Real life in beautiful and ugly Guadalajara.

Historically, social rights have been created and advanced thanks to the actions of political movements on the part of large collectives.  The Independence movement and the Mexican Revolution represented, in certain form, justifiable struggles for liberty, equality, and well-being of all Mexicans.  From these massive social movements, primarily the Revolution, such rights were achieved as access to land, union organization, and education among others…  This march signified the movement of one of the largest academic communities in the country, demanding the right to a fair financing for the institution and, above all, the respect of another social right, today consecrated in the Constitution of the Republic:  university autonomy.

La Gaceta – 11 Oct, 2010, pg.6

Part 2:  The Melodramatic Politics Part

Political distemper always trumps philosophical delusion – in the public forum and minds of the masses, that is.  This is because politics is about capturing the imagination in order to cultivate popular support.. and philosophy captures no part of any society that turns away from the burden of thinking on its own.  It simply doesn’t arouse the emotions, much less generate any great number of votes.  Currently here in Guadalajara, we’re all witness to a conflict evidently of biblical proportion.. not that its epic tone makes it unique in any way.   The clash and all the juicy splatter that comes with it occurs in this case between the public University of Guadalajara (UdeG) and the state government, namely the governor himself, Emilio Gonzalez Marquez.  

The ordeal at hand is a question of funds.  UdeG is a federal and state funded institution of higher learning, which over the last 85 years has benefited an enormous number of Mexicans, many of whom would never have possessed the money necessary to attend any private university.   The students pay nothing, although entry is quite competitive (that’s good).. unless one of your parents works there and/or is on the faculty.. then somehow you’re able to cut to the front of the line.. hey – but just zip it, eh?  I’m not sure anyone’s supposed to know that.   Since 2007, Emilio’s first year as governor, the state budget has increased by nearly 50%.   During the same time, the state’s  ‘UdeG portion’ of the budget has increased by only around 25%.  UdeG points out that this difference in budget increases has amounted to a total net loss of 701,000,000 pesos of university funds that the state (Emilio Gonzalez, essentially) is unjustly ‘holding back’.  

Over the last couple of months, there have been over 50 marches, demonstrations.. however you wish to call them.  Students and teachers from one department or another, or from this or that public high school (also which belong to UdeG), on any given day have taken to the streets, heading to Casa Jalisco downtown where the state government offices are located.   Their demand:  Emilio – you have no right to take away our right to an education!  Give us our money!!  Education is Mexico’s only route to a better future!!! 

Really, now… who´s going to argue with that? 

But why such bellowing and fist pounding animosity toward Emilio Gonzalez?

Well, he is the state governor.. so, that’s a good place to start.  But more importantly, he’s a member of the National Action Party (PAN), which is Mexico’s most conservative political party.  Conversely, and equally as important, UdeG’s leadership and faculty have shifted greatly to the left over the last 20 years.  But Emilio’s greatest political deficit is his personality.   No one would intelligently attempt to defend the PAN by drawing your attention to Emilio.   Would you ever defend the legendary status of a group like KISS with such a priceless gem as “I was made for lovin’ you baby, you were made for lovin’ me…”? (some of you actually would.. but please, let’s not step into that twilight zone..)   While Emilio is nowhere nearly as creepy as that, he’s exposed enough character flaws in the last four years to be branded an imbecile by even most of his would-be followers.  So it’s quite easy, then, to set the stage with Emilio Gonzalez as the antihero who turns out to be the eternal fool as the tragedy unfolds, stubbornly and obtusely holding back funds that are so dire for the survival of public education.

 

Political scandal or political stunt, the fiasco as a whole seems to have achieved complete distraction from the fact that the real fools here are the supposed academics hitting the streets.  And why would I say this?  Because I’m in bed with Emilio scratching his hairy ass?  You ask any one of these students on the street precisely where the generous quantity of funds that UdeG really does receive actually go.  They haven’t a clue nor could they care any less.  For if they did, they’d be marching instead to the homes of those who run the university, demanding that they come clean and allow an independent, external audit. 

A real anal exam of an audit is something UdeG leaders will go to any length to avoid (the last UdeG chancellor actually did try to have this done, but it was too far a reach.  He was involuntarily retired from his post by others who really do run things at UdeG.  He put up a legal fight to get his post back.. and subsequently wound up dead in his home.. a suicide.. go figure).   But of course it’s not because there’s anything to hide, claro que no.  It’s simply a matter of safeguarding the university’s constitutionally granted autonomy.  Yes it’s true.  University autonomy is indeed protected by the Mexican Constitution, just as it should be.  Autonomy, however, when you consider what the word really means, is not a term you can seriously apply to students, teachers, and university leaders in the streets clamoring for more pesos because the recent increase in state funds wasn’t enough evidently to ensure that learning happens. 

Moreover,  it doesn’t take a fifth grade education to know that the money they’re demanding won’t result in one teacher pay raise more, nor even a cheap bar of soap in the UdeG latrines.   UdeG is not hurting for funds.  None of what UdeG lacks for the benefit of its students or teachers (which is a lot) is due to any shortage of state and federal money.  The political movement its leaders seek to advance, however, is hurting for power.  The students in the streets, all too clearly it seems, are oblivious.. in so much as they think that this is truly about the future of education in Jalisco.   But you want to talk about autonomy?  Ask them or the teachers what consequences they’ll face if they don’t cooperate and participate in the march.  

There’s something to be learned here about the consequence of trying to ensure the right to a costless education for everyone.  And it’s not the realization of the political ideal of equality, much less the danger we somehow like to think it represents for snooty rich people.   The consequence illustrated by these marches is derived from something deeper than politics.  It originates in our belief that a right to an education is an ideal that must be fought for, attained, and defended.. and furthermore in our unwillingness to question the institutions responsible for ‘providing’ it  -  especially, as this case so clearly shows, those institutions that don’t generate their own funds. 

Now I realize that I must sound absolutely delirious to say something like the above.  But if I’ve at least maintained your attention in doing so, allow me then to explain exactly what I mean.

Part 3:  The Cheap Philosophy Part

The importance of an education is unquestionably clear to any of us with the knowledge and experience necessary to advance ourselves over a lifetime.  The emphasis that we give to the fact, however, possesses an authority over our imaginations and sensibilities that, all too often, we submit to far too blindly and irresponsibly.

What people mean when they say that everyone should have the right to an education is that everyone should have the benefit of being recognized by society that he or she is capable.  But how do we recognize such capability?  We allow the university to be the arbiter, to determine for us who’s competent and who isn’t.  Even though any university that’s worth half a cent would reveal to any student the foolishness in such a blind faith.  But whatever.   The real point that people want to make is that no one should be denied the opportunity to bow before the exalted authority and bestower of knowledge, good (enough) grades in hand, and be officially anointed … “qualified”.    Yes, I know.. that’s laying it on a bit thick, hence, our tendency toward the far simpler outcry for “the right to an education”.   It rolls off the tongue so much more easily.  Never mind that real knowledge and experience in most fields of study are quite attainable with complete independence from the university’s blessing. 

And then from there many of us somehow make our way to the more controversial argument that education should be “free”.. yes, another virtually angelic term, equally as pardoned from scrutiny as the word “education” itself.  The ‘free’ argument, barely able to support itself upon the thin “right to an education” logic that sustains it, easily gets caught up in emotional whirlwinds and reduced to toddler blocks.

So we rework the whole idea, coming up with something like this:  “It’s imperative for the advancement of any society that it’s members be educated.. or inversely, the less people we educate, the worse off our society will become”.  And though the term ‘education’ here is still forced like a puzzle piece that doesn’t belong, this argument is much more compelling to be sure. The idea resonates especially clear here in Mexico, or any country that has a long political and cultural tradition of the big people ‘taking care’ of the little people, and the belief that society can only advance for the better of all – with ‘education’.  Of course this equalizing of the masses rarely if ever truly happens in the real world, ruled by human nature.. but is it not fascinating how an overwhelming number of us remain devoted to the idea?

Again, no one can overstate the importance of education.  What’s misguided is that we refer to it as though it’s an entitlement, and from there that everyone should have a right to it.  Philosophically, it doesn’t wash.  There’s no philosophical basis for the right to breathe, either.  Honestly now, with no system or law granting us the right to breathe… for free.. is it not curious that we’re all somehow able to get away with it anyway?  .. even victims of asthma and lung cancer?  A bit of a stretch?  Yeah, maybe..  but even those locked away in a prison cell for years, who have the fewest rights among any of us, can educate themselves if they choose to.  No one ‘needs’ a ‘right’ to an ‘education’, and I think we all know it.

“Everyone should have the right to a golden ticket” is what we’re really trying to say.  Nonetheless, we continue to force this word ‘education’ into that place.  Why we insist on the latter has everything to do with politics and virtually nothing to do with sound logic.  We like to think that a college degree is an indicator of education.  It’s not.  It indicates that we probably passed exams in a classroom.  The political side of the coin does not require us to consider what exactly the point would be in everyone being entitled to and receiving a golden ticket.  But we can be sure that it would cease to be anything golden, if it ever was in the first place.

When we talk about the importance of education, it should always remain fundamentally clear that it’s not the university’s role to ‘educate’ anyone.  That’s our job, as individual free citizens, whether we attend a university or not.  The purpose of a university or any school should be nothing other than to be shamelessly exploited by people who want to learn, rather than blindly exalted by those who worry endlessly about exams and put all their faith in the golden ticket.

While it’s perfectly possible that a state and federally funded institution be a standard setter for efficiency and positive results, it’s always far from likely.  Our nature is that we produce and improve these qualities through an instinct of self preservation in the face of competition.  UdeG is not in this position, nor is it by any means an exception to the norm among government funded institutions.  It hasn’t to worry about going broke.. ever.  There’s no motive therefore among the leadership to provide anywhere near the best service to the students.  After all, where would the students get off complaining and demanding anyway?  UdeG is providing their ‘education’… for ‘free’.   Should the students not instead be kissing the university chancellor’s feet for divinely defending their right to an education?

