Bill Gates: “el capitalismo invierte muy poco en inovación”

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Image by Joi via Flickr

Bill Gates reshaped the computer industry by pumping out new versions of Microsoft Windows software every few years, fixing and fine tuning it as he went along.

Journal Report

Read the full Innovations in Energy report .

He’s now betting that he can reshape the energy industry with a project akin to shipping Windows once and having it work, bug-free, for 50 years.

Thanks to his role funding and guiding a start-up called TerraPower LLC, where he serves as chairman, Mr. Gates has become a player in a field of inventors whose goal is to make nuclear reactors smaller, cheaper and safer than today’s nuclear energy sources. The 30-person company recently completed a basic design for a reactor that theoretically could run untouched for decades on spent nuclear fuel. Now the company is seeking a partner to help build the experimental reactor, and a country willing to host it.

[…]

“A cheaper reactor design that can burn waste and doesn’t run into fuel limitations would be a big thing,” Mr. Gates says. He adds that in general “capitalism underinvests in innovation,” particularly in areas with “long time horizons and where government regulations are unclear.”

[read more >>]

 

Cuando los defensores de la empresa privada mencionan la hazaña de un empresario que logró realizar un viaje espacial en el 2004, ejercitan la misma acrobacia dialéctica. ¿Es un ejemplo a favor o en contra de la eficacia privada? Porque ni el Sputnik ni todos los vuelos y misiones logradas por la NASA desde 1950 fueron otra cosa que logros de la organización estatal. >>

Anuncios

El eterno retorno

Cute Kids in Children's Costumes

Image by epSos.de via Flickr

El eterno retorno

Los más jóvenes van descubriendo el mundo y sienten que lo van inventando. En realidad cada generación reinventa el mundo, lo vuelve a descubrir y lo vuelve a reconstruir de una forma que parece única, novedosa, revolucionaria. Para la historia, de hecho cada generación crea algo nuevo. En ocasiones, hasta hay progreso.

Para el individuo (tal vez lo que realmente importa a la existencia) no. En el fondo cada individuo no crea nada nuevo sino que repite los mismos sueños de sus padres, de sus abuelos, de sus más remotos antepasados, como si todo sucediera por primera vez. Las nuevas generaciones, el nuevo individuo, no crean el mundo ni el mundo nace con ellos. Pero en este admirable y a veces absurdo sueño radica algo tan meritorio como la creación del mundo: la conservación del mundo, de la vida, de la existencia en su estado más vivo.

Uno puede percibirlo en los sueños y anhelos de quienes vienen detrás, en la mirada fresca de un hijo. Y uno se da cuenta que ya ha pasado cierto límite existencial cundo siente y reconoce que uno ya no importa. Que casi todas nuestras preocupaciones comienzan a girar entorno a esos niños que van a reemplazarnos y que ya comienzan a soñar como soñábamos nosotros cuando estábamos vivos y éramos el centro del universo.

Bilioteca pública se une al libro electrónico

Con el Kindle en todas partes

Image by edans via Flickr

Bilioteca pública se une al libro electrónico

OverDrive facilita el préstamo, que a los 14 días desaparece del aparato

DAVID ALANDETE / JAVIER MARTÍN – Washington / Barcelona – 26/02/2011


Estados Unidos está viviendo una de las mayores transformaciones que ha experimentado el mercado editorial en décadas, tal vez siglos. La imprenta está quedando poco a poco obsoleta. Hasta la fecha, los libros habían quedado al margen de la profunda metamorfosis que han vivido los sectores de la música y el vídeo desde el auge de Internet.

Más de 13.000 establecimientos emplean el sistema en Canadá y EE UU

El Ministerio de Cultura español ofrece dispositivos con el texto cargado

Ahora, sin embargo, una nueva generación de lectores electrónicos -más delgados, más portátiles, más cómodos de leer- ha revolucionado el mercado. Amazon, líder con su Kindle 3, ha incluido recientemente en sus servicios el préstamo de libros. Otros aparatos, como los que usan el software para tabletas de Apple y Google, han optado por aliarse con las bibliotecas públicas. Son viejos servicios, prestados a través de nuevos medios.

Las empresas están probando nuevas iniciativas que le eviten al sector editorial una sangría como la que vive el mundo de la música. Amazon ha probado con el préstamo: el propietario de un libro puede cederle a alguien el documento, en el formato azw, propio del Kindle, durante un máximo de 14 días.

[leer más >>]

Peru tomb find could shed light on Inca origins

tumbas wari

Nine tombs from prehispanic Wari people found * Wari culture seen influencing Inca civilization LIMA (Reuters)

The discovery of nine tombs in Peru from the prehispanic Wari civilization could shed new light into the origins of the the mighty Inca empire, the Peruvian government said Thursday. The finding in the southern Cusco region suggests the Wari, who flourished in the Peruvian Andes between 700 and 1200 AD, may have controlled areas where the Inca empire later flourished, said Juan Ossio, Peru’s minister of culture. “The Incas could have been inspired by the Wari culture, enabling them to develop their entire political system,” Ossio told local radio. The Inca built the largest empire in the New World between 1400 and 1532 AD, when Spanish conquistadors seized control of their territory, pushing them to take final refuge in the Vilcabamba district in Cusco, where the tombs were found. The tombs show the Wari also inhabited the thick jungles of Vilcabamba and possibly inspired the political structure of the elaborate Inca empire, Ossio said. The remains of a Wari noble with a silver breastplate is the prize of the find. Archeologists have dubbed the noble the ”The Lord of Vilca” in reference to the Lord of Sipan, an intact third century mummy found in northern Peru in 1987. “This is the most important discovery we’ve had in recent years — perhaps since Machu Picchu,” said Juan Garcia, regional culture director of Cusco, referring to the Incan citadel that draws some 500,000 visitors per year.

