Or so veteran war correspondent Judith Matloff argues in this chillingly enlightening account of those who live in mountain regions in order to elude or destroy authority, and whose blood feuds are handed down from one generation to the next.
Matloff finds that conflict zones produce a sort of limbo; people who live there are caught on ‘existential borders’, cut off from the world. In pursuit of this thesis, she visits Marquetalia in Colombia, where 1,200 peasants took over an abandoned farm and lived communally, until driven into the mountains by the government, helped by the United States, who feared a Castro-like revolution. Flight into the Andes allowed the insurgency to grow: the FARC used a decades-long familiarity with the terrain to carry out night raids on settlements below.
Matloff also gained access to the Sierra Madre’s Zapatistas, whose rebellion was ‘the world’s first by internet’ – their anti-globalisation messages transmitted through a website – and convincingly argues that the Boston Marathon bombers’ Chechen parentage, with its inherited sense of isolation and dispossession from a mountain homeland, led them to identify with their Muslim cause.
It is important that we pay attention to these places, so that we might better respond to conflicts that threaten to ignite in the future. ‘Danger, like water, flows downhill.’