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Opinion | Opinião

We, Commodities

Have no illusions. We’re just numbers. Commodities. Expenses for employers or clients. Seldom an investment, and all investments expire eventually. All that matters is providing more requiring less. To survive we must be experts in bidding on an endless rat race. The highly technological and promising 21st century is all about leaving behind human rights, civil rights, unions, social welfare and the social state. Each one by himself is the motto.

See Donald Trump and other thugs. See the sites for job offers. See the freelance platforms. The jungle persists, in spite of the new foliage. No doubt the extraordinary global effort to manufacture a vaccine against Covid-19 might give us some hope about communal behavior, but once the danger gets more under control the law of the jungle will be back on. And the vaccine will be part of the game. Exploitation is far away from being expelled as the engine for the so-called civilization.

Dictatorship, either governmental or corporative, from Left or Right wings, is all about dehumanizing individuals. The recurring excuse for the procedure is called “the common good” or “the grand picture”, phrases heavily distorted, an ordinary phenomenon to well meaning rhetoric and ideals. There is always someone ready to make bad use of good words. Such vocabulary becomes the fundamental tool to make us believe we are cherished and taken care of. Try reading the texts of job offers. I insist. And the freelance platforms, where bidders adopt the same language to sell their services, making commodities of themselves.

Commodities we are. From exploitation we die.

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Opinion | Opinião

Arts And Businesses

It makes seven months today since I started my Etsy shop. This experience made me realize how arts and businesses strongly share a common axis. Their audience. Both activities thrive to get admiration and customers, clients, people who pay at least enough for them to survive. Both arts and businesses rely on the same idea to succeed. Branding. We all recognize a Picasso and a Mercedes.

Most strikingly even is the sharing of mannerisms. Both face the decision between following trends or developing and stand for their unique style, their personality. Target audiences may be either tasteless, normative, daring or sensitive to exquisite aesthetics. Artists and business owners can equally produce commodities or master pieces, and whatever comes in between.

Branding, however, is the key point. Arts and businesses must know how to sell themselves. The distinction between the ideal audience and the real one is crucial. The awareness of the big numbers of popularity and trends is a requisite. Of utmost importance is the notion that the brand makes the product in the same way the suit makes the man. Selling is a masked ball.

This is when another choice comes up. Cynical or sincere branding. To the audience they are indistinguishable on most commodities or art pieces. Ads and articles can lie at will or convey the truth, and no one notices the difference. A good branding campaign makes the audience forget any bad experience from the past. More than a quality statement, a brand captivates us. It makes us wish for whatever it sells to us.

I am trying. Therefore the slogan.

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Opinion | Opinião

The Prison Of Careers

We live in a time when our professional choices are for life, if we are lucky enough to have a steady job. Sometimes I wonder how things were before the existence of the social state. A world of classes, I suppose. Workers and bosses, slaves and owners. Unfortunately the social state has not taken bold steps yet. Politicians keep seeing both unemployment and careers as something they are not responsible for. Minimum conditions of dignity are still taken as negotiable.

Each citizen wastes the entire life dreading the loss of income enough for bread on the table. Once a job is acquired we must stick to the damn set of tasks because our lives literally depend on it. We may boast our pride for our freedom and democracy, but the truth is we still live in a society based upon fear. Some political wings keep believing and spreading the doctrine of fear as the motivation to work and prosperity.

If keeping the means to survive is so demanding, changing jobs and abandoning careers is insane. There is absolutely no social structure to endorse a citizen with free will to chose how to live. One might be totally bonkers to even pronounce such a blasphemy. Reality punches us in the face with the cold fist of supply and demand. We are not in this world to self-fulfillment. We’re here to be winners, to be successful, to become the few capable of making money pour into our hands. Even if that takes making our soul miserable.

Abandoning or keeping a career is a choice between two suicides.

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Opinion | Opinião

Civilization

This word is of extreme importance. Leaders must give it due value in this time of pandemic, of global disease and death. It is the solidity of civilization and the strength of its institutions that will determine how many of us will survive. The amazing capability of humankind to get organized and raising individuals to use their talent for the common good should be the at the heart of both business and politics, instead of the plain accumulation of money. Ambition goes far beyond profit and vanity. It includes vocational fulfillment, a sense of purpose and utility, the idea of having a role in society. Even without knowing or admit it, we all share the goal of becoming civilized or taking the benefits of civilization.

