Friday, December 24, 2004

Under the Milky Way (of the Amazonian Rainforest - of the Amazon River)



The days went on. Subtle wake up calls from carpenter birds on a dry tree. Early morning love and sweat. Natural breakfast from the soil. Heat and heat again under the rain. Pendulums of embraced bodies, hammocks, lingering, and juices of new fruits. Long walks penetrating deep into the humid welcoming forest. Traces of animals avoiding humans for a reason. Birds singing to each other about the strange travellers and flying over our heads. An eagle hunting in circles. The “ghost tiger” lake and its stolen virgins shinning under a perpendicular sun. Sounds of steps on skeletons of gigantic fallen leaves. Marks of native pain on crying rubber trees. Salty eyes of water for the pleasure of hidden bears and jaguars. Heavy raindrops, shadowed jungle, fresh air. Fished purple diamond glittering piranhas hanging and released again. Mosquitoes but no people or cars or noise. The friendly erudite native guide and his beautiful dreamy wife. Small communities of men and women living in reality, with other simple lives, other worlds, other words, along an ancient river without the bad news of the west. A thousand year-old tree flowering green at the top of its giant trunk watching the equator every summer forever. Our rapt eyes, up there, against a mythical green ocean of trees and a hiding disc of gold saying goodbye from the horizon. The different sounds and creatures of the night, the hidden red eyes of small, playful caimans, a singing calmed Shaman, a sacred drink and spirals of dreams. Visions of unseen animals and lived memories, a cradle of ancient songs and mixed, caring words, innocent again for a second, hand on a woman’s hand. Lying back against the side of the peque*, the moving river touching our hair, we watched the stars and the moonset and the powerful silver belt of the Milky Way. That green ocean sunset and those lucid stars, with me until the day I die.

Carlos Peralta - July 2004 (from memories of October 2003).

* Peque: small boat used for short distances in the Amazon region.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Dreams of the future

I dream a nightmare. A world where no one cares. A place where private and public is a secret because no one gives a shit.

I dream of paedophiles being elected to the White House and of people being shot on the street by privatised secret security forces.

I see cities without paparazzi to judge the pornographic behaviours of Hollywood celebrities and people free from worrying about the images of their past.

A nightmare of hidden government agencies overthrowing other governments, torturing citizens on the front page of the New York times or live on a special broadcast on the internet. Of ghost organizations planning terrorist attacks just to give meaning to their lives.

Millions of people watching private human suffering in the privacy of their homes at nine o’clock on CNN with the safe distance of satellites insensitive to private genocides or famines.

A world of total privatization where pain is never pain unless it is owned by someone and someone is profiting from it.

The private perfection of decisions taken at business meetings on behalf of millions of new unemployed whose shame will be broadcasted for some more advertising dollars.

I dream of private wars waged on the desert in front of the public-blind eye. A world of leaders doing as they please in the privacy of their press conferences rooms. Neighbours never saying hello and never smelling the stench of the dead bodies next door.

I dream a nightmare of immortal human clones begging for their right to die… but no one will pay attention to them. No one will care. No one will give a shit. I can't wake up.

Carlos Peralta - December 2004

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A bit on the Environmental and the Anti-Globalization Movements

If we were to describe the values in which the western capitalist world is based, the identification of them developed by D. C. Pirages and P. R. Ehrlich in 1974 would make justice to the social ideology of the neo-liberal present. The Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP) of the North-West is made up of “our belief in abundance and progress, our devotion to growth and prosperity, our faith in science and technology, and our commitment to a laissez-faire economy, limited governmental planning and private property rights”. This dominant social paradigm, which is supported by the multinational companies and their friends at the top of governments, could be renamed as “Anti-Ecological DSP”.

But such a model is being increasingly challenged by different kinds of movements[1]. Two of those movements are the Anti-Globalization movement and the Environmental movement. These groups are important because they were born in the North-West and because their main target is the corporate ideology, its values, and its ethical contradictions.

- The Environmental Movement

It is the Environmental movement the one that has developed, in a consistent way, an alternative social paradigm opposed to the dominant one. The New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) is form around such concepts as limits to growth, a steady-state economy, preserving the balance of nature, and rejection of the anthropocentric notion that nature exists solely for human use (from the works of R. E. Dunlap & K. D. van Liere). L. W. Milbrath considered that this “environmental vanguard” is trying to lead their fellow citizens to a new social paradigm, the NEP, project that requires a change in the fundamental values of society. On the other hand, the rear guard, society’s establishment and business elites would defend the old dominant paradigm (DSP), since that’s in their best short-term, short-sighted interests.

Ten new values synthesize the New Environmental Paradigm (taken from L. W. Milbrath and Manuel Castells works):

1. Love and respect for nature
2. Concern for public goods in contrast to an emphasis on private goods
3. Conservation of resources for future generations
4. A long-term view (a social psychology of glacial time[2]).
5. Cooperation over competition
6. A concern for a minimum standard of living for everyone
7. Careful planning to avoid risks in the production of wealth
8. Environmental protection over economic growth
9. Environmental protection over the provision of jobs
10. Emphasis on energy conservation

A very different type of society will emerge if these Environmental Principles continue to be accepted and applied by more and more people. They demand an extensive change in policies, which will affect basic economic, technological and ideological structures.

