Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Mexicans have an acute individualism and stubborn rejection of any type of collective action. So says Jorge G. Castañeda, one of Mexico's leading social and political reformers, in Mañana Forever?
That individualist streak -- along with a discomfort with confrontation and a suspicion of foreigners -- is acting as a roadblock to Mexico's rebirth as an open, competitive society and economy. Or so says Jorge.
To my Lockean ears, Castañeda's use of the word "individualist" strikes me as odd. Until he elaborates. "Mexicans, as they came into existence as a collective entity and as a nation, sought individual, family, community, or local solutions to collective, political, or national dilemmas."
Essentially, he is saying that Mexicans tend to serve personal and family interests over group interests -- and that attitude handicaps national interests. He cites, as evidence, among other things, the relative absence of civil associations in Mexico.
I read his book over two years ago. And I am still not certain whether I agree with the first point. I thought of it again on my Monday evening drive to La Manzanilla for dinner.
As you know, Powers, the little town where I started my journey, nestles in the southern Oregon coast range. That means plenty of mountain roads. With their complementary landslides.
So, I was not too surprised when I rounded a blind cover and found this group of people in the middle of the road. Along with a good portion of the abutting hillside.
And this was not a mere landslide. It was a boulder slide -- that had just missed crushing a black jeep.
Bus passengers and car drivers jumped out and started clearing the road. More accurately, they were clearing just enough of the road to allow vehicles to squeeze between the boulders. Without major earth-moving equipment, the boulders would continue to demonstrate Newton's first law of motion.
As I joined in tossing rocks off the road (and once tossing myself into a ditch), I chuckled thinking how Castañeda would view this exercise in individualism. People confronted with a problem and joining together to solve it.
Of course, that community mindedness lasted only until the gap was opened. The drivers on my side of the slide immediately pushed their way en masse through the hole before the other side could start their engines. And there were no turns offered.
Reverting to driving stereotypes, our NASCAR line of cars passed one another on blind turns and cut off each other. The derisive laughter I heard seemed to belong to someone known as a social and political reformer.
But, because this is Mexico, I had a great dinner (a Mexican-inspired gyro followed by lemon mousse) -- and topped it off with a stunning sunset.
And as a cherry on my social sundae, I arrived at my gate to catch these three children taking turns cutting public street donuts in this clutch-challenged go-kart. Well, the boy and older girl were. The younger girl was merely screaming in delight.
All three were thoroughly enjoying putting their lives on the line. While their parents and grandmother looked on smiling approvingly.
Individuals laughing at death as a passenger. My kind of neighbors. Even Castañeda would approve.