Lately, some gringos and Europeans have asked me “Why are Mexicans always grumbling against the Mexican government? Why isn’t anyone happy with anything it does!?” Well folks, the answer is simple: we Mexicans live in an annoying realm in which we always put in our best effort but somehow end up with a shitty life, and always wondering how we got there and how can we get out. Let me explain.
Imagine that you live in a remote rural area with practically nothing else than a day-to-day income that allows you to survive with a minimal amount of commodities. Suppose also that you are not happy with your life because a series of personal wrong decisions led you to your awful current situation, and you always are thinking “My life would’ve been better if I had only ____” and “Everything would’ve been different if I had ____.”
The self-image of any average Mexican
That’s the day-to-day life for 99.9 percent of Mexicans. The 0.1 which are not living in that scenario are either politicians or super rich people that enjoy poking the rest of the population. But let me explain why virtually all Mexicans share the same “life model” regardless of their education, income, race, or political ideology. If you have read Octavio Paz’s “Labyrinth of Solitude” you might already know that we Mexicans think and act alike.
1. We all live in remote “rural” areas
It does not matter that you live in the wealthiest neighborhood of Mexico City or in the poorest municipality of Oaxaca: whatever you need is outside your area and you have to travel somewhere else to get it. As a fact, Mexican territory is always isolated from what its population needs. You will never hear a Mexican saying “I have everything that I need in my hometown.”
The rich want expensive clothing and jewelry that is not available in any of those expensive stores of Presidente Masarik, and thus they have to travel to the U.S. or Europe to fulfill their needs. Also, regarding services the rich will praise the “first world” and its specialized doctors, super-fast internet connection, impeccable costumer service, etc., and will complain rightly that they will never be able to get that in their city.
“I wish there were Broadway-style night clubs in Mexico City. I hate living in this shithole”
The middle class and the poor usually have to travel for hours to get to the clinic where the right specialist can treat the patient, and they need to go to other cities to acquire what they lack in their town: food, organic fruits, meat, furniture, clean air, electrical appliances, HD televisions, etc. The only things that you can find anywhere–and I mean ANYWHERE–is Coca Cola, Sabritas and Bimbo junk food, and illegal drugs.
Well, you can also find pirate movies anywhere–3 for $5 dolars.
2. We all live in a day-to-day income that allows us a minimal amount of commodities
If you talk to a Mexican about money, invariably s/he will tell you that s/he always has “money problems.” This is due to three separate but interrelated phenomena.
First, there is no monetary discipline among Mexicans. We spend a lot of money in things that we don’t need and that are not investments but plain expenses, such as religious holidays, dresses for “quinceañeras,” weddings, big screen TVs, video games, “curious” ringtones, etc. We also spend more money than we have and we usually have unpayable debts with banks, family, friends, compadres and organized crime rings.
“It was the most expensive wedding ever, but my little doggies really enjoyed it. It was worth it”
Second, even spending a lot of money (more than we earn), we can only get a minimal amount of commodities. There is an infinity of things that we need/desire and cannot acquire simply because there is no limit to what we want: we want it ALL. We Mexicans can’t differentiate among essential and non-essential goods and services. If we could, we would buy the whole universe, including all the small shit that one can find being sold in the Metro.
Finally, there is a Spanish saying that goes “Cada que ve burro se le antoja viaje” (S/he craves a “free” ride every time she sees a donkey passing by). Simply put, we are always looking for somebody who can “offer” a helping hand. In this case a “compadre” who can lend us money. If someone inadvertently mentions s/he has enough money and is saving a part of it, that person will be a sure target for all the rest of us. That’s why it’s always better to say that money is not enough. And since you have to say that to anyone, why not doing it for real and be financially irresponsible? Eventually we all do that.
“Do you want me to lend you money? Are you nuts? I spent all my money in this Armani suit”
3. We all regret our wrong decisions
Spending money irresponsibly always has bad consequences: guilt and shame. “Did I really need that “sombrero” with diamonds and gold thread?” “Was it really necessary to have 800 guests in my birthday?” After wrongly spending the money, there is an “opportunity-cost analysis” that shows that it was simply not a good move. And this is an essential part of the Mexican culture: doing things first and then thinking if we should have done that in the first place. There are phrases that exemplify this, such as Porfirio Diaz’s order “Mátalos en caliente” (Kill them at once), meaning that investigations should come after the executions… if time allows for it.
“Having unlimited Margaritas in our Monday meeting was the worst idea ever”
This eagerness is also present in other subjects, such as love and sex. There are innumerable stories about mistakes that have defined people’s lives because they shot before thinking: unwanted babies, stolen brides, love triangles, and dramatic stories—worthy of Mexican soap operas—that are common all around Mexico, regardless of income, education or political ideology.
