The Mood

 Luis Rubio

The government that (finally…) is at the point of concluding lived besieged by what the president himself called the “bad social mood.” This is a vague concept that allows the transference of responsibility to others: It is not my fault but that of the population who does not understand. Using that measuring stick, the citizenry in Mexico has summarily engaged in a half century of “not understanding.” The exiting government never confronted the social mood as a problem, which led it to employ antidotes that not only did not attend to this mood, but that also exacerbated it, as in the famous media campaign, “stop complaining.” If the upcoming government wants to conclude in a better place, it will have to face the issue that all of the prior administrations have evaded and that is, in essence, the citizenry’s trust in the government.

The overwhelming majority of politicians have not wanted to understand that Mexican society lacks mainstays of certainty that confer on it a sense of security and future. Up to the sixties, the post-revolutionary governments achieved both of the latter by means of positive results in economic growth as well as in political stability; when. Beginning in the mid-seventies, crises and expropriations arrived, successive governments lost their bearings and never got them back.

From 1970, the citizenry has been privy to an internal war among politicians who have generated permanent polarization, creating deep-hewn social, regional, economic and political schisms across the length and breadth of the country. The security crisis is not the product of chance, but instead one of the incompetence of our politicians to transform the system of government into one suitable for the XXI century. The result has been an absolute incapacity to generate hope and tranquility, which are crucial for a “good” social mood or, simply, trust. After decades of the same, trust becomes increasingly more difficult to recuperate

Without the trust of the population, said Mao, nothing is possible. One can have arms and food, but there is nothing like having the acquiescence and cooperation of the citizenry to attain development. That trust is won inch by inch, but lost in the blink of an eye. Several of Mexico’s recent presidents achieved an inkling of trust only to subsequently squander it: like Sisyphus attempting to carry the stone to the top of the mountain, rebuilding trust is ever more difficult and costly. I ask myself whether the new government will attempt to do this if it really wants to make a difference.

In December of 1941, when Pearl Harbor was practically annihilated, the U.S felt defeated. President Roosevelt understood that, to win, he had to recoup the mood of the population, for which he pledged his first great effort to modifying perceptions, commencing when his Air Force bombed Tokyo the following April. The politico-social impact was brutal: suddenly, Americans realized that it was possible to win, thus the final stage of the war ensued. Something similar occurred in the U.K. when its coastal fishing and Merchant Marine communities wholeheartedly gave themselves over to retrieving the soldiers trapped on the French coast at Dunkirk.  England seemed to be quashed and on the brink of being invaded, but the heroic performance of the citizenry in transforming the popular mood converted the military endeavor into a true national liberation.

The next president does not have it easy. Although his plans are clearly very ambitious and grandiose, they will only bear fruit to the degree that he faces the deep-seated causes of citizen indifference and their profound distrust in the government. These months have shown that even the president’s most loyal acolytes harbor doubts and hold contradictory agendas. Thus, it is imperative for AMLO to address the distant causes of distrust. And soon.

In Mexico social ill-being goes back to Luis Echeverría (LEA), who destroyed the implicit “social compact” that had served to govern the country since the Revolution. His successor, López Portillo (JOLOPO), initiated his government intending to recover trust, only to end up wreaking havoc on it with his pathetic discourse on the expropriation of the banks. The devastation wrought was so acute that even later generations who have never heard of LEA or JOLOPO are skeptical of the government and reject it instinctively.

The society that viewed the future with optimism is today waiting for the other shoe to drop in the knowledge that the government –all governments- entertains other agendas, incompatible with those of the average citizen. AMLO might believe that he can count on an immutable base of popular support, but nothing is permanent and now, with the full responsibility on his shoulders, he’ll have end impunity and corruption and, for that, his persona will not be enough. He will have to construct institutions that limit his own power or he will end up like all the others.

The recent election revealed a profound social and political chasm. The winner has in his hands the challenge of polarizing or bringing the whole of the population in and, if it opts for joining all, his sole option will be to build guarantees for the permanence of citizen trust. That is, exactly the opposite of what he proposed to do as the presidential candidate.