[Fuente: Los Angeles Times >>]

Radio Uruguay – 1050 AM – SODRE

World Trade Center de Montevideo, Uruguay.

Image via Wikipedia

Doce años al servicio de la palabra

El Mural

Radio Uruguay – 1050 AM – SODRE

>>El periodístico cultural de Luis Marcelo Pérez<<

Domingos de 09 a 11 AM.

Lunes de 00 a 02 AM (retransmisión)

El próximo domingo 27 de febrero compartiremos la mañana con:

El académico Jorge Majfud reflexionará sobre la existencia, el ser y el saber

R   ECUERDO: Desde el pasado traeremos en homenaje la voz de la cantante

Lágrima Ríos, nos dejará conocer su mundo, su niñez, el amor por la música y

mucho más

GRAFFITI: El poeta tacuaremboense Washington Benavides nos leerá un

fragmento de su obra poética

DA LA   MANO: Con la fotógrafa Anabella Balduvino entablaremos dialogo y

conoceremos su mundo de luces y sombras

ENTRE   PLANOS: El crítico de cine Jorge Jellinek nos presentará un anticipo a la

noche del Oscar

Correo de voz: 257 50067

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Mural/109534575780192

Pagina Web: http://www.radiouruguay.com.uy/

Mail: elmural.radiouruguay@gmail.com

Dirección general  y conducción: Luis Marcelo Pérez

Asistencia en producción: Diego Caballero

Asistencia técnica: Ariel Gómez y Alejandro Campodonico

Locución: Silvia Rocca

Las raíces del pensamiento indoamericano (I y II)

Es: Túpac Amaru II es ejecutado por el virrey ...

Las raíces del pensamiento indoamericano

Floración, muerte y renacimiento (I)

Según Frantz Fanon, el objetivo de la lucha de liberación no era sólo la desaparición del colonizador sino también la desaparición del colonizado. El nuevo humanismo no sólo se definía por el resultado de esta lucha sino por la lucha misma (Damnés, 173).[1] También en la América Latina del siglo XX las revoluciones y movimientos de liberación se diferenciaban de las revoluciones del siglo de la creación de las nuevas repúblicas. Si en el siglo XIX el objetivo era el desplazamiento del colonizador por la clase criolla, en el siglo XX los movimientos de liberación habían madurado la idea de un cambio moral aparte del cambio estructural. Uno no podía ser la consecuencia del otro. El revolucionario, la vanguardia histórica, podía actuar directamente sobre el estímulo moral —el trabajo voluntario, el desprecio por el valor monetario en el caso de la Cuba de Ernesto Guevara— para provocar un cambio social, pero el hombre nuevo no llegaría sin antes alcanzarse el cambio social. El hombre nuevo es el individuo liberado como opresor y como oprimido, es el individuo hecho pueblo, significa el renacimiento de la humanidad.

Pero el hombre nuevo, la nueva humanidad como en Prometeo y en Quetzalcóatl, nace del sacrificio, de la sangre del mártir que es aquel que ha alcanzado la conciencia pero no la plenitud aun de un estado superior. Quetzalcóatl, según Laurete Séroujé “es el símbolo del viento que arrastra las leyes que someten la materia: él aproxima y reconcilia los opuestos; convierte la muerte en verdadera vida y hace brotar una realidad prodigiosa del opaco dominio cotidiano” (Pensamiento, 151). La poética de Ernesto Cardenal lo versifica así: “un hombre nuevo y un nuevo canto / por eso moriste en la guerrilla urbana” (Oráculo, 21). Esta idea que identifica el sacrificio con la vida plena y opone la sangre al oro, una como representante de la vida sagrada y el otro como caída en el mundo material de la muerte, es común en la literatura de la cultura popular latinoamericana. Lo cual se opone radicalmente a la literatura policial anglosajona donde la sangre —siempre abundante— significa muerte y el beneficio económico o el prestigio social es el premio para quienes resuelven el misterio que amenazó el orden establecido.

En el libro sagrado de los mayas, el Popol Vuh, es común la idea de las parejas generadoras y de la fertilidad de la naturaleza tras el sacrificio del individuo. Antes de que existieran los hombres, por una disputa de pelota, los hermanos Hun-Hunahpú y Vucub-Hunahpú fueron enjuiciados, sacrificados y enterrados en el ‘Puchal Chah’, pista de cenizas donde se tiraban las pelotas en el juego. Le cortaron la cabeza a Hun-Hunahpú y enterraron su cuerpo decapitado junto con su hermano. Luego colgaron la cabeza de las ramas de un árbol de jícara al lado del camino. “Y el árbol, que siempre había sido estéril, se cubrió de pronto de frutos del ‘vach tzima’ o sea, del jícaro” (66).[2]

