What do soccer, the telecom reform and the Supreme Court have in common? At first glance, it would appear to be unconnected issues. However, the thread that weaves these and other themes together is the enormous disorder that characterizes our society, disorder that has many manifestations but one consequence above all: the disowning of responsibility.
The symptoms and examples of disorder are ubiquitous: some Mexicans recently ended up in jail in Brazil for improperly touching a woman and they supposed they’d be unpunished for that like in Mexico, where impunity reigns; a government grants enormous benefits to the television networks as a result of prior campaign-commitments; a union that blocks streets at will and the local government protects them, holding the citizenry as hostage; a government that leaves national finances hung up with “safety pins” (and a major financial collapse follows); a “social activist” is recorded receiving cartloads of cash and nothing happens; a businessman seizes control of some television antennas with an armed commando; the government allocates contracts, skipping the results of duly organized bidding processes; Congress does not make decisions on matters of its concern, thus obliging the Court to rule on themes not falling within its radius of competence; a goal scored against the national team is always the fault of the referee. Wherever one looks, all of Mexico -society, politicians and governors- is characterized by great disorder in which there are no rules that are respected and in which everyone –parents, teachers, governors, legislators, entrepreneurs, etc.- disowns his responsibility.
When Franco died, Spanish society “let its hair down”, as registered in one of the chronicles of the epoch. Young people threw themselves into a world of sexual lasciviousness and adults caught a glimpse of a world of freedom that they hadn’t known for decades. (Nearly) all of Spanish society, each in his or her own way, welcomed a new moment of its history. What’s interesting is that although all of a sudden anything could be written, people could say whatever they wanted and do anything they liked, life in society went on as it had been: automobile drivers respected traffic rules, police sanctioned wrong-doers, civil and commercial processes functioned and taxes were paid. In other words, the end of the dictatorship did not entail the end of order: freedom did not wind up equivalent to disorder.
The question is why in Mexico have we have evolved to such a degree of disorder, impunity and uneasiness (or, as a law teacher of mine correctly said, a “disorder with an accent on the m” -an “unmentionable” here). Some days ago, in an analysis by Robert Kaplan on Saddam Hussein, I read that the latter’s regime was “anarchy masquerading as tyranny” that suffocated the society and that worked thanks to the fear it instilled of the population. While it may have seemed like great order, beneath the appearances it was nothing more than chaos in potential. As soon as the regime disappeared, all vestiges of order vanished and the country collapsed.
Without attempting to equate Mexico with Iraq, there are some evident similarities with the old PRIist regime: as diverse observers have indicated over time, the regime endured due less to its apparent legitimacy than to the (generally) benign authoritarianism that characterized it. The “unwritten” rules worked because of the fear that the regime inspired and not because of its credibility. Illustrative of this reality was that the decomposition process (which began in the late seventies) started to become uncontainable disorder perhaps at the height of its apparent might: it was in 1994, under Salinas, that we observed, for the first time since the twenties, a wave of political assassinations, very-high-profile abductions and the ushering in of the era of insecurity.
What is relevant is that, in contrast with Spain, in Mexico the end of the old regime evidenced the total absence of a functional institutional framework. Up to the seventies, the people were afraid of the police, today they tip them as car watchers. Impunity was perhaps more visible among the powerful of any pedigree, but the reality is that Mexicans continue to act the same, whether in mundane things such as the trash, traffic lights, double parking or lack of responsibility in the affairs of our daily lives. The end of the PRIist era was not accompanied by a society with the potential to achieve development without a degree of anarchy that, although fortunately distant from that occurring in Iraq, is not distinct in concept. In Mexico there has not been an institutional transition.
The matter of disorder is one that now-President Peña-Nieto addressed in his campaign. However, the answer that his government has afforded is inadequate because it does not respond to the origin and cause of the matter. It is not that Mexicans are disorderly by nature or culture: the problem is that, although there are thousands of rules for everything, in practice there are no rules for anything and there is no punishment for those who violate these, except when it is to the advantage of a powerful one.
The problem is not one of control but of rules. Unless the government believes that it’s possible to put the toothpaste back in the tube –or its political equivalent, which consist of submitting the entire population, all of the communications media and all of the politicians- his effort will not bear fruit in terms of order but rather in greater unease. What Mexico requires is effective leadership that advances toward the establishment of a framework of rules that allow for peaceful coexistence, eliminate impunity and lay the foundations of sustainable political development.