Oh, but how they do.  You really think it was the students who thought up the idea of filling the streets and howling at Emilio for more pesos to fund their ‘free’ and ‘autonomous’ education?  Of course we’re talking about Emilio, who’s going to argue, right?  And then what?  Do you really think that the same students will organize, demanding and pressuring to know just what will be done with this money if UdeG gets it?

As long as there’s a golden ticket at stake, don’t count on it.   

Surely their intention here was not the sad irony that no one can help but notice…

categories: rants, society
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In a city as publicly cramped as Guadalajara, you can’t expect a lot of space to be dedicated to public parking.  And even if there was, it would certainly not enhance the city’s charm.  The grand majority of the parking space is the streets.  The city could stand to make good buck with this, but it won’t.  On the few streets that it has gone so far as to place parking meters, you might never know it.   No one, including myself, pays them any attention.  Once in about every twelve blue moons you’ll find tickets secured under the wipers of a whole block of cars.  You can pay these little fines, if you want to… if you don’t want to you can just wad them up and toss ‘em wherever…  it will likely come to nothing.  Tickets here, for any infraction, apply to the car, not the driver.   A driver could get away with not paying dozens of tickets for years..  but trying to sell the car later, in any honest fashion, is much more difficult .  At any rate, no one is legally bound in any form to pay for street parking during the evening and nighttime hours. 

One particular evening not long ago, I went to a bar… found a lucky spot a couple of blocks away, evidently someone had just left..  a simple parallel maneuver.. back up.. turn the wheel, and just like that you’re in.. with a good four inches to spare on either end..  easy as mac ‘n cheese.. were it not for the dingbat standing right behind me, waving his red cloth around and creating every distraction imaginable, hollering to me that it’s okay.. “you’ve got plenty of space… viene viene (c’mon c’mon)”  Yeah.. I got space…  and your fat-assed soon to be mashed and bleeding cadaver is wallowing all around in it!!  Wouldn’t that make for a sensational photo! 

Meet the franelero.  The term is derived from the rag, which is called a franela.  His name, sometimes hers, isn’t important.  Do you give names to unwanted vermin scurrying about your humble home?   A most unpleasant hallmark of an economy never, ever to be free from crisis, he stands to make far more in a day than do many of the supposed rich people with cars he’s there to suck money from.  So he turns a five second simple procedure into a thirty second ordeal.. and then comes to your door as you get out and tries to chat you up with some painfully ironic gibberish like.. “you see?  that wasn’t so hard, was it?”     

But I’m not in the mood.  I tell him “could have been easier..”, crediting him as little attention as possible.   I don’t know if he catches my drift, or even wants to, or even cares, but as I begin to walk away, he calls for further deference  – “Jefe, it’ll be 20 pesos…”.  Pacing on, I respond what I normally do… “Yeah, whatever.. I’ll get ya when I come back…”  -  “Noo jefe you have to pay first…”   Well.. that earns an eye contact at least.  “..and if I don’t???”  -  “Bueno, señor..  I can’t make any guarantee that you’ll find your car in the same condition that you left it.”  Until this moment the game is just innocent tit for tat.. but from here one has to decide whether to pay or to take it to the next level.. in a game which one must rationally assume that the franelero possesses far more experience.  Most people pay at this point, if, through the warped education from prior experiences, they haven’t paid already… 

But again, I just wasn’t in the mood.   “Well what are you good for, then?   Look, this vehicle may not look like much, but it’s my bread and butter, just as your bread and butter is this stupid business you do.  So if I find the vehicle damaged when I leave here, I also cannot guarantee that I won’t take that silly red rag of yours and force it down your throat.   And why would I even care if it wasn’t you that did it, I’ll still batter you.. one way or another.   It’s not like I won’t know where to find you.  So perhaps it’s you who should evaluate what 20 pesos is really worth…..” 

When you’re not in the mood, you just don’t care.  When you’re not in the mood, rationality is not king.   When you’re not in the mood, any sense of danger is maimed, taped up in plastic and helplessly suffocating.  

But in the end the question still lingers… should people react this way or not?    The most common and safest answer is “NO”…  but the philosophy underlying that answer is about as deep as the water in a mirage.  The ‘no’ answer is the voice of expedient reason… “why risk expensive damage to my car over twenty pesos.. besides, he’s out here probably trying to get by in order to feed his kids.. “  Expedient, because people go to bars or wherever else to enjoy themselves and frankly don’t want such heavy stress on their shoulders all night, wondering if their car is okay out there.  The night factor weighs heavily on the vehicle owner’s sense of security, even though the franeleros do work in the daytime as well.  But it’s far safer to damage, break into or rob someone’s car in the darkness of night.… twenty pesos is no more than the price for one beer..  surely if the guy’s going to keep an eye on my car, that’s worth a beer.. isn’t it?? 

But go any deeper, and all you will find is the fabrication of an anxiety in order to charge money to assuage it.. pure and simple extortion.   And in this light the franelero and his activity become naturally unacceptable.   For those who can see it from this angle, the act of paying creates not only the guilt of having lost a 20 peso wager of the wills, but far more importantly that 20 pesos has just left one’s pocket to fund the very thing we wish would disappear.   I may forget about it while in the bar.. I might not, but I´ll certainly be reminded of it when leaving, as he runs back up the street to hold my door open for me as I try to get around him to enter my vehicle…  well, actually, that last part is only true if I didn’t pay at the beginning.

Now even though this problem may be magnified with foreign drivers, for all the obvious reasons, it’s essentially one for the citizens here to reconcile one way or another.  There is absolutely no doubt that if the franelero worked all day or all night and didn’t manage to coerce even one driver in that time, his act would disappear from our daily reality.

But that’s not going to happen.   

There’s a strange irony in life that an assortment of people from the lowly franelero to the lofty politician like to feed on.  People rarely organize in mass for a cause and actually see it through.  In reality, each of us possesses a self centered perspective of how the world works and should work.  And like a perfectly arranged pyramid of a thousand empty beer cans, we prefer not to tinker with it.  It’s not that we don’t have the ability as individuals to overcome this, it’s just that we generally don’t do it.  Perhaps we’re afraid to; afraid that the perilous undertaking will somehow violate our sense of right and wrong and leave us floundering in an ever imploding world of screaming kids, woefully untalented traffic, and cartoonishly dense 24 hour news coverage.  It’s a legitimate fear…  The irony is that this particular common thread of self centeredness among all of us is what allows the likes of the politician to connect with so many as a mass.  He talks about things that he believes will resonate with the greatest common bulk of self centered concerns.. which usually is found within the lowest common denominator of any number of people.

In the same way, the franelero knows that you’re far less concerned about what he’s doing than you are about your car and your night ahead of you.  He assures you, for a small sum, that everything will be okay.  He knows you’re not likely to consider that he cannot possibly care for every car he’s collected for.  How many are there.. 50?  75… 150??  You’re just thinking about you.. and that you don’t want him to single out your car because he didn’t get any money from you.  That’s worth 20 pesos, isn’t it?

And so why would they ever go away?

It’s not that these guys are bad people… or if some of them are it’s certainly not being a franelero that makes them so.   Many of them indeed are people just trying to make a living.  With most of them you could sit down and enjoy a beer, to be sure.   Maybe then you could learn what their names are.   But their work amounts to nothing more than petty extortion, and rarely will I ever find myself in the mood to reward it.  I’m often warned, “But if you don’t pay him, your vehicle becomes a target..”   Wrong.  If anything happens to my vehicle on his supposed watch, the franelero becomes my target.  

Here’s a good idea  -  next time one of these guys hassles you for money, tell him to pay you 20 pesos, and you’ll keep an eye out to make sure that someone like me doesn’t get him.  You think he’ll take the offer seriously?  If not, then ask him why the hell he thinks you should seriously consider his. 

Not my video.. but this girl’s got sort of the right idea…

categories: political philosophy, rants, society
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Anyone who reads newspapers here or follows political trends likely knows of Sergio Sarmiento.  Sarmiento is a nationally syndicated columnist, economist, and has quite a long history in journalism.  He’s a politically philosophical writing machine, consistently putting out at least five new columns every week.   Some would consider him to be more to the right, others more to the left.. to some it’s not clear.. it all depends on which columns you’ve read… but it really doesn’t matter..  the point is that he’s an individual I’d love to sit down and have a few beers with and duke out some issues.  There are moments I’d like to give the guy a high five and a hug, and others I’d prefer to wring his neck until his face turned a gruesome shade of purple.

Of course I’m going to showcase a sample here of the latter, as will also be the case with the next post, ripping apart his views on the “tenencia”.   Why go cherry picking fights like this?  Because it’s more fun.   Would you really be interested in reading any of this if you thought I was just going to pat him on the back for the following string of paragraphs?  Now, it may turn out here that I’ve got it all wrong.   There’s always far more happening on the political playing field than meets the eye.. especially the eye of an amateur like myself…  But I honestly wouldn’t bother if I didn’t believe I had the upper hand.  Below are a few excerpts from Sergio Sarmiento, expressing his views concerning what he calls ‘the artificially low gas price’ here in Mexico (which isn’t really that low, in fact)..

“We’re spending away the last of the money from the oil bonanza.  But on what? ..you might ask.  On education?  On productive investments?  On infrastructure?  On fighting crime?  On fighting poverty?  No, not on anything that could make any sense in the long run.  We’re using the money we generate from a nonrenewable natural resource to subsidize a growing consumption of gasoline.”  (5-21-2008)

“If a country could really achieve prosperity on subsidies, Mexico would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  The reality, however, is exactly the opposite.  While other countries have come from behind to build more prosperous economies, we’ve perpetuated our poverty by giving out subsidies in astronomical quantities.

“We’ve never seen, however, a subsidy so burdensome and harmful as what today is being applied to fuel and energy.  Felipe Calderon himself has calculated that in 2008 alone the government will spend 200 billion pesos – almost 20 billion dollars – on this program.  According to him, the purpose is to combat inflation.  In the end all it will do is stall it a bit.

