Re: Do we read what we write?

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Sat, 27 Jan 1996 16:36:24 -0500

In a message dated 96-01-26 00:30:18 EST, John McCreery writes:

>[Mexico: Globalization in a disintegrating city] is more than a piece that
I found >enjoyable to read. It is one that I will teach and meditate upon for
years to come. I'd >love to hear other responses to it.

I read the piece as a cautionary tale about the limits of knowing the other,
especially if that other is a city or a country. Sectoral or neighborhood
perspectives of cities yield pictures, but partial ones. Put the pictures
together and they still don't satisfy. The composite somehow doesn't
resemble anyplace in particular. Could it be that Mexico City is "everywhere
without really being anywhere," as Borges concludes?

The organizing focus of a person is a great mystery; how much more so for a
city? Maybe we're fragments looking at fragments, two projects in search an
elusive completeness. It's this nagging sense, evoked early, that for me
energizes the piece. I detect it as well in the historian Eugene Genovese's
conclusion that all histories are noble failures and in Geertz's lament that
somehow in the end he's gotten it wrong.

We just can't seem to leave accounts of others or ourselves alone. We keep
picking. Turning them this way and that, adding the pieces up and together,
shuffling and fanning them, suturing and resuturing them. These activities
ward off that nagging sense of doubt for a while.

But somehow it always returns. Maybe we're as likely to get to know Mexico
as we are to get to know ourselves. The more frightening thought might be
that we would ever be fully successful in either endeavor.

Michael Cahill