I have had a long relationship with “politics” and with “the political”. He was born with me. It was in the family history, in my grandmother’s relationship with Sandino and in the anti-Somocism that I had breathed since my childhood. Over time, I learned the only difference between “politics” and “the political”: politics has been perceived by many as a scenario alien to everyday life; something in which to participate you must accumulate medals, trophies, prizes. In short, merits to make yourself a public image that justifies reaching a different status. However, in my particular experience, “politics” was something like a bubble to which one may or may not belong. In this there are several dichotomies: do you study to be a politician or do you have to participate in some real or symbolic “struggle”, battle or war to be a politician? If it were the latter, the conclusion would lead us to think that you have to be almost a hero to be a politician.
To complicate the above reflection, also based on my own experience, I assumed three variables: political hierarchies, political ideology and “political line”. This trinomial would always guarantee political power. In my adolescent moments doing politics, I focused on those three things. First, to protect a political leadership, to try that nothing would separate me from the political doctrine that I had learned, and a blindness that conditioned me to never discuss orders but to accept them with the submission of a true daughter of politics. Today, some of the experiences cited are the causes, among many others, that we have an authoritarian dictatorship and a political culture that runs over us.
In the current context, the liberation of our Nicaragua has encountered obstacles that seem to be as strong as the same pathological attachment of the dictatorship with power. One of them has been the difficulties in having a great agreement, the organizational unit that allows coordinating the methods of resistance and civic struggle and, of course, that can develop the programmatic vision for the country of the future. It is summed up in an alliance of groups that allows us all to know that we are going to come out of the dictatorship together and that, the day after the end of the dictatorship, we will be prepared to begin the reconstruction of our Nicaragua.
When you think about the list of reasons why the different opposition groups do not walk organized together, and some even flee from the so-called “unity”, there are arguments of all kinds. Some are factors that combine the historical, the ideological and the emotional. There are those who refuse to join because they swore not to compromise with those who, in the past, acted in one way or another. Others do not favor unity due to mistrust that alerts them to the possibility of being betrayed by the same as always. No one wants to take the risk, much less pay the consequences. There are also those who consider themselves unable to find middle ground on ideological issues, such as the free market, gender or spirituality, among others.
Added to these arguments are the never-resolved questions about the narrative and the methodology for creating these political alliances. Should it be called dialogue? “No, because before talking I need to know exactly what we are going to talk about,” some say. What if we call it “negotiation”? “No, because we have nothing to negotiate. We unite only to overthrow the dictatorship and we don’t need more”. So we call it “agreement”? “No, because that sounds like a pact and pacts are not well seen.”
It goes without saying that to these are added questions about the protagonists of the aforementioned processes: Who should be agreed with? Who do you have to join? And then, answers come from experience: “No… They don’t have people”; “No… Those were in this or that group.” The most demanding also condition their participation depending on who will represent the other groups. There we get more complicated because everyone, as they say, “has a tail”. Added to this is the belief that, behind each group, there is a foreign government financing the so-called coalition of opposition actors. And then comes the main suspicion: the much feared possibility that a dialogue between the opposition will lead to a dialogue with the dictatorship. The latter already leads us to conclude that it is better to close all options to articulate ourselves.
In conclusion, we want to unite only with those who have never made political mistakes, with those who guarantee us historical probity and with whom we agree on principles and programs.
All of these positions ignore the fact that each of us has been immersed in a context of brutal political violence. Our organizations and we, as people, are survivors or victims, or participants in this conflict. We all have a history, and in addition to that, we have all suffered betrayals, disappointments or have had to mutate from one group to another because someone purged us, distrusted us or saw us as a threat. We forget that the dictatorship did a careful and successful job of linking us to them at some point in its history. The dictatorship has tarnished our well-intentioned flags or, what is worse, it has generated opportunistic divisions for its own convenience and we fell into the temptation of separating ourselves from one group and joining another. We all come from some part of Nicaragua. We all come from some organization that was dismantled due to internal conflicts or that was dismantled by the regime.
Making the above description, everything seems to refer us to the dimension of “politics” or “the political”: we forget that those of us who represent groups and organizations in all these processes are people. Within each one of us there are emotions, feelings, subjectivity, history… In other words, mistrust, fear, doubt, alertness and repressed anger, or antipathy towards a person (even if it is in the political) are factors that are part of the personality area.
In opposition to all this, attitudes and values are required, that is, socio-emotional and political competencies to be able to accept the other. It is about not always imposing my criteria as the most important, of learning to relate to someone without giving them all my trust. It could be added that self-esteem is needed to have leadership without always being in the front row. Humility is a virtue that accompanies the ability to give the visible place to another in an alternate and rotating way. Maturity is needed to recognize that it is time to take a step back and cede representativeness to another generation; accept that I am not the best bridge to travel to the future. All this demands of us an act of human greatness and deep personal coherence.
So, is personal coherence something different from political coherence? The question may not be understood until it is lived. In my own history of violence I have learned that the personal is political. Having a type of personal conduct other than politics implies contradiction and double standards. And that is why it is necessary that, adhering to the truth and ethics, we begin to recognize that we have not achieved political unity against the dictatorship because we have not been able to accept ourselves and unite as different human beings. And political coincidences can be difficult, but human coincidences are in our essence.
Proposing a concertation of ideas, purposes and vision of change and freedom in Nicaragua requires, first, being capable of personal will. I don’t think that people who don’t accept each other, who can’t shake hands, look each other in the eye or listen to each other, can even find minimal political coincidences. The lack of acceptance leads us to intolerance, stigma, prejudice and a series of barriers that, ultimately, justify our incompetence to discover in “the others”, whether they are called left, right or whatever. another current, minimum points for the liberation and reconstruction of Nicaragua.
And if the personal is political, at this moment in my life I am learning the coherence of accepting, with love, hugs, laughter, complementarity and even allowing myself to be intrigued by what is different. I have dared to look for what is different to understand it, to learn from it and even receive it in my heart for the rest of my life. In what is different there are surprises.
It is imperative to recognize that political will is not enough to agree, it is also necessary to have personal will. This complementary act of personal will and political will is an ethical demand of Nicaraguan society for those of us who say we want a different country. Our incoherence in the face of the challenge of concertation has represented despair for Nicaraguans. We are also facing the opportunity to create precedents for new ways of relating within the political scene. Humanize the dynamics of links and communication between politicians, who will always be people, hopefully, at the service of their community and society.
*Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo is a sociologist, researcher and university professor. She has contributed to educational action-research processes on issues of conflict transformation and violence prevention and community resilience. She is an advisor on education issues for different social movements and works as a specialist in academic quality management and professional development.
This text was originally published in divergent.
The personal and the political: proposal for an opposition agreement in Nicaragua