It seems banal to me that show business should suddenly interrupt political news, international communications about serious events that concern us all, though it may appear otherwise. The slap that American actor Will Smith gave Chris Rock, another actor and host of part of the Oscars last Sunday, reverberated around the world. Are we all, everywhere, part of the Hollywood community? Do we measure the passage of time by the appearance of blockbuster films and the behavior of actors and actresses? My mom was a fan of Humphrey Bogart and said he looked like my dad. My Valencian-Catalan father said that Walt Disney came from Catalonia. The film that left a sentimental mark on both of them was “Casablanca” (1942). They both fled from Francisco Franco’s regime, and later from the Germans when they entered France. So, when in Rick Blaine’s (Bogart) nightclub they all sing:
Allons enfant de la patrie
La jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L´etendart sanglant est levé…
… my young parents would join in with “La Marseillaise,” although in reality they were singing the “Himno de Riego” (“Anthem of Riego”) of the Spanish Republic. I understand the passion. But the slap Smith gave to Rock, who is without doubt a great actor, is nothing more than Smith acting out as a knight errant at the wrong time. Here, the most important thing is that the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin the Terrible stopped looming for a while on the horizon of social media and even on breaking news. The talk of the moment was what had just happened at the Oscars, Smith’s fury and Rock’s idiotic joke. In the United States, video of the gaffe was removed, but too late. People had recorded it and turned it into all kinds of memes. The one that got the most likes was of Volodymyr Zelenskyy slapping Putin’s face.
As we all know, the war in Ukraine will affect the whole world economically. Aren’t you worried? Putin may be very crazy. He continues to advance and will not back down, although many things have gone wrong for him, such as the extraordinary reaction of the Ukrainians and their president, Zelenskyy, who is leading the offensive against the Russians; the economic obstacles imposed by NATO countries; and the almost worldwide rejection of the Russian invasion. His troops are demoralized and weakened, many young Russians have died in the fight with Ukraine and many Russians do not support Putin.
But the Russian president has an ace up his sleeve: nuclear weapons. Any dictator who renounces this option, as did Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi, will be taken by the devil. That is why Iran and North Korea remain armed. Ukraine, by the way, renounced nuclear power in exchange for Russia recognizing its sovereignty as a country in 1994. But Putin thought his actions would divide NATO, that the Chinese would go along with him and that the Ukrainians would not defend themselves with such ferocity. He was wrong.
According to Bret Stephens in this week’s New York Times, Putin has lost his mind. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warns that Putin the Terrible is not in control of his emotions and that something is wrong with him, making him increasingly dangerous. This is the crux of the situation at the moment.
A cornered animal responds with violence — one with nuclear weapons, even more so. Meanwhile, many are fixated on Smith’s slapping incident. Really? Outside the showbiz scene, is it relevant that Andrés Manuel López Obrador rebukes the group of singers, actors, actresses and musicians who have spoken out against the Mayan Train project, which will brutally harm and destroy underground rivers, cenotes and the flora and fauna of the jungle? That the president accuses them of being paid agents is, in reality, yet another of López Obrador’s constant distractions, because the Mayan Train project will indeed damage the Mayan jungle. That is the news, not that Eugenio Derbez and others received “bribes” for speaking out. Besides, the latter is not true.
These are the banalities, the accusations that the president uses as smokescreens to divert attention away from what really matters. Has he spoken out about the group of friends of Russia, created, among others, by Alberto Anaya, leader of the Labor Party, who sees North Korea as a model for Mexico to imitate? What will the president of Mexico think of a group in the Chamber of Deputies, led by Anaya, who want to be friends with Russia, specifically with the sinister, gangster-like Putin?
Fortunately, at the U.N., Mexico indicated that it was opposed to the invasion of Ukraine, as did the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs. So, are we bipolar? Do we support and disdain at the same time? Well, yes. Deep down, López Obrador and many of his cronies support Putin the Terrible in order to disavow any kind of closeness with the United States. They have got the timing completely wrong. Perhaps this is the driving force of populism: to believe it is the protagonist in stories of the past. The populists will have to take a seat in the psychiatrist’s chair so that they may discover that the ill-fated Soviet Union is extinct, that Cuba became a brutal dictatorship just like Nicaragua, and that we are all still lost in the search for truth and nonexistent transformations.