“What’s going on in the world? A lack of compassion. I wish we had a little bit more of that and less Trump.”
That’s how Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, set the tone for his March 16 talk at the World Happiness Summit — the first global gathering of government leaders, economists, academics, and researchers who met at Miami Dade College to explore the science and economic impact of happiness on civic well-being.
The H20 (Happy 20) represents the top 20 ranking countries of 155 in the World Happiness Report, which will be released today, March 20, the United Nations-decreed International Day of Happiness. In 2016, the United States ranked 13th, with Denmark at the top and Burundi on the bottom.
Fox hasn’t minced his words about President Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall since a 2016 interview in which he publicly declared that Mexico is “not going to pay for that fucking wall.” The outspoken Trump critic has since famously trolled the U.S. president on Twitter (@vicentefoxque) with the hashtag #FuckingWall.
After news broke about Trump’s budget, Fox tweeted, “@realDonaldTrump's budget for his #FuckingWall will come from US taxpayers. One more lie, the only truth is that MÉXICO IS NOT PAYING!”
Fox didn’t drop any F-bombs during his formal address about global boundaries. He repeated the rhetorical question “What is going on?” while confirming his stance on the futility of erecting a wall that he claims won’t make anyone happy.
He then focused on a more positive analogy — “one of the great construction events of the second part of the last century” — namely the dismantling of nationalism in favor of a world working toward “openness, alliance, and agreements, trying to avoid conflict, war, and violence.”
“Welcoming migrants — those desperate, running from violence and war — is a compassionate act,” he said. “The idea of enclosing myself within my wall, my territory, to avoid compassionate acts, that’s being applied to economics,” he continued. “It shows selfishness.”
Fox barely mentioned Trump’s name Thursday — in fact, the whole gathering seemed to avoid it, with one British statistician referring to the president as “the one who shall not be named” — but Fox indirectly referred to “bad hombres” throughout history who have caused “severe damage to humankind.” On the list of leaders who didn’t practice compassion: Hitler, Napoleon, Stalin, and, in Latin America, “the Peróns, the Castros.”
“They gave rise to an ideology of populism and demagoguery,” he said. “In Latin America, we learned a hard lesson. We were in the hands of dictators, liars. They promised us access, and the delivery never happened, so we have a special way to smell and to test who will not do the job.”
Among Fox’s list of good guys: St. Ignatius Loyola, Pope Francis, Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, who spent years in jail before becoming a model for governance. Fox, who repeatedly stated his loathing of ideologies, said he also loves the Dalai Lama. “He’s not about religion. He’s about spirituality, pure joy, compassion, and love.”
This who’s who of men who “did the job” developed responsible leadership skills after spending time in the “profound” act of silent contemplation and figuring out their sense of purpose instead of focusing on wealth and power.
“I can tell you what’s wrong,” Fox said. “Putting together wealth with political power is an atomic bomb.”
Keeping in line with the theme of the summit — that people, not products, are what’s important in happy economies — he pointed out several key issues, including hunger in a world that wastes surplus food. “Compassionate leaders think about the transfer of food to the poor,” he said, “not about ‘how much money I’m going to make.’”
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Fox doesn’t believe democracy is delivering. “Electoral processes are not yielding the kind of compassionate leaders we need. Maybe in our desperation to consume,” he said, “we get lost and choose to elect a false prophet. People are now losing hope.
“It’s not his fault to be so ignorant,” Fox conceded — again, without naming names. “This guy is blind; he didn’t learn from history.”
Fox reminded the audience that the United States imported Mexican workers during World War II and that the U.S. economy still depends on accepting the work of immigrants.
Referring to Trump as “El Trumpún,” Fox said that disregarding the potential contribution of 35 million Mexicans in the States was shortsighted. “Who is going to assist the growing population of elderly in hospitals?” he asked. “Who is going to pick apples in Washington state or vegetables in California?”