dijous, de juny 20, 2013

Decline and fall: how American society unravelled


Decline and fall: how American society unravelled

Thirty years ago, the old deal that held US society together started to unwind, with social cohesion sacrificed to greed. Was it an inevitable process – or was it engineered by self-interested elites?
  • The Guardian
  • Ruined home in Youngstown, Ohio
Youngstown, Ohio, was once a thriving steel centre. Now, the industry has all gone and the city is full of abandoned homes and businesses. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
In or around 1978, America's character changed. For almost half a century, the United States had been a relatively egalitarian, secure, middle-class democracy, with structures in place that supported the aspirations of ordinary people. You might call it the period of the Roosevelt Republic. Wars, strikes, racial tensions and youth rebellion all roiled national life, but a basic deal among Americans still held, in belief if not always in fact: work hard, follow the rules, educate your children, and you will be rewarded, not just with a decent life and the prospect of a better one for your kids, but with recognition from society, a place at the table.
  1. The Unwinding
  2. by George Packer

This unwritten contract came with a series of riders and clauses that left large numbers of Americans – black people and other minorities, women, gay people – out, or only halfway in. But the country had the tools to correct its own flaws, and it used them: healthy democratic institutions such as Congress, courts, churches, schools, news organisations, business-labour partnerships. The civil rights movement of the 1960s was a nonviolent mass uprising led by black southerners, but it drew essential support from all of these institutions, which recognised the moral and legal justice of its claims, or, at the very least, the need for social peace. The Roosevelt Republic had plenty of injustice, but it also had the power of self-correction.
Americans were no less greedy, ignorant, selfish and violent then than they are today, and no more generous, fair-minded and idealistic. But the institutions of American democracy, stronger than the excesses of individuals, were usually able to contain and channel them to more useful ends. Human nature does not change, but social structures can, and they did.
At the time, the late 1970s felt like shapeless, dreary, forgettable years.Jimmy Carter was in the White House, preaching austerity and public-spiritedness, and hardly anyone was listening. The hideous term "stagflation", which combined the normally opposed economic phenomena of stagnation and inflation, perfectly captured the doldrums of that moment. It is only with the hindsight of a full generation that we can see how many things were beginning to shift across the American landscape, sending the country spinning into a new era.
In Youngstown, Ohio, the steel mills that had been the city's foundation for a century closed, one after another, with breathtaking speed, taking 50,000 jobs from a small industrial river valley, leaving nothing to replace them. In Cupertino, California, the Apple Computer Company released the first popular personal computer, the Apple II. Across California, voters passed Proposition 13, launching a tax revolt that began the erosion of public funding for what had been the country's best school system. In Washington, corporations organised themselves into a powerful lobby that spent millions of dollars to defeat the kind of labour and consumer bills they had once accepted as part of the social contract. Newt Gingrich came to Congress as a conservative Republican with the singular ambition to tear it down and build his own and his party's power on the rubble. On Wall Street, Salomon Brothers pioneered a new financial product called mortgage-backed securities, and then became the first investment bank to go public.
A steelworker in Youngstown, OhioA steelworker in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1947. Under the old deal, his hard work was to be rewarded. Photograph: Willard R. Culver/National Geographic/Corbis
The large currents of the past generation – deindustrialisation, the flattening of average wages, the financialisation of the economy, income inequality, the growth of information technology, the flood of money into Washington, the rise of the political right – all had their origins in the late 70s. The US became more entrepreneurial and less bureaucratic, more individualistic and less communitarian, more free and less equal, more tolerant and less fair. Banking and technology, concentrated on the coasts, turned into engines of wealth, replacing the world of stuff with the world of bits, but without creating broad prosperity, while the heartland hollowed out. The institutions that had been the foundation of middle-class democracy, from public schools and secure jobs to flourishing newspapers and functioning legislatures, were set on the course of a long decline. It as a period that I call the Unwinding.
In one view, the Unwinding is just a return to the normal state of American life. By this deterministic analysis, the US has always been a wide-open, free-wheeling country, with a high tolerance for big winners and big losers as the price of equal opportunity in a dynamic society. If the US brand of capitalism has rougher edges than that of other democracies, it is worth the trade-off for growth and mobility. There is nothing unusual about the six surviving heirs to the Walmart fortunepossessing between them the same wealth as the bottom 42% of Americans – that's the country's default setting. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are the reincarnation of Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie, Steven Cohen is another JP Morgan, Jay-Z is Jay Gatsby.
The rules and regulations of the Roosevelt Republic were aberrations brought on by accidents of history – depression, world war, the cold war – that induced Americans to surrender a degree of freedom in exchange for security. There would have been no Glass-Steagall Act, separating commercial from investment banking, without the bank failures of 1933; no great middle-class boom if the US economy had not been the only one left standing after the second world war; no bargain between business, labour and government without a shared sense of national interest in the face of foreign enemies; no social solidarity without the door to immigrants remaining closed through the middle of the century.
Once American pre-eminence was challenged by international competitors, and the economy hit rough seas in the 70s, and the sense of existential threat from abroad subsided, the deal was off.Globalisation, technology and immigration hurried the Unwinding along, as inexorable as winds and tides. It is sentimental at best, if not ahistorical, to imagine that the social contract could ever have survived – like wanting to hang on to a world of nuclear families and manual typewriters.
This deterministic view is undeniable but incomplete. What it leaves out of the picture is human choice. A fuller explanation of the Unwinding takes into account these large historical influences, but also the way they were exploited by US elites – the leaders of the institutions that have fallen into disrepair. America's postwar responsibilities demanded co-operation between the two parties in Congress, and when the cold war waned, the co-operation was bound to diminish with it. But there was nothing historically determined about the poisonous atmosphere and demonising language that Gingrich and other conservative ideologues spread through US politics. These tactics served their narrow, short-term interests, and when the Gingrich revolution brought Republicans to power in Congress, the tactics were affirmed. Gingrich is now a has-been, but Washington today is as much his city as anyone's.
It was impossible for Youngstown's steel companies to withstand global competition and local disinvestment, but there was nothing inevitable about the aftermath – an unmanaged free-for-all in which unemployed workers were left to fend for themselves, while corporate raiders bought the idle hulks of the mills with debt in the form of junk bonds and stripped out the remaining value. It may have been inevitable that the constraints imposed on US banks by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 would start to slip off in the era of global finance. But it was a political choice on the part of Congress and President Bill Clinton to deregulate Wall Street so thoroughly that nothing stood between the big banks and the destruction of the economy.
Occupy Wall Street protesterOne of the 99%: an Occupy Wall Street protester in Union Square, New York, in 2011. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Much has been written about the effects of globalisation during the past generation. Much less has been said about the change in social norms that accompanied it. American elites took the vast transformation of the economy as a signal to rewrite the rules that used to govern their behaviour: a senator only resorting to the filibuster on rare occasions; a CEO limiting his salary to only 40 times what his average employees made instead of 800 times; a giant corporation paying its share of taxesinstead of inventing creative ways to pay next to zero. There will always be isolated lawbreakers in high places; what destroys morale below is the systematic corner-cutting, the rule-bending, the self-dealing.
Earlier this year, Al Gore made $100m (£64m) in a single month by selling Current TV to al-Jazeera for $70m and cashing in his shares of Apple stock for $30m. Never mind that al-Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar, whose oil exports and views of women and minorities make a mockery of the ideas that Gore propounds in a book or film every other year. Never mind that his Apple stock came with his position on the company's board, a gift to a former presidential contender. Gore used to be a patrician politician whose career seemed inspired by the ideal of public service. Today – not unlike Tony Blair – he has traded on a life in politics to join the rarefied class of the global super-rich.
It is no wonder that more and more Americans believe the game is rigged. It is no wonder that they buy houses they cannot afford and then walk away from the mortgage when they can no longer pay. Once the social contract is shredded, once the deal is off, only suckers still play by the rules.
George Packer's The Unwinding is published by Faber & Faber at £20

