn't even see it- he says without looking at me.

I, to tell the truth, was "bird watching" waiting for the moon to fall down once and for all, but I firmly repeated the lie:

-Yes, I saw it-

The flash from a match lights up Old Antonio's smile and the cigarrette on his lips.

How did you know when to light the lamp and where to shine it?-
I ask him in order to change the conversation.

-I saw it down here-,
Old Antonio answers, and he points with a gesture and his hand towards the ground.

-Did you see it below the ground?-
I ask-say mockingly.

Old Antonio does not respond. Well, not directly. Suddenly, leaning back, he begins to tell me...


"They tell that the very first gods, those who gave birth to the world, had a very bad memory and they tended to easily forget what they were doing or saying. Some say that it was because the greatest gods had no obligation to remember anything, because they came from when time had no time, that is to say, that there was nothing before them, and if there was nothing, then there was nothing to have a memory of. Who knows, but the fact is that they used to forget everything. This ill they inherited to all those who govern the world, and have governed it in the past. But the greatest gods, the very first ones, learned that memory is the key to the future and that one should care for it like one cares for one's land, one's home, and one's history. So that, as an antidote for their amnesia, the very first gods, those who gave birth to the world, made a copy of everything they had created and of all they knew. That copy they hid underground so that there would be no confusion with what was above ground. So that under the world's ground there is another identical world to the one here above ground, with a parallel history to that of the surface. The first world is underground."

I asked Old Antonio whether the underground world was an identical copy of the world we know.

"It was", Old Antonio answered me, "no longer". An it's that-he explained-the outside world began to get messy and disorderly as time went by. "When the very first gods left, noone in the governments remembered to look down below in order to put in order what was getting out of place. So that each new generation of bosses thought that the world he inherited was simply that way and that another world was impossible. So that what is underground is identical to what is above ground, but it is so in a different way."

Old Antonio said that that's why it is a custom of the true men and women to bury the newborn's navel. They do it so the new human being may take a peek at the true history of the world and learn how to struggle so he/she may put it back in order, as it should be.

So that down below not only is the world, but also the possibility of a better world.

-And the two of us are also down there?-
asks a sleepy Sea.

-Yes, and together-
I answer.

-I don't believe you says the Sea,
but she discreetely turns on her side and peeks through a little hole left by a small pebble on the ground.

-Truly- I insist-
if we had a periscope we could take a look.

-A periscope?-
she whispers.

-Yes- I tell her-
a periscope, an inverted periscope...


" Afterwards I understood that the image was being projected by another screen, located above my head, on which it appeared reversed, and that on that second screen it was the eyepiece of a rudimentary periscope, built, so to speak, with two boxes joined at an obtuse angle, the longest one extended like a pipe out of the box, above my head, and behind me, towards a window from which, clearly, thanks to an internal play of lenses which enabled it to cover a broad range of vision, it could catch the images from the outside."
Umberto Eco. Ibid.

The world process of homogenization/fragmentation brought about by neoliberalism has swept away the old evidences of power and it has re-ordered them or replaced them with new ones. Among the victims of this new world war are the National State and the tryad upon which its survival used to rest, that is to say: the internal market, the national language and culture, and the local political class. In order to maintain, strengthen and make these three aspects grow, the National States relied upon the police force and the army, governments, institutions, and laws, the media, and the intellectuals, briefly upon all that WAS the essence of the Modern State.

WAS, it no longer is.

The complex process of globalization seen as what it is, as a war of destruction/re-ordering, blows into pieces the internal markets, it tends to dilute within a brutal homogenization the national languages and cultures and insists upon displacing and destroying the local political classes.

With the crisis which have liquidated the three foundations of the National States, its supports: army, police, government, institutions, legislations, media, intellectuals, also come into crisis.

The gaps left behind by these annihilating crisis do not remain empty.

"The financial globalization has created, on the other hand, its own State. A Multinational State which has its own instruments, its networks and its action media. It is the constellation formed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OCED) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)."
(Ramonet, Ignacio. "Disarming the Markets". "Le Monde Diplomatique", December, 1997 # 525.)

The financial hyperbombs, detonated at the convenience of the Global Power, have devastated the political, cultural and economic surface of the nations of the world. The recount of dammages shows unemployed in the millions, multiple wars in microregions, irreversible destruction of the natural habitat, exploitation of child labor, countless deaths due to misery, millions of homeless in serach of better life conditions, and massacres like the one in Acteal.

But also among the ancient "from above" there are losses. The agonizing National States drag with them the old political and economic powers. To the massive bankruptcies of companies are added the colapse of entire political classes.

The logic of the neoliberal globalization is not only economic, it is also political. The imposition of an accross the borders' economy is not only a forced opening of the capillarity of the national markets, it is also, (and above all) a fight against the one responsible for the emergence and protection of these markets, the National State. The homogenization of the economy runs parallel to the fragmentation and the pulverization of the "old" politics, and to its replacement by a "modern" political class.

There are disorderly remains left over from the complex puzzle which kept on top for decades the old dominant powers. A chaos of interests, and of personalities who represent those interests, strolls through the ever narrower hallways of the National Powers. The politicians of old are replaced with new models: politicians with a thousand faces...


"'When I use a word', Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less'.

'The question is', said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things'.

'The question is', said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be the master-that's all. '"

"Through the Looking-Glass. And What Alice Found There."
Lewis Carroll.

At the same time that the National States are destroyed, the World State becomes consolidated. But the latter does not need any society, it can do away without one because the Power which it is made the repository of, is the one granted by the financial markets and the mega-corporations. Instead of electing citizens, the stock exchanges grant the necessary and only legitimacy: that of economic power.

Things being as they are, the World State needs, and produces, new politicians to lead it. Politicians who are non-politicians (since the social founding stone of politics, the citizen, has been eliminated) who are a sort of cybernetic mutants capable of performing various functions (after being duly programmed according to the neoliberal software, of course). These non-politicians are "produced" in centers of "high" technocratic education (Oxford, Harvard, Yale), and are exported to the various countries to complete the destruction of the National States. To accomplish that, they must have...

FACE ONE: THE MANAGER-POLITICIAN.- In the modern "National" State, politics are fundamentally market economy. The country must be conceived like a larger or smaller business enterprise and must be managed as such. The political plans resemble investment budgets and cost and benefits estimates. The so called "public administration" becomes each time more administrative and less public.

Like in a business enterprise, the most important factor is productivity, the largest benefit at a minimal cost. Social programs, political openings and closings, international alliances,national alliances and agreements,the ups and downs of political "success", governmental plans, and electoral processes are subordinated to this criterium.

For the Manager-Politician the citizens are nothing more than employees, and civil servants are foremen with a fluctuating decision making power. The Nation and its priorities are valued with "modern marketing" criteria: the only valued people are those who are worth as producers/consumers. And those who are not worth as such, can and should be discarded, eliminated.

FACE TWO: THE LAWYER-POLITICIAN.- For the economic globalization, the legislative structure of the former National State becomes a straight jacket and an obstacle to be overcome.

In general, the national legislations respond to a triple aspect. On the one hand, the historical aspect, which collects the Nation's past and which consists in a judicial assimilation of that past. On the other hand, the aspect which incorporates popular struggles and their demands, and regulates through judicial norms, the satisfaction of such demands and/or their redefinition. At a third level, it deals with the judicial forms with which the dominant political classes "legalize" their power and legitimacy.

But this judicial structure, the primary cohesive force of this National State, is a legal obstacle to the bringing about of the dissolution of the nations that globalization assumes and needs. So that neoliberalism breaks with that legal body and builds one to its own size. In the name of "free trade" "national" legislatures in education, labor law, the environment, public health, land tenure, the use of natural ressources, migration, etc. are repealed/abrogated. To achieve this, transnational judicial instruments are created. An example? In the OCED the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) is being secretly negociated since may 1995, to be signed by the member countries in 1998. This agreement gives investors a great deal of power before the governments, in matters related to investments, contracting, and benefits' management.

