In November, Americans turned on their computers, fired up their Internet connections and gravitated to wikileaks.org. The nation was appalled at coverage by virtually all national media telling the tale of a series of diplomatic cables leaked from different U.S. embassies in the world.
Immediately questions were raised about the U.S. military’s excessive use of force, national security, foreign relations, and a number of other matters included in the first wave of cables reaching the public eye. Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department (with the help of Interpol) set out to try to silence Assagne.
But the response was starkly different in Mexico. Two days after the first WikiLeaks came out communications were released on U.S.-Mexico relations, the violence problem in Mexico and our armed forces’ internal debacles, as well as President Hugo Chávez’ involvement in supporting former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the 2006 elections.
Some U.S. colleagues immediately contacted me commenting on “the hard hit” Mexico was taking from Assange’s open communication and free speech antics. However, Mexicans did not start tweeting or commenting on facebook and other social media sites about this. The usual suspect bloggers were mildly impressed and Mexico’s government reaction to the leaks was as agitated as a couple of turtles taking a nap.
The reason for this difference in general reaction between U.S. and Mexico’s society is both simple and strikingly depressing: we’ve lost hope and trust in our political system and its players. We’ve lost the capacity to be amazed by our own state’s inadequacies.
When they leaked that the government was in danger of losing control of some regions of Mexico to organized crime; when they told us that Venezuela’s Head of State was involved in the leftist movement in Mexico; when we read that U.S. consular officers were concerned with President Felipe Calderón’s ability to lead, all Mexicans could say was “tell me something I didn’t already know.” Corruption and inefficient government unfortunately are no longer a surprise to us. In a world where perception is reality, the fact that WikiLeaks told us these things maybe made them more official, but it wasn’t something we didn’t already feel and had been talking about for decades.
So to all Americans I say this: enjoy and value the fact that you can still be amazed when Assange tells you about disappointing activities going on behind the scenes in your political system and institutions. When this becomes a norm and it actually gets boring to hear about it for the nth time, that’s a sign for you to be really concerned.
*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.