Last Sunday after buying my week's supply of bananas in Temozón, as I biked home I passed a little house playing boom-boom music as loud as possible. That reminded me of the time I asked my friend Pancho why so many people in Mexico's small towns and villages turn up their radios so high.
"Music makes you happy," he replied.
"But what if someone doesn't like hearing it?" I countered, causing him to look at me as if the question didn't register.
"But everyone likes to be happy," finally he said.
That kind of reasoning usually works in these small communities. In fact, I suspect that most villagers here accept or even enjoy sharing their neighbor's high-volume music, possibly as a relief from the habitual sounds of clucking chickens, babies crying, and people saying the same as always.
However, despite my having "gone native" in so many ways here, I just don't like boom-boom music.
It's been shown that if a rhythmic beat is played a little faster than one's heartbeat, the heart speeds up to sync with what's heard. If the body isn't active, this increase in oxygen and energy to the brain results in the person feeling more alert, quicker thinking -- "more alive," it seems. The body doesn't maintain this level of oxygen and energy input all the time because it'd lead to early burnout. The body is tuned for longevity.
So, the heartbeat experiment shows that people with boom-boom music can to some degree control other people's thinking and feeling; they're manipulating people without their consent. The whole idea gives me the creeps.
Maybe no one in human history more than Hitler's propaganda minister, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels -- Vladimir Putin is a contender -- has with such effect changed people's behaviors by manipulating their physical and mental environments. Goebbels dusted off powerful mythologies much used throughout history to stir people up -- myths based on the supposed superiority of one's own race and nationality. He coerced those with doubts by using fear-inducing symbols such as the Cross-like swastika, and the terrifying SS on collars of men who knocked on doors after midnight. Goebbels was a master at manipulating people with or without their consent.
Of course, it's a long way from boom-boom music blasting from a little two-room hut along the highway, and Nazi craziness, but there's a thread connecting the two things. The thread is that in both instances someone manipulates people without their consent, by incessantly boom-booming some kind of message, overtly or subliminally, into the general environment.
The question is, at what point along the continuum between boom-boom music and Nazism does the victim resist?
For my part, especially during these sunny, early-autumn-feeling days in the Yucatan, I'm glad to be where only an occasional boom-boom-booming comes thudding through the thicket from cars on the highway a kilometer away. Maybe I even need a little boom-boom from time to time -- even though sometimes it sets the dogs to barking -- to remind me how lucky I am.
But, for most of the rest of you, the keyword here on which to meditate, is "resist."