diumenge, de juny 09, 2013

Jeremy Greenstock: «Si està pactat, Catalunya serà reconeguda a l'ONU»


ACN | Actualitzat el 09/06/2013 a les 10:55h

Jeremy Greenstock: «Si està pactat, Catalunya serà reconeguda a l'ONU»

L'exambaixador britànic de l'ONU avisa que si Espanya continua "resistint-se a un canvi" els catalans tindran "indubtables dificultats"

L'exambaixador britànic davant de l'ONU i president de l'associació UNA-UK, Jeremy Greenstock. Foto: ACN

 Catalunya no tindrà "cap problema" per ser reconeguda a l'ONU si esdevé independent a través d'un procés acordat amb l'Estat, però patirà "indubtables dificultats" si Madrid prohibeix el referèndum o l'ignora. Aquesta és l'opinió del diplomàtic britànic Jeremy Greenstock, exambaixador del Regne Unit a les Nacions Unides i president de l'UNA-UK. En una entrevista a l'ACN, Greenstock assegura que l'autodeterminació genera "simpaties" a les Nacions Unides, però admet que els seus membres tenen "un sentiment encara més fort" de "respecte" per la sobirania dels estats tradicionals. Si Madrid digués a tothom de fora 'perdeu-vos, marxeu, aquest és un afer nostre', ho hauríem de respectar", reconeix.
Jeremy Greenstock, que va ser l'ambaixador del Regne Unit davant de les Nacions Unides entre el 1998 i el 2003 després d'una carrera diplomàtica de 35 anys, assegura que "diversos països d'arreu d'Europa i d'arreu del món podrien votar diferent a l'ONU", reconeix el diplomàtic, que afegeix: "Catalunya necessitaria el suport d'altres nacions per ser reconeguda a l'ONU com un nou estat".
El control, però, el té Madrid, com admet el propi Greenstock. "Des del meu punt de vista, Catalunya no pot assenyalar cap principi o article constitucional que li doni el dret a l'autodeterminació, i l'ONU no li dóna el dret a separar-se d'Espanya", defensa. Considera a més que els catalans tenen "una revindicació moral" però no necessàriament "un dret" a l'autodeterminació, i hauran d'argumentar la necessitat del referèndum i de la independència "des del punt de vista de la justícia del seu cas, d'acord amb la situació moral del que és legítim per l'ONU", afirma. Escòcia, assegura, estava en la mateixa situació però el Regne Unit "té una base democràtica suficient i una història de negociacions" que ha permès acordar la consulta. 
Greenstock assegura que a nivell internacional la situació a Catalunya "s'està observant": "Però el govern espanyol no permetrà que se'n parli formalment sota cap marca de l'ONU". "Veig que hi haurà dificultats considerables pel Regne d'Espanya en acordar la independència de Catalunya, perquè podria afectar l'estabilitat futura del que quedaria de l'estat", observa l'exambaixador britànic. 
Si les converses entre Catalunya i Espanya s'estanquen, l'ONU podria actuar com a mediadora, assegura Greenstock. "Qualsevol país té el dret d'utilitzar els serveis de l'ONU d'aquesta manera, però em resulta difícil imaginar que Madrid iniciés aquest tipus de petició, i Catalunya no pot perquè no és membre de les Nacions Unides", reconeix. "En teoria és possible, però hi ha dificultats. Catalunya té pocs drets internacionals fora del Regne d'Espanya", sentencia el diplomàtic britànic. 

