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Three Questions
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:29 pm    Post subject: Three Questions Reply with quote

I ask these questions in a spirit of reasoned discussion.

1) Given all its numerous advantages, Mexico is a significantly underachieving nation. Why do you think this is so?

Among those advantages, I would include:

Large land area (world's 14th largest nation)
Large population (world's 11th most populous nation)
Significant natural resources, including oil
Very high biodiversity
Direct access to both Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean worlds, with long coastlines
Proximity to U.S.
Year-round growing season
200 years as independent country
Linguistic compatibility with much of the Americas

2) Do you feel that Mexicans are complacent about corruption? Many of my students tell me that reform is an illusion, that Mexico has always BEEN corrupt, and Mexico will always BE corrupt. The attitude seems quite fatalistic, and is sometimes tinged with Catholicism (the belief that the way things are is God's will). One student told me disgustedly that some of his classmates talk openly, not about reforming corruption, but about looking forward to getting their piece of it, and that the only thing for people like him to do is to get out of the country, which is what he plans. What is your take on this?

3) I notice at my institution that people are VERY reluctant to speak up about issues. Rocking the boat is considered not only inadvisable, but suicidal. Is this actually a long-standing "cultural" trait, or is it recent learned behavior premised on the quite accurate idea that if you speak out on the wrong issues in Mexico today, you could get yourself and your family killed?
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Phil_K



Joined: 25 Jan 2007
Posts: 1815
Location: A World of my Own

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On that happy day that I ship out of Mexico, I'd like to write a book on this subject, (it's almost written in my head) but meanwhile I'm reluctant to put forward my theories here, for the reason you state above, and for fear of going against forum policy.
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notamiss



Joined: 20 Jun 2007
Posts: 848
Location: El 5o pino del DF

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:29 pm    Post subject: Re: Three Questions Reply with quote

Fitzgerald wrote:
I ask these questions in a spirit of reasoned discussion.
No answers but a few comments.

1) Given all its numerous advantages, Mexico is a significantly underachieving nation. Why do you think this is so?

Among those advantages, I would include:

Large land area (world's 14th largest nation)
Large population (world's 11th most populous nation)
Significant natural resources, including oil
Very high biodiversity
Direct access to both Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean worlds, with long coastlines
Proximity to U.S.
Year-round growing season Actually not: only the rainy season is a natural growing season. Agriculture during the dry season requires intervention in the form of irrigation. Those of us from colder climates are used to the idea that temperature limits the growing season, but here it is water that does so.
This only came to my consciousness when I answered questions about our growing season, A Mexican: “When is the agricultural season in your country?” Me: “Summer.” Mexican: “Oh, right, because it doesn’t rain in winter.” and I realized that the idea of a growing season limited by temperature was outside their experience, just as the idea of a growing season limited by water availability was outside mine.

200 years as independent country
Linguistic compatibility with much of the Americas

Disadvantages: NAFTA; see, for example, http://mexfiles.net/2013/11/24/a-path-of-destruction/. OK, this is relatively recent, but it has been a significant force in the deterioration in last two decades.

2) Do you feel that Mexicans are complacent about corruption? Many of my students tell me that reform is an illusion, that Mexico has always BEEN corrupt, and Mexico will always BE corrupt. The attitude seems quite fatalistic, and is sometimes tinged with Catholicism (the belief that the way things are is God's will). One student told me disgustedly that some of his classmates talk openly, not about reforming corruption, but about looking forward to getting their piece of it, and that the only thing for people like him to do is to get out of the country, which is what he plans. What is your take on this?
Resigned and defeatist, (except for the opportunists), not complacent.

3) I notice at my institution that people are VERY reluctant to speak up about issues. Rocking the boat is considered not only inadvisable, but suicidal. Is this actually a long-standing "cultural" trait, or is it recent learned behavior premised on the quite accurate idea that if you speak out on the wrong issues in Mexico today, you could get yourself and your family killed?
Long-standing cultural trait. As a starting point (greatly simplifying the argument), caciquism and collectivism as cultural norms (in contrast to individualism).
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil_K wrote:
On that happy day that I ship out of Mexico, I'd like to write a book on this subject, (it's almost written in my head) but meanwhile I'm reluctant to put forward my theories here, for the reason you state above, and for fear of going against forum policy.