Una idea semejante relata el mito del Incarrí —o “inca rey”—conocido en el Perú de la colonia hasta mediados del siglo XIX, según el cual la cabeza del Inca ha sido enterrada bajo Cuzco o bajo Lima y se encuentra germinando el resto del cuerpo para renacer un día y volver a reestablecer el orden perdido (Fergunson, 148). Este mito, según Ángel Rama, “por sus características ha nacido dentro de la Colonia, anudando elementos de la mitología prehispánica, alguno de los cuales se encuentran consignados en los textos del Inca Gracilaso de la Vega, con otros que son de fecha posterior” (Transculturación, 170). Lucía Fox Lockert observó que Atahualpa murió en la horca o a garrotazos en 1533 y el pueblo tomó la versión de la decapitación de Tupac Amaru I —al igual que Tupac Amaru II, en 1781—, ocurrida cuarenta años después (Fox, 12). La mitología más antigua, desde México hasta Bolivia, abunda en este principio del sacrificio del cuerpo que produce la vida en el Cosmos. La idea de que el cuerpo sacrificado fecunda la tierra y da vida, se repite en el mito de Pachacámac, cuando éste despedaza al hijo de Pachacama y sus miembros se convierten en semillas. Su sangre, literalmente, fertiliza la tierra (Fergunson, 24). La misma idea persistió en el espacio histórico. Cuando Tupac Amaru se revela en 1780 contra la autoridad de la corona imperial haciendo beber oro derretido al gobernador español, símbolo de la ambición y desacralización del cosmos, los opresores responden con el mismo simbolismo. De igual forma que en un ritual azteca, le cortan la lengua en una plaza pública, tratan en vano de despedazarlo usando cuatro caballos (paradójico símbolo de la opresión) hasta que finalmente le cortan las manos y los pies. Pero el pueblo indígena del Perú, que atemorizado no presenció directamente los hechos, atribuyó a este día una conmoción cósmica: después de una larga sequía se levantó el viento y llovió.[3] El espíritu de Tupac Amaru significa aquí una suerte de Quetzalcóatl, dios del viento, que limpia el camino al dios de la lluvia para provocar la germinación. La muerte del mártir siembra la tierra. Como la muerte de Ernesto Che Guevara, a quien otro imperio cortó las manos, el sacrificio y la sangre derramada en pedazos significan vida y no muerte, siembra y no siega. El profundo significado del asesinato del cautivo argentino se les escapó a los servicios de inteligencia habituados a otros modelos de pensamiento.

Esta idea del sacrificio y el significado de la sangre persistirán especialmente en la Literatura del compromiso. El cubano Nicolás Guillén, en “La sangre numerosa”, inicia su poema con una dedicatoria significativa: “A Eduardo García, miliciano que escribió con su sangre, al morir ametrallado por la aviación yanqui, en abril de 1961, el nombre de Fidel” (Tengo, 112). Luego (con una conjugación peninsular y con remembranzas del antiguo latín, propia de las declamaciones poéticas del continente todavía colonizado) confirma el destino fértil de la sangre del mártir: “no digáis que se ha ido: / su sangre numerosa junto a la Patria queda” (113). Pero el mártir no asciende al cielo de los individuos elegidos por un Dios absoluto sino que florece en la historia, para fecundar el resto de la humanidad, el Cosmos.

(continua)

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville Univeristy


[1] Esta historia es repetidas veces citada y reescrita por los escritores políticos de la segunda mitad del siglo XX, como el primer G. Cabrera Infante (Vista del amanecer en el trópico), Eduardo Galeano (Memoria del fuego), Carlos Alberto Montaner (Las raíces torcidas de América Latina), etc.

La Republica (Uruguay)

La Republica II (Uruguay)

Milenio (Mexico)

Milenio II (Mexico)

Las raíces del pensamiento indoamericano

Floración, muerte y renacimiento (II)

Como vimos en un estudio más extenso, el pensamiento indoamericano, largamente reprimido por el poder político y la cultura ilustrada, en su ascenso a la conciencia literaria, se encontrará con los intelectuales de izquierda en el siglo XX, aunque su cosmología se opone en casi todos sus aspectos básicos a la cosmología marxista.

En Hora 0 (1969) el poeta nicaragüense Ernesto Cardenal ve la muerte de Sandino como el sacrificio que mantiene vivo el movimiento de la historia —del mundo—: la sangre del elegido riega la tierra y la hace fértil, “el héroe nace cuando muere / y la hierba verde nace de los carbones” (Antología, 78). Cuando escribe el “Epitafio para la tumba de Adolfo Báez Bone” confirma la misma idea: “Te mataron y no nos dijeron dónde enterraron tu cuerpo, / pero desde entonces todo el territorio nacional es tu / sepulcro” (49). En otra metáfora no deja lugar a dudas: “creyeron que te enterraban / y lo que hacían era enterrar una semilla” (50). También el salvadoreño Roque Dalton percibe la misma justificación de la existencia del revolucionario como la muerte necesaria que fecunda la vida por venir: “uno se va a morir […] disperso va a quedar bajo la tierra / y vendrán nuevos hombres […] Para ellos custodiamos el tiempo que nos toca” (Poesía, 23). Por su parte, el argentino Juan Gelman, en versos críticos al esteticismo de Octavio Paz y Lezama Lima, lo puso en estos términos: “¿por qué se pierden en detalles como la muerte personal?” (Hechos, 48). Esta comunión de la tierra con el renacimiento, del sacrificio con la vida es propia del cosmos amerindio. El futuro utópico y el pasado original se encuentran y se confunden en una especie de fin de la historia.

