Dec 15, 2020. Wild Manifesto: Domination, Fear, and Radical Disobedience
By Eduardo Gudynas at servindi.org translation thefreeonline
Is there something of the wild left in the 21st century? In the jungles and mountains there are hardly any places that are truly wild or free of any trace of contemporary capitalism. Wild beasts barely survive in a few places, and are best known for television documentaries or behind bars in zoos.
The roar of the cougar can be reproduced from an application on the cell phone. The indigenous should no longer be savage, and if she/he were, it is still not a compliment to many. The wild is tied to the past of engravings and black and white photos, to a history that is left behind. The equation is less savagery and more modernity, less jungle and more plastic.
What does it mean to be wild today? In today’s vocabulary that word has other uses. Some use it to denounce those who wage war or mercenaries in drug gangs as savages. It’s what we hate. But in the opposite sense, wild can also be the slogan in the advertising of a deodorant or a perfume. It is an animal ancestry that some long for.
But wild is not just any word. Much less is it a term without history.
It has marked the future of the global south from the first day of colonization. An attempt was made to appease the foundational fear by imposing civilization on the wild, on other humans and on Nature.
With the passage of time, many people celebrated that the sense of the wild was replaced by ideas such as progress, development or modernization. But there is nothing to celebrate. When the wild lost its guts, the shell that survived was easier to master and control. Obedience is accepted, imposed, even desired.
Faced with the multiple crises that we now face, it is imperative to break with that compliance that leaves us more and more defenseless and immobilized. It is time for disobedience, and for that, we need to be wild again.
Before entering hell there was the jungle, and she was wild. A dark, rough and thick space that aroused fear, as Dante Alighieri made clear in his Divine Comedy (1).
That fear, confessed almost two centuries before the arrival in the Americas, was the burden that the colonizers carried. The first Europeans to set foot on American beaches applied these ideas, turning almost everything around them wild.
They did not invent anything, but instead performed a transatlantic juggling act that transplanted European myths to the American lands and its inhabitants of the Americas (2). They were unable to do otherwise.
In western Europe of those times, wild was the label that was applied to forests, mountains or any other remote place, to wild animals, but also to men and women who lived in those places, the uneducated that they were naked or in worn clothes, covered with hair from head to toe, unable to speak or that if they did, they were very rude (3). An image of uncultivated spaces, undomesticated animals, chaos and disorder.
But what is not always noticed is that the idea of wildness is intimately dependent on fear. That dread that Dante invoked was due to the fact that these places were dangerous to them and the uneducated who inhabited them did not differ from the beasts of the forest. Fear appears again and again associated with the wild, applied both to the environment and to its inhabitants, undifferentiated from each other, and that was the sensitivity that the colonizers installed in our continent.
The new landscapes that they found in the Americas were not only unfamiliar to them, but also frightening. They could die when trying to cross a river, they could go hungry because they did not know what to eat, they were decimated by new diseases and all kinds of parasites, and, in addition, they could be attacked. Not only did they fear death, but even after death they could be cannibalized.
Photo: Fear of the jungle. The wild as a dark forest before which one feels dread: in the forest, canto 1, Infierno, Divina Comedia; Gustave Dore engraving, 1885.
At the beginning of the colonization, Hernán Cortés already made it clear in his letters to the king that everything that surrounded him was immense and exuberant, a Nature that he describes as frightening, which he fears because it is hostile and unintelligible (4 ). The colonizers are repeatedly on the verge of dying of hunger or thirst or of getting lost in the bush, portraying sites with excessive mountains, vast swamps, raging rivers and endless rains.
That fear would never go away. Centuries later, Thomas Whiffen, exploring in the Amazon in 1915, admitted that the jungle was a “ruthless enemy”, “innately malevolent ”, a dark“ barbarism ”, because there is nothing“ more cruel in nature than the unconquered vegetation of the jungle ”. Traveling through the Amazon was the “horror of the unseen” (5).
Not enough attention has been given to this foundational fear that flowed among the newcomers. That emotion forced us to dominate Nature and its inhabitants as soon as possible. All this fuels the European obsession to dominate geography and the natives since in the first place they wanted to survive, and once they succeeded, only at that moment, they could launch themselves to satiate the ambition to appropriate gold, silver and any other. valuable resource.
The compulsion to dominate was fueled by fear. Greed led them to enter these new territories, but the colonizer, deep down, was fearful, was conscious of it, and for that reason detested the wildness even more.
The native peoples, who today we generically call indigenous, and who the colonizers observed as savages and infidels, had to be bound and subdued.
The environment that surrounded them, which they generically referred to as jungle, desert or mountain, also had to be mastered. What was not nominated was discovered to be labeled, and the label of savage justified conquest, exploitation and Christianization.
The colonizers did not hesitate to use violence to achieve this. Violence is the other side of that fear. The more afraid they were, the more cruel they became, and the idea of wildness also became a justification for their dehumanization. By animalizing them they felt liberated from moral qualms about subduing or even killing them.
Civilize the savages
The overriding fear of the wild condition was never overcome. It was confronted with a succession of ideas, actions and claims, such as those to civilize, Christianize, educate, enlighten, and many others. All of them led to domination and control; each nurtured the hope of serving as an antidote to permanent fear.
It was insisted that colonization would overcome the wild world: both the lands and the minds and hearts of the natives could be cultivated to free them from their supposed backwardness, and it was possible to catechize them to save them.
But we know that the American mountains and jungles were not uncultivated, but that other agriculture, other livestock, other uses of forests, other water management, etc., which were applied to them, and were present before the arrival of the Europeans.
In many regions Nature was not untouched, landscapes had been shaped by crops, grazing and water management. In the same way, its inhabitants were not uneducated, since they treasured their own artistic expressions, their politics, their wars and their religions.
All that diversity instead of calming the colonizers reinforced their fear. The environment is felt as hostile because it is excessive and exuberant, and because of the “estrangement it awakens, due to ignorance, in the European man who tries to dominate it”, as B. Pastor warns (6).
They perceived all this as aggression and turned the environment into the main enemy. All this led them to impose even more their religiosity, their morals and their politics. Obedience was required, which is not surprising because the European tradition that could be traced back to the European classics, life in the polis implied compliance with its rules and mandates.
That is the kind of civility is necessary to leave the wild condition behind, to ensure order in the chaos of the misunderstood, to free oneself from fear. Intentions are not at stake in this, but rather a historical dynamic, since even where the best purposes and the greatest compassion existed, obedience and control were always imposed.
If necessary, they did not hesitate to wage “wars against the natives,” as the Spanish crown justified it at the time, or to violently punish the disobedient.
That domination followed a rationality and affectivity that was repeatedly made clear. It was simultaneously social and ecological, since, just as beasts “tame and subject themselves to the empire of man”, in the same way “the man rules over the woman, the adult man over the child, the father over his children, it is that is to say, the most powerful and perfect over the weakest and most imperfect ”, as Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda made it very clear around 1550.
Following this position, the Spaniards had a “perfect right” to “rule over these barbarians of the New World”, because they are as “inferior to the Spaniards as the children to the adults and the women to the men, having as much difference between them as the one that goes from fierce and cruel people to very clement people…, and I am about to say that from monkeys to men ”(7).
These ideas summarize, with all crystallinity, the domination over Nature, patriarchy and colonialism that unfolded in the following centuries.
On the other hand, the intelligent indigenous peoples soon began to understand, according to some of the few testimonies available, that the Spanish were only interested in stealing, especially food and gold, enslaving men or raping women. They were portrayed as thieves and murderers, and that quickly led to rejection, resentment, and hatred (8).
It is true that there were some controversies that, for example, presented the savage as truly good and noble. Montaigne proclaimed that savagery nested in Europe, and later, Rousseau affirmed that there was nothing sweeter than man in his primitive state (9).
On the other side, those who insisted on painting wildmess as negative, backward or immature were still in their trenches. Hegel with all his petulance taught from the Prussian chair that the peoples of the Americas had a “weak culture” that “perishes when they come into contact with the peoples of superior culture”, which, of course, was European. In any case, their fear that these immature, these child cultures, could finally win the battle of history (10) was clear.
Do not be confused because those oppositions, like that of Rousseau against Hegels, which were never more than confrontations between modern Europeans. Each side molded in its own way an idea of the savage condition to attack its opponents, but without any participation of those Indians expressing themselves in their own languages and ways.