“This huge portion could be better invested in the construction of the two oil refineries the country so desperately needs, and for many other productive investments that would make us more prosperous and competitive.  But instead, the gasoline subsidy promotes the use of a contaminating fuel, and benefits mostly the least needy.”          (6-4-2008)

“The money that we’re losing, and that we can’t invest in social and economically rentable projects, we’re using to subsidize the consumption of gasoline by the wealthiest 5 percent of the population, the ones who have private vehicles.  Yes, it’s true that public and heavy transport also use fuel.  But the majority of the subsidy is being given to motorists.  Like all populist governments, Felipe Calderon’s is ransacking a company belonging to all Mexicans, including the poor, in order to give money to the wealthiest.”  (4-29-2008)

“Mexico has 138 automobiles for every 1,000 citizens (Nationmaster.com), which are possessed by the richest 10 – 12 percent of the population.”   (6-28-2010)

Hohhhhleeee crapoly, Batman.. where to start???

He does infer one very good point somewhere up there – that subsidizing poverty and failure will only generate more poverty and failure.  It’s one of the most basic characteristics of human nature.  One doesn’t need to be an economist to understand that you should never trust a mediocre worker who says the more money you pay him, the harder he’ll work.  The question here is, who’s paying who?  Who’s subsidizing who?

 “PEMEX is 100% Mexican, belongs to all Mexicans and is for the benefit of all Mexicans”

Since 1938, when the petroleum industry in Mexico was expropriated and nationalized, it’s not certain whether the above expression has ever truly been clarified for people in terms of what it really means.  I sure as hell couldn’t tell you.  One malcontent school of thought sees it in terms of “if it’s ours, why must we pay so bloody much for gasoline?”  Another point of view is “with the money PEMEX brings to the government (partially from exports, and partially through the sale of gasoline throughout Mexico), it can invest in projects that increase the prosperity of all Mexicans”  Sarmiento clearly concurs with the latter:

“What difference does it make – many people ask me – if PEMEX and the government lose money via gasoline sales?  Those who ask such questions demonstrate an absolute lack of awareness of the fact that we Mexicans are the owners of PEMEX and that the federal government is nothing other than an organization established by us in order to administer the resources that we collectively possess.  It’s as if we thought it makes no sense to demand that the administration of the condominium we live in keep it well maintained because we suppose that the administration is the only one that loses out and not us.”  (4-29-2008)

Yeah well, the problem Sergio is that the administration historically has taken our rent money to build and maintain its own condos, while investing no more than minimally necessary for ours not to completely dilapidate and collapse.  When they come around raising the rent, we have to wonder how many of us fools are going to just sit on our hands and take it.

In fact, neither of the two views above is valid, nor will they ever be at any point in the near future.  Mexico, even if the government wished to, cannot provide super cheap gasoline.  It hasn’t enough refineries to keep up with demand.  And regardless of the efficiency of those it does have, nearly half of all gasoline sold in Mexico is imported from the outside.  Sergio’s point of view holds just as little water, because as administration after administration has shown, apart from the crippling corruption within PEMEX, there’s no interest nor therefore any real initiative in the proper investment of PEMEX funds to work for the prosperity of Mexico. If there were, there would already exist a sufficient number of efficient refineries, not to mention a far greater acceleration of prosperity.

When he talks about PEMEX losing billions of pesos, he’s referring to the gas price.  For the last two or three years, starting way back when oil passed $100 and was nearing $150 per barrel, one of his biggest complaints against the Calderon administration has been its decision to maintain gas prices artificially low, supposedly to keep down inflation.. In fact, back in April of 2008, while in the U.S. the average national price was anywhere between $4 – $5 per gallon, here in Mexico we were paying about 7.15 pesos per liter.  At the time we were right at 11 pesos to the dollar, which came out to equal $2.45 (U.S.) per gallon. He predicted that if and when the barrel price should fall, which it most certainly did, there were going to be some nasty chickens coming home to roost, and that government would hardly have any money for anything.  Hence, the panic that the Calderon administration was recklessly favoring the less needy.  Of course, that’s going by a certain man’s definition of the term “less needy”.

The idea that only the wealthiest 10 – 12 percent of Mexicans possess automobiles is hopelessly absurd, and far beneath the intelligence of a man as much in the know as Sergio Sarmiento.  But evidently, that’s what he believes.  Only rich people have cars.  If it were anything close to true, he might be a bit closer to hitting the mark, but not much.  I can agree with him that the rich don’t lack cars.  But to suggest that 85 – 90% of the Mexican population doesn’t possess, much less benefit from the use of cars, comes dangerously close to pure academic ineptitude.  To go on to suggest that therefore we less fortunate would be economically in the clear from any hike in gas prices, and only enjoy the benefits of higher waves of wealth distribution, is nothing less than a cry for help  to have some common sense mercilessly beaten into you.

Nonetheless, Sergio’s and other coinciding arguments eventually won the day, sort of.  After a government price freeze that lasted nearly a year, gasoline finally took on a continually gradual increase.  The current price as of this week in July of 2010 is 8.36 pesos per liter (not bad, actually, considering that Sergio believes it should have been 14.00 from two years back).  At the current rate of roughly 13 pesos to the dollar, it’s equal to the same as two years ago – $2.45 (U.S.) per gallon, which actually is pretty close to the U.S. national average at the moment.  This however, is mere coincidence.  Gasoline in Mexico is not a market commodity.  The market does not determine the gas price here.  The government does.  And should government defend its decision to raise prices in order to keep up with the world market, what should we expect if again the barrel price suddenly drops, leading to lower gasoline prices throughout the market?  Bueno, call me cynical, but I think it would be foolish to expect Mexico to follow suit.

Add to that the fact that $2.45 is but 5% of the American minimum wage daily income.  The 32 pesos it takes to buy the same gallon of gas is over 60% of the Mexican minimum wage daily income.  Sarmiento may be sadly mistaken about only rich people having cars, but if the price here in Mexico continues to rise, his ridiculous assessment will become more and more accurate.  And this would be good for the poor?  This would be good for the economy?

Are we to understand then that this idea that “PEMEX belongs to all Mexicans for the benefit of all Mexicans” means essentially that it’s a government tool for the redistribution of Mexican wealth (formula = rich people guzzle gas, the proceeds which then are redistributed to bloated government salaries)?  If so, the gas price is nothing more than pure tax (that the government has not to lift even a finger to collect).  What Sergio calls a $20 billion subsidy, I would better see as a tax cut for any Mexican that benefits from gas consuming transportation… which is far, far more than the 10 – 12 percent that he believes doesn’t deserve it.  Sergio refers to it as a ransacking of a government enterprise established as a source for Mexican prosperity.  I say it allows the private sector to advance uninhibited by extremely high gas prices, therefore employing more people and thus increasing their purchase power, also less inhibited by skyrocketing gasoline prices, allowing us to see how this intent at prosperity compares to whatever triumph the government can claim.

Is it not the case that government failure has for far too long been subsidized by the contributions of the Mexican people?

Economies grow because some people sense what others want and need, and move to meet that demand.   Demand increases and is more successfully met when the ability for people to obtain what they need and want increases.  That ability to obtain increases whenever it becomes more feasible for any person to get from any point A to any point B.  To be sure, a dependable and efficient public transportation system can help.  But does Sarmiento really assume that 85 – 90% of Mexicans simply don’t need to go anywhere beyond the reach of public transportation or would never have any wish to move themselves about on their own terms?  If so, he’s truly not living in the same Mexico as I.

More, below here, of Mexico’s “cream of the crop”, according to Sergio Sarmiento…

Got it?

categories: political philosophy, rants, society
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Therapeutic for nearly all small minded intellectuals is “cutting the gringo down to size”.  Be it here in Mexico or elsewhere.. even in the U.S., the contrived disgust over how little the gringos know about their neighbors and the rest of the world is all too common an encounter.  If you’re a sensitive gringo living abroad, this can be a difficult burden to bear.. and may leave you running for cover within the safe haven of the self critical gringo.  Sadly, should you decide upon this roly-poly type of maneuver, you won’t likely see that you’ve successfully brought the image of the stupid gringo full circle.  Self criticism in any situation, other than in front of a mirror, is not only uninspiring…  it’s simply ‘not chingón’. 

One of the most common fireballs that many Mexicans, among other latinos, like to lob at the gringo is the latter’s claim to the term ‘American’.  “The arrogance!!”  “We’re all Americans!”  “Why can’t the gringos wrap their heads around the fact that their country is not the center of the universe?”  But don’t let all the huffing and puffing get to you..  If they can so convincingly pretend that they care about it, you can at least fake a spiritless yawn while responding  “No mames, cabrón, are all of your passions in life as shortsighted as that one?”

That might be enough in itself, but some will persist.  And what can you do?  If you have to, spell it out for them. Explain how silly such a concern appears to be, next to bigger and far more important concerns, like the problem with those dunces who believe the new millennium began in 2000 instead of 2001 and the emotional stress they cause for the rest of us who know the real truth.   

The following is a small sample of other little sucker punches you could land on the soft groin area of whoever’s whiny intellect you’re up against.  It´s a little quiz of 10 or 12 some odd questions loosely calculated to work out in your favor.  But by all means, feel free to tear these marvelously witty points apart or trounce them with whatever smart-ass commentary occurs to you.  When you consider the caliber of the sort of argument we’re working with here, it´s quite clear that the prize is hardly worth anyone’s most gallant effort.

How to tell whether or not you believe the term “American” really applies to you.

If you were to go to India and speak to someone who said she had family in America, would you truly respond “Oh really?  Where exactly.. in Chile?..  Guatemala?? … Peru perhaps?”

If a forklift driver in Moscow with nothing more than a high school education reads that “only in America can a dockworker with nothing more than a high school education earn 50 grand a year and if he works hard enough start and run his own business…” , do you seriously believe he’s just as likely to pack his bags for Venezuela or Mexico as he is for the U.S.?