Even the most selfish of individuals, even psychopaths realize that one must be inside the game of being civilized, at least for a while, to avoid being ostracized. Civilization, through ages, developed several shapes, the known pinnacle of which being democracy. What frightens me, and is the reason for the writing of this post, is how fragile civilization is and how common is the mistake of taking it for granted. More, this pandemic is putting civilization to the test and, in spite of the death tolls, thousands of powerful individuals are not taking it seriously. I am afraid of colapse.

This is one of those times when a strong democratic and powerful regulator is needed, if such thing would ever be possible. The only way to imagine such a possibility is with the strict use of fundamental proven laws to the equality of human rights. Instead of giving money and making business with dictators, our democracies should endorse movements to the spreading of democratic secular states. Parliaments should have a scientific council for matters of physical and mental health, education, poverty and the proliferation of job offers. Wealth should be supervised with a non-exploiting and non-impoverishing criteria. In short, laws must be decent and their inspection efficient and effective.

These are my castles in the air. No matter how distinct are civilizations around the world, no matter their languages – all different as a punishment from God, if one is to believe in Babylon -, no matter the selfishness of several of us, I believe a day will come of solid institutions to preserve our rights, justice, and the guarantee of survival, no matter how deadly a pandemic.

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The Cold Cold War

They say it ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. By then everyone talked about Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost, Boris Yeltsin’s alcoholism and poking of women, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s plans to invade Finland and his night spent with pornstar and ex-member of the Italian parliament Cicciolina. The Russian bear was said to embrace the West, the iron curtain was open and, after fifty years of a nuclear arms race to an ever-growing arsenal capable of destroying life on Earth a few dozens of times, the Cold War was over.

The Soviet Union started to collapse. Eastern Europe republics claimed their independence from Russia, genocidal wars started in some of them, namely the one in former Yugoslavia. Some conflicts are still happening, sponsored by both Russia and countries from NATO. In the meantime, a former chief of the KGB becomes the elected President of Russia.

A few years ago, the spy novels writer John Le Carré said something like this: “I don’t want a microphone on Mr. Putin’s shoe. I want Mrs. Putin working for me.” The faith on technology replacing the investment on human capital turned the Western secret community into shambles, Le Carré explained. The Cold War isn’t over. Actually, spying activities have been increasing tremendously.

Russia and China have learned the hard way how communism as it was ruins economies. So they opened up, each on their on way. One country, two systems, for China, and an oligarchy pretending to be a democracy, for Russia, cartelized savage capitalism for both and their allies. Gas, caviar and Kalashnikovs made in Russia, everything else made in China, Western countries and companies exporting cheap jobs to them. Spies assure the wheels keep on turning, specially to the benefit of the armament, oil and stock exchange industries.

In this cold Cold War, ideology and human rights are lesser important than ever before. A self-centered culture grows fast in both East and West countries, private interests gain a pharaonic predominance legitimized by peoples craving for employment. We are on the verge of a hi-tech medieval age, where people’s souls return to tribal horizons. Intellectual and ethical capacities are submitted to the whims of the elites. Nations will be replaced by corporations. Businesses are to become the homeland of individuals.

Human qualities are no more.

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Opinion | Opinião

Dystopia Is Now

Imagine a world where your life is at stake each time someone is less than two meters near you. Masks are mandatory for death not to happen. You are dangerous to the ones you love the most and they are dangerous to you. People can not touch each other. A disinfectant is to be available all the time. News show nothing but rates on disease and death.

Labs are racing for the cure. Hospitals are an inferno where exhausted doctors and nurses in airtight suits are overwhelmed with crowds of dying people in need of intensive care. Governments, politicians, banks and corporations increase their disputes for money and power, blind to the death and poverty around them. Demonstrations of workers and small business owners deprived of their means to survive get violent, irrational slogans denying the global danger of socializing are shouted, everyone loses their minds in waves of despair.

Coming on 2020, everywhere near or far away from you.

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Opinion | Opinião

Politics And Pandemic

People are dying. Small businesses are closing. Riots are emerging. Labs are racing. Multinationals keep on playing. Politicians keep on gambling.

I know nothing of finance, which might the reason for being unable to reckon how can it be possible not to having enough money in each country for a proper confinement and the provision of food, shelter and healthcare for the population. I simply don’t get it. When money is not enough it is somewhere else. The drama for small businesses is having bills and wages to pay. Most bills come from banks and multinationals. Most multinationals or big nationwide businesses own politicians.

