Virtute and I spent some time yesterday reflecting on the passing of a movement elder, Eduardo Galeano. We talked mostly about the fact that we have lost a number of movement elders in recent years and it is worrying because it feels as though our movements have trouble remembering our stories and our histories.
Virtute definitely considers himself to be a storyteller, so I asked him about the importance of stories and histories in radical movements. I could tell he had been thinking about this for a while, as his face immediately shot up in a dignified manner as he explained, “Eduardo Galeano had this quote that’s resonated with me for years. He’s talking about capitalism and colonialism and he’s explaining the way it works to make us forget. Galeano says, ‘It’s a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.’ This is an important lesson to retain.” Touched by this quote, I asked Virtute what he thought was a good way to honour this lesson.
Normally self-assured, he slunk down a bit in consternation, “I don’t think it’s easy. Storytelling is such a critical part of our movements. But stories need to bring us to action, not just to understanding or to knowing. Galeano’s stories called us to action. They not only called us to action, they compelled us to action. They came from action. They were part of the struggle. They were a narration of the ongoing dreaming of another world.” I was lamenting this loss, when Virtute was quick to remind me, “Over the past few years, you and I have both witnessed the flourishing of storytelling within our movements. Don’t underestimate the important work of people like Harsha Walia, Glen Coulthard, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Leanne Simpson, Zainab Amadahy, Chris Dixon, AJ Withers, and the many many other people within our collective movements who are writing stories that compel us to action, that are part of our actions.” With those words, Virtute injected me with a little hope, hope that Galeano was right and that we are much more beautiful than we are told.