If you were to ask a gringo why he’s chosen to live in Mexico for however long, and he replied that he’s here to pursue the Mexican dream, would you not get upset? ..assuming that he’s poking fun at Mexicans? .. so pitifully sad and despondent as such an assumption would be (it’s happened to me on more than one occasion)…  What if he said he’s here to pursue the American dream?  Would you not consider him simply deranged??

When you hear the term “American Dream”.. or “America is the land of opportunity” do you just shake your head and say – “Those silly, sheltered and naive gringos..”?

When you think of the film, “An American Werewolf in London”, do you envision a mad crazed Mexican scaling the walls of Big Ben?

When chatting with friends and acquaintances and someone says “Americans are so stupid”.. do you get angry and defensive?… or do you join right in because obviously they’re not talking about you?

When James Brown sings “Living in America”, do you suppose he could likely be referring to the Andes.. or maybe Central America?  Does it bother you that he doesn’t mention Zacatecas or Jalisco?

When someone tells you they saw another someone burning the American flag… do you become very concerned and respond “Which one… the one with the leaf? ..but they’re so peaceful..”?

If your company placed you in charge of entertaining an important business client, and for some reason she expresses a craving for American food.. are you really going to take her out for tacos?  or menudo?  or the local Argentinean joint?

Americans settle back in their easy chairs each fall to watch Monday Night Football.  Note that no one there refers to it as Monday Night American Football.  Who then uses the term “American football”?  It sure as hell isn’t the gringos.  Just for the misguided pleasure of watching it dribble out of your mouth, explain to me why you call it “American” football.

If a country or several countries openly declare war on America and all Americans, do you think that Mexico, or any country in Central or South America is therefore in the crosshairs and should gear up to meet the threat?

Mexico is a sovereign state.  So is Ecuador.. and Brazil… and son on… When you read that the population of the United States of America is roughly 300 million.. do you think to yourself  “Gosh. and 100 million of them are in Mexico alone!  Go Mexico!!”?

Of course, we all recoil at the blind arrogance of gringos who think that America is the United States.. when clearly the U.S. is but one country among many throughout America.   Do you forgive the gringos then, when they don’t realize that there are indeed 32 states in Mexico, united within a federal government?  After all, among all the American countries, there’s just one United States… or do we just have no rightful claim to that one either?

Now the point here… is obviously not to show off any superior sharpness or brilliance you may possess over the average fearless, pestering attacker of gringos you might encounter.  Rather, it’s to show just how dull and dippity dumb the issue is in the first place.   It also serves as a fine alternative to the pathetic cowering that too often happens when confronted with accusations of being one the most arrogant fools on the planet, just ‘cause you’re American.   Don’t take it too seriously.  Just show that you’ve got a pair.  Here in Mexico, we have nothing close to a perfect country, but most Mexicans I know will leap to the defense of their nationality at virtually any affront placed in their way.  I’ve learned in my time here that there’s far more respect to go around for any gringo that knows to do the same.

categories: culture, political philosophy, rants, society
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I’m often asked what I think about the sociopolitical pustule that’s been festering around this new immigration law in Arizona.  What a dreadful question.  Having still not heard nor read even one well thought-out answer after all this time is hardly inspiring.  Even less encouraging has been the distraught and panic-stricken gibberish regarding the whole bloody thing… pathetic.   So why anyone down here, or anywhere, would care to read even one more self centered, logically corrupted presumption by some unassuming gringo like myself concerning this one in particular of mankind’s many blunders is beyond me.    And yet, here I find myself.. looking for two of my shiniest pennies to flick into this ever tinkling fountain of intellectual boobery. 

… nothing more than.. feelings…..

Though we humans are blessed with the power of emotion, our feelings nonetheless are what bring out the idiot within us… and trust me, folks.. arguing immigration with anything other than feelings gets one nowhere.  Sound political philosophy finds no more reception in this debate than it would with a bunch of screamin’ kids in a room full of bouncing balls.   The issue of Arizona, and likely several other U.S. states here in the near future presents a political battleground of  emotional wills that this writer possesses a particular distaste for.   So when asked down here about my feelings concerning the current fiasco,  I try to appear as disinterested as I can.  There are so many things I could say to just disappear into the chattery mist… like – “Hang on, I gotta run to the restroom..”, or.. maybe I could ask not to be bothered because I’m thinking about the latest Chivas debacle.  But sometimes I slip up and.. say something that’s actually answerable, like “What about it?”…

“Well, don’t you think it’s unfair?

See what happens?   It’s like walkin’ straight into a frickin’ wall with a big sign on it that says “Hey dumbass, this is a frickin’ wall!”   So…..?  ..after a deep sigh and a brief, resigned contemplation of the word ‘fair’ – a word that no one I’ve ever met, including myself, knows how to expertly manage –  the best I can come up with is something not so friendly sounding:  “What’s fair got to do with it?”   The following silence as one contemplates that I’m no easy affirmative for supposedly such a unanimously accepted notion – and therefore making me most likely a nazi sympathizer –  can be anything from unnerving to exceptionally charming.   But the question is posed more out of boredom than a mean spirit. 

This ‘fair’ game, however, can be quite a dandy.   Sometimes I just say that I don’t have enough information to know how fair it is… But that one doesn’t sell itself so easily either… “What do you mean!?”, they say, “don’t you watch the news?”  So I tell them that what I mean is that I would need to see how Mexico deals with the illegal immigration of five million of China’s finest over the course of 15 or 20 years, and observe how congruent their reaction to that would be with how they generally feel about Arizona right now.  Only then might we be able to truly hash out the conditions of fair.

The question of why have an immigration policy in the first place is one completely lost on any individual that has a one dimensional egocentric view of human and civil rights.  These are the kind of individuals that seem especially receptive to employers, political parties and candidates, and politically driven media and lobbyists for whom immigration policy is also a hindrance (or in the case of Arizona, perhaps a blessing) to their own aspirations.  So many exploitable people so willing to be economically and politically exploited should never be kept from anyone who could benefit from their exploitation.  That’s just unfair for everyone.   So the question of “why”, concerning existing policy, unenforced because of the aforementioned, is buried deep, and very difficult to bring to the surface free from protest and fucktarded accusations of racism, bigotry, and redneck nativism.

So when my Mexican friends and acquaintances down here ask me why the people of Arizona, or wherever else in the U.S. are so intolerant and racist, I don’t bother with gringos that they don’t understand, given their lack of knowledge about life in the U.S.  I stick with the more familiar:  Mexicans, and Mexico.  For example, if I’m lectured to contemplate the economic contributions that illegal immigrants make to the U.S., it’s perfectly fine.  Hell, if I wanted to engage in my own tunnel vision, I could point out that I never would have learned Spanish in Kansas without the camaraderie of many an illegal; you know.. the ones from the generic can of flavorless arguments  -  real people with real lives and real passions to make a better life.  That I would selflessly defend the integrity of any one of them (well… maybe not a couple of them) is simply not the point.   But I do demand that in return the Mexican contemplate the economic contributions that roughly five million Chinese  illegals could provide to Mexico.

Five million Chinese is less than one half of one percent of China’s population.  Over twenty times that percentage of Mexicans have emigrated to the U.S.  So surely Mexico could absorb these five million.  They would gladly do the work that Mexicans are not willing to do.  They’d clean the trash off city streets and highways for 20 pesos per 12 hour day.. a lot more than they can make back home.  They’d paint over, again and again, the clumsy and stupid looking graffiti left by niño cockroaches that would just assume piss on their own country’s flag if only they were bright enough to identify it.  Lupita used to charge 80 pesos to clean your house.. now the little Chinese girl, whatever her name is, will do it even better for just 40 pesos.  Chinese youth will actually walk through neighborhoods and offer to wash your car for just 10 pesos, and leave it sparkling.   These guys’ll do roadwork at night, fixing potholes and doing surface work and not demand special benefits for it.  Even if they wanted to they couldn’t – they don’t speak Spanish.  Beyond that , their legal status prevents them from organizing, which for employers is a godsend.   Furthermore they could all do your plumbing and babysitting, because the little you  can get away with paying is, again, much more than they would ever earn in China.  Mexico would soon have to ask itself what it would ever do without these pinches chinos and chinitas.. and who cares that they’re illegal, or that neither  the local, state, nor federal government is doing anything about it.  They’re just hardworking people trying to make a better life.. and making our own easier and more pleasant in the process.

And so I ask the Mexican – “Do you really think you and your fellow Mexicans are going to see it this way?   ..or are you going to lay it out for me that it’s not simply a factor of economics?  ..that there are social, cultural, and political factors as well, most of which would rub an ordinary Mexican the wrong way…”

Would Mexico show the U.S. how it should be done, and be the antithesis to the intolerance of their northern neighbors?  Would they welcome these Chinese immigrants  –  China’s poor, destitute, and uneducated  –  and work to accommodate them in every way, regardless of their legal status?  When these Chinese, because of their enormous numbers, stick together and therefore don’t learn Spanish, and ‘discover’ personal or political strength only among those they consider to be ‘their own’ .. are the Mexicans going to make an extra effort to reach out to them?  Will this involve setting up Chinese speaking schools, giving priority to those seeking public service positions who speak both Spanish and Chinese, and capitalizing on all of the above with announcements and visual aids in both languages? 

Will Mexicans not be concerned about these Chinese, who after years of living under the oppression of a one child only law, suddenly go hog-wild in their new found freedom in Mexico and start having on average four or five kids, regardless of the obvious hardship in taking care of them?  Talk about a population explosion.   Will Mexican politicians resist using this growing demographic as nothing more than a political tool to generate votes by promising to tend to ‘their interests’?  Or will these Chinese actually demand that Mexican politicians start taking note of their growing ‘political power’?  Will the Mexican citizens be marching right at their side, arm in arm?   ..or will they be scratching their heads wondering if the next election will actually be decided by a small political ‘block’ of Chinese dolts who fall for the same political trickery that Mexicans themselves have spent the last 80 years trying to overcome?

