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Opinion | Opinião

Pandeconomics

People are dying. People are fired. People are broke. People are numbers.

The first sentence refers to the pandemic. The other three are day-to-day economics, now stressed by the first one.

I am neither an economist, a capitalist, a communist, a business manager or an union delegate. Therefore I cherished the dream of this intensification of the last three sentences forcing a change to the paradigm of global economy. Reality has another agenda.

On TV the other day an expert said businesses must be competitive or fall. Small and big business managers said there is no margin for a raise on minimum wages. Sacking is mainstream and governments shrug beatifically while giving sermons on not having illusions. The vision on unemployment keeps the same. Are jobs lacking? Too bad. Life goes on to the employed. The others are cast to get in line for social welfare whilst business managers refuse to both paying taxes and keeping jobs. The reason? Businesses must be competitive.

How many businesses are based on offshores and export their job vacancies? How many business headquarters are nothing but post office boxes? How many workers are enslaved on countries with no human rights? Why are these numbers seldom told or not told at all?

Politicians and business managers make haste to discredit such questions by labeling them as extremist, radical and demagogical. The pandemic will not end this. When catastrophe occurs, people in power do not come to their senses. They will only increase their efforts to maintain power.

Pandeconomics means the stressing of people being fired and getting blamed for not working. They will continue to be labelled as parasites by the ones who fired them so that taxes for social welfare are cut. Social classes become only three. Bosses, workers and unemployed. In other words, extremely rich, survivors and extremely poor.

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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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Opinion | Opinião

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

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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Talented I Envy | Talentosos que Invejo

Talented I Envy #3 – John Le Carré

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Opinion | Opinião

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

Open Letter To Biden And Harris

Dears Joe and Kamala,

I am not an American and I don’t live in America, but my heart filled with joy when you won the election, as it happened to millions of human beings around the globe. I’m from a tiny little country on the western edge of Europe as populated as the city of New York. American culture is imbedded in my life, mostly from Hollywood movies, TV shows, novels and the news. The influence of America in the world has no equal, spreading far beyond any empire in History. Whatever you do with your great power it will have an effect on me and millions of others.

You both claimed the intention to unify America. My plead is for you to take that intention seriously. To my perception, half the population of America is conservative, judgmental, prejudiced, against science and denier of fact. A significant number of these Americans are extremely powerful, even capable of becoming presidents of the United States themselves, damaging the world and sacrificing millions of foreign lives to the purpose of defending what they call American interests, which in reality is their own pockets. The vast majority of conservative Americans comes from extremely poor industrial and rural areas. In a country without National Health Service and almost no investment in public schools, this population is easily manipulated to the point of fanatically follow charismatic leaders who tell them what they want to hear, no matter how untrue it can be. These poor conservative Americans are people of faith, whose choices have no rational nor factual basis.

This dynamic among conservative leaders and loyal followers causes extreme damage to the entire world. A brainwashed mob of poor people gives its vote to selfish leaders interested only in power and money. Democracy is manipulated to give these leaders legitimacy to rule.

Therefore, Joe and Kamala, I plead you to plan far beyond the four or eight years to come and to invest in changing the poor rural and industrial America. Provide this people with jobs and dignified wages, give them access to proper education, expand their horizon with science, philosophy, arts and literature, never denying them their beer, sports, burgers and apple pie. Show them knowledge without forgetting to be charismatic and persuasive.

In short, make America wise, for all of us.

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Opinion | Opinião

Election Night

In case you don’t understand Portuguese, the outdoor on the drawing above is about elections. Tonight is the night. American votes will be counted to determine whether an assassin brat will continue to rule the most powerful country in the world or a career politician will mend the havoc of the last four years. Strangely enough, no one knows what will happen.

When George Bush Junior was elected I thought nothing could be worse than that. Four years later the man was reelected. When choosing between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, it was absolutely clear that Donald had no chance. He won. And he is a thousand times worse than George.

The deciding voters came from rural and industrial America. Extremely poor or extremely rich, predominately white supremacists raised on prejudice and irrationality, valuing blind loyalty to their own in a tribal manner, these individuals move on herds of passion and demagogy, never questioning the decisions of their idols. They are the always forgotten red-necked heart of America.

Forgetting the uneducated classes of the inland is a historical mistake common to all countries. Leaders believe in keeping cattle like crowds vulnerable to propaganda as a widget for power. Both conservative right wing leaders as left extremists master such technique, with the complicity of moderate ones to keep them running. It is this complicity that ruins nations.

It will be a long night.