Mexico On The Verge - Introductory
( Originally Published 1921 )
THE following pages offer a brief presentment of the main factors of the Mexican situation which is now entering upon a critical stage. The subject is tabooed by the average student of contemporary politics on the ground that it is purely regional, devoid of interest and without noteworthy bearings on the principal currents of the world's history. As a matter of demonstrable fact, it is the reverse of all that. Mexico to-day is the subject of an experiment which, whatever the upshot, bids fair to link it for all time with one of the most fateful and far-ranging changes in the basic relations of political communities with one another. In sooth it is no exaggeration to say that the first deciding move in the work of transfiguring those relations and setting the State-systems of the world upon wholly new foundations is now being made in that Republic. And this essay is scarcely noticed by statesmen or politicians while its trend is not realised even by the races and peoples to the course of whose life-history it is about to impart a new and chartless direction. Thus the tide of cosmic innovations which some observers are anxiously watching in Eastern Europe is in reality rolling away from that quarter of the globe to the shores of the Mexican Gulf and the southern banks of the Rio Grande where new precedents are being forged and strange doctrines promulgated which the near future may see eagerly adopted in the older Continents with results which it would be idle to forecast. It is the little beginnings that call for the closest attention but unhappily the statesmen who could and should scrutinise those which are certain to lead to the most momentous consummations are at present absorbed by futile wrangling and barren enterprises.
In attempting to determine the forces now at work, to measure their intensity and foreshadow some of their probable effects, the writer strove to purge his mind of bias and his findings of blame and praise. The latter aim was all the more easy of attainment in that the law of cause and effect takes no account of morality and that the principal politicians, the results of whose follies and failings are now being visited upon the ill-starred Mexican people, have passed beyond the reach of censure, bequeathing to others, as they departed, the fair inheritance with the heavy curse attached. For the course of Mexican history, every page of which is framed with a black mourning border, bears a curious likeness to that of ancient Greek tragedy wherein grim requital fastens upon the innocent with the deadly grip of cruel fate.
The following analysis of the national and international difficulties which Mexico in the person of General Obregón has now to tackle will be found to differ from the views current in the United States which stand for the real beliefs of some and for the ardent wishes of others. Whether this non-conformity of the writer is a defect or a merit, coming events will show. Despite strenuous efforts he cannot claim to be absolutely impartial—no historian has ever reached this ideal. But at least he is sincere and disinterested. No sensible person imagines that all the evils which a decade of lawless orgies has inflicted on the Mexican people or all the vices engrafted on certain sections of it can be dislodged in a twinkling. There are some in-deed which cannot be displaced by ordinary methods at all. Some devils, we are told, it is impossible to exorcise even by prayer and holy water. The circumstance should also be borne in mind that in public affairs there is one kind of slowness which ripens and another which rots, and that the latter was a characteristic of the Carranza régime while the former marks the methods of Obregón.
Foreigners who possess material interests in Mexico generally wear blinkers, keep only their particular goal in sight, believe in their own methods to the exclusion of others and are impatient of contradiction. If some of the remedies which they confidently propose are specifics at all, it is often only against imaginary diseases, or artificially implanted vices. Such readers may well take exception to much in these pages and indeed to any study of the subject emanating from a detached onlooker, and if they would read an exposé of the mat-ter entirely to their liking they must write or dictate it them-selves, as not a few of them are wont to do. Among them are many who, in their haste to pass judgment on the general problem which they confound with their own particular interest in it, take no pains to understand its deciding elements, while the credulous and easy-going are misled by the wild stories deliberately circulated not only in the United States but also among the foreign residents of Mexico.
"Is it a fact," several distinguished Americans asked me in Washington last April, "that Villa insists on being represented in Obregón's cabinet by one of his partisans, and what effect will that have on Mexico's foreign policy?" I answered—"It is just as likely as that Eugene Debs is about to pitchfork one of his comrades into the Harding administration." "Yes, but here is the American newspaper that makes the statement. What do you say to that?" "Only that paper endureth all things which publishers or capitalists pay to have printed on it." My interlocutors frowned and fell silent.