***This event, which will share the perspectives of a diverse group of Houston Latinos, is the first in a series. All Houstonians are encouraged to join us and participate in the dialogue.***
2013 is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, delivered during the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Racial divides were central to both of these moments that stand out so brightly in American history. These divisions were again at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness, with the election of President Barack Obama. The 2008 election and 2012 re-election of President Obama marked yet another shift in the American Reality with discussion of race often behind closed doors, in the safe space of the familiar. Our hope is to bring what we feel is a long-needed discussion of race and ethnicity and all that it affects, out into the open, to help the community on a local, state and national level, grow into the next phase of existence, with her members enjoying a greater self-understanding and understanding of others. The goal of an ongoing dialogue, in the form of several conversations throughout the year on a variety of topics to include Race, Identity, Color, Slavery and Segregation will hopefully result in a better appreciation and understanding of one another, as we go forward to collectively create a future that benefits all of us, rather than some of us.
The purpose of this series is to examine notions of ethnicity & identity in 2013 from the perspective of various communities that make Houston the most diverse city in the nation. Our interactive panel conversations, made up of diverse community members from many Houston’s ethnic groups, will be framed within the context of ‘The Past, The Present & The Future.’ A vigorous question & answer session will follow each panel conversation where audience members can ask the panelists to expand on previous comments or ask questions of their own. The first conversation in this series will be on May the 6th at 6pm & will feature a diverse panel from Houston’s Latino community speaking about what it means to be Latino in Houston in 2013.
Hear & Now: Conversations on Ethnicity & Identity in 2013 Houston. The first conversation in this series will be on May the 6th at 6pm & will feature a diverse panel from Houston’s Latino community speaking about what it means to be Latino in Houston in 2013.
Talento Bilingue De Houston (T.B.H.) 333 S Jensen Dr, Houston, TX 77003
May 6th, 6pm-9pm
The purpose of this series is to examine notions of ethnicity & identity in 2013 from the perspective of various communities that make Houston the most diverse city in the nation in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.
Our interactive panel conversations, made up of diverse community members within Houston’s Houston’s many ethnic groups, will be framed within the context of ‘The Past, The Present & The Future.’ A vigorous question & answer session will follow each panel conversation where audience members can ask the panelists to expand on previous answers or ask questions of their own.
Depending on the society, there are people today who are beaten, killed and shot, when trying to organize the strength of workers. Families are broken apart due to social conditions. For example, the same forces that have brought people here in an undocumented way are the same forces that are splitting them up by deportation. It is not chattel slavery, as was the case in the US, but I argue that it is a form of slavery, neo-colonialist slavery. When you, from birth, take a man or woman and intentionally deny them the tools and the skills to survive, you create a dependence that is akin to slavery. When, by birth, a man or a woman has no guarantee of shelter, no guarantee of food, but rather you give them a guarantee of war, inadequate schooling, no land to produce food, then you have created the conditions of neo-colonial slavery. It is a form of slavery in which the victim may choose his corporate master but in which he is disallowed from deciding whether or not to have a corporate master. Repression varies from region to region, and it depends on wealth, political structure and culture. Nonetheless, UNCHECKED capitalism produces the conditions that give rise to this sort of required dependence all over.
As far as the achieve act: I only know based on news reports the following: the original DREAM act was a good plan. However, it got changed to require military service or higher education, which I had a big problem with. The vast majority of our brothers and sisters could make no use of the higher education provision, which created a situation similar to a draft, I called it a de facto draft. For this reason, I opposed the later version of the DREAM Act. It would put undue pressure on our youth to go and commit to wars of imperialism for the sake of not having their families separated.
However, when Obama pushed deferred action, he did not have these two requirements as the only pathways. This was a big improvement, which I always said was possible. Again, this “improvement” was part of the original DREAM Act and it was also pushed around 2010 by Rep Luis Gutierrez in his proposal. I wrote an opinion piece published by the Chron on my thoughts about the improvement the Obama plan had (and of course the weaknesses as well). Anyway, it appears that the achieve act reverts to the military and higher education as the only options. This sets up a draft for our youth, and I would have to oppose this two. I could accept a pathway to residency instead of citizenship, because history teaches us that citizenship often does not provide the protection it promises anyway. I could not negotiate on leaving the pathway open to high school grads or even maybe those willing to do community service. Residency at least promises that families won’t be broken up, but a narrow military pathway will create aggressive warfare, and I can’t accept that. The achieve act does not even offer residency. It is a revocable visa. When the political tides change, everybody will be vulnerable to deportation again.
In sum, I believe that the achieve act should be discounted, and not used as even a discussion point toward negotiations.
Welfare is one of those topics that I have thought a great deal about this year. At least over the past couple of years, there seems to be some growing resentment, even from those who pay little or no taxes about those who collect welfare. In fact, I wrote a much briefer post about this in June of last year. I’ve have heard it so much and from so many different people in different situations, that I placed some thought into the subject. It may seem that I have someone in particular in mind. I don’t. I have handfuls of people in mind.
It seems that over the past few months, many people who have normally been very silent politically, have become very outspoken on the issue of welfare. It seems that this handful of people even seem to allow their entire political perspective be framed by this one subject. Largely, this is why I am writing this piece.