En “La Batalla de los Colores” de Ariel Dorfman, las referencias religiosas al cristianismo son explícitas pero no menos claras son las referencias al sacrificio del hombre-dios amerindio. Cuando los infinitos dibujos que envolvieron en su laberinto a los militares comenzaron a arder, el poder opresor procuró que la muerte de José, el subversivo, fuese ejemplar, “para que todos supieran que así terminan los brujos y creyeran que José ardía entre las pruebas de su herejía (Militares, 154). El uso propagandístico que se rebela contra sus autores, es semejante aquí como lo fue en la muerte de Jesús, en la de Ernesto Che Guevara y en la de otro José mártir, José Gabriel (Tupac Amaru). Pero sobre todo coincide con la tradición mesoamericana. Las referencias a un realismo mágico que se pueden encontrar desde las crónicas de la Conquista desde Pedro Cieza de León recorren el relato y coronan el final. La mayor preocupación del general representante de la dictadura que combatía José fue que nadie pensara que había logrado “introducirse dentro de uno de sus dibujos o quizás repartido a lo largo de cada uno de ellos, reservándose el corazón para los últimos y los sesos para los penúltimos (155). Las imágenes de los pájaros surgidos de esa catástrofe de fuego recuerdan el fuego de Landa Calderón que así pretendió, al comienzo de la Conquista espiritual, vanamente borrar la memoria del pueblo maya. Es el fuego didáctico de Hernán Cortés, el fuego de la memoria reprimida del continente, según la obra de Eduardo Galeano. Es “el camino del fuego” de Ernesto Guevara (Obras, 236). Es el fuego con el que Quetzalcóatl recreó el mundo y el fuego que, según Séroujé “señalan todas la misma nostalgia de liberación” del individuo que va a “trascender su condición terrestre” (169). No es el fuego final de Alejandra en Sobre héroes y tumbas (1961), que de esa forma pretende borrar toda memoria del pecado sexual, del incesto y de su desprecio proyectado en la sociedad; una forma de condena en el infierno cristiano. Es otro fuego, es el fuego que en el siglo XVI mata la carne y salva la memoria del cacique Hatuey en Cuba que, según Bartolomé de las Casas, elige renacer en el infierno donde estará su pueblo antes que el Paraíso de los buenos conquistadores (Destrucción, 88).[1]

También otros elementos de este cuento, como la disolución del individuo —del héroe— en la humanidad de su pueblo, el corazón, el cuerpo repartido por la magia de los dibujos quemados y despedazados, son símbolos de la cosmología amerindia. No faltan las alusiones explícitas al lenguaje y la semiótica cristiana: así también la cultura del continente ha sido travestida por la simbología y el ritual católico (lo explícito) mientras los elementos centrales de la cultura reprimida por la violencia inevitablemente iba a buscar diferentes formas de sobrevivir aún de formas más inadvertidas y por eso más fuertes y permanentes (lo implícito).

De forma más personal —como es más propio de la poesía y del ensayo que de la narrativa y del teatro— el argentino Francisco Urondo, en el poema “Sonrisas” escribió su testamento ideológico confirmando los dos elementos fundaméntales: el futuro utópico, donde el individuo se disuelve en el sacrificio en una comunión con la humanidad y el desprecio de la materia, caída en la desacralización y la inmovilidad del cosmos que ha perdido su espíritu, según la cosmología amerindia (expresada, por ejemplo, en Hombres de maíz, de Miguel Ángel Asturias): “[a] los hombres del futuro: mi testamento: ‘a ellos, / hijos, mujer, dejo todo lo que tengo, es decir, / nada más que el porvenir que / no viviré; dejo la marca / de ese porvenir’” (Poética, 404). En otro poema, en “Solicitada”, confirma la misma idea: “Mi confianza se apoya en el profundo desprecio / por este mundo desgraciado. Le daré / la vida para que nada siga como está” (458).

Uno de los poetas más significativos, Ernesto Che Guevara, en el cual alcanza su cumbre la poética del compromiso, es explícito en este sentido: “En cualquier lugar que nos sorprenda la muerte, bienvenida sea, siempre que este, nuestro grito de guerra, haya llegado hasta un oído receptivo, y otra mano se tienda para empuñar nuestras armas, y otros hombres se apresten a entonar los cantos luctuosos con tableteo de ametralladoras y nuevos gritos de guerra y victoria” (González, 131).

Más recientemente el Subcomandante Marcos, cuyo verdadero nombre es Rafael Sebastian Guillén Vicente, en una entrevista a la cadena Univision de Estados Unidos explicó al periodista Jorge Ramos la razón de su nombre:

Antes de perderse de nuevo entre los maizales y cafetales que parchan la selva lacandona, Marcos me explicó el origen de su nombre de guerra; no es nada nuevo, pero es distinto escucharlo de su boca. “Marcos es el nombre de un compañero que murió, y nosotros siempre tomabamos los nombres de los que morían, en esta idea de que uno no muere sino que sigue en la lucha”, me dijo, medio pensativo pero sin mostrar cansancio.

RAMOS: O sea que hay Marcos para rato?