No defenses or claims will be found to be spoken or written in Nahuatl, Aymara or Mapudungún. Those were classroom debates from the other side of the Atlantic that did not achieve more than some discomfort in the march of Modernity, where each one defended his own version of universal progress (11).
Labels could change, making savages become natural, unfaithful, impure, Indian, and they were classified according to their blood, caste, race or religion, always in ways that legitimized colonial domination (12). As time went by, that was not enough, new labels were added such as mestizos, maroons, marginals, declassified, informal, crazy, and more.
Under these ups and downs, Modernity built itself as an overcoming of the savage condition. Its purpose was that those natives or Indians would disappear and only those that were civilized or purified would be accepted. However, despite this supposed triumph, people never got over their fear of the wild condition.
That fear triggered the violence of the colonizers and continued with the Creoles. They projected out onto the indigenous people the violence that they themselves practiced, following a classic observation by Michael Taussig. The account of the atrocities that occurred in the times of the rubber in the Putumayo region by Taussig shows that the colonizers tortured, tore to pieces and killed the indigenous people because that was what they did among themselves (13).
All this is not about something of the past, since with sadness we must admit that it is repeated today. In Colombia, local leaders are assassinated, almost always indigenous, peasant or Afro, to silence their voices or control their lands, which is a reflection of the barbarism of much of the society in that country. The hit men who are sent to kill in the Brazilian Amazon reflect the barbarism of the police, military, guerrillas, local politicians, and many sectors and institutions of the country.
In Chile, the carabineros now attack the Mapuches, even murdering a young man from behind and covering it up with fabrications and lies – fear makes them murderers, cowards and liars (14). All these events are not essentially different from what happened in Putumayo a little over a century ago.
Obedience and education
Every time that modernization had to confront savage beings and worlds, it resorted to an idealization of Europe. When they were overcome by fear they sought refuge in that origin. Some had moments of sincerity that allowed their most intimate thoughts to be known, confessing that it was European memory that nourished them with the energy to face fear and continue to order, in their own way, the savage disorder of the Americas.
The German explorer, Carl Freidrich von Martius, at the most extreme point of his journey within the Brazilian Amazon, wrote at the beginning of the 19th century:
”Deeply moved by the chill of this wild loneliness, I sat down to draw it; but I will not attempt to describe to the reader the feelings that touched my soul during this work. This was the westernmost point the trip could reach. Meanwhile all the terrors of a loneliness devoid of human beings oppressed me, I felt an indescribable nostalgia for the company of the men of beloved civilized Europe. I thought how all culture and the salvation of humanity had come from the East. I painfully compared those fortunate countries to this dreadful wasteland, but still, I was glad to be here. I raised my gaze more to heaven and with courage I directed my spirit and heart to the friendly East ”(15).
It is a shocking confession because, on the one hand, von Martius was never really alone since he traveled accompanied by Brazilians who served as guides, translators and assistants. Despite being surrounded, he felt invaded by loneliness, and it was because he was not with other Europeans, the only ones who were truly “human”.
On the other hand, once again fear appears in his surroundings, since in his explorer’s eyes the Amazon was a terrifying desert, and he recognized it in a way that reminiscent of Dante before heading to Purgatory.
His antidote was to look to the sky in the direction of Europe, confident that redemptive civilization would come from there. The mandate was clear and was repeated throughout the continent: the savages had to be educated, which implied imposing another language on them, Christianizing them, dressing them, and behaving in the same way as their teachers.
Foto: Photo: The new world. The inhabitants of the new world are “cannibals, but they live in a state of nature in which everything is in common …”, says the text. Image of one of the first engravings on what we now call indigenous people, inspired by the texts of Américo Vespucio, and published between 1505 and 1507, in Augsburg. Reproduced from América imaginaria, M. Rojas Mix, Erdosain and Pehuén, Santiago, 2015.El mundo nuevo.
At stake is the need to ensure obedience, in those days of the indigenous and peasants, but the same was continued years later with workers, employees, and with anyone who should be a member of the culture. The purpose is already clear in the meaning of the word obey, which requires complying with the will of a superior or a principal; it is executing the orders of others, and it applied to both humans and animals.
It is, as a dictionary from 1609 explains, the recognition of the greatest and superior, and to comply with the commandments of faith (16), and as another dictionary adds in the nineteenth century, the imposition of docility on the “brutes”, one of the synonyms for savages, who are”subjected” to teaching or art (17).
All this was unfolded not only by simple and violent means but also by a construction of the idea of normality that conformed to those Eurocentric models. A discipline was put in place that encompassed the space, the body, the thinking and the feeling of the people, as Michael Foucault (18) clarifies.
The alleged normality does not mean uniformity, but it does mean a previous determination of the ways in which the discourses and practices that result in accepting these conditioning factors are produced. In this way, various singularizations of persons or groups can coexist, but all must abide by the limits of ‘modernity’ since, following von Martius’s reasoning, only then would they be human.
This tension was very evident especially for the indigenous peoples, forcing them to be less and less savage and more civilized. It was the only way to be recognized as “rational beings and worthy of enjoying the human condition”, of course according to Western scales. They were trapped in a terrible imposition, the Bolivian Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui clarifies, having to “deny themselves and learn the ways of being and thinking of the dominant minority” so as not to be marginalized and excluded (19).
Foto: : Educating the wild. An indigenous woman of the Huitoto people (above) “who ten or fifteen years ago was naked and painted and who today wear sclothes sewn by herself with the latest model Singer hand machine”, according to Carlos de Rey Castro, 1913. Huitota, naked and with her child (left), in 1904 according to an image that showed that condition that the colonizer wanted to domesticate (20). The Huitotos are an indigenous people that occupy territories in what is now northern Peru and southern Colombia, and who were decimated by the colonizers who exploited rubber.
These mechanisms have not only not disappeared today, but have also expanded to educational institutions, the academic intelligentsia and the media. In these and other areas they have played decisive roles in delimiting the normal as the other side of an abnormality that is unacceptable, and in which savages precisely reside.
As to obey is to comply with the will of another, a hierarchy is immediately established, which perfectly fits those purposes of the imposition of men on women, parents on children, teachers on students, colonizers on colonized, and of humans on Nature. .
Order and progress
In the nineteenth century the control mechanisms were further strengthened under the call to progress. It became the antidote to overcoming what were described as backward, immature, fragile, or savage societies. Just as in Mexico, José María Luis Mora demanded to move from regression to progress, on the other side of the equator, in Argentina, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento demanded the abandonment of a condition that he described as barbaric for being American and almost indigenous, to replace it with Europeans to be civilized (21).
The savage was still the indigenous, but now the criollo or cholo was joined, and other races, or even the classes, since all would express a backwardness that they wanted to overcome.
At the same time, the mobilizations of any of these different types of savages, such as horde, pack, malón, or multitude, further fueled the fears that forced them to be controlled. It was in this context that capitalism crystallized in Latin America. Leer ORIGINAL en castellano AQUÍ
But in this situation, those who proclaimed themselves superior to the savages at the same time confessed that they were unable to bring their countries out of the supposed backwardness, and meekly admitted that they needed European teachers, especially French and English.
The patriarchy and the Latin American oligarchy who in those years declared themselves superior, at the same time built their own subordination to Europe.
In this way, the imaginary of progress in our continent was anchored in feeling an inferiority of its own. The calls for a recolonization rest on these ideas, as the Argentines Juan B. Alberdi and Domingo F. Sarmiento argued differently. Europe was the model to follow at the time, and would later be replaced by the United States.
This recolonization was also spatial and ecological, to order and transform landscapes that were still considered wild. Greed for gold and silver was not abandoned, only other minerals were added, and immediately the conquest for the land for agricultural exploitation.
Sugar cane, tobacco, cocoa, hides and jerky, rubber, and bananas were quickly added. The sites that could not be managed, due to the colonial inability to understand other ecologies, were classified as deserts, as happened with the Pampa, the Chaco or Patagonia, despite being full of life.
It is not surprising that, in that context, in the 19th century, the positivism of A. Comte spread throughout the continent, demanding progress, order and obedience. One of his greatest successes was achieved in Brazil as expressed in the flag designed in 1889, under the impulse of the self-styled “Positivist Church” and the support of the Military School of Rio de Janeiro.
