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Zapatista University Chapter 1: The World-Farm

by Ezra Niesen Monday, Jan. 12, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Scientists have been hard at work figuring out what's gone wrong with humanity's relationship to the environment. But they never write books for the politically marginalized people who suffer the effects. So now I write science books for activists. The complete book can be found on my website.

The whole world is like a giant farm. The question is, who are the farmers?

Hello, friends. My name is Ezra Niesen. I live in the United States, near the Mexican border. I have heard a lot about the problems you are having in Mexico since the North American Free Trade Agreement. We are having a lot of problems here too.

Forgive me for the way I talk. I have never met you, so I don’t know how you talk to each other. Sometimes you will probably think I talk to you like you would talk to a child. I talk simply because the things I have to say are very complicated. These things affect everyone, so I’m trying to explain them in ways everyone can understand. Also, I’m hardly the poet Subcomandante Marcos is, and since I wrote this book in English for someone else to translate into Spanish or any other language, I don’t want anything to be misunderstood.

What I have to tell you about is called planetary biology. There is more to learn about it than I can tell you about in this book. That’s not because you can’t learn it, but because I don’t know enough about you to be able to teach it to you. What I can teach you about it though is the most important part of it. I can teach you how planetary biology works, so then you can learn more about it on your own.

As Subcomandante Marcos has said, revolutions are won with reason, not with bullets. Science is a very highly developed form of reason. That’s why so many powerful people do so much to prevent revolutionaries from learning about science. Science is always revolutionary, because it’s the ongoing process of people learning things we didn’t know yesterday. Politicians hate for people to learn about science, because every government on Earth was founded by people who thought they knew a lot more about the world than they really did.

My book Planetary Biology and the Anti-Capitalist Revolution is a different version of this book. The difference is that I wrote this book for farmers and other workers, and I wrote that book for people with university educations who can get more books from libraries. Since farmers know certain things about the world, and people with university educations know different things, in order to tell both groups of people the same things, I have to explain it differently.

I have heard a lot about the problems you are having with people taking your farms—and everything else you have. I am having another problem with those people and people like them. If we work together, we can help each other solve our problems.

The problem I’m having is just a different version of the problem you’re having. There are certain people in the world who assume that having lots of money proves they know everything. But those people are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

There are some people here in the United States who really do know as much as the people who are taking your farms think they know. We know these things because we’re very good at figuring things out. Also, we have a lot of machines here that you don’t have, which is why we can figure out things you can’t figure out.

I am one of the people who figure things out. (I don’t work as a scientist for a number of reasons, a big one being that, as a lot of great scientists have discovered too late, when you’re one of the best in the world at science, stupid politicians always find a way to use your discoveries to build more powerful weapons and oppress people ever more efficiently—which is why I write science books for revolutionaries.) Unfortunately, there are more of the people who take your farms than there are of people like me, and those other people are the ones who own most of the money and write all of the laws.

Having more money than you doesn’t prove those people are more intelligent than you, it just proves they have different education than you do, and have different jobs than you do.

How to make money is not the most important thing anyone can know about. The most important thing to know about is how plants and animals live. We all depend on plants and animals for our food, and for many other things also.

As farmers, you spend your lives working with plants and animals. Unfortunately, most people in The United States are not farmers. So most people in The United States don’t know much about how plants and animals live. They don’t even know that knowing those things is the most important. Now a lot of things are going wrong in the world and they don’t know why.

Since you are farmers, you already know more about the most important things in the world than most Americans do. People who study science have learned a lot more about how plants and animals live than anyone else knows. That means I can teach you what scientists have discovered more easily than I can teach it to most people in The United States.

Since the people who are taking your farms think they know so much about how the world works, I will teach you more about how the world works than they know. Right now you’re hiding in the jungle and doing all the other things guerillas usually do. Now I’ll teach you how to prove you’re smarter than the people you’re fighting against.

The things I have to tell you about are published in books that can be found at any university in the English-speaking world. I’m sure a lot of them have also been translated into Spanish. None of those books are written for farmers, which is why I wrote this book. But you also have school teachers and university students on your side. They can read those books. Then you can all work together to learn more on your own. Then you can all prove that you’re smarter than the people who are taking your farms.

You can’t win your revolution with rifles, because you will never be able to shoot the people who are making the decisions to take your farms. Even if you could, they would only be replaced by more people just like them. We’ve had problems like that here in The United States too.

