Spitfire tour raises level of debate
November/December 1998

In a break with its past of bringing predominantly conservative speakers, Accent and Student Government Productions combined to bring the Spitfire Tour to Gainesville Oct. 27.

Created by Zach de la Rocha of the band Rage Against the Machine, the tour included a mix of pop-culture celebrities and activists. UF was the first school to sign onto to the tour, when at the suggestion of Civic Media Center activist Howard Rosenfeld, Student Government Productions chair Jeff Sheinkopf contacted the tour.

While the content varied from self-esteem to the legalization of medical marijuana, it also included Cecilia Rodriguez of the National Committee for Democracy in Mexico (introduced by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls), Tracey Conaty of the National Lesbian and Gay Taskforce and musician and activist Jello Biafra as well as actor Woody Harrelson, who drew a bevy of adoring fraternity brothers, and an ex-MTV personality named Kennedy.

What follows are excerpts of the talks by Cecilia Rodriguez of the National Committee for Democracy in Mexico, which is the U.S. branch of the Zapatista movement (with Amy Ray) and former Dead Kennedy and political activist Jello Biafra:

Cecilia Rodriguez: I want to share with you a portion of the [Zapatista] Declaration of War, which explains a little bit about who they are. They say, "we are a product of 500 years of struggle. We have been denied the most basic education so they can use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don't care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing. Not even a roof over our head, no land, no work, no health care, no food, no education. We are not able to freely and democratically elect our political representatives and there is no independence from foreign interest and there is no peace or justice for ourselves and our children. But today we say, enough is enough! We are the inheritors of the true builders of our nation, we are the dispossessed. We are millions, and we call upon our brothers and sisters to join this struggle as the only path, so that we will not die of hunger due to the insatiable ambition of a 70-year dictatorship led by a clique of traitors that represent the most conservative and backward elements of our country. To the people of the world we say to you: we are men and women, we are complete and free and we are conscious that the war we have declared is our last resort, but it is a just one. The dictators have applied an undeclared genocidal war against our people for many years and so we ask for your help. We struggle for employment, for land, and for housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice, and peace. We will not stop fighting till the basic demands of our people have been met by a government which is free and democratic."

Amy Ray: The Zapatista movement is a grassroots movement [fighting] against corporate greed, homogenization, and a global economic system supported by NAFTA and GATT. This system is creating disenfranchisement everywhere. This system has no tolerance for differences, and no regard for mental, spiritual, environmental or community health. This system has one god and that god is money.

Cecilia Rodriguez: And the Zapatistas say to you: During the last years the power of money has presented a new mask over its criminal face. It ignores borders. It gives no importance to races or colors. It is the power of money and it humiliates dignities. It insults honesty and it assassinates hopes. It is re-named neo-liberalism. It is a historic crime in the concentration of privileges , wealth, and impunities. It democratizes misery and hopelessness. A new world war is waged. Now it is against all of humanity and as in all world wars what is sought is a new distribution of the world. By the name of globalization they call this modern war, which assassinates and forgets. The new distribution of the world consists in concentrating power in power and misery in misery.

Amy Ray: Now you might say, "what does this have to do with me?" And at some point I asked myself the same thing. I was down in Oventic, which is one of the villages in the state of Chiapas, in the rain forest. It is one of the centers of resistance for the Zapatista struggle, and I was at an encuentro, hosted by the Zapatistas. It was discussing the effect of the globalized economy and what they call neo-liberalism. What they kept referring to over and over again about their struggle is that they were struggling and having a basic fight for humans to reclaim themselves. This is something that can apply to anything that we are doing. This can apply to gay rights. This can apply to movements against racism, against any kind of intolerance. The Zapatistas have a lot to teach all of us with their dignity and their movement.

Cecilia Rodriguez: In this new world order, many are excluded. They exclude the indigenous, the youth, women, homosexuals, lesbians, people of color, immigrants, workers, peasants. They exclude the majority who make up the world basement, and they are all disposable. The new distribution of the world excludes the majority. The modern army of financial capital and corrupt governments advance, conquering in the only way that it is capable of--by destroying anything that stands in its way. The new distribution of the world destroys humanity and it has only one place and that place is for money and its servant. Men women and machines are equal because they are servants and disposable. The lie governs and it multiplies itself in means and methods. A new lie is sold to us in history. The lie about the defeat of hope. The lie about the defeat of dignity. The lie about the defeat of humanity. The mirror of power offers us an equilibrium in the balance scale. The lie about the victory of cynicism. The lie about the victory of servitude. The lie about the victory of neo-liberalism. Instead of humanity it offers us stock market value indexes. Instead of dignity it offers us the globalization of misery. Instead of hope, it offers us emptiness...