“Order and Progress” can be read in it, a mandate that derives directly from Comte’s sentence “Love by principle, order by base, progress at last.” Commitments of this type were also embraced in the long government of Porfirio Díaz in Mexico or in the presidencies of Rafael Núñez in Colombia (22).
But behind those ideas persisted the fear of the savage. For example, Rafael Uribe Uribe, a liberal Colombian politician who at the time opposed the conservative Rafael Núñez, warned in 1929 that almost the entire territory of the country was in the “power of the savage,” so that Colombian families or foreigners were exposing themselves to their attacks.
He concluded that if they were not “tamed” the day wouls soon come when “their blood and ours must be shed to contain them” (23). In one way or another, all those generations and in all countries felt like “exiled Europeans” in these “wild pampas”, as José Luis de Imaz said in the 1960s (24).
Under these conditions, ideas such as those of progress expressed the advancement of a civility and a reason that, as Horkheimer and Adorno warned already in the 20th century, had the objective of “freeing men from fear and building them into lords” (25 ). The invocation of progress first, and that of development more recently, became a forward flight to leave behind fear and renew forms of domination.
Together with other conceptions and sensibilities they crystallized in Modernity. In those foundations are the dissociation of society from Nature, anthropocentrism in understanding and assigning values, epistemologies of Cartesian moods, the conviction of linearity in a history that was in turn Western history, or Eurocentrism in conceiving of politics or justice.
However, the fear never disappeared because there was always one more savage to control. Since the flag of order and progress was raised at the end of the 19th century in Rio de Janeiro, to the celebrations of President Jair Bolsonaro, in 21st century Brasilia, what has been seen is how the idea of progress was replaced by that of development, crossing the philosophical ambition for economic formulations, while discipline became more and more hardened.
The French and German teachers of the 19th century were replaced in the following century by manuals and consultants sent from Washington. The obsession with economic growth was not abandoned across the entire political spectrum, since the emergence of the new left, at the beginning of the 21st century, ended in a progressivism that did not hide the fact that José “Pepe” Mujica drank mate with David Rockefeller or that Evo Morales would spoke in the business newspaper Financial Times. The obsession with progress made them subordinate to capital.
Photo: Order and progress. In Brazil, the extreme right reached government with Jair Bolsonaro, a former military man and parliamentarian, who assumed the presidency of Brazil in 2019. His positions are racist, homophobic and violent. Among his statements are: “You have to give six hours for the criminals to surrender, otherwise, the poor neighborhood is machine-gunned from the air”; “We are going to shoot” the leftist militants; black communities “do nothing” … “they are not even good for procreating”; “The error of the dictatorship was to torture and not kill”; and “I am in favor of torture.”
Those foundational fears continue embedded in the current ones. Centuries have passed, “how long? Two centuries? ” Interconnected by an “ indestructible sensation of anguish ”, as Diamela Eltit tells in her narration of a daughter who cares for her mother in a hospital, the one who is transfigured into the Chilean country or nation. A mother-country that is broken, operated on and bleeding (26).
The fear to which I refer is analogous to that image, since it is always there, since the beginning of the colony, often hidden, not always evident, but permanent.
The anthropophagy of the civilized
Faced with these advances of Modernity, there was no lack of those who proposed an anthropophagy (cannibalism) by which the primitives, whether Amerindians or Africans, consumed modernity. “Only cannibalism unites us”, Oswald de Andrade would say, appealing to the image of those savages who, being cannibals, terrorized the first colonizers (27). But in this attempt he opposes the Indian as natural, against humans who would be civilized, intermingling a colonial world with a modernization that he considers positive.
He points to a synthesis that would be matriarchal but technological, classless, but focused on progress, and for this reason he cannot break the fence of Modernity (28). Andrade’s starting point, in the 16th century, where the Indians supposedly devour the first Portuguese bishop, ends in the 20th century in a modernized Brazilian who, in his own way, is also a believer in progress.
But de Andrade expresses an intention that must be valued, since the purpose of being anthropophagous is a forceful act of disobedience to the mandates of Modernity. Moderns cannot be cannibals because they are civilized, and if they did, they would immediately fall into the space of abnormality that must be punished.
However, the construction of Modernity somehow ran in reverse cannibalism. It is that, although from the beginning, Europeans and Creoles desired the wealth of natural resources and indigenous territories, “the Indians never desired the spirit of the whites,” and only “submitted when the whites forced them to believe that they wanted the spirit of the whites ”, as Argentine David Viñas (29)observed some time ago.
Photo: Politicians acting as indigenous. Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, at that time respectively former president and president of Brazil, in the public ceremony of the inauguration of a bridge over the Negro River, near the city of Manaus, with indigenous peoples’ own headdresses.
The moderns who are on the cusp of power, such as politicians, businessmen, and even academics, are so immersed in dominating and controlling that they do not hesitate to cross-dress from time to time as indigenous people. They are not ashamed to ritualize the aesthetics of those, knowing that they enjoy impunity, and that by doing so they reinforce discipline over others.
They adorn themselves as if they were Indians, as if that were enough to understand their demands and respect their identities. But even these performances, as if parts of different cultures are ingested, cannot solve the problems. None of this resolves the primordial fear of the moderns, since each time fear appears a new cannibalism will be necessary.
A permanently unfinished modernity
We are facing a generalized adherence to the “holy trinity” of Modernity, with the State as the father, the market as the son, and reason as the holy spirit, as Eduardo Viveiros de Castro recalls (30). It is an act of faith to calm the foundational fear. It has been so effective that while recognizing some crises that occur within it, the conviction prevails that all problems will be solved by being more modern.
It ends up accepting Modernity as an unfinished project, as Jürgen Habermas pointed out, so that in this way many entertain themselves looking for a new version that would solve current problems (31). These good intentions are constantly repeated in Latin America, many times formulated as multicultural and even intercultural plans, which are committed to a new Modernity that will respect and rework indigenous knowledge and identities, something like Andean people who rethink the Hellenic Plato as Fernando Calderón candidly celebrates for Bolivia (32).
Faced with manifestations of this kind, there are many who react by insisting that they are based on simplistic and monolithic, almost cartoonish, visions of Modernity. The answer is that Modernity is plural; inside it is heterogeneous, both in its conceptions and its sensibilities, as well as in the ways in which they intermingle with local and regional histories.
But all this diversity maintains common knowledge and sensibilities, shared by the great liberal, conservative and socialist currents, which serve as foundations on which this heterogeneity rests.
Arguments, disputes that can be very intense or even revolutions are tolerated, but that essence is not put into practice in the ways of thinking and feeling. It is possible to discuss how to progress, but to abandon that idea is not accepted ; It is possible to debate about the management of Nature, but the duality that separates it from society is not in doubt.
We are underdeveloped because we want to be developed in their image. So it is not surprising to hear those who argue that criticism should point to capitalism and not Modernity, while assuming that there would be a non-capitalist Modernity that would be beneficial and positive.
Following that path implies that once again an attempt is made to move from one variety to another of Modernity, becoming an alternative that reinforces those foundations because it cannot come to question them.
It is in this way that disciplines are continually reproduced that determine what is acceptable and unacceptable, what is questionable and unquestioned, what is sensitive and what is insensitive (33).
This is very clear in Latin America because we are surrounded by examples of those ups and downs within Modernity. We have seen frenzied defenses and attacks between different types of development, but all of them developments at heart, engrossed in modernization and growth. We have heard partisan proclamations from the right and from the left, old conservatives against socialists of the 21st century, and so on, although they all end up locked in the same precepts of modern politics.
It has been underestimated that Modernity fuels its vigor by allowing such diversity, and while it is shaken with bouts of criticism and madness, not all of them are tolerable. Discipline determines what can and cannot be discussed, which changes are imaginable and which are inconceivable. It does not necessarily prohibit some alternatives, but has made them unthinkable.
This is not the result of a simple imposition of the north, especially European, on a south, but rather that both participated in their own way. Subordination was forged, as indicated above, because many here in the south sought and desired the magisterium that came from the north, and together they organized this intermingling.
But there is no more time to continue trying to rescue Modernity. All kinds of reforms, adjustments, modifications and even revolutions have been applied within it, but none of them have altered those essences.
Almost everyone remains convinced that Nature is separate from humans, that the Cartesian logos will provide scientific-technological solutions, and that we must march towards progress.
