Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Campesino, The Immigrant, and the Emperor: Riddles of Fairness within the Realms of International Economy

Case Number 1: December 31, 1994, the day that Mexico reached out to her blankita sisters and signed the NAFTA free trade agreement in hopes to catapult the third North American country into the first world. Mexico wanted a higher GDP, but to do so, the government had to hold back on its plans in Chiapas to redistribute land for indigenous people. The Eido model was abandoned so that wealthy rancheros could provide The US and Canada with agricultural goods while the Mayan people were pulled out of their ancestral lands and forced to leave. According to the IMF, post NAFTA, the Mexican economy grew by 3.6% and kept growing at a steady but promising rate. It may have helped Mexico, but what about the famers in Chenalo, Oventic, Chamula, all of these indigenous municipalities now inhabited by wealthy rancheros? Was this fair?

Case Number 2: My father, one of five children, grew up in the small village of Nangali. His family was so poor that he had to steal rice sacks from the local rice factory so that he had a pair of shorts for school. He walked three miles to school from home and back every day because it was all he had. He studied by candle light early in the mornings, his youth spent bent over English books until one day he stood out in his village school. His teachers applied my father for governmental scholarships. He lived in hostel after hostel, leaving the sleepy village of Nangali. Finally, he gained admittance to a medical program in Valure, one of the best in the country. He graduated as number one in his class and was offered a job in America. He could not believe it. His entire life spent working with no time to rest and he was going to America! He read and read everything that he could about that country. And then he had a daughter. She grew up reading Marx and Hegel. To his dismay, she did not read about math or science like him, but what the meaning of life was. One day, my dad asked me why I was so interested in defending indigenous rights. He told me that some people have to be at the bottom. Some people had to be marginalized for others to prosper. But he also said, opportunities should be provided boys and girls like him could make it big. Spoken like a true devotee of Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie, who left his village in Scotland, built an empire of coal and steel. But he did build great libraries, museums, and foundations for the public so that they too could make it like he did. My father and Carnegie would argue that the system is fair because the opportunity is available.

If we put two and two together, I understand where my father was coming from. He was a success story. He worked very hard. But those success stories, although we hear them often, are quite rare. Can there be success stories in Chiapas? Where is the opportunity? The Mexican government is starting to do something for its Indigenous populations. Why? Out of love of its marginalized people? Did they all of a sudden find Indigenous culture worth protecting? Not really. Carnegie did the same thing. Carnegie set up these institutions in part because he believed in it, but also to save face. Do we see Andrew Carnegie as a money lusting factory owning pig? Not really. We see him as an innovative entrepreneur who inspired his workers but things were not that sugar coated. He did after all have strikes and he was not initially popular at all. Building these forums of education enabled him to change his image while motivating the masses. In Mexico, the government is bringing medical aid and makes it mandatory for medical students to go to Indigenous communities and provide aid for a couple months to a years. The government is also providing electricity to places stretching out to the Mayans in the Lacandon Indians outside the Lacandon jungle. Saving Face. Providing those opportunities. The world scrutinized the Mexican government because of their blatant acts of injustice. Who wants the identity of a sinner? Mexico’s sudden interest in the perseverance of Chiapanecan culture is o save face. The world is full of flux. There are tidal waves of injustice followed up by programs to benefit those who are marginalized. Is motive important? Not really. Indigenous communities in Chiapas have access to medical care, clean water, and electricity. They at least have them. And looking at my father? Why do you think India has all these government scholarships for the poor? Its because India wants to change its image because it knows that those in villages are marginalized and dont have the opportunities that those in cities have. My father achieved what he was because of a major PR campaign. But that's ok. I am happy my dad is here and has achieved what he has regardless of the reason.



Book by Andrew Carnegie that inspired me. You should check it out


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