gustavo esteva

gustavo estava bw

[oaxaca, s mexico]

intro’d to Gustavo with this post in yes! magazine (Shilpa et al) written in 2007:

reclaiming freedom

One of the most important conclusions of our conversation was the explicit recognition that we learn better when nobody is teaching us. We can observe this in every baby and in our own experience. Our vital competence comes from learning by doing, without any kind of teaching.

schooling the world ness

We have learned, with the Zapatistas, that while changing the world is very difficult, perhaps impossible, it is possible to create a whole new world. That is exactly what the Zapatistas are doing in the south of Mexico. How can we create our own new world, at our own, small, human scale, in our little corner in Oaxaca? How can we deschool our lives and those of our children in this real world, where the school still dominates minds, hearts and institutions?

imagine we can do this for 7 billion people.. no? we can. how can we not..

The most dramatic lesson we derived from the exercise was to discover what we were really missing in the urban setting: conditions for apprenticeship.

When we all request education and institutions where our children and young people can stay and learn, we close our eyes to the tragic social desert in which we live. They have no access to real opportunities to learn in freedom. In many cases, they can no longer learn with parents, uncles, grandparents—just talking to them, listening to their stories or observing them in their daily trade. Everybody is busy, going from one place to another. No one seems to have the patience any more to share with the new generation the wisdom accumulated in a culture. Instead of education, what we really need is conditions for decent living, a community.

Instead of education, what we really need is conditions for decent living, a community.

In doing this radical research, we surprise ourselves, every day, when we discover how easy it can be to create alternatives and how many people are interested in the adventure.

indeed.. so very resonating..

undisturbed ecosystem

in the city.. as the day..


[sept 2013 in spanish]


more from Gustavo jan 2013:

gustavo recovering hope

The only way to resist is to create an alternative.

Bill Strickland ness.

Education and Health

We need to overcome our need for and dependency on the health and education systems, which, as Ivan Illich said, “create exactly what they wish to combat”. We must take these into our own hands, autonomously, without waiting for the system to do it for us.

Each Zapatista school is a zone of knowledge production, each small group of friends that learn and study together is joyful. The Unitierras, the Cidecis, are making the teachers unnecessary and making them disappear!

Like the Zapatistas told them, “they don’t need us to fail”, (just like educational reforms will fail), “and we don’t need them to succeed”. We don’t need those structures and institutions or substitute teachers. We must organize ourselves to learn in an autonomous fashion. It is not about being accepted into University or demanding more seats in the universities. Today we can organize ourselves so that every Mexican can learn what they need to learn, minimizing the necessity of the state apparatus.  This works in every aspect of life.

It works for medicine. We need to escape the medical-industrial system, where doctors and hospitals create more disease than they cure. Medicine makes us more sick. With Obama’s health reform, in the end, it was the most expensive health care system in the world. Our women and children are dying trapped in that system. We can live without it. We can make it irrelevant. Look at fever: it is the expression of a healthy body, reacting in a healthy way. Raising the temperature helps eliminate the viruses; after 3 days, in 99% of cases, the problems will resolve themselves because our defence system will heal us and we will be strengthened.

We are a network of relations, not individuals. This is the way to develop wisdom. We cannot in one day invent an autonomous hospital. We have to think about what is healing and live in health. I want to live with dignity in my house and not with tubes that are uselessly prolonging my life. Some technologies are necessary, but we need a collective redefinition about living healthily. At the right moment, we can visit Zapatista friends to see how they created their autonomous hospitals.


find/follow Gustavo:

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wikipedia small

Gustavo Esteva (born August 20, 1936 in Mexico City) is a Mexican activist, “deprofessionalized intellectual” and founder of the Universidad de la Tierra in theMexican city of Oaxaca. He is one of the best known advocates of Post-Development.

With marxism Esteva has given up all ideas about a vanguard. He is an advocate of radical pluralism.

Discussing the national identity Esteva refers to Guillermo Bonfil’ distinction between a profund (México profundo) and an imaginary Mexico (México imaginario). He questions the modern obsession with planning the future and “projects” of all kinds:

The national project has been based entirely on proposals put forth by imaginary Mexico. […] A project implies projecting oneself into the future. Modern humans want to construct the world according to the image they have of themselves, their representation of the world, as opposed to accepting that they are constructed in the image and semblance of God or by tradition (Villoro, 1992). They need a project. The Mexican elite inherited and accepted this compulsion, but it did not attempt to invent its own project: instead it relied on the Western model, which it believed to be universal. All that was necessary was to impose it, with the adaptations that each generation considered appropriate.

The contrasting attitude of the indigenous peoples, according to Esteva, is not to reject change, but

[…]one of their best traditions, which explains that historical continuity, is that of transforming tradition in a traditional way. They know that they cannot exist without a vision of the future, but they do not pretend to control that future: instead of the arrogant expectations of modern man, based on the assumption that the future is programmable, they maintain hopes, well aware that these may or not be fulfilled: they nourish them to keep them alive but without holding onto them. They have not been able to avoid the experience of modernity, but they have not become rooted in it.

