Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Department of Mexican Epiphanies

Having recently been in Mexico City, a place where I try to gauge the extent of actual crime insecurity vs. paranoia every time I go back, I had the following epiphany:

The level of perception of crime and insecurity is directly proportional to the level of social inequality. I think this is true, not only of Mexico City, but of cities like Sao Paulo, and Caracas and the like.

Let me explain. If you are moderately wealthy in Mexico City and you think it is perfectly average to have two swimming pools in your condo, or a jacuzzi in your living room, your level of perception of how vulnerable you are to crime and insecurity is as high as the difference between your standard of living, which borders on the ostentatious, and that of the people you employ, which is almost nil. 
Basically, the rich live in fear.  This is not to say that they are simply paranoid. There is a lot of crime in Mexico City. But I think there are also subconscious guilt and fear factors that make wealthy people perceive themselves as potential victims of crime at all times. The gulf between the haves and have nots is enormous, yet they live and work in very close quarters, interacting intimately in daily life. This makes wealthy people feel particularly vulnerable to class hatred, even though I'd venture to say that most victims of crime in Mexico are not the wealthy, but those who can't afford to have cars, security guards or alarms in their homes.
A potential, long term solution for this (I advise you not to hold your breath), is to raise the standard of living and the educational opportunities of the working class, so that eventually there can be more upward mobility and hopefully, a more balanced society with less social inequality.
For Mexico is predicated on the exploitation of the working masses, and lubricated by corruption. Which is why we happen to boast the richest man in the world. Nothing to be proud of.
It seems to me that there is a steep price to pay for the levels of fabulous wealth that social inequality can buy you in places like Mexico City, Caracas or Karachi, and that is feeling that you are unprotected, you have no recourse (no one does) and that anybody at any time can violently harm you and your family. So the rich almost barricade themselves into their homes and their malls, and the poor and not so poor have violent entitlement fantasies. Which they act out sometimes.
I'd rather live in a place where the economic differences between people are less dramatic. One sleeps better at night.

1 comment:

  1. . The gulf between the haves and have nots is enormous, yet they live and work in very close quarters, interacting intimately in daily l

    Lo cierto es que esta parte de tu comentario se relaciona mas a lo latinoamericano que a gringolandia. A mi juicio el 'compadrazgo' que los funcionarios y algunos academicos gringos critican tanto es la grasa y el aceite que lubrican a la sociedad y le otorgan un sosten que tanta falta le hace a los anglosajones. Dixit. Onkel Heinz