However, social and environmental impacts continue to accumulate at an increasingly rapid rate, and attempts at redress fail to resolve them.
Those who consider themselves civilized and look down on those they label as savages end up accepting inequality, poverty, and violence. They repeat the same efforts to solve problems without assuming their repeated failure.
It is not possible to continue with these attempts, because new crises have been added, of unusual gravity and on a planetary scale. We are suffering an ecological debacle that puts all life on the planet at risk, and Modernity is unable to solve it precisely because it is its cause.
Organization, sensibility and modern thinking take on a total petulance to be conceived as universal and unique, without limits, and therefore without alternatives beyond them. When you only conceive and understand disputes within you, you don’t dream of an escape. The transits between different currencies feed the illusion of changes that in reality are always returns. And in those returns that basic fear is always present.
Perhaps, as Diamela Eltit says to that daughter who is all the daughters of a mother country, it is too late to cure that anguish of centuries because “an operation is underway to decree the demolition and expatriation” of all bodies.
In the mines, where the “copper bones will be demolished in the infernal crushing machine”, the “copper dust from the last stage of our bones will end up fertilizing the subsoil of a remote Chinese cemetery” (34).
These operations of demolition of people, cultures and ecologies result from the capacity of Modernity to continually extend and reinforce control and domination to ensure normalized order.
If some doubted it, the 2020 pandemic by the coronavirus has made it clear, and, in addition, fear returned to the surface. People fear for their health, for their work, their income, for the fate of their family and friends. The enemy to dominate is an uncontrollable, untamed and dangerous virus.
Photo: The panopticon is here. Digital control that takes advantage of artificial intelligence redefines the idea of the panopticon, a concept planted by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham for a total prison surveillance without the guarded being able to know if they are being observed. Drawing by J. Djob Nkondo for the article The Panopticon is already here, R. Andersen, The Atlantic, September 2020.
Discipline and domination have been redoubled, with a whole proliferation of social controls such as curfews, closing of neighborhoods or cities, quarantines monitored by the police and the military, or limiting citizen mobilization.
These actions are added to others that were already among us, such as the surveillance cameras in the streets, or the algorithms that delve into our use of the internet, spying on the gossip and photos we share on social networks. The emergence of Covid19 has made different citizen sectors not only accept this surveillance, but also demand to reinforce it; they want to be obedient to sleep calmly.
Wild barking in the cellars
We have reached the situation where the purpose of surviving Modernity requires abandoning it. Faced with this mission, perhaps Nietzsche was right in saying that those who wish to become wise should first listen to the wild dogs barking in their cellars (35).
He challenged to us to understand an animal and not other people; They were dogs, not those domesticated ones that play in the garden or indoors, but those that are so wild that they are confined in the gloom of the basement. There are still the remains of the savage condition that Modernity must keep imprisoned, and when some are freed, they quickly pursue and capture them, they celebrate the success of re-confining them. (36).
If wildness is currently banalized as a perfume or cornered in the red chronicles of the television news, its release will possibly have little support. Nor will it be possible as long as that essential obedience that time and again is fueled by fear continues to operate.
But listening to those barks, the thrust of what we hide in our basements, is essential to think and imagine alternatives, to feel in other ways, beyond the limits of order and progress.
It is a radical disobedience that has to overcome very vigorous barriers, such as the one constituted by the mutual link between fear and domination. If the foundational fear can be broken, the drive for domination will cease to feed.
Indigenous and wild
As Modernity is heterogeneous, it is not surprising that it harbored multiple critics of that condition, and that some of them had the wit to go to its limits. The Horkheimers and Adorno in the north, the Dussels in the south, play key roles in deconstructing the modern world by encouraging and imagining other futures.
But without ceasing to recognize those contributions, radical disobedience is impossible without the contributions and participation of that group that we call indigenous. Though we should not fall into simplifications, since the savage of the 21st century cannot be confused with an idealized indigenous, resurrected from the past, which is obviously impossible, nor with the intention of creating a new “Indian”, which is silly and also disrespectful.
‘Indigenous’ continues to be a colonial label applied to an enormous diversity of peoples and cultures that were thus homogenized. It is a designation that served for domination.
Nowadays, even where respectful multicultural plans are being applied on the surface, it is the moderns who decide which attributes of the indigenous worlds are positive and deserve to join the reconstruction of Modernity.
At the same time, almost all these peoples have been affected in different ways by Modernity, and that explains why there are multiple situations, from those who defend having been civilized and modernized, desiring to participate in economic growth, to those who, even within that civility, still resist, sometimes quietly, other times actively.
But even recognizing all these conditions, ideas, attitudes, knowledge and affectivities that persist within these worlds on the edges of Modernity, show up its limits, and are even located beyond them.
Many are still disobedient, and that is why they are wild.
Let us remember that what was seen by the colonizers as savagery responded to that disobedience. The Jesuits who in the seventeenth century celebrated the “tameness” of many Guarani, at the same time criticized the Achés or Guayaquís as savages for living in “absolute freedom”, and for this reason they feared them when they saw them as indolent and irrational.
The old question of some colonizers about whether savages had souls, for those Jesuits, was displaced by the question of whether they could use reason (37). The savages “do not worship anything, after all, because they do not obey anyone”, as Viveiros de Castro warns (38).
It is precisely that type of radical disobedience, which is not tied to norms and beliefs, or at least to those that are typical of Modernity, that we need today.
Indeed, without these contributions it will be difficult to build alternatives beyond Modernity. Attempts from Western worldviews can undoubtedly be very important, but they alone will not succeed in breaking the agreements on modern normality.
We need help that comes from and is inspired by those indigenous worlds, both those who resist and those who remember.
In turn, in the current conditions of indigenous peoples, their alternatives will require the contribution of criticism made by modern discontents and disobedient people.
This mutual necessity warns against another simplification: it is not possible for all of us to become indigenous, nor can identities, cultures or histories be cloned. But any of us can go wild.
We can be wild
Indeed, we cannot all be indigenous, but it is possible to stand like savages. Anyone can try it, since it does not depend on the color of the skin, the origin of the first and last name, the place of birth or the culture learned from family and school. What is required is a radical disobedience to the normality of Modernity.
That disobedience is radical in the sense that it must leave behind both fear and domination, two conditions that are deeply ingrained. It is such an ancient condition that at the origin of the word obey is the submission of the slave to the master, an obedience that responded to the fear that he had of him.
If all those who adhere to the magisteriums of the modern “holy trinity” think and feel in “modern”, those who go wild begin to think, feel and express themselves in other languages.
Therefore, its radicality is that it breaks with the roots shared by Modernity. It is so not only in an epistemic sense, but even ontological. This makes it very different from the disobedience of the criminal who breaks a law, that of the conscientious objector, and even of what is currently conceived as civil disobedience.It is because they continue to be framed within Modernity, while savage disobedience feels free to challenge all these concepts, both in those who abide by them and in their offenders.
That does not prevent savage disobedience from using, for example, civil disobedience in some circumstances. But it is not only that, it is much more.
Radical disobedience, say, does not accept modern ways of understanding and assigning values, calls into question even what a value is, and from there it can rethink the distinctions between right or wrong. It does not accept the canon of a single, universal story, which predestines us to continue progressing, and instead is amazed at the multiplicity of local and regional stories. It is a socio-environmental disobedience because it does not believe in the duality that separates Nature from society.
The wild condition does not refer to people or social actors, it should not be thought of a rebel in the city or an indigenous person in the mountains. It is a way of thinking and feeling that defies normality, it is an attitude, it is a praxis.
It is not possible to be wild in isolation, it is not a personal reflection or an individual disconnection. Disobedience can only be constituted in groups, it is always a plurality. It is in the mobilizations or collective practices that these disobediences are exercised.
In the same way, savages build their own spatiality, creating disobedient spaces that do not follow the orders of modernity, inhabited by both humans and other existing ones. Just as in the past the savages occupied the jungles, the new savages must create their new contemporary “jungles”.
None of this is simple, but even while recognizing the difficulties, and despite all the obstacles and conditionings, we are surrounded by wild attempts, manifestations of radical disobedience that in turn generate autonomous spaces in the face of domination.
These (autonomous spaces) can exist in, for example, in a neighborhood community, in a rural collective initiative focused on agroecology, in artistic practices of any kind, in other religiosities and, why not, also in magic.