MARCOS: Sí. Aunque me muera yo, otro agarrará el nombre de Marcos y seguirá, seguirá luchando. (Ramos)

Jorge Majfud

Jacksonville Univeristy


[1] “Après la lutte il n’y a pas seulement disparition du colonialisme mais aussi disparition du colonisé. Cette nouvelle humanité, pour soi et pour les autres, ne peut pas définir un nouvel humanisme. Dans les objectifs et les méthodes de la lutte est préfiguré ce nouvel humanisme” (Damnés, 173).

[2] Hun-Hunahpú significa “tirador de cerbatana”; su hermano era Vucub-Hunahpú, ambos nacieron antes que los hombres. Sus padres eran “Amanecer” y “Puesta del sol” (57) y cada uno de los hijos tuvo dos hijos. A la pelota se jugaba de a dos en dos.

[3] Esta historia es referida de forma similar, entre otros, por escritores contemporáneos tan diferentes y opuestos como Eduardo Galenao en Memoria del fuego (1984) y Carlos Fuentes en El espejo enterrado (1992).

Milenio (Mexico)

Milenio II (Mexico)

La Republica (Uruguay)

La Republica II (Uruguay)

Jorge Majfud’s books at Amazon>>

cine pilitico


Los hombres son de Wikipedia y las mujeres de Facebook

The New York Times building in New York, NY ac...

Image via Wikipedia

Los hombres son de Wikipedia y las mujeres de Facebook

Por: Delia Rodríguez

A veces una sola cifra sirve para desatar la polémica. La última ha sido esta: sólo un 13% de los artículos de la Wikipedia han sido escritos por mujeres. La proporcionó The New York Times en un reportaje que ha hecho correr ríos de tinta porque resulta que en la fuente de conocimiento virtual en la que en teoría no debería existir ningún tipo de discriminación (escribe quien quiere y ni siquiera es necesario desvelar el sexo) la participación femenina es menor aún que en otros foros. Por ejemplo el OpEd Project la ha calculado en un 15% para las páginas de opinión de los principales diarios norteamericanos. 

¿Significa una tasa tan baja que la enciclopedia (o sus enciclopedistas) son machistas?

(Fuente >>)

“If you can read this, thank a teacher!”

“If teaching is such a cushy job, become a teacher. You will get an education in more ways than one”  from a protester.

 

Why America’s teachers are enraged

By Diane Ravitch, Special to CNN
February 21, 2011 5:56 a.m. EST
Teacher Terry Grogan of Milwaukee takes part in protest at Wisconsin State Capitol on February 16.
Teacher Terry Grogan of Milwaukee takes part in protest at Wisconsin State Capitol on February 16.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diane Ravitch: Teachers are rallying against Wisconsin plan to cut their benefits, union rights
  • She says teachers have been singled out for blame on America’s education problems
  • Ravitch: How can we improve schools while cutting funding and demoralizing teachers?

Editor’s note: Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and the author of the best seller “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.”

(CNN) — Thousands of teachers, nurses, firefighters and other public sector workers have camped out at the Wisconsin Capitol, protesting Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to reduce their take-home pay — by increasing their contribution to their pension plans and health care benefits — and restrict their collective bargaining rights.

Republicans control the state Legislature, and initially it seemed certain that Walker’s proposal would pass easily. But then the Democrats in the Legislature went into hiding, leaving that body one vote shy of a quorum. As of this writing, the Legislature was at a standstill as state police searched high and low for the missing lawmakers.

Like other conservative Republican governors, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Rick Scott of Florida, the Wisconsin governor wants to sap the power of public employee unions, especially the teachers’ union, since public education is the single biggest expenditure for every state.

Public schools in Madison and a dozen other districts in Wisconsin closed as teachers joined the protest. Although Walker claims he was forced to impose cutbacks because the state is broke, teachers noticed that he offered generous tax breaks to businesses that were equivalent to the value of their givebacks.

The uprising in Madison is symptomatic of a simmering rage among the nation’s teachers.
–Diane Ravitch
Thousands protest Wisconsin budget cuts
Fifth day of Wisconsin protests
Wisconsin businessman avoids chaos

The uprising in Madison is symptomatic of a simmering rage among the nation’s teachers. They have grown angry and demoralized over the past two years as attacks on their profession escalated.

The much-publicized film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” made the specious claim that “bad teachers” caused low student test scores. A Newsweek cover last yearproposed that the key to saving American education was firing bad teachers.

Teachers across the nation reacted with alarm when the leaders of the Central Falls district in Rhode Island threatened to fire the entire staff of the small town’s only high school. What got their attention was that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Obama thought this was a fine idea, even though no one at the high school had been evaluated.

The Obama administration’s Race to the Top program intensified the demonizing of teachers, because it encouraged states to evaluate teachers in relation to student scores. There are many reasons why students do well or poorly on tests, and teachers felt they were being unfairly blamed when students got low scores, while the crucial role of families and the students themselves was overlooked.

Teachers’ despair deepened last August when The Los Angeles Times rated 6,000 teachers in Los Angeles as effective or ineffective, based on their students’ test scores, and posted these ratings online. Testing experts warn that such ratings are likely to be both inaccurate and unstable, but the Times stood by its analysis.

 

The Imperfect Sex. Why Is Sor Juana Not a Saint?

Painted in 1750

Image via Wikipedia

El sexo imperfecto. ¿Por qué sor Juana no puede ser santa?

