Behold This Wonderful World!

Posted on April 10, 2015




“Behold This Wonderful World!”

Mexico is the Middle Ages with a cosmetically redesigned face. The power structure is an oligarchy, not a monarchy or vice-regency, but it operates in the same inept Feudal fashion as its pre-Renaissance predecessors. Most important policy decisions are not made in Mexico City but in Washington, D.C., Madrid and by the World Bank (and by the capos of competing drug corporations). Transnational businesses plow through the legal system as well as the environment, flinging restrictions aside and enriching those who pave the way for unrestricted profit taking.

Those in Mexico who devise the rules (called “laws”) also are the referees who monitor them. The laws enhance the elite and castigate those who don’t belong—i.e. 98 to 99 percent of the population. Non-eliters are allowed to complain but not to organize groups of complainers. When groups of complainers grow too large they are forcibly repressed (this repression is labeled “public security”).

Roman emperors provided Coliseum spectators with gladiator fights and Christian-eating lions; Mexico’s elite fills television with dawn to midnight game shows, football (soccer) games andtelenovela soap operas. A president of Mexico who also was a one-time president of Coca-Cola de Mexico made “tell-people-how-good-your-product-is-often-enough-and-they’ll-believe-it” the guiding principle of his six-year administration.

It worked—but not because the 98 to 99 percent believed it. It worked because 98 or 99 percent of the 98 or 99 percent have low paying jobs, medical bills, children, migrant husbands, collapsing roofs, Church holidays and empty gas tanks. Television gives them something besides broken drains, double commutes, rotting tomatoes, cancelled credit cards and snatched purses, even if what television gives them is fluff and falsehoods. By increasing poverty among the non-elite, those wielding power force those afflicted to spend more time and energy eking out a living, thus increasing conformity and eliminating ability to forge change.

Like the government the Catholic Church (which itself is a government) is divided between possessors of power and wealth—the elite—and a massive non-elite (that includes priests), the struggling but employed middle and working class and millions of disenfranchised campesinos andindigenas. A United Nations report described living conditions in parts of rural Mexico as squalid as those of Equatorial Africa. Despite these reports, verified and presented to the governing elite, the Church hierarchy focused pastoral and political efforts on criminalizing abortion.

Similar to Medieval kingdoms, dukedoms and baronies, the ruling elite and their hangers-on have barricaded themselves in walled fortresses protected by conscripted mercenaries who augment their meager wages by raiding the non-elite. Caught between these mercenaries and those of competing invader bands (journalistically called “drug cartels”) the 98 to 99 percent—like Middle Ages serfs—find themselves systematically victimized, their lands taken, their crops robbed and their women raped.

The invader bands, a twenty-first-century version of the barbarian invaders that swept through Medieval Europe, emerged from disenfranchised have-nots who were kept from participating in the world created by the elite. They created their own world, one with different values and different rules but one that provided money, power and various diversions. As their world (or worlds—a savage interplay of competing drug corporations, kidnapper bands, caciques, paramilitary enforcers and turf warriors) increased in size and potency, the elite surreptitiously joined forces with them.

To do so the elite had to appear as though it was not doing so; consequently, it formed criminal bands of its own (called “federal police,” “the Army,” “the Marines”). These bands fight the invader bands with weapons supplied by the ruling elite of their neighbor to the north—the United States—and the invader bands fight each other and the elite’s criminal bands (also with weapons supplied by the ruling elite of the neighbor to the north). By 2012 over 100,000 of the 98 or 99 percenters had lost their lives and over 20,000 had disappeared with no end to the warfare nor the elite’s acquisition of wealth in sight.

Making the “War on Drugs” a holy crusade—good against evil—and propagandizing non-existent achievements, enabled the ruling elite to shield from the 98 to 99 percent’s awareness that the products involved—cocaine, marijuana and designer drugs—are the country’s primary source of income. Undeclared income that is, sliding from bank to bank, investment house to investment house, politician to entrepreneur to stock trader. The little that trickles down to the 98 or 99 percent is sucked back up by taxes and escalating prices for basic commodities.

Even after the nineteenth century war of independence from Spain and the twentieth century revolution against dictator Porfirio Díaz, Mexico continued to be a country of royalty, Church and serfs. Both those administering the divine right of the state and those administering the divine right of the Church cloaked themselves in invulnerability. Political, economic and social life originated with the elite and was delegated by them. Justice? Petition the divine right of the state. Food? Beg the divine right of the state. Happiness? Heed the divine right of the state. If these fail pray for a miracle from the divine right of the Church.

To minimize protests—or at least organized groups of protesters—the elite had to convince the 98 or 99 percent that (1) there is no real reason to protest and (2) it is useless to protest. They achieved this through a complicated interchange of faces and irresponsibilities called “elections.”

Like perennially losing baseball teams that every year or two replace the has-beens and never-bes on their rosters with different has-beens and never-bes, Mexico’s tightly controlled electoral system shuffles members of the elite and their hangers on among available offices. At the end of each of their terms governors become senators, senators become cabinet ministers, cabinet ministers become Congresspersons, Congresspersons become governors, ambassadors and party heads. And like fans that boo or applaud, criticize, Twitter and get into bar fights, the voters are not participants but outsiders—spectators—ignored by the ruling elite’s redistribution of political plums.