Not only are they reactions on a local scale, but they can be generalized, and a recent and striking example has been the social outbreak that occurred in Chile in October 2019.
Photo: Social outbreak in Chile. Starting from student protests against the increase in the price of public transport, street demonstrations chain reacted in the capital, Santiago, and quickly spread to almost all regions of the country. On October 23, 2019, the government declared 15 of the 16 regional capitals in emergency. Citizen protests did not decline and continued for months, and the situation only changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. The symbolic epicenter of many mobilizations was the Plaza Baquedano, in Santiago, renamed Plaza de la Dignidad by the citizens (in the photo, in the background, the equestrian monument to General Baquedano).
Throughout the following weeks rebellions and disobediences spread out , including all kinds of citizen actors. Just as Albert Camus said that in rebellion consciousness is born, it could be argued that outbreaks like the Chilean one illuminated the return of the savages.
Certainly not all who were in the streets were new savages, but some were, and among those who were not there were several who began to doubt order and progress. The disobedience referred to here was not in throwing stones or setting businesses on fire, without referring to its deepest meaning where everything could be discussed, everything could happen in the streets, and anyone could do it in their own way.
Many people showed that they had stopped believing in Chilean normality and its economic success, as it had been crushed for decades. Spaces were opened for recognition and debate on the situation of indigenous peoples, in a country where they had been marginalized and hidden since colonial times.
There were so many disobedient savages in the streets that the Chilean political right did not stop denouncing them, repeatedly demanding the imposition of more order and more punishments. This mobilization lacked visible leaders, and in it the bond between the mandator and the compliant that is typical of modern discipline vanished. The fear was transcended, left behind.
It is not possible to predict the future of the Chilean social explosion, and it is necessary to be cautious because in the past, other citizen disobediences were disciplined over the months, and finally swallowed up again by Modernity. There are the cases of “let everyone go” in Argentina in 2001, different indigenous and popular uprisings, such as the “gas war” of 2003 in Bolivia, and before, for example, the different versions of the “French May” in 1968 .
Others, on the other hand, continue to resist, as seems to be the case with Mexican Zapatismo. Beyond this, the Chilean case like those others are valid to make clear that these possibilities exist and that they occur continuously, and that they are not simply small local demonstrations, but can unleash political and social cataclysms.
These and other cases show that wild disobedience can pierce the images and meanings of Modernity. Recalling Taussig, once again, savagery “challenges the unity of the symbol, the transcendent totalization that ties the image to what it represents”, it is the “death of signification” (39).
It must also be so in that radical sense of ending the inevitable need for the modern order to create new savages to immediately discipline them, legitimizing their domination and control. It is, then, a wildness that can free us from the oppositions between chaos and order, uneducated and cultured, uncivilized and civilized.
Disobedient to survive, wild to disobey
At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, we face multiple crises on the most diverse fronts. The search for alternatives is not a luxury or a mania for academics or non-conformists, but it should be the most urgent task to face by our societies.
The most severe social problems have not been solved, and on them is added an ecological debacle that puts life itself at risk in the immediate future. All the modern solutions that have been tried have failed, and for that reason there is no other option than to look for changes beyond it.
These steps are only possible if the foundational fear that fuels discipline can be overcome. It has been said many times that the colonial condition was characterized above all by domination, with which it is not always assumed that it derives directly from fear – they are inseparable.
Since the colonial beginning, the fear of the jungle, the vastness, the desert and the mountains has occurred. The fear of the Indian, the black, the mestizo, the cholo. The fear of the pirate, the invader, the foreigner. The fear of the peasant, the poor and the sick. The fear of the guerrilla, the soldier, the police, the thief and the drug trafficker. The fear of the boss, the politician or the businessman. The fear of unemployment, rain, hunger or disease. The fear of tomorrow. The fear of fear.
It is these fears and turmoils that fuel domination and discipline. Thinking, imagining and wishing for other futures is only possible if you leave them behind.
Thus it becomes possible to disobey the rules and regulations that impose normality and the order that make up the essence of Modernity. It is to stop assuming them as inescapable mandates.
It is imagining that there may be other rules, other orders; is being able to have the opportunity to choose. That is the position that corresponds to what was initially called savage. Putting it another way: we must be savage in order to build alternatives.
This wild condition does not refer to disobedience in its banal senses, but it nests in those cellars and foundations. They are acts of radical rupture with the emotional and rational roots that sustain Modernity, it is to recover the capacity to find its limits, and to assume that they can be crossed. It is recovering the possibility of imagining and thinking the unimaginable, the inconceivable, the forbidden.
It is to disobey in order not to accept that Nature and society are separate, so as not to become obsessed with growth and possession. Disobey in order not to be obliged to be capitalists or socialists. Disobey to stop desiring the spirit of the “whites” and respect the indigenous. Disobey so as not to repeat a story that we believe is universal. Disobey to start listening to Nature. Disobey to keep pace with slow, slow, ecological times.
Disobey to recognize that there are values in other beings and objects. Disobey so as not to be afraid anymore. Disobey to be wild again.
(1) Hell, Divine Comedy, written by Dante Alighieri, possibly between 1304 and 1307.
(2) This reformulation of the idea of savage is analyzed by Roger Bartra in El mito del savage, Fondo Cultura Económica, México, 2011.
(3) This is how they are described, for example, in the Treasury of the Castilian Language, Sebastián Covarrubias Orozco, L. Sánchez impresor, Madrid, 1609.
(4) Letters relating to the conquest of Mexico, H. Cortés, Espasa Calpe, México, 1961 (1519-1526).
(5) The North-West Amazons. Notes on some months spent among cannibal tribes, T. Whiffen, Constable, London, 1915.
(6) Narrative speech of the conquest of America, B. Pastor, Casa de las Américas, La Habana, 1983.
(7) Treatise on the just causes of the war against the Indians, J. Ginés de Sepúlveda. Fondo Cultura Económica, Mexico, 1996 (1550), pp. 85 and 101.
(8) See, for example, The gestation of indigenous hatred towards the conqueror in the 16th century, L. Fossa, in Hate and forgiveness in Peru. 16th to 21st centuries (C. Rosas Lauro, ed). Editorial Fund Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, 2009.
(9) Essays, M.E. de Montaigne, edited by M. de Gournay. Cliff, Barcelona, 2007 (1595).
Discourse on the origin and foundations of inequality between men, J.J. Rousseau, Biblioteca Nueva y Siglo XXI, Madrid, 2014 (1755).
(10) Lessons on the Philosophy of Universal History, G.W.F. Hegel, Altaya, Barcelona, 1994 (1837).
(11) See, for example, Nosotros y los otros, T. Todorov, Siglo XXI, México, 1991.
(12) How about race ?, A. Quijano, Ecuador Debate, Quito, 48: 141-152, 1999. Other texts in the Aníbal Quijano anthology. Cuestiones y horizons, selected by D. Assis Clímaco, Clacso, Buenos Aires, 2014. In addition, The invention of racism. Birth of biopolitics in Spain, 1600-1940, Francisco Vázquez García, Akal, Madrid, 2009.
(13) Shamanism, colonialism and the wild man. A study on terror and healing, M. Taussig, Editorial Universidad Cauca, Popayán, 2012, p. 179.
(14) See, for example, One year after the death of Camilo Catrillanca: the chronology of the case awaiting trial, El Mercurio, Santiago, November 14, 2019, https://www.emol.com/noticias/Nacional / 2019/11/14/967128 / Chronology-Case;
(15) Viagem pelo Brasil (1817-1820), J.B. von Spix and C.F.P. von Martius, Federal Senate, Brasilia, 2017, Vol III, p. 344; EG translation from Portuguese version.
(16) Treasury of the Castilian language… op. cit.
(17) General etymological dictionary of the Spanish language, E. de Echegaray, J.M. Paquineto Editor, Madrid, 1889, volume 4.
(18) See, for example, Defend society, M. Foucault, Fondo Cultura Económica, Buenos Aires, 2000.
(19) (re) covert violence in Bolivia, S. Rivera Cusicanqui, La Mirada Salvaje, La Paz, 2010.
(20) The photographs are taken from: (left) Los escándalos del Putumayo, C. Rey de Castro, Barcelona, 1913, reproduced in The defense of the rubber tappers, Monumenta Amazónica, Lima, 2005; (right) In the Putumayo and its tributaries, E. Robuchon, La Industria, Lima, 1907.