La Mati conchuda xD

Noche de rooooock

dimecres, de juny 05, 2013

Concert per la llibertat!!!!

Concert per la llibertat

Contingut artístic

El Concert per la Llibertat és un espectacle inèdit que farà un recorregut per diverses cançons que formen part de l’imaginari col•lectiu del país i d’arreu del món que han servit per reclamar la llibertat de les persones i dels pobles. Entre aquestes cançons n’hi ha algunes de les més emblemàtiques de Lluís Llach, interpretades pel propi autor i per artistes de diversos països i diverses generacions.
La direcció artística i escenogràfica del Concert per la Llibertat és a càrrec de Lluís Danés i Gerard Quintana.
La direcció musical anirà a càrrec de Carles CasesDani Espasa i Xavi Lloses.
Alessio Lega
Andreu Rifé
Amadeu Casas
Carl Carlton
Carles Santos
Castellers de Vilafranca
Cesk Freixas
Companyia Elèctrica Dharma
Cobla de Cambra de Catalunya
Cris Juanico
David Alegret
Fermín Muguruza
Ferran Piqué (Els Amics de les Arts)
Franca Masu
Gerard Quintana
Gorka Knörr
Grup de Folk
Ivette Nadal
Joan Amèric
Joan Dausà
Joan Isaac
Joan Pau Cumellas
Joana Serrat
Jofre Bardagí
Jordi Batiste
Lídia Pujol
Lluís Llach
Maria del Mar Bonet
Marina Rossell
Mayte Martín
Mercedes Peón
Miquel Gil
Mouss & Hakim
Nena Venetsanou
Núria Feliu
Orfeó Català
Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya (OBC)
Paco Ibáñez
Pascal Comelade
Pau Alabajos
Pedro Guerra
Pep Sala
Pere Jou (Quart Primera)
Projecte Mut
Quico Pi de la Serra
Sabor de Gràcia
Sopa de Cabra
Titot i David Rosell (Brams)
Xarim Aresté (Very Pomelo)
Yacine Belahcene
Yannis Papaiannou

dimarts, de juny 04, 2013

Los vástagos del poder: frivolidad que insulta

Los vástagos del poder: frivolidad que insulta


La prepotencia y la impunidad, vestidas con el ropaje de la frivolidad, se constituyen en una de las nuevas plagas del país y vienen de la mano de los hijos de los oligarcas de viejo y nuevo cuño. Los júniores del poder político y económico son huéspedes frecuentes de las llamadas revistas del corazón, pero también sus andanzas son ampliamente ventiladas en las redes sociales. En esos medios exhiben su insultante riqueza –de origen difícil de justificar– y también sus trapacerías, que así son sometidas al inmediato juicio popular.

