Subject and Object

Luis Rubio

Polarization alters everything: from the way things are worded to the inclination to listen to them. Polarization destroys language, with widely accepted terms morphing into polemical conspiracies prone to the extermination of adversaries. Bent by the obsession for confronting the good with the bad, it is in the end nearly impossible to recognize common ground, spaces where there are no significant differences, where what is common is greater and more substantive than distance and difference.


The concept of civil society has fallen into that ambit: presented as exclusive of the elite, -the conservatives in the new vernacular- thousands of base organizations are excluded that do not have the time to dispute designations but that represent citizens demanding respect for their rights. Mexico’s civil society is much more than what it appears to be. Defaming these organizations means attacking legitimate citizens who do nothing but fight for rights enshrined in the constitution.


What differentiates the members of the civil society -a concept coined by Aristotle- is not the income level of its members, but instead the willingness to make their rights be heard and complied with, insisting on the satisfaction of their claims and participating actively in the political and social processes. From that perspective, there are many more organizations that, frequently without title or registration, represent the citizenry than those that exist formally.


There we find the women of Cherán in the Mexican state of Michoacán, fed up with the loggers wresting away their source of employment, abducting and killing their children and spouses, who organize themselves to confront and eradicate them. In the town of Santiago Ixcuintla, Nayarit, there has not been a single abduction in years thanks to the citizenry organizing itself. In Monterrey, the religious sisters of Citizens in Support of Human Rights (CADHAC) designed a new model for the office of the prosecutors. In the states of Veracruz and Morelos (Tetelcingo) the families of the “disappeared” have organized themselves into groups, have trained themselves in forensic science (women converted into experts in DNA samples) and in the search for graves.


Examples proliferate throughout the country, with distinct degrees of success, but that as a whole evidence the presence of an active, participatory and demanding society. Communities organize events and contests in sports, culture, festivities and traditions: everything comprises volunteers, the essence of citizenry and the natural evidence of a civil society. Not even the most seasoned of governmental operators can co-opt a community that organizes itself.


The current government has procured the exacerbation of not only differences, but also above all perceptions, the core objective of the daily early-morning presidential narrative. The good ones are the people, the bad ones are the citizens. The object of the morning press conferences is the “good people” who receive benefits from the government, who are passive and who only understand the logic of “what will you give me” and “in exchange for what.” The old political system developed an all-encompassing culture of exchanging benefits for votes, but the present government has raised this to new height where economic development is no longer necessary because with the “support” (i.e., contributions or cash transfers that the government provides directly to its base) lasting loyalties are purchased. In this dimension, organized crime is more than functional to the government in that it inhibits political participation, generating fear, thus annulling the propensity, or at least the possibility, for those who were once members of the “people” coming to assume themselves as citizens.


Citizens are subjects because they do not keep their arms crossed: whether these are the orphaned children in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, who obligated the municipal authorities to focus on the feminicide that had left them in that condition, or legally constituted entities combatting the impunity and corruption based on data, the hard sources of information. Two sides of the same coin. Some call themselves civil society, others simply are: they defend the rights and needs of their children in the schools, insist on security problems being attended to, and, in general, respond to the agenda that reality has obliged them to come to grips with.


In the interaction between the good ones and the bad ones that the President promotes, a novel phenomenon has come to light: many individuals have begun to discover that they have rights that they had not identified or had not known previously. In his eagerness to extol some at the cost of others, the President perhaps may have provoked the emboldening of increasing numbers of Mexicans who might renege against and criticize the so-called “organizations of the civil society”, but who day by day are coming to form part of this, at least regarding their manner of demanding their rights.


The promotion of informality as a political strategy contributes to the strengthening of the population as the object of governmental favors, in detriment to the growth of the economy in general. The express, even conscious, objective may not be that of promoting informality (because this does not afford tax benefits), but the effect is precisely that: an informal worker owes favors to the corner police officer, to the municipal inspector and, therefore, to the structure that with enormously hard work Morena has been building. The express expectation is that this protection and “support” will translate into permanent loyalty and votes, but nothing guarantees that this will happen.


Mexico has been split between those who pull and those who wait to be pulled.  There is perhaps no more transcendental dispute than the latter because on its outcome will depend the future of the country.