That is why the "modern" politician must also be a lawyer of the international monies, a devil's advocate.

FACE NUMBER THREE: THE PUBLICITY AGENT-POLITICIAN.-The "markets' explosion" does not walk alone. It goes hand in hand with the "technological revolution" and with the resulting creation of the communication super-highways. By means of the first, and through the others, public space is invaded by the market and its key concepts, buy, sell. So that world politics is practiced as "global publicity".

The political leader is fabricated by means of publicity. Gray and mediocre men simulate to have a statesmen's stature (like Ernesto Zedillo in Mexico) thanks to the use of theatre and publicity techniques. The "legality" (not the legitimacy) of the government is more dependent each day on the publicity machine, which is a capricious as the market it serves. A well managed scandal can destroy a political career or elevate it, even in alternating times (see Clinton and the remiss of "Deep Throat" set up in the Oval Office of the White House). Once politics are reduced to a market issue, that is to say, to an exchange of merchandises, the politician must be profficient in publicity techniques.

FACE FOUR: THE GENERAL-POLITICIAN.- Politics, from its start in the history of humanity, is above all the exercise of organized violence. That is why the modern politician is also a General. If yesterday the "Nation" was the pretext for wars, now it is the "ORDERLY liberty" (with the clarifying "market" carefully simulated). Mass assassination and destruction are also marketing "publicity media". The United States are exemplary at this. In Mexico, Acteal, and the war that Zedillo is carrying on against the Indian populations, have won him the applause of television commentators, intellectual journals, corporations' managers, the high clergy, and decadent jurists.

The monsters that these generals provoke have little or nothing to do with "ORDER". Disorder is the rule, and chaos is carefully administered by a world economy that continues to have an important support in the war market. After the end of the third world war (or "cold war"), the weapons' expenditures are reduced all over the world. But they begin to peak again after 1994: In the Middle East it goes from 11.9 billion dollars to 15.3 billion in 1996. In Asia from 7.0 billion to 8.9. In Latin America from 0.8 to 1.6 billion. In South East Asia from 0.9 to 1.4 billion. In the former USSR from 0.1 billion to 0.3 billion. Only in Western Europe, OTAN decreases from 9.3 to 8.5 billion.

The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) declared that in 1996 the world market of military hardware increased 8% and reached 39.9 billion dollars. In 1994 it had already increased 13%. All this after having fallen, from 1987 and 1994, at least 61.5% (International Courier #366. Nov., 1997). In relation to the main weapons' merchants in 1996: The U.S. have 42.6% of the world market, The United Kingdom 22.1%, France 14.1%, Russia 8.6%, Israel 3.3%, and China 1.5%. After 1990, The U.S., The United Kingdom, and France went up in weapon's sales. The former USSR fell back, and Israel and China remained in the same place
(Ian Black and David Fairhall in "The Guardian", London, UK, 1997).

THE FIFTH FACE: THE AMBASSADOR-POLITICIAN.- Once the borders are broken for the capitals and the market is redefined as the supreme master, the internationalization of the political work forces modern politicians to perform more like travelling salesmen, fluent in foreign languages and drawing room diplomacy. The modern politician has no defined nationality and no other idiocincracy than that of the market. He is North American in the United States, and in Latin America, and in Europe, and in Asia, and in Africa, and in Oceania. His only fatherland is Wall Street, his color is dollar green, he thinks in English and lives according to the Dow Jones and Nikkei rythm.

THE SIXTH FACE: THE HISTORIAN-POLITICIAN.- In neoliberalim, History recycles itself in order to deny itself and provoke repentance. The globalized sacrifice of utopias includes the burning of the flags of rebellion and the banners of cynicism and conformity are embraced instead. Knowledge recycles itself and it recycles its "priests". The new truth, that of the financial markets, needs new prophets. The new politician is also a historian, but in the opposite sense. For him only the present has any value and the past has to be seen as resposible for everything bad that occurs. "The true history", the neo-poltician tells himself and tells us, "begins with me".

