Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mexico's Criminal Revolution

Mexico is in a revolution, albeit not the type type of revolution that was hoped for or anticipated. The government is not being overthrown by a popular uprising or even by an oligarchical coup. The revolution is being fought by the drug cartels.

That Mexico is in a revolution will hardly come as news to those acquainted with Mexican history because Mexico is always repeating itself. The paradigm for Mexican history is to be found in the Mayan and Aztec calendars, both of which are based on the premise of repeating periods synchronizing with repeated qualities.

The concept is simple enough. Periods recur. We count things in days, weeks, years, decades, centuries, millenia -- the recurrence of which is usually marked in some fashion. "Another year has ended" or "A new century has begun." But every day or week or century has a quality, as in "a rainy day" or "fertile fall" or Siglo de Oro. Accordingly, a complete calendar consisted in a wheel of days, months, years and centuries interlocking with a wheel of "fortunes" denoted by some character, idea or principle as represented by an animal or deity.

This calendaring concept was not particular to MesoAmericans. It can be found in the Chinese calendar and even in our own, albeit in a very primitive fashion. Tuesday is the third day of the week. Expressed in pure numerical terms it is simply "Day Three". Day Three (of the week) occurs to day and will recur again next week when there will again be a Day Three. The character of this day, however, is Tyr's Day, which is Germanic for Mars' Day, just as the second day of the week is Moon's day. A day has been matched up with a character. The difference between the Germano-Roman calendar and the Azteco-Mayan one is that the Roman calendar only had seven matching day-characters whereas the Mayan had 260 day-characters interlocking with 365 numerical days. The result was a very complex form of cyclicism.

Of course, modern historians are not as fastidious as Mayan soothsayers but the cyclical patterns of Mexican history are bold enough for even dimmest prognosticators. In fact, cyclicism is so endemic to Mexican history that it is a familiar adage that "Nothing ever changes in Mexico." And nothing ever changes because everything is always repeating as before.

Ten years ago, there was a certain amount of hullaballoo in the U.S. press -- particulary the neo-liberal New York Times -- about the sea change election of Vicente Fox as president of Mexico. This event was trumpetted as a "step on the path to full democracy" the "end of a corrupt era" and the beginning of a "new and modern Mexico." Yawn.

"The dates to remember begin with '10'."

Our interlocutor seemed momentarily baffled.

"1810, 1910, 2010."

"Ahhh.... well, yes."

Of course, nothing much changed in 1810 or in 1910. Mexican Independence (so-called) was not actually won until 1821 (which matches up with the Fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521). The Mexican Revolution did not achieve a definitive result until 1921, excepting the Constitution of 1917 which more or less correlated with the final suppression of the Independence movement in 1817. When dealing with historical cycles, a certain amount of tempering is always required, which is why it takes practice and wisdom to be a good soothsayer.

What really occurred in 1810 or in 1910 was that, bubbling just beneath the surface of equilibrium, a critical mass of dissatisfaction had been reached . Anyone who has watched a pot, knows that water boils in an instant. For the longest time, tiny air bubbles ascend to the surface; then there is a ripple, another ripple and all of a sudden a full boil. It was our sense, ten years ago, that a boil would be reached this year.

Certainly, Mexico has experienced an increasing and heightened level of social dissatisfaction. The shining glass towers along Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma bespeak the confidence, arrogance and entrenchment of Corporate Power. The almost daily protests in the streets below bespeak that all is not well in the Times' New Democratic Mexico. Somehow the "free market" is managing to impoverish people.

But for all the protests -- and there have been many, including a takeover of Congress by cows and ranchers on horseback -- nothing seemed to be coalescing into what we would call a political revolution. Perhaps our calendar-calculations had been off....

But then it occurred to us. Who said, that the 2010 revolution had to be political? As certain as the sun rises, there will be a revolution in Mexico in 2010. Another century will have passed from 1810 and 1910. In fact, Official Mexico is all in the middle of extravagant centenial and bicentenial celebrations, just as Porfirio Diaz was busy celebrating the First Centenial a month before he was deposed.

But it was an unwarranted assumption on our part to think that this inevitable numerical revolution had to interlock with a political change -- or more precisely, with a change marked by ideological interests. To be sure, rival class interests and different concepts of poltiical economy are at work. That's what the street protests are about. But the "political" change is not coming from those sources. It is coming from the drug lords, even if they could give a damn about anything falling within the accepted spectrum of "political-economies".

The Cartels are waging frank and open war against the Government. As much as Pancho Villa, Zapata and Carranza in 1910-1920, the cartels are wresting control from the Government and this in turn creates a new political reality in the areas controlled. But what is taking place is not a classic political conflict. What is occurring is a criminal revolution.

Woe is Mexico.


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