For many people, “finance” and “innovation” are two words that can’t possibly mix well in the same sentence, unless it is to make a witty comment like the one made once by Paul Volcker, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve: “Financial innovation peaked twenty years ago… with the invention of the ATM”. While the world of technology enriches our bourgeois lives with gaming consoles, smartphones, and self-driving cars, banks seem to bring to the party only boring interest rates, mortgage-back securities and power reverse dual-currency notes – hardly the matter to show off on Instagram.
And when the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.” – Revelation 6:5-6
Evgeny Yakovlevich Remez was a young professor of Mathematics at the Pedagogical Institute in Kiev when Famine, the third horse of the Apocalypse, rode across Ukraine, bringing despair, horror, and death. It was the early 1930s, and the agricultural collectivization imposed by Stalin depleted the country’s reserves of grain, choking its capability to feed its population. In just a couple of years, the situation became so dire that it triggered one of the worst human-made famine tragedies ever seen in this planet. This event, the Holodomor, which in Ukrainian means “death by hunger”, is undoubtedly one of the darkest pages in the long book of nightmares written in the 20th century.
Last week the front-page of newspapers all over the world announced that Ultima Thule, a snowman-shaped object located 6.5-billion km from Earth, had been finally approached by Nasa’ New Horizons probe, becoming this way the farthest body in the Solar System to be visited by a spacecraft.
Looking at the gorgeous pictures of the rock, floating silently beyond Pluto, I could only think how far we have come in the exploration of space since we launched the first space probes just over 60 years ago. If we have done so much in just a few decades, what could the skies be holding for us in what remains of this century? As Yogi Berra put it, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future” so I claim neither exceptional foresight nor particular creativity for this list of ten predictions that I wrote down when trying to answer that question:
For those outside Colombia, let me explain the tongue-in-cheek expression “paseo bugueño”, which might translate as “going on a trip to Buga”: It refers to those situations in a social setting where men and women end up in two separate groups, physically apart one from the other. This funny distribution might arise spontaneously, perhaps from the nature of the conversation, so it typically causes some laughs when someone asks, “How did we end up in a paseo bugueño?”
We learn that a referendum is a phenomenal tool of democracy, one that empowers people with direct vote, and allows them to make critical decisions on their own. We also learn that a referendum gives legitimacy to the outcome, and because it comes from the people, it transcends the narrow views of individual political actors. What is decided in a referendum is an order given by the people to the politicians, not simply a suggestion.
Anyone who keeps thinking this way after the catastrophic experiences in Greece, Spain, Colombia, and the UK over the last couple of years is in a deep state of denial about what can be achieved with referendums. In these four cases people were led to believe that their wishes would be granted if they only went to the polling station and marked their preferred choice on a piece of paper. In all the cases the reality has been strikingly different.
Now that we are about to finish the second season of this drama called Brexit, it is fair to say that nobody really knows what is going to happen in its final episode. The next crucial date is December 11, when the Parliament votes on the agreement reached by the British and European negotiators, and according to those keeping track of the numbers the outcome looks gloomy for the government of Theresa May: less than 250 MPs would vote in favour, way below the minimum threshold of 320 that is needed for its approval.
Another great year for elections all over the world! In 2018 there were more than a hundred, from tiny French Polynesia to elect their Assemblée, to mighty USA electing a new Congress. From Finland to Zimbabwe, from Mexico to Malaysia, the whole planet celebrated once again that quintessential festival of democracy that is the elections. In total more than a billion people voted this year, what surely must be a new record.
While all this was happening, this year I abstained from voting, a decision for which I have received strong criticisms from friends a family. To help shaping my ideas better about this topic I have been writing in Spanish about elections in my blog, and now I’ll start translating these entries to English. Here is the first one, a personal view about this that I originally wrote in April; I’ll be posting the rest of translations in the next few weeks.
I’m fascinated about elections but even more for alternatives to that toxic system. I have material for some 40-50 entries to cover most of the things I want to say about this, so this will take some time. I’m not in a hurry though: no matter what year, and no matter what time of the year, there will always be a place somewhere in this planet where an election is about to happen.