“Here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding,” Kasper Gutman ‘The Fat Man’ tells Sam Spade as a toast in Jon Huston’s classic film The Maltese Falcon. In that spirit I write this; not as the mindless product of a need to prove to myself that I can produce a decent piece of writing or that I can show how fucked up we Mexicans are, but as a genuine attempt to understand Mexico’s identity. I am a Mexican, my passport is green and I cheer when the Mexican national football (soccer) team scores a goal. I have a strong connection with my country; I have a desperate affinity to tacos and our natural surroundings fill me up with a heartwarming feeling of joy whenever I think “this is me.” Still, there’s no denial that semantics are king, and thus I ask myself: What is Mexico? What is that to which politicians, journalists and citizens call to when saying “This Mexico is…”? “This Mexico” (or derivates such as “Our Mexico”, etc.) –Ha! What a splendid expression! I will try to explain my views in an orderly fashion, and for that reason it may seem that I’m discussing totally unrelated things, but trust me I’m not. Here we go…
Sometimes I find myself following the anti-realist position (as in philosophical discourse) of expressionism, where we take our fact-stating propositions to be simply the expression of our own state of mind. So that to say “Killing is bad” is synonymous with “Booo Killing!” I sometimes adhere myself to that point of view because when I hear the verbalizations Mexicans use when trying to define their (our) identity, I find that they hold no real substance; no real content. They’re like metaphors; they’re based in fictional things, as if they were based in soap operas or imaginary people. Because when we scream “Viva México” or “Mexico rules” or “Mexico exhales life,” what are we really talking about? What is “This Mexico” we are referring to?
Let’s take the objective viewpoint for a change, ok? Mexico has 40,000,000+ people in extreme poverty. Now, when we talk about poverty, it’s not like in the U.S. or the U.K. where “poverty” is a label applied to the least rich. Mexican poverty makes Vietnam’s The Shit look like a joy ride; makes Marlow’s ride towards Kurtz’s palace a Night-Out in Town. Our judicial system is… well, that’s the problem, it isn’t. There is no judicial system, at least none that can be honored with such name. Our political ambience is similar to a drunken college party, where there are people throwing up in the garden and poor oversexed students fighting over lesbian young ladies who have a sadistic pleasure of watching men fight till death over them. There is a division, each party entrenched in their own position, tearing each other apart; the radicals against the moderates, the intransigents against the “colaboracionistas”, the “Lopez-Obradoristas” against… everybody else. It’s basically a rumble, a brawl, where nobody is interested in getting things done but rather in making the ruling party look like a cheap hooker that has betrayed our trust after the hour has run out. The cultural output, well… to talk about Mexican film production is to talk about three directors (Cuarón, Iñarritu, Del Toro) who don’t live in Mexico, and whose movies have little to do with Mexico. Music… don’t get me started. And I don’t even want to mention what we do to our natural resources; just take a look at the “Cañón del Sumidero” or “The Shit-Hole” as I like to call it, because people seem to think that they can dump all their shit in there with no remorse. This is Mexico? This is what we are cheering about when we raise our glasses and we celebrate the 15th of September? If it is, then we are very stupid or sarcastically deranged or just simply masochistic. Luckily (maybe?) none of that is the case. “This Mexico” doesn’t refer to reality.
Sometimes I wonder when I watch beer ads that contain slogans like “Enjoy Life. Enjoy Budweiser,” or “Because Life is now, Budweiser,” what is this “Life” they’re talking about? I mean, it seems to work, right? We buy beer and we drink it, and with pleasure I might add. We buy it and we drink it and we yell “To Life!” or shit like that, and it makes us feel kind of good, and submental guys can get girls drunk and make out with them and it’s all fun. Still, what is it? What is the word’s referent? This time I won’t bore you with another conceptual analysis, and simply state my opinion. “Life” is just an abstract concept artificially created by beer companies in order to sell more beer. We like the idea (and the beer companies like that we like the idea) that there’s something in the spirit of “Life” to which we can hold on to when making toasts. It certainly eases the journalist’s tasks when writing inane patriotic articles and it certainly gives us hope for a better future– “the hope that Life will find a way.” But there’s no real content, no real substance. The concept “Life” is as fictional as Sherlock Holmes. And here we come back to our main concern: “This Mexico” is the same. Politicians have created a monster of an expression that serves to put Mexican citizens in a moronic state of mind and then take advantage of it and fill them up with unsupported expectations. Mexicans, after being mellowed into this state, will then swallow up with great ease the faith pill; blind, unsupported faith in a non-existent entity –proven to be non-existent- such as “This Mexico.”