(21) Political magazine of various administrations that the Republic has had until 1837, J.M.L. Mora, in Latin American positivist thought, Ayacucho Library, Caracas, 1980 (1838).
Facundo or civilization and barbarism in the Argentine pampas, D.F. Sarmiento, Planeta Agostini, Buenos Aires, 2000 (1845).
(22) The impact of these ideas in Latin America is reviewed in: El positivismo, L. Zea, in Latin American Positivist Thought, Ayacucho Library, Caracas, 1980.
(23) The appointment in Indios, Negros y otros undesdesrables, P. Gómez Nadal, AbyaYala, Quito, 2017. Many other examples of the condition of the savage are found in this work.
(24) We, tomorrow, J.L. from Imaz, Eudeba, Buenos Aires, 1968.
(25) Dialectic of illustration. Philosophical Fragments, M. Horkheimer and T.W. Ornament. Trotta, Madrid, 1998 (1944), p 59.
(26) Tax on meat, D. Eltit, Eterna Cadenacia, Buenos Aires, 2010, p 116.
(27) Anthropophagous Manifesto, Oswaldo de Andrade, Revista de antropofagia, No 1, São Paulo, 1928.
(28) See, for example: A crise da philosophia messiânica, his 1950 thesis, in: Complete Works, Oswald de Andrade, Vol 6, Civilização Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 1972.
(29) Indians, army and border, D. Viñas, Siglo XXI, Mexico, 1982.
(30) In: A revolução faz o bom tempo, E. Viveiros de Castro, video in: Os Mil Nomes de Gaia, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjbU1jO6rmE&feature=youtu.be
(31) Modernity, an incomplete project, J. Habermas, in: La postmodernidad, H. Foster, ed., Kairós, 1988.
(32) Latin America and the Caribbean: times of change. New sociological considerations on democracy and development, F. Calderón. FLACSO and Teseo, Buenos Aires, 2012, p 228.
(33) Only as an example of the Modern condition can be seen The Darker Side of Renaissance, W.D. Mignolo, Editorial Universidad del Cauca, Popayán, 2016, and especially the new epilogue.
(34) Tax on meat, op. cit., p. 185.
(35) Thus spoke Zarathustra, F. Neitzche, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1972 (1883-1885).
(36) That was one of Nietzsche’s concerns; see also The genealogy of morality, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1972 (1887).
(37) Mice and jaguars. Reconstruction of a genocide in the manner of the Ax-Guayakí of Eastern Paraguay, B. Melía and C. Münzel, in: “The condemned cultures” (A, Roa Bastos, ed.), Siglo XXI, México, 1978.
(38) The inconsistency of the wild soul, E. Viveiros de Castro, UNGS, Polvorines, 2018.
(39) Shamanism, colonialism …, cited above, p. 271.
Eduardo Gudynas is an analyst at the Latin American Center for Social Ecology (CLAES) in Montevideo (Uruguay). The initial versions of this article were commented on by Ros Amils, Carlos Anido, Paula di Bello, Gonzalo Gutiérrez, Pablo Ospina Peralta, Axel Rojas, and Angie Torres, whom the author thanks for their time and contributions. Published in Wild Word on December 15, 2020. Reproduction is permitted provided the source is acknowledged.
Source: Posted in Wild Word on December 15, 2020: https://bit.ly/3oQ1zAg
also at: https://www.servindi.org/actualidad-opinion/15/12/2020/manifiesto-salvaj
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|n las escalas occidentales. Quedaban atrapados en una terrible imposición, nos aclara la boliviana Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, debiendo “negarse a sí mismos y aprender los modos de ser y de pensar de la minoría dominante” para no ser marginados y excluidos (19).
Esos mecanismos no sólo no han desaparecido en la actualidad, sino que se ampliaron a las instituciones de enseñanza, la intelectualidad académica y los medios de comunicación. En esos y otros ámbitos han jugado roles decisivos en delimitar a lo normal como contracara de una anormalidad que es inaceptable, y en la que justamente residen los salvajes.
Manifiesto Salvaje: dominación, miedo y desobediencia radical
En tanto obedecer es cumplir con la voluntad de otro, inmediatamente se establece una jerarquía, donde encaje perfectamente aquellos propósitos de la imposición de los varones sobre mujeres, padres sobre hijos, maestros sobre alumnos, colonizadores sobre colonizados, y de los humanos sobre la Naturaleza.
Orden y progreso
En el siglo XIX los mecanismos de control se reforzaron todavía más bajo el llamado al progreso. Se volvió en el antídoto para superar lo que se describía como sociedades retrasadas, inmaduras, frágiles o salvajes. Así como en México, José María Luis Mora reclamaba pasar del retroceso al progreso, del otro lado del ecuador, en Argentina, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento exigía abandonar una condición que calificaba como bárbara por ser americana y casi indígena, para reemplazarla por europeos para ser civilizados (21).
El salvaje seguía siendo el indígena, pero ahora se sumaba el criollo o cholo, o a las razas, o incluso las clases, ya que todas expresarían un atraso que se quería superar.
Pero en esta situación, aquellos que se proclamaban como superiores a los salvajes al mismo tiempo se confesaban incapaces de sacar a sus países del supuesto atraso, y sumisamente admitían que necesitaba de maestros europeos, especialmente franceses e ingleses. El patriciado y la oligarquía latinoamericana que en aquellos años se declaraba superior, a la vez construían su propia subordinación a Europa.
Esa recolonización también era espacial y ecológica, para ordenar y transformar paisajes que seguían siendo considerados como salvajes. No se abandonó la avaricia por el oro y la plata, solo que se sumaron otros minerales, y enseguida la conquista por la tierra para la explotación agropecuaria. Caña de azúcar, tabaco, cacao, cueros y tasajo, caucho y banano, se sumaron rápidamente. Los sitios que no podían ser manejados, por la incapacidad colonial de entender otras ecologías, eran calificados como desiertos, como ocurrió con la Pampa, el Chaco o la Patagonia, a pesar de estar repletos de vida.
Pero por detrás de esas ideas persistía el temor al salvaje. Por ejemplo, Rafael Uribe Uribe, un político colombiano liberal que en su momento se opuso al conservador Rafael Núñez, advertía en 1929 que casi todo el territorio del país estaba en “poder del salvaje”, por lo que no podían asentarse las familias colombianas o extranjeras sin exponerse a sus ataques. Concluía que si no eran “amansados” no tardaría el día que se deberá “derramar su sangre y la nuestra para contenerlos” (23). De uno y otro modo, todas esas generaciones y en todos los países, se sentían como “europeos exilados” en estas “salvajes pampas”, como decía José Luis de Imaz en la década de 1960 (24).
Sin embargo, el miedo nunca desapareció porque siempre había un salvaje más a controlar. Desde que se izó la bandera del orden y el progreso a fines del siglo XIX en Rio de Janeiro, a las celebraciones del presidente Jair Bolsonaro, en la Brasilia del siglo XXI, lo que se ha visto es cómo la idea de progreso fue reemplazada por la de desarrollo, travistiendo la ambición filosófica por formulaciones económicas, mientras se endureció más y más el disciplinamiento. Los maestros franceses y alemanes del siglo XIX fueron reemplazados en el siglo siguiente por manuales y consultores enviados desde Washington. La obsesión con el crecimiento económico no se abandonó en todo lo ancho del espectro político, ya que la irrupción de la nueva izquierda, a inicios del siglo XXI, terminó en un progresismo que no ocultaba que José “Pepe” Mujica tomara mate con David Rockefeller o Evo Morales disertara para el periódico empresarial Financial Times. La obsesión con el progreso hacía que se subordinaran al capital.
Aquellos temores fundacionales se continuaron embebidos en los actuales. Los siglos han pasado, “¿cuánto? ¿dos siglos?”, interconectados por una “sensación indestructible de la angustia”, como cuenta Diamela Eltit en su narración de una hija que en un hospital cuida a su madre, la que se transfigura en el país o nación chilena. Una madre-patria que está rota, operada y sangra (26). El miedo al que me refiero es análogo a esa imagen, ya que está siempre allí, desde el inicio de la colonia, muchas veces disimulado, no siempre evidente, pero permanente.
