Dear Americans: Vote Blank!


In the U.S. there is an ever growing lack of voter participation in elections, which has driven many Americans to worry and fund campaigns to motivate people to vote on election days by saying things such as “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain” or “If you don’t vote, it means that you don’t care”. Apart from the fact that this is far from the truth, there is one reason I can see to vote, which is to make clear that you are in favor of democracy and the right to vote. However, how does one do this without helping the same parties as always? without giving your vote to a lesser evil once again? Many people feel discouraged to vote for that reason, they are discontent with both major parties and do not with to vote for a lesser evil.

A simple way to protest the unfair electoral system that exists is to do something that in Europe has been common for a while now, which is to vote blank. This simply implies turning in an empty valet. You have proven that you care by going and voting, but you have voted for nobody, therefore stressing that you disagree with the parties presented and wish for a change.

Of course, the media will not notice people voting blank unless there is a large number who do so, but considering there were only 58.2% of Americans present in the previous election, imagine if at least 20% of those that did not participate voted blank instead. This would catch the eye of many and perhaps change the discourse of the political debate to the electoral process that could possibly result in a change for the better.

So I would like to ask that in 2016 and all other elections in which you feel like you are not completely represented by the parties on the valet that you vote blank.

Debt is Enslavement


Slavery in the modern world (for the most part) is illegal and highly frowned upon, as it drastically limits the rights of the individuals. However, leaving slavery behind also created a gap in productivity, a workforce that previously could be paid simply by the initial purchase and sustained with a minimum of food, water, and shelter, now requires a salary for a more decent lifestyle. So the economy required another way to produce so much in the long term (such as the slaves did), and with this we ended up with the most common form of slavery in our day (especially in the U.S. where it is almost impossible to live decently without it), debt.

The issue is not so much small debts, such as when you use a credit card to buy your groceries at the store, but rather larger debts, such as a house and car mortgage, and most of all student loans (the student loans being the most sinister for a reason that will be explained later). These are large debts that take many years for normal people to pay off (especially in a society where consumption is promoted, making it harder for the average person to budget their salary in the most efficient manner) and create a relation between the person and the bank similar to that of an indentured servant. It is even more akin to slavery when the person is allowed to only pay the interests, damning themselves to a lifetime of debt with the bank.

Although it is true that the exploitation is not the same, it does exist. Where before slavery was typically limited to a certain peoples (usually based on race) and were forced to do physical work for the direct benefit of the slave’s owner (whether that work be field work or nannying their children, such as could be seen in Ancient Rome), in this case the slavery is not restricted by population, but rather by income, and the lower the income, the worse the consequences of this debt. When you are indebted your options are limited, you need to earn enough to pay living expenses and at the very least the interests on your loan, while if you were not indebted your job options are not restricted by a necessity to pay of a large loan lingering over you.

The worst part of this slavery is not only that you are stressed and that your options are limited, but the consequences for not paying the bill. If you fail to pay the mortgage on your house they take it away from you along with everything else you have in order to pay off what you owed. However, this is not the case of student loans, which is why in the U.S. they are the most sinister of all the debts. As many U.S. university students will know, university in the U.S. is extremely expensive, the the point that in many cases people view no other option but to join the military which will pay it off for them (another exploitation that begs for its own analysis another day), a tuition that (with scholarships) can cost $20,000 a year (not including room & board, cafeteria, or textbooks) just for a four year major (the prices go up for masters, PHDs, and doctorates). This is a lot of money that the banks have invested in young people with little to no work experience in the real world and who are in a stage and environment where they will most likely spend more on their credit cards (as many do because the banks promote it, giving students a free pizza if they get a credit card with the bank). But what makes this debt the most terrifying (at least in the U.S.) is the fact that you cannot get rid of it. If you can’t pay your house mortgage they will take away your house, but they will also take away your debt, but in the case of student loans they cannot take away your education, meaning that even if you declare bankruptcy you are stuck you your student loan until you pay it off, or until you die.

These debts are tools to impoverish the middle class and keep the working class where they are while the rich (those who can pay off these debts much faster than everyone else) are able to keep more of their income and (once they have payed of their loans) maintain a much larger income while the lower classes continue their suffering and enslavement to the banks.

The Future in Open-Source


This is not a revelation at this point in time, especially to those who have been following the progress of open-source, or have been studying its economic advantages to proprietary software. Our societies have been moving towards open-source for a long time now, to the point where it is not a matter of opinion, it is simply a fact.

Out of all the open-source code there is out there, the one that is expanding the most is Linux, a free as in freedom kernel, which is being used on multiple OS’s in all areas of computing. The most common of which are Ubuntu, Red Hat, Cent OS, and Debian. All these have their specific areas in the economy. Ubuntu does a great job at providing an alternative to Windows and Apple on PC’s, while Debian is mainly used as either a PC OS for programmers, or a server OS, seeing that the Debian community has a version of Debian for servers. Red Hat and Cent OS are often used for super-computers and clusters. Finally, the newest member to the big league Linux OS’s is Android, which has dominated the mobile and tablet markets.

Again, this is not a matter of opinion, these are facts. In the following link, you can see how Android is dominating the mobile market. If you look at the following Wikipedia article (yes, I know Wikipedia isn’t meant to be a valid source, but you can look up the information yourself and you’ll find about the same thing), it shows how Linux has dominated the mobile market, the server market, it’s rising in the tablet market, and it has taken over the supercomputer market (the supercomputer market is no surprise though).

However, open-source is also dominating the gaming mark. The new PlayStation 4 that has recently come out is using FreeBSD underneath as an OS. Recently Steam (a game distribution platform owned by the Valve corporation) is creating their new SteamOS which is based on Debian GNU/Linux, therefore, it must be open-source by law.

However, the reason why Linux and open-source are becoming such an important part of the technological world, is because they allow flexibility and stability. Flexibility because it allows, not only companies and governments, but also every day people, to change the source-code to their own needs, apart from knowing exactly what is in there. This is why the U.S. military uses Linux (specifically Red Hat, which is U.S. owned), because they can modify it and change it to their needs, and know exactly what is in there. So the flexibility makes it very attractive to companies, governments, and individuals alike. And Stability because open-source will always be open-source (especially if it is under a GNU Public License). Even if Linus Torvalds (the creator of the Linux kernel) decided to close the source-code to his kernel, all the people that previously worked on the Linux kernel would then just use the previous source-code and create a new kernel based on Linux, and there will always be an open-source kernel, and there will always be an open-source OS. And because it is open-source, for the most part it is also free. Therefore, companies, governments, organizations, communities, and individuals alike, have a guarantee for life that they will always have a free, and free as in freedom OS.

How Entities Control Our Lives


We many times like to think that even if we are been spied on, and we have a government which is letting major corporations getting away with poisoning our food and water, that we are still free as individuals, and that we individuals do not willingly give in to our own incarceration. However, the truth is that we do, and not only that, but we think it makes us special, we think it makes us more important.

Most will not be wondering what I am talking about, but the problem is, we see incarceration and a dystopian society in a way similar to George Orwell’s book 1984 where there was a totalitarian government that controlled every aspect of our lives, and we hated it. However, what if instead of a government, the ones that are truly controlling our lives are multinational corporations, who play puppet theater with our government, and us.

Now, to what this has to do with you as a consumer, it has everything to do with you. Corporations have found ways to turn every part of our lives into a transaction, a business, something where they can make a profit. The most obvious example is the gym (in the U.S. cultural sense of the term, which is more like a club where people go to do exercise), where people take their cars to go to the gym to be there for an exact amount of time doing exercise that they could have done just walking around.

However, this applies to much more than just people wanting to do exercise. You have dating websites, which are taking an extremely personal part of your life and making it a business. They are taking something that should be personal between two people, a decision that they make by themselves out previous knowledge of each other, and turning relationships into a market where they can make a profit.

Then, there is also the fact that nowadays people are hiring mentors for their children. The process of which is basically that you give one of these associations a request, and they give you a well rounded person to mentor your child. Something that should be done by either the parents, or someone that the family, and most of all the child, actually knows.

Then, there are these friend associations which are where they designate your child a friend to play with, that is considered socially acceptable. Which means they are taking you friendships and turning them into a business as well.

However, what do these have to do with your personal freedom? The fact is that these are all central parts of ones life where associations and businesses are giving you and your family people to socialize with that are specifically socially acceptable, and therefore act like the majority of people. Where these organizations can make sure you never encounter other people who are interested (as I would suppose the readers of this blog are) in alternative ways of living, in going against the norm, in rebelling against the current system. These people can stop you from meeting anyone else like you, and therefore turn you into a mindless zombie that can only talk about yesterdays football match, and how drunk your going to get this Friday, and if you’re a girl, who is going out with who, and what clothes you plan on buying this weekend.

But not only that, but then we end up with a society where everyone is booked from dawn to dusk (and later) with activities. I know kids who from 7:30 to 14:00 they are at school, then they have after school activities that last until 17:00, then they go to work until 22:00, and finally come home to eat some crap food and do homework while watching the latest TV show. And as I said in my post on Free-Time, most of these kids don’t even need these jobs, they just want to be able to consume more and more. But then, on weekends, they go shopping, they have more activities, they go to the gym, etc. People have their whole life on an agenda, and the only way to organize a time to meet with these people is to organize it weeks in advance.

