Transposing emblem by Gabriela Lozano

Instability and uncertainty are two related concepts that can reinforce each other. It is true that the word instability could describe a mental state but, in general, I understand it as something more concrete or even physical, pertaining to things or events, to their precarious balance with respect to what’s around them. Incertidumbre (uncertainty), on the other hand, can only be un estado mental, a state of doubt regarding unpredictable circumstances. It describes our perception of things, the way we feel about them. It is a judgment on la situación. Like all living creatures, we need to assess our environment to make decisions, but somehow we seem more vulnerable to the lack of predictability; some people, more than others, feel the need to have control. When they realize they can’t control their surroundings or the people around them, they flip out.

So what happens when the media spreads information that people are unable to process? What happens when the media keeps the masses in a prolonged state of incertidumbre and fear? All hell breaks loose. I’m going to tell you la historia of Г-н нож or señor Nozh (Mr. Knife). I call him that to avoid revealing his identidad real. This is my understanding of the true events that happened in mayo de 2017.

Since the beginning of that year, when el nuevo presidente of our neighboring country to the north took office, his disparaging remarks on México y los mexicanos, and the threat that he would deport los inmigrantes indocumentados mexicanos living en Estados Unidos, and, of course, his promises to build a wall between our countries, have translated into deep uncertainty in the minds of los mexicanos en Estados Unidos y aquí en México, who don’t know exactly what consecuencias sociales, económicas, políticas y personales to expect from all this. Such a context was fertile soil for what happened next.

En mayo de 2017, certain videos started to circulate through las redes sociales, and went viral very soon. They were filmed by el señor Nozh, a heavy, tall, bearded man, caucásico, twice the size of the average Mexican, in his 40s. They showed him strolling through the streets of Cancún town (not the Hotel Zone), doing and saying hateful things to locals. He was a Russian expatriado living in Cancún, México, who had apparently been granted permanent residency in 2015.

There were actually several months of footage posted in blogs, Vimeo and several YouTube accounts, some of which were reported and banned. Every scene contained Sr. Nozh’s face in a smaller square at the bottom of the screen as he holds un monólogo of hate about the citizens of the country that he chose as his new home, a sort of private narration full of contempt for his potential viewers to enjoy. The main screen shows the action: the moment when he attacks either verbally, physically or psychologically his, now, fellow co-nationals. En español, inglés y ruso, intermittently, he expresses how he thinks the people he films are inferior, almost animals, mocking them and expressing disgust for las familias mexicanas and happy couples he finds on the street. At the fast food restaurant, he films little kids and babies from afar where they can’t hear him, “you, stupid child, you have no future, your disgusting ethnicity, you laugh now, but you wait and see.”

People in this city are used to tourists from all over the world, and they are hospitalarios y amables to foreigners in general. Most locals work en turismo, so when Sr. Nozh approached them, they were unsuspecting of his intentions.

Sr. Nozh walks down the street; a young Mexican man approaches from the opposite direction. Sr. Nozh whispers to the camera, “wait and see what I’m going to do to him.” We see how he physically collides, on purpose, with the unwary man, throwing him to the ground. The next thing we see is a close-up of the fallen guy who is not angry, but puzzled, trying to figure out what has just happened. Sr. Nozh strides off while laughing into the camera, satisfied with his assault.

Our angry man is now rambling on the beach. His resentment for the people around him seems to prevent him from enjoying the breeze, the view and the warm soft sand below his feet. The camera shows some adolescentes locales relaxing, smiling, enjoying a nice picnic at the beach on a wonderful sunny day; Nozh marching towards them, his thick-soled boots – only someone who feels threatened, someone who feels la necesidad for protection against a painful environment takes this kind of footwear to the oceanside – stepping right into the food, smashing it completely as he laughs for the screen without stopping. Then a close-up of the crushed inedible food from la distancia.

We see Sr. Nozh approaching a young Mexican woman to ask her for directions. She stops to try and help him, thinking he might be a lost tourist. Sr. Nozh goes, in clear Spanish, “gracias, mono” (thank you, monkey). She can’t believe what she just heard, this must be a mistake, it must be that this man barely habla español, and clearly doesn’t know what he is saying, “Okay, but I’m not mono.” Sr. Nozh, en perfecto español, replies, “yes you are, to me you are a monkey.” We see her break into tears, not knowing what to do. She has been caught off guard. She has been psychologically abused on the street by a person she was trying to help, a cruel man twice her size and weight.

