Friday, March 25, 2016

I'm Voting Red (at least this week)

I'm voting red this week, not in the sense of republican rather than democrat, but in the sense of LG rather than Samsung. This little essay is an amplification of a response I posted on an old friend's Facebook page. She asked, 'Where's the real presidential candidates?' I said, 'Doing more important things than circus acts'. I thought I might explain.

First, the context of red versus blue. I once was a serious Samsung fanboy. I more or less accidentally replaced my ancient Nokia flip phone (you remember Nokia, the not socialist company in not socialist Osmoo,Finland), with a Samsung phone which had some features I wanted.  It was a great device. Since it ran Android, I called it R2D3, and it served me faithfully for years. I bought all sorts of other Samsung devices, talked friends into buying Samsung devices, and gave lots of Samsung devices to kids for Pangur Ban Learners. I jokingly said that I was sending Samsung so much money because I wanted them to be big enough to buy North Korea.

Then one spring day, I accidentally drowned my second Samsung phone. AT that time, I still liked Samsung hardware, I was ready to ditch Touchwiz. I bought a LG Nexus 5, and peripherals. I bought a NVIDIA tablet because I was by then hooked on pure Android. A few months ago, I gave away my last Samsung device, a really great little camera, to a good home because I wasn't using it.

I have devoted two paragraphs to my conversion from blue to red to illustrate how painlessly and peacefully change can happen. I had voluntarily joined team blue, but they didn't try to shame me when I went to team red. Two clicks got me off the Samsung mailing list. I voluntarily gave money to two giant Korean corporations, who in return provided me goods and services. They are two of the giant pan-national corporations that have changed the way I interact with the world every day, and which I see condemned in a lot of my friends' posts every day.

Compare this situation to the present american presidential campaign, the circus acts.

In ring one, the leader 'republican' candidate is accusing the second place dude, the son of a Cuban, but born in Canada, of not being a real American, and therefore not really eligible to be president. I am writing this essay on a Chromebook that I purchased from a corporation of which you may have heard. It was founded by the son of a Cuban. It is called Amazon. I have spent a few hundred dollars with Amazon this past week, because Amazon allow me  access to goods that are not sold in small sea-side artsy fartsy towns catering to tourists.

In ring two, the democratic president has just ended a trip to Cuba, for which the republican congress has criticized him not just for talking to communists but for not worrying enough about ISIL, which some consider a byproduct of one of their own programs.  Although the trade embargo against Cuba has long outlived its usefulness, if it ever had any, the congress is not likely to end it any time soon. Meanwhile, two friends from college, one of them a son of Michigan, one of them a son of godless Russia (you know: Russia before Putin but after Nicholas) are looking for ways their corporation might bring real connectivity with the outside world to Cubans. Don't know their company? Google it.

In ring three, the democratic candidates for president are using all the doublespeak they can muster to pretend to be in favor of privacy while still letting the government snoops know everything about any of us at any time. While they posture as protectors of the people, and while they are even mouthing good things about gay rights, the gay ceo of the first or second most valuable corporation in the world is actually standing up to the government about privacy: Apple's Tim Cook, who someone called yesterday 'the president of the world'.

I think there is real change happening, and it is happening because people are cooperating to work with each other. They work in corporations, so they can have enough concerted money and minds to effect those changes. But our participation in those changes, despite what we may claim on Facebook, is voluntary. Samsung don't require me each year to pay them any percentage of my income at all. That is a monopoly reserved to the governments of the world. I don't have to use a smart phone. I could write this essay on the back of a napkin with a pencil and mail it to the local newspaper.

An example, perhaps, of a sideshow, but one I, as someone who has been involved off and on over the past seven decades in efforts to educate myself and help others educate themselves, is how corporations' efforts to improve education compared to government programs, a topic that is a big part of some of the candidates rhetoric. Both Bill and Melinda Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are heavily involved in trying to figure out how to improve education. Consider, for a moment, the Zuckerberg/Chan approach. They fund experiments which may be adopted by a school system if they desire. Rather than legislate what must be done by everyone, they suggest programs that might be expected to work. It's easy to abandon what doesn't, and try something else. It's pragmatic and flexible, and I suspect much more likely to be helpful than massive reorganizations like'No Child Left Behind' or 'STEM'.

I will conclude by suggesting that the world is in a situation as crucial as any since the Thirty Years War. I see Citizens United v. FEC as parallel to, if not Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, then the Augsburg Confession. We tend to forget that it was only four hundred and fifty years ago that the Peace of Westphalia forced acceptance of the concept of national sovereignty that is now being challenged by corporate sovereignty. It is of course really too early to predict the outcome of the current struggle, although I firmly believe the forces of history are on the side of the corporations, and that rather than lament change, we try to understand it. In that sense, I am voting with those who want to see outsiders in power, with those who are bring about real change, and  I am quite happy to see them remain outside the government.

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