So be careful what you do in your spare time, and how many activities you sign up for (and more importantly, what activities you sign up for). And always try to have at least an hour of free-time a day where you can sit down and just think about things. Think whether you really need to be doing something, or even more importantly, whether you really want to at all. Because life is short, and if you’re going to spend it by letting it go by so you can live a life as the majority, it’s not a life worth spending. Live your life, don’t waste time on these useless activities that you don’t need.

La Diferencia Entre Trabajo Y Persona


“Todos como yo: usurpando un honor que no merecíamos con un oficio que no sabíamos hacer. Algunos persiguen sólo el poder, pero la mayoría busca todavía menos: el empleo.”

– Señor Presidente, del libro Buen Viaje, Señor Presidente de Gabriel García Márquez.

Esta cita de Gabriel García Márquez de su cuento “Buen Viaje, Señor Presidente” habla sobre un tema que nos olvidamos siempre. Cuando pensamos en nuestros políticos, pensamos en ellos como personas; o mejor dicho, no distinguimos entre el político como persona, y el polítoco como cargo político. Pensamos que aplicarían los mismos valores que aplican en su vida diaria que aplican en su oficio. Y por tanto, si un político have algo malo pensamos que es porque ese tipo es mala persona.

Como bien indica el Señor Presidente del cuento en esta cita, hay políticos como eso, gente a quienes solo les importa el poder. Pero, también es verdad que la amplia mayoría de los políticos no son así, y por lo tanto, haran una cosa en el trabajo, y otra en su vida cotidiana. No son los políticos como persona que están mal, es el oficio, y harán cualquier cosa en su oficio para ganar las siguientes elecciones.

La consequencia de esto es que la gente normal (osea, la mayoría de nosotros en cualquier país) lo vé de una manera tan simplísta, que cambiamos los políticos año tras año sin darnos cuenta que lo que falla es el oficio, no uno, sino todos, el sistema entero. Y hasta que no se cambia el problema de fondo, no se solucionará nada.

Stress


Ever since I have gotten back to the United States I’ve been noticing things that I didn’t see before, aspects of the American culture that I had always seen as normal and unquestionable until I returned from living in Spain. But one of the things that stood out to me is that here people actively look for stress. Even though it sounds crazy, people do it here, and it makes my life stressful as well.

Now, if you’re living here, and you most likely will not know what I’m talking about, because it’s what you’ve seen all your life. As I said, I never noticed until I came back here from the calmer life there is in Spain. However, I suppose that I should probably set examples.

One of the biggest things is that everyone needs to be in some sort of activity, whether it be yoga, a martial arts class, the gym, or some after-school club or sport. I know kids who have a job during the school year, and are also in school sports (mind you, here they take school sports rather seriously, with a few hours every day for practice, and a few matches every week). People here are stressed to the point that they put their need for stress over their own physical health. To give you an example, I have a friend who works until 10:00 PM and has to be at school at 8:30 AM the following morning, and this friend isn’t working to support himself, this friend is working for his own unnecessary consumption. Yet, he sees this as completely normal, because sadly, it is.

But even ignoring his case, there are many people who (as I said before) join several different groups/clubs/activities, and end up with no time on their hands to do something as simple as cook dinner. I can’t exactly tell you why they do it here, but I often times see that it somehow makes them feel important, the fact that they’re always busy. I, on the other hand, find it extremely unnecessary.

However, where the factor of stress matters most is among the working class, because those are the people that have stress, not because they make it, but because they need to work three jobs and taking night shifts. So what happens is that these people get stress from all the work they’re doing, and they have to go to the doctor/psychiatrist to talk about it. Apart from having to pay the psychiatrist, the psychiatrist will likely also prescribe them with some “happy pills” which they need to pay. Now you end up with a worker who needs to work even more just to pay for his pills and psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile, the big problem isn’t being solved, the fact that s/he’s still in the ghetto, which is causing all this stress.

Now, people will often misunderstand what I mean here and think I believe that psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies are all out to get you. That’s not exactly true. It’s not that they’re out to get you, it’s that that’s their job. People will do one thing normally in life, and another in their job life. A policeman might have sympathies for protesters in his/her daily life, but is obligated to arrest them in their job life.

Finally, one thing that most people don’t understand is the concept of “going with the flow”. The flow doesn’t always mean the majority, it means the path that comes easier, the path that is easier to take. A life without stress is an easy one to take, but most people don’t like it because it’s not the norm (again, I am referring to the U.S.).

All in all, stress in the U.S. is something fairly common, and something that people look for to be within the norm of people that have a job in high school, or who participate in a school sport, or who go to yoga classes or the gym. People will often do anything to be within the norm. But you have the ability to change yourself, regardless of what other people think. I will say, it’s not easy being the weird guy at times, but it’s less stressful than having to worry about every little thing you do to see if you are within the norm.