Dozens of videos like these from the ”film producer” were available online for everyone to see. Apparently, he seemed very proud of them. The videos went viral overnight, distributed con entusiasmo throughout las redes sociales, reaching all parts of México. Then, of course, came the reaction. There was descontento and unrest: “Someone do something to stop him”, “¿Can’t la policía arrest him?” “Do something, people”, “Go get him.”

In fact, old Russian news footage online revealed that our avid cameraman used to do the same thing in his native country, attacking people where he saw he could get away with it; for example, colliding with the elderly, making them fall on a path full of snow. There are also videos of him as an adult man still living with his parents, recorded in a state of paranoia, where he explains that his own mother is trying to rob him of money that he is hiding in his room. It seems he fled to escape hospitalización psiquiátrica, passing through España and Egipto before finally settling in far-off México.

But all this información from his past arrived late, as the crowds were already organizing through las redes sociales, planning to congregate that evening outside Sr. Nozh’s home. He lived by himself in a rented room on the top floor of a house in an unpopular neighborhood of Cancún, where he dedicated hours to editing and posting his videos.

But it wasn’t always like that, you know? For a brief period of time, not long after starting his nueva vida en América Latina, he managed to get a job as a diving instructor. When you see pictures of him from back then, only a year or so before, he looks like a different person: slender, fit, no facial hair, a different expression on his face altogether. This was before “he was fired for aggressive behavior,” as la compañía turística declared once the videos were publicized. They felt compelled to release una declaración because he kept using – as a decoy to confuse his prey or maybe because he needed to reinforce his disintegrating identity – his uniform and instructor’s badge with the logo of la compañía where he didn’t work anymore. As with other documentos personales, he felt the need to show them to us through the lens, to declare his identity; to remind himself, perhaps, of who he was.

On May 19, in total uncertainty, hundreds of cancunenses, both men and women, waited outside, downstairs, for Sr. Nozh to appear. They all knew his threatening face and voice from the posts. I truly believe no one really knew exactly what they were doing there, what the course of action would be. They just responded to the urgent call en las redes sociales.

Sr. Nozh, following the developments online that evening, must have entered one of the loneliest places on Earth: his room wasn’t his room anymore, the walls around him lost their consistency, threatening to collapse; his state of apprehension higher than usual, and his paranoia finally finding a real echo. A digital news channel used a drone to broadcast the scene live for everyone to see: the agitated multitude, Sr. Nozh’s room en tiempo real, a timid police car parked outside “to make sure things didn’t get out of control.”

Amongst the rivers of people, the only security guard suddenly decides to abandon the premises. A skinny 19 year-old is the first one to cross the main gate and force his way in. The drone shows him flying up the stairs to the rooftop, followed by another 4-5 young adults. As far as can be seen, they are unarmed, one of them waving a stick.

More than angry, the youngsters seem hesitant. But there they are, chosen and cheered by las multitudes; they can’t go back now. My guess is they are going to try to drag him out of the house. The drone captures the exact moment when an enraged Sr. Nozh storms out of his room with fire in his eyes and a knife in his hand, his hatred finally finding a concrete, physical form. He stabs the fleeing muchacho (young man) repeatedly, without mercy. Without hesitation. The massive 45 year-old man stabs the lanky 19 year-old half his size. The rest is history.

Here we have an extreme recent case of uncertainty driving people to do desperate, irrational things, y la inmediatez de los medios digitales playing a clear role in disseminating and magnifying, first, one person’s hate for others, then, several people’s anger and fear, and, overall, inflaming the collective displeasure and contributing to its swift disproportionate escalation. The same canals digitales that Sr. Nozh skillfully used to spread his insulting derision came bouncing back right at him full force, just like a boomerang, propelled by his own angry thoughts.

So many things lack certainty in life, but we cannot lose our heads over them. They do not have to be all negative or end in tragedia. It is important for people to learn ways to cope with uncertainty at a personal level. Doubt, as that moment when the coin is still in the air, when fate hasn’t been decided yet, is always una oportunidad abierta, a fill-in-the-blank space; we, individually and collectively, decide what we will fill it with.

Gabriela Lozano