week 11 – there’s no such thing as free

The photo above was taken while on a freeway ramp right outside of San Francisco, a glaring example of income inequality.

This is a response to “Stockton’s young mayor has bold turnaround plan: Basic income and stipends for potential shooters” by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times published on May 26th, 2018

Basic income is not a new concept; in fact, it has been experimented with in countries such as Canada, Finland, and even the US. Within the states, the Alaska Permanent Fund gives $2000 to residents; a shared wealth from the oil extraction. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs wants to use basic universal income to help his city combat bankruptcy, high crime rates, and its economy.

Interestingly enough, Zuckerberg and Tesla have hinted at the idea of universal income as a means to an end, something inevitable, rather than an opportunity. It is particularly interesting because their exact industries are the ones that are perpetuating the growing wage gap and poor job market. But Tubbs is making direct, radical action to address the issues that have made matters worse in Stockton.

Mayor Tubbs had heard of the idea before while reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book called Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. Dr. King suggested that a guaranteed income would help remedy social ills caused by the lack of funds. The idea was also suggested by Tubbs’s researchers when he asked how they could fix poverty. Seeking out valid research from the community to make informed political decisions may seem rational, but in most cases, that is not true. Political decisions are, well, political decisions. They may or may not help constituents; but Tubbs is putting all the effort he can into fixing the community through this program.

Stockton’s  basic universal income program will randomly select households to give $500 monthly. A common worry is that people will spend it on drugs, alcohol, other vices. Maybe a television. But in fact, many say they will spend it toward bills. Which makes sense. If not bills, then maybe toward child care, healthier food, and rent. There is so much stigma around what people do with their money – particularly poor people. The notion that impoverished populations will spend this money on drugs is unfair; drug addiction can happen to anyone, of any socioeconomic class. But there is much more stigma and a lack of trust.

Not only does Tubbs want to give $500 to the group, but he also wants to give $1000 to those who are more likely to incite violence. Though this program is mentioned in the title, the article does not solely focus on it. In a way, it is a eye-catching outline that frames the program as one that supports criminals – who are seen as bad. Which is not necessarily true; people who are criminals are human too.   

If we look at who has been incarcerated within the prison-industrial complex, it is disproportionately people of color who come from underserved communities that are enslaved under the 13th amendment which states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. The difference is who is or is not required to be incarcerated for their crimes.

Giving money to those more likely to incite violence can help the community. Violence often comes from bottled up stress and the inability to change things in a more constructive manner. People who have little to no resources or social safety net may have to resort to violence to make an ends meet, or to protect themselves in a community where the law enforcement does not serve them. It will help them be able to take care of themselves and not have to resort to violence to take out their frustrations or make some money. Many health problems are caused by stress and the lack of access to resources such as education.

Many are opposed because it is “free money”. It is not free, but a way to prevent people from going into poverty. People work 12-14 hours a day and they still experience troubles trying to make ends meet. This is unfair; this is at the expense of their bodies, time, and lives because they work for a business that underpays them. The business will profit more than the person will. Natalie Foster of the Economic Security Project said that people “shouldn’t live in poverty in the richest country in the world at the richest moment in time” and suggested that the universal income should be funded by “fees on the people making millions shuffling paper on Wall Street”. The shufflers on Wall Street make money off of the labor of others all while doing essentially nothing. Shuffling their papers to accumulate more and more wealth, widening the wealth disparity with every transaction thus instigating the social problems the community experiences today.

In the end the author said that they aren’t “quite ready to pay a tax fund for this kind of giveaway, but as long as this is… financed by private and non-profit sources, why not?” To be honest, the United States should be ready to make the give away as it has taken more for the benefit of the government and corporations. One way or another, private entities and nonprofits benefit from government funds – by why not just give to the people so they can more easily help themselves? After all, this is the home of the free.

week 10 – tubers vs. cereal

“By allowing the market to become separate and free from social control our society has made a serious mistake, because in time the market destroys society and its environment.”

It isn’t separate at all. Confusion and anger ensues when someone says they’re socially progressive/liberal yet fiscally conservative. So, does that mean you pretend to care about poor people but you actually don’t care? Because that’s the sentiments that drive the market – the same market that “destroys society and its environment”. It’s the disconnect of what was once an exchange. It is no longer an exchange – not at all.

Though it was one of the contributions to the cause of world wars one and two – to separate money from its social value enforces the disconnect. Because the horrors of genocide, war, erasure, is entirely social; a hate that was socialized and enforced by those in power. The market was never self-regulated; the so-called guiding hand of the market or fate of the market is a complete falsification. Economic disasters are manufactured to continue this unrelenting cycle that upholds imperialist powers.