I don't hate Mexico at all; in fact, I plan to stay here indefinitely, through my remaining working years and then for retirement. I like the climate, and parts of the lifestyle. But there are surely things that I want to understand better, even if I never quite make my peace with them.

Certainly not wishing to run afoul of the mods, which is why I specified reasoned discussion and posed my points as questions. I am more than open to instruction and correction. The topics are simply interesting to me, and seem worthy of airing.

There is, of course, the occasional critique of this kind from within the culture itself - Jorge G. Castaneda's recent book Manana Forever? Mexico and the Mexicans is an example.

Castaneda worries openly about the underachievement issue. When I teach my students in World History, I recite the long list of Mexico's advantages that I gave, but I haven't been sure how to address the question of why, then, Mexico hasn't taken its place among the formidable nations of the world. I put forward Brazil as an example of a similarly blessed country that has in notable ways made great strides in recent decades. It's my students, sadly, who are skeptical of that happening here.


Last edited by Fitzgerald on Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:26 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Three Questions Reply with quote

notamiss wrote:
Fitzgerald wrote:
I ask these questions in a spirit of reasoned discussion.
No answers but a few comments.

1) Given all its numerous advantages, Mexico is a significantly underachieving nation. Why do you think this is so?

Among those advantages, I would include:

Large land area (world's 14th largest nation)
Large population (world's 11th most populous nation)
Significant natural resources, including oil
Very high biodiversity
Direct access to both Pacific and Atlantic/Caribbean worlds, with long coastlines
Proximity to U.S.
Year-round growing season Actually not: only the rainy season is a natural growing season. Agriculture during the dry season requires intervention in the form of irrigation. Those of us from colder climates are used to the idea that temperature limits the growing season, but here it is water that does so.
This only came to my consciousness when I answered questions about our growing season, A Mexican: “When is the agricultural season in your country?” Me: “Summer.” Mexican: “Oh, right, because it doesn’t rain in winter.” and I realized that the idea of a growing season limited by temperature was outside their experience, just as the idea of a growing season limited by water availability was outside mine.

200 years as independent country
Linguistic compatibility with much of the Americas

Disadvantages: NAFTA; see, for example, http://mexfiles.net/2013/11/24/a-path-of-destruction/. OK, this is relatively recent, but it has been a significant force in the deterioration in last two decades.

2) Do you feel that Mexicans are complacent about corruption? Many of my students tell me that reform is an illusion, that Mexico has always BEEN corrupt, and Mexico will always BE corrupt. The attitude seems quite fatalistic, and is sometimes tinged with Catholicism (the belief that the way things are is God's will). One student told me disgustedly that some of his classmates talk openly, not about reforming corruption, but about looking forward to getting their piece of it, and that the only thing for people like him to do is to get out of the country, which is what he plans. What is your take on this?
Resigned and defeatist, (except for the opportunists), not complacent.

3) I notice at my institution that people are VERY reluctant to speak up about issues. Rocking the boat is considered not only inadvisable, but suicidal. Is this actually a long-standing "cultural" trait, or is it recent learned behavior premised on the quite accurate idea that if you speak out on the wrong issues in Mexico today, you could get yourself and your family killed?
Long-standing cultural trait. As a starting point (greatly simplifying the argument), caciquism and collectivism as cultural norms (in contrast to individualism).

That's a good point about the growing season. although in my area (West Central), corn and tomatoes are big winter crops.

Collectivist thinking, which I also experienced in Korea, is easy to comprehend intellectually, easy to teach as a historic theme, but wicked difficult for many Americans to relate to emotionally. Although I don't particularly like histrionics and strident expressivity, I can relate to those much more easily than I can to a more repressed cultural style. The stereotype of cultures originally based in the Mediterranean is that they are expressive in that way, so I was surprised to discover that Mexico as I experience it is much more like Korea than I expected. In other words, super careful. I don't see people get visibly upset (of course, maybe I'm not looking in the right places).
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notamiss



Joined: 20 Jun 2007
Posts: 848
Location: El 5o pino del DF

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some people posit that a great deal of Mexican culture (such as codes of behavior) is more Oriental than Western, and I think this idea has some truth – you observed this yourself in the similarity to Korea.

