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What?!

The Baffling Claim of Mexico Rising

by ANDREW SMOLSKI

Well, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has a wonderful senior fellow for Latin American Studies, Shannon K. O’Neil, who is either incompetent or a shill. Ok, stupid rhetorical question. Definitely not incompetent, most likely a shill; can’t be incompetent walking around with degrees from Yale and Harvard. Or, well, you can. But, it is a different type of incompetence. Shill incompetence? Do you miss William F. Buckley Jr. threatening to punch Chomsky in the face? Those were the days. Because, these days It is incompetence by blinders, incompetence through being so damn ideologically caught up that you can’t see the light out the ass-crack of the global elite who push these fantasies of a Mexico rising. Welcome to some idiotic Baudrillard proposition about the Matrix not being correct for actually allowing us to escape. Just follow the same failed utopian vision.

O’Neil is just infatuated with what she calls an “economic revolution” starting in the 80s. Her excitement and glee over the neoliberal Salinas reflect a cliché attitude about those who practice a top-down politics, changing economic structures without and/or against the will of the governed. Who needs citizens when you can create a poll and then a population? But of course she would, just look at her introduction or ‘wooing’ by Mexico, where she goes to work as a “boutique investment banker”. Yet, I believe the jury should ponder ferociously on whether she can be judged. How can a human speak of that which it never senses, experiences, or feels? I guess I have made myself the jury and decided to judge in that case, the case of the bourgeoisie deprived of knowing the poor they study.

For O’Neil, when “U.S. retail stalwarts Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Office Depot [occupy] many of Mexico’s busiest corners and their rising corporations’ annual reports [attest] to the rising disposable income of their Mexican clientele” we should automatically cheer. Instead of mindless cheering, should we dare to ask the other question? The one where we want to know what was there before Wal-Mart. Absent a Wal-mart is not ‘nothing’, a pure lack of distribution. This is the hogswallow of an ethno-centric asshole whose only image of south of the border is built on ‘savage’ stereotypes.

I know exactly what was before Wal-Mart. A system of public markets embedded within communities providing a popular, localized food distribution source. You know how I know (and I hate using ‘I’, but it does for now)? Because, there is my thesis, right in those markets. The vendors are who I talked to. And they know what makes them disappear. And what is there now? A dark abyss built by a Wal-Mart, which has become the largest private employer in Mexico running rampant with its historically low wages and anti-union rhetoric. From autonomy to wage slavery as a good for everyone, who would’ve thunk it! But of course you can get a low-fat soy decaffeinated mocha orange Frappuccino (trademarked?) at one of your local (transnational) fair trade (they get like 5 cents more…I guess) corporate coffee stores. But this is for Mexico, the middle class country; well, when you consider middle class anyone who is making “$7,000 [to] $85,000” and that being just above poverty is good enough. When reading the income range to my wonderful chilanga wife she laughed outrageously and for a conservative woman thought the whole thing quite ridiculous.

Seriously, has anyone read some damn Marx and Weber to know about social class as an objective relational variable related to capital accumulation in terms of the ability to controls flows of capital through control over the means of production? Nevermind, it is just a rhetorical question. I do not expect O’Neil to understand struggle, I do not expect her to comprehend collective economic punishment for a crime never committed. Not when she always speaks with I, when Mexico becomes a place absent people, a backdrop to her adventure. She speaks of their aspirations, while the ‘they’ becomes only her representation of them. Like Marx, Rostow never dies, he changes with the times. New invisible clothes, for a new day and time. For us, the kindly imperialist folk trained at the best institutions, we only want to modernize you! But then again, we should all expect her to know how inequality actually operates with so much empirical evidence. If you mark the beginning of Sociology with Comte (shit, Plato!) then we got at least 200 years of evidence. But, economic growth saves.

So, Mexico has experienced growth, 4% or 5%. La Jornada just published (07/01/2013) an article on the very fact that 31% of the country is still living in abject poverty. Has the situation gotten better? Well in some cases yes and only for some people (*cough* upper class *cough*) and in some cases definitely no. Is this due to NAFTA or other, in my opinion, ludicrous agreements? This is up for dispute. As long as labor ain’t at the table, ain’t nobody at the able. Trade has aided Mexico in certain senses, but irreparable and undemocratic damage has been done to small farmers by successive administrations who allowed the dumping of American agriculture, subsidized by the US government, in Mexico at prices so low they destroyed, due to U.S. subsidies, Mexican farmers, who were tempted by the ability to sell their land (education and its lack are hell). However, for O’Neil the suffering of farmers, who then jump the border, becomes Salinas’ incredible plan for the ejido system. This paradox is not as awkward as her privatization, anti-monopoly paradox.