Por Tomado de: / Arturo Rodríguez / Proceso

Dia de publicación: 2013-05-31


MÉXICO, D.F. (Proceso).- Como si se tratara de una nobleza a la mexicana, quienes forman parte de los clanes del poder provienen de grupos elitistas de diverso signo. Los vástagos de la clase política se juntan, se emparientan, se asocian. Y además compiten por las portadas de las llamadas revistas del corazón, en cuyas páginas suelen desplegarse sus vidas y “gracias”.
Pero toda esa frivolidad, todo este usufructo de riquezas y prebendas adquiridas por sus genearcas les comienzan a pasar la factura: Las redes sociales hacen eco de sus excesos, lujos y arbitrariedades.
En lo que va del gobierno de Enrique Peña Nieto, la mala conducta de los júniores y sus resonancias en las redes sociales ya ocasionaron la destitución de un funcionario y un posicionamiento de la Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) en torno a un asunto familiar de su titular, Jesús Murillo Karam.
El pasado 26 de abril Andrea Benítez, hija de Humberto Benítez Treviño, entonces titular de la Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (Profeco), hizo un berrinche: Molesta porque en el restaurante Maximo Bistrot no le asignaron la mesa que deseaba, ordenó a inspectores de la dependencia que encabezaba su papá que clausuraran el lugar. Varios servidores públicos, solícitos, la obedecieron.
Benítez Treviño es un político de la élite mexiquense. En el sexenio de Carlos Salinas de Gortari fue procurador general de la República. Entre los numerosos cargos que ha desempeñado en su larga trayectoria destaca el de secretario general de Gobierno en el Estado de México, cuando el gobernador era Enrique Peña Nieto. Esta cercanía le aseguró la designación en la Profeco.
Tras el escándalo de Andrea (Lady Profeco), su padre fue destituido. El jueves 9 Papá Profeco, como se le conoció en las redes, concitó el repudio de los cibernautas al declarar que jamás consideró renunciar. El miércoles 15 el secretario de Gobernación, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, anunció su cese por instrucciones del presidente.
A decir de Osorio, el mandatario consideró que el escándalo dañó la imagen y el prestigio de la institución. Su remoción, añadió, es un mensaje para los servidores públicos, quienes además de cumplir la ley deben desempeñarse con ética y profesionalismo.
Aún no se reponía la administración peñista del escándalo Benítez cuando otro caso comprometió la imagen del gabinete de seguridad, pues la hija del director del Centro de Información y Seguridad Nacional (Cisen), Eugenio Ímaz Gispert, denunció en las redes sociales que el nieto del titular de la PGR, Jesús Murillo Karam, le había propinado una golpiza.
El lunes 20 Alexia Ímaz publicó en Twitter varias fotografías: En dos de ellas su ojo derecho mostraba un severo hematoma; en la parte superior, la imagen de Gerardo Saade Murillo, el agresor.
“Gerardo Saade, golpeador de mujeres. La violencia contra la mujer es un delito. Denuncien”, escribió Alexia. Su hermana María comentó, también en Twitter que Saade brincó la barda de su domicilio en Cuernavaca y golpeó a su víctima, sorprendiéndola mientras dormía.
La imagen circuló durante un día y medio en las redes sociales hasta que la noche del martes 21 la PGR admitió los hechos en un comunicado. Aunque aclaró que no intervendría por tratarse de un asunto del fuero común.
El miércoles 22 el diario Reforma dio a conocer que Alexia Ímaz acudió al Ministerio Público el día de los hechos, pero ya en el lugar se desistió de hacer la denuncia.
Las redes sociales
Como en el caso de la golpiza propinada a Alexia Ímaz, son los propios hijos de los poderosos quienes desatan escándalos por lo que dicen y publican en sus cuentas de Twitter y Facebook.
Desde la precampaña, cuando Enrique Peña Nieto era víctima de sí mismo y lo exhibían en las redes sociales, luego de que le fallaron los conocimientos bibliográficos en la Feria del Libro de Guadalajara, su hija Paulina desató el escándalo #soyprole.
La hija del hoy presidente, adolescente aún, tuvo el mal tino de retuitear el mensaje clasista y discriminatorio que escribió su novio José Luis Torre, a propósito de las críticas a Peña Nieto que en la red social enfrentaba el hashtag #libreríapeñanieto:
“Un saludo a toda la bola de pendejos, que forman parte de la prole y solo critican a quien envidian (sic)”.
Peña Nieto tuvo que pedir disculpas por “la reacción emotiva” de su hija, e inclusive la esposa del mandatario, Angélica Rivera salió al quite.
Por cierto, Sofía Castro, hija de Angélica Rivera, desató otro escándalo en noviembre pasado cuando declaró con ingenuidad a Gente, suplemento del diario Reforma, que usaba zapatos de 15 mil pesos comprados por su padre, José Alberto Castro, como premio por acudir un mes al gimnasio.