As for myself, I recognize that there is a place for some temporary safety net for people. Sometimes people are disabled and can’t work. At other times, they are young people who have become pregnant. Yet at other times, they are simply people enjoying a public education.
My point here is simply that we have all benefitted from services that we could not afford individually. The essence of a public school system is that most of us could not afford private tuition for all of their children for grades k-12 then college and post grad. So..we take money from those that have and give it to those who don’t have for the greater good. In this view, those of us who have had a public school education have benefitted from welfare.
I just want to share some simple thoughts on the subject.
“Those people” are lazy and are draining the system, cheating, taking advantage etc.
I mentioned earlier that I have heard a lot about welfare these past few months. The comments usually go something like this: “I saw a young girl paying with a lone star card at the store, and she had a (insert designer brand here) purse [which is better than mine/my wife's]. Relax. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t allow one experience to dictate policy. In such situations, you don’t have all of the facts to judge. The purse could have been purchased second hand, in which case it would have been sold at the same price as any other brand. It could have been a good fake. It could have been a gift from a rich parent, relative or boyfriend.
The point is that there is a myth that many welfare recipients live a better life than everyone else. I would invite you to visit and talk to the people waiting at the Little York welfare office, and I bet you will change your mind. I have done it myself. I think it would change your perspective on the luxurious life that you think they lead. It is true that there is abuse. This should be dealt with and monitored and prosecuted, but those involved in abuse should not hinder those who need temporary help from getting it.
The other myth is that people who use welfare benefits
People who work hard are often infuriated by the experiences that I explain above. Naturally, this is what we see. These experiences happen in our neighborhood stores.
However, if tax spending is the greatest concern, then the culprit is corporate welfare, not welfare to people. The Cato institute places the number for corporate welfare at 92 billion versus 59 billion for people welfare. Corporate welfare comes in many forms. It comes in the form of unnecesary military contracts, unprecedented no-bid contracts, government/corporate no-oversite cronysim, tax loopholes, and farm subsidies. Frankly, I think that most, but not all, people clamoring about welfare, are too intellectually lazy to actually study the issue of government spending. It’s easier to blame the people they see with the Lone Star card, because they see this with their own eyes. They have NEVER seen a wall street banker sucking up welfare at Mi Tienda or Fiesta. It’s intellectually easier just to blame what they see around them. I doubt that these handful of people understand the mechanics of farm subsidies, or even know what a farm subsidy is, much less that farm subsidies alone seem to account for about half of what is spent on welfare to people. It would take some intellect and research to critique corporate welfare. It’s just easier to call out the neighbor. Rich gringos have us fighting over crumbs while they eat the whole loaf as they always have.
Dependency IS destructive
I don’t know that there are any formal studies, but my gut tells me that most people who receive welfare, receive it for a short period of time and then move on with their lives. Maybe they are out of work and their kids need braces so they get on medicaid. They eventually get a job and pay back what society invested in them in spades. Some exceptions do and should exist, such as the permanently disabled. In fact, sixty five percent of people on welfare are unable to work…it is not that they are lazy, but they are too young, too old or too disabled. There are many people who DO work who still qualify for welfare because their efforts at work are not profitable enough to make ends meet.
However, there does exist a small sub-culture of able-bodied young men and women who habitually subsist on all forms of welfare. This is disastrous for their spirit, self esteem and upright nature, even though they do not recognize it as so. This is one of the reasons that those who abuse welfare have never bothered me. It comes at a very high price, a price that I would not wish for any of my brothers or sisters to pay. That price is one’s manhood/womanhood and dependency. Those that live this way are paying a heavy price that they often pass on to their children. Let me be clear, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with accepting temporary help, but those who unnecessarily become permanently dependent on welfare are paying for it with their man/womanhood and with the values and lifestyle that they teach their children. I don’t envy their situation one bit, not even their designer clothes, cell phones or cars. They already pay too high a spiritual price for me to care much about their abuse.
Diminishing Returns/The Intelligence of Becoming Dependent On Welfare
Removing values and womanhood from the equation, sometimes, for certain able-bodied people, becoming permanently dependent on welfare makes perfect economic sense. In the economic and business worlds, it is called the law of diminishing returns. It describes a principle that at a certain point, further investment in capital resources will produce a comparably less percentage of return than at a smaller scale of development. When this return is too small, it does not make sense to expand in that manner. Yes, the company can make a few more bucks, but it will spend a great deal to make those few extra dollars, to the point that such an expansion will not make sense. In this case, rather than creating more work for itself, the corporation will just send the money back to the shareholders in the form of dividends.
A similar logic holds true of the permanently dependent. It does not make economic sense for them to work hard at times. Sure, they might make two hundred dollars more per month by working at McDonald’s but it does not make sense to do so, when they can do nothing and collect welfare. If YOU were offered a situation to work forty hours more per week for $200 would you take it?
