This blog consists of 3 parts:
My Memories: contains personal reflections about life
My Masters: describes the Master’s program that I'll be starting in the fall and what I hope to do after I graduate
My Idea: humbly proposes a solution to exploitative labor conditions around the world
Read the parts that you want to read; this is not required reading. :)
My memories are stored in a folder on my desktop. That thought crossed my mind and was almost gone before I realized how strange it was. I have a folder that’s titled “Memories with M” and in it I keep pictures and conversations that I’ve saved and don’t want to forget. My memory has been ‘externalized’ to my computer. I know that with time my memory of those events, of those moments, will fade, and because now it’s all still too fresh, too poignant, I can’t stand the thought of losing those memories. So I’ve stored them. Whether I will review them later or not, time will tell. But for now it’s comforting to know that I have them: that they are there, still real and still vivid and I can relive them when I want to.
(Spoiler alert for SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5)
That reminds me of a book I read: Slaughterhouse 5. Without giving away too much of the story, in this World War 2 book (based on real events), the aliens who abduct the principle character pity the human race because of our narrow perception of time: we only can experience the present. For us humans, the past cannot be re-lived and the future cannot be experienced at will. They describe this as if we were living life with a tube attached to our eyes that only allows us to see a small fraction of our lives at a time. The aliens in the book have a less linear timeline, and can experience any moment of their existence whenever they choose to. How they manage to do anything is not quite clear. For most of us, if we were able to step back (or step forward) into the happiest moments of our lives whenever we wanted to, it would hard not to spend all of our time there. We have no choice but to continue forward, hoping that many wonderful moments are waiting to be discovered.
I’m continually amazed by how quickly memories can fade. For 2 years I lived in a small village in the Tian Shan mountain range, in the middle of the largest land mass in the world. My life consisted of going to school, teaching classes, making bread, serving tea, and walking around town visiting neighbors. Nobody in my town had running water, our bathroom was a wooden box built over a deep hole and was 20 yards from the house. The place where I bathed with the rest of the women in my community was on the other side of town. In winter there was no salvation from the extreme cold reaching to negative 40degrees Fahrenheit. It was an intense and very valuable experience, but when it ended it was as if a door closed to that world and that life disappeared. When I left Kyrgyzstan, I traveled on to India for a few weeks, returned home for a couple of months, and then came to Colombia. And I’ve been here since then (except for a 6-month excursion to Brazil).
This world exists completely separate from the world of Central Asia. Everything is different: the climate, the language, the food, the clothes, the social norms, the gender roles, everything. There are so many things about Colombia that I love, and so many that I hate. Here is where I fell in love for the first time, where I experienced my first heart break, where I learned that life goes on, where I discovered that who I am is constantly changing. Where I realized that experiences don’t define me (though they do shape who I am). Some advice:
Don’t define yourself by your failures. Don’t define yourself by your successes. Define yourself by your friendships and by your kindnesses.
This fall I’m going to begin a Master’s in International Education Policy. According to the website, the program “is designed to develop students' capacity to think critically and systematically about educational inequality and educational reform, to analyze policy alternatives, and to evaluate policies and programs.”
Upon graduating my goal is to return to Colombia and work with community activists, nongovernmental organizations, and policy makers to reform education in order to provide Colombian youth with the analytical skills that they need, not just to make better lives for themselves, but to make a better country for all.
Lately (all the time) people tell me “The problem is that there’s just not enough work for everyone.” While that is generally accepted as a feature of today’s world, it actually makes no sense whatsoever. How can lack of work be a bad thing? Now we have machines that can plant, harvest, process, produce, fabricate, etc. most of the things that we need on a daily basis, reducing the physical labor that is needed. We have computers to do much of our calculations, data processing, graphing, etc. And so, now that technology can do so much for us, we have to do less. The comment: “There’s just not work for everyone” should be met with applause! Yay, less work for everyone! But what we’re seeing is that many people get trapped working a lot while others are un-employed or under-employed. Those who have jobs feel a constant pressure to work longer, harder, faster, better because if they don’t there are 10 people lined up who could replace them.
So my solution is the 4-hour work day.* Everyone would work 4 hours a day and be paid a living-wage for those hours. The government would ensure that all of their basic needs are met (education, health, housing), and they would receive promotions/bonuses based on performance. The better you work, the more you would earn. Those 4 hours would be much more productive because people would be more energized and focused, and they would have more free-time to focus on other things outside of work. The additional costs of employing twice the number of workers would be made up in reduced chief officer salaries. In order for everyone to have basic living and working conditions, others would have to earn substantially less. The top 5% could no longer enjoy the extreme wealth they currently have.
We have the capability to produce everything we need without so many people subject to harsh, exploitative conditions. It’s time to change the system. All our “advancements” are not contributing to a higher quality of life. It’s time to ask ourselves “why not?” and begin to demand that changes take place. “There’s not enough work” should be a cause for celebration, not for preoccupation. With a 4-hour work week, we would have more time to educate our children, explore, discover, invent, cure, entertain, create; the possibilities are endless! But until we begin to question the assumptions that this system is based on, we will continue to belong to the most advanced slave plantation in history.
*I don’t know how feasible this really is, but surely there are better ways to organize labor than the current system.