Carlos N. Andreu Martínez

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Papel Machete:2010 - FO-Q Press

Papel Machete:2010 – FO-Q Press

MY LAWYER MADE ME CHANGE THE NAME OF THIS ESSAY SO I WOULDN’T GET SUED – 

 I’ve recently added visiting ‘endi.com’ to my online routine, It’s a website for a Puertorican newspaper called ‘El Nuevo Dia’ with various articles on current events. There has been a lot of coverage of various ‘strikes’ and manifestations in Puerto Rico due to the application of a law called ‘ley 7’ that allowed the governor to fire more than 20,000 government employees based on the fact that we are deeply in debt and the government could not operate if we’ve kept those people in the payroll.

 A bit closer to my life I can mention that in my University, ‘University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez’, there have been similar manifestations by students convening their dislike over that law and against the privatization of the university system. It clearly seems the root cause of all this are purely economic reasons, at least that’s what I’ve gather from the information in the media. While I agree with the fact that there should be some level of outrage towards those actions I can’t help but ask myself: ‘What kinds of things would I do if I had the power to change the government’s policy and how would I try to attack the problem plaguing the University?’ and ‘What kind of social changes must be required of the general public to accommodate my ideals?’. I’ll try to answer those questions in the hope that they’ll shed some light on some more productive ways protester’s energy can be spent.

 Thinking about the government I wonder ‘why is there no accountability?’. You need to sign a contract with your phone, water, electric and cable company, why shouldn’t politicians sign a document to back up their promises? If you’re really certain that your not going to raise taxes, sell our natural resources to a foreign country or privatize some part of our government, why shouldn’t you legally bind those promises into a contract with the people your going to govern? Obviously, failure to comply will result in early retirement.

 Another thing that bothers me is how hard or impossible it’s to find detailed information about the economic status of our country, and no, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ aren’t enough for me. Information like this, including but not limited to; where the money is being spent (workers’ salaries, equipment, infrastructure, projects, education, health-care, etc.) and how much money is the government earning from our taxes should be easily accessible and readable. I mean easy like going Wikipedia and looking for an article on ‘Tacos’ because you were curious after eating some, not “easy” as in having to talk to people that clearly hate their job after standing in line four hours.

 It’s ridiculous how hard our bureaucracy makes the most simple tasks, you should be able to share your thoughts and report some broken sewage pipe in your block spewing funky smelling water with a few keystrokes, not a few dozen calls. While we’re at it, let’s change the whole ‘voting for X party’ to ‘voting for X person’, can’t we all just agree political parties are unnecessary and people that vote, proudly I will add, for everyone under one color are a few fruits short of a full fruit basket?

 Let say the government did those things, because of that you start trusting your government a bit more, your glad things are moving forward and you have some of that ‘yes we can’

Asamblea RUM Flamboyan:mayo 6 2010 - FO-Q Press

Asamblea RUM Flamboyan:mayo 6 2010 – FO-Q Press

attitude and hope. Now that your working with happier people, let’s try some things to attack our root economical problem. These people have enough information and feel a little bit closer to the decision process to understand that tough economic times might require everyone to take a pay-cut or similarly have less hours to work instead of firing 20,000 employees that probably have families to maintain. I’ve always disliked the fact that we have 78 towns when we live in such a relatively small piece of land because that implies an absurd number of politicians, we should have 4; North town, West town, East town and South town. We also have 2 legislative bodies, we should have 1, ‘congress’. Great, now we just need four mayors to administrate their towns, a few congressmen to pass laws and make sure the governor doesn’t pull a fast one on us and a governor and his advisers.

 These politicians get way too much privileges; drivers, free food, among other things I wouldn’t be surprised if our tax dollars were paying for their young 23-year-old mistress’ hair and nails. They already make a nice amount of cash, let them buy their tasty fillet mignon and that 40-year-old aged bottle of  wine with their own “hard” earned money.

 Next we should focus our attention on saving money using greener eco-friendlier solutions, like gathering power via solar rays and gusts of wind. Keeping that in mind we should focus our efforts on updating our infrastructure, for example, if everyone had wireless Internet access we could use electronic paper for everything from filling out forms to requests and reports. We could move beyond paper money and pay for everything via credit and debit cards making it more difficult for your doctor to hide from his tax form those thousand bucks he makes daily from his patients because of that ‘only accepts cash’ sign in his office.

 Since we’re already talking about technology, we would save millions if we started using FOSS (‘Free and Open Source Software’) instead of those expensive Windows XP and Office 2007 programs. Universities in Puerto Rico are paying over 100,000 dollars for software when they are alternatives that fulfill their need for free. I should note that in the software world the cost of a program is not a valid indicator of its value or of it’s quality because there’s no need to buy physical materials, much like a group of experienced independent movie writers can write a great documentary for free, whose value and quality could be considered higher by most people that the typical hormone-crazy-boy-trying-to-get-that-really-hot-blond-chick Hollywood teen move of the year.