Re growing season, I come from a land where everything is frozen solid and covered with snow for 5 months, so the idea of outdoor winter crops is completely alien.
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BadBeagleBad



Joined: 23 Aug 2010
Posts: 783
Location: Juan Aldama, Zacatecas, Mexico

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil_K wrote:
On that happy day that I ship out of Mexico, I'd like to write a book on this subject, (it's almost written in my head) but meanwhile I'm reluctant to put forward my theories here, for the reason you state above, and for fear of going against forum policy.


Last I checked there are plenty of flights to the UK. I can't imagine living in a place that you hate as much and understand as little as you do Mexico.
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BadBeagleBad



Joined: 23 Aug 2010
Posts: 783
Location: Juan Aldama, Zacatecas, Mexico

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Three Questions Reply with quote

I think corruption is a part of it. But I also think it is far more common in cities than it is in small towns. I lived in Mexico City for many years, as well as Guadalajara, and now live in a very small town, and I see people here are much more honest, much less corruptable, both in small things and big things. But I also think that people feel powerless to change things.

I think education plays a huge part as well. Most public schools are mediocre at best and spaces even in Prepa in many places are limited, even those who qualify don't always get in. One of my nephews is sitting out a year because he didn't get a spot and his mother is a teacher in the same school! Ditto at the university level, but even more so. That is if there even IS a prepa. Even then, salaries for most professionals are fairly low, and unless you have a family house, land, etc., it is fairly difficult to become very affluent in a small town. The population where I live is very unbalanced, with far more women between 20 and, say, 40 than men, due to men either being in the US working, or in Mexico City or someplace else where they can maintain their families and/or even save a little money.

I think with the current government corruption will increase, if anything. I also agree that it might not always be safe to be politically active. We recently had municpal elections here, and I heard stories of candidates being threatened in nearby towns. When I lived in Mexico City I was very politically active and never felt threatened, but the PRD also rules there. I have seen the PRD erode in the last few years, and have grown disillusioned with the aliances they have made in my area with the PAN. At this point I don't feel there even IS an opposing party, unless Lopez Obrador can get Morena up and running, or the PT grows agallas. It is really quite depressing to think about, but where I live now it really doesn't effect my day to day life, which I know kind of sounds like a cop out, and maybe it is. I think a lot of people are just too busy trying to survive to think about change, political or otherwise.
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Fitzgerald



Joined: 10 Aug 2010
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Three Questions Reply with quote

BadBeagleBad wrote:
I think corruption is a part of it. But I also think it is far more common in cities than it is in small towns. I lived in Mexico City for many years, as well as Guadalajara, and now live in a very small town, and I see people here are much more honest, much less corruptable, both in small things and big things. But I also think that people feel powerless to change things.

I think education plays a huge part as well. Most public schools are mediocre at best and spaces even in Prepa in many places are limited, even those who qualify don't always get in. One of my nephews is sitting out a year because he didn't get a spot and his mother is a teacher in the same school! Ditto at the university level, but even more so. That is if there even IS a prepa. Even then, salaries for most professionals are fairly low, and unless you have a family house, land, etc., it is fairly difficult to become very affluent in a small town. The population where I live is very unbalanced, with far more women between 20 and, say, 40 than men, due to men either being in the US working, or in Mexico City or someplace else where they can maintain their families and/or even save a little money.

I think with the current government corruption will increase, if anything. I also agree that it might not always be safe to be politically active. We recently had municpal elections here, and I heard stories of candidates being threatened in nearby towns. When I lived in Mexico City I was very politically active and never felt threatened, but the PRD also rules there. I have seen the PRD erode in the last few years, and have grown disillusioned with the aliances they have made in my area with the PAN. At this point I don't feel there even IS an opposing party, unless Lopez Obrador can get Morena up and running, or the PT grows agallas. It is really quite depressing to think about, but where I live now it really doesn't effect my day to day life, which I know kind of sounds like a cop out, and maybe it is. I think a lot of people are just too busy trying to survive to think about change, political or otherwise.

