No more weapons!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

That’s what citizens are demanding: while experiencing this extremely serious economic crisis in Spain and in Europe with ever-growing concern, we are astounded to see that the European Union is incapable of assuming autonomy in the area of security. We continue to depend on NATO and to pay its immense bills. Currently, when there’s no money for healthcare, education or science, we are paying almost 2 billion euros for “arms debts” of military material acquired years ago. Former Defense Minister Carme Chacón was courageous enough to admit that “We bought material that we didn’t need with money we didn’t have”. Why aren’t citizens informed about when, for how much and who ordered these massive purchases? Why the continuous lack of transparency with respect to matters so essential for the radical changes that this present systemic crisis requires?

And as if that weren’t enough, it now appears that the European manufacturers of bombers, rockets, etc. want to unite to compete with the United States. “European investors and governments are wary of a giant aerospace merger”, according to a New York Times article published on September 14, while the previous day “El País” had announced that EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) and BAE Systems (UK) are negotiating to create that colossal entity. Since Lockheed Martin and Boeing decided to join forces in the US, now Europe wants to do the same with an initial capital outlay of 49,000 million dollars.
I never tire of repeating that the time has come to radically oppose investing 4 billion dollars daily in weapons and military spending while over 60,000 people die of hunger and millions live in extreme poverty.

The time has come to invest in other things and to once and for all cease this grim preparation for war (“If you want peace, prepare for war”), which results in the majority of people having to survive amid severe hardships, while at the same time affecting the earth’s habitability.

It’s right to worry about the safety of civil aviation… but warplanes (thank goodness President Obama has suspended the production of F-35s that costs over 300,000 million dollars) and especially drones, should be strictly regulated.

I would likewise seriously recommend not being so concerned about traveling to Mars or to the moon. Let’s worry about our planet, let’s travel the earth so that we may finally realize that the only thing that’s important is each human life, that mystery and perhaps miracle, capable of creating, capable of inventing a different future, a new dawn.

Education: Learning to Be

Now that so many new rules are imposed on our educational process. Now that we’ve suddenly seen that English is on the level with Spanish. Now that are being followed totally foreign recommendations to the Spanish educational system, which is in general very satisfactory thanks to the quality of our teachers. Now that they are concentrating more on mathematics more than on philosophy, and more on specific disciplines than those that foment creativity such as art and music. Now is the time to calmly discuss education.

And to affirm the essential importance of UNESCO’s founding text that, based on ethics and equal human dignity, proclaims that the goal of education is to create “free and responsible” people. These are the qualities that D. Francisco Giner de los Ríos proposed almost a century ago when he defined education as the capacity to “sensibly manage one’s own life”. And to act upon one’s own reflections and never upon the dictates of others or of anything.

And to re-read Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And the text “Towards Lifelong Education for All” (UNESCO, 1990). And the “World Action Plan for Education in Human Rights and Democracy” (Montreal, 1993) and “Learning: The Treasure Within” (the report on “Education for the 21st Century” issued by the task force presided by Jacques Delors, UNESCO, 1995). This excellent report underscores the four major pillars of learning:
·        Learning to Know
·        Learning to Do
·        Learning to Be
·        Learning to Live Together

And I would add “Learning to Innovate” and “Learning to Dare”. And above all, not to learn to have, but rather to be. And to be oneself to the fullest extent possible.

In higher education, the annual GUNI (Global University Network for Innovation) reports are truly excellent…

There’s no place here for biased short-term self-interested maneuvers. Addressing this crucial subject with much caution, the true cornerstone on which to build the future of our wide-eyed dreams, is an ethical necessity. Take this into account. Just remember the “future generations” mentioned in the United Nations Charter.

It’s the scientific risk premium that counts!

I believe it’s of interest to reproduce below a few paragraphs from a statement made recently by my son Federico, who is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology:

“It seemed that with a critical mass of researchers and research centers we were going to be able to ‘catch the train’ of European science, but unfortunately this is now in danger: our scientific risk premium, our differential with other leading countries in the world, is once again on the rise.

This gap is widening, aggravated by the fact that these current times of global economic crisis (as well as a crisis of values, more relevant than ever) make it easier to relegate knowledge to a level of lesser importance.

Advanced societies must have the critical capacity to generate knowledge, transfer it to future generations and transform it into applications. This is essential if we are to face the future with certain guarantees of success.

It appears particularly appropriate at this time to remind society of the significant advances achieved in healthcare, diagnostics, genetics and new materials… gleaned from basic research. It’s clear that cutting-edge research plays a fundamental role in development and welfare.

It’s not only the task of scientists to call for support for research, but rather society and entrepreneurs should likewise demand that science be made a priority…

I must warn of the risk that the flight of so many young scientists to other countries entails. The opportunity to play a prominent role in science, attracting brilliant young people to scientific fields may be frustrated by the current budget cuts, restrictions and pessimism”.

I fully agree with these points of view. It’s the fifty-something generation that we should listen to, rather than our own.

Yes, the scientific risk premium is the one that really counts.

Real Democracy, Now!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I think this is the best banner carried by those belonging to the emerging but now unstoppable movement that, thanks to new information and communications technologies, will progressively promote their protests and proposals and, given the number of adherents that they will be capable of achieving, will truly influence the government’s decisions. Distance participation will undoubtedly strengthen democracy.

Democracy is the only context in which it is possible to envision a “new beginning”, a new world era in which governance will be rooted in justice, equality, liberty and solidarity, in summary, in the “democratic principles” so lucidly set forth in the UNESCO Constitution, instead of the markets and the great military, energy, financial and media domain, which through groups of plutocrats presently seeks to maintain its ambitions of domination that have already produced so many negative results.

Real Democracy, Now! It’s that clear. That’s what we have to strive for. A second draft of the Universal Declaration of Democracy has been released. In a few weeks a final draft will be ready, which we may all sign after receiving contributions that may be warranted for its improvement.

Real Democracy, Now! I hope this will be the great banner waved by all of those who from the Puerta de Sol to Cyberspace have filled the horizon with a desire for change.

On Disenchantment with Politics and Obsession with Football

Feeling not only disenchanted, but also betrayed by political leaders; discovering their rapid and progressive failure to keep promises that had raised so many hopes; realizing the disinformation to which they are being subjected; failing to clearly see alternatives or solutions… disenchantment with politics – and with religion as well- have greatly increased partisan sentiment in sports, scandalously fomented to the extent that today there is an authentic “athletics bubble” that keeps citizens distracted and ensures that they will consider their just social, professional, etc. demands “impossible”.

Uniformity and conformity are almost as old as mankind, having been skillfully imposed by those in power. “Bread and circus” in Roman times so that the Caesars could enjoy in peace the golden heights of their power. It is frightening to see how impassioned crowds of sports fans approve their idols’ immense salaries, while the only thing that matters is whether their team wins. I am perplexed to see citizens screaming and shouting with joy… Permanent spectators.

I also am very fond of football. I have followed numerous championships with much interest. But in addition to enjoying sports events, we have to do everything possible to ensure that so many of our fellow citizens continue to be active, participative members of society capable of mobilizing themselves in favor of genuine democracy at the personal, local, national and global levels.