Dec 24, 2006

The Myth of the Petroglyph, or the Petrified Revolutionary

We are in Africa. We are on a journey to observe the causes of hunger in Africa. We visit farmers, we talk with them. We are in an area that is rural yet connected to a Metropolis nearby. It is called Juarez, and it is, in my mind, the future Juarez, Mexico, where people fight for justice, where noble people are prevailing against corruption.

I am there with my family, friends, former co-workers. We are meeting farmers, chefs. Amidst our visit, wind of a letter from arises. Young Tim Farrell mentions the letter, claiming “it’s pretty good, it may work.” I am curious and search out the letter; sitting in an idyllic pasture amongst the misty crags of a sierra where farmers receive assistance to grow their primary crops, I read the letter

It reads:

We seek out people who may be interested. We seek out the best of them. [Image of two men shouldering a tree, lifting]. We must raise money amongst ourselves—say $1000 dollars, and we give it to the chosen farmers. They use the money for the benefit of their crops, to farm unimpeded…

The money is not to be reported, its existence is to remain a secret between us and the chosen farmers. When the farmer succeeds (and he will succeed), we return next season and do it again. The success of the farmer puts him in a position to receive official aid, vast quantities of money. Our money serves him underground, but it’s for a worthy cause, namely to help his people.

I am reading the letter accompanied by imagery, as though the events had already been documented. As I read the letter I have a notion of the perfect farmer to begin the project.

The letter is hopeful, full of ambition, idealism.

The letter continues:

When the time comes, the country will be in a position for revolution.
Based on our efforts, we will be cultivating a revolutionary contingency of people, not only loyal to us because of the funding we will provide, but loyal to ideals, since the first man will be a man of ideals. When the time comes, children will be schooled in the ways of the revolutionary…

I stop reading the letter here. I look up and look at the rolling meadows, the mist setting on the mountain ranges. An image of a boy learning methods of farming that would replace current ones. An image of the words: hegemony replacing hegemony. This is the text the boy is reading, and I no longer want to read the letter.

What does it benefit us to have a revolution if the children are brainwashed from such an early age?

This is the myth of the petrified revolutionary:

The revolutionary was working to save his people. Money would arrive and he would put it in the cookie jar. Everyday he would put his hand in the cookie jar, to drop money off. Or so people thought. It came to the attention of the people that he may be taking money out as he puts the money in, or perhaps he was only pretending to put the money in, and removing his hand with the money intended for the people, or perhaps more. So they came to observe him, a man in a kitchen, allegedly putting his hand in the cookie jar for the benefit of his people. The revolutionary stuck his hand in the cookie jar, only to freeze there, his face looking out at the people he claimed to have been serving, a look on his face that told the people neither what they wanted nor what they feared.

And that is the myth of the petrified revolutionary.

As our visit continues, the makings of the letter become more widespread. A white woman whom everyone adores becomes a target of the letter-writers. She is sought after because she is a great chef and has a wonderful personality on top of that. She has carisma.

She is cooking something one day as she is accosted by two of the letter-writers. At first she politely rebukes their advances, but finally blurts out “I will not be your hero, I’m not even African!” As she is saying this, one hand is balancing a large pot while the other is stirring. An image of a man sticking his hands in a cookie jar, his hand stuck, his body frozen. The image comes to me because she is in exactly the same position. “Let me tell you a story,” she says, “of the petrified revolutionary.”