The social rules, laws, policies, whatever, were created by those in charge often at the expense of others. Some rules were even made up to make face. For example, “in the medieval catholic world… ‘charity was an explicit social obligation’” which was explicitly written in the old testament. This could not be farther from what was actually practiced. There are various well-documented actions made by the Catholic church that disputed their obligation of charity. They took advantage of under-regulated markets and those who worked in them. Let’s not forget indulgences – a ticket to heaven that you could by from the church. All of the money – all (still) untaxed – went straight to the church and continually has been increasing since its inception.

But all across so-called primitive economies based on studies, there is an “absence of any desire to make profits from… exchange.” (Thurnwald 1932). Perhaps this is to ensure social harmony – taking advantage of someone for your gain is a serious offense because everyone lives so closely together. This is where money comes in – it takes that responsibility away from buyers; money makes everything okay. There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism because of alienation as noted by Marx. The disconnect destroyed social ties.

Modern markets came to be after there was a sort of surplus. In indigenous New Guinean society, it is difficult to make a surplus. Their geographic location did not allow the surplus in the same way that traditional empire river valleys came about. There was no grain or rice; they are a hunting-gathering society. Wild sago is an important source of food. However, it is difficult to harvest and process. Sago and taro also do not keep well. On the other hand, wheat grain is easier to harvest and stores well. For example, in one of the oldest middle eastern villages, archaeologists found a grainery that helped store grain. This shortened and lessened the so-called “hunger periods” that made populations vulnerable due to starvation. They were able to create a surplus to lean on when times were tough, thus strengthening the population and preventing death. The geographic location and terrain of the highlands of Papua New Guinea did not necessarily allow the growth of highly productive and nutritious crops compared to other societies that developed on traditional cereals. We are what we eat, and we definitely can’t eat money.

week 9: kolonial kudzu

Survival of the fittest is a cliche. Our society depends on this phrase, it’s a crutch and it hasn’t helped anyone. And to say it’s backed by science is only half-true. Science itself is not unbiased, free of any social pretenses. It is in fact framed by the very prejudices that sicken our communities.

“Darwin lived in England in its heyday of empire building. His society idealized military virtues, masculine prowess, conquest, and hierarchical prestige.”

The phrase, survival of the fittest, came about during the early industrial revolution when England, amongst other European crowns, were conquering and pillaging the societies of Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia. Europe survived, and has sustained, on being the most armed and violent. His society idealized attributes that were classist, sexist, colonial, and highly destructive.

And kudzu’s a little like that.

Kudzu is a vine indigenous to East and Southeast Asia. It has invaded southern American flora and is destroying the environment that it is taking over. The more successful it is at taking nutrients from other plants, the more it has to take from the soil. Either way, the kudzu loses out. It will kill itself by depending on things that it is taking from.  

The vine doesn’t have a consciousness like people or animals do in order to prevent destroying its own environment. In fact, animals enjoy pleasurable activities to entertain themselves in order to preserve their environment. For example, animals that are classified as predators my engage in play with each other in order to preserve the prey and allow them to reproduce so there’s more food for later. These activities indirectly help them by preserving their environment, social structure, and overall health. See? You don’t have to hurt anyone to be able to take care of yourself.

The act of preservation was never seen as a means of survival. Conventionally, survival is seen as hunting, killing, fighting each other out to be the best one. That isn’t the case. People who are nice are still alive. But that trips up so-called neo-Darwinists. They’re like, how does altruism fit into this, because it’s seen as an “unfit reproductive trait”. How can people be nice for no reason? Well, people who have children do it all the time. They have kids and take care of them and makes sure they stay alive. But it is mistakenly seen as altruistic – more often than not, the pregnancies were unplanned. In addition, there are societal obligations that people should have children because tick tock tick that biological clock is about to go off. Nonetheless, this mode of preservation is a means of survival. That’s why babysitters exist.

Let’s explore the other restraints that prevent us from destroying the earth. These restraints apply to cultures universally, have been practiced for a long time, and are not at odds with competitive success.

Aesthetic appreciation is one of our restraints.

Yes, we don’t kill trees because we think they are very pretty. Some may disagree, but looks are very important in my book. Though it does not have a direct fitness advantage (unless you’re slinging trees), the importance of how things looks helps us preserve nature.

Secondly, ghosts.

Not just regular ghosts, but ghosts that will haunt us forever if we took more wild berries than we needed. Superstitions are a form of restraint because they bring fear to those who may cause harm to the environment. Nature is an extremely strong force that could definitely kill anyone. So that is pretty threatening. And that’s still the case. But these superstitions, for the most part, has been replaced by science. Science also fear mongers – all complete with footnotes.