Familia presidencial aparte, otra nobleza se ha configurado en el ámbito sindical, que tiene como caso paradigmático el de los hijos del dirigente del sindicato petrolero, Carlos Romero Deschamps.
El caso de Paulina Romero también fue dado a conocer por Reforma en mayo de 2012, cuando el rotativo descubrió en Facebook lo que calificó como “diario de viajes”. Viajes alrededor del mundo en vuelos comerciales y privados, acompañada de sus tres mascotas. Comidas en exclusivos restaurantes rociadas con champaña y vinos Vega Sicilia. Como una muestra de su guardarropa presumió sus bolsos Hermes de 12 mil dólares, a los que ella se refirió como “sus bolsas de Superama”.
El pasado 23 de febrero el portal electrónico de Proceso dio a conocer que Romero Deschamps regaló a su hijo José Carlos un Ferrari de edición limitada valuado en dos millones de dólares.
“Para adquirirlo es necesario contar por lo menos con dos vehículos Ferrari, demostrar solvencia económica, que el país donde vaya a circular el auto cuente con una agencia automotriz de esa marca, someterse a una sofisticada prueba de manejo y por supuesto pagar la unidad”, se explicó en la nota.
Recientemente Reforma dio seguimiento a las propiedades de José Carlos en Miami, Florida, y pudo documentar que posee dos departamentos con valor de 7.5 millones de dólares.
Líos judiciales
En ocasiones los líos de los hijos del poder llegan a los tribunales, aunque no se les condena. Un caso, expuesto en su tiempo en medios de comunicación, mantiene enfrentando procesos legales a Jorge Kahwagi, boxeador, personaje de la farándula, político e hijo del empresario del mismo nombre.
Se trata de un pleito añejo con el empresario textil Alfredo Karam, propietario también de Préstamos Karam. En 1999 le prestó a Kahwagi un millón y medio de pesos para que pagara una deuda que tenía con Alejandro Peralta, hermano de Carlos Peralta, descendiente del empresario Alejo Peralta.
Cuando intentó cobrar, Karam fue brutalmente golpeado por el boxeador quien –según el agredido– se valió de las influencias de su padre para meterlo a la cárcel seis meses acusándolo de fraude procesal, hasta que un tribunal constitucional le otorgó un amparo definitivo.
El empresario textilero asegura que recibió muchas presiones, entre éstas el secuestro de su esposa a quien los Kahwagi obligaron a firmar documentos con el propósito de forzarlo a desistirse de cualquier acción legal.
Sin embargo sigue haciendo gestiones. Tras documentar que el agresor-deudor no respondió en tiempo y forma a la primera demanda, así como de acreditar que se falsificó un documento notarial, inició un proceso que pretende declarar nulas las sentencias favorables a Kahwagi.
El pasado 8 de abril se realizó la primera audiencia del juicio de nulidad y, un mes después, el lunes 6, Kahwagi ya estaba metido en otro lío: Un hombre lo acusó de golpear a su hija, quien supuestamente mantiene una relación sentimental con el pugilista. Éste se limitó a negar los hechos en su cuenta de Twitter.
Jorge Kahwagi inició su carrera política en el Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM) y luego pasó al Panal, del cual fue presidente nacional. Todo ello de la mano de Jorge Emilio González Martínez, cuyo padre, Jorge González Torres, es hermano de Víctor Doctor Simi y de Enrique, exrector de la Universidad Iberoamericana. Por si le faltara prosapia, Jorge Emilio es nieto del doctor Emilio Martínez Manautou, viejo amigo de Gustavo Díaz Ordaz y quien ocupó la Secretaría de Salubridad y Asistencia en el sexenio de López Portillo y luego fue gobernador de Tamaulipas.
Conocido como El Niño Verde, en 2001 González Martínez heredó de su papá un partido político: el PVEM. De éste fue presidente hasta hace poco. En 2004 se vio implicado en un videoescándalo en el que se le mostraba recibiendo un soborno para ayudar a liberar una zona natural en Cancún protegida por leyes ambientales.
Años después, en 2011, se le implicó en la muerte de Galina Chankova, una joven que cayó desde el piso 19 de un edificio que supuestamente pertenece al Niño Verde. Él negó que estuviera en el sitio el día de la muerte y que el inmueble sea de su propiedad.
Actual senador y coordinador de la bancada del Partido Verde, González Martínez tuvo su escándalo más reciente el pasado 17 de febrero cuando lo detuvieron por conducir en estado de ebriedad y lo encerraron durante unas horas, hasta que sus abogados tramitaron un amparo. Después regresó, aceptó que cometió un error y dijo que estaba dispuesto a cumplir las horas que le faltaban de encierro. Esto fue ampliamente comentado en las redes sociales.
El 29 de mayo de 2012, durante los días de mayor fuerza del movimiento #yosoy132, el diario El Universal publicó una declaración del Niño Verde a propósito de los jóvenes que participaban en las protestas… y desató más reacciones en las redes sociales: “Creo que es hora de que estos ‘ninis’ hagan algo por el país. Que hagan algo productivo para ellos. Que se dediquen a trabajar”.

