Sitting on the banks of a tributary, deep into the Ecuadorian jungle with nothing more than a hangover and the pathetic helplessness that comes along with one. I pondered a little more about life in the Amazon; more specifically the Guerrilla groups that have flooded the global news in recent years. Those gritty reels of paramilitaries eating out their chipped stainless-steel mugs, surrounded by dense vegetation and the rather precarious films of masked combatants standing in front of a flag, laying out monotone demands captured my imagination before evening touching base in Latin America.
I saw the place as politically volatile but socially quite cohesive – a place where all races and many faces across the class divide still have to very much live in tandem. To put it plainly, you were never more than a street away from Mercedes Benz or the scene of Slumdog Millionaire 2. A leap and a half from my own reality but somewhat feeling closer to home than I should have felt. Growing up on a housing state surrounded by a village with houses four times the value of my own was humbling but the reality of human plight in South America was extraordinarily different.
Despite my description and not wearing our status as a badge of honour, my family had everything we needed and more…which is in large part why we never take had to take drastic measures and sell our soul to a rebel group with the promise of a better life.
This is common knowledge as to why many disillusioned youngsters from the cities in Colombia found themselves deep in ‘la selva’ fighting for groups such as the FARC or how in Mexico thousands of Indigenous known locally as the ‘Zapatistas’ are opposing globalisation and the wider capitalist system in favour of communitarian practices.
Sometimes it’s extremely easy to see these people as loonies, subsisting on the land, traipsing around kidnapping unsuspecting foreign tourists for ridiculous ransom charges or to make a benign political statement.
That is the platter we are given, be it on TV or the internet, somewhat a low hanging fruit for reporters across the world. I call it bish-bash-bosh journalism, probably closest thing to a ready meal from Tesco in media. Quick and easy news but the repercussions are enormous for those involved and trying my best not to imitate an Infowars rant, I do believe we demonise these groups still out in the wilderness, but they are humans, real tyrants among them with a power kink but largely groups of people looking to better their nations and their own lives.
In the summer of 2016, a rather symbolic agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government was signed, to end the decades long insurgency that spanned narcotic and ideological boundaries – leaving around 200,000 people dead and internally displacing 5 million people.
That is effectively removing half of London and placing them all over the UK for the visualisers out there.
Colombia is a case in point, there are countless other examples of the Kurds in Turkey and even in Ireland with strands of the IRA still existing in a progressive Ireland. When the desire for change is strong enough and necessities (and beliefs) are stretched, people will resort to extraordinary measures. Staking out and pointing the barrel at your own government is an antidote rarely used in modern Anglosphere nations; we are extremely lucky to be born into a time and point in history which has served us to near perfection.
In an era of constant lockdowns, being blindsided by our immediate problems, it is natural for humans to think as a Japanese bullet train and forget we are living on a shared planet with a shared aptitude for solving problems.
Nothing…and no one has ever flourished without a significant change in perspective, those remaining Guerrilla groups across Latin America may be petering out but they are still active and still fighting a cause. Our empathy and daily choices can go a long way towards ending the dehumanisation of localities and groups without inadvertently serving the interests of repressive governments and corporate behemoths.
You are what you eat, therefore, you are the media you consume; sticking to a singular view of the world only plays into the hands of tyrants and repressive bodies – the peace agreement in Colombia came through a slow recognition of the FARC’s humanity and rights as Colombian citizens.
A war of ideas was settled with understanding, who would have thought it. The quicker we wake up to issues of our fellow people, the quicker we can build a better world.
Hope everybody has a merry christmas.
The team at Prism.