It’s no revelation that everybody lies, at least to some extent. But there are big differences in how people lie, and in how people interpret lies. The notions of sincerity, truth and discretion are remarkably fluid, diverging notably between nations and regions.
When you read the texts of speeches given by Mexican officials, for example, you’re struck by their abstract and idealistic language. Their narratives seem otherworldly, bordering at times more on fiction or fantasy than real life.
Organized lying and the missing 43
Political power often accrues to those who can lie most convincingly and most artfully. In that respect, Mexico is no different than anywhere else. But there’s a marked tendency among the Mexican political class to de-prioritize truth-telling; to accept for an incontrovertible fact that all people lie; that you’re actually supposed to lie, especially when real events conflict with loyalty or devotion.
The case of the “Missing 43” is a case in point, as it clearly shows what happens when ordinary Mexicans (not just politicians) are forced to choose between loyalty and honesty.
Although few people know all the details, the narrative is fairly straight-forward: in late September 2014, 43 Mexican college students vanished in the southwestern city of Iguala. Their corpses “disappeared” – despite scores if not hundreds of witnesses, including local, state and federal officials – not just at the scene of the crime but also during the months-long cover-up.
Evidence indicates that the students were kidnapped and burned alive by gangsters – and probably also the police. The military has already been implicated… soldiers were present when the students were taken.
This was the worst atrocity to happen in Mexico in decades… and there have been many. Yet up to now, not a single person has opened his or her mouth.
This case has become a rallying cry for those who view it as a symbol of impunity and corruption in the Mexican political class. But it’s also emblematic of the complicity of ordinary Mexicans, who clearly don’t consider ‘telling the truth’ to be more important than devotion to family, faith or political party.