Public Transportation = Freedom

In the American culture (and many others, but more noticeably in the American) there is an association with the ability to drive a private vehicle (mostly being a car or a motorcycle) and the feeling of freedom. In the U.S. this can be very true, but it is precisely because of the lack of public transportation available in the country with only a few exceptions (being the very large cities such as New York and Chicago where public transportation is necessary because of the density of the city). However, with a well developed public transportation system it is quite the opposite.

In the U.S. the city layout is designed for commodity (while in countries where there is a longer history cities grew organically and chaotically), and therefore tend to be divided into residential areas and business areas (while in other countries they are mixed). Apartments are also lacking in the U.S. and are often frowned upon by many (even though it is the most efficient form of housing to conserve surface area). This means that there is now a larger distance between you and the closest grocery store in the U.S. due to the fact that it is in another neighborhood and the lack of density from compact residency structures. Because of these long distances and lack of public transportation the only way to get from point A to point B is to take a form of private transportation, therefore its connection to freedom. Many adolescents rely on their parents to get from one place to another until they are 16 and can get their driver’s license. However, this is not to say that public transportation would not provide the same freedom, or even more.

In countries such as Spain where there is a decent public transportation system available people of all ages have the ability to move quickly to any location in the city (and many towns) for a small price and without having to worry about insurance, gas prices, or parking. This means that youths (who cannot drive because they are not old enough) and the elderly (who cannot drive because of many debilitations that happen as one ages) can use the public transportation and be independent instead of dependent, and although it is true that you would be dependent on the state, the reliance on the state would be much more stable and much more affordable. People who cannot afford a car can still get to their job without taking out a loan for a new car that they might not be able to pay off. This also means that people have to walk/bike from the stops to their destination which helps in multiple aspects: health (the more they walk the less obesity), business (when people walk they are calmer and more willing to stop by any business they see that they find interesting), and psychological health (people would meet each other on the streets and be able to socialize, something that is good for us psychologically).

If taken with the right mindset, public transportation can also relieve stress. When one takes their car somewhere they need to pay attention to the road causing a bit of stress, but not only that, but if you need to be somewhere on time you feel relieved that you have no control over what time you get somewhere on public transportation, and if you get there late it is not your fault. This stress reliever is very useful in a society where people are constantly stressed to have a pause/break between activities to stop and reflect, read a book, listen to music, anything as long as you are calm doing it.

However, creating this sort of infrastructure is expensive, and even more so in a country with a city structure such as that of the U.S. which are more spread out. However, it must also be noted that the U.S. also has a lot more money than most countries, and can afford such a form of public transportation. So the more public transportation you have the more freedom you will have. Yet it must also be said that countries such as the U.S. will have no choice but to move towards public transportation because of population density. As population grows so will density and the need for public transportation (since not everyone in a large city can drive a car, it would cause too much traffic), and there will be no choice but to implement more and more public transportation and little by little getting rid of the private vehicles.

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.