THE SEVENTH FACE: THE GENERALIST-POLITICIAN.- As the markets logic invades everything social, and as the politician is transformed in the "conductor" of such an invasion, his "knowledge" must cover everything, that is why he feels he has the capacity to give opinions about everything. And if a part of that "general all encompassing knowledge" is not translatable in marketing terms, then that part does not deserve any attention whatsoever.

Those are the 7 faces of the modern politician. Are you interested in the job? No intelligence whatsoever is required (Menem in Argentina, Fujimori in Peru, Zedillo in Mexico prove that). It's enough to obey the markets.


"No matter where we look, a substancial part of the silhouettes of what we used to know, of what we believed in, have disappeared, as if the memorized sky-line of ideas and social projects had vanished in smoke and we had been left without the fundamental imaginaries of a culture we, not too long ago, used to call progressive in opposition to reactionary culture."
Manuel Sanchez Montalban. "Pamphlet from the simian's planet."

The old politics, that of principles and programs, sacrifices itself on the altar of the global market. It is now the free interplay between supply and demand which determines the ideological orientation of the "modern" political parties. To have a good product to compete against others in the "consumer 's choices" is what matters. The political proposal turns out to be a trivia item to be consumed, digested and disposable. Each day, less citizens know what the political organizations' history, principles and programs are all about. Increasingly, every day, the various offers are different in relation to the different characters (sometimes not even that, as the Mexican PRD comes to show). The political proposals are not that, they are opinions and positions in regard to problems arising from a given situation. They have, therefore, the perseverance of a weather vane in the middle of a storm. As in a merry-go-round in a village carnival, the right wing becomes center and left, the left wing turns to the right and center. Mounted on top of the figure of his choice, the citizen goes through the entire ideological spectrum.

Modern politics are increasingly becoming an endeavour of the elite. And its supreme exercise in the work of an elite among elites. Society goes from being an occasional actor to being a constant spectator.

Soon the citizen's "politics" will be practiced electronically. In front of a computer, the citizen will "vote", that is to say, act as a guarantor. No more closed streets, no more demonstrations, no more meetings, no more taking of buildings, no more disturbances, which as its name indicates only disturb the markets, that is to say the "Nation". The citizen will choose a political option like he chooses a product in a supermarket, but from home.

What exists overcomes and defeats that which is necessary. The polls and the statistics direct the political discourse, just like historical analysis and ideological convictions used to do previously. There is no longer the transformation of historical thought into political theory, and from it into principles and a program of struggle. Now "modern" politics are the translation of the market study into a marketing program, and of the latter into a publicity campaign.

The atrophy is vertiginous. The partisan machine becomes omnipotent and tramples over political philosophy, the proposal of transformation/conservation of social relations and definitions before the political specter. In that sense, the most "modern" politics can be found in the land of Mexico.

A chronic amnesia affects political organizations the world over. If anyone mentions the past, he must do so with a mixture of condemnation. shame, and repentance. The "I won't do it again" is the optimal and only axiom of modern historical thought.

But historical "oversights" will sooner than later present their bill. Exactly like in economics , in the political market there is no "fair play" as in free competition. Power "plays" on the side of its kindred and against its rivals. The basic cultural code contains fixed elements (for instance: left = revolution= violence= chaos= catastrophe..) The "good of the elite" transforms itself into "the common good". The conservation of power is equaled to the consolidation of progress, security and development. Once again Mexico demonstrates to be the brightest student in the mastery of the neoliberal lessons of "politics."

The so often mentioned (and so often violated) freedoms of the "modern democracies": freedom of speech, assembly, and association, are now redefined according to the world market's logic. But the only freedoms are those of the buying and selling (trade) which, as it is obvious, are rather selective, exclude the majority and make up the political endeavors (outside of the specifically electoral work, that is to say, most of the time) as something having to do with very few, the most powerful few ones.


