Saturday, January 21, 2006

Past Post-Modern Times

“The World is Flat” according to Thomas Friedman in his book “A Brief History of the Twenty first Century” 2005; Farrar New York ISBN 0-374-29288-4 OF. Linn Library call no. HM846.F74 2005. In it Friedman goes over an extensive survey of today’s socio-political system in search of democratic leadership. Analyzes how the United States of America is lagging behind undeveloped nations in her effort for a sustainable development.
Based on a strict view of what is happening in places such as India, China and Latin America. His insight is based on extensive travel and personal interviews with important people in those countries. Just to mention one, the one with Guillermo Ortiz the governor of the Central Bank of Mexico (equivalent to Greenspan in the US) is quite interesting, basically because Ortiz was put in that position by Salinas (Mexico’s President from1988 to 1994) and represent the most active ideology of open markets for big capital and corporations.
Friedman’s analysis is clear relating: Awareness>>Attitude>>Education>>Science>>Technology>> to Prosperity.
By doing this he criticizes some of the baggage of our current situation where meritocracy is substituted by cronyism and short term substitutes long term planning and vision.
As the author opens our eyes to intangible and tangible reasons for the flattening of the earth emphasizes the need for better education as the first step and the awareness that with today’s technology many problems of society could be resolved very easily. There is absolutely no reason why more than one million people are estimated to die of malaria each year. According to the author an energy war is taking place and will be even more acute as China takes more and more of energy resources as she continues with her development. This (flat) world is amoral. Both good and bad organizations have their playing ground flattened –those who work for the advancement of society as well of those who are looking for selfish gains in detriment of all. This is what makes violent organizations so powerful regardless of their lack of acceptance by civilized society in general.
As a native of Mexico chapter 9 “The Virgin of Guadalupe” caught my attention in a special way. Friedman’s argument in this chapter could be summarized with the following idea: in the run for the bottom nobody wins! The “bottom” could be low wages, low standards of living, environmental standards, or any other socio-economic standard. As Mexico was keeping progress at the slowest rate possible in order to compete in the international market place with low wages as a member of NAFTA, China could go even lower! The proximity with the US was no match for the extremely low cost of Chinese production, even taking transportation into account. Most of the book is focused on education. Mentioning the role of parenting and the strength of public education in the US, as well as the positive impact of the influx of foreign born need for success and achievement. He doesn’t propose militarizing education but higher standards, and taking students out of their comfort zone. Students have to learn how to save and sacrifice some immediate pleasures in the present for a return in the future. India’s investment in education is paying off now many years after the strong investment done after their independence from England in the 1940s.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Wind of the Times

Why the Right Got it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get it? Is clearly explained by Jim Wallis in his book God’s Politics, 2005. Harper Collins ISBN: 0-06-055828-8. As far as I have been able to read (not finished yet) the author’s strong arguments demonstrate a change in today’s political winds where the appearance of moral high ground that has been sequestered by self designated keepers of morality is now been freed and promoted by truly religious individuals and organizations. These self appointed “guardians” of morals are characterized by extremist positions that are similar in both Islamic fundamentalism and the so-called Christian evangelism. Even the names for these religions have nothing to do neither with the majority of churches practicing the religion nor with the people that practice it. A few extremists have hijacked these beautiful ideas and principles into false and ugly ideologies that have nothing to do with the original intent.

It is so refreshing and encouraging seeing that many good people are taking the lead in order to recuperate religion. Today we celebrate the life of a distinguished Christian who gave his life for his sisters and brothers. He was a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther King Jr. was “only” defending the principles established in the New Testament.

Other book that I highly recommend is “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis” by Jimmy Carter 2005. Simon and Schuster ISBN: 0-7432-8457-7. This book emphasizes our responsibility as religious people to take care of our fellow men to be pro life (that is against war, and any other form of killing) and to take care of the earth as stewards of creation in order to leave our descendants the environments and resources that we were given.

It seems that these are the prevailing winds.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Time for best wishes for the New Year!

Time reading is time well spent. The Universe in a Nutshell by S. Hawking (ISBN 0-553-80202-X) is a book full of interesting thoughts and it is so nicely presented. One chapter in particular must be read with great care: chapter 2 about "The shape of time". One can't say what time is, nor what shape it is but according to the theory of General Relativity one can say that "time isn't linear" nor monochromatic, nor monotonic, nor simple.
We wish all a prosperous new year full of good venture, happiness, and helth.