Recently, our two big TV companies have put forward something called “Iniciativa Mexico” (something like Initiatives for Mexico). Now, this movement is about giving hope to Mexicans. It’s an invitation to make This Mexico a better place. Not bad, right? Let’s see…
Firstly, I want to say that the message itself is not intrinsically evil, not at all. But the intention, which is the only thing that counts, is so fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking horrible that I can only compare it to Nazi propaganda, and no, I’m not kidding. To begin with let’s discuss the ad that has Javier Aguirre, the coach of the Mexican National Football Team, that’s about to participate in the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. This guy said in a Spanish interview, a couple of months ago, that Mexico “está jodido, jodido” (is really fucked up) –and I’m not saying he’s wrong– but in the TV spot, he states the opposite. Besides letting us know that he loves his country and has all these heartwarming feelings towards it, he presents a view in which Mexico is this beautiful, democratic and wonderful place to live. Now, some may argue that one may think that a country is screwed and still love it, and I agree. However, the real spirit of coach Aguirre’s words in that interview in Spain was not that he thought Mexico was in big trouble or even that he suffered from watching his home country undergo such terrible crisis. Not at all, the real spirit of those words was hopelessness. Let me write that again, Hopelessness. Ah, there is the rub, as Prince Hamlet says in that very well known soliloquy. Aguirre finds the courage to say that we must have hope, hope in our institutions, in our society, in ourselves, etc… The problem is that there is no fundamental reasoning behind his words, there’s just a samantic labyrinth from which the majority of Mexicans cannot escape and thus become trapped in false expectations and ephimeral passions. For that reason his words have little meaning, little relevancy to our current situation, they are just words that have been prompted by the circumstances, like a simple Turing machine designed to give out sentences whenever the context is in need. Words offer the means to meaning, and in that note, Aguirre’s words allow us to detect his double discourse; in one side, his personal point of view of hopelessness and in the other, his viewpoint as a public figure, as a pillar of our system… The former one represents what is implicit in Mexico’s psyche, and the latter represents the system’s drive to preserve power and maintain his citizens in a state of hypnosis. But anyway, I digress. Where were we? Ah, yes, of course, the speech… In the ad, Aguirre makes references to political problems, terrible political problems , and severe issues regarding drugdealers and insecurity. Now, just think about it: Football + Self-loathing Coach + Drugdealing problems + Political mayhem… What result can you expect other than BOOM? You have a Football coach, a fucking Football coach!, giving a speech (quite retarded, by the way) about the gravest national problems we have maybe ever faced, and in addition the coach himself has no credibility whatsoever. Damn, it’s like having a retarded monkey talk about global warming. And also, this comes to show us that the credibility of our state is so low that we have to turn to a Football coach, whose reign in front of the national team, by the way, has been marked by incongruencies and whose discourse changes depending on the circumstances. I’ll be damned.
Now, of course, there’s a reason for this: with the upcoming World Cup, with an inflated expectative for our national football team, and with a problem of insecurity that has reached a level of hysteria beyond belief (there are night clubs in Michoacán where drugdealers roll out the severed heads of their enemies into the dance floors to announce their authority), the TV companies have to take advantage of anything, in this case Football, to keep people’s spirits as high as possible. When you have, as it was in my case, drugdealers drop a dead body 400 meters away from your home, it’s so hard to keep our spirits high; it’s difficult to go out and buy beer and celebrate. So what do you do? You get the Coach to say we can make history, and that it’s all up to us, and that we have to change and be better, and… well you know the drill, to get people’s spirits high up again, to get them excited about something as ephemeral as a football game. It’s logic, people! Logic! Don’t judge them, they are simply doing what they think will benefit their interests. Of course it’s corrupted and they hold no regard for Mexico’s psychological stability, but it’s alright.