 There’s also a clear difference in motivation, while one group wants to create something useful and share it with the world for free or ‘doing it for the love of art’ as I like to call it, because not everyone can afford that $800 license for Photoshop, another group is in it solely for the economical gains it’ll bring.

 If the economic situation improves for our country, we can expect that will help the economical situation of our university because we are directly funded by tax dollars. However, they’re some interesting things we can do to save money and make the university friendlier and of greater utility. For starters, just like in government, we shouldn’t let lobbyists (people that influence decision makers in a direction that will benefit the company they works for) dictate the things we spend our money on. Requests and quotes from various vendors for buying, say computers for an art lab, should be easily accessible and available for students and other relevant personal to vote and comment on. It should require the same level of difficulty it takes to post ‘i’m sooo wasted!!’ on Facebook after having drinks with your school buddies. Remember, just because the cute sponsor lady with the big breasts offed a few tickets for a conference about the benefits of Dell in our university in the Bahamas to some syndicate members is not a good reason to buy all our computers from Dell when we could get a better deal, economically speaking, from another company.

Asamblea-RUM-Turnos6-May-2010-FO-Q-Press

Asamblea-RUM-Turnos6-May-2010-FO-Q-Press

 I stand in awe when some students tell me they have $4,000+ dollars from their scholarship to spend on “books” (‘beca de libros’), at least half of that money should go back into the system because it’s really easy to have students spend only 20 to 50 dollars per book vs the current 150-170 dollars per book. Just tell students to buy older editions and have their professors provide corrections and those two whole new exercises they added from the 2th to the 6th edition of the book.

 Another great alternative is to use ‘open books’, those are free and legal and finally we could motivate professors to publish and use their own books. We could also try some green alternatives like instead of using paper using those blow drier Machines and instead of using foam containers and plastic utensils we could use real ceramic plates and metal utensils and have the cafeteria employees wash them.

 While I believe strikes are great for pointing out some the problems we have, we need some sort of way to address problems from their root cause and allow people to collectively share their thoughts and possible solutions. For this to happen we need a way to make politicians and the general public collaborate together, destroying certain parts of the system that have become obsolete and replacing others with a good dose of updated ideas. We should be following a political philosophy like libertarianism which advocates the maximization of individual liberty and the minimization the state instead of the annoyingly restrictive and ridiculously big and expensive beast we have now.

For example, below such a system drug use would not be illegal and our tax dollars wouldn’t be spent to take care (feed, house, bathe) on some guys that were caught behind a dark ally smoking pot one night, plus we could tax those vices them like we do with alcohol and tobacco . As you can see, they are various ways we can start to mend our poor economic state that will make people more involved, knowledgeable and understanding and at the same time keeping our politicians of a tighter leach, creating new jobs in the process due to updating our infrastructure and by adopting a greener view on the world we can preserve our natural resources and start making people conscious about damaging their environment thus improving tourism. Maybe in such a world law number 7 would not be required and those protests wouldn’t exist. This could become that world by having some policy changes and getting people more involved in things beyond what’s directly affecting them (lost their jobs, don’t or can’t pay for more expensive credits). Instead of merely pointing out the problems we need an open and accessible environment that allows collaboration. Maybe then we can start working on the whole socialized heath care thing like France, England and Norway!

 

2 Comments

  1. This is one of the best essays I have seen written. There are some radical revolutionary ideas here and certain proposals like changing the computer’s to FIOS sound a little idealistic, but I believe that the core message is really invaluable! You speak the truth.

    Your idea that politicians should have to sign contracts, so they won’t go against campaign promises is awesome, especially when you make the observation that us regular folk have to sign binding contracts all the time and they’re usually for small promises.

    Government transparency is an absolute necessity for us in the 21st century. People need to wake up and realize that it is their hard-earned tax dollars that are being used and played with by the government, we’re the people that supply them their money so we have a right to know where this money is going to.

    I share your sentiments about bureaucracy, it really hinders progress in our country. We have too many politicians in our country as you mentioned, we should really do something about all the money that goes to pay for their fancy benefits. Giving our politicians so many benefits only motivates them to get greedier, making them more willing to be bought off by lobbyists.

    Politics has to evolve with the Internet and computers. We should be able to vote on bills and acts easily through the Internet. We can discuss the pros and cons of a bill with other people online, to try to come up with the best solutions.

    I think our system is drastically calling for a reform, pretty soon everything will be privatized, and when we have nothing else left to sell and our country is indebt, what else are we going to give them? Our souls? We need to stop this before it spirals out of control, Puerto Rico needs to be stabilized so we can finally start to grow again. Loved your post.

  2. Wow plain simple you spoke the sad reality we live in. I agree with you 100% in that the government divides it’s people specially by social classes. All the government does is feed us lies to try and make us at peace, and when someone doesn’t believe their lies that person is secluded from society. Hitler himself told everyone ” if you tell a lie long enough people will start to believe it”. This is what the government does they tell us we will become better, but we won’t we will either get worse or stay the same.

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