Monthly Review

The Imperfect Sex.

Why Is Sor Juana Not a Saint?

Dr. Jorge Majfud

Lincoln University

Every hegemonic power in every historical period establishes the limits of what is normal and, consequently, of what is natural.  Thus, the power that ordered patriarchal society reserved for itself (reserves for itself) the unquestionable right to define what was a man and what was a woman.  Every time some exalted person takes recourse to the mediocre argument that “things have been like this since the beginning of the world,” he situates the origin of the world in a recent period of the history of humanity.

Like any system, patriarchy fulfilled an organizing function.  Probably, at some moment, it was an order convenient to the majority of society, including women.  I don’t believe that oppression arises from patriarchy, but instead when the latter attempts to perpetuate itself by imposing itself on processes that range from the survival to the liberation of human kind.  If patriarchy was once a logical system of values for an agricultural system of production and survival, today it no longer means anything more than an oppressive, and for some time now, hypocritical tradition.

In 1583, the revered Fray Luis de León wrote La perfecta casada (The Perfect Wife) as a book of useful advice for marriage.  There, as with any other text of the tradition, it is understood that an exceptionally virtuous woman is a manly woman.  “What here we call woman of principle; and we might say manly woman (…) means virtue of spirit and strength of heart, industry and wealth and power.”  Then: “in the man to be gifted with understanding and reason, does not make him worthy of praise, because having this is his own nature (…) If the truth be told, it is a bouquet of dishonesties for the chaste woman to think she could not be so, or that in being so she does something for which she should be thanked.”  Then: “God, when he decided to marry man by giving him woman, said: ‘Let us make for him a help mate’ (Gen. 2); from whence it is understood that the natural place of woman and the end for which God created her, is for her to be a helper to her husband.”  A hundred years before Sor Juana would be condemned for speaking too much and for defending her right to speak, the nature of woman was well defined: “it is right for [women] to pride themselves on being silent, both those for whom it is convenient to cover up their lack of knowledge, and those who might shamelessly reveal what they know, because in all of them it is not only an agreeable condition, but a proper virtue, to speak little and be silent.”  Then: “because, just as nature, as we have said and will say, made women to remain in the home as its keepers, so also it obliged them to keep their mouths closed. (…) Just as the good and honest woman was not made by nature for the study of the sciences nor for negotiation of hardships, but for a simple and domestic profession, it also limited their understanding, and therefore it rationed their words and reason.”  But the moralizer of the day was not lacking in tenderness: “do not think that God created them and gave them to man only for them to keep the home, but also to console him and give him joy.  So that in her the tired and angry husband might find rest, and the children love, and the family piety, and all of them generally an agreeable refuge.”

By the next century, Francisco Cascales believed that woman had to struggle against her nature, which was not only determined but evil or defective besides: “The needle and the distaff – wrote the military man and university professor, in 1653 – are the woman’s weapons, and so strong, that armed with them she will resist the most prideful enemy to tempt her.”  Which amounted to saying that the distaff was the weapon of an oppressive system.

Juan de Zabaleta, notable figure of the Spanish Golden Age, declared in 1653 that “in poetry there is no substance; nor in the understanding of a woman.”  And later: “woman is naturally gossipy,” the woman poet “adds more madness to her madness (…) The woman poet is the most imperfect and abhorrent animal formed by nature (…) If it were permitted of me, I would burn her alive.  He who celebrates a woman for being a poet, God should give her to him as a wife, so that he might know what he celebrates.”  In his following book, the lawyer wrote: “the word wife means comfort more than anything, pleasure the least.”  Nonetheless, man “by adoring a woman takes adoration away from the Creator.”  Zabaleta at times goes so far as to create metaphors with a certain aesthetic value: the woman in church “with her fan in hand enlivens with its air the fire that encircles her.” (1654)

In 1575,the physician Juan Huarte informed us that the testicles affirm the temperament more than the heart, while in the woman “the organ that is most gripped by the alterations of the uterus, according to all the physicians, is the brain, although there may be no grounds on which to base this correspondence.”  Hippocrates, Galeno, Sigmund Freud and the most fanatical supporters of the Boca Juniors soccer team would all agree.  The wise and ingenious man, according to the Spanish physician, has a son with contrary traits when the woman’s seed predominates, and no wise child can come from a woman.  For this reason, when the man predominates, even when he is brutish and stupid a clever son results.

In his book about Fernando (a.k.a. the Catholic Monarch Ferdinand), another renowned moralist, Baltasar Gracián, dedicates some final lines to Queen Isabel.  “What most aided Fernando – wrote the Jesuit – [was] doña Isabel his Catholic consort, that great princess who, even though a woman, exceeded the limits of a man.”  Although there were noteworthy women, “commonly in this sex the passions reign in such a way that they leave no room for counsel, for patience, for prudence, essential parts of government, and with  power their tyranny is augmented. (…) Ordinarily, manly women were very prudent.”  Later: “In Spain manly females have always endured a position for males, and in the house of Austria they have always been respected and employed.” (1641)

I believe that the idea of the manly woman as virtuous woman is consistent with the tolerance of lesbianism by the same patriarchal system of values that condemned masculine homosexuality to burn at the stake, whether in the Middle East, in Europe or among the imperial Incas.  Where there was a greater predominance for matriarchy, neither the virginity of the woman nor the homosexuality of men was watched over with such fervor.

