Monday, September 14, 2009

Cultural Barriers

After musing about some recent examples of official wrongdoing, Jorge Chabat points a finger at the society as a whole:
The problem in question could be defined in one single word: impunity. Nevertheless, that concept simply implies that the state is ineffective in applying the laws but there exists the will in the state and in the society to do so and the truth is that the problem is much more serious. The heart of this whole lamentable situation is that neither the state nor the society cares about the law. The rule of law is simply a concept foreign to our culture.

We could look for the roots of this vision of the world in the conquest of our country on the part of a feudal power. But the truth is that this contempt for the law has been cultivated with much success by Mexicans themselves. During the PRI's reign, disdain for the law was hidden behind noble causes. In that golden era of authoritarianism it was insisted that it a good negotiation was always better than applying the law.

Arrangements on the margins of the law were hailed. You have to negotiate, everyone always said. So elections were negotiated, criminal sentences, and government posts. In the end, the law was a very useful instrument for bothering political enemies --we have to apply the full weight of the law, it was said, as though that were optional-- but a barrier when it came to its own ends. And there exist various generations of Mexicans that grew up beneath this logic and that still behave based on this premise. There are even those who openly argue for negotiating with organized crime with the argument that political system should prevail over the rule of law. The problem is that in a democracy the political system can't exist outside the rule of law. It's that simple.

For decades the country has functioned with the premise that you can violate the rules and nothing ever happens. That's precisely why today everything is happening. That's why Mexico finds itself bankrupt, jobless, without investment, without water, without revenue, without a future. The issue isn't a moral reform of the political class or of Mexicans. It's the rule of law. If Mexicans don't understand that once and for all, the truth is that we can start forgetting about the illusory idea of having a country of our own. We don't deserve it.
That's perhaps a bit harsh, but it's a useful reminder of how long it takes for a culture to evolve. For what it's worth, I don't see Mexico's teenagers as particularly infected by this tolerance of impunity. 


Paul Roberts said...


Id be very interested in what evidence you have for your views about Mexican teenagers

The students I work with at a public university seem to have a high sense of does not matter if they arrive late, or not at all, or copy one another's work. One student who arrived at the end of my class asked me to mark him present for the class with the clear expectation that I would do it

Not all are like this but a significant number are.

pc said...

I teach too, and I really dont see much of that. My students are younger, so that may be part of the difference, but I generally dont see them trying to get away with a whole lot like you are describing, nor do they look for extra, unearned favors from the teacher. Maybe geography plays a role, too.

Paul Roberts said...

Do you teach in a public or private school or university?