Finally, how does this evolution stuff apply to modern economies? For example, landlords in these impoverished, unsustainable economies end up poor themselves later. They’re bad at preserving the economic habitat from which they were disproportionately extracting from. Just like kudzu.

 

Week 8: global financial loss due to lack of co-development

Image: Last winter break in Europe, I took a photo of the Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof; the busiest train station in Germany. Frankfurt is the financial center of the European continent.
Response to “The Nature of Development” by Jane Jacobs and “World’s Largest Banks Admit to Massive Global Financial Crimes, But Escape Jail (Again)” from Democracy Now!

In this reading “Nature of Development” they discussed how things develop, from animals, fetuses, and finally, economies. Development is an open-ended process; every time something changes, things become more complex and diverse. With each change comes an exponential number of ways in which it can change again due to co-development. Co-development is inevitable; we don’t live in a vacuum. Which is why those evolution graphics are a little misleading. From the looks of it, the animals, or cells, evolve in a linear sense. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, they evolve, but not alone. If only those evolution posters included the grass, the water, the rocks, bacteria, and other animals that had a major effect on its development. The generalities of nature that exist in ecosystems are the basis from which differentiation occur. So, anything and everything, from minute to groundbreaking, affect the evolution of all things.

Economies have always existed, but began to change. It’s always been the same thing – an exchange of goods. Sharing in particular is the oldest economic generality; even chimpanzees and bonobos practice “deliberate, socialized sharing”. Today, different cultures have different economies. Transportation, communication, methods of storage, and much more have co-evolved with the economy itself – with economically creative people’s ideas.

Some economies are backward in a sense – societies that oppress women or depend on a sort of serfdom. This has excluded a large amount of the population from creatively contributing to the economy. There’s efficiency and imbalance that results in impoverished populations. Due to the treatment essential erasure of peoples, they are taken out of the equation. There has been less co-development and economies may be growing in number, but are at a standstill for humanity.

In 2015, the largest banks in the world were found guilty of skewing foreign exchange rates. The banks, in correspondence with each other, did this on purpose so they can make money – one banker even admitted it was cheating. And it was; they were cheating humanity because the foreign exchange market is the largest market in the world. In addition, it’s also the least regulated. How can this be? Well, those in charge of the banks, investors, business owners are also involved with policy and regulation; the government has not done anything about it. A small pool of people essentially control the systems in which we live, work, and die in. Scandals continue to occur within finance and banking. The cost to humanity is detrimental; sending us back in time due to the lack of co-development.

community service: la cocina conference in san francisco

In April, I took a short trip to San Francisco to volunteer at the La Cocina conference. La Cocina is an initiative to help people who experience high barriers to entry within the foodservice industry. These barriers are largely financial and socio-economic. They provide an incubator kitchen and business advisors so they can launch a business that they can operate on their own terms. More often than not underserved populations are essentially taken advantage of and experience this cycle of being unable to create or find opportunities that will improve the quality of life.

The particular session I went to was called Representation in Food Media. It was addressing the issue of under-representation of POC voices within food media.Food media more often than not fetishizes “international” cuisines which is reinforces the imperialistic exotixation perception of non-Western cultures.

You can listen to some of the conference here: http://www.racistsandwich.com/episodes/2018/4/24/e47

This was very interesting topic for me because I see this perspective of food that is ignorant and as a result, limiting. As a leader, I want to share this information with people who influence portrayals of brands. Being cognizant of culture is very important for leaders. People’s mentalities and traditions are heavily influenced by cultures and it helps with communication and interpersonal relationships if people were more aware of each other. Miscommunication is a huge issue within the workplace, and some would blame it on “diversity”. But it wouldn’t be an issue if we understand different cultures on a more substantial as opposed to the stereotypical narratives that society knows.

If I go into marketing, I want to be able to accurately portray cultures and have advising by those of the respective culture. Stereotypes need to go, and food is not exclusive from it. Food is still an expression of culture so it’s very important that it is shown in a more realistic, sensitive manner.

The session I went to was very good because the panel included people who are active within food media including a filipinx photographer, an Indian food writer, and the podcast host of Racist Sandwich. It was relevant because it’s an issue that is very real and prevalent in marketing and media, so the panel was very well-rounded and experienced within media.