O’Neil maintains the paradoxical belief that privatization is a remedy, while at the same time being against the results of her magic bullet cure. TelMex is the result of privatization (see Processo for an excellent article on Slim’s brother; if you are into reading Spanish), yet she considers it to be an abomination, because it harms growth (you need like 3 competitors and then you’re enough like the US to parade as really having economic competition). Instead of seeing infrastructure as public, as worthwhile to setting a clear base for competition in a world driven by the vaulted “comparative advantage” (historically or just when it suits the purpose?), she sees it as merely another market function. When did the market become everything?

Once more we arrive at people talking about society without any understanding of what society is. The market, if we follow the economic sociologists who are not at all radical, is merely one institution among many (a very powerful one) for organizing society. It is not a remedy for everything. Privatizing a third (approximately) of the federal budget with PEMEX or any other of the back-door reforms being proposed (see La Jornada on July 1st, 2013) won’t result in a monopoly, but a parasitic invasion by Mexico’s northern neighbor. As Paco Ignacio Taibo II says brilliantly in a video on YouTube, “it’s like selling oranges and buying back the orange juice”, because Mexico is already sending its oil to be processed in the US and sold back to Mexico as gas (thank God for gas subsidies in Mexico). And it’s unconstitutional to boot, because Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution makes all natural resources sovereign property of the people of Mexico (ok, open to slight interpretation). No, the market won’t save the government from suffocating itself and being unconstitutional. It won’t save it from fire-sales to cronies, while we, as the media ignite us, rail against corruption (only egalitarian corruption, where the lesser can participate).

It makes me think of an awesome citation in The Mexican Revolution: A Short History 1910-1920, where Easterling anecdotally points out a Huerta version of “La Cuchara”:

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque le falta, porque no tiene
Marihuana que fumar!

The Cockroach, The Cockroach
Now, she can’t walk
Because she lacks it, because she don’t have it
Marijuana to smoke!

Although maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t compare O’Neil to a marijuana smoker; because, its offensive to marijuana smokers to be in O’Neil’s company. It just seems to me, one would have to be high to write “Peña Nieto has prioritized economic reforms above all others, with a comprehensive and ambitious agenda to change Mexico’s labor laws [lower minimum wage, screw unions, beat-up old people; you know, the usual neoliberal program], education system [quantitative WTF; otherwise known as, we have no clue what learning is, other than to make automatons], telecommunications and broadcasting [too few competitors, one and two, maybe like three or four *smiley face* *wink* *does this texting emoticon shit make you hate life?*], financial architecture [all the working poor I met didn’t have a bank account, but hey at least you try], energy sector [well, why have sovereignty anyway, its outdated], and taxes [but not for the rich, don’t be naïve]. This effort is led by an aggressive [‘rapists?’ I hear they penetrate markets] and cohesive team [well as long as everyone gets along] consisting of the finance minister [prosperity gospel hour] and commerce secretary [does he even know what the word ‘public’ in public service means?], among others [douchebags?]. It is also a group with years of experience living in the United States [Why is that helpful? Because we are doing so well? NSA, Imperialism, Manning, anyone!], completing impressive degrees from MIT, Yale, and Wharton [aww, now I see, because they do not think and just follow the line and are all cute, preppy style; easy enough, as long as you’re accredoted].

One may say I twist O’Neil’s words (as if they were hers; she already sold them to the elites), but I do declare her suppositions and preconceived notions irritate my skin causing a rash (neoliberalitus?). She speaks of democracy as if PRIAN (the Mexican way of connecting the PRI and PAN political parties together for their similar neoliberal policies) is better than the newly minted neoliberal PRD (one wonders when to say, ‘Do not mimic the Europeans!). It is all for show, a nice one, all to get us on board with the agenda, the neoliberal one of course. Nothing saddens me more than O’Neil’s atrocious and idiotic discussion of the drug war, one built more on Merida Initiative bribery than any discussion of what Javier Sicilia calls the failed institutions running the damn show. Or as Paco says so well in another discussion on YouTube (paraphrasing), “You have to be some kind of different moron to send the same police working for the cartels after them.” But, as Mexicans demand an end, O’Neil demands a new, more glorious U.S.-Mexico partnership encroaching further on Mexico’s sovereignty. Well, legalization and treating it as a public health issue are too intellectual for some.

