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Parts and Wholes

Dr. David Fialk, Editor / Publisher

Recently, I watched a bit of a "dark comedy," TOC TOC. TOC is how you say OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in Spanish. The movie's premise is that a number of obsessive compulsive patients, due to a problem with the computerized program, are all scheduled at the same hour for their first visit with the same psychologist. One by one, they meet in the doctor's inordinately large waiting room. There, they have the opportunity to get to know each other because the doctor himself is inordinately late.

There is no thin line between genius and madness. It's just that genius pays the bills, usually handsomely. Besides, in a capitalist society, if you are off your rocker and making a lot of money, then you are not crazy, you are eccentric.

I already knew that there are a lot of different ways to lose your mind in general. TOC TOC, showed me that there are a lot of different types of OCD: religious manias, fear of contamination, fixation on mathematical calculations, avoidance of certain actions, for example, stepping on lines, etc. When you start pairing the many types of intelligence with the many types of madness, the possibilities are enormous.

To take a timely example, scientists are famous for having particular expertise. But while being brilliant within their limited field of knowledge, they may be unable to negotiate the simplest social interaction. Reductionism, which at the heart of the scientific method, focuses on the details of a phenomenon without seeing the whole system.

This lack of a holistic approach hampered our Covid response, according to the New York Times, in the tremendous and ongoing harm done to children in suspending their education. (And, although I'm not sure that we are allowed to mention this yet, others add, in masking kids in the classroom.) Curing polio or smallpox is one thing, but you do not want to put scientists in charge of complicated social-economic phenomena.

Speaking of genius, one of San Miguel's resident chess masters, Glen Wilson has started a website, San Miguel FAQ where he collects some news, some events, some blogs, some miscellaneous data... and links to those, "Read more." Not editorializing himself, offering, as Sergeant Friday would have it, "Just the facts," I find his daily newsletter less than compelling, but that's just me.

Clicking around through a recent newsletter of his, looking for something to republish, I followed the links to a blog that is up for an award. The piece, about Mexican courtesy, again, in my opinion, was more noted for what it didn't say than what it did.

The blog did not mention La Cortesia, a social movement instituted by the Mexican authorities to uplift the people. This was necessary because, after the hacienda workers were freed from their slavery, lacking a sense of their own dignity, the common Mexican had to be taught to respond, to greet other people in the street, to say one of the Mexican equivalents of "Hello."

On the subject of courtesy, I would further add that psychological traces of this horrible subordination still linger today. We see remnants of the passive-aggressiveness, that was the slave's only form of resistance, in the slowness, lateness, poor quailty of workmanship and the Mexican's inability to say no: the "Si, pero no" ("Yes, but no") attitude. I realize that I am grossly generalizing, but, if you've lived here a while, you understand.

The Zavala family has lived here more than a while, having arrived in the later half of the 1800s. For some time, my daughter dated a scion of this influential family, one Baltazar Zavala. During their courtship, walking with my daughter up Calzada de la Luz, I remarked on the way she was greeting a large number of people, passers-by and shop-keepers. In her defense, she replied, "Baltazar does it."

The best part of the courtesy blog, again, as far as I was concerned, was a quote from elsewhere, which I paraphrase, "Anyone who does not respond 'Hello' when they are greeted is a barbarian." The rabbis go one step further, advising us to be the first to say hello. New arrivals, please keep that in mind.

I understand that a lot of people prefer their news without personal editorial and their blogs rather bland. I know that the lingering effects of hacienda slavery on Mexican psychology today is a bit too challenging for those enjoying a light breeze and an even keel. I recognize that contemplating the varieties of psycho-pathology are not everyone's cup of tea. But, as you've stuck with me so far, please let me finish.

A person with OCD is very alone. They must pledge allegiance to a private world that demands all their attention. In a sort of hyper-individualism, pathetically, they substitute a rigid, inner directive for the rich play of real world interaction. What is true for the individual is true for society. This retreat into our own private worlds is the malady affecting our whole society. Our barbarism is our divisiveness, our inability to feel communal.

Social media has exacerbated our aloneness in a number of ways:
1) online interactions trick our brains, substituting for real human contact the way that junk food substitutes for wholesome nutrition
2) online anonymity (relative or complete) has given our barbarism a freer rein; unchecked by instinctive, face-to-face social norms, we get ugly.

The antidote to society's fragmented, hyper-individualized obsession, is community, an inclusive social perspective. Purpose comes from seeing the whole. Meaning is holistic.

Beyond saying hello, there are levels of Mexican community that are difficult for us extranjeros to imagine... but I'm trying. The way I figure it, the solution to society's problems (and there are solutions) must be local and (at least to start) online: local, because top-down mandates do not work, and online, because that is where people's attention is: La lucha es en linéa / the struggle is online.

My locura (madness), what keeps me burning the midnight oil, is my local internet project, Lokkal. Like public TV is different than commercial TV, so Lokkal presents a saner, non-exploitive alternative to commercial internet.

The problem is that society is being divided.
The solution is to bring people together.
Community is local. Lokkal is community.

I invite you, and Glen Wilson, to join

Watch the two-minute video below. Then scroll down to see SMA's Community Wall, the most attractive, efficient window onto our city. Lokkal, the Yellow Pages robustly reborn for the 21st century: Building Community, Strengthening the Local Economy. (Mission)

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Dr. David, who goes to bed every night believing that Lokkal can change the world, invites you to share his dream.

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