One of the greatest tools in perpetuating the myth of American exceptionalism is the deeply-held American belief that virtually all other countries on earth are filthy hell holes.
The State Department does its damnedest to keep up the bad press for other countries by issuing ludicrous “warnings” about traveling to other countries. These warning usually consist of descriptions about how country X is overrun by criminals, and that if you travel to country X, you’ll be kidnapped. And so on.
American conservatives, and especially the Paleocon dupes who (in spite of their claims to the contrary) dutifully sing the praises of the American state every chance they get, are always talking up how everything south of the border is a hell-on-earth where superstitious non-whites and other inferiors mope around in crushing poverty while wishing they were Americans.
Mexico is a common target of these ultra-nationalists, and apparently Fred Reed, my favorite ex-pat living in Mexico, finds these characterizations of Mexico to be about as idiotic as I do. In his latest column (which contains weird racial theories that I do not endorse) he notes:
Damn. The longer I live in Mexico, the more I realize that I know less about it than people who don’t. Apparently it is a far simpler country than the one I live in, being summed up by pat assertions, neat statistics, and confident descriptions often bearing little resemblance to anything I see. Curious: Almost everyone who comes down here responds, “This isn’t what I expected.” To understand Mexico, it seems important to do so from somewhere else. Things are so much clearer that way.
If all one read of Mexico is what is written by right-wing Americans one would of course think that those lousy Mexicans must have no cities, or automobiles, or commerce, or even literacy.
Indeed, I myself once foolishly forgot to read the latest right-wing screeds on Mexico in 1994 when I visited Mexico City. 1994 was a peak year for crime in Mexico. I showed up shortly after the assassination of Colosio and after the financial crisis and after the secession of Chiapas. Yet, I somehow managed to escpae with my life. I even managed to dodge the bullets while visiting Museums and walking through parks.
Mexico is no paradise of course, but as Reed notes:
I read Steve Sailer on Mexico and expect to wake up in the morning and find illiterate doctors curing people by sacrificing chickens. It ain’t so.
If Sailer ever wrote anything worth reading, I’m not aware of it, but I do know that he’s pretty representative of the apologists for American nationalism who like to tell themselves that the United States is the only place on earth where people would ever want to emigrate.
In reality, however, Europeans emigrate to Latin America by the thousands because it is a nice place to retire, there’s cheap real-estate, and because Latin Americans irritate them less than the non-Latin kind. And of course, American retirees move there by the thousands also. They must not read the papers.
Oh if only Michalle Malkin could tell all those ex-pats what Mexico is REALLY like.
Reed goes on to note that much to everyone’s surprise, it turns out that Mexico has book stores and universities, and schools where people learn calculus.
He also mentions though,that the globalized-urban, middle-income part of Mexico lives side-by-side with the poor agrarian non-globalized side of Mexico:
From my bedroom window in the morning, I can see kids riding bareback into the mountains to care for goats. They don’t go to school. This isn’t governmental policy, but it’s how things are.
In America of course, SWAT teams would descend on the homes of the parents of those goatherd children, knock out their teeth, and court-order them to send the children to government schools. It seems that Mexico’s biggest problem is that the government can’t seem to be bothered with nearly as much social engineering as the Americans demand.
Mexico’s other problem is that many Mexicans are allowed to live at subsistence level by adhering to their old Indian ways. The central problem in this case is that the Spanish government, and later the Mexican government, wasn’t nearly as good at exterminating the indigenous populations as the Americans. If only they’d just murdered all their Indians, the Mexicans wouldn’t have to tolerate all that old traditional and inefficient stuff. Thank goodness we don’t have those problems.
What Reed doesn’t note is that this idea of Mexico that Americans cling to so dearly isn’t just all a big misunderstanding. It’s an important propaganda angle for the state. If Americans couldn’t tell themselves mantra-like that everywhere else on earth is such a terrible place to live, they might start to ask themselves why they have to endure endless wars, and a bankrupt government, and 700 billion dollar bailouts.
But, it seems that nowhere else on this planet is livable, so we should just thank the government for making us so great.10:36 pm on October 27, 2008 Email Ryan McMaken