While it takes its toll on their spirit and self-esteem it is a logical conclusion to collect welfare. Think about this. There SHOULD be resentment toward this situation, but the resentment should be toward a SYSTEM that exists, because a great deal of people that are working forty hours do not have the income to cover the basics. It can be easy to resent the permanently dependent. It takes a little more thought to understand that the system makes this a logical choice for some. This system system is capitalism’s greed-for-all and the charity model of welfare that this government has constructed. Rather than investing in communities, they hand out food. If our communities continue to go undeveloped, they will continue to have to hand out food. If working forty hours continues to barely pay the basics, then it will continue to be a logical decision to get welfare instead of going to work.
The new conservative media.
For decades, conservatives talked about this issue in terms of policy and ideology. The talked about the evils of permitting dependency and how welfare reduces productivity etc. However, a new breed of conservative talk show hosts have become masters at propagandizing the issue. They don’t talk about the policy, they talk about the welfare recipients. However, they use the stereotypes that people have experienced. They use those experiences in the store that I mentioned above to bait listeners into believing that most welfare recipients are a bunch of lazy, loser life-long dependents. They draw this characture, very similar to images that the Klan and the Nazi party would draw. Michael Berry, for example, uses Shirly Q Liquor to charicature poor blacks. Shirley Q Liquor is actually a white man who works in black face and black voice. This sort of stuff was supposed to have been erradicated in the thirties or forties. In any case, this characture and sterotype resonates with everyday so-called Latinos, because they have seen these stereotypes first hand. It’s something that they can relate to, and its easy to understand…. no study or messy policy analysis needed. Just blame that damn girl with the lone star card, and everything else can be explained easily…the economic mess….the moral demise…why they hate their job and have to work so hard, etc. The conservative tak people have found something that resonates, and they have done a wonderful job of selling it to intellectually lazy people who have a deep resentment of the social mess we are in.
That’s all…just a few words.
He was writing about the Anglo incursion into Texas, and about the theft of land, specifically about the theft of what he believed was his personal land. These, and many more, words were recorded in a book by my grandmother. She recorded four memorials. Three were by her grandfather, Ygnacio Balli Tijerina III and one by her father, Ignacio Balli IV.
This excerpt is from Ygnacio Balli Tijerina III, my great-great Grandfather. He is writing about the legal and moral protests about the theft of land.
When a person is weak and prudent and besides, if he is very much offended, and if the laws of nation do not listen to him what can he do??? Resign oneself to the situation…
We protest by not fighting with malice and rancor…I don’t dare risk the importance of those miserable insolent people of superior race who have wrongly acquired these Mexican land grants. The are lured by a magnet taking our properties. So that we won’t cry, they pay us a days work like when someone takes a jewel of value from a young boy and gives him a toy made of clay.
He wrote about the tricks and the force that were used, the pillaging of tax records, tax manipulation and guns. He wrote that he knew that the lands did not have much monetary value, but that later “they would cost more and more.” He cited these lands as “La Feria, Padre Island, El Ojo de Agua, and Llano Grande.”
Some of these lands are now pillaged by the oil companies. [As of March 1, 2005, there have been 78 oil and gas operations either on Padre Island National Seashore or, prior to the park's opening, on the land that was to become Padre Island National Seashore. These operations include: 62 wells, 7 pipelines, and 9 seismic operations.]
It is haunting to read his words. He sounds as frustrated as I have felt from time to time. He was a visionary. He knew what was on the horizon and could not stop it.
I read through these memorials from time to time and wonder if my great-great offspring might read my words and those of my great-great grandfather.
I rarely become frustrated these days, for I know, without a doubt, that a world wide change is coming. I believe that Our New Anahuac will be a part of this change.
Toward Our Restoration.
I drafted this on January 22 of this year. I don’t think I’m gonna finish it, so I’m gonna just pubish it without editing or re-reading. Hope it’s ok.
Capitalism, as a whole, has come under greater collective scrutiny than at any other time during my life. People blame correctly blame capitalists or capitalism for a great many ills that have traditionally been blamed on laziness, misfortune, cultural deficiency etc. Now that the excesses of capitalism have begun to affect the white middle class, we begin to see people taking note of the true causes of people’s “misfortune.” When “they” are poor, it is their fault. When “my” tuition bill is too high, its the fault of the 1%.
Nonetheless, it is an exciting time that people are taking a new, fresh look at social problems, and using new language to describe ongoing problems. After all, saying “we are the 99%” is a new, politically palatable way to say “we are the proletariat.” In any case, while people are taking capitalism to task, fewer people are offering an alternative vision of what should replace it. The pochteca in Mexica society best represented entreprenerialism. Unfortunately, entrepreneurialsim in an economic context can be taken too far, as it has in today’s society. The capitalist entrepreneurial class have come to believe that they are above the law
In the few spare hours that I have today, and in between trying to make sure my daughter, Emiliana Mextli, doesn’t put toothaste on the lap top, making sure my other daughter, Citlali, doesn’t sleep past noon, and making sure my soon Joaquin Tonatiuh, doesn’t climb on top of the fridge, I thought that I might share some ideas, as exahustive as I can, regarding what our economy should look like.
I have always believed it useful to preview any ideas of theory with ideas of philosophy. Philosophies build theories. Theories build policies. Since policies