"Now we had all modernity overrun by laborious moles that drilled the subsoil spying the planet from below".
Umberto Eco. Ibid.

The Portuguese writer Jose Saranago says that "contrary to what they usually would like you to believe, there is nothing easier to understand than the History of the world, although many educated people are still adamant in afirming that it is too complicated for the limited understanding of the masses."

The neoliberal fear of history is not so much a fear of its existence (after all the poor also exist, and they can be ignored), but a fear that one may get to know it, and learn from it.

In order to avoid that, History is kidnapped by those "learned people" and adequately made up, so as to make it unrecognizable to those below.

The kidnapping of History by the elites is meant to "remodel" its consumption in order to make the human being's fundamental patrimony: memory, disappear.

In the new "world history", the present defeats the past and takes hold of the future. Today is the new tyrant, it is to it that one swears allegiance and obedience.

But all over the world, moles of every color and size rummage in the hidden History and find, and understand. Every so often those moles emerge and open holes of underground light that illuminate the ground surface grays of neoliberal chaos.

Besides trying to kill them, globalizing power trains its "thinkers" to try and isolate those moles from History. The modern intellectuals determine, with dark judgements and juries, the banalization and disqualification of critical thought. "Poetry, utopia, mesianism", are the most common charges. The sentence? Persecution and slander.

It must be understood, that the constant emergence of these moles, sacandalously coincides with the appearance of social mobilizations. And these defy the established order because they also defy the modern political endeavours. The "intruders" of politics stalk behind every corner of History.

Against modern politics, and with History as its flag, the world's civil society insists in reemerging once and again. It sparkles above ground, and it submerges itself again in order to reappear once more.

The She-Phoenix remakes herself in the nest of History...


"Que ella grito': !cuan verdadero par
Parece este uno concordante!
Amor tiene razon, razon ninguna,
Si asi pueden quedar las partes."
El Tortolo y el Feniz. ("The Phoenix and the Dove")
William Shakespeare


(Translator's note: I will provide the original as soon as I have time to look for it.)

Paraphrasing it freely it says something like:

"That she screamed: What a true pair
This one seems to be concordant!
Love is right, but reason is not,
If thus the parts may stay."

La Mariya (tojolabal, 4 years old and an I Q of 180-which disqualifies her for modern politics-) has come out a winner in the sling shot contest. She defeated three little boys (of the 6 of us who were present). The children, I imagine because of their age (Huber is 4, Andres 3, and Andulio 6), do not feel hurt in their "macho" feelings we Zapatistas are so proud of. The Sea places la Mariya on her shoulders and declares with solemnity the tryumph of feminine power. I am the Sup, so I take the side of the "machitos" and I argue that it was sheer chivalry and not bad marksmanship what left "my little boys" out of the contest. "The prize!, the Sea and la Mariya shout in unison. I don't have any more candy so, instead, I offer...


"Once upon a time there was a little toad who was not satisfied with being a little toad, and who wanted to be a crocodile. Then he went down to the swamp to look for the crocodile, and told him: "I want to be a crocodile". The crocodile answered him: "You can't be a crocodile, because, as things stand, you are a little toad". Yes-said the little toad-but I want to be a crocodile. What do I have to do to be a crocodile?" The crocodile said "There is nothing to do, one is born a crocodile, and that's how things are, a crocodile is a crocodile". The little toad told him: "But I don't want to be a little toad, I want to be a crocodile. Do you know where and with whom I can voice my noncomformity at being a little toad so they may let me be a crocodile?" "I don't know, maybe the owl knows", the crocodile answered. And then the little toad went into the woods in search of the toad. There he met another little toad and asked him where he could find the owl. "That one only works at night-the other little toad answered him-, but be careful when you talk to him, because the owl eats little toads". Then the little toad waited for night to fall and while he waited he built a fortification to protect himself from the owl's attacks. He piled one stone atop the other until he built himself a small cave and he went inside it. When night came, so did the owl, and the little toad asked him from inside his cave: "Mr. owl, do you know where and with whom I can voice my noncomformity at being a little toad so they may let me be a crocodile, which is what I want to be?" "Who is talking to me, and from where?", the owl asked in turn. "It's me, and I am here", answered the little toad, and the owl swooped on the little toad to grab him with its claws, but since the little toad was inside the cave, the owl could only grab a stone and he ate it thinking it was the little toad he was eating. Then the weight of the stone made the owl fall to the ground and it made his belly ache a lot. "Ouch!, ouch!-complained the owl-, help me get this stone out of my belly, otherwise I can't fly". The little toad told him that he would help him only if he answered his question. "First help me and then I'll answer you", the owl told him. "No way-said the little toad-, first tell me, because if I first help you get rid of the stone you are going to eat me, and you are no longer going to answer me."

