What’s With Us?

In his famed television program ¿Qué Nos Pasa?, Héctor Suárez showed us up, but he was unable to change the reality. The gist of the program was to place our incongruities on exhibit, above all, our disinclination for problem solving. Our difficulties are known to everyone, they are easy to identify, and it does not require a genius to face up to them.  But the fact is that we do not confront them: we remain stuck along the way without reaching a resolution.

We Mexicans have become accustomed to salvation at the hands of third persons. Decades of PRI governments have made us dependent upon receiving a summons from the authorities. The president was the leader in, owner of, and expert on everything. In an admix of features of the Aztec kingdom’s tlatoani with corporativism, the PRI created an entire culture of subordination, submission, and dependence that has made us incapable of acting on our own.  And we are not overcoming this stage. Everyone criticizes the president for his inability or reluctance to assume the leadership function that traditionally fell to the tlatoani during the six-year term, but the extraordinary thing is that alternative leaders do not emerge who assume the responsibility, replenish the shortfalls, and relieve the wants. In nations like Brazil, the U.S., France or Chile there is no dearth of leaders ready and willing to raise their heads and call for action. Here only those looking for personal gain come out.

How is it possible that in an avowedly modern country, with exceptional aptitudes of leadership in persons, politicians, enterprises, organizations, and institutions, no leadership emerges to afford opportunities for development? The majority of our politicians understand the themes and problems perfectly well, but when they act, they do so self-interestedly or within the space allowed them by their group or corporatist interest. The PRI culture continues to permeate everything: political parties; the media, business: with honorable exceptions, all express themselves in the plural, but are solely concerned with themselves. In the country, there are hundreds of competent leaders who engage in a multiplicity of activities, regions, and sectors, yet no one emerges to smite the paralysis.

The country has been stuck for years, unable to promote and achieve economic growth and the generation of wealth. Rather than advancing the theme on which the whole population is in agreement, including the most reactionary and recalcitrant interests, the only thing that has been achieved is expanding the prerogatives of the bureaucracy and corruption and exacting less and less accountability. Because that, and nothing else, is what is manifested by the energy reform, which conferred still greater privileges on the union or in the case of the government’s capitulation to the teachers’ union. The parties in the government change, but populist obscurantism persists: rather than a clean break with the status quo, everything contributes to entrenching the latter and prolonging its existence. Instead of promoting prosperity, we have perfected the art of paralysis. As a group, practically no politician or party today assumes the essence of its responsibility: that wealth must first be created, not only regulated, curbed, or distributed.

Our problems are not difficult to diagnose, and there is an infinity of proposals for solutions. Although the existence of a problem is acknowledged ‒the rhetoric that emanates from the mouthpiece for the parties, entrepreneurs, union leaders, and intellectuals of all stripes exhibit this‒ what is important is to satisfy the personal or group agenda, not the urgency to transform the country. Everyone appears to take to task what already exists, but there is no connection between the complaints and the proposals for a solution. The political proposals and diagnoses that arise from these are rife with content but sparse on insight. There is no point in proposing a grand strategy for transformation when none of the solutions that are therein visualized or proposed are susceptible to changing the reality for the good.

Above everything else, it is evident that the country lives with fundamental political as well as economic contradictions and dysfunctionalities. No matter the numbers of diagnoses, practically none recognize the guises ‒and veiled interests‒ that prevent proposals from being viable solutions. In the economic as well as in the political arena, there are concrete proposals for confronting the reality, many of these excessively wise and reasonable, but we live a paradox in which their adoption would not resolve the problems. For more than two decades, reforms have been approved that have not achieved breaking the impasse that characterizes us. Something must be wrong.

The country needs many reforms, but lacks the capacity to absorb and process them; thus, it would better not to pretend that a Band-Aid is going to cure a migraine. It is not that many of the proposals entail bad ideas: it is, simply, that the solution cannot vie with the real problem.

The PRI culture that was imposed for many decades bequeathed to us a legacy of mental myths and vices that we appear unable to surmount. In economic matters, the array of obstacles to the generation of wealth is fundamental. This is not corrected, for instance, with additional taxes or better expenditure of monies, although  both might be necessary, but rather with the elimination of obstacles to the installation and operation of commercial undertakings, investment in infrastructure, generation of conditions of true and effective competition, and the breakup of union structures that, as does the teachers’ union, maintain the populace submissive, mired in an educative system that inhibits the individual’s creativity and development. It is not at all worthwhile to remodel fiscal structures, or privatize businesses, or negotiate free trade agreements, all of which are very necessary, if everything is designed to impede the economy from achieving its principal mission: to generate wealth with equal opportunities for all.

The same is true of the political system: it is evident that it is bogged down, but it is also evident that the proposed reforms would not end the power monopolies, the distance between the citizenry and those who govern, or the failure to recognize the winners of an election. To the contrary: given our political reality, many of the proposed reforms would not only uphold the present power structure, but would also discredit the notion of and the urgency for reform anew. The problem of power and the lack of agreement as to how to distribute it, contain it, and be accountable for it must precede any legal reform. These are issues of leadership and political prodding, not of legislation. First things first.

We are all aware that the president has been unable to exercise the leadership that his function commands in our system. However, what is pathetic is that alternative, credible leadership does not arise, which says what is obvious about the country and the political-economic system: that is, as in a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, the emperor is wearing no clothes. Mexico does not need first-rate leaders in all spheres, but none appear ready to assume this function outside of their own sphere: it is easier to complain about the incompetence of others, of the worst government, or of how bad things are. It is urgent to break with Orwell’s groupthink, which kills the country little by little…