El cine mexicano pide paso en los festivales y en las salas


El cine mexicano pide paso en los festivales y en las salas

Los premios a dos cintas en Cannes y el éxito en taquilla de una comedia que ridiculiza a los más ricos certifican el buen momento de la industria

 México 3 JUN 2013 - 04:30 CET

El pasado domingo el cineasta mexicano Amat Escalante daba la sorpresa en el Festival de Cannes y conquistaba el premio al mejor director con Heli, un relato descarnado de la violencia en su país. El día antes, en el mismo festival, la cinta mexicana La Jaula de oro, una historia de emigrantes centroamericanos que atraviesan el país a lomas del tren ‘La Bestia’ en busca del sueño de entrar en Estados Unidos,recibía el premio al mejor reparto de la sección ‘Una cierta mirada’. Eran las dos únicas películas en español que competían en un festival especialmente devoto del cine mexicano que en los últimos siete años ha premiado, además de a Escalante, a los directores Carlos Reygadas (2011) y González Iñárritu (2006).
Muchos premios sí, pero ¿y la taquilla? Algunos exitosos directores de los últimos años se han distinguido por acaparar reconocimientos en el exterior que no se traducían en público en las salas, al menos en su propio país. Apenas 10.000 personas (uno de cada 10.000 mexicanos) se acercaron a ver Post Tenebras Lux, la película de Reygadas que deslumbró el año pasado al jurado del prestigioso festival francés. Pero hasta esa asignatura pendiente de conquistar al público de masas la ha superado esta primavera al menos una cinta, Nosotros los nobles, una divertida sátira sobre los modos absurdos y el estilo de vida de los más ricos. De cariz bastante distinto a las que habitualmente viajan a festivales, pero bien recibida por la crítica, la película de Gaz Alazraki se había convertido a mitad de mes en la más taquillera de la historia del cine nacional con más de 260 millones de pesos (20 millones de dólares) recaudados.
Nosotros los nobles es, en todo caso, la excepción. “Nuestro cine tiene una salud vigorosa, está en buena forma, y eso se ve no solo en la cantidad de películas que se producen [112 en 2012 con 67 estrenos en salas, frente a 62 estrenos de 2011 y 56 en 2010, según los datos del Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía, IMCINE ] sino en la calidad, pero aún le falta vincularse con el público”, cuenta la periodista Mariana Linares. En eso los datos son elocuentes: aunque los estrenos estadounidenses solo constituyeron el 45% del total el año pasado, se comieron el 89% de la taquilla frente a un raquítico 4,79% que lograron las 67 películas mexicanas. Y eso es un problema, reconoce Diego Quemada-Díez, director de La Jaula de oro, ya que “el cine es un acto de comunicación y los cineastas deben pensar como llegar al público para evitar la desconexión”. Para Quemada-Díez, un asunto clave en esa escisión fue la firma de Tratado de Libre Comercio con EE UU, que situó a la producción nacional en desventaja, y la ausencia de una negociación sobre la excepción cultural.
Sin embargo, el gran problema, según coincide la práctica totalidad del sector, es la distribución, que pone a competir como en un ring de boxeo a las películas en las salas y descarta sin piedad en una semana a las que menos audiencia consiguen, lo cual impide que el boca a boca impulse a los filmes independientes. Y la prueba, según Linares, de que esos filmes menos comerciales y tan reconocidos en el extranjero podrían tener mejor suerte en la taquilla, si se les diera una oportunidad, la ofreció Después de Lucía, de Michel Franco, una historia sobre el acoso escolar galardonada el año pasado en Cannes. Cinépolis la ofreció durante una semana gratis para adolescentes y el simple boca a boca la convirtió luego en un éxito.
Jaime Romandía, director y fundador de Mantaraya, la productora de Heli, no ve tan clara esa supuesta dualidad entre “películas de festivales” y “películas que encuentran su nicho en salas”. “Heli está vendida en doce países, pero algunas muy taquilleras no se venden en ningún sitio”, recuerda. Romandía no cree que exista un “resurgimiento”o una “nueva ola” de directores, sino más bien “un mantenimiento” del momento dulce que el cine mexicano vive desde hace años. Y ante la lucha “impeleable” con las grandes distribuidoras apuesta por explorar “las nuevas plataformas que van a democratizar la exhibición”.
Hay quejas, pues, sobre la distribución, pero no tanto sobre las posibilidades de financiación. La llamada ley 226, un estímulo fiscal a los contribuyentes que apoyen la producción o postproducción de largometrajes de ficción, animación o documentales, dio un impulso clave para que surgieran nuevos directores. “Es un primer paso, no lo ataco, creo que el Estado tiene que generar identidad cultural, evitar que opere solo la ley del mercado”, cuenta Carlos Bolado, director de la recientemente estrenada Tlateloloco, verano del 68, “pero me preocupa el subsidio, habría que buscar otras fórmulas”. Bolado fue un pionero en el cine documental, un género que está produciendo obras brillantes. SuPromises fue candidata al Oscar en 2002, se convirtió en la primera cinta de este género exhibida en años en las salas mexicanas, y abrió un camino aún angosto en el que ahora triunfan títulos como ABC nunca más, sobre el incendio en una guardería en 2009.
Y en paralelo al problema de la distribución se plantea otro asunto: el estigma que para amplios sectores de la población tiene “el cine mexicano”, como si fuera un género en sí mismo compuesto de películas demasiado sofisticadas o abiertamente aburridas o simplemente malas. En este sentido, Alazraki se alegra de que su película “haya abierto el espacio en taquilla” y sirva como punta de lanza para que el público se anime a ver cintas de otros compatriotas, quizás muy distintas pero que, de otra manera, también pueden gustar a muchos. Su éxito en México ya es un hecho pero ¿puede gustar en otros países una historia enfocada en unos estereotipos tan locales? El director cuenta que en la reciente visita de Miguel Bosé, el cantante pidió una proyección para él y para su equipo. “Se reían, aunque no donde lo hacía el público mexicano. Quizá no reconocían bien los arquetipos mexicanos, pero sí otros porque la comedia puede combinar aspectos locales y universales. Y hay narrativas que trascienden las fronteras”.
¿Y qué le parece que buena parte del llamado Círculo Rojo (la élite mexicana supuestamente mejor informada) reniegue de su película y casi presuma de no haberla ido a ver? “Bueno, yo hice la película pensando en el público”, cuenta Alazraki. “Y creo que el problema de algunos filmes es que se ruedan pensando más en quedar bien con ese Círculo Rojo”.