La antropofagia del civilizado
Ante esos avances de la Modernidad no faltaron los que propusieron una antropofagia por la cual los primitivos, sean amerindios como africanos, deglutieran a los modernos. “Sólo la antropofagia nos une” dirá Oswald de Andrade, apelando a la imagen de aquellos salvajes que al ser caníbales aterrorizaban a los primeros colonizadores (27). Pero en ese intento se contrapone al indio como natural, contra humanos que serían civilizados, entremezclando un mundo colonial con una modernización que estima como positiva. Apunta a una síntesis que sería matriarcal pero tecnológica, sin clases, pero enfocada en el progreso, y por ello no logra romper el cerco de la Modernidad (28). El punto de partida de Andrade, en el siglo XVI, donde supuestamente los indios devoran al primer obispo portugués, termina en el siglo XX en un brasileño modernizado que a su manera también es un creyente en el progreso.
Sin embargo, la construcción de la Modernidad discurrió de algún modo en un canibalismo inverso. Es que, aunque desde un comienzo, los europeos y criollos deseaban las riquezas en recursos naturales y territorios de los indígenas, “los indios no desearon jamás el espíritu de los blancos”, y sólo “se sometieron cuando los blancos los obligaron a creer que deseaban el espíritu de los blancos”, tal como sentenciaba tiempo atrás el argentino David Viñas (29).
Los modernos que están en la cúspide del poder, como los políticos, empresarios, e incluso académicos, está tan compenetrados en dominar y controlar que no dudan en travestirse de tanto en tanto como indígenas. No tienen vergüenza en ritualizar la estética de aquellos, sabiendo que gozan de impunidad, y que al hacerlo refuerzan el disciplinamiento sobre otros. Se adornan como si fueran indios, como si eso bastara para entender sus demandas y respetar sus identidades. Pero ni siquiera esas actuaciones, como si se ingirieran partes de distintas culturas, logra solucionar los problemas. Nada de eso resuelve el miedo primigenio de los modernos, ya que cada vez que el temor se presenta será necesaria una a nueva antropofagia.
Una modernidad permanentemente inacabada
Termina aceptándose a la Modernidad como un proyecto inacabado, tal como apuntaba Jürgen Habermas, para que de ese modo muchos se entretengan buscando una nueva versión que resolvería los problemas actuales (31). Esas buenas intenciones se repiten permanentemente en América Latina, muchas veces formuladas como planes multiculturales e incluso interculturales, que apuestan por una nueva Modernidad que respetará y reelaborara los saberes e identidades indígenas, algo así como andinos que repiensan al Platón helénico como cándidamente celebra Fernando Calderón para Bolivia (32).
Ante advertencias de este tipo, hay muchos que reaccionan insistiendo en que se basan en visiones simplistas y monolíticas, casi caricaturescas, de la Modernidad.
Pero toda esa diversidad mantiene saberes y sensibilidades comunes, compartidas por las grandes corrientes liberales, conservadoras y socialistas, que sirven como cimientos sobre los que descansa esa heterogeneidad.
Somos subdesarrollados porque queremos ser desarrollados a imagen de ellos. Entonces no puede sorprender escuchar a los que sostienen que las críticas deben apuntar al capitalismo y no a la Modernidad, asumiendo que habría una Modernidad no-capitalista que sería beneficiosa y positiva.
Es de ese modo que continuamente son reproducidos disciplinamientos que determinan lo aceptable e inaceptable, lo cuestionable e incuestionales, lo sensible y lo insensible (33).
Esto es muy claro en América Latina porque estamos rodeados de ejemplos de esos vaivenes dentro de la Modernidad. Hemos presenciado frenéticas defensas y ataques entre distintos tipos de desarrollo, pero todos ellos desarrollos al fin, ensimismados en la modernización y el crecimiento. Hemos escuchado proclamaciones partidarias por derecha y por izquierda, viejos conservadores contra socialistas del siglo XXI, y así sucesivamente, aunque todos terminan encerrados en los mismos preceptos de la política moderna.
Pero ya no hay más tiempo para seguir intentando rescatar a la Modernidad. Se han aplicado todo tipo de reformas, ajustes, modificaciones y hasta revoluciones en su seno, pero ninguna de ellas ha alterado esas esencias. Casi todos siguen convencidos que la Naturaleza está separada de los humanos, que el logos cartesiano brindará soluciones científico-tecnológicas, y que debemos marchar hacia el progreso.
Quienes se consideran civilizados y observan con desprecio a aquellos que tildan como salvajes, terminan aceptando la desigualdad, la pobreza y la violencia. Repiten los mismos esfuerzos para resolver los problemas sin asumir su repetido fracaso. No es posible seguir con esos intentos, porque se han sumado nuevas crisis, de una gravedad inusitada y en una escala planetaria. Estamos sufriendo una debacle ecológica que pone en riesgo a toda la vida en el planeta, y la Modernidad es incapaz de resolverla precisamente porque es su causa.
La organización, la sensibilidad y el pensar moderno reviste una petulancia total al concebirse como universal y único, sin límites, y por lo tanto sin alternativas más allá de éste. Como sólo se conciben y comprenden disputas a su interior no se sueña con una escapatoria. Los tránsitos entre distintas modernidades alimentan la ilusión de cambios que en realidad son siempre regresos. Y en esos retornos siempre está presente aquel miedo básico.
Tal vez, como hace decir Diamela Eltit a esa hija que es todas las hijas de una madre patria, ya es tarde para curar esa angustia de siglos porque está “en marcha un operativo para decretar la demolición y la expatriación” de todos los cuerpos.
En las minas, donde los “huesos cupríferos serán demolidos en la infernal máquina chancadora”, el “polvo cobre del último estadio de nuestros huesos terminará fertilizando el subsuelo de un remoto cementerio chino” (34).
Esos operativos de demolición de personas, culturas y ecologías resultan de la capacidad de la Modernidad en extender y reforzar continuamente el control y la dominación para asegurar el orden normalizado. Si algunos dudaban de ello, la pandemia de 2020 por el coronavirus lo ha dejado en claro, y, además, el miedo volvió a la superficie. La gente teme por su salud, por su trabajo, sus ingresos económicos, por la suerte de sus familiares y amigos. El enemigo a dominar es un virus incontrolable, indomable y peligroso.
Ladridos salvajes en los sótanos
Hemos llegada a la situación donde el propósito de sobrevivir a la Modernidad exige abandonarla. Ante esa misión, tal vez Nietzche tuviese razón al decir que aquellos que desearan volverse sabios, en primer lugar, deberían escuchar a los perros salvajes que ladran en sus sótanos (35).
Pero la escucha de esos ladridos, el empuje de lo que ocultamos en nuestros sótanos, es indispensable para pensar e imaginar alternativas, para sentir de otras maneras, más allá de los límites del orden y el progreso.
Indígenas y salvajes
Como la Modernidad es heterogénea, no puede sorprender que albergara múltiples críticos a esa condición, y que algunos de ellos tuvieran la agudeza de llegar hasta sus límites. Los Horkheimer y Adorno en el norte, los Dussel en el sur, juegan papeles clave en deconstruir el mundo moderno alentando a imaginar otros futuros.
Indígena sigue siendo una etiqueta colonial aplicada a una enorme diversidad de pueblos y culturas que quedaban de ese modo homogeneizados. Es una designación que sirvió para la dominación.
A su vez, casi todos esos pueblos han sido afectados de distintas maneras por la Modernidad, y eso explica que existan múltiples situaciones, desde quienes defienden haber sido civilizados y modernizados, deseosos de participar del crecimiento económico, a los que aún dentro de esa civilidad, se resisten, a veces calladamente, otras veces activamente.
Pero aun reconociendo todas esas condiciones, al interior de esos mundos persisten ideas, actitudes, saberes y afectividades que están en los bordes de la Modernidad, muestran sus límites, e incluso se ubican más allá de ellas. Muchos siguen siendo desobedientes, y es por eso que son salvajes.
Recordemos que lo que era visto por los colonizadores como salvajismo respondía a esa desobediencia. Los jesuitas que en el siglo XVII celebraban el “amansamiento” de muchos guaraníes, a la vez criticaban a los achés o guayaquís como salvajes por vivir en “absoluta libertad”, y por ello les temían al verlos como indolentes e irracionales.