- The Anti-Globalization Movement

A less proactive movement, since it exists based on its opposition, or reaction, to global corporate capitalism, is the Anti-globalization Movement. This highly diversified, highly networked, movement is attempting to establish (or re-establish) the control of society over its institutions after the failure of traditional democratic controls under the conditions of globalization of wealth, information and power. This objective is product of the movement’s radical critique of the mechanisms of political representation in the institutions of global and national governance. The following four characteristics offer a general definition of the Anti-globalization movement (more information on M. Castells book "The Information Age", 2004):

- It is a diversified movement involving a wide spectrum of nodes with different and specific agendas. From critical social reformers to anarchist anti-capitalists, all are bind together by the opposition to the current globalization process, which is based on an asymmetrical economic liberalization that fits the interests of corporate capitalism.

- Its power has emerged from its intensive and conscious use of the Internet, and from its grassroots–network communication strategies. The movement sees the Internet, and its underlying “networking” concept not only as an organizational tool but also as the emergent form of a self-managed society.

- It is a combination of powerful ideological and active nodes based in open societies, which usually correspond to the (so-called) developed countries, and networks that reach out through a planet in which most people suffer oppression and poverty. In this way the movement challenges globalization on behalf of the whole of human kind.

- Although its name has been coined using the prefix “Anti”, and in spite of being addressed and known by the public opinion as the Anti-Globalization Movement, it is not a movement against globalization, but a movement for participative (as opposed to representative) democratic globalization, based on the new ideals and decision-making processes that are part of the emerging global network society.

When the Dominant Capitalist values (DSP) are contrasted with the Environmental model, or with the critiques and claims of the Antiglobalists, the main contradiction of the corporate ideology emerges: the dominant values, the short term objectives, the corporate fundamentalism and all its self-confident rhetoric, will be worthless if there is no world, no land, no earth, no humans to experience and exercise those values.


[1] In "The Information Age", Vol. 2, Ch. 2, 3 and 4, Manuel Castells identifies and explores in depth seven movements (from a set of many others): The Mexican Zapatistas, the American Militia, the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo, the Muslim al-Qaeda, the Anti-globalization Movement, the Environmental Movement and the Feminist Movement.

[2] Manuel Castells has identified three kinds of “time” concepts: a) Clock time: it corresponds to time as understood in modern industrial societies until the present: a time based on sequencing of events and predetermined schedules that rule human life; b) Timeless time: characteristic of the new network societies where the aim is instantaneity, time compression and short term demands for every social process, generating systemic perturbations and discontinuity in the sequential order of clock time; and c) Glacial Time: it is based on the Environmental Movement’s belief that the relation between humans and nature is very long term and evolutionary, that sustainable development means intergenerational solidarity, that the value of our life has to be measured by the types of lives that our children, and the children of the children of our children will endure or enjoy.

By Carlos Peralta Caceres - December 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Richard Stallman en Colombia: Figura central del movimiento de software libre

Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004 at 10:36 PM
Por Luis Fernando Medina C.

La verdadera visita ilustre a Colombia: Richard Stallman, figura central del movimiento del software libre.

Richard Stallman en Colombia: La verdadera visita ilustre. País de grandes contradicciones y lentes de TV bizcos. Cartagena, lunes 23 de Noviembre. Los grandes medios ya entrenados la semana anterior en su propio festín autocomplaciente y ridiculo que se efectua año tras año aprovecharon el impulso para cubrir hasta la saciedad la visita del enemigo publico #1: Mr. Bush. Visita historica llamaban al evento. Y con razón pues se aparecio en vivo y en directo como de nuevo, se entregaba nuestra dignidad.

Mismo dia. Otro clima. Un personaje distinto aunque conciente de la verguenza de compartir la misma nacionalidad del otro, el indeseable, descendia de un avión. No estuve alli pero visualizo al gringo de aspecto bonachon caminando lentamente por los pasillos del aeropuerto El Dorado. No lo esperarian limosinas, ni 15.000 hombres armados hasta los dientes. No le tendrian preparado un circo donde de manera ignominiosa se usaban niños con traje de beisbolista. En su lugar un grupo de entusiastas jovenes aguardaban impacientes su llegada. Me imagino a la gran prensa ausente, desinteresada de alguien cuyo mensaje es mucho más importante para nuestro país que un mortal espaldarazo presidencial. Este visitante, el verdaderamente ilustre, no traia ayudas militares ni peligrosos tratados de libre comercio bajo el brazo. Sólo una bolsa con llaveros y souvenirs para vender y apoyar su fundación y su causa. Aquella desde donde ha dado forma a una revolución tecnológica ,cultural y social que aún no ha terminado. Programador genial, adorable bufon libertario, controvertido y firme activista, Richard Stallman, la figura central del Software libre en el mundo estaba en Colombia.

