Archive for November, 2006

Going way down, Mexico way?

November 30, 2006

Tomorrow, December 1, Mexico gets a new president in Felipe Calderón. This is not good news for those of us who are encouraged by the rebel Zapatistas’ progress in claiming a place on Earth, which for them means southeast Mexico.

Theirs is a coherent political response to Wild West global capitalism, one that has inspired protestors around the world to seek out more than is on offer from our patchily democratic governments. It holds lessons and hope for progress in easing human rights abuses, poverty and environmental desecration.

It is one thing to be disappointed from the comfort of western Europe, the Zapatistas and many other Mexicans speaking out against established power risk lethal violence and repression.

Al Giordano, the publisher of the often excellent narco news, writes of a coup d’etat going on in the country. He contrasts the political pantomime engulfing those in power, “left” and “right” alike, with the Zapatistas’ efforts to build good governance from the grassroots. Don’t expect to read, see or hear that sort of analysis on your mainstream news source.

Europeans are lucky to be so wealthy and relatively safe from state-sanctioned disappearance and abuse, though there are innocent Muslims and their families who would disagree with that. Yes, yes and the odd guilty one. Yet the issue of government unaccountablility is familiar enough. If you doubt it, take the time to read the UK Power Inquiry report, published this year after extensive research and chaired by Helena Kennedy QC. It shows clearly the extent of popular disengagement and unhappiness with our political classes and makes a first stab at starting to sort out the mess.

If only Calderón could find the time to read it.

Oops, I did it again

November 30, 2006

Weeks without visiting the Guardian’s excellent comment is free pages and suddenly, one little mouse click into a leader article on BAE naughtiness, alleged of course, I’m stuck back there like some dog at the butcher’s shop door (though I suppose that sort of lame Olde Worlde reference doesn’t work in 2006, the dog would be skulking outside Insainsbury’s or BadAssda, but I digress).

Somehow my post, signed-in as hotairhead, started turning all evangelical at the end. I told one of the challenging posters to think about where his life was headed (I assumed he was a man, your average poster there is), something I can only assume comes from the 10 days I recently spent on a silent meditation course.

I went there, there being near Hereford in western England, for personal and professional reasons. Personal because meditation gives me some peace and calm to think and professional because the moral underpinning of the type of meditation taught there, called Vipassana, lends itself to what I think journalism needs. I would recommend it to friends and enemies alike.

As for NoSurrenderMonkey, who was advocating basically anything goes in defence of the realm against the enemies of Britain, I’m not sure he was really listening.

Economist going loco down in Aca.. well Mexico really

November 20, 2006

The Economist argues in its November 18th edition that the cure for incoming Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s weak mandate is boldness. It goes on to argue that that would entail a mix of the magazine’s usual market-friendly shopping list of tax reform, allowing private investment in energy, spending more on roads and other infrastructure and beefing up competition policy. It wrote loads of other stuff that got my back up so I put my laptop where my mouth is and wrote them this:

Sir
I hate to think how Felipe Calderón might interpret your call for boldness (Time for the real presidency to stand up, November 18th). What Mexican authorities have done so far to striking Oaxaca teachers and their wider support base has already been pretty robust. Several people have been murdered and dozens more are missing, possibly also killed, with plain-clothes police and municipal security officials chief among the suspects. Authorities’ actions against illegal flower sellers in San Salvador Atenco in May, which included a couple of demonstrators killed and the alleged rape of scores of detainees, were barely less muscled. Your description of Oaxaca activists as including “radical groups on the fringes of the law” would seem more aptly applied to law enforcers. Calderón’s chances of putting the sort of lid on things The Economist and friends might like are slim, something you inadvertently touch on when you mention the North American Free-Trade Agreement’s debut in January 1994. That was the date Mexico’s indigenous rebel Zapatistas shot to public attention with their call for grass-roots democracy and civil society rule. They’re still going strong and their message and methods are evident in political ripples running all the way to Tierra del Fuego. It is with their agenda, not Calderón’s or his defeated opponent’s, that Mexico might find its peace.

Yours etc.

Who knows what good it will do? There’s so little space in their letters column that even if they do carry it, it will be edited to their taste.

The magazine is a complicated beast, advocating free trade and business as our saviour above all other doctrines yet at the same time writing sympathetically about the Dalai Lama. My verdict though is that they do more harm than good, generally ignoring the inconvenient realities of market-based economics when it comes to environmental destruction, inequality and proper democracy. Good ads though.