I would like to give hope to my students, so I play the cockeyed optimistic American. "The future is up to you, you can make things happen, etc." And you know, they can, they are starting with every advantage in life. But they think I am being unrealistic. That in turn makes me sad.
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MotherF



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
Posts: 1082
Location: 1748'N 9746'W

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I want to think about this a little bit more before I make a full contribution,

but one thing that hasn't been mentioned is that Mexico is a highly centralized country. This makes it very hard to get things done in an efficient manner if you are not in Mexico City. I'm leaving next week to take my three children to the US for a month and it's been a big hassle trying to get all the documents they and I will need from my small Oaxacan town.
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Phil_K



Joined: 25 Jan 2007
Posts: 1815
Location: A World of my Own

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BadBeagleBad wrote:
Phil_K wrote:
On that happy day that I ship out of Mexico, I'd like to write a book on this subject, (it's almost written in my head) but meanwhile I'm reluctant to put forward my theories here, for the reason you state above, and for fear of going against forum policy.


Last I checked there are plenty of flights to the UK. I can't imagine living in a place that you hate as much and understand as little as you do Mexico.


That would be to misunderstand my reason for being here, and it is not a good idea to judge people without knowing the full facts. I really don't understand this vendatta you have against me on both a personal and professional level. Confused
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BadBeagleBad



Joined: 23 Aug 2010
Posts: 783
Location: Juan Aldama, Zacatecas, Mexico

PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil_K wrote:
BadBeagleBad wrote:
Phil_K wrote:
On that happy day that I ship out of Mexico, I'd like to write a book on this subject, (it's almost written in my head) but meanwhile I'm reluctant to put forward my theories here, for the reason you state above, and for fear of going against forum policy.


Last I checked there are plenty of flights to the UK. I can't imagine living in a place that you hate as much and understand as little as you do Mexico.


That would be to misunderstand my reason for being here, and it is not a good idea to judge people without knowing the full facts. I really don't understand this vendatta you have against me on both a personal and professional level. Confused


What are you talking about?? I have no vendetta, but you never have a single good thing to say about Mexico, you always have complaints, make broad statements that are often inaccurate and have little understanding of the life that the majority of Mexicans live. I got all this from YOUR posts, I didn't make it up. And as for a professional vendetta, I have no control whatsoever over your professional life, how that goes is entirely up to you, I fail to see what I have to do with it.
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Mr. Kalgukshi
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Joined: 18 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Avoiding the personal asides and getting back on topic would be a very good idea IMHO.
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El Jefe



Joined: 06 Sep 2011
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...similarity to Korea.


Hm, I couldn't find the two places more different. People seem generally friendly and laid back here, and aren't heaving themselves off of bridges en masse due to social pressure or because they were simply embarrassed by something. Interacting with strangers, other worldly different to me. I have joked with people that approaching strangers here keeps interrupting my plans since it often leads to long conversations and sometimes with me ending up in their homes; in Korea, you'll more likely just freak them out by approaching them in public.

Maybe I don't know enough and don't want to sidetrack this discussion, but Koreans act like robots most of the time and it seems like a bizarre comparison to me. I almost had tears come to my eyes the other week strolling past some street band that had just started up, while a bunch of people broke out dancing, because it seemed like it had been so long since I'd witnessed that kind of spontaneous, life affirming energy. Korea is extremely repressed socially, and I just don't get that feeling here, at least in DF; but I never spent much time outside of seoul, either. Interesting topic, though.
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MotherF



Joined: 07 Jun 2010
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Location: 1748'N 9746'W

PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2013 11:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Three Questions Reply with quote

1) Given all its numerous advantages, Mexico is a significantly underachieving nation. Why do you think this is so?
Because of questions 2 and 3---which must be what you think, or why else would those be questions two and three?

2) Do you feel that Mexicans are complacent about corruption?
Yes. But I think Americans are too. Corruption in the US is masked as capitalism. There is wide spread corporate and political corruption in the US. Almost every American is complacent about that.
In Mexico corruption is more widespread into every aspect of life. While it is easy for Americans to be complacent about political corruption because they are not actively involved in it--only passively. In Mexico, Chingas or te chingan. in almost every aspect of life. And unfortunately it has created a class that accepts that they are going to be fucked over. And the culture--part of that culture being Mexico's brand of Catholicism--has made those people almost think they deserve to be fucked over and that it's their lot in life to endure it.

3) I notice at my institution that people are VERY reluctant to speak up about issues. Rocking the boat is considered not only inadvisable, but suicidal. Is this actually a long-standing "cultural" trait, or is it recent learned behavior premised on the quite accurate idea that if you speak out on the wrong issues in Mexico today, you could get yourself and your family killed?
Both.
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