the bubble thins...

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Friends of my friend were kidnapped in Colombia over the weekend.

Maria Claudia popped up in chat Monday, "Today is a weird day," she wrote.
"Why?"
"Two of my best friends were kidnapped last night."
"Oh my god."

It is real. Violence creeps closer, no matter how hard we try to keep it at bay, no matter how thickly we deny that it could happen to us or those we love.

They were on vacation at a calm, quiet community along the coast of Colombia - their homeland - and took a boat ride with other tourists (a total of six were taken). Maria Claudia sent me a photo of the young couple, they look So Happy Together!


so happy together2.jpg

I've been keeping their faces in mind, envisioning them safe, imagining processes that will lead to their release. A pastiche of memories and associations float in and out of consciousness. The young man in Qabatiya, Palestine, who argued there is no solution for the Palestinians except to increase the violence until the world forces Israel out; the apparently base "human" instinct of aggression and need for power/control - and how this is exacerbated by constant and unrelenting exposure to the prosperity of others, and how we, the others, persist with our pleasures: intent upon our own islands of happiness amidst great suffering.

FARC. Sure, I know the acronym. Well, I've read it. Heard it. The Spanish acronym translates to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The history of the group is complicated - associated with a communist movement and the illegal drug trade. FARC has been around since 1964; they are strong and organized enough to run an internal government (called a secretariat) with large-scale organizational strategy conferences, and have been involved in international peace processes. In other words, they are not just going to go away.

Their tactics are abominable, but their ideological goals are not - at least, if they intend to live what they say they seek, then they are in a weird bedfellow relationship with many contemporary peace activists and anti-neoliberal-capitalists. As I say, IF they are primarily motivated by "fighting against privatization of natural resources [and] multinational corporations," then these are aims shared widely. That they use paramilitary violence (while ostensibly arguing for its end), is qualitatively - but not necessarily substantively - different from the official uses of military (and other) violence sanctioned by democratic and communist governments worldwide. The "other violence" is less overtly horrific, but the violences done by policy are part of what FARC ostensibly says they are against. I'm hedging, here, for a couple of reasons.

  1. I am just learning the blunt outline of the conflict, let alone any of its nuances.
  2. If Ana and Alf are to be released, it will be because there are ways to talk with FARC, not only against them.
  3. To talk with them means to allow them some benefit of doubt.
  4. What kind of doubt? That there is a nobility buried somewhere underneath the deliberate and active use of physical, mental, and emotional terrorizing.
  5. On the chance that those honorable intentions can be surfaced and given life in ways that alter the contours of the opposing sides,
  6. with the hope that the conflict can actually shift, in order that
  7. others may be saved through the prevention of future acts of violence and
  8. the aspirations of the FARC community can be legitimately satisfied.

I cannot help but draw parallels to the situation in Palestine. Israel must withdraw. This is the physical and institutional fact. Israelis must move out of the only-always-temporary comfort of The Bubble, must surrender their attachment to the story/history of their own horrific victimization. We in the US must do the same regarding our intent to bolster our status regardless of the fate of others - especially those we know are different; those who think, feel, believe, and perceive the world on other terms than those with which we are most familiar.

We - humanity - must find a way for difference, plurality, and heterogeneity to coexist.

7 Comments

That is too bad. Hope they are safe and rescued soon.

It was great to talk to you last night. You were radiating positive energy:-) I feel good now!

Dear Steph,

You commented on my blog, so I am leaving the answer to the question in yours. You asked about the connection between Alf Onshuus and Israel. Alf is a gifted mathematician. The world expert of the field he is involved with is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, so Alf did a year of postdoctoral work in this city. Alf and I went to school together in Bogota, but, coincidentally, I was studying in Yeshiva that year that he was in Jerusalem so we met often with other Colombians to party and remember the "Old Country".

As for your analysis of the situation, I could not disagree with it in stronger terms. As any person with direct experience of the Colombian conflict can tell you, FARC do not in any way intend to live up to their "lofty ideals". The vast regions under their control have not experienced any redistribution of the capital and their drug trade activity have ravaged the "natural resources" they claim to defend. They have enslaved the population of the areas they control to the drug trade and they have not espoused popular participatory policies in the structure of their own military organization. Forced conscription under threat of execution is common, sexual abuse of underage female soldiers is an everyday occurence, etc., etc.

(CONTINUATION)

Do not be fooled by their rethoric. The "Secretariat" of Farc are greedy thugs not freedom fighters. The Colombian people do not support them or their actions. In fact we are all quite sick of them. (Next February 4th hundreds of thousands of Colombians, if not millions, will march in all mayor cities of the country and some countries abroad condemning FARC and their criminal and, although the term is trite, terrorist activities.) Sadly, addressing your second point, when Alf and Ana are released it will be because: a. their loved ones will pay a hefty ransom, or b. they will be rescued by the Colombian military. In no way are they interested in dialogue because they already have what they want: vast tracts of land to engage in the lucrative business of drug trafficking and kidnapping. Since there is no thing to win on their behalf, they gain nothing through dialogue. Their claims for belligerance, echoed by the ignoramus Chavez and by Ortega, will just give them more ample room in the international stage to keep killing and running their business. Your eight point is already fulfilled which makes points 3-5 moot and, from an emotional perspective, quite offensive to the people hurt by this conflict.

Needless to say, I also contest your claims about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or its connection to this atrocious act of kidnap for ransom) and do not see any of the clear "facts" as truths.

However I do appreciate the sympathy for Alf and Ana Maria. Thank you for echoing their story and helping us reach deeper into the cyberspace with their plea.

Respectfully,

Juan Mejia

I was about to reply to your post, but I don´t have much to add to what Juan has said. FARC doesn´t represent anybody but themselves and if they rule certain zones of the country it is not because the locals are supportive of their fight or goals -no one is- but because otherwise these people would get killed.

They claim to be a People´s Army but they have never protected people of anything. Instead, they have killed, kidnapped and stripped poor farmers from their land.

Don´t be fooled by the rethoric.

I´ll try to translate Villalobos essay during the weekend. It would certainly clarify most of your misconceptions about the colombian conflict and the true nature of FARC.

My initial comments and responds to Juan and Javier are in their blogs:

http://bogosalen.blogspot.com/2008/01/librenlos.html

and

http://bluelephant.blogspot.com/2008_01_13_archive.html#4548412827727482417

An extensive conversation between myself and Rafael is in the weblog I keep for teaching: http://aplaceinspace.wordpress.com/2008/01/17/on-february-4-2008/

Don´t be fooled by the rethoric.

Whose rhetoric, dear VPXL?

Forces spin in all directions, and on multiple topics. Can you point me a bit closer toward your aim?

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