When a Mexican man stops at a light, and to his right stops a Chinese man with a beautiful Mexican girl sitting right next him, and his stereo blasting out some Chinese circus music that sounds more like some twisted nightmare played in reverse… will he embrace and celebrate the new diversity flourishing in his community?  When the light finally turns green, and still no one can go because two Chinese women have decided to casually cross at the indicated moment, taking all the precious time they might ever need.. will the Mexican man teach us all a lesson about tolerance?  After all, in China, the pedestrian always has the right of way… or at least that’s what the Chinese here tend to insist.  When illegal Chinese gain a reputation for being let off the hook for almost any infraction because the cops don’t want to deal with the untaggable paperwork, and deporting them is a federal matter,  will Mexicans rejoice in that at least someone gets to stick it to those bastard officials?

We gringos insist, as indeed it often truly seems,  that in Mexico laws are written almost for the sole purpose of being broken.  However even when the streets are packed with parked cars and everyone might spend 40 minutes searching for a space, no one will ever park in front of a driveway or vehicle entrance to ones house or business.  It’s almost as if Mexicans hold this sacred, and it’s a good thing.  But what will happen when the Chinese, who come from a culture that shuns private property, start parking in these spaces, and worse yet, laugh about how the Mexicans are so polite for leaving them exclusive spaces… only to pretend later,  when confronted,  that they didn’t know….

And so on and so on…..

At the end of it all, I’ll ask my Mexican friends how much of this they and other ‘average Mexican citizens’  -  those who are not politicians, employers, or media people  -  will be able to take before deciding that enough is enough…  Or will they open their hearts and realize that their racism and bigotry only lead everyone to despair, and therefore embrace the Chinese like brothers and sisters, who in turn of course refuse to do the same? .. because after all.. they didn’t arrive here to become Mexicans.   It’s just as dreadful a question for the Mexican to have to ponder as it is for Americans living in Arizona or whatever other state.  Some will argue that it’s not a fair question to ask, or that it’s not the same…  but it doesn’t matter.   The answer is quite clearly all around us. 

Just for fun, ask these guys above how cool they’d be with the below.. rumbling peacefully down Lopez Mateos in Guadalajara or Reforma in Mexico City…..

categories: rants, religion, society
tags:

It’s commonly read from afar that Mexicans are very religious.. it’s about as equally common, after having been here a while, to conclude the exact opposite.   A reckless and foolhardy criticism of Mexicans?  Not at all the intention.  A sense of superior devotion on the part of the writer over that of Mexicans??  Getting colder.  It’s more a simple point regarding culturally driven perceptions.  What often happens is that as outsiders, we come in and make the familiar rounds, through some Aztec or Mayan ruins, to some of the most prominent Catholic landmarks, wandering about and appraising their architectural and graphic splendor…  and as we settle ourselves into our tranquil, vacational spheres, any reflection that occupies us is likely limited to how much history has passed in front of those impressive gigantic wooden doors at the cathedral’s entrance.  In the end we go back home cherishing the images we picked up in our travels, and later, when we once again pick up the literature on Mexico, it all seems to coincide. 

And why not?  Mexican society and culture exudes religious symbolism.. from street names and birth names to imagery in public and private establishments; holidays and festivities in honor of saints and virgins, sometimes attracting literally millions.. just ask any Guadalajara native.. anywhere.. about October 12 and the ‘Virgen de Zapopan’.  In February, small towns celebrating the Candelaria torment the living dead, clanging church bells and quaking with thousands of thunder flash fireworks (little.. anti-aircraft look’n bastards) simultaneously going off around midnight and 6 am for days on end.  From Ash Wednesday to Easter, hardly a food vendor in the entire city will sell any meat besides seafood on Fridays.  Very few are the homes throughout all of Mexico that do not display the image of the ‘Virgen de Guadalupe’.  Cathedrals, basilicas, sanctuaries and expiatories are outnumbered only by the devotees who make the cross sign whenever they pass by one.. At first glance, it is indeed hard to escape the perception that Mexicans, generally speaking, are people of profound faith….

So what gives? 

Well… composing any worthwhile reading in this modern era regarding the concept of religion seems futile to say the least.  Getting through a discussion on the subject without snaggin’ your britches on any one of thousands of brainmushing clichés is an endeavor that I’ve come to think should be reserved only for those who think far too much for their own good.  To aspire to outsmart religion, or at any rate to be the man who feels he’s above it all is no more appealing to me than being the one who’s so hopelessly buried in it that the light burning in his soul never actually merges with the light of day.  Neither of these two types have much to offer in terms of discussion.   But in a free-thinking society there is virtually no coherent consensus on what religion is, and even less so in trying to define a simple adjective like “religious”.

It should be supposed that this word “religious” (and for the sake of brevity, let’s just stick to Christianity for the entirety of this post) refers to a deep faith in and intense devotion to a) God – the Father, b) the teachings of Jesus Christ – the Son, and c) the teachings of primarily the New Testament of the Holy Bible, a compilation of accounts concerning the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and other letters written either about or by his apostles who, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, continued to spread the message of God’s purpose and gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Wow… I wonder if I could make a living marketing nutshells like that one?   Or maybe I’m diving too deep into this?  Perhaps the word “religious” simply means living by the golden rule, and never cursing at, defacing, or urinating on religious symbols.. or never cursing in general.. much less wasting our lives away pondering such trifling questions as to who, and on what date in history and under what circumstances was it decided that the use of the work ‘fuck’ was officially to be the mark of a wallowing infectious sinner.  Perhaps “religious” means somehow making babies without ever having actually seen real live male or female genitalia, much less touched it with any extension of our own bodies except with the other.. ‘thingy .. down there’… and etcetera, and etc… and whatever else our dopey minds can come up with…

In the Christian world, most of us are more than familiar with this tedious, half-baked approach to godliness.  Indeed, a large portion of “believers” are seen as, if not actually are, no more than adherents to a long list of philosophically cheap or bankrupt superstitions with no more divine origin than a toy from a cereal box.   But to assume that any religion is born so shallow, or has always been meant to defy rational thought and behavior  -  is to be equally as shallow in your understanding of how history, politics, culture, and religion go together within the complex framework of human nature.   No religion in the world, no matter Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Communism or any other, can escape the dilution of its original purpose imposed by such an unavoidable and unending clash of human factors.  Roman Catholicism, rather than by any means being an exception to this, is a most exemplary case in point… and its Spanish turned Mexican version even more acutely so.

While North America was first colonized primarily by the English seeking to escape the Church (that it wasn’t officially Roman Catholic by that time makes no difference to the point being made here), the Spanish had already been colonizing Central and South America with motive to enrich the Church via the region’s wealth in silver and gold.  This is significant.  It means that the conquered natives of the central and the south, who themselves were very “religious”, were, by decree,  not to be exterminated, but “converted”…  Why?  Bueno.. you think the Spaniards were willing to dig that crap out of the ground themselves?  Evidently, slavery is okay as long as your master can convince you that your suffering on earth earns you greater rewards in heaven.   Just how the Church managed to pull off such a massive conversion is one you should research on your own.. I’m likely in enough hot water already as it is.  But even to this day, few are the households throughout the republic that don’t bear reference to it.. as it remains a centerpiece of religious devotion here.   One thing is assuredly clear:  It’s got nothing to do with the origins of Christianity.

To subtract this from Mexican history is a forfeiture of valid discussion on contemporary Mexican politics, culture, and society  -  which, despite the flavor of this post, I’m proud to be a part of, even if no more than as a long term visitor.   Mexico’s greatest triumph and hope is its wealth of citizens who willingly and proudly confront the struggle to better themselves, their families, their neighborhoods and society at large, and possess the intelligence and heart to make it happen.  Believe me.  I’ve been here long enough to know firsthand.    And it cannot be denied that religion has played a role in the nurture of these qualities.  The things these people are up against, however  -  the poverty, the high crime rates, the literally choking corruption, and worst, the gut-wrenching reciprocity between the tramplers and those who somehow believe they can wring out a drop of inner peace for their acceptance of being trampled  -  are rooted also in the very power structures imposed so harshly upon Mexican society over the centuries in order to keep it “religious”… in order to keep Mexico’s greatest asset, its people, unconditionally devoted to the Church.

People here, like people anywhere, don’t generally appreciate any discussion or gesture that seems to scrutinize the very foundation of the tree that bears the fruit of their daily or weekly religious practices (so much for avoiding clichés).  What’s upsetting to people in these situations is that they cannot explain, nor therefore defend, the foundation of their beliefs any more effectively than an apple can defend the tree on which it hangs from people with chainsaws.

Does an apple know when its tree has fallen, or does it just languish and rot?  Does a religious follower, a living human with infinitely more potential than an apple, know when his or her religious activities no longer connect with the root that brought them into existence?  If so, is there any solution?  For an individual, perhaps.  For a society, one must conclude it to be far from likely. 

Some of us don’t believe that God exists, and some of us do.  That both might be true is scientifically absurd.  If there is no God, then despite all the good the Church has represented in the world (I’m quite conscious of the subjectivity of the claim), its entire foundation is based on false belief at best… and at worst a blatant and sinister lie.  However, if there is a God, then what a sad irony it is to observe the history of the Church and inevitably have to wonder, and dubiously so, how the hell the damned thing figures into any equation regarding the relationship between God and Man.

Christianity is not based on belief in God per se.  It’s founded more specifically on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and a faith not only in his philosophical teachings and fulfillment of prophecies, but more importantly in that he really was the son of God, as well as God in the flesh, and that his sacrifice, if one believes in ‘Him’, forgives all of one’s transgressions committed against the will of God and grants eternal life.  One has not to be a believer to acknowledge this origin of Christianity.   The same Paul that the Roman Catholic Church deems a Saint pointed out that upon nothing more than this factor alone does Christianity even exist (1 Cor. 15. 12-19). 