La vieja pregunta de algunos colonizadores sobre si los salvajes tenían alma, para esos jesuitas fue desplazada por la interrogante sobre si podían usar la razón (37). Los salvajes “no adoran nada, al fin de cuentas, porque no obedecen a nadie”, tal como advierte Viveiros de Castro (38). Es precisamente ese tipo de desobediencia radical, que no está atada a las normas y creencias, o por lo menos a aquellas que son propias de la Modernidad, la que necesitamos en la actualidad.
Necesitamos ayuda que provenga y se inspire en esos mundos indígenas, sean de quienes resisten como de quienes recuerdan. A su vez, en las condiciones actuales de los pueblos indígenas, sus alternativas requerirán el aporte de la crítica que hacen los modernos desconformes y desobedientes.
Podemos ser salvajes
En efecto, no todos podemos ser indígenas, pero es posible plantarnos como salvajes. Cualquiera puede intentarlo, ya que no depende del color de la piel, el origen del nombre y del apellido, el lugar de nacimiento o la cultura aprendida desde la familia y la escuela. Lo que se requiere es una desobediencia radical a la normalidad de la Modernidad.
Esa desobediencia es radical en el sentido que debe dejar atrás tanto el miedo como la dominación, dos condiciones que están profundamente arraigadas. Es una condición tan antigua que en el origen de la palabra obedecer está la sumisión del esclavo al amo, una obediencia que respondía al miedo que éste le tenía.
Si todos los que adhieren a los magisterios de la “santísima trinidad” moderna, piensan y sienten en “modérnico”, los que se vuelven salvajes comienzan a pensar, sentir y expresarse en otros lenguajes.
Lo es porque éstas siguen estando enmarcadas dentro de la Modernidad, mientras que la desobediencia salvaje se siente libre para poner en entredicho todos esos conceptos, tanto en quienes los acatan como en sus infractores. Eso no impide que la desobediencia salvaje pueda servirse, por ejemplo, de la desobediencia civil en algunas circunstancias. Pero no es sólo eso, es mucho más.
La desobediencia radical, pongamos por caso, no acepta las formas modernas de entender y asignar valores, pone en entredicho incluso qué es un valor, y de allí puede repensar las distinciones entre lo correcto e incorrecto, lo justo o lo injusto. No acepta el canon de una historia única, universal, que nos predestina a seguir progresando, y en cambio se admira ante multiplicidad de historias locales y regionales. Es una desobediencia socioambiental porque tampoco cree en la dualidad que separa la Naturaleza de la sociedad.
La condición salvaje no se refiere a personas o actores sociales, no debe pensarse en un rebelde en la ciudad o un indígena en la sierra. Es un modo de pensar y sentir que desafía la normalidad, es una actitud, es una praxis. No es posible ser salvaje en forma aislada, no es una reflexión personal ni una desconexión individual. La desobediencia sólo se puede constituir en colectivos, siempre es una pluralidad. En las movilizaciones o prácticas colectivas es cuando se ejerce estas desobediencias.
Del mismo modo, los salvajes construyen su propia espacialidad, creando espacios desobedientes que no siguen los órdenes de la modernidad, habitados tanto por humanos como por otros existentes. Así como en el pasado los salvajes ocupaban las selvas, los nuevos salvajes deben crear sus nuevas “selvas” contemporáneas.
Nada de esto es sencillo, y aun reconociendo las dificultades, a pesar de todas las trabas y condicionantes, de todos modos, estamos rodeados de intentos salvajes, manifestaciones de desobediencia radical que a su vez generan espacios autónomos ante la dominación. Están, por ejemplo, en una comunidad vecinal en un barrio, en una iniciativa colectiva rural enfocada en la agroecología, en prácticas artísticas de cualquier tipo, en otras religiosidades y, porque no, también en la magia. No solamente son reacciones a escala local, sino que pueden generalizarse, y un ejemplo reciente y contundente ha sido el estallido social que ocurrió en Chile en octubre de 2019.
A lo largo de las siguientes semanas se encadenaron rebeliones y desobediencias, sumando a todo tipo de actores ciudadanos. Así como Albert Camus decía que en la rebelión nace la conciencia, podría sostenerse que en estallidos como el chileno alumbraron el retorno de los salvajes.
No es posible predecir el devenir futuro del estallido social chileno, y es necesario tener precaución porque en el pasado, otras desobediencias ciudadanas fueron disciplinadas con el paso de los meses, y finalmente engullidas otra vez por la Modernidad. Están allí los casos del “que se vayan todos” en Argentina en 2001, diferentes sublevaciones indígenas y populares, como la “guerra del gas” de 2003 en Bolivia, y antes, por ejemplo, las distintas versiones del “mayo francés” en 1968.
Otros, en cambio, siguen resistiendo, como parece ocurrir con el zapatismo mexicano. Más allá de esto, el caso chileno como aquellos otros, son válidos para dejar en claro que existen esas posibilidades y que ellas ocurren continuamente, y que no son simplemente pequeñas manifestaciones locales, sino que pueden desencadenar cataclismos políticos y sociales.
Esos y otros casos muestran que la desobediencia salvaje puede perforar las imágenes y los significados de la Modernidad. Recordando a Taussig, una vez más, el salvajismo “desafía la unidad del símbolo, la totalización trascendente que ata la imagen a lo que representa», es la “muerte de la significación» (39).
Desobedientes para sobrevivir, salvajes para desobedecer
Al iniciarse la segunda década del siglo XXI, enfrentamos múltiples crisis en los más diversos frentes. La búsqueda de alternativas no es un lujo ni una manía de académicos o inconformistas, sino que debería ser la tarea más urgente a enfrentar por nuestras sociedades. Los más severos problemas sociales no se han solucionado, y sobre ellos se agrega una debacle ecológica que pone en riesgo a la vida misma en un futuro inmediato. Todas las soluciones modernas que se han intentado han fracasado, y por esa razón no hay otra opción que buscar cambios más allá de ella.
Desde el inicio colonial se ha sucedido el miedo a la selva, a la inmensidad, al desierto y a las montañas. El miedo al indio, al negro, al mestizo, al cholo. El miedo al pirata, al invasor, al extranjero. El miedo al campesino, al pobre y al enfermo. El miedo al guerrillero, al soldado, al policía, al ladrón y al narco. El miedo al patrón, al político o al empresario. El miedo al desempleo, la lluvia, el hambre o la enfermedad. El miedo al día de mañana. El miedo al miedo. Son estos temores y pavores los que alimentan la dominación y el disciplinamiento. Pensar, imaginar y desear otros futuros sólo es posible si los dejan atrás.
Así se vuelve posible desobedecer las reglas y normas que imponen la normalidad y el orden que hacen a la esencia de la Modernidad. Es dejar de asumirlas como mandatos inescapables. Es imaginar que pueden existir otras normas, otros órdenes; es poder tener la oportunidad de escoger. Esa es la postura que corresponde a lo que inicialmente se denominaba como salvaje. Diciéndolo de otro modo: debemos ser salvajes para poder construir alternativas.
Esta condición salvaje no se refiere a una desobediencia en sus sentidos banales, sino que anida en aquellos sótanos y cimientos. Son actos de ruptura radical con las raíces afectivas y racionales que sostienen en pie a la Modernidad, es recuperar la capacidad para encontrar sus límites, y asumir que pueden ser cruzados. Es recuperar la posibilidad de imaginar y pensar lo inimaginable, lo inconcebible, lo prohibido.
(1) Infierno, Divina Comedia, escrito por Dante Alighieri, posiblemente entre 1304 y 1307.
*Eduardo Gudynas es analista en el Centro Latino Americano de Ecología Social (CLAES) en Montevideo (Uruguay). Las versiones iniciales de este artículo fueron comentadas por Ros Amils, Carlos Anido, Paula di Bello, Gonzalo Gutiérrez, Pablo Ospina Peralta, Axel Rojas, y Angie Torres, a quienes el autor agradece por su tiempo y aportes. Publicado en Palabra Salvaje el 15 de diciembre de 2020. Se permite la reproducción siempre que se cite la fuente.
Fuente: Publicado en Palabra Salvaje el 15 de diciembre de 2020: https://bit.ly/3oQ1zAg
en difusiòn desde https://redlatinasinfronteras.wordpress.com/2020/12/16/manifiesto-salvaj/
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