Case Study: The Colonial Hegemony of Latin America

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Legitimacy, the recognized right to rule, was a primary force behind maintaining the hegemony of Latin America during the colonial era. A hegemony of the white male minority maintained the power through the systems of Catholicism, castes, and patriarchy throughout the region. Everyone either worked within the system, bettering their own lives at the expense of their native ideologies, or dissented and were dealt with by institutional coercion.  This is not to say there was a political elite ruling Latin America, rather there was a culture of conformity that shaped the regions to the benefit of the white male minority.

Simon Bolivar

Some fall in line, some question the legitimacy of an illegitimate state

The Catholic Church backed the legitimacy of the colonizers through its “religious authority”.  By converting the populations of Latin America to Catholicism it was culturally instilled that the Church, and the whites who ran it, were the true leaders.  Everything from the time of day, the names of towns, and the afterlife fell under the Church’s power.  This influence pushed the colored peoples of Latin America towards the hegemony.  Racial castes further supported this political development.

These castes broke people into groups based on the colors of their pedigree.  Those with more white in their blood had more privileges and prestige those with less white were worse off.  This placed a cultural imperative for families to pursue white relationships over others.  Putting the white families on a pedestal gave the hegemony even more influence.  One caveat to this situation is that exceptional families, with much wealth, could buy a white legal status if they were willing to pay for it.  While this undermined the color scheme of the castes it further enforced that white was best as colored people jumped for the legal title.

Another force backing the small white male leadership of the country was patriarchy.  This principle, instilled by the Church and economic forces, placed the father in the head of the family.  Women, especially curious and potentially intelligent women, were shut away.  Honor grew in importance as patriarchy grew in strength.  Duels were common, hindering transculturation especially among the upper classes by killing anyone not white or prestigious enough to marry “up.”

Coercion, political power stemmed from the use and threat of force, dealt with problems that the Church, the castes, and the patriarchy.  Nonconformists who threatened the framework of the Catholic and patriarchal state were silenced and in some cases physically confronted.  The Spanish Inquisition, using the “religious authority” of the Church silenced dissonance.  Controversial books were banned and indigenous religions and rituals were stamped out with accusations of witch craft.

The hegemony of white males ruled Latin America till the end of colonial rule.  The forces of legitimacy, The Church, castes, and patriarchy, influenced the ideals of society towards conformity.  Swift coercion disciplined dangerous renegades.  This study can better help us understand the duality of legitimacy and coercion in a sound, but not necessary moral, political system.  The legitimacy of power can create a political atmosphere which a specific group can benefit.  With this legitimacy that group can use coercion to eliminate threats to their political power.  As legitimacy strengthens, due to coercion of nonconformists, the reach of coercion lengths, as lessening dissonance strengthens the status quo.  I imagine both of these forces would be necessary for an authoritarian state, such as those in colonial Latin America to maintain control.

Thoughts on Direct Job Creation

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The government’s primary responsibility is to protect the lives, happiness, and stability of its citizenry. I believe direct job creation programs should become a cornerstone in welfare programs to support unemployed people, in the short run, and serve as the launching pad to reeducate those people in the long run.

Governments can either neglect their citizenry or invest in them.  In a case where  laissez-faire economics prevail the workforce is left to its own initiative to find employment.  I believe this method is inefficient; often people act irrationally, due to lack of education and information, as they pursue employment.  Often they can waste much time and resources and still be unable to obtain a job.  I believe when governments invest in their citizenry the populace is better off.  My reasoning is that unemployed workers with financial support are better situated to find new work, become educated about potential opportunities, and pursue new careers through learning new techniques and skill sets.  Without any income these unemployed workers would be forced to instead starve, turn towards illegal means, or fall into costly debt and permanently injure their financial potential.  With financial support they can concentrate on finding a stable income and forgo significant problems.  This second option makes sense to me, it seems to head off spiraling unemployment where laissez-faire instead permits chaos.