Richard Stallman, neoyorquino de nacimiento (1953), hacker del laboratorio de IA (inteligencia Artificial) del MIT sento sus principios al negarse a firmar un acuerdo de confidencialidad sobre el código de los programas que se usaban en el laboratorio. Su postura ética y sus ideas frente a la libertad y el software quedarian resumidas en su intención de crear, ironicamente en el año 1984, una alternativa libre al sistema operativo UNIX denominado GNU (GNU no es Unix: GNU es un acrónimo recursivo donde de manera jocosa se hace referencia a lo que se emula negandolo) del cual el sistema operativo GNU/Linux, conocido solamente como Linux para disgusto del propio Stallman, es sólo un ejemplo. Sus ideas serian sintetizadas en el manifiesto GNU publicado en 1985 y su compromiso seria evidenciado en su decisión de incorporarse a la Free Software Foundation para coordinar esfuerzos. Toda una revolución seria desencadenada basandose en sus ideas. Todo un movimiento que lo ha convertido en un ciudadano del mundo, expresando sus ideas en donde pueda. El XI Festival GNU/Linux llevado a cabo por la Universidad Nacional cuenta con su presencia como evento central. Bogotá vivio por unas horas la ardiente anticipación de quienes lo esperaban con emoción. Ojala hubiesen sido más.

Martes 24 de Noviembre. 5 de la tarde. Las miradas se cruzan, ansiosas en el Auditorio León de Greiff, aquellas mismas que no habian podido ocultar durante todos los otros eventos, que aún lo mejor no habia llegado. La expectación devoraba las mentes durante conferencias en donde incluso, un alto representante de la escena informática nacional habia cometido el exabrupto de decir que no se requerian políticas para fomentar el software libre en Colombia; que el libre mercado haria el trabajo. Vaya dirigente. La excitación aumenta y las consultas nerviosas del programa se propagan. De repente, estalla un aplauso espontaneo que interrumpe la charla introductoria sobre el Software libre: Richard Stallman, como un virus informático, hace su entrada por la puerta trasera del escenario. La audiencia está dispuesta a contagiarse. De estatura mediana, panzon como buen programador, greñudo y con una poblada barba semicana que revela su mediana edad, acepta el aplauso y se sienta para inciciar su charla. Como ha hecho cientos de veces. El público escucha.

Stallman, en fluido español y más fluido sentido del humor arranco risas y reflexiones a la concurrencia. Recordó su historia personal en el génesis del movimiento del software libre. Enfatizó las cuatro libertades escenciales del software libre (libertad para ejecutar un programa como se desee, libertad para examinar el código del mismo y modificarlo, libertad para hacer copias del programa y distribuirlas y libertad para publicar versiones mejoradas del mismo) dejando un mensaje acerca del sentido social y colaborativo del software libre. Pero también tuvo su momento sombrio, en donde se lamento por la situación actual de su país, tratando temas lesivos para el movimiento del software libre como las leyes de patentes y los tratados de libre comercio. “Hoy tenemos enemigos, las empresas poderosas y su gobierno mascota de los Estados Unidos” confeso apesadumbrado, contrastando con nostalgia la situación actual con los albores del movimiento hace 20 años, cuando las amenazas eran virtualmente inexistentes y un programador podia cambiar el mundo con su terquedad y dedicación. Finalmente dejo su llamado a la lucha a cientos de Colombianos y Colombianas. Los aplausos de pie no se hicieron esperar y sólo se calmaron a petición del propio Stallman, eterno autogestor, quien aprovecho la atención renovada para ofrecer llaveros y almohadillas para apoyar la fundación a la que pertenece. De nuevo el buen humor tomó lugar y la hilaridad tuvo su climax cuando Stallman se invistio, quiza haciendo burla de la excesiva admiración cuasi-religiosa que despierta, de una túnica de santo y una aureola dorada que parecia un enorme y antigüo carrete de datos. Burlesco pontifice de la era digital, santigüo con su mano en alto al auditorio y pronuncio estas sabias palabras “No hay otro sistema que GNU y linux es uno de sus núcleos”. De nuevo la ovasión de pie. Y la merece, por la trinidad que él encarna: Programador, filósofo y showman.

La fria noche me espera y camino hacia la salida del León de Greiff. Stallman ha sido halagado con la entrega de una túnica/ruana recuerdo de su labor evangelizadora por estas tierras. Una última mirada al escenario muestra al Santo rodeado varios de sus seguidores, quienes lo asedian como a una estrella de rock. Quiza su imagen regordeta no ilumine muchas pantallas de TV pero decenas de camaras digitales han registrado su presencia. Muchos discos duros quedarán con su efigie digital. La silueta pixelada y sonriente de un verdadero visitante ilustre. Salgo con prisa pues el retorno a mi Ciudad me espera. Mis pasos son rápidos como supongo fueron los dedos de Stallman mientras marchaban sobre el teclado, hace más de 20 años. El horizonte estaba lleno de líneas de código. Las vias del Internet ayudarian a que muchos se le unieran en lo que hoy es todo un movimiento que muestra como desde una perspectiva tecnológica, se puede creer en un mundo mejor.

Luis Fernando Medina C.