You can win your revolution if you can prove that peasant farmers can learn more about how the world works than the people who are taking your farms know. Right now, the people who are taking your farms are winning because they’re choosing to be stupid, and you don’t know how to prove it. They could read the same books at universities, and then they could know as much about how the world works as I do. But if they knew as much about how the world works as I do, they wouldn’t be taking your farms.

It isn’t possible for anyone to know as much as I know and a few other people know, and still think that taking your farms is a good idea. If the people who are taking your farms really were as smart as they think they are, they would know that taking your farms is a mistake. The few of us who know enough about how the world works to know that taking your farms is a mistake, also know enough about the world to know that there isn’t anything left about the world that anyone can discover to prove that taking your farms really is a good idea.

To win your revolution, you can prove how much it’s possible for peasant farmers to learn about how the world works. If you can do that, you can prove that the people who are taking your farms, who went to universities, have no excuse not to know the same things you know.

This is part of what I meant when I said the whole world is like a farm, but who are the farmers? If you think about how much you know about how your own farm works, that’s how much people like me have figured out about how the whole world works. You know how to keep your plants and animals healthy, you know how to produce healthy food, and you know how important good soil and clean water are. You know how important those things are on your farm. Some people, like me, realize how important those things are all over the entire world. We’re very good at figuring out things like that, so that’s what we do. We’re not doing it just so we can know something you don’t and then we can come take your farms. We’re doing it because how to keep the whole world as healthy as you keep your own farm is important for everyone to know. And one important thing we’ve discovered says that people like you, who know the most about how to work on individual farms, are the best people to work on those farms.

The people who are taking your farms are trying to be the farmers for the whole world. But you know how those people destroy your farms trying to make as much money as they can. Well they’re doing the same thing to the entire world. Just one problem is that they think that being farmers for the whole world means they can treat you and everyone else like animals. But that just proves how stupid they are, because that’s not how the world works.

For the whole world to work like a healthy farm, people have to not treat each other like animals. In one way, you can say that nobody is the farmer. In another way, you can say that everyone is a farmer. There is no small group of people who can run the entire world like a farm, in the traditional way that a farmer and his family runs a traditional farm. The closest anyone can come to being that small group of people is to help everyone to work together, without treating anyone like animals. When I talk about the small group of people I belong to, who have figured out more than anyone else has about how to be the farmers for the whole world, what we’ve figured out is that in the world-farm, everyone is a farmer, and everyone is equal, but we all have different jobs.

The things I know about are no secret. I have nothing to gain by preventing anyone from learning what I know. I’m a lot better at learning these things than most people are, so most people won’t be able to learn as much as I know. Even so, I’m better off teaching everyone as much as I can about what I know, than I am hoarding the information to myself and getting people to pay me for what I know.

In the same way, if you and I lived in the same village and we were both going to work as subsistence farmers, there would be a lot I could learn from you. If we were working together in the same field, we would both be better off if you were in charge there. Not because you want to tell me what to do, but because you would know more than I did about what we both wanted to do.

Right now what you and I both want to do is to stop the people who are taking your farms. You’ve figured out how to do a lot of things that work in your local area and that apply to your situation. I, and people like me, have figured out a lot of things that work everywhere and that apply to everyone’s situation. So if I tell you what I know, and you add it to what you know, your revolution will be more successful, and both of us will be better off.

I should say also that this isn’t just some sneaky trick to try to get you to fight the revolution for me. For you to win your own revolution on your own terms is all the payment I need, because I already know what your terms are, and I already know that I—and most other people—would be better off living in a world where you won your revolution. It has been a lot of hard work for me and other people who figure things out to figure out all the things about the world I have to tell you about in this book. It’s also a big threat to a lot of powerful people, which is why, as far as I know, nobody else who is as good at figuring things out as I am, dares to write books like this and tell people like you what we’ve discovered. We all know what we want, and in our own ways we are all struggling for it, and we are all taking risks.

The people who have most of the money and write all the laws think they know a lot more about how the world works than they really do. To beat them, you have to prove they aren’t really as smart as they think they are, by proving that you’re smarter than them. If you prove those people aren’t really as smart as they think they are, you’ll do exactly what I’m trying to do.

If you can win your revolution with the help of students at Oaxaca University, the same revolution can spread to every university in the world. The people who are taking your farms learned how to take your farms by going to universities. But if you can get university students to help you prove that you’re smarter than those people, and then your revolution spreads to every university in the world, then people at universities will start learning what you want people to learn, which is that taking people’s farms is a mistake.

If you can spread your revolution to universities all over the world, you can hijack the education system of the entire world, and destroy Capitalism at its source.

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