What is curious about the Mexicans is that we can perfectly identify other’s bad decisions before they do them but we just can’t seem to do the same for ourselves. This amazing capacity goes beyond that phrase “The pot calling the kettle black.” Any Mexican could write books and books about other’s mistakes, based on factual evidence and a very well thought reasoning. We are not only experts about gossiping and judging others but, as it’s indeed our whole life and profession, we can predict with a certainty of 99% any personal disgrace months before it happens.
“After a 400-hours analysis, I’m certain that my brother’s eager decision to marry our cousin is a very bad idea”
But, for some reason, we just cannot apply that same forecast framework to our own life, and we end up regretting almost everything we do during the day… after we’ve done it already.
4. We are always thinking about hypothetical scenarios
As I mentioned above, there is a 0.1 percent of Mexicans that happen to live outside that shitty “Mexican way of doing things” and which serve as a comparison point for the rest of the population. This small group highlights our bad decisions and demonstrates that there was a right way of doing things: “If we had used a condom, we would not be 16-year-old parents,” “If I had invested that money in something productive instead of throwing a massive party, I’d be rich by now.”
“My life would have been better if I had bought the white sombrero“
Successful stories of common people are torture for all Mexicans. If you start saying a story of a person that became rich by selling pens outside a primary school, the Mexican will always think “If I had had that idea, I’d rich by now.” (Note: becoming rich by selling pens outside a school is truly impossible. I’ve tried that).
So, as we regular Mexicans cannot have all what we want and we see others having perfect lives, we always wonder “What went wrong with me?” Using our special regret mechanism–Mexican trademark–we trace back all our ancestors’ mistakes up to Adam and Eve, noting that in 1407 my great-great-great-grandfather did not become friends with Sir Guillermo Estevez, which great-great-great-grandson is now a famous and rich superstar. Invariably, I can only think: “If they had been friends back in the 1400’s, I’d be rich now. Damn…”
“If I had discovered this painting…”
Which bring us to our initial idea that we have to blame someone for our frustration… and the “government” is the ideal scapegoat
In summary, Mexicans want everything in the universe, and cannot get it because (a) it’s not available in their hometown, (b) they never have enough money to get it, (c) they know that their wrong decisions are the cause of their disgrace, and (d) that in a parallel reality in which different choices were made, they do have everything they desire—as evidenced by that annoying 0.1% of the population.
What do these four points have in common? There is someone to blame. And it’s other than oneself.
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. It must be the government’s fault. It IS the government’s fault”
The “government” is the one that keeps the stuff we need out of our hometown. “The Health Department is the one to blame for me not having a renal specialist in my local clinic.” “This administration won’t allow the importation of that super exclusive silk that I want.” “The lack of public infrastructure is the reason why we don’t have luxury golf courts in here.”
Also, the “government” is the one making the wrong policies that won’t allow us Mexicans to make those millions of pesos we deserve for doing our job. For instance, it’s the government’s fault that a garbage man in Luxembourg has a higher salary than a Mexican senior professor in a public university. It does not matter that the situation is exactly the same in all Latin America and several other regions; the Mexican government is the only one to blame.
And as we know that we Mexicans are incapable of fiscal discipline and “thinking before shooting”, we assume that the Mexican government always does the same and that’s the reason of the country’s failures.
“This poor dog is the government’s fault. It sould have paid for the sterilization of his mother years before. I have no money to pay for that. I spent to much money on her Christian Dior collar”
And in reality, we all know that the country is not failing. All the “crisis” and “deficits” are smokescreens for the government not to lend the excess money to the population and to cut the subsidies to the things we love, like gasoline, cars, alcohol and cigarettes. Everything is a lie, and all that money the government receives from our taxes not only keeps us from fulfilling our dreams, but is being stolen by that 0.1% that we all Mexicans hate so much.
“We all know it’s you, 0.1%. And we hate you for that”
So yeah, the government is the cause of all evils. If the government had done things differently during the 15th century, we would be better off. If the government had invested more on education and health campaigns, my 16-year-old girlfriend would not be pregnant. Had the government not intervened during WWII, gasoline would be cheaper now. It’s the government’s fault that I have a $22,000 debt and that there are no subsidies to ease my payments. Had the government constructed a better hospital of renal specialties in the 1670s in Paracuaro, Michoacan, my grandpa would not have died at 78 of an infection not detected during his youth.
Mexicans’ grumpiness against our government is, above all, a way of exculpate ourselves and our loved ones of the mistakes made in the past, present and future. By blaming the government of all evils, we manage to be as friendly and familiar as we are internationally recognized. We are warm and welcoming with everybody because we know that we all have a common enemy whose only mission is to ruin our greatest dreams, keep us dissatisfied and in debt, and isolated from the best features of the universe. That foe is the government, independently of its political ideology or any other consideration. We just hate it with “odio jarocho” (the worst kind of all hatred).
Protesting against anything for the Mexican government to solve it: our national sport
(Thanks to La Carmela for her comments and several corrections)