Now how’s all that for scientifically absurd?  However, it should not be overlooked that while the realm of nature seems infinitely vast, the field of science is quite restricted to within whatever its boundaries are.  To assume that there exists nothing beyond simple nature is just philosophically dull.  But even duller is the inability, among believers and non-believers alike,  to see that the Church, in all of its pitifully pompous political hierarchy, is neither God incarnate, nor vicariously Jesus Christ, nor some bloody gatekeeper of the Holy Spirit.

The Church would have its followers believe that to be excommunicated is to lose your salvation.. that whatever one might do to offend or betray the Church is therefore an offence to or betrayal of God.. that to question the authority of the Church is to question God…  Few, if anyone, considers that the very foundation of Christianity is a culmination of the rejection of Jesus Christ by the priests and authorities of his own religion, who were no more or less fallible than any alive today.

A famous quote, some say made by Porfirio Díaz over a century ago, goes something along the lines of “Poor Mexico.. so far from God, and so close to the United States.”  It’s a sentiment that many here possess to this day… which leads one naturally to ask – Why, in a society as religious as Mexico, do so many feel that their very nation is so far from God?  Has God forsaken Mexico?   That’s kind of a ridiculous question, I suppose.   It’s not so silly to point out, however, that blind devotion to Church doctrine and its pathetic patchwork of mandates will never serve to usher any soul to God’s good graces.

categories: culture, rants, raves, society
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It’s doubtful that anyone who knows me would be surprised that in my earlier years I was a typical dumbass kid, believing that auto insurance was just some sort of giant rip-off scheme.  I drove a Pontiac Grand Am with about 10 – 12 points on my Kansas driving record, and grudgingly paid around $250 a month to cover myself for a wreck I knew I’d never get into (of course you the reader absolutely know that I eventually did, and you know even more that it happened only after I had lapsed a week or so on my monthly payment, having rendered all my prior monthly payments a complete waste at the moment of impact…).

Now that I’m older I can at least say that I’m not as.. typical, as I used to be. 

But had I not painfully discovered the virtues of auto insurance back in the day, I’d have had them force-fed to me upon arriving in Mexico.   Like one of those Christmas ghosts dragging Señor Scrooge around to look at the future, or.. whenever the hell it was.. being here long enough reveals the unfortunate consequences of relying on no more than 50% of the driving public to have insurance.  That’s my own personal estimate.  I honestly don’t believe I could be too far off the mark.   It’s not particularly shocking, really.  But it is somewhat baffling, when you realize how easy and relatively inexpensive it is to obtain coverage here and actually put it to dependable use. 

What I mean by easy and relatively inexpensive is essentially this:   Having caused an accident and been covered will not make premiums go up the next contract.. or ever.  Nor is any driving record kept by the state, with the exception of unpaid tickets (which they keep track of only to stick you with when you go to pay your yearly vehicle property taxes) - thus no higher coverage costs materialize based on that information.. or lack thereof.   And even then, whenever I’ve had an incident of sorts, or just needed to be towed to a mechanic, they’ve never failed the call (what?.. like I’m going to replace the timing belt all by myself on the side of a busy highway with nothing more than a flat head screwdriver…).

I don’t know about you, but I just think that’s.. magnificent!

So why do so many here go without it?

Conventional wisdom likes to suggest that poorer Mexicans, while perhaps able to obtain a used vehicle, simply don’t possess the means to afford insurance along with it… and since they have it bad enough being poor already, it would be terribly uncompassionate ( political speak for “unpopular”) to force them to pay via the threat of fines or possible jail time.   I guess, according to some, that’s what compassion is all about – earning that endearing “God bless you” (political speak either for “vote” or “I solemnly lay down my machete”)  from the poor and less fortunate by providing them also with some cheap, false sense of blessing.

The reality is that many, too damn many, who possess older vehicles do not consider the cost of insurance to be worth covering the risk of possible damages (it’s worth less than it would cost to repair).. or theft (who would have any interest in stealing this fine specimen of crappola?).  Sounds like some typical dumbass kid I knew back in the day.   Notice here the absence of any consideration of responsibility for the unfortunate ramming of someone else’s vehicle…. just an innocent lapse?  Well.. perhaps you should also take note of all these drivers fleeing the scene, if circumstances permit, when that exact scenario transpires.  But not to worry, my man… we’ve got government healthcare here to cover the costs of the victim’s, not especially clean but cost effective, leg amputation… it’s all good…

Even among those who do acquire auto insurance, it’s surprising to hear just how many say they did so  in case their car gets stolen.  Talk about conscience free theft incentive.. but that’s a rant for another day.

Supposedly it’s the law here to have it.. just like in the U.S. …  but I’ve never once seen it enforced, not once.. and I’ve been pulled over a number of times.   At any rate, if you mash up someone else’s pride and joy and you’re not covered, chances are that the other person will have insurance and you can get them to take the blame so that their insurance pays… not only their damages but yours too.  How’s that for justice? 

Surely I’m just pulling your jittery leg and making all this crap up.. right?  Do people really bend over like that!? 

Look.. if you get hit by someone who lacks insurance, and this dead mass of societal lard, who for whatever reason fails to escape the scene, refuses to accept responsibility – you’ve got two options:  1) accept the responsibility yourself and have your insurance cover the whole mess – if you’ve got full coverage (and don’t fancy any bizarre notion that the anal scab will pay your deductible as a show of gratitude) , or.. 2) have both yours and the twat’s car impounded until the matter is resolved, which could – and most often does - take months.. with no guarantee in such a hopelessly corrupted system of you coming out on top.   Which of those two paths do you suppose is the most commonly chosen?  Which would you choose?

How this twisted reality comes to be in any society is anyone’s guess.  My half-baked educated postulation would come back to this even more than half-baked definition of ‘compassion for the poor’, which is that the better-off, besides bearing their own burdens, should shoulder the brunt of the poor’s irresponsibility and other casual misfortunes…

All it does is inadvertently create and perpetuate a quagmire of belligerent tramplers and hapless trampled. 

I’m blessed, I suppose you could say, with a vehicle tough enough for Guadalajara roads and traffic and has “I’m not afraid to get scratched and scarred up” written all over it.  I’m an aggressive driver yes, but tranquilly so.. and certainly not a cheating “me first” type.  But when people do try to trample their way over others within my proximity and at my expense, my calm turns to blood red adrenalin, no matter if it’s a bus, a tractor trailer, or a Prius.  I’m told “well maybe they’re in a hurry, or worse in an emergency..”  What? and nobody else is!?  “Yeah, but they could be crazy and have like a gun or something..”  And what about me?  Maybe I’m the crazy bastard with the gun!!  I’m well aware of how easy it is to get banged up out on these roads or even worse, killed.  But adrenalin, armed with a vehicle like my own, dictates that I make a few tramplers aware of it also… or at least that someone out there isn’t as willing to get pushed around as everyone else seems to be. 

Now on one hand, I like that things are more lax down here.. and that insurance is easy, inexpensive and dependable.  How could I not?  When I was younger I would have even enjoyed the fact that it’s not enforced in any meaningful way.  A lot of gringos, having been down here for a time, like to comment on how Mexico is actually a freer country than the United States.  In many respects, this one included, it indeed is.  But I can’t count the times that Mexicans who have spent time in the states have commented to me on how much better and safer drivers in the U.S. are.  Hmmm.. not exactly true…

I try to explain that by no means are Americans innately more culturally advanced or sophisticated drivers.. the only difference is a system that more concretely applies consequences.  Now of course, if you’re important enough, you can get out of almost anything.  99% of us are not.   But when paying a ticket results in negative marks on your record, which in turn raises your insurance premium… and not having insurance will also get you into a load of trouble… and NOT paying a ticket results in a warrant for your arrest, and the cops don’t accept bribes beyond the ‘crying female with big knockers’ type, if they even accept that… that devil may care attitude that we’re all prone to adopting on the road tends to be kept on a much tighter leash.

Of course, none of that is going stop a kid with a lot of horsepower from being a typical dumbass.

Listing of Mexican Auto Insurers

          Don’t let this tough guy catch you without insurance!

categories: politics, rants, society
tags:

Sympathy is not what I feel for people who cry and complain about how poorly maintained their city’s infrastructure and environment are… and yet take to the streets protesting like some impetuous mule train when any genuine effort is made to improve conditions, because the measures taken to resolve the issue inconvenience them personally.  Most of these are the same ones that marvel, for instance, at how China is advancing, while shaking their heads in disgust at the ineptitude of their own government.  Bureaucratic incompetence aside, what’s easily forgotten is that democracy is hard.  Just ask the Chinese how they’re coming with it…  

That said, why is it I find myself aligned with the blubbering whiners when it comes to this contentious issue of the Macrobus?  Am I so hopelessly, say.. ‘Republican’ in nature, that I simply can’t stomach the concept of public transportation, or the supposedly downtrodden who use it having their day in the sun?  Do I break bread with special interests such as certain transit unions that might be adversely affected?  Nope.  In fact, to loosely quote Monty Python – I tend more to break wind in their general direction…   Or perhaps it’s as a well-known and beloved statesman of sorts once so elegantly put it:  “I’m not giving in to the mob mentality… I’m jumping on the bandwagon”.   Is that what my gripe boils down to?  I’m not sure what the arguments of the rest are, or if I would even agree with them.  You certainly won’t find me out there with them blocking traffic… 

But here’s my precious point of view:

The complete Guadalajara metro area maps out to about 300 square miles.  In this relatively tiny patch of land live somewhere between 4.5 and 5 million people (by comparison, the Kansas City metro area is nearly 1200 sq. miles and houses around 2 million -  the Wichita metro area is closest to scale, around 280 sq. miles, with population of close to 600,000).  How do I know this stuff?  I’ve counted every last one of them.. do not question me on this.  In this entire cheaply asphalted entanglement are only four stretches of road that aren’t painfully and pathetically riddled with traffic lights (yes, I´m.. quite aware of what traffic lights are for, just as much as I’m aware of what proper street planning is for…).  Three of these four little breathers are on the outskirts of the city, the other spanning only two thirds the distance through the middle.   The all too common bottlenecks throughout are caused primarily by the aforementioned.  ‘Me first’ drivers are another major contributor…  Fortunately, the city does have a public transportation system;  it most certainly needs public transit – not because its people are too poor to own cars (although not having a vehicle here is why most people use it), nor for the environment (although cleaner air is always desirable),  but because its infrastructure simply can’t (or worse, won’t) keep pace with the growing number of car owners. 