The issue then becomes how to distribute welfare to those who need it.  Blank checks and unmarked bills seem like a short sighted way to provide aid.  People are inherently irrational; while they might be making decisions, with their government aid, that makes them happy they also may be perpetuating their unemployment.  I believe that governments, as the employers of last resort, should be able to step in and give any willing worker employment through direct job creation programs.  It is the job of the government to protect its citizenry, giving them an income is perhaps one of the most concrete ways to accomplish basic objective.  It would not matter if these programs were as simple as planting trees, cleaning graffiti, or being crosswalk guards as long as it transmitted an income to support those who were once unemployed.  The added benefits to the community services are an ancillary positive that helps neighborhoods and gives once unemployed workers a sense of optimism and a bit of dignity when they pick up their paychecks.

It is my personal opinion that direct job creation programs do not go far enough for helping the unemployed citizenry.  Direct job creation does employee workers and stabilize their lifestyles, but it is vulnerable to costly overuse.  Argentina’s Jefes de Hogar program found a solution in its worker training programs.  I believe that community jobs can be essential in alleviate unemployment in the short run; in the long run they become needlessly redundant and potentially wasteful.  I propose that workers with unneeded skill sets should be reeducated so they can pursue a new career, hopefully even one that pays better.  With reeducation programs once unemployed workers should be steered towards higher skilled jobs that need more applicants.  Simultaneously, this action fills hiring holes in the economy while hopefully upgrading the lives of once unemployed workers.  Any loss to the taxpayers, spent in lifting a once unemployed worker to the sectors where new employees are most needed, will be paid for by the higher tax returns of those individuals who increased their human capital and earning potential.

I believe that the government should be an employer of last resort, in the short term.  The steady support of welfare should be able to be counted upon to aid unemployed citizens.  Direct job creation gives short term aid to those who need it most and it hedges against unemployed people wasting time and resources.  It can even provide the means to reeducate once unemployed individuals so that their lives are actually better because they got fired.

Planetary Annihilation: Kickstarter Blows Up Planets, The Game

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Every would-be world conqueror gets their start playing tactical video games; some classic examples are Civilization, Age of Empires, and StarCraft.  A new contender is being added to the list of great strategy games, Planetary Annihilation.  This latest real-time strategy vision pioneers a new trail; rather than just a single map being the battle field whole solar systems are up for grabs.

ASTEROID PLANET - digital-art

Space, the final frontier … of warfare

The loose premise for Planetary Annihilation is robot armies are fighting each other for galactic control.  Fun, right? The real focus of the game is in revolutionary global combat.   Most games have square maps which cut off suddenly to prevent flanking armies from falling into the void.  In Planetary Annihilation the battlefields are spherical planets.  Troops march and fly around the world, doing combat in all three hundred and sixty degrees.

More complex maps add a solar system of battlefields.  Moons can be mined.  Asteroid can be turned into continental sized missiles.  Gas giants fill up the screen as multiple lunar battles take place across space.  It is hinted that whole planets can be thrown at unsuspecting opponents.

Already Uber Entertainment, the producers of this strategic and hilarious game, has surpassed their initial goal for Planetary Annihilation.  With a whopping $900,000 in pledged funds production has already.  Yet as more funds were pledged new ideas were birthed for each new threshold.

Upon passing the $1.1 million dollar barrier water worlds, complete with a whole new variety of aquatic robots, were added to Planetary Annihilation.  Two hundred thousand dollars later orbital units were added and gas giants entered the warzone.  The next threshold of $1.5 million will add strange new worlds coated with lava and cloaked in metal.  The $1.8 million dollar threshold seems to be the most interesting to me; it activates the galactic campaign.  By doubling their initial goal battlefields Uber Entertainment will make the whole galaxy open for combat.

The rewards for aiding Planetary Annihilation are both novel and far-flung.  $20 will garner you a copy of the game, alongside over 12,000 backers.  For $50 you will get a unique commander exclusively to fundraisers, but for $1000 you can get a unique commander made exclusively for you.  My favorite option allows you name planets within the game; I think naming a planet after myself might just be worth $150.

I support intergalactic warfare; click here to support Planetary Annihilation!

Kickstart(er) Solar: Small Panels, Big Dreams

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I believe that passionate and invested inventors are the best innovators. Now it is time to add Alex Hornstein and Shawn Frayne to the ranks of the Wright Brothers and Alexander Fleming.  Our two new revolutionaries are pushing the boundaries of solar energy.  They are not pushing them upwards for large panels, instead they invested in small hyper efficient solar panels which can power every small object in any home.

