The U.S.-Mexican War and
    the Peoples of the Year 2000


Nations without Locality?


Inputs from Politics  

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The Future of New/Old Nations  

The Mexico of 1845 was a model for what the whole continent would be turning into in the year 2000.   For all the isolation of individual states, and individual haciendas, it was not a jig-saw of neatly-bounded territorial units.  Indigenous raiders could move across vast distances.  So could Army units, even if they did not always like doing it.  Texan intruders captured in the north could be transported to prisons in the south. Indigenous rebels could be deported or sold, to far provinces. When conservatives and liberals talked about the danger of "race war," they thought they saw a conflict that would be all of a piece, from California to Yucatan. 

When the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was being negotiated, dividing that vast expanse by a line, Mexican negotiators insisted that the text include a U.S. guarantee to keep Comanches and Apaches north of the line.  This was unrealistic, not just because of U.S. unwillingness to comply, but because it accepted a kind of boundary-consciousness that was more primitive and mechanical than the most sophisticated Mexican thought of that time.. 

That sophistication is a matter of what physicists call "nonlocality."  No matter what historians say now about the "localism" of 19th-century Mexico, generals and journalists and nomadic raiders all saw the area as a vast interconnected network.  Mexican sovereignty, supported by the universalistic side of Catholic practice, stood as a surrogate for an almost post-modern inclusiveness.  The nation accepted its own reality as a system that was not confined to specific places.  It lived through relations extending outward. 

Even at the end of the 20th century, it is only a few large-scale operations, such as corporate systems, that pursue nonlocality as a matter of downright "globalization."  For most people, it is rather the way that a family can be rooted partly in the hills of Michoacan, partly in a neighborhood of northern California, and very much in the whole pattern of airlines, phone calls, and electronic remittances that sustain the family network.  We can call it a family "unit," but we won't learn much more that way than we would by imagining an electron as a tiny pebble-like particle.  Families are not bounded within property lines.  Neither are ethnic groups.  Neither are nationalities. (Neither are electrons.) 

This is not a question of arguing that families or ethnic groups have some "right" to far-flung connections.  It is a matter of fact. Families no longer exist in bounded local terms -- if they ever did. When an official claims that this nonlocality serves to extend the outreach of his own nation-state's sovereignty, he misses the point.  Any new moral claim derives, not from the state, but from the families or non-state nationalities that are building and living that outreach. State control of a community, even if it is only the PRI domination in some Maya communities of Chiapas, is of a piece with the control-level cooperation that won out in the New Mexico of 1847. 

This property of nonlocality gathers up and summarizes many very old things about the ways many communities are coming to live, or have lived in the past: The possible solutions to community problems converge in nonlocality.  But that presents a challenge to the kind of nonlocality that is dictated from above, and to the kind of territorial domination that has long been dictated by nation-states.


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