Now, these guys do this because it’s been proven to work. But why does it work? The answer is: because of a chronic lack of a identity. That’s what I was talking about when discussing the nature of the expression “This Mexico” and its comparison to the beer-concept of “Life”: there is no Mexico! There’s a piece of land, yes; there’s a passport, yes; there’s a word, yes, but there’s no identity. And that’s the problem and the reason that trivial matters such as football or parties or whatever are brought up and placed as a substitute for a definite identity, it just works so well. We are told “Look! Look! This is who you are! This is who WE are! This is who we OUGHT to be!” and shown pictures of Mexico’s football players in sequence, accompanied by epic chord music. It’s terrible. This comes to show that Mexico’s soul hangs from a thread. We have to recur to such things as Football coaches and other shit like that to make us feel safe, to give us hope. It comes to show that we have nothing, NOTHING, apparently to hold on to besides trivialities. Now, I don’t judge the act itself; I judge the system that has given birth to such a deformed and corrupted campaign. We are so incredibly fucked up, so incredibly void of identity, that we must drink ourselves to the point that we are satisfied in thinking that Mexico’s soul lies in the prowess of a bunch of Football players (I have nothing against Football. I love it, really, love it. I play football with the same passion Christians pray to Jesus, it has nothing to do with that. I just think that, if our Mexican identity is based on a game, then we have a big problem).
Now, what to do? This is a big question. The solution, as far as I’m concerned is not that obscure: Lie! Just lie to them. In the same way beer companies have lied to the world, we can lie. The reason Mexico is so fucked up is because the stereotype of the “successful man” is severely corrupted. Think about it, a successful man in Mexican vernacular evokes cheating, having a good-looking woman, having money, knowing how to party, and holding such philosophies such as “O te chingas o te jodes” (either you’re fucked or you’re screwed), “Don’t be so serious, man, here, have a beer,” and “Meh.” This stereotype doesn’t include being educated, being morally decent, being honest, being loyal, being fair. So, the obvious solution, if we accept that people want to be successful and that they will follow the path to success as marked by this stereotypical figure and if we want our citizens to hold the ideal values just described, is to lie to them and make them believe that folks that are decent, honest, loyal, etc… are successful. I would create a big fiction that has as its main characters people that hold set of values A (the good ones) and set of values B (bad ones), and develop the story in such a way that A-people win and B-people lose or get killed or whatever. (Fiction is an integral part of people’s identities. Shakespeare is part of English identity as much as Queen Elizabeth; there’s no problem I basing our identity in a fiction.)
If we make this fiction plausible enough, then we can cheat people into accepting and following these ideal values. We have no other choice, because the stereotype of the successful man rules Mexico, it rules the world. That’s the reason I am so happy with Obama being president of the U.S. He may not know what he’s doing or that he’s a puppet or whatever you might think, but he represents all these values, and he’s the most successful man in the world, the most powerful. We need that… even if it’s not true, we fucking need that. We need someone that can show us the way, even if s/he is fictional. We need to cast away the trivial bites of soul-food that satisfy our hunger for an identity, we need to forge a personality based on more fundamental values, values that can make us compete in the political, social and cultural arenas of the world.
So, give me a break with the “Iniciativa México,” it’s something that wants to probe your mind so you keep on drinking. To this I say, Fuck it! I am a Mexican and I don’t want a shallow identity, I want something substantial, I want something sincere and honest and heavy to which I can hold my glass and celebrate without feeling stupid. And maybe this will come to happen in 20 or 40 years, but I genuinely believe that the first step is to adhere to The Fat Man’s toast of “Plain speaking and clear understanding.” Congratulations.