It doesn’t matter, O’Neil has twisted statistics on her side. Even though Ranciere made the brilliant point that “truth doesn’t walk the streets”, we have O’Neil touting economic reforms, the same reforms being protested, as representative of Mexico, of the people, the same people who she says get, on average, a shitty and long education (we only trust them when they share elite opinions). It makes me wonder if O’Neil, la yanqui (I just assume it is what they would call O’Neil in La Jornada or Processo in the opinion pages), even knows what is going on in Mexico beyond the annual reports, memo briefs, dinner parties, and faux-journalism she utilizes to make her case. Of course, I figure O’Neil used historical archives, took into account differing perspectives based on symbolism, social class (I mean O’Neil’s even using the term ‘middle class’ shows a deep neglect of sociology), ethnicity, race, gender, etc., developed ideas of power relations, complex institutions, multi-functionality, and did ethnographic research to make her case. Ok, scratch that, of course I don’t. I especially don’t after reading a sample of her work in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2013) and through the Council on Foreign Relations website. Any schmuck with an ability to rotate a question one degree and the right credentials can get a doctorate in the social sciences with the same amount of labor power expended over two years that a construction worker expends remodeling a house in a month.

Not to undermine the professional academics out there (of which I aspire to be), but the most sheepish of us degrade our professional goals. The ones who follow and preach the gospel of failed bubble economics built on the pyramid schemes of snake-oil salesman and laissez-faire fools masquerading as the best and most prima dona of us all. Of this ilk sprung O’Neil who casts dispersions upon us scholars with blinders off staring straight faced at the serious social scientific question of whether or not her ideas are even a possibility. Can Wal-Mart bribing officials be a good in terms of corruption? And I only use Wal-Mart because it is easy picking in terms of violating anything sanctimonious safe-guarding the well-being of the general labor market populace. So, her hope becomes the negation of her dream. Wal-Mart fails becomes Wal-Mart corrupts democracy. BOOM! WHAT! Sorry, I am letting out a little steam for the simple-minded childish approach brought towards whether or not Mexico is rising.

But, in the end, this is it. It is the motley crew of neoliberal retards pushing us all to the precipice of our doom as cackling necromancers cursing our human promise. The vision narrows into the peep hole of a kaleidoscope of horrors wrenching our hearts from our souls. No alternative is offered to our revolving crises. No word spent on Yo Soy 123, No Más Sangre, El Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad, the teachers blocking highways in Guerrero, Zapatistas, etc. Why would you when all the cards are in your favor. Mexico rises, bah humbug, bullshit! It rises as a rock in a pond, but of course then it’s a witch. EPN, or Este Pendejo No (at least some of my kin said so), rolls off the tongue like mercury sprinkling on the skin creating a slow and creeping death, a slow paralyzing sensation, a death state par excellence.

Mexico faces an institutional crisis involving not only political, but economic elites, a note left unmentioned by O’Neil. As the violence spills over into the haven of El Monstruo (R.I.P. John Ross) and the most powerful political and economic elites begin to feel the fear, terror, and graphic nature of the violence one wonders what course will be plotted (Narco-president?). O’Neil has no answer, none that would accommodate those who live in fear, unsecure in their home environment, as the rich fly to Miami and Houston for weekend excursions. As the banks launder the money and everyone clinks glasses of champagne smiling coyly waiting to dismantle PEMEX for another dime.

Long ago, when I was much dumber (without knowledge as I see it), I wrote that Mexico should follow in the path of Brazil. In a perfect world this advice would not matter, so no one go all sectarian on me for what I am about to say. Brazil has maintained larger investments in Petrobras and the dividends have paid off in many ways for the populace (investments in health and education; apparently supposed to expand after roundtable with activists from recent protests) and PEMEX has operated in the past on the same level (and can do so again, because it is a powerhouse company as pointed out by Alfredo Jalife-Rahme). Or even to follow Norway and Statoil, you know with an ethicist running the pension fund built with money from the sale of oil (although, we should of course be heeding Herman Daly and use fossil fuels to build the renewable energy infrastructure to move away from pollutants). But these are not reforms ever considered. What is the saying, ‘Poor Mexico, too far from God and too close to the United States.’

O’Neil talks about investment and the World Bank saying the public sector needs to expand (sorry, what?! STFU!), while at the same time, pushing for more privatization and a stronger oligopoly that is able to maintain the ideological competition dogma for a little while longer. It is the policies she advocates that led to the massive expansion of the informal economy in Mexico. They want a State they do not have to pay for, or to utilize except to extract money from the general populace to funnel towards cronies, pushing forward the sickening capitalist system that brought us riches, as well as sorrows. No, for me O’Neil is slim on anything of substance, just another shill.

Welcome to another new normal. I will sign out with this. Does anyone else ever ask the question. ‘Why is all the dumb shit said about the countries allied with the U.S.A.?’

Andrew Smolski is a righteously angry burgeoning sociologist attempting to point out the paternalistic nihilism of the status quo intellectual who can be reached at Andrew.smolski@gmail.com.