Amy Ray: I was visiting another village called La Realidad and at one point during the day, I noticed these tanks pouring through the village. This happened once a day in this small village, in a low intensity war of intimidation. These tanks would pull through armed with soldiers and... machine guns and it hit me that my tax dollars were paying for those tanks [and] to train the soldiers. My tax dollars were supporting the oppression of the Zapatistas and the oppression of the indigenous people, and it was cloaked in the disguise of a war on drugs. I'm here to say that we need to speak out against this. Our government and our corporations we support when we spend money...want the Zapatistas out...They want the indigenous people out. They want them out of their way, because the resources are there. It is no different from what happened in North America. And it is happening down there right now. If the Zapatistas win, we win as well. What it means is that a grassroots struggle can succeed and that dignity can succeed and that the human voice means something, and that you can have some dignity because as an American citizen, you can say, "I'm not complicit, my hand is not in the pot."

Cecilia: There may be many of you in the audience who don't understand why it is the Zapatistas took up arms. Why it is that an indigenous people who talk so much about hope and dignity chose to pick up a weapon and point it at another human being. Let me explain it to you by saying that when you have no choice, when you have a gun at your head and that gun consists [of] the fact that your children will not survive past the age of 2, that the women in your village will die of tetanus and cholera and pneumonia and dysentery at the rate of 15,000 per year, that is a weapon. Poverty and misery is violence and people have the right to defend themselves.

And let me tell you the importance of you being here tonight. Not just being here, but when you leave of you doing something tonight. Because this country is the sponsor of these wars. This country has something called the School of the Americas in Fort Benning Georgia, which trains assassins and rapists and murderers. It is one of the sponsors of this form of warfare and it does so because we are all passive. Those of us here in this country, you see, we have a responsibility--not to take up a gun--we have a responsibility to act. And I'm not going to ...tell you that the Zapatista's is the only struggle and that you have to leave what you are doing to support them. I'm going to...tell you that your business in this country...is to be about the business of rebellion.

There [have] to be rebels in this country, you see, as there have been throughout history. You have to fight for health care, for the rights of gays or lesbians. You have to fight for the environment to be protected. You have to fight for the right of the disabled. You have to fight so that humanity is the number one priority in this country and not money. And that's best way in which you can support the Zapatistas--by becoming rebels yourselves and by arming yourselves with the truth and by arming yourselves with the recognition that until thousands of people join their hands and fight because they understand that we have one thing in front of us, one system that is excluding millions of us, until that time will we put an end to this kind of war. That's the thing that we have to work for. That's the thing that we have to be clear about and if there is anything that I would leave you with, it would be that message--to fight. To fight, because you know that's what makes us human. What makes us human is our ability to make things better, to change the world.

At this point in time there has been 2 years without peace talks. There have been 3 massacres. One of them included the deaths of 45 men, women, and children--defenseless--they were praying in a church. The massacres of Latin Americans continue, and I'm not asking for your compassion. I'm asking you to feel the blood of those people, in your spirits, and to act, to act in their name, for the future. For a future for us all.

Jello Biafra: We all know or we all feel what the real underlying issue or scandal is--it's not Monica's magic orifice or whether anybody inhaled...no, it's that according to Jim Hightower, among others, 80% of the people in this country have not seen jack shit from this supposed economic boom we've heard so much propaganda about. The real income has either stayed the same or has gone down the toilet. What is more dangerous in this country, drug addiction or wealth addiction? Here we are: what does more damage to the world, a drug addict or a wealth addict? You tell me. Here we are in the middle of this huge economic boom but there's 2.1 million people in this country who are homeless. 2.1 million! The answer we keep getting is "oh, we have to cut the budget 'cause we have to balance the budget on the backs of poor people." There's no more money to fix schools, forgive people's student loans, give the homeless a place to sleep. Where did that money go? Read down the list of the Fortune 500 most successful corporations. That's who stole the money.

The issue is not left vs. right, it's top against bottom. Top against bottom in like tens of thousands of people laid off from work so a corporate head can pay himself and a few cronies $10, 20, 40 million bonuses while they ship the work down to slave factories in Mexico. The average CEO in this country makes 157 times the money of the average worker. In other industrial nations in Europe and even in Japan it's nowhere near that ridiculous. It will go on and on--including two sets of Senate hearings this year on how MUSIC is what's destroying families. Music and movies, killing America's soul. It must be Marilyn Manson's fault.

Well I think it's greed and people who throw the breadwinners of families out of work and it's documented where there's mass layoffs, wife beating goes up, child abuse goes up, suicide goes up, and murder goes up. It's wealth addicts destroying families in this country and the quality of life in this country. They tell us this is necessary because we live in a marketplace. Wouldn't you rather live in a community? Given a choice, do we want competitiveness or quality of life?