Separation between the elite and the 98 or 99 percent is validated by procedures and regulations assembled in more or less comprehensible fashion (i.e. arranged alphabetically and/or numerically with appropriate $, % and similar symbols). These regulations and procedures include agendas, bonuses, expensive accounts, administrative assistants and invitations to cocktail parties, dinners and exclusive entertainment. Occasionally those administering them require contact with the 98 or 99 percent—contact that usually can be dismissed after an interview, teleprompt or promise. Frequently these contacts begin or end with the phrase “according to the law”—a reference to the alphabetical/numerical assortment the elite have compiled.

The keepers/interpreters of procedures and regulations comprise a “sub-elite” who remora the elite. As legislators and bureaucrats they define their world as “apegado a la ley,” a definition that is rhetorical, not emotional, although a riotous conglomeration of shouts, threats, recriminations and bribes may have gone into the forming of its various sections, subsections, appendices, etc., not to mention lengthy delays and countless detours through procedures required by other sub-elite-originated laws and regulations.

Almost without exception the $ symbol and/or phrases associated with it appears. Although those composing the sub-elite generate no $$$, they are very suspicious of those who do; consequently, they fill the sections, subsections, appendices, etc., with alphabetically/numerically arranged conditions and restrictions rooted in the distrust that they feel towards the 98 or 99 percent and towards each other.

Membership in their world is limited “according to the law” by the election process during which the 98 or 99 percenters vote for one of two or three candidates that the elite and their hangers-on have allowed to compete. These candidates have free reign to promise, promote, suborn and lie as long as they adhere to the sections and subsections regulating procedure (procedure is extremely important to the sub-elite since content is missing).

Often the winners of these competitions are those who spend the most $$$; consequently, they become indebted to those who provided the $$$ for them to spend (i.e. the elite who script their performances). Seldom do these scripts admit the entrance of any 98 or 99 percenters except as generalities loftily eulogized as the “pueblo,” “the citizenry,” “the voters.”

Although well enough rewarded financially, the sub-elite lack the security of the elite; consequently they find it necessary to safeguard their ascension by creating a sub-sub-elite to curry political favors, disguise financial transactions and misinform the media and the 98 to 99 percenters with fanciful propaganda. Those in the sub-sub-elite who are most successful in performing these services eventually wedge themselves into the sub-elite; those less successful slide away to seek real work or to develop ways to remora those who do.    

As in all Medieval kingdoms displays of wealth accompany displays of power. They effectively proclaim to the 98 or 99 percenters “behold this wonderful world we give you to admire!” The financing of these displays (like the financing of the elections and the expenses of the elite, sub-elite and sub-sub-elites) is “privileged,” protected from public scrutiny by sections, subsections and appendices to the laws (i.e. “not something for you mere serfs to concern yourselves about”).

Aware that the 98 to 99 percent feel trapped by the need to eke out a living, victimized by constant shortages and under constant threat from invader bands, the elite and their minions divert them with circus spectacles, troubadours and witch burnings (i.e. soccer games, rock concerts and the War on Drugs). The performers—court jesters—achieve a limited independence, public notoriety and sometimes relative wealth, but they entertain according to limits   that the elite prescribe.

These jongleurs, jesters and circus performers understand that people who laugh are less likely to revolt than people who have nothing to laugh at. They also understand, consciously or unconsciously programmed by the Medieval chain of command, that having someone beneath them to mock, degrade, abuse and ridicule gives one a (false) sense of superiority. Feeling superior to certain others or groups of others perpetuates a downward chain where everyone except those on the very bottom, being of little or no use to the elite, have someone to beat up and blame (this top-to-bottom process effectively segments the 98 to 99 percenters and prevents them from uniting to overthrow the elite).

The Church participates in this Wonderful World of the elite with jongleurs, entertainers and magicians of its own. They regale the 98 to 99 percent with an illusory future where all of them can be wealthy, happy, without problems and without pain—but only if they conform. To rebel is not to conform. To be different is not to conform. Those lowest on the conformance pyramid—atheists, homosexuals, women who have abortions—deserve their punishments and enable those along the top-to-bottom process to feel virtuous by oppressing them.

“Conform and we will take care of you.” The Medieval government and the Medieval Church benignly disguise the murderous wars against invader hordes, the unremitting depletion of natural resources—oil, gold, lumber, corn—and offer festivals, television, and sports extravaganzas to keep the 98 to 99 percenters poverty strapped, disorganized and deceived.  “Fail to conform and you’ll be punished,” with shortages, inflation, excommunication, clubs, is the other side of the coin. To pray for change—a miracle—is honorable and inoffensive. To try to create even minor changes is a crime—and a sin.

The elite have yet to line their castle walls with the spiked grimaces of beheaded protesters…

That could be next.

Robert Joe Stout has written about Mexico for a variety of publications, including America, The American Scholar and Notre Dame Magazine. He was a member of two Rights Action emergency human rights delegations to Oaxaca and continues to live there. His books include Hidden Dangers (Sunbury Press, 2014) and Why Immigrants Come to America (Praeger, 2007).