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Showing posts from December 14, 2008

Sidewalks of Mexico City

The sidewalks of Mexico City were built to bear the tireless strides of giant statues. I long for legs of marble here. The sidewalks have been so patched and battered, been so drilled through, picked at, trampled on, and generally raddled by earthquake, that they take on an air of something dug up by archaeologists, something bearing the marks of some grand fall. Even when, as around the Park in Polanco, they are relatively new. This morning, I went in search of a memory; and as is the way with all such quests, it turned into a lugubrious fugue. I was thinking of having breakfast at the Habana, a café in the newspaper district. The first time I came to Mexico City, I was taken there by my friend Stefan. Stefan, K. and me travelled to Mexico together, first to San Allende, then by train to Mexico City. It was a notable trip. Stefan was a German American who was stuck in the Sargossa Sea of Eternal Studenthood back when that was still cheap. He´d been at U.T. for a long, long time, and w

conversation in mexico

LI had drinks with a well known Meican historian last night. After some shop talk concerning editing his upcoming book, the conversation got around to what was happening in Mexico. I asked him why Mexico seemed to be falling apart, like Colombia in the 80s. In the old system of the PRI days, he said, Mexico was divided almost medievally into fiefs, territories ruled by the caciques, the big bosses: PRI functionaries, union leaders, elites from the landholding, merchant and industrial classes. The caciques were not only the cops, but also the robbers. They enforced an order on crime, that is, if the crime were of any large scale. So, whatever illegal enterprises were set up had to pay the caciques, and had to submit – sometimes unwillingly – to the enforcement of limits. At that time, then, the drug lords had to have a certain respect. This system dissolved rapidly as the PRI lost its mandate. With the ¨democratic moment¨, there was a genuine pause. Nobody knew what the state would do t


Cioran, in his essay on tyranny in History and Utopia, quotes one of those marvelous marbleized sentences of Montesquieu: When Sylla wished to give liberty to Rome, Rome could no longer receive it, having only a feeble remnant of virtue left. And as it had always even less, instead of waking up after Caesar, Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, Nero, Domitian, it was ever more the slave; all blows were directed against the tyrant, none against the tyranny. Watching Bush dodge some shoes, to the general delight of the world, Montesquieu´s phrase seems appropriate. Although LI, being only human, would have liked, too, for the man to have been given at least a small bruise, it is still too little, and no blow against tyranny. The draining of republican feeling, the draining of the energy it takes to be democratic, can be measured by Bush´s unheckled and rather comfortable existence as a president. Johnson, by contrast, had to chose where he´d appear in America in 1968, so great was the fury against

repost of The Year of Cooling the Mark Out

This was my post of February 2, 2008. Not bad as a prediction: the year of cooling the mark out And Burn my shadow away… Erving Goffman wrote an often referenced paper in 1952 entitled On Cooling the Mark Out. To understand this election year, LI advises our readers to read it. The paper begins by describing the confidence game, which involves roping a mark, getting him to invest, financially, in some scheme or game, and clearing him out. At this point, the confidence gang has the option of simply leaving the mark behind. But… “Sometimes, however, a mark is not quite prepared to accept his loss as a gain in experience and to say and do nothing about his venture. He may feel moved to complain to the police or to chase after the operators. In the terminology of the trade, the mark may squawk, beef, or come through. From the operators' point of view, this kind of behavior is bad for business. It gives the members of the mob a bad reputation with such police as have not. yet been f