To our Beloved Gustavo

One year after the departure of our beloved Gustavo Esteva, we share some words he wrote about the journey of Crianza Mutua Mexico as part of the weavers of the Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them.. We share some fragments of a broader text entitled “Crianza Mutua e incidencia sobre Innovación Social.”

For several years some of us have been observing that the best way to resist the wave of dispossession and aggressions that are currently sweeping the world is to build alternatives. This observation was regularly accompanied by reflections on how to think the new world and define any “alternative.”

Some of us were especially concerned about the difficulty of thinking the new, because of the sense that “the new” is always determined or permeated by “the old:” in a sense, it is its mirror. In the famous 1971 discussion on justice and power between Chomsky and Foucault, Foucault makes Chomsky see that any formulation of “the new society” is but a projection of the current society. Instead of trying to imagine “the new society” or conceive of some form of “promised land” to guide our steps, an ideal to which reality should conform, we conform to the tradition of social change that immerses itself in the actual movement that overrides and overcomes the present state of affairs. This practical attitude implies trying to return from the future to better root ourselves in the present, recognizing in it profound tendencies that anticipate the current collapse and its consequences, or an alternative.

At the same time, we were inspired by the Zapatista proposal that it was time to listen to ordinary people. They point out that, as has always been the case, it is they who are making the changes that are needed. And the late Subcomandante Marcos added that we are at a peculiar juncture in which, in order to explore the future, we need to study and update the past, transforming it.

The initiative is basically a listening exercise. It is about seriously listening to collectives, communities, and organizations that are apparently breaking with the dominant system in theory and practice. The idea is to invite them to participate in an exercise that would seek mutual nurturing. In meetings with each one we would listen to what they do, their motives, their intentions, their ways, all in their own words. With their permission, we would share those stories with all the participating groups, so that they could learn from each other and inspire each other. This in itself would be a central fruit of the effort.

The state of affairs

The state of affairs is fundamentally associated with the patriarchal way of thinking and existing, which over the centuries has taken various interrelated forms, while remaining patriarchal: modernity and postmodernity; nation state; capitalism; democracy; and globalization. We organize ourselves in the face of this complex interweaving that produces brutally simple results: ever-widening inequalities and the growing and ruthless devastation of all living things.

  • The patriarchal way of thinking and existing… which represents a slide into barbarism.
  • The modern era seems to have come to an end.
  • Postmodern forms of existence are disturbing.
  • The design of the nation state has entered its death throes.
  • The capitalist regime of production may have come to an end.
  • The dismantling of the democratic facade.
  • The neoliberal model of globalization is crumbling.

What we do or want to do

Those of us who are trying to build a new world felt some time ago that we were in a prison and in a dead end. A prison: we were kept confined to an increasingly regulated and controlled condition, subject to rules and life choices imposed from above. A dead end: there seemed to be no way to escape from this condition that had become increasingly unbearable.

To survive or for other reasons and motives, one day we said Enough! and we jumped over a wall or opened a hole in it and started to do something else, something different from what was prescribed. Little by little, the initiative in which we are involved took shape. Obviously, we did not escape from the planet. The monster is still there. It surrounds us and harasses us. We have to deal with it on a daily basis and we still maintain various dependencies on the market and the government. But what we are building encompasses more and more spheres of our immediate realities; begins to intertwine with other initiatives like ours, and new horizons loom before us.

The “new world” is for us paths that are made by walking them. We delimit them and begin to walk them from a rupture, but there are no mechanical relations between what we break and what we do. Escaping from prison means above all to free ourselves from the weight of a way of thinking and feeling, which manifests itself in the language we use. Words are doors and windows of perception… and the words we use are carriers of the world that is dying. What we do requires us to think differently… which leads us to give shape to new words or to give new meaning to the ones we have. That is what we are doing. We are creating life options —ways of being, feeling, thinking, acting— different from the established ones, which no longer fit into the constituted framework.

We are not practicing a utopian exercise. First of all, because what we do already has a place in the world, even if it is not recognized; it is not what has no place. Moreover, we recognize the radical uncertainty we are facing. The future no longer has a future. We cannot hang our lives on some promised land or accept theoretical, ideological, or political proposals in which the present becomes a future always postponed. We nourish with what we do our daily hope, we have the impression that all this becomes contagious, following the growing rejection of promised futures that become more and more uncertain and dire, and we build a to-be by connecting our desires with reality and giving concrete materiality to our dreams.

To share what we are doing, to see ourselves with others, we have prepared this list of activities or attitudes that we find in our own initiatives or in others that we have seen or experienced.

Some features of breakthrough initiatives

  • Caring for human and non-human life is at the heart of our community fabric and tends to determine our structure and functions.
  • We organize ourselves horizontally and do not admit power over people on racial, economic, social, political, religious or any other grounds.
  • Affection is the mortar, the substance, that forms, molds and maintains our organization.
  • We seek to place joy and creativity at the center of our activities and the organization of daily life.
  • We promote, multiply, and strengthen, by all means at our disposal, the collective “we” condition of our being:
  • We adopt the premises of sufficiency and abundance as organizing principles of activity.
  • We mold the various spheres of daily life, fully interconnected, according to our experience, naming them as verbs that give us back agency, autonomy, instead of the dependence imposed on us by nouns (food, health, education, housing…): Eat, Heal, Learn, and Inhabit.
  • We organize ourselves politically based on inherited norms and those we formulate autonomously, resisting those imposed on us by the market or the state, and we build step by step juridical-political forms based on agreement and harmonization of dreams born of plurality.
  • We practice and try to extend the dialogue of knowledge, eliminating its arbitrary hierarchization.