Not being a religious follower and member of the Church of Manmade Global Warming, nor a believer in the merits of a daddy state, I certainly advocate having a vehicle over being completely dependent on public transportation.  But if the latter can move me “quickly” and “cheaply” “whenever” and to “wherever” I wish or need to go within reasonable walking distance, it sure beats wasting a tank of gas on some endless breaking and accelerating ritual trance that takes 30 minutes to move my car five kilometers… and then where the hell am I going to park the damn thing?

Guadalajara’s public transportation system however, necessary as it is, doesn’t exactly fulfill that need.  Between the two prominent modes, the problem is also twofold:  That which can get me practically anywhere I want to go – a vine swinging jungle of bus routes – is far too sluggish.  The agonizing wait for the busses to show up, the endless meandering of routes, and the constant stopping correspond in no meaningful way with any ‘time is money’ principle.  It does provide for quite a cheap thrill, however, if you’ve got a day to waste away on a scenic safari of unending urban wilderness… take a camera along.   The other system – a light rail completed 20 years ago – is able to move me much more quickly, but has only one stretch from north to south, making a T in the middle toward the east.  Quite efficient actually, for getting me to wherever it goes… practically useless in terms of getting me anywhere close to 85% of the rest of metro area.

The Macrobus has been presented, proposed, and imposed (so far only as one route) as a cost effective method (for the city, not the users) of resolving these two deficiencies mentioned.  But the benefits have been mediocre at best.  What used to take an hour and a half to move a distance of 12 kilometers via a series of rambling bus routes now takes only a lightning quick 40 minutes…  12km.  It manages this stunning feat  1) by not meandering, and 2) by having a lane all its own for the entire span… It has to stop however, like all the rest of traffic, for every freakin’ red light along the way… 

        Inauguration Day  -  March 10, 2009

But what about location?  Doesn’t it take you to other parts that the train can’t?  Well, sort of.  It basically runs from north to south also, just like the train, but practically parallel to it within a range from 1 to 4km…  And those are the positive attributes.  The negative is that it takes a street that was designed in the 1920’s with three lanes both ways, looking ahead to that necessity for the city’s future, and leaves it now with just two lanes in 2010.  Absolute brilliance.   I sure hope I can one day get my kids into the fine school that produced the guy who came up with that plan.

Calzada Independencia, 1925…

… and in 2009, during construction of Macrobus route #1

So what, then?  It’s polemic because it isn’t perfect and swipes a lane from gas guzzling aggressors against the Earth?  Well look, if you want to start there, be my guest.. it eventually comes back to that, but the list details far more important factors.

It’s polemic because it would hardly make sense to develop a route for light rail that runs parallel to an existing route just 1 or 2 kilometers away, but as long as you have a cheaper version of it, it’s evidently a marvelous idea.

It’s polemic because currently the only Macrobus route, the one that so marvelously runs parallel to the train, from its inception was planned specifically to cater to the PanAmerican Games that will be held in Guadalajara in Sep. 2011.  It was originally decided that a “Villa PanAmericana” would be constructed next to the historic downtown area – in, over, and throughout – a park (about two square blocks in size), which itself is just as much, incidentally, a part of the city’s history.  The facility would house athletes and media, and would later be used for…. bueno, no one knew… but it was imperative to show the visiting Americas that Guadalajara was up to the task of a sleek, state of the art public transit system.  A lot of people and businesses had to be ‘persuaded’ to move out of there to make room for the construction of the ‘villa’.. some of the buildings that once housed them have since been bulldozed.  But alas… the poor planning and the budgeting and the shady contracting and the curious obstinance of the local mayor all boiled into a giant fiasco.  The mayor is no longer.  And no longer will there be any Villa PanAmericana near historic downtown.  In fact, as precious time ticks away, a new location still hasn’t been officially decided upon yet.  350 million pesos of tax money had already been invested, and it’s all vanished.

But let’s not be too pessimistic.  We did at least manage to get ourselves the mighty Macrobus, via the villa that was never to be.  And now that it’s there, it should only follow that people will get accustomed and gradually learn to accept its merit.  After all, people eventually have got to straighten up and understand that civic pride isn’t about ‘me and my car’… it’s about everyone. 

But while city planners are currently licking their chops proposing all sorts of new routes for this rolling blunder throughout the city, the residents are foaming at the mouth over it.  It’s polemic.

It’s polemic because it’s a hindrance to the very taxpayers who fund it.  Having a lane taken away from the city’s busiest streets is hardly a sign of forward thinking.  Having two of a street’s three lanes taken away is just ludicrous.  It’s an insult.  And don’t give me this crap about how irresponsible and selfish automobile drivers are.. and how necessary it is that they eventually be weaned off their dependency on them.   Technological genius will soundly decide the fate of the car, and moreover how we wean ourselves off our dependence on petroleum – without driving the global economy into the dirt (in case you think what we’re going through now is bad…).   And in any country that’s worth a shit, the citizens will decide the fate of their leaders who foolheartedly invest their peoples’ money in works that create more obstacles than clearances.  Any honest taxpayer here who also drives a vehicle takes it on the chin, paying far more than his or her fair share for just these kinds of projects: 

1)      You have vehicle property taxes.  Originally a federal tax put in place in the late 60’s to raise revenue to fund the 1968 Olympics, it never went away after observing how easy it was to get people to fork over when daily faced with getting stopped on the street and fined for not having done so.  Last year, the tax was shifted to the individual states, as we also have it in the U.S., to do with it what they wish.  Only one state, Queretaro, has done away with it.   It may well be that the U.S. and Mexico are the only two countries that pull this kind of stunt.

2)       Gasoline in Mexico is not a market commodity. Pemex is a government monopoly.  They like to jokingly refer to it as belonging to all Mexicans.  No attempt is made to conceal that the profits are meant to be used solely to fund government, be it programs for the poor (that political one hit wonder in any part of the world), schools, infrastructure…   So dependent is the government on this revenue that even when they try to keep the price reasonable for the driver, they’re actually accused of populist policies toward the rich at the expense of the poor (you know you don’t get out much into the real Mexican world when you believe that only rich people have cars).   Forgive my rambling ignorance, but someone sure as hell had better get an explanation out for me as to how rising gas prices help the beloved poor.

3)      Extremely exaggerated highway tolls, altogether throughout Jalisco, could easily raise in one month all that has been spent over the last five years for maintenance of Jalisco roads… every last one of them.  We’re talking fees of 110 pesos… only to pay another 90 some sixty miles down the road, and another for 40 pesos some thirty miles after that, multiplied by the thousands of cars that daily pass through them.   To be fair I should point out that there are ‘free’ highways.. if time and relative peace of mind are of little importance.

4)      There’s the sticker you have to get that show’s your car has been ‘professionally’ inspected and is environmentally sound.  Basically, it’s a small, coerced contribution to the Church of Manmade Global Warming.  Surely the thin air into which that money vanishes cannot be ruled out as one of the contributing factors of climate change.

So, if you’re looking to develop a bubbly, billowy, voluptuous ass, your best option would be to get a government job.. sitting on it.  Because the above are among the most foolproof revenue collecting methods that have resulted from the government’s corrupted inability to properly collect from those who easily evade paying their share or even paying at all.. not all that different than the U.S., actually… just a little worse here, is all. 

You’d think all of that would be enough.  But in 2007, the Jalisco government proposed one more idiot-proof revenue raking scheme – the infamous “placazo” (‘placa’ means license plate.. the ‘azo’ suffix refers to a heavy hit, or a blow… in this case the unpleasurable kind).   Beautiful new Jalisco license plates were going to be punched out, with the mandatory privilege of waiting tirelessly in line to obtain a pair of them set at a value of 1200 pesos.  Why?  Infrastructure… and not one word of explanation more.  And that arrogance of feeling it’s not necessary to explain is the biggest mistake a government can make with a citizenry that’s just beginning to get the hang of democratic politics.   There was little doubt, however, that the infrastructure referred to was of the PanAmerican Games sort.  But drivers had had enough, and collectively made it clear that there would be ugly political repercussions if the government went through with it.  Consequentially, in the end, it didn’t happen. 

Selfish, rich, unruly citizens with cars?  Perhaps…  But explain to me how all of the above taxes, including the birdbrained placazo had it been enforced, resulting ultimately with the grand benefit of one or two less lanes for the tax-paying driver get around on , is anything other than a slap in the face for gratitude. 

That’s why it’s polemic… and that’s why I find myself with those that are against it.     

Democracy is hard.  Remember that when asking yourself how the Chinese accomplish all that they seem to.

Above is 16 de Septiembre (Alcalde), at the corner of Priciliano Sanchez in the mid 1940’s…

Imagine this being done…

… to make this possible…

… only to propose what you see below, 60 years later.

 

categories: political philosophy, rants
tags:

Who can find me one nation on this planet with a completely uncorrupted law enforcement system?  If you’re one of the thirty or so people worldwide that find this site during any given week.. and read it, bless your heart.. don’t go scrounging.. it’s just a rhetorical question.

From abroad, Mexico is often considered to be one of the most violent and unstable nations in terms of security for it’s citizens to live their day to day lives without fear of being attacked, extorted, or robbed… or even sideswiped by some buttbreath for brains deliberately running a red light.   All of these things do happen on a daily basis here.  I’ve had my truck broken into on a couple of occasions, and almost everyone I know has been robbed or mugged at one point or another.   But as are most cases with fear of the unknown, it’s far less dangerous on the inside than it looks from the outside (there’s a delightful post regarding this at midwesternerinmexico.com).  That doesn’t mean, however, that law enforcement here is not a tragic farce… because it’s nothing more than exactly that, at best. 

