What the Mexican Revolution Can Teach Us About Social Justice 100 Years Later
EspañolThis Monday, November 20th marked the 106th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution — the beginning of the most important armed conflict in Mexico’s contemporary history, which established the socio-economic framework on which the country was re-founded.
Mexican “official” history tends to simplify the conflict down to a battle between the good and the evil. The dictator Porfirio Díaz led the country into deep misery until a group of courageous citizens took up arms and started the revolution we now read about in history books.
But the truth is that during Porfirio Diaz’s reign, though there were great levels of inequality and alarming poverty in certain sectors, it would be unfair to forget that there was also a climate of stability and economic progress.
The Revolution was, like every armed conflict in the history, a fight for power. A fierce battle between some generals and caudillos who sought to impose their rules and conditions on everyone else. In he end, it’s a story of death and betrayal.
Every general that emerged as a public figure during that time was either killed, ambushed, betrayed, poisoned or executed by those who were considered by some to be loyal friends and fellow combatants. That’s why it’s surprising so many people see the revolt as a symbol of heroism and national identity.
After the fighting, Mexico reached an adequate level of stability with the promulgation of the Constitution of 1917, which remains the country’s founding document to this day.
Perhaps the most important ideological inheritance that the revolution left us as a country is the strange obsession with “social justice.”
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From Emiliano Zapata to the current administration, the phenomenon has passed through almost every leader and representative Mexico has had in its contemporary history. All of them have focused on preaching the idea that they are fighting for the “people,” for “equality,” for the empowerment of the “oppressed” and against an oppressive oligarchy of exploitive entrepreneurs.
The political party that has adopted this discourse to perfection over the years is the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which has become an ode to populism. It aims to reach people’s hearts and pockets through heroic and sentimental revolutionary rhetoric.
With PRI in power, Mexico experienced what Mario Vargas Llosa would call “the perfect dictatorship” — a single party, supported owned by large unions and interest groups, held all the political power of the country for several decades.
Ironically, in its eagerness to overthrow a regime, the Mexican Revolution ended up creating a much more enduring and dangerous one, which did not center on a single person, but rather on the ideals and lifestyles of the entire population.
This obsession with the ambiguous concept of “social justice” has also led the country to endure the eternal discourse of the victimization of the Mexican citizen. Whether it is the world’s economic system, exploitative entrepreneurs or the United States, there is always someone else to blame for Mexicans’ poverty, ignorance and general stagnation. These issues are never rooted in the country’s government and people themselves.
An obsession with the official version of history and the rise of these revolutionary figures has caused the average Mexican to continue their wait for a new Zapata or a new Villa to come and make everything better. That’s not going to happen.
This story, while trying to sell us on the idea that the revolution was a heroic movement with values that are desirable for society, implicitly conveys another message: in order to be revolutionary, it is necessary to take what you want by force; that armed uprising, murder, betrayal or the imposition of beliefs on others is justified when things do not go the way you think is best.
But times have changed. Today we enjoy things that were unthinkable 100 years ago. Access to education, information and telecommunications have completely changed the way we conceive the world and our daily lives.
In this context, we should consider the banner of “social justice” as obsolete. History has demonstrated that it is no more than a utopia-like dream that a few use to justify their abuses on individual freedoms.
In today’s world, we cannot continue carrying the same flags that our ancestors did 100 years ago, much less after analyzing the consequences these have had in our society. We need a new generation of revolutionaries.
Nowadays, in order to be revolutionary, it is not necessary to take up arms, or to overthrow governments. But the only thing we need to do is open our minds to the constant search for truth, to try to be informed and to understand what is really happening around us, and to look for ways to move ahead on our own.
Find an activity that makes you grow as a person, dedicate yourself to do what you like, generate wealth and jobs for others. The true revolutionary acts that could change Mexico for good require that you satisfy your desires and needs through your own effort and respect the life, property and liberty of others.