Monday, April 24, 2006

public rumblings

One of the things I am preparing for the next few days is a discussion, in Spanish, of the differences between "my country" and Mexico. There is something wildly tragic in any discussion of "brothers who grow up with their backs to each other." But one part of that discussion might be useful here.

One of the reasons that "the public" or "a public" is so much more prominent in Mexico is that it serves as a safety mechanism. People know how they are expected to act at times of un-certainty, and rely on protocol to fulfill the space where authority is often un-trustworthy. This has serious drawbacks. It strengthens the problematic and already rigid social and class structure that Mexico has inherited from its history. People are much more able to throw weight around for petty and un-just reasons. But - importantly - people are NOT reliant on external authority. As I wrote earlier, they understand very well that the government was responsible for murdering dozens if not hundreds of citizens. They will more likely call their neighbors than the police. They understand that media is not to be trusted for truth. News for just about anything is met with palpable cynicism, healthy and strong. Citizens in the US would do well to understand once and for all that the age of the benevolant news corporation is very much a thing of (mythical) history. It is well known here that major media openly collaborate with power, no payments or other incentive necessary.

The public here results in opposition to concentrated power. There are loads of problems with that. But for what we've been talking about lately, there is something to be said for an expanded, electronic public. I've never been to a restaurant in the US where members of the exiting party from the table next to mine each pause to say good night as they do here. But I already see more decency and class from artists who meet and collaborate here than I do from those who are "legitimized" by Manhattan or any of the myriad 19th century style institutions that litter the educational landscape. Likewise, whatever it is still creating art tastes in Manhattan has clearly outlived whatever usefulness it once had.

Good art, I still believe is obvious, and not created in secret, by academies sanctioned by government, nor by those sanctioned by bullying pretense.
em dash has a great diary over at Daily KOS on Toqueville and class warfare.

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