The social contract of Teotihuacan

It is said that when the Aztecs in the early fourteenth century discovered Teotihuacan with all its pyramids, they were so impressed by the grandiosity of the place that they thought it had been built by giants. So they fostered the myth that the gods had gathered there to assure the world’s existence. 

In fact, its most important constructions had occurred in the first two centuries of our era, carried out by human beings who might even have been the ancestors of the Aztecs.

When I visited Teotihuacan, I understood those fourteenth-century Aztecs very well, because my first reaction was to wonder in awe about what social contract must have been in place so as to convince a population to dedicate themselves, over several generations, to building something like this. Since it is frequently difficult to convince even small communities about keeping the streets in front of their own houses clean, or, on a more mundane and personal level, so difficult for me to get anyone of my daughters to volunteer to do the dishes, I knew that if we could just lay our hands on a copy of the Teotihuacan social contract, then development work should be a breeze … and clearly WBG could be out of a job … and I would never have to wash plates again. 

It is surely a mystery how civilizations suddenly get the will to organize themselves to do the most amazing things. I am of course always on the lookout for that magic route, that I sometimes visualize a bit like Harry Potter’s running into the wall at the train station and finding his parallel world. 

Anyhow, while leaving Teotihuacan, I was brought back to realities and reminded of the very fragility of civilizations. It seems that even though we find the magic potion for development, its effects are not necessarily long-lasting. In this sense, in the long run, WBG would still have a guaranteed clientele for its work as developed countries could implode into underdevelopment, and that one of my future descendants would also surely have to face a dirty pile on a Sunday morning a couple of centuries from now. 

Strangely, I sensed that this last reflection was not fatalistic at all, but, on the contrary, it aroused in me a great feeling of solidarity and appreciation for the daily grinding of forefathers and likewise of generations to come. It will never be over … and so as Dory says … Just Keep Swimming.