Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Inscrutable Event

            Williams seeks to pulp out the political experience of the 1968 student protests by separating it from the trauma of the massacre that occurred on October 2nd on Tlatelolco square (eerily today marks the 44th anniversary of this event). He spends considerable amount delineating the actual content of the protests as what he calls “the symptoms of a political and cultural interregnum that emerged as a result of mass youth reaction against stifling regularization and systemic subservience to sovereign theocratic exceptionality” (Williams 127). He goes into the specifics of the protests regarding political prisoners under Articles 145 and 145bis and how the protests were more of an attempt to keep post-revolutionary Mexico from falling into the pitfalls of a new form of dictatorship under the PRI. Octavio Paz also confirms in his Postdata: “el movimiento fue reformista y democrático” (Paz 278). Where Paz and Williams digress is in explaining how such a specific democratic movement grew into a massive demonstration that culminated in such a catastrophic violent event. His reaction being closer to the event itself, Octavio Paz seems to have some sort of elaborate historical-psychoanalytic explanation that goes back to the Aztecs and the idea of sacrifice at the foot of the pyramid, as if subconsciously the Mexicans are reenacting an ancient rite. Decades later, Williams dismisses Paz as a “textbook melancholic” (137) and tries to reclaim the narrative of the massacre away from martyrdom and bring forth the details of what the movement was trying to fight for. He also brings forth González del Alba’s argument that the movement was propelled by a sort of “carnival” affinity more so than a political consciousness or militancy – Derrida’s passive decision. He describes it as “being delivered over to the heartbeat of the friend-lover… the act of an act, the act behind the decision,” which in turn he equates with a “sea other… the specter of a movement in motion” (Williams 149). Basically, the way I understand this is that the movement grows in a sort of passive association with the fervor of the moment, a sort of “falling in love,” that becomes a responsible decision through an act of friendship to combat the enemy. My question is whether it was Paz’ archaic and invisible psychoanalytic impulse to sacrifice or William’s (and González del Alba’s) youthful love affair that turned into collective anger, the issue seems to still be placed on the protesters as if they were the agents of their own destruction. I would like to turn the question to what propelled the decision from above to go ahead an annihilate the protesters without second thought, what Williams calls “sovereign decisionism” and Paz dives into when he declares “lo discordante, lo anómalo y lo imprevisible fue la actitud gubernamental” (Paz 280). This, seems to me, remains as obscure a mystery as the pyramids themselves.


  1. I feel like your post really gets at what Sam Steinberg was arguing, that Paz and Williams are essentially positing the same things, but for Williams, he just can't read that or even say it. While I want to really hang on to Paz's reference to the Aztec in "Postdata," I think Williams is too hung up on this part of Paz's reading of 1968.

  2. I am interested in the question you pose in relation to the "decision from above." We discussed sovereign and passive decisionism in class and I wonder how that discussion factors into this question.