Traditionally the inigenous people did not oppose their own project to the dominant project – but times have changed:

Today, however, two factors are for the first time driving the people of deep Mexico to articulate their own project: the urgency of confronting the latest version of the dominant project, in which there is no dignified space for them, with a unified vision that expresses the diversity of their own ideas and interests and the fact that this latest dominant project has aggravated the historical conflict between Mexicans to the point that it has depleted the original justification for nationhood-indeed, were it to continue it would divide Mexican society in a way that would be unsustainable.
Gustavo’s blog:
gustavos blog
[3 years ago, in spanish w/english subtitles – so very resonating.. ]

it’s hard to tell a story about something that is daily rewritten

it is not school, it is something more alternative

the worst thing about school is that it teaches you to live in a pause

10 min – Gustavo – the craziest thing – that people in every place of the world should be learning the same thing.. insufferable..

they sell us this idea about the paper 

Gustavo – all ed based on us teaching kids what they will need in 20 years. impossible to know.

finding ways to live this search

enlivened learning (Udi & Kelly) reports on unitierra:

universidad de la tierra

_____________2016 – Thoughts on Swaraj

on – we
trying to say – objecting .. very explicitly.. others ruling our lives (markets, states, western colonialism) .. we are rejecting that kind of ruling of our lives…

only can be done with a very solid we

live in harmony w those we cannot understand… we can’t understand everything of the other.. we can acknowledge the otherness of the other…

connecting with the other heart to heart.. because we can’t connect mind to mind..

swaraj – resonate with our experiences… create something beyond.. all the serious of certainties…

to invent/create a diff kind of world.. swaraj is perhaps (part of that)

a nother way

for all of us..

for (blank)’s sake

universal defn of way of life – pretty stupid.. no meaning.. the revelation was.. we still have our notions of how to live well.. instead of standard… development.. we have our own notion.. million different defn’s of what is to live well…

when we were living well… we are rejecting any universal defn of the good life.. we are saying .. people have diff notions.. we need to try to follow that possibility of that celebration of diversity of ways of living well.. not a slogan.. not one possibility..

we are saying.. any idea of living well that pretends to be universal is very pathological…

celebrate ..not just cultural diff.. but individual diff’s

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

june 2016 – enlivened learning new film

Very excited to release the link to our new film ‘Re-learning Hope:  A Story of Unitierra’

Original Tweet:

also shared by Manish on fb message

New Film from the Ecoversities Network and Enlivened Learning
‘Re-learning Hope: A Story of Unitierra’

New documentary shows how an innovative university in the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico, is nurturing the strength and imagination of people choosing to live their lives autonomously, especially within a context of violence and adversity.
Re-learning Hope: A Story of Unitierra. (2016) 69min
RE-LEARNING HOPE is the story of Unitierra, an autonomous university in Oaxaca, Mexico that is immersed in, and has emerged from, the social and indigenous movements of the region. The film tells the story of this emergence of Unitierra and its powerful critique of traditional education and development. The film is a hopeful example of how communities are taking control of their own learning and shaping an ecological path for their communities amidst a context of violence.
The film, made by directors Udi Mandel and Kelly Teamey and in collaboration with participants in Unitierra, raises a host of important questions related to the purpose of education and what it takes to create a deep ecological consciousness and connection with our communities. As participants in Unitierra learn together and with local communities they re-weave the social fabric and ways of living that are more autonomous and in balance with their local ecologies.
‘Re-Learning Hope’ also explores how we can learn autonomy and community living from indigenous peoples. The 500-year struggles of indigenous peoples’ in Oaxaca and Chiapas against the imposition of other ways of life are inspirations Unitierra has taken to heart. Amidst the multiple crises we are all experiencing, in our economies, political institutions and communities, Unitierra is promoting ways of living and learning together that is inspiring, showing us that another world is indeed possible.

5 min – unitierragustavo – new society being born.. trying to do experiments that can produce this new society

12 min – always postponing your future… like you’re always going forward to a future that’s not real

16 min – ed in mexico has been to .. de indian ize the indians

19 min – we can’t wait for govt.. we need to do something.. together..

25 min – Ivan Illich – friendship a key ingredient for the re weaving..

27 min – ivan: any person.. if he were to lose that sense of inferiority produced by school.. mental schooling..and say.. i’m going to get some friends together.. to discuss this and that.. and i’m opening a little cafe to do it…. is doing just what we do .. and that is actually happening now.. not in the capital cities.. of latin america..  but in many small villages…….. but anyway.. i realized that my mistake with many others have made..was believing that through reform..of the schools.. we can change institutional productivity and distribution.. only much later did i realize that as long as school stays school.. it will have an un wanted by product that is much worse than its product.. under the best conditions.. that is.. children learning something.. because what can you say..

at school..the first thing a child learns is that learning is the result of an official process- of an official institutional process

he learns that year after year.. we become personally more valuable because we continue to accumulate new layers of a spiritual product.. an immaterial product..

we learn that what is worth learning.. what will be useful later.. or perhaps what will be useful for society later.. is what we get from a professional..  

we learn that teaching, if not done by a professional in some way less valuable..- ivan

29 min – ed born with capitalism for same purpose.. in that context of creation of capital – … no matter how much is invested in ed of society.. most will be disqualified and won’t be able to reach the end of schooling – .. ed does achieve something specific – children learn to consume the commodities given by the school.. they learn that their success will depend on how much they’ve consumed..and

they learn that to learn about the more important/valuable than to learn from the world.. 

