The Mexican Student Movement Is Younger & Faster than "Occupy"
By Al Giordano
Another big march – really, at least 52 marches throughout the country – will occur on Sunday in Mexico City. It will be the second by the nascent “YoSoy132” (“I Am 132”) mobilization by students who oppose the commercial media’s imposition of a presidential candidate in the upcoming July 1 election. Authentic journalist Isadora Bonilla has reported about the march plans on Narco News, and one need only read the guidelines for the march (I've translated them to English, here) to see that this is different and more disciplined than previous protests in Mexico and in many parts of the world.
The guidelines for Sunday are clear and instructive:
All who attend the march pledge to:
• Attend on Sunday, June 10, 2012 in the Zocalo without any partisan political displays. The recommendation is to dress in black.
• Not engage in any prosletism in favor of any candidate or party. This means not wearing the colors associated with political parties, images that allude to the candidates, cheers for any of their names, etcetera.
• March PEACEFULLY and on the indicated route.
• Remain in only one lane of traffic so as to not impede the travel of vehicles.
• Respect all who attend the march, pedestrians and vehicles along its path, irregardless of their political inclinations. There will be some guides during the march solely to indicate what that means, but we trust in your civility and if we act according to these guidelines everything should happen exactly as it is planned.
• Do not respond to any provocations by infiltrating groups nor occur in acts of vandalism or violence, such as taking down, damaging or destroying campaign signs. We must not damage any public services.
• Do not bring your voter ID of the Federal Elections Institute nor expensive objects of value that could be robbed or a target of provocations.
• Expose vandals and people who occur in acts of violence. If this occurs we suggest stopping the march and sitting down with arms crossed around the violent person, filming and taking photographs. This is how we will expose the aggressor.
• Deliver any person who conducts acts of vandalism or violence to the authorities.
• Inform the people of the truth about candidate Enrique Peña Nieto: his errors, goof-ups, evil governing, inexperience, ignorance, etcetera.
• Inform about the dishonest news by media companies bought by the PRI party (like Televisa) that have edited or ommitted relevant information that would expose the true face of Peña Nieto.
• In the event that any of these cited agreements are violated, retreat from the march.
Thos are the instructions that appear on the March's Facebook page and, now, for the first time elsewhere on the Internet.
It struck me, reading the guidelines, that it has been decades since I have seen any march of this size include a pledge by participants with that much discipline and awareness that the march is about influencing public opinion (in other words, not about "us" but about everyone). It reminds more of the guidelines from the victorious struggles of Ghandi to win independence from colonial rule in India, the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s and the anti-nuclear movement of the 70s. Impressive that they came up with these in less than a month!
And I thought, “what if some of the bigger protests of more recent years - I’m looking at you, “Occupy Wall Street” and at the “anti-globilization” summit protests post-Seattle 1999 - had, when they began, agreed on such clear guidelines?” I conclude that they would have won more concrete results, just like the aforementioned and more disciplined movements that won big nonviolent battles decades before them.
Yet these guidelines were not developed or imposed by aging veteran organizers: the universities of Mexico have a population of youths from 17 to 22 years-old with post-graduate students mostly in their twenties. We have already reported on the May 30 assembly by more than 6,000 students from 150 universities where these and other agreements were reached; on the seriousness and outwardly looking tone of the students who were more interested in getting to work on changing public opinion in their country than in building an “identity politics” activist niche for themselves.
The truth is that “Occupy Wall Street” – although covered in the media as a “youth movement” – was dominated by people already in their 30s, as were the post-Seattle milieu of protests that preceded and influenced it (those folks are now in their 40s and older). Those protests quickly became more about the “occupy” than about “Wall Street” and devolved into a navel-gazing series of ever-smaller “assemblies” that largely neglected to consider what they wanted to achieve other than proving to themselves that they were supposedly doing “something new.” Nine months later, they have little in concrete gains to show for it, still.
The teens and twenty-somethings of Mexico are the country's most media-and-Internet-savvy generation of university students yet. They have followed the protests of recent years, seen what worked and what did not, and seem wary of the kind of “self-referential protest” that has risen and fallen both in their country and in other lands without tangible victories.
During a meeting yesterday, June 6, of one of the YoSoy132 commissions, some participants would seek to debate points of political ideology or opinion over side issues. They were routinely met with a response of “we are not here to debate those things; the last meeting took six hours and we have to get this done in two hours today.” They are goal and task oriented. They want to get the job done. And they have clear consensus on their two major goals. The first is to stop the imposition of presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and the return of his authoritarian PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) that governed Mexico from 1929-2000. The second is to end the domination of two television networks and a very few other media on the nation’s permitted political discourse: to end the media’s tyrannical power to manipulate society.
As with the Egyptian movement that ended, in 2011, the thirty-year rule of the dictator Hosni Mubarak, YoSoy132 is so horizontal that a frustrated media still can’t identify a single charismatic leader of either movement to rise up and then chop down to strip the movement of credibility. In place of that, already, less than a month into YoSoy132’s birth, are 150 autonomous cell groups nationwide that have agreed only on the goals and to obtain them nonviolently “without aggression,” plus 15 work commissions – many of them replicated in other geographic regions beyond the nation’s capital – who impress with their speed and coherence at coming to agreements and banging out a new movement’s strategies and tactics on multiple fronts simultaneously.
Perhaps this is a positive consequence of the rise of online social networks (this writer has penned plenty already on their negative consequences): Most of these youths already feel like they’ve had their Warholian “15 minutes of fame” (or, at least, created their own among the people that matter to them) and don’t appear to see their participation in this movement as a “career move” or an audition for media celebrity status. They seem more certain of who they are and are definitely more sure of what they want. That is, to save their country from the imposition of a past and still present authoritarian regime, and to end the media spectacle through which such impositions happen.
Their goal is, in their own words, “authentic democracy.” In the Authentic Journalism renaissance of the past fifteen years a lot of spectators already in power - including those who traffic in "alternative media" - did not like our use of the “A-word.” It made the inauthentic uncomfortable. Today, the youths of Mexico have adopted “authentic” as their banner. And to this observer, they seem authentic in exactly the way that we have sought to redefine media and journalism. Narco News will be there Sunday reporting on the mass marches. But the more important coverage we will continue to offer is that which goes behind the media events, that documents, coldly and rationally, how people are organizing themselves and others, and how they develop winning strategies and tactics. Authentic journalism doesn’t stop at writing down or filming human events yesterday and today: It looks forward to the next steps, and how the lessons of today can be applied tomorrow. These are the lessons that people all over the world can learn from to end their own tyrannies. And today Mexico is one grand laboratory in tackling the major obstacle to authentic change: the undemocratic power of the media, and the utter impossibility of authentic democracy until that power is collapsed.
Stay tuned. (And readers of The Field can find more info by regularly checking our flagship Narco News.) As always, you will be there with us every step of the way.