The word ‘farce’ here is not meant in a Reno 911 kind of way.  It’s meant to point out that the only clout that law enforcement here possesses is the exercise of its ability to make honest people feel like they’re the biggest dummies on the playing field.  In other words, the more unscrupulous you become, the less of a threat to you the law seems to be.  Among all of the common things that contribute to instability in any country, this is what I put (mistakenly or not) at the top of Mexico’s list of factors.  Not a grounbreaking assessment by any stretch.

I’ve been here long enough to see that Mexico is nowhere near the brink… yet.  But rather than that being due to any existence of law enforcement, it’s far more the result of the grand majority of its citizens simply wanting to make it from one day to the next and pursue their endeavors with a genuine smile on their face -and more importantly, not to mention reciprocally- respecting the desires of the others to do the same.  Why is it then, that some people just can’t manage that?

 

RIGHT...  YOU  TELL EM,  HANDS...

RIGHT... YOU TELL 'EM, HANDS...

 

Why would people steal from you?

One – they want what you have.  Two – they don’t want to deal with their conscience, and thus have ridden themselves of it, a move facilitated all the more by number Three – they calculate a very low to nonexistent risk of what they consider adverse consequences for their actions (maybe if faced with the threat of those three hands above, it would all be different).

While all three of these explain the “why”, it’s the third one that’s usually the clincher.  It’s so damn easy to take from people who’ll do anything not to get hurt, or killed, except show that they’re willing to defend themselves or at least inflict dire consequences upon the perpetrator.  It’s a simple fact that’s as old as history.

Since the beginning of mankind (I’m pretty old now, so you can trust me on this), people have been suffering because others constantly twist human nature into forms that benefit only themselves, or so they estimate.  You have a house.  I want it.  I’m stronger than you.  You therefore will give it to me.  If you don’t, I’m going to take it anyway and you’re going to suffer and perhaps die.  You don’t want to die, and I don’t care what you do want.  The house is mine now.

Change the house to a watch, a laptop, a purse, a car, someone’s land, your own body… show me once in history – once – where this hasn’t been happening to people.  Is there any one of us who has never in life at least advocated it under one circumstance or another?

Our interest in being lawful, ethical and respectful only goes as far as the consequences for not being so dictate.

Forget killing for a moment.  If in your town you discovered that a shopping mall had been abandonded by all of the store owners and administrators for well over a month, including an unlocked door to get in… would you not be at least tempted?  I sure as hell would.  It’s a question of consequences, isn’t it?  Of course there’s a moral conscience to contend with.  But at he base of our human nature lies one of many disconcerting factors – the lesser the personal consequences we face for offending others (in whatever way) in route of obtaining or achieving what we want, the peskier and more annoying our conscience becomes.  It becomes an obstacle, either to get around or to destroy.  “Who cares that it’s not mine, I want it.  I deserve to have it, and if these people are too stupid or weak to safeguard their merchandise, then they deserve to lose it…”

It’s funny how those who have the strength to look their own conscience in the eye and come to terms with it are so often seen as weak by others who don’t have the balls to do the same.  And so the latter become a problem for everyone.  Until they’re somehow forced to deal with their own conscience – like mashing a dog’s face into its own excrement after it shits all over  your brand new carpet - the honest people around them will become less and less secure.  And who do you suppose will take care of that?  Thanks for nothin’, gutless, underpaid, unprincipled law enforcement.  Well… there’s always the ancient state of nature to fall back on… and friend, let me tell you, if it gets that far, violence sure as hell better be one of your options.

I asked a man the other day what he would do if he were at a bus stop, and some guy or a couple of guys with knives threatened another person only a few meters away for their wallet, or whatever.  He said he’d do nothing, and that he hoped the victim would hand it over to the perpetrators… “A wallet is not worth dying for”, he said, “I don’t care what or how much is in it.”  After the shortest of pauses, as if I were contemplating for the first time these cheap though woefully comforting words of wisdom, I replied “Ok, whatever.. fair enough… but why is it that only you and me, and hopefully the victim, understand that a wallet is not worth dying for… and the perpetrators don’t?”  His response:  “What they understand or don’t understand is not my concern.. I’ve got a family to think about.”

Well, not much arguing with that… so why I  persisted, in retrospect I really don’t know… boredom perhaps.. I said, “Ok then… but with an attitude like that let’s hope the United States doesn’t decide on a whim one of these days to help itself to another sizable chunk of Mexican territory.”

That’s what you call ‘crossing the line’, I guess.  Well hey, the positive thing is that at least he drew a line at some point.

I’m sure the conversation would have ended on a more peaceful note had I just stuck a knife to his neck and demanded his wallet.

category: rants
tags:

Everyone tells me that littering and trash strewn all about is a matter of education. If people were better educated, they wouldn’t litter. Yet, if I were to walk up to someone after throwing their empty Pollo Pepe cup on the ground and slap them, gruesomely hard, who would then be the bad guy in everyone’s eyes? Of course, some might tell me that I shouldn’t care what other people think.. to which I would kindly respond: “that too would be the litterer’s advice.”

I debated writing about this… It’s a problem older than death. But the littering problem here in Guadalajara is quite something to behold. Now I need to be very clear with you the reader here. This post is going to be a stout criticism, indeed. But it’s not against the people of Guadalajara. Mexico City has the same problem, if not worse. Nor is this a criticism leveled at Mexicans in general. The same could happen, has happened, and does happen in many U.S. cities, or in London or Moscow or Tokyo. Littering is a product of a portion of society that cares no more for itself than a tin man that drinks from a toilet. No amount of collective classroom time is going to fix it. What’s worse is that the problem flourishes when the other portion of society that does care is nonetheless too complacent, or even worse, too bashful for any number of reasons to take any proper action.

And lets just forget the monotonous moral relativism argument. We all know that somehow or another we’ve contributed to garbage blowing freely in the streets and throughout the countryside. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, eh? right? …. … No one? … well, we can’t say that we didn’t give the sinless a chance. Are you satisfied? Have we got that one out of the way?? Very well, then. The rest of us can now fire at will.

Why do we hate it so much? Stupid question.. or is it? Is it because all that trash is destroying the planet? Well.. considering that none of it ever leaves the planet, it’s safe to say the planet has done just fine so far. Dispute it with me if you wish, but you’ll regret it.

We can invoke mother earth until the greenest of jungles grow out of our butts, but what we really resent is that it’s aesthetically displeasing to us, because it’s filthy, and because it stinks so bad you could smell it from the freakin moon. There are very few better ways for one citizen to show his or her complete lack of respect for the rest. But we humans have a strange nature about us. We’re perfectly fine, for example, to breathe in the foul air of our own farts. Almost like wine tasting in fact, we take it in, contemplating it’s character… hmm.. boiled eggs, cold spoiled green beans broth, sour milk.. perhaps? And yet, we recoil in horror and disgust when the corrupted air of someone else’s flatulence touches our nostrils.

Just the same, if I throw trash out the window of my truck, I’ve done myself a favor, right? I keep my truck tidy and clean this way. However, if I happen to be a hopeless social retard (already evident given my behavior), I’ll be quite upset if moments later someone comes along and throws their trash onto, or worse, into my truck. I might even want to exact revenge on the asshole that would do such a scummy thing to me… That’s just the way socially retarded people are. Unlike the mentally challenged, the socially retarded are the way they are by choice. It’s not an affliction. It’s not a lack of education. It’s an open and joyous embrace of stupidity. What can be done?

There actually is a law against littering here. How about inforcement of it? Heeyy… I’m kidding… c’mon I’m not that dopey. It’s a curious thing, though, continuing to count on lawmakers to solve these problems when they have not a moment in recorded history of coming through for us. At any rate, with littering, even if they truly made an effort, they obviously couldn’t be omnipotent to catch any shit-for-brains walking through a park that just couldn’t hold on any longer to his empty bag of Cheetos. And we should be quite thankful, in fact, that they cannot be omnipotent. They could spare a little taxpayer change to pay someone to empty the too few public trash receptacles on a more regular basis… But honestly, it’s difficult to take any society seriously that moans it’s grievances with a corrupt government that doesn’t work for the benefit of the people, while at the same time it allows it’s citizens to feel free to throw their garbage wherever they wish.

Every society possesses a symbol that practically all of its members cherish.

I have one idea that I’ve been carrying around for awhile. It would be quite effective I think simply for the irresistible controversy it would create. In fact I’m so confident in its effectiveness that I lay sole claim to it as its creator upon the date of this post. Let’s visualize: Billboard campaign; Split down the middle, two images side by side. On the left side, a car, moving along, with one hand extended out the window, painlessly parting with garbage that it will never touch again. On the right, a nasty, flea infested dog, standing on the country’s flag (Mexico’s won an international vote recently for most beautiful flag in the world), with its hind leg in the air and effortlessly urinating on it. Below the two images, in big bold letters is written: “Pregúntale – ¿Cual es la PUTA diferencia?” …Spanish obviously, for: “Ask yourself – What’s the bloody fucking difference?”

If I were a mayor, or governor, or President of the Republic, I would most certainly push to divert funds to just this kind of propaganda. It would be more than a small delight to see the soccer moms and Ned Flanders dads pulling their hair out over it, along with whoever else, screaming that neither they nor especially their kids should ever have to be exposed to such foul imagery and language. In response, I would make one public statement: “Angry citizens, your wrath is duly noted.. yet, if all of you were to get even one tenth as enraged about the littering of your neighborhoods and surroundings as you have over a silly billboard, no such public announcement would ever materialize.” And as the outrage spreads throughout the cities, communities and countryside like a stupid morning show tragedy, at least from now on, no one will be able to throw their trash on the ground without recalling the image of that rotted dog pissing on their country’s flag.

Maybe it is about education afterall. Proper, effective education.