subject minus

by Susie Applegate

My meeting with Subject Minus blew away most of the preconceptions I may have had about EcoSurvival Village. I guess that I had expected the humorless, world-on-my-shoulders leftist types I had encountered as a reporter in California. But, these folks seemed to be mocking that whole depressing scene.
    “That’s the whole point, in a way,” said Minus, when I put the question to her, piercing me with intense, black eyes from the shadow of her hat brim. “You can’t let the world get to you like that. You have to laugh at yourself, and the circus around you. You have to laugh at God. Otherwise she will destroy you with the weight of her indifference.”
    Such wisdom for someone so young! I thought, although I never said so, because, almost as soon as the idea came to me, I had a concurrent thought. It was that these people were playing a game of some kind, the purpose of which I wasn’t allowed to know. In our afternoon together, Minus never revealed to me her real name. She never once diverged from her role as the earnest Zapatista poet. Her dark eyes and thick, black hair caused me to believe that she was either Native American or hispanic, but she responded to this line of questioning with more enigma, saying, “I’m from the tribe of the dispossessed.”
    After leading me around the construction site, and introducing me to several of the young workers, Minus took me to The Compound, about a mile further up the road. The old trapper cabins were dilapidated, and looked uninhabitable to me. The larger one she called “the dormitory,” and the other “the war room”. She explained to me that this was where most of the permanent members of the community stayed, and that when the main camp was finished they would improve The Compound as well.
    When I questioned her about the “war room” and its militaristic moniker, she said, “We are at war. The capitalist system, as it exists, is a threat to the people of the world, and to the very essense of life itself. It is like a cancer, you see, eating the body which hosts it.”
    “Now we believe in non-violence,” she went on, “but that does not mean that violence won’t happen. In fact, it is happening every day this system continues. It is a violence against the poor and the dispossessed. We are the otras, the others whom the system would like you to believe do not exist. But we do exist. And we will survive. And one day we will take back this earth from the destroyers, and we will heal it. You see, our beliefs are not that different from that little girl, your Germaine.”
    I have to admire the idealism of these young people, who come from all around the northwest. Some are country kids, like those in Germaine, and some are from Portland, Spokane and Seattle, and know little about rural life. But they are united in a belief in a better world.
    I can only hope that they are wrong about global warming and looming disaster, yet I think it would be foolish to just write off the dangers that confront our world. A lot of Germainers have their eyes closed to evidence right in front of their noses simply because it conflicts with their pre-conceived notions, or with biblical edicts, or with their comfortable livestyle.
    On the way back down the hill I met a woman in the village who was introduced to me as “Dr. Rosa.” She had light brown hair with streaks of gray, and appeared to be in her 60s. Her slight foreign accent was unplaceable. Something about her seemed familiar, although I couldn’t say what that was. Minus merely said, “Dr. Rosa will be opening a weekly clinic soon,” as she whisked me away toward my waiting vehicle.
    I felt as though I had been deliberately hurried away. And now I have another mystery. I’ll have to visit that clinic when it opens. I have this chronic curiosity problem, and maybe its time for a checkup.

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