To my eyes, the economic drama of the pandemic would be solved if there were food for everybody and bills for no one. Why the hell are water, gas and electricity services still collecting?! How can banks still have the nerve to collect from mortgages, loans and interests?! When will governments understand that a universal dignified income is the only means to put an end to financial havoc? The lack of medical personnel would be solved in an instant. Having guaranteed dignified income, physicians and nurses only had to be called.

But I know nothing about these things. Perhaps the premise of the lack of money on one side meaning the excess on the other is false. I’m a lunatic. An ignorant naïve. Maybe so.

Meanwhile, people are dying and politicians keep on gambling.

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Opinion | Opinião

Violence Management

It is easy to get angry and lose control. Try dealing with a noisy classroom full of children hurting and bullying each other. You will crack in a blink. Give it a few years of daily exposure to excruciating noise and continuous effort to maintain control and you will sink into clinical depression and trauma, finding yourself unable to exercise the profession again. Thousands of teachers are in that condition. You can apply the same reasoning to any professional working under abusive conditions or any human being under abusive families, companions or marriages. Some people explode.

Unfortunately, civilization has not grown enough to make it possible for people to change context. Taking unemployment and real estate prices into account, one is condemned to hold still in the abusive scenario until the following episode of explosion, ending up oneself to become an abusive agent committing crime.

A totally different kind of individual is the bully. Here it is not a matter of losing control. Bullies are deliberately violent and abusive. Their only principle is to provide themselves and their tribe with infinite power and wealth. Ends to justify means is the basis to propaganda, recruit and alliances. Ends to justify means gives them permission to domestic violence, rape, slaughter, beheadings and genocide.

Civilization is to bullies a mere tool for the perpetration of power, abuse and wealth. The concept of civilization as a social structure without abusive leaders is beyond their understanding.

Violence by extenuation and violence by abuse are sometimes hard to distinguish. In an ethically based civilizational structure, once the violent act is committed, subjects get the same label – criminal. Though such label is true, it is prawn to misjudgment. Reaction to abuse and exercising abuse are antagonistic realities.

One thing is sure. If you are not a bully, society offers thousands of sets for you to explode. My advice is never to pass judgment without wearing the defendant’s shoes.

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Obscurantism

Covid-19 is showing us how a great portion of individuals from the civilized world still has the mindset of the Middle Ages, wants to remain in that condition and intends to persuade others to follow their beliefs by every possible means. The motivations of such obscurantist can be sincere, manipulative or both, and their common trait is loyalty to a dictatorial system of faith that repudiates and forces the disavow of rationality and its institutions, namely science. Obscurantists of today have inquisitorial behaviors that go far beyond the red line of respect for human rights and nothing is being done by authorities and politicians to prevent them.

Simple gestures with tremendous power to save human lives – washing your hands, wearing a mask and keep social distance – are deliberately presented by obscurantists as restraints to their civil rights and freedoms, instead of exceptional laws for exceptional times that could be taken as lightly as traffic rules. The vast popularity of attachments to stupidity as the denial of Covid-19 is achieved through the terror of losing individual achievements, resources and liberties, the same recipe for the propagation of xenophobism, racism and general mobilization to war.

Recent and ancient History has shown us how neighbors once living in harmony can slaughter each other all of the sudden. Such is the power of obscurantism. It frightens its rise in both Europe and America, specially when extremists get seats on parliaments and governments. It is appalling how once again we citizens are letting this happen until it is too late. Horror comes when realizing obscurantism contaminating our friends, families and homes.

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Opinion | Opinião

Make A Living

They ought to teach that at school. How to make a living? It is odd the bombardment with slogans on having success we all are exposed to since childhood. Even odder is using the term success to define the condition of having a job. Call me a leftish, a socialist or even a communist, I don’t care, but I see employment and dignified wages as basic universal human rights.

Instead of a strictly ruled unemployment allowance, state budgets must deliver to every citizen a guaranteed social income in order to eradicate poverty. The popular theory stating people wouldn’t search for work if they had enough money for food and shelter is, to my eyes, a plain fallacy. Some people might not work, but the large majority would look for jobs or start businesses to both enlarge their income and follow their talents.

I not only believe state budgets have more than enough money for this, specially with strong regulation of real estate prices, as I am sure this would be the smartest investment ever done. Consumption would rise, duly taxed, creative forms of businesses would flourish from potential entrepreneurs and a more sustainable and equalitarian economy would emerge.

Am I being naïve?