New Narrative Urgent

FORBES -Luis Rubio

Politics is, after all, a matter of leadership, exhortation and conviction. In a presidential system, it is the head of the executive branch who stands in the bully pulpit to disseminate the history that he wishes to construct along his mandate and get the population on board behind his project. President Peña’s government has achieved full control of communications and the media and has consolidated itself as the heart of domestic politics, something that had not happened since the beginning of the nineties. However, beyond its qualities and project, the government is saddled with weight of the history of the past and, above all, in the way this has been told, which is scarcely conducive to the type of transformation that the president seeks.

All countries have their history and their dose of victories and losses, of opportunities and triumphs. But one difference among societies that get ahead and those that persist in their stalemate is the way they see themselves and how they project themselves to the world. The first great media success of the current government took place long before it won the election and consisted of dominating communications to the foreign press. Outside of Mexico, the future president was presented as a transformer of the country, as a person capable of giving a new thrust to the Mexican economy. That strategy remains in place: the main communications begin abroad and filter in. I ask myself whether this will not respond to the fact that the ideological hegemony (Gramsci Dixit) is contrary in good part to what the president has said abroad that he proposes to accomplish.

While nations such as France or the U.S. celebrate their independence and other festivities as great epic triumphs, Mexicans tend to emphasize the defeats, the abuse of the foreigners, the invasions. The very fact of having a “National Museum of Interventions” reflects the national spirit that we Mexicans have learned through the textbooks. That history, that way of telling it, places us in the role of victims, of losers and a society that conceives of itself in that manner can never achieve development. As Macario Schettino says, in order to be successful one first must imagine it.

The narrative is the way that history is told. Although it is evident that whosoever proposed to relate a narrative is inevitably trying to manipulate history, this is always told from the perspective of the one in whose hands lies the power to do so. The mere title of the classic The Great Lies of Our History, of Francisco Bulnes, shows that there’s nothing new in this theme.  The question is why not tell a history of winners: not lying and not manipulating, only telling and convincing the population of that other side of our history which, in a totally conscious and even abusive way, has been ignored.

Mexico is a country rich in successful entrepreneurs and in migrants who transform their lives, Oaxacan Indians who are bilingual for in Mixtec and English because they never learned Spanish but who commandeer successful supermarkets. There are architects of international stature and pilots who fly with airlines in Maylasia. The Cinco de Mayo celebration has acquired almost epic proportions precisely because the Mexican is avid of triumphs and memorable examples.  However, our history is generous in highlighting the victims and parsimonious in extolling the victories. The successful history that the government of President Peña wishes to construct must start within because it is the Mexicans,   from the most modest to the most pretentious, who will have to believe and thus project it to the rest of the world.

Porfirio Díaz said that “governing Mexicans is more difficult than herding turkeys on horseback”. He doubtlessly knew something about that. The government, and the country, must start somewhere and the enormous number of successful Mexicans suggests that the stance of the victim does not come from the population but rather from the sum of poor governments in our history and the insistence on driving victimization home.

Mexico’s change will occur, in this government or in another, in this century or the next, when the country defines itself in a more constructive manner, when it sees itself as the same as the rest of the world.  In other words, success requires a competent government, but is impossible if the society does not believe it is possible. The sum of good public policy and a coherent narrative with a vision of the future could begin to make the difference.