The wealth addicts have a different idea--slowly start rigging the laws so they can act as their own sovereign nations and everyone on earth is pitted against each other for who will work for the least wage. The NAFTA treaty between America, Canada, and Mexico is one example. Layoffs here, jobs exported to Mexico, but their unemployment rate is going up too, because people are having to abandon the farms that their ancestors had farmed before them... because they can't sell the produce they grow for as low a price as the dumptrucks full of corn coming in from this country. It's creating refugees coming to Mexican cities en masse, some of them come here in hopes of a better life...

Then there's NAFTA's big brother from hell, the GATT treaty... GATT, yet another George Bush wet dream rammed through by Bill Clinton and his buddy Newt Gingrich. [Any country can go to the] WTO, the World Trade Organization, created by GATT and get any other country's laws nuked because it's a barrier to free trade. The very first WTO decision was to wipe out our Clean Air Act. You don't hear any debate about whether to renew the Clean Air Act anymore because its simply not being enforced, thanks to the WTO. And this is because Brazil and Venezuela complained that it was a barrier to free trade not to let them sell dirty gasoline up here...

And there's a worse one now in negotiation that ... will be sent to Congress probably next year--the MAI, Multilateral Agreement on Investment... what this says is who needs the WTO when we can just sign on the dotted line and give corporations the right to sue any country's government for hundreds of millions of dollars for interfering with their right to profit through pesky laws like minimum wage, environmental laws, labor safety laws, tax breaks and subsidies for local small business... there's even specific language in MAI saying that a country can get sued by a corporation for failure to stop civil unrest against the corporation! And the Clintonoids want this to go through this is why they were pushing for that fast track legislation a year ago to say that Congress can't amend any international treaties anymore, you just have to wave 'em on through, vote yea or nay. ...

So we have a minimum wage, how about a maximum wage? Six figures and its payback time. Why should people who are hurting and people who are tying to better themselves and take responsibility and get an education in school have to balance the budget when Bill Gates and Ross Perot and Michael Jordan could be balancing the budget instead. Maximum wage. And you know the line item veto--that thing that Reagan's people came up with that Clinton finally got passed...this is where instead of the president having to write veto across a whole bill an send it back to congress, can cross out what he doesn't like and make them have to rework specific language. Why am I bringing this up? Imagine if you can do that with your taxes! I don't mind paying taxes if the money is going to serve real needs of real people instead of building prisons and bombs. So If we were able to pick what percent of our taxes went where, I bet education and the environment would go straight up and the arms race and prisons would go straight down. And how about letting neighborhoods elect their police officers? People required to live in the community instead of another town. And how about a mandatory class in high school before people reach drop out age on the most important thing...why don't we spend at least one goddamn dime in the public schools teaching people how to raise kids. ...

Don't hate the media...become the media. I think maybe the best thing that punk has given the world is not all the cool music and the...bands like Nirvana and Green Day and maybe even the Indigo Girls, who were inspired by punk, maybe it's the do it yourself theme. You don't like what you get from the CNN or USA Today or Spin or Sassy...The internet can be the tip of the iceberg...Pirate radio is also very important. We have less to fear from censorship from Tipper Gore and Pat Robertson than we do from Disney. Mickey Mouse, Time Warner, Rupert Murdoch,--you name it--because they omit the real issues from the news and give us Monica, Monica, Monica, one year anniversary on Diana, then Monica, Monica, Monica... You want to get rid of this? Support pirate radio and when the Feds crack down--and boy do they crack down, which shows how scared they are of pirate radio--you know those clinic defenses of abortion clinics? We may need human bodies for pirate radio defense as well.

Become the media! Call up the TV stations, tell them where the defense is, get it on the air, get it into people's living rooms... We all owe a big debt to everybody who showed up and represented at Ohio State University when Madeline Albright, the reptile from hell, and...the Defense Secretary were sitting there talking about how great it would be to have another gulf war and wag the dog some more. People didn't stick to the scripted questions, made the idiots look like idiots, and probably saved a lot of people's lives across the ocean. Lets hear it for Ohio State...

Corporate dictatorship is throwing too many people out of work and too many people are getting angry. They may be falling for Rush Limbaugh or Jeb Bush now but if you become the media and go one on one with cousins, people you know here, people you know at work, that's where change begins. Corporate dictatorship is headed for a train wreck and that train wreck will happen in our lifetime...If we aren't ready like people in the Czech Republic and South Africa and Nicaragua and those places were ready, if we are not ready to cut through the bullshit, learn how to work with other people and be ready to do it right, we will get fooled again.

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