31 min – we learn how to do difficult things – as babies.. w/o teaching – … we love to share what we know if the person asks for it.. – gustavo

38 min – basically development.. implies the imposition to all the people on earth of one definition of their own life… ie: the american way of life  – gustavo

40 min – we can not have the american way of life – econ.. not every person will collect diploma.. every person/culture has own defn of good life.. hospitality – to be open to other notions.. a world in which many worlds can be embraced.. not one world with one definition..- gustavo

42 min – zapatista ness – trying to put into practice the will of its people – w ivan

48 min – on commons ness.. we don’t hear much about success in reclaiming commons and creating new commons.. basically w friendship…  friends .. friends.. to create basic nucleus – gustavo

49 min – more on commons – w/o money or market.. new society from ground up.. other ways of living together…

52 min – we don’t see nature as merchandise

53 min – we don’t believe in democracy.. we believe in communal-cracy – societies to regulate themselves.. opportunity to be what it wants to be… to the extent that we achieve that we will attain a new world

54 min – some people say we are match makers.. ready to support process.. but learning in your hands..

app chip ness –a mechanism simple enough

1:01 – reclaiming control of our own lives – gustavo

shared on fb by Manish:
check out this very powerful essay by Gustavo Esteva – Unlearning the Pretension to be God in our upcoming book In Praise of Scaling Down.
I was fully educated in the conviction of being underdeveloped. I was thus fully domesticated in the religion of scaling up.

Four lucky encounters, almost at the same time, changed my mind.

1\ The first was Leopold Kohr, the master of E.F. Schumacher. …….Let us replace the oceanic dimensions of integrated big powers and common markets by a dike system of inter-connected but highly self-sufficient local markets and small states in which economic fluctuations can be controlled not because our leaders have Oxford or Yale degrees, but because the ripples of a pond, however animated, can never assume the scale of the huge swells passing through the united water masses of the open seas.


2\  A little later..Teodor Shanin helped me to abandon my Marxist religion with the teachings of the late Marx. .. Shanin described the consequences of the Soviet obsession with size: the bigger, the better, once they adopted development, instead of justice, as the very core of socialist ideals.


3\ And then, Ivan Illich….Tools for Conviviality. …This new politics consists in the search for a community agreement on the technological profile of a common roof under which all the members of a society want to live, rather than the construction of a launching platform, from which only a few members of the society are sent to the stars. ..This new politics is a voluntary and communitarian self-limitation, the search of maximum limits in institutional productivity and the consumption of services and commodities, in accordance with the needs considered, within that community, satisfactory for each individual.


4\ Wendell Berry observed that properly speaking “global thinking is not possible”….Those who have “thought globally” (and among them the most successful have been imperialist governments and multinational corporations) have done so by means of simplifications too extreme and oppressive to merit the name of thought. Global thinkers have been, and will be, dangerous people… Unless one is willing to be destructive on a very large scale, one cannot do something except locally, in a small place.

voluntary compliance ness

so .. we go ginormously small…(and so circle back to schumacher) ie: hosting-life-bits as the day

The time has come to reclaim our real condition, as mere mortals, and adjust our behaviour to our own scale.

indeed.. let’s try a nother way… ginorm small enough for all of us.. – has to be all of us..

And so, under the guidance of these radical thinkers I was able to unlearn what I knew about almost everything. ….opened my mind, but my heart was still closed until I began to listen to the voices I have been hearing for a long time, at the grassroots, the voices of campesinos and urban marginals, always disqualified, the people that should be civilized, evangelized, educated, developed…always described for what they are not, for their lacks…invisible, subordinated, silenced…


They (mayans) knew how to observe and follow the sun and the stars and how to organize their lives according with their movements. They never dared to conceive the idea of controlling them.


Plato warned us. An abstraction, he said, implies taking away from reality an aspect or quality and putting it in our minds. We must put it within brackets, to avoid any confusion: it is not reality. … In time, however, we lost the brackets. … we started to assume that we were really living in those abstractions. Our language reflects this attitude. We assume that we live in a specific city, a certain nation, planet Earth…in spite of the fact that no one can live in abstract entities, like a city, a country, a planet. Or we think that we are lawyers or engineers, catholic or Buddhists, students or teachers, assuming as our being the abstract category in which we can be classified. And we orient our thinking and our behaviour not in terms of our real world, our place, where we can really do something.

labels ness

If you want to see where you are, says Wendell Berry, you will have to get out of your space vehicle, out of your car, off your horse, and walk over the ground. On foot you will find that the earth is still satisfyingly large, and full of beguiling nooks and crannies.

If we think locally, we would do far better than we are doing now. The right local questions and answers will be the right global ones. The Amish question “What will this do to our community?” tends towards the right answer for the world.