This topic is extremely relevant in the hospitality industry.  For example, Bon Appetit magazine got a lot of backlash from the white chef who believed he had an authoritative voice in Vietnamese food. This chef got in hot water because he was trying to tell people the definitive way to eat . It was an issue because they could have gone to an actual Vietnamese pho place instead of his restaurant. It took a hit to their brand, but I’m glad they experienced criticism because of the constructive commentary from people of color. It’s useful because its important to be real about these issues. If it were longer I would not have minded. I was able to ask a question – how do you all talk about these exhausting subjects that are very personal? They told me to take care of yourself, remind yourself that you’re paving the way to make things better for people, and to take a break in order to nurture oneself. Those were very powerful pieces of advice that I’ll take with me.

 

week 7 – still wading in musty colonial bathwater, honestly wanting to drown at this point

In response to “Rescuing the Enlightenment Baby from the Oligarch Bathwater”

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time, one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through

– Alexis Tocqueville (1835)

The old aristocratic colors were America’s original colors. America’s founding fathers owned slaves. The founding fathers used Enlightenment ideals as an excuse to establish a new country by taking someone else’s land. Perhaps it’s the most influential marketing campaign as of yet; telling people that America is a land of classless democracy, free of oppression in order to get them to leave their home.

It’s founding wasn’t much different from the establishment of colonies by the Dutch, French, British, and Spanish. These societies operated as the MIG – Military Industrial Government, which very much still exists today. They amassed immense amounts of power and wealth through the disenfranchisement of countless countries within Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The colonization was reinforced, and continued by the commodification of their natural resources. Colonial powers took the natural resources at the expense of the natural environment to export manufactured goods right back to them in the name of profits.

How did this come about? These MIGs sponsored companies, such as the Hudson Bay Company. They created policy that favored their business, thus reinforcing their economic power. More often than not, government and royal officials were shareholders of said companies.

This phenomenon still exists to this day. Modern examples of companies include Exon, GM, Microsoft. One more – Raytheon.

Raytheon is one of the top contractors 100 of the US government. The first eleven are related to defense. What’s defense? A neocolonial word for military, for colonization, for the destruction of other societies that uphold American oligarchy. It’s a relentless cycle that never ended. It just became mechanized. There’s a lot of money in that; Raytheon alone has had over $13,000,000,000, let me spell that for you: over thirteen trillion dollars spent on them by the federal government.

H.R. 2810 passed last December. It was title the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. The act essentially “authorized appropriations” for aircrafts, missiles, combat vehicles, ammunition and, research, development, “counter-drug” activities, salaries, and construction related to defense. In other words, the government gave an allowance for the military to continue the horrors of war. The companies that lobbied for this act included General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE systems, and Raytheon which are all within the defense sector. These companies lobbied for this law to make sure that there will be enough money for their contracts that are being signed day in and day out

People are profiting off war, including government officials. The systems that want this to happen is the oligarchy that runs the American government. We’ve been drowning even before 1776.

 

week 6: cultural creatives or societal saviors?

Cultural creatives are people who do as they say. Their words align with their actions in many aspects of their lives. They are people who are conducting an emergence within American society amongst the social ills that are caused by conventional culture.

They are the true influences. Personal authenticity is key, as they invent the current interests of today’s culture. When learning about current events, they prefer to refer to first person accounts as opposed to self-proclaimed “objective” journalism. It isn’t actually objective if you say it is. Instead, they synthesize information from different sources to gain a well-rounded viewpoint. This is because the world is way too complex for linear thinking.

Cultural creatives are personally involved with the issues they are concerned with. By developing a relationship with these issues, they are able to develop a strong connection. For example, there is a group of women who have collectively bought land to form a conservation land trust called the Sacred Grove. They love nature and truly believe it should be saved, so they have donated their personal funds and time in order to keep it from being developed. The culture of conservation emerged from the seemingly unstoppable commercialization of natural spaces such as the Sacred Grove. These women have changed culture by taking matters into their own hands.

Typical characteristics of cultural creatives include idealism, altruism, and less cynicism. I can’t believe the last one. I feel like if you are cognizant of the horrible things going on, then how can you not be cynic?

Women were briefly mentioned in this excerpt. To throw women a bone, it said that “Women are leading the way”. If women are leading the way, then why weren’t women leading the article? If women make up of 60% of so-called cultural creatives, then why didn’t it seem that way? The compartmentalization of “women’s issues” is an issue in itself – there are no such things as women’s issues. Women’s issues are everyone’s issues. They’re considered women’s issues because as a result of shitty things happening and selfish decision-making, women are disproportionately affected.

Lastly, cultural creatives reject the religious right and social conservatives. This can be a disadvantage because if cultural creatives, who seem to be those of privilege in race and class, then they are missing out on an opportunity to induce emergence from within a space that they can access.

Cultural creatives are not exempt from social criticism despite their involvement related to social justice, they still need to check themselves. It is a process.