Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fate of the Borderlands in the Global Economy

Just back from Mexico, an exotic frontier somewhere near these borderlands. All the maps are jumbled (and all the people ask, "what, really, is a border?") and (I don't know if you've heard of this) even the GPS systems are confused here, the systems based on NAD 1927 are off by a couple hundred meters from the revised 1983 version, the earth's bulge having migrated in that time, or the poles shifting, a gentle shrugging action that stretches the wasteline/equator and dragged mountains hiccuping across the corpulence. But things stick and the motion is not always fluid, so you get what we have here, impossibly arbitrary borders that people will die to (double?) cross. Constant movement without change.

I don't know how much it is in the Mass (catholic?) mediums, but southern Arizona is in a state of simmering chaos. Some accounts have the drug lords outpacing total Mexican federal spending. They reutinely kidnap Mexican police officers, and there have been firefights between the U.S. border patrol and defiant thugs. They retaliate with terrorism; recently, all of the police officers from a border village were killed (about 30), and the Mexican army was only able to regain apparent control at the expense of heavy casualties on both sides. Because law here is based here totally on force, with no shred of social contract, this can be a very lawless place, with only the sheen of daytime normality, the bright truth of the desert sun, to obscure the midnight drama. In places along the border there are so many abandonded backpacks that you cannot walk without stepping on them...every one of these backpacks is a new American. The border patrol is fighting a hit-and-run game of interdiction, but are, if anything, in retreat, having mainly fallen back behind the 32nd parallel.

Much of the action of Hemingway's "A farewell to arms" derives from his character's intimate knowledge of italian geography, as e.g. he floats down a river after mutineering. To know a landscape well enough to navigate totally 'blind' (without the aid of cars and roads, technology, internet information) is my goal here. Like the back of my own hand, like a lover. This is a years-long courtship, She is so Vast; not that a one-night stand would be insulting, but I always want more, to see the next curve around a canyon, the way her leaves change in different places, at different times. The native fish swimming in moist places, the howls and stars at night.

Globalization has always existed, but now it is so fast -- before anything can exist for itself it is pasted in front of a million backgrounds, nothing connected by anything but convenience, constantly swirling connections, getting nowhere. The nightmare of too-drunk total vertiginous movement while lying afraid to move on a bed of surround-sound. But according to economists, the speed of dollar turnaround, the mobility of capital, is what creates wealth. The faster we spend it the more we have, and nobody can devalue the American dollar if we keep consuming, which we couldn't do if they stopped buying imaginary dollars. They believe in the imaginary dollars because we look wealthy because we spend them so fast: constant movement without change.

Meanwhile, I've been learning the art and science of tracking at a Mexican ranch. Now the dirt speaks and I cannot help listening, and we following where it leads...Jaguars live here. What strange power these dark creatures hold over us, that even in the caccoonish confines of our surround-sound media center we are moved by their perfect power?! They also want to cross the border into america, the wonderful wilderness santuaries we have built of their historical (100, 150 years ago) habitat, but the Wall might be more of a problem for them than for "coyotes". When the bright-eyed beast circles in Your dreams, embrace it, it will make you stronger.

What we love we shall grow to resemble. -Bernard of Clairvaux.
-with apologies to Nona, who will Understand.

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