No one should be killed over his beliefs or political ideology. Apparently, this obvious statement cannot be stressed enough.
A year ago, a group of young political activists from a rural town in Mexico saw their liberties and lives taken away by criminals — some of them common criminals, some of them Mexican state officials.
The motives and details of this hideous crime remain unclear. However, that night’s events sparked a series of demonstrations worldwide to support the organization, who still continue their fight as “social-justice warriors,” as they have repeatedly called themselves.
I don’t want to address the trivial issues that have arisen since the investigation led by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which revealed that the Mexican government’s story was far from being consistent and credible. Not because it’s not relevant, since state officials appear to have had a more important role in the massacre than previously thought, but because that debate already has drawn the attention of Mexican civil society and the international community.
In the anniversary of such a tragedy, I’d like to advance a couple of arguments that were hard to explain in the midst of the tragedy.
Victimization Does Not Grant Moral Superiority
The first point concerns our moral thinking when faced with a human tragedy. Someone ends up being the victim and someone the aggressor. We tend to embrace the victims along with their cause just because they have suffered. This is where I think a line must be drawn.
There is no doubt that in the Ayotzinapa killings, the aggressors are in the wrong. Moreover, the state agents that took part are a reminder that the state is not only unlikely to guarantee our safety, but may actually be a major threat to it.
But what about the victims?
In many cases, today’s victims can become tomorrow‘s aggressors.
As I said, their murder was deplorable and those responsible must face the consequences. But that doesn’t mean we should lend moral support to the non-victims who are carrying the banners of their deceased comrades.
Since the night of the tragedy, members of the Federation of Socialist Students have been rallying for support in Mexico and elsewhere. I met some of their representatives at a university in Mexico City, and they also asked for financial support to keep on with their “social fight.” Many have opened up their wallets. But then again, should we embrace their cause just because another group attacked them?
At least I am convinced that I should not. When I asked them what their role as “social-justice advocates” would become once they managed to establish their “real democracy of the people,” they told me without hesitation that the fight would be directed against the capitalists that would probably seek to undermine their goal: “the government of the people.”
In other words, under their reign, free-market advocates would become a public enemy.
They reminded me that being a victim does not automatically raise you above everybody else. And in many cases, today’s victims can become tomorrow’s aggressors. For my part, I cannot morally or financially support an agenda that has no room for individual liberty and basic human rights.
Symbolic Demonstrations Are Useless
Thousands have marched down the streets of Mexico City calling for justice and blaming the state for the massacre. For anyone aware of the injustices induced by state intervention, this must have looked like a glimmer of hope.
However, you only needed a quick survey of this heterogeneous mass’s demands to dispel the romantic moment of anti-statism. For most protesters, demonstrations had more to do with a vague and symbolic gesture that called for justice and an improvement of the status quo. I am not sure how marching for justice brings it about any more than a Miss Universe contender calling for world peace ends wars.
Some of them had specific demands. For instance, getting President Enrique Peña Nieto to step down, as if having somebody else sitting on the presidential chair would bring about more justice or better governance. Others wanted the missing students to show up safe and unharmed, somehow believing that the government planned on hiding them somewhere until people started asking for their release.
Nothing in Mexico’s institutional arrangement guarantees this won’t happen again.
Beyond these concrete yet futile petitions, the vast majority marched for justice — a symbolic demonstration that could only elicit symbolic responses. The Peña Nieto administration assured that it was working on the case, committees emerged, and officials released statements to give the impression that justice was being served.
However, a year has passed by and the massacre remains unsolved. Nothing in Mexico’s institutional arrangement guarantees this won’t happen again (actually, similar events have occurred).
Symbolic gains don’t improve institutions or strengthen individual rights. What kind of non-symbolic demonstrations could have brought some concrete victories? Institutional reforms.
How about taking some of our rights back from the state? Even a very flawed constitution such as the Mexican one recognized, in its origins, the right of citizens to own and carry guns. Somwewhere around the 1970s a president decided this was not such a good idea and curtailed that right. If we were to recover it, Mexicans would be able to defend themselves from threats in the absence of governmental protection.
Maybe it is not such a bad idea that government officials and criminals be afraid of an armed populace when they try to prey on them.
Reforming Article 10 of the Mexican Constitution in a way that it resembles the US Second Amendment is a demand that could bring about much more justice than just asking the government to look into a case they probably had something to do with.