How to destroy the future


How to destroy the future

From the Cuban missile crisis to a fossil fuels frenzy, the US is intent on winning the race to disaster
JFK on the Cuban missile crisis
'What happened in the missile crisis in October 1962 has been prettified to make it look as if acts of courage and thoughtfulness abounded.' Photograph: Ralph Crane/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
What is the future likely to bring? A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the human species from the outside. So imagine that you're an extraterrestrial observer who is trying to figure out what's happening here or, for that matter, imagine you're an historian 100 years from now – assuming there are any historians 100 years from now, which is not obvious – and you're looking back at what's happening today. You'd see something quite remarkable.
For the first time in the history of the human species, we have clearly developed the capacity to destroy ourselves. That's been true since 1945. It's now being finally recognized that there are more long-term processes like environmental destruction leading in the same direction, maybe not to total destruction, but at least to the destruction of the capacity for a decent existence.
And there are other dangers like pandemics, which have to do with globalization and interaction. So there are processes underway and institutions right in place, like nuclear weapons systems, which could lead to a serious blow to, or maybe the termination of, an organized existence.
The question is: What are people doing about it? None of this is a secret. It's all perfectly open. In fact, you have to make an effort not to see it.
There have been a range of reactions. There are those who are trying hard to do something about these threats, and others who are acting to escalate them. If you look at who they are, this future historian or extraterrestrial observer would see something strange indeed. Trying to mitigate or overcome these threats are the least developed societies, the indigenous populations, or the remnants of them, tribal societies and first nations in Canada. They're not talking about nuclear war but environmental disaster, and they're really trying to do something about it.
In fact, all over the world – Australia, India, South America – there are battles going on, sometimes wars. In India, it's a major war over direct environmental destruction, with tribal societies trying to resist resource extraction operations that are extremely harmful locally, but also in their general consequences. In societies where indigenous populations have an influence, many are taking a strong stand. The strongest of any country with regard to global warming is in Bolivia, which has an indigenous majority and constitutional requirements that protect the "rights of nature."
Ecuador, which also has a large indigenous population, is the only oil exporter I know of where the government is seeking aid to help keep that oil in the ground, instead of producing and exporting it – and the ground is where it ought to be.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died recently and was the object of mockery, insult, and hatred throughout the Western world, attended a session of the U.N. General Assembly a few years ago where he elicited all sorts of ridicule for calling George W. Bush a devil. He also gave a speech there that was quite interesting. Of course, Venezuela is a major oil producer. Oil is practically their whole gross domestic product. In that speech, he warned of the dangers of the overuse of fossil fuels and urged producer and consumer countries to get together and try to work out ways to reduce fossil fuel use. That was pretty amazing on the part of an oil producer. You know, he was part Indian, of indigenous background. Unlike the funny things he did, this aspect of his actions at the U.N. was never even reported.
So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible. Unlike Ecuador, and indigenous societies throughout the world, they want to extract every drop of hydrocarbons from the ground with all possible speed.
Both political parties, President Obama, the media, and the international press seem to be looking forward with great enthusiasm to what they call "a century of energy independence" for the United States. Energy independence is an almost meaningless concept, but put that aside. What they mean is: we'll have a century in which to maximize the use of fossil fuels and contribute to destroying the world.
And that's pretty much the case everywhere. Admittedly, when it comes to alternative energy development, Europe is doing something. Meanwhile, the United States, the richest and most powerful country in world history, is the only nation among perhaps 100 relevant ones that doesn't have a national policy for restricting the use of fossil fuels, that doesn't even have renewable energy targets. It's not because the population doesn't want it. Americans are pretty close to the international norm in their concern about global warming. It's institutional structures that block change. Business interests don't want it and they're overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one.
So that's what the future historian – if there is one – would see. He might also read today's scientific journals. Just about every one you open has a more dire prediction than the last.
The other issue is nuclear war. It's been known for a long time that if there were to be a first strike by a major power, even with no retaliation, it would probably destroy civilization just because of the nuclear-winter consequences that would follow. You can read about it in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It's well understood. So the danger has always been a lot worse than we thought it was.
We've just passed the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was called "the most dangerous moment in history" by historian Arthur Schlesinger, President John F. Kennedy's advisor. Which it was. It was a very close call, and not the only time either. In some ways, however, the worst aspect of these grim events is that the lessons haven't been learned.
What happened in the missile crisis in October 1962 has been prettified to make it look as if acts of courage and thoughtfulness abounded. The truth is that the whole episode was almost insane. There was a point, as the missile crisis was reaching its peak, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote to Kennedy offering to settle it by a public announcement of a withdrawal of Russian missiles from Cuba and U.S. missiles from Turkey. Actually, Kennedy hadn't even known that the U.S. had missiles in Turkey at the time. They were being withdrawn anyway, because they were being replaced by more lethal Polaris nuclear submarines, which were invulnerable.
So that was the offer. Kennedy and his advisors considered it – and rejected it. At the time, Kennedy himself was estimating the likelihood of nuclear war at a third to a half. So Kennedy was willing to accept a very high risk of massive destruction in order to establish the principle that we – and only we – have the right to offensive missiles beyond our borders, in fact anywhere we like, no matter what the risk to others – and to ourselves, if matters fall out of control. We have that right, but no one else does.
Kennedy did, however, accept a secret agreement to withdraw the missiles the U.S. was already withdrawing, as long as it was never made public. Khrushchev, in other words, had to openly withdraw the Russian missiles while the US secretly withdrew its obsolete ones; that is, Khrushchev had to be humiliated and Kennedy had to maintain his macho image. He's greatly praised for this: courage and coolness under threat, and so on. The horror of his decisions is not even mentioned – try to find it on the record.
And to add a little more, a couple of months before the crisis blew up the United States had sent missiles with nuclear warheads to Okinawa. These were aimed at China during a period of great regional tension.
Well, who cares? We have the right to do anything we want anywhere in the world. That was one grim lesson from that era, but there were others to come.
Ten years after that, in 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. It was his way of warning the Russians not to interfere in the ongoing Israel-Arab war and, in particular, not to interfere after he had informed the Israelis that they could violate a ceasefire the U.S. and Russia had just agreed upon. Fortunately, nothing happened.
Ten years later, President Ronald Reagan was in office. Soon after he entered the White House, he and his advisors had the Air Force start penetrating Russian air space to try to elicit information about Russian warning systems, Operation Able Archer. Essentially, these were mock attacks. The Russians were uncertain, some high-level officials fearing that this was a step towards a real first strike. Fortunately, they didn't react, though it was a close call. And it goes on like that.
At the moment, the nuclear issue is regularly on front pages in the cases of North Korea and Iran. There are ways to deal with these ongoing crises. Maybe they wouldn't work, but at least you could try. They are, however, not even being considered, not even reported.
Take the case of Iran, which is considered in the West – not in the Arab world, not in Asia – the gravest threat to world peace. It's a Western obsession, and it's interesting to look into the reasons for it, but I'll put that aside here. Is there a way to deal with the supposed gravest threat to world peace? Actually there are quite a few. One way, a pretty sensible one, was proposed a couple of months ago at a meeting of the non-aligned countries in Tehran. In fact, they were just reiterating a proposal that's been around for decades, pressed particularly by Egypt, and has been approved by the U.N. General Assembly.
The proposal is to move toward establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the region. That wouldn't be the answer to everything, but it would be a pretty significant step forward. And there were ways to proceed. Under U.N. auspices, there was to be an international conference in Finland last December to try to implement plans to move toward this. What happened?
You won't read about it in the newspapers because it wasn't reported – only in specialist journals. In early November, Iran agreed to attend the meeting. A couple of days later Obama cancelled the meeting, saying the time wasn't right. The European Parliament issued a statement calling for it to continue, as did the Arab states. Nothing resulted. So we'll move toward ever-harsher sanctions against the Iranian population – it doesn't hurt the regime – and maybe war. Who knows what will happen?
In Northeast Asia, it's the same sort of thing. North Korea may be the craziest country in the world. It's certainly a good competitor for that title. But it does make sense to try to figure out what's in the minds of people when they're acting in crazy ways. Why would they behave the way they do? Just imagine ourselves in their situation. Imagine what it meant in the Korean War years of the early 1950s for your country to be totally leveled, everything destroyed by a huge superpower, which furthermore was gloating about what it was doing. Imagine the imprint that would leave behind.
Bear in mind that the North Korean leadership is likely to have read the public military journals of this superpower at that time explaining that, since everything else in North Korea had been destroyed, the air force was sent to destroy North Korea's dams, huge dams that controlled the water supply – a war crime, by the way, for which people were hanged in Nuremberg. And these official journals were talking excitedly about how wonderful it was to see the water pouring down, digging out the valleys, and the Asians scurrying around trying to survive. The journals were exulting in what this meant to those "Asians," horrors beyond our imagination. It meant the destruction of their rice crop, which in turn meant starvation and death. How magnificent! It's not in our memory, but it's in their memory.
Let's turn to the present. There's an interesting recent history. In 1993, Israel and North Korea were moving towards an agreement in which North Korea would stop sending any missiles or military technology to the Middle East and Israel would recognize that country. President Clinton intervened and blocked it. Shortly after that, in retaliation, North Korea carried out a minor missile test. The U.S. and North Korea did then reach a framework agreement in 1994 that halted its nuclear work and was more or less honored by both sides. When George W. Bush came into office, North Korea had maybe one nuclear weapon and verifiably wasn't producing any more.
Bush immediately launched his aggressive militarism, threatening North Korea – "axis of evil" and all that – so North Korea got back to work on its nuclear program. By the time Bush left office, they had eight to 10 nuclear weapons and a missile system, another great neocon achievement. In between, other things happened. In 2005, the U.S. and North Korea actually reached an agreement in which North Korea was to end all nuclear weapons and missile development. In return, the West, but mainly the United States, was to provide a light-water reactor for its medical needs and end aggressive statements. They would then form a nonaggression pact and move toward accommodation.
It was pretty promising, but almost immediately Bush undermined it. He withdrew the offer of the light-water reactor and initiated programs to compel banks to stop handling any North Korean transactions, even perfectly legal ones. The North Koreans reacted by reviving their nuclear weapons program. And that's the way it's been going.
It's well known. You can read it in straight, mainstream American scholarship. What they say is: it's a pretty crazy regime, but it's also following a kind of tit-for-tat policy. You make a hostile gesture and we'll respond with some crazy gesture of our own. You make an accommodating gesture and we'll reciprocate in some way.
Lately, for instance, there have been South Korean-U.S. military exercises on the Korean peninsula which, from the North's point of view, have got to look threatening. We'd think they were threatening if they were going on in Canada and aimed at us. In the course of these, the most advanced bombers in history, Stealth B-2s and B-52s, are carrying out simulated nuclear bombing attacks right on North Korea's borders.
This surely sets off alarm bells from the past. They remember that past, so they're reacting in a very aggressive, extreme way. Well, what comes to the West from all this is how crazy and how awful the North Korean leaders are. Yes, they are. But that's hardly the whole story, and this is the way the world is going.
It's not that there are no alternatives. The alternatives just aren't being taken. That's dangerous. So if you ask what the world is going to look like, it's not a pretty picture. Unless people do something about it. We always can.