The evidence of economic stagnation and social regression is overwhelming. Programs of social transfers to the president’s clienteles, although politically motivated, do not compensate for the impact of the pandemic nor for the lack of growth that Mexicans have experienced in these last years. It’s not as if things were perfect before and suddenly collapsed, but instead that Mexico has gone through a period of constant and systematic deterioration that is evident to everyone and, however, it seems that it is the world of Alice in Wonderland where everything is backwards. It is really?
“One of the saddest lessons of history, writes Carl Sagan,* is this: if we have been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
A little while ago I read a new history of the German Occupation of France during the Second World War; the lasting image I took from this is of the deterioration that is evident, but frequently imperceptible even for experienced observers. The factors that permit some degree of well-being grind down, employment sources dry up, the salaries that the workers receive in fact diminish (and that without considering the purchasing power), the social milieu takes on an innuendo of naturality that is everything but natural. Corruption flourishes or, rather, stays on course in all ambits but now is perceived as understandable and is justified as if it were an inherent part of a purported transformation. The presence of the military in the streets and in charge of all sorts of projects, previously intolerable, abruptly acquires an elevated level of legitimacy, as if it were desirable. Parochial speeches in the highest forums of the international concert are extolled, even by observers in the know, as pieces of transcendental oratory, as if delivered by Demosthenes, Cicero or Churchill declaiming at moments fraught with extraordinary emergency. What had before been unacceptable -and that was, in Mexico’s case, in contrast with the example of France- what led to the election of a movement that yearned to attack those evils, became not only acceptable, but normal.
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum says about the Taliban that their objective is not a prosperous Afghanistan, but instead of an Afghanistan in which they themselves are in power and she raises the obvious question: how is such impunity possible? That is the question that we Mexicans must ask ourselves.
And that is the question that many formulated some months ago in the midterms, thus the urban defeat of Morena. It was that too which made an alliance among strange bedfellows and once competitors possible, even inevitable. It is clear to me that their legitimate objective, as with any political party in the world, is power, but the pragmatism that they have exhibited is not contemptible, in that it shows a capacity of response in the face of the deterioration that represents them, evidently, and opportunity.
Nothing is further from my spirit than defending the “old order” that Morena supposedly dismantled with the president’s rallying cry “we’re doing well.” Those who have done me the favor of reading me over the past decades know that I believe in a liberal order in the economic as well as in the political, but what Mexicans had before the election of Lopez Obrador fell far from that paradigm. The avowed objectives were of a liberal order, but the reality was a very far cry from that. Nonetheless Mexicans had at least, first, spaces of freedom that the current government erodes day to day and, second, the geographical half (more or less) of the country advanced systematically. None of that justifies the lack of opportunities that has characterized the inhabitants of the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and other Mexicans for centuries, but the present fancied success consists of everyone losing. The old and unequal order now continues being unequal, but worse. Some progress, that.
The face-to-face discourse of Mexico’s president before the U.S. President and the Prime Minister of Canada brings to mind a floating bubble cut off from the reality. Yes, the president of Mexico embraces the reality of the regional trade agreement (USMCA) and the U.S.-China moment, but that contradicts his initiatives for the interior (such as electricity and transparency), where he backs off minute by minute from matters of globality, a globality, it cannot be repeated enough, that constitutes, in the form of exports, the main source of growth and income that Mexico can rely on.
A government of lost opportunities, the greatest of which is that of not correcting, well, not even attempting to confront, the woes that ushered the present government to its 2018 electoral triumph. Like the Taliban, everything was about power, not about the true ills that afflict the country.
“The crucial fact, says Sowell, is that it is far easier to concentrate power than to concentrate knowledge.” Regarding the concentration of power, there is no doubt; nor is there any doubt with respect to the well-being or the quality of life of Mexicans. And even less so when one of the traits of our time is the destruction of the knowledge which allows for the ending of the impunity. The evidence is resounding; now the only thing lacking is the waning of self-deceit.
* Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark