Capitalism’s debts accrue to the poor ‘L
ow fuel,” a bright yellow light signals on the dashboard.
I am on my way to the airport for a flight taking me from Mexico City to Guadalajara that leaves in an hour and a half.
I have stopped worrying about other people’s business, so I do not ask the driver about what looks like a precarious situation.
I hatch a simple plan: if we run out of petrol, I will call the hotel to send me another taxi. That is my way of ironing out the complexities of foreign cities and the languages I do not understand.
Just like South African drivers, Mexicans do not seem to stop at red robots, particularly at night. And here, the size of the vehicle determines the right of way. Trucks and buses first, then come the SUVs, sedans, cyclists and, finally, pedestrians.
Taxi drivers have mastered the art of chaos, just as politicians of Third World countries have perfected the art of destroying the economy.
The peso is in free fall; the mood is sombre. Many take Donald Trump’s win as a national humiliation. His name pops up in many conversations, but I suspect that Trump jokes are more hurtful than humorous.
While the plane is stationary on the tarmac, I look through the window and see a miserable, misty dawn. The sky looks a polluted grey, showing up the weakness in human progress. But as the US essayist Henry David Thoreau observed: “Nature is well adapted to our weakness.”
Time to take off, and soon we’re flying above the mist that has engulfed Mexico City, but below altocumulus clouds. The sky between them is a spectacular orange-brown.
It is a 30-minute flight, and we land in Guadalajara on the way to Ciudad Guzmán in the state of Jalisco.
“We divide the cities into two,” my host tells me. “The half-full temple cities, and fulltemple cities. Guzmán is a full-temple city.”
The statues of the Virgin Mary are everywhere. My warm and welcoming hosts treat me to a sumptuous Mexican breakfast.
But Guzmán, this beautiful city, and its people are overshadowed by the name Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, a notorious drug lord and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, whose base is more than 700 kilometres away.
Although the kingpin is in police custody, the drug trade – along with the violence and corruption that go with it – has become enmeshed into the fabric of government. The result: poverty for the masses. The late Mexican president, Porfirio Diaz, used to say: “Poor Mexico – so far from God, so close to the US.”
Mexico has all the contradictions of a Third World country. Its denizens hate the US yet use US brands, watch US movies and listen to US musicians.
I am reminded of an incident which occurred the previous day, as I was taking a walk in downtown Mexico City. An elderly gentleman approached me, dressed immaculately in a black suit and a tie pinned to his white shirt. He was still with it, but age and the economy had claimed their pound of flesh. He greeted me with rare respect – a courtesy that is dying with his generation – and announced proudly: “It’s my pleasure to finally meet a real n*gger.” Rap music, I thought, has messed things up. On my flight back to South Africa, buzz phrases such as “white monopoly capital” spring to mind. I think of the poor, who get left behind to inherit the debt of economic growth but never get their share of its dividends.
Sometimes I feel that we South Africans have lost our way. We took the greed of capitalism and ignored the hard work that goes into creating something – be it an artwork or a business. It is high time we got back on track. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive,
an advertising agency