Honduras Against History
By Their Methods You Shall Know Them
The Bible relates the story of how the teachers of the law brought before Jesus an adulterous woman. They intended to stone her to death, as they were required to do by the law of God, which at the time was said to be the law of men as well. The teachers and Pharisees wanted to test Jesus, from which one can induce that Jesus was already well known for his lack of orthodoxy with respect to the most ancient laws. Jesus suggested that whoever was free of sin should cast the first stone. Thus nobody was able to execute the strict law.
In this way, and in many others, the Bible itself has continued transforming itself, despite being a collection of books inspired by God. Religions have always been considered to be great conservative forces which, faced with reformers, became great reactionary forces. The paradox is rooted in the fact that all religion, all sects, have been founded by some subersive, by some rebel or revolutionary. It is not for nothing that history teems with those martyred, persecuted, tortured and assassinated by the political powers of the moment.
The men who were persecuting the adulteress retreated, recognizing in the turn of events their own sins. But over the course of history the result has been different. The men who oppress, kill and assassinate the alleged sinners always do so with the justification of some law, some right and in the name of some morality. This, more universal, rule was the one applied in Jesus’s own execution. In his time he was not the only rebel who fought against the Roman Empire. Not coincidentally, he was crucified together with two other prisoners. By association, this was intended to signify that he was just another prisoner being executed. Not even a religious dissident. Not even a political dissident. Invoking other laws, they eliminated the suberversive who had questioned the Pax Romana and the collaborationism of the aristocracy and of the religious hierarchies of his own people. Everything was carried out according to the laws. But history recognizes them today by their methods.
George Bush’s government gave us plenty of examples, and on a large scale. All of the wars and violations of national and international law were committed in defense of the law and sovereign right. By its sectarian interests, history will judge it. By its methods, its interests shall be known.
In Latin America, the role of the Catholic Church has almost always been the role of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who condemned Jesus in defense of the dominant classes. There has never been a military dictatorship of oligarchical origin that didn’t receive the blessing of bishops and influential priests, thereby legitimizing the censorship, the opression of the mass murder of the supposed sinners.
Now, in the 21st century, the method and the discourses are repeated in Honduras like a crack of the whip from the past.
By their methods we know them. The patriotic discourse, the complacency of an upper class trained in the domination of the poor who have no formal education. A class that owns the methods of popular education, which is what the main communication media are. Censorship; the use of the army to carry out their plans; repression of the popular demonstrations; the expulsion of journalists; the expulsion by force of a government elected by democratic vote, its later demand before Interpol, its threat to jail dissidents if they return and its later denial by force of their return.
In order to better see this reactionary phenomenon let’s divide human history into four grand periods:
1) The collective power of the tribe concentrated in one strong member of a family, generally a man.
2) A period of agricultural expansion unified by a totem (something akin to a conquering surname) and later a pharoah or emperor. During this time wars emerge and primitive armies are consolidated, not so much for defense as for the conquest of new productive territories and for state administration of its own people’s surplus production and the oppression of its people’s slaves. This stage continues with variations up until the absolutist kings of Europe, passing through the feudal era. In all of these regimes, religion is a central element of cohesion as well as coercion.
3) In the modern era we have a renaissance and a radicalization of the Greek experiment in representative democracy. But in the modern period humanist thought includes the idea of universality, of the implicit equality of every human being, the idea of history as a process of reaching toward perfection instead of inevitable corruption, and the concept of morality as a human product relative to a determined historical time. And perhaps the most important idea, from the Arab philosopher Averroes: political power not as the pure will of God but as the result of social interests, class interests, etc. Liberalism and Marxism are two radicalizations (opposed in their means) of this same current of thought, which also includes Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This period of representative democracy was the most practical form for bringing together the voices of millions of men and women in one house, the Congress or Parlament. If Humanism pre-exists the techniques for popularizing culture, it is also empowered by them. The printing press, the paperback book, the low-price newspapers of the 19th century, the necessary literacy training of future workers were decisive steps toward democratization. Nonetheless, at the same time the reactionary forces, the dominant forces of the previous period, rapidly conquered these media. Thus, if it was no longer possible to further delay the arrival of representative democracy, it was possible to dominate its instruments. The medieval sermons in the churches, functional in great measure for the princes and dukes, were reformulated in the media of information and in the media of the new popular culture, like rade, film and television.
4) Despite this, the democratic wave continued on, frequently bathed in blood by successive reactionary coups. In the 21st century the renaissance humanist wave continues. And with it continue the instruments to make it possible. Like the Internet, for example. But so too the contrary forces, the reactions of the powers constituted by the previous stages. And in the process of struggle they learn to use and dominate the new instruments. While representative democracy has not yet matured, already one see emerging the ideas and instruments necessary for passing on to a stage of direct democracy, participatory and radical.
In some countries, as today in Honduras, the reaction is not against this latest stage but the previous one. A kind of late reaction. Even though in appearance it suggests a smaller scale, it has Latin American and universal significance. First because it represents a calling to attention of the recent democratic complacency of the continent; and second because it stimulates the modus operandi of those reactionaries who have always sailed against the currents of history.
Earlier we noted the proof of why the deposed president of Honduras had not violated the law or the constitution. Now we can see that his proposal of a non-binding popular referendum was a method of transition from a representative democracy toward a direct democracy. Those who interrupted this process reversed it toward the prior stage.
The fourth stage was intolerable for a Banana republic mentality that can be recognized by its methods.
Translated by Bruce Campbell