The Devil Never Sleeps, So Play On

Bugsy:
The devil never sleeps, so I’ll sleep when I die
When I lay down I feel him watchin’, I’ll sleep when I die
The devil never sleeps, so I’ll sleep when I die
When I lay down I feel him watchin’, I’ll sleep when I die

The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City left an indelible impression on me. When John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fist in the black power salute it changed me and others view of history. It seemed as if it was the perfect eulogy to the martyrs of the Tlatelolco massacre who on the night of October 2, 1968 the Mexican army in collusion with the United States killed an estimated 300 protesters. Carlos and Smith’s fists primarily paid tribute to the historic Civil Rights Movement but for many of us Tlatelolco was fresh on our memories.

After this point sporting events took on a new meaning, and the old yay team seemed less important and hollowed.

The black power salute took on broader meanings, and I looked behind the sports industry and its role as an opiate of the masses. In recent years, events such as the Olympics and the World Cup have become irritants not so much because of the competition and the sport events but because of the reaction of the fans. It is as if Tlatelolco and Carlos and Smith’s fist had never happened.

An editorial by Francisco Goldman this week titled “Fooling Mexican Fans” brought this to mind. Goldman quoted a SinEmbargo article that wrote, “Ready for your Clamato and Gatorade?” which he pointed out were common hangover remedies. SinEmbargo went on “In about three weeks, when you wake from your World Cup dreams, remember that when the soccer fest began, the country was on the verge of monumental decisions. If upon waking, you realize that the country’s energy reserves have been cheaply sold off or whatever else, don’t bother protesting because this is a chronicle foretold.”

The SinEmbargo editor pointed out that Mexican politicos were debating and passing laws “that could open Pemex, the nationalized oil company, to foreign investment, the Mexican Congress scheduled legislative sessions from June 10 to 23, dates precisely coinciding with you know what. Final passage might be pushed back, but it originally looked like it was supposed to happen on Monday, when Mexico plays Croatia to decide which country advances to the elimination rounds.”

Goldman recounted that in 1998, also under the leadership of PRI the Mexican Congress passed a $67 billion rescue of Mexican banks, which like the U.S. bailout ten years later was paid by taxpayers. It happened on December 12, which as all good Mexicans know, is the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the start the Christmas holiday season. Again on Dec. 12, 2003 PRI legislators teamed up with conservative allies to “fast track” the constitutional assault and the privatization of Pemex that is being accomplished as we read

The dictator Porfirio Díaz once said “Pobre México tan lejos de Díos y tan cerca a los estados unidos” (Poor Mexico so far away from God and so close to the United States). The truth be told, what he said about the devil to the north has become a reality in the guise of the police, corrupt functionaries, greedy elites and university administrators within Mexico.

There is nothing wrong with talking about soccer teams as long as they don’t encourage a national amnesia or hide the fact that “the devil never sleeps.”

There is nothing wrong with talking about soccer teams as long as they don’t encourage a national amnesia or hide the fact that “the devil never sleeps.” The victories of the Mexican team should be celebrated but not hide the memories of the Tlatelolco massacre or the raising of the black power fists that happened in 1968 while others were celebrating. We should not need Clamato and Gatorade to wake up to what is left behind.

The devil takes the form of the greedy Mexican capitalists who will benefit from the so-called reforms, and the opiate of the World Cup. They benefit from the economic integration brought about by trade treaties and other accords that accelerate the process of economic modernization. Remember free trade is not fair trade.

However, we delude ourselves into thinking that the devil is not at work in our country. One of my favorite people recently posted on Facebook that he would root for the American team because it would be unpatriotic to root against the U.S. This was while flying a picture of Zapata. I don’t say this to criticize him but I only say that he should stay awake and remember that the devil never sleeps.

A commentator on Goldman’s piece wrote: “How is the situation you describe in Mexico any different than what occurs in the US? Does anyone remember a debate on bills that

  • gave $15 billion to oil companies,
  • immunized gun companies against those horrible frivolous law-suits,
  • made it impossible for the CDC to conduct research on the health costs of gun violence, and
  • attempt to bankrupt the Postal Service; most passed in the middle of the night.”
Tlatelolco Massacre

Protesters demonstrated this spring in Mexico City against energy reform that would open up the nationalized oil company to foreign investment. Recently, debates on the reform were scheduled at the same time as the World Cup tournament. Credit Yuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse

Of course, the devil is a fictional character who too many Americans believe exists. The devil was manufactured to keep us in line. Americans delude themselves into thinking that they are on the side of the angels.

They are under the illusion that they are safe, and forget that the “devil never sleeps.” The saying is a metaphor for events and people we should beware of instead of “When I lay down I feel him watchin’, I’ll sleep when I die…”

Unfortunately, some never learn this lesson. I don’t remember how many times I have warned student activists and faculty to beware of vacations –Thanksgiving, Christmas, between semesters and the long hot summers especially. The devil in the form of administrators and the Trustees who divert our attention from pressing issues, and use then to lessen faculty governance. In this case, the devils are not the critics, but those who benefit — administrators earning six figure salaries. They hide the fact that tuition is driven by their salaries and by the proliferation of administrators and their minions. Indeed, their teams are padded with assistants, most of who do not have doctorates and earn more than full professors.

I live in dread of the summers because they are a time when faculty takeoff to conferences, vacations and indulge themselves watching events such as the World Cup and debate who is better Lebrón or Kobe. They take on a devil-may-care attitude, which means that they seem relaxed and do not seem worried about the consequences of what is happening at the university or to their democracy.

rodolfo acunaThe game becomes all-consuming and they forget the “the martyrs of the Tlatelolco massacre who on the night of October 2, 1968 the Mexican army in collusion with the United States killed an estimated 300 protesters. Carlos and Smith’s fists paid tribute to the historic Civil Rights Movement but for many of us Tlatelolco was fresh on our memories

So Play On! I am awake knowing that “The devil never sleeps, so I’ll sleep when I die.”

Rodolfo F. Acuña

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Comments

  1. Jose "el Chato" Garcia says

    I was watching these 1968 Olympics from army barracks at Fort Meade, Maryland. Knowing nothing of what was going on at Tlatelolco , I was nonetheless transformed when I witnessed the Black power salute on the podium during these games.

    Americans living in 1968 could not escape the reality of racism, governmental genocide, political assassinations. When flying home from ‘in country’, April of that year, I was detained at Kansas City Airport because of reports of roving bands of vigilantes armed with shotguns patrolling the ASB bridge as angry African Americans reacting to the assassination of MLK, were setting their part of town on fire.

    It was the same year that I watched Bobby Kennedy’s hearst pass on its way to Arlington cemetery. It was the year that I spent many weekends in the Baltimore Row House Ghetto, with an African American friends where on Thanksgiving, discovering a love for pickled herring and fried fish. In 1969, when I became a college student, well, my life’s work as a Chicano activist was set and continues to govern my public life.

    Rodolfo Acuña, continue writing material that is relevant to many of our American lives especially in the 60’s when our generation of Chicanos indeed changed the American experience., paving , plowing the way for the waves of Raza that continues to sweep onto our shores, empowering our continued presence that shows no sign of retreat.

    • Iris Ruiz says

      Thank you for this wonderful history and for your insight. It is true that sports can function as an opiate. However, I do care about sports in that it is one of those things that many African-Americans and other “minorities” aspire to in order to escape poverty. One cannot fault them; it is the pursuit of the “dream” that is at fault.

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