(Translated by Steve Cagan, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Monday, September 5, 2016
A campaign for the YES vote that resists the politics of amnesia which is being proposed by the State, which expunges the responsibility of the State, and that points that out, that defends the YES vote as a way of giving an opportunity for the State and its elites to demonstrate truly that they can live together with people who think differently, that is a campaign that would educate about reconciliation, about the transformation of those who rose up with weapons, and about our redefinition as a civil society before the State that for many years has denied human, social and political rights to its population.
-Joanna Castro, Social anthropologist with a Master’s degree in Anthropology and in Peace and Conflict Studies
Both campaigns, that for Yes and that for No, are focusing all their energy on the FARC as the devil against which it is necessary to continuing warring, to eliminate them militarily (that of the NO, although now they explain their campaign as an attempt to “renegotiate”), or to end up disarming them through the accords (that of the YES).
I am not going to linger on the NO campaign and its fervent promoters and defenders. Their logic of hatred and war is what we have known well and suffered our whole lives.
I am, on the other hand, going to linger on the YES campaign, because this period of arguments and trying to convince people before the plebiscite is the first trial by fire of a post-accord pedagogy of peace. One of the most repetitive arguments of the YES campaign, which has become very popular among those on twitter, analysts, and columnists is that by voting YES we get rid of the FARC. The vision that has defended the State for a long time is that Colombia’s problem is the guerrilla army, those who are guilty of causing the war are the guerrillas, the enemy of the entire nation is the guerrillas, and they are the ones who have to show a willingness to have peace. The State and its elites, in this vision, carry out the role of defenders of society and are conspicuous by their absence from the causes of the war. If we only listen to this side of the argument, we would easily assume that the ones who are representing us in civil society at the negotiating table are those of the State. The ones who represented and negotiated for the victims were the State. And that the total responsibility for the war lies with the FARC, that before the FARC this was a haven of peace.
Given that, in effect, during the 52 years of conflict, and even during the conversations about peace, the State insisted on and educated the population in this vision of the war, while the communications media whipped up hatred towards the insurgency, today they are reduced to all fours in order to tell the people why we have to make peace with this demon. Why it is necessary to “pardon them” for their crimes and why it is important that they should be able to participate in the political life of the country. We have to turn towards the demon, it is no angel, but at least leave it without its tail and without its pitchfork. On all fours, that State now asks the population that it educated to hate its opponent to pardon and vote YES and that we swallow this bitter pill. And some analysts argue that we have to give some little things to them, and some to the countryside, and doing that we will have peace, as Juan Esteban Lewin tried to explain in a tweet (Tweet Juan Esteban Lewin: “Expliquemos el Acuerdo en un trino: las Farc dejan de tener armas y ser guerrilla a cambio de unas cosas para ellos y otras para el campo” [“Let’s explain the Accord in a tweet: the FARC will stop being armed and being a guerrilla army in exchange for some things for them and others for the countryside”—SC]).
The government of Juan Manuel Santos and his ministers should campaign, presenting this as the golden opportunity to disarm the FARC without firing a shot, just voting YES, is not surprising, it is in line with their posture and their interests. That YES, and that pedagogy by the government, does not lead to a stable and lasting peace. On the contrary, it leads to a collective amnesia about the causes of the conflict, to a black-and-white distinction about the victim-perpetrator dichotomy, and to placing the blame on one of the armed sides in this long and bloody conflict.
But it is surprising that among diverse sectors in politics, in critical or alternative journalism and analysts, it should suddenly appear that in their desire that the YES should win, they would take on this simplistic discourse about peace: vote YES and there will be no more guerrillas, we will be rid of our problem.
My argument, on the contrary, is that the critical sectors, who have worked for a negotiated solution even during the war, should promote a campaign for YES starting with the construction of a memory of the conflict upon which we would be able to base a reconciliation that makes sense. A pedagogy of peace right now would make an effort for the YES to win, not as “pardoning the demon,” and swallowing the bitter pill, a situation which leaves us very much standing still as a society in terms of a future reconciliation, but rather in a transformation of the conflictive ethos. We have to learn to see the reasoning of “the other,” their motivations for having done what they did (rising up in arms against the State). This would be the moment to begin a transformation of our relationship with “the other” and with the past, so that, understanding the reasoning of the other in the past we can make space for the transformations that are necessary to coexist in the future.
As civil society and victims, this would mean exposing the people responsible on both sides in this peace process (the FARC and the government) and creating a pedagogy of memory which would inform the people that before the guerrilla army was formed there was not peace either. That in fact the guerrilla army was formed in a disastrous period of violence and exclusion, where the families who shared power, who still hold on to it, and who today try to explain to us that everything bad comes from the insurgency, from those who rebelled again that exclusion.
A campaign for the YES vote that resists the politics of amnesia which is being proposed by the State, which expunges the responsibility of the State, and that points that out, that defends the YES vote as a way of giving an opportunity for the State and its elites to demonstrate truly that they can live together with people who think differently, that is a campaign that would educate about reconciliation, about the transformation of those who rose up with weapons, and about our redefinition as a civil society before the State that for many years has denied human, social and political rights to its population. YES is because we have a memory, YES is because among the guerrilla perpetrators there were and there continue to be victims and survivors of genocidal policies. As Clara Nieto Ponce de León has said well, little is said about the impunity that covers the well-off families of this country and the presidents that we have had. This is the bitter pill that we are swallowing but about which nobody in the YES campaign is speaking. A YES with memory would place emphasis on that here we are not only giving an opportunity to the FARC, but above all to the State.