A famous woman – beatified, sainted and given a doctorate by the Catholic Church – Saint Teresa, wrote in 1578: “Weakness is natural and it is very weak, especially in women.”  Recommending an extreme discipline with the nuns, the future saint argued: “I do not believe there is anything in the world that could damage a prelate more than to not be feared, and for his subjects to think they may deal with him as with an equal, especially for women, for once understanding that there is in the prelate such softness… governing them will be difficult.”  But this deficient nature impeded not only the proper social order but mystical achievement as well.  Just like Buddha, in her famous book Las moradas the same saint recognized the natural “stupidity of women” that made it difficult for them to reach the center of the divine mystery.

It is perfectly understandable that a woman at the service of the patriarchal order, like Saint Teresa, would have been beatified, while another religious woman who openly opposed this structure would never have been recognized as such.  I would sum up Saint Teresa’s slogan in just one word: obedience, above all social obedience.

Saint Teresa died an old woman and without the martyrdom proper to the saints.  Sor Juana, in contrast, was made to suffer psychological, moral and, finally, physical torture until she died at the age of fourty-four, serving her fellow man in the epidemic of 1695.  But none of that matters for canonizing her as a saint when “the worst of all women” committed the sin of questioning authority.  Why not propose, then, Saint Juana Inés de la Cruz, patron saint of oppressed women?

Those who reject Sor Juana’s religious merits adduce a political value in her figure, when not merely a literary one.  In another essay we already noted the political value of the life and death of Jesus, a value historically denied.  The political and the aesthetic in Santa Teresa – the “patron saint of writers” – fill her works and thoughts as much as the religious and the mystical do.  Nonetheless, a hegemonic political position is an invisible politics: it is omnipresent.  Only that politics which resists the hegemony, which contests the dominant discourse becomes visible.

When I kiss my wife on the mouth in a public square, I am exercising a hegemonic sexuality, which is the heterosexual one.  If two women or two men do the same thing they are not only exercising their homosexuality but also a challenge to the hegemonic order which rewards some and punishes others.  Each time a man goes out on the street dressed as a traditional woman, inevitably he is making a – visible – political statement.  I also make a political statement when I go out on the street dressed as a (traditional) man, but my declaration coincides with the hegemonic politics, is transparent, invisible, appears apolitical, neutral.  It is for this reason that the act of the marginalized becomes a visible politics.

We can understand in the same way the political and religious factor in two women as different as Saint Teresa and Sor Juana.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons for which one of them has been repeatedly honored by the religious tradition and the other reduced to the literary circle or to the Mexican two-hundred peso notes, symbol of the material world, abstraction of sin.

Translated by

Dr. Bruce Campbell

St. John’s University

Dr. Jorge Majfud was born in Tacuarembó, Uruguay in 1969. He majored in Architecture and in 1996 graduated from the Universidad de la República in Montevideo. He travelled extensively to gather material that would later become part of his novels and essays, and was a professor at the Universidad Hispanoamericana de Costa Rica and at Escuela Técnica del Uruguay, where he taught mathematics and art. He received his PhD degree at the University of Georgia. He currently teaches Latin American Literature at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania. His publications include: Hacia qué patrias del silencio / memorias de un desaparecido (novel, 1996); Crítica de la pasión pura (essays, 1998); La reina de América (novel, 2001); La narración de lo invisible / Significados ideológicos de América Latina (essays, 2006); Perdona nuestros pecados (short stories, 2007) and La ciudad de la Luna (novel, 2008). His stories and essays have been translated into Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian and Greek.

Dr. Bruce Campbell is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, where he is chair of the Latino/Latin American Studies program. He is the author of Mexican Murals in Times of Crisis (University of Arizona, 2003) and ¡Viva la historieta! Mexican Comics, NAFTA, and the Politics of Globalization (University Press of Mississippi, 2009).

Crisis for the Rich, Via Crucis for the Poor

World map showing countries by nominal GDP per...

Crisis de los ricos, via crucis de los pobres

Crisis for the Rich, Via Crucis for the Poor

Theories of evolution after Darwin assume a dynamic of divergences. Two species can derive from one in common; every now and then, these variations can disappear gradually or abruptly, but two species never end up flowing together into one. There is no mixing except within a given species. In the long view, a hen and a man are distant relatives, descendants of some reptile, and each one represents a successful response by life in its struggle for survival.

In other words, diversity is the form in which life expands and adapts to diverse environments and conditions. Diversity and life are synonymous for the biosphere. Vital processes tend toward diversity but at the same time they are the expression of a unity, the biosphere, Gaia, the exuberance of life in permanent struggle for the survival of its own miracle in hostile surroundings.

For the same reason, cultural diversity is a condition for the life of humanity. That is to say, and even though it might be motive enough in itself, diversity is not limited merely to avoiding the boredom of monotony but instead is, besides, part of our vital survival as humanity.

Nevertheless, we humans are the only species that has replaced the natural and discrete loss of species with an artificial and threatening extermination, with industrial depredation and with the pollution of consumerism. Those of us who insist on a possible though not inevitable “progress of history” based on knowledge and the exercise of equal-liberty, can see that humanity, so often placing itself in danger of extinction, has achieved some advances that have allowed it to survive and abide its growing muscular power. And even so, we have added nothing good to the rest of nature. In many respects, perhaps in that natural process of trial and error, we have regressed or our errors have become exponentially more dangerous.