PhotonSynthesis to recharge phone

Micro Solar Panels, A Plethora of Opportunities

Small solar plates are increasingly becoming an integral part of the world’s solar supply.  In the past, only devices like throwaway calculators and a few outdoorsy tools were powered by small solar panels.  Today, there are already niche solar markets arising; everything from cell phone chargers to glow in the dark bricks are powered by the sun.

Most small solar panels are produced in a slow and inefficient manner.  There are whole factories dedicated to outdated and time-consuming.  Panels are hand glued together; as many as one in five are discarded due to workmanship faults.  The annual output of one factory is around a 300,000 units.     These  panels will last approximately two years, under the best conditions.

Currently, our two new inventors are gathering funds to finalize their invention, the Solar Pocket Factory.  Just one of these table-top factories can produce a whopping 2,103,793 panels in a year; a panel can be produced every fifteen seconds.  These durable have a ten-year guarantee.  The factory can fit in a pickup and run anywhere in the world or even on the go.

This project is currently a favorite on Kickstarter.  This grass-roots site connects inventors, innovators, and artists with people who want to support their causes (and get nifty prizes).  For instance if you give our lauded innovators a scant $35 they will ship you everything you need to build a few small solar devices with their patented plates.  Big spenders can select the $10,000 option; with this prize our inventors bring their micro factory to your hometown and crank out hundreds, if not thousands, of plates and products.  A whole town could be powered by one little trip.  The future looks sunny.

Wanna help the cause?  Their Kickstarter Project continues until September 14, 2012.  Click here to green up your home!

Transcending Words: How To Convince

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Today in my physics class, for non-physics students, my professor scrawled the familiar equation:

E = MC2

Then he asked the class what the equation represented.  The selected, overly confident girl, name all the critical parts of Einstein’s historic equation and then espoused on how faster than light travel creates energy.  The professor corrected her, cruelly saying that science fiction society did not meet until five.  She looked shattered.

This got me thinking; how do we become assured the facts we know are true.  We cannot just assume that they are true, Kay of Men in Black attested to when he informed Will Smith “Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet.”  Just because some fact is common knowledge or explicitly communicated does not make it true, although if there are any aliens reading this I would love this quote to be proven true. ( I want to believe)  It comes down to our personal reasonings to decide what is and what is not.  Therefore, I believe those forces that inform with our reasonings and make themselves agreeable tend to shape our perceptions of reality.

This got me thinking, more so than before, what makes an argument convincing?

I personally believe the most convincing arguments are those which we can prove to ourselves without any outside pressure or assistance.  Perhaps the laws of mathematics have become a lynch pin in modern society on this principle.  Rather than feeling out soft subjective answers the cold calculus can be solved, checked, and evaluated by anyone around the world.  A math equation is hard to argue with.

However, this means those with best numbers and manipulating equations can shape reality and build bridges of “truth” that anyone can believe in.  This assurance, I believe, may have been essential to bad bankers and shady real estate salesman as they convince innocent people to take unnecessary and costly loans.  Math shapes our perceptions of the world, for better and for worse.

Another sphere of undeniable convictions is the religious one.  People’s whole lives can be dominated by religious perspectives, from evangelicals in the bible belt to whole countries throughout the Arab World.  This is neither good nor bad; it just is.  In each of these popular religions there are religious texts, the Bible and the Koran respectively.  The books speak to anyone who is willing to receive them.  I believe that by being able to talk to a person in a personal and inherently religious manner that many normal barriers can be transcended.  By talking to the soul of a person many a zealous soul can be gathered for the faith.

On one end of the spectrum there are mathematically proven facts and equations.  On the other end there are inner, unbeatable truths that rest deep inside ones soul.  I believe that with the right zeal and ideals either of these routes can communicate any idea to an audience and convince them it is true.  New equations will secure funds to send rockets to Mars.  Religious blogs and passionate webcasts are already winning heart and minds across the world.  Perhaps my errant classmate stumbled upon a book that was powerful enough to speak to her soul and change her perceptions.  I know that I have run into more than a few.

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