"O.K.-said the owl-, I am going to answer you, but the one you should show your unsatisfaction with being a little toad is the lion, he is the king and he knows why everyone is everyone. Now help me get rid of the stone." "No way, Jose-answered the little toad-,because if I get the stone out of your belly you are going to keep on eating little toads." "That's it-said the owl-you want to be a noncomformist for nothing, you still worry about the other little toads, and you don't even want to be a little toad". But the little toad did not pay any attention to him and went on to look for the lion.

The lion lived in a cave, and the little toad thought that maybe the lion also ate little toads, and he had an idea. He soaked himself in a small puddle and he rolled himself on the dirt, and he came out disguised as a stone. When the lion came out of his cave, the little toad told him: "Mr. Lion, I come to show my noncomformity at being a little toad because I want to be a crocodile." "Who is talking to me? asked the lion. And the little toad answered him "It's me". "But you are a little pebble, what's all this about little toads and crocodiles?" the lion responded. " Well, I've come to show my noncomformity because one is not what one wants to be but what one already is", said the little toad. "That's the way it usually is-said the lion-, one is what one is and one cannot be something else. All one can be is to be what one is well", said the lion yawning philosophically. At that point it started to rain, and the mud that covered the little toad was washed away and one could clearly see that it was a little toad and not a pebble. The little toad did not know if lions eat little toads and he left jumping along back to his pond.

The little toad was jumping along very sad, jumping, and jumping, because one is what one is and cannot be something else, and because all one can be is to be well what one is. Saddened by his thoughts the little toad arrived at his pond and he hurried to look for the crocodile. When he arrived at the swamp he did'nt find the crocodile. He looked for him all over, and couldn't find him. He asked the other animals and they responded "Didn't you know? A hunter found the crocodile and now he is a purse, and a pair of crocodile shoes..." The little toad remained thinking, and when everyone thought he was going to say that he was very glad he wasn't a crocodile and that he was very glad to be a little toad, he exclaimed: "That's truly transcending being an animal and not fuck ups!". And he began to study and practice to become a good crocodile. It seems he did a fairly good job, and was able to deceive a hunter.

They say that the little toad is now a very expensive coin purse. "It is made with the skin of a very special crocodile, says the wealthy matron who bought it.

The lesson of this story is that the stone blow matches the size of the toad. Tan-tan."

La Mariya got bored and left when the little toad was only about to go see the owl. The Sea has stayed (she can't do otherwise) until the end of the story.

-Calm down, Aesop-
she jokes.

I am a misunderstood man, no doubt about it.


" It seems to me to be self evident! The one who plots, if he plots, does so below the surface, not in broad day light. That has been known since the beginning of time. The domination of the world means the domination of what lies below. Of the underground currents."

Finally I think that Old Antonio is right when he says that below us there is a better world than the one we suffer in, that memory is the key to the future, and that (I add) History is nothing but an inverted periscope...


P.D.- The fourth, third and sixth keys open doors only known to the Sea. More keys and more doors are upcoming.

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