Consumerism is one of those errors. That insatiable appetite has little or nothing to do with progress toward a possible and yet improbable post-scarcity, hunger-free era, and everything to do with the more primitive era of greed and gluttony. Let’s not say with an animal instinct, because not even lions monopolize the savanna or practice systematic extermination of their victims, and because even pigs are sated sometimes.

The culture of consumerism has erred in several ways. First, it has contradicted the aforementioned condition, passing over cultural diversities, substituting them for its universal trinkets or creating a pseudo-diversity where a Japanese laborer or German office worker can enjoy for two days a piece of traditional Peruvian craftwork made in China, or for five days the most beautiful Venetian curtains imported from Taiwan, before they fall apart from use. Second, because it also has threatened the ecological balance with its unlimited extractions and its returns in the form of immortal garbage.

We can observe concrete examples all around us. We might say that it is good fortune that a worker could enjoy commodities that previously were reserved only for the upper classes, the unproductive classes, the consumer classes. Nonetheless, that consumption – induced by cultural and ideological pressure – often has been turned into the very purpose of the worker and an instrument of the economy. Which logically means that the individual-as-tool has been turned into a means of the economy as individual-as-consumer.

In almost all of the developed countries, or those following that “model of development,” the furniture that invades the markets is intended to last only a few years. Or a few months. The furniture items are pretty, they look good just like almost everything in the culture of consumption, but if we look closely they are scratched, missing a screw or our out of square. That preoccupation of my family of carpenters with improving the design of a chair so that it might last a hundred years turns out to be exotic now. But the new disposable furniture does not worry us too much because we know that it costs little and that, in two or three years we are going to buy some more new stuff, which happens to provide more interest and variation in the decoration of our homes and offices and above all stimulates the world economy. According to the current theory, what we throw away here aids the industrial development of some poor country. Thus we are good, because we are consumers.

And yet, those furniture items, even the cheapest ones, have consumed trees and burned up fuel in their long journey from China or from Malaysia. The logic of “dispose of it after use,” which is most reasonable for a plastic syringe, becomes a necessary law for stimulating the economy and maintaining the perpetual growth of GDP, with its respective crises and phobias whenever its fall provokes a recession of two percent. In order to escape the recession one must increase the dosage of the drug. The United States alone, for example, dedicates billions of dollars so that its residents might continue to consume, to spend, in order to escape the madness of the recession and thus allow the world to continue to turn, consuming and discarding.

But those discards, as cheap as they may be – consumerism is based on cheap, disposable merchandise that makes the recycling of durable products almost inaccessible – possess bits of wood, plastic, batteries, steel pipe, screws, glass and more plastic. In the United States all of that and more goes into the garbage – even in this time of what is called “great crisis” for the wrong reasons – and in the poor countries, the poor go out looking for that garbage. Over the long term, the one who ends up consuming all the garbage is nature, while humanity continues to suspend its changes of habit in order to get out of the recession first and in order to sustain the growth of the economy later.

But what is the meaning of “growth of the economy,” that two or three per cent with which the whole world is obsessed, from North to South and East to West?

The world is convinced that it finds itself in a terrible crisis. But the world was already in crisis. Now the crisis is defined as worldwide because 1) it proceeds from and affects the economy of the wealthiest; 2) the simplified paradigm of development has radiated its hysteria out to the rest of the world, undermining its legitimacy. But in the United States people are still flooding the stores and restaurants and their cut backs never involve hunger, even in the gravest cases of the millions of workers without jobs. In our peripheral countries a crisis means children begging in the streets. In the United States it tends to mean consumers consuming a little less while they await the next government check.

In order to get out of that “crisis,” the experts squeeze their brains and the solution is always the same: increase consumption. Ironically, increasing consumption by lending regular people their own money through the big private banks that receive rescue aid from the government. It’s not only a matter of saving a few banks, but, above all, of saving an ideology and culture that cannot survive on their own without frequent ad hoc injections: financial stimulus, wars that promote industry and control popular participation, drugs and entertainment that stimulate, tranquilize and anaesthetize in the name of the common good.

Will we have really emerged from the crisis when the world returns to a five percent growth rate through the stimulation of consumption in the wealthy countries? Will we not be laying the ground for the next crisis, a real – human and ecological – crisis and not an artificial crisis like the one we have now? Will we truly realize that this one is not truly a crisis but just a warning, which is to say, an opportunity for changing our habits?

Every day is a crisis because every day we choose a road. But there are crises that are a long via crucis and others that are critical because, for oppressed and oppressors alike, it means a double possibility: the confirmation of a system or its annihilation. So far it has been the first because of a lack of alternatives to the second. But one must never underestimate history. Nobody could have ever foreseen an alternative to medieval feudalism or to the system of slavery. Or almost nobody. The history of the most recent millennia demonstrates that utopians usually foresee the future with an exaggerated precision. But like today, the utopians have always had a bad reputation. Because mockery and disrepute are the form that every dominant system has always used to avoid the proliferation of people with too much imagination.

Dr. Jorge Majfud

Febrero, 2009

Lincoln University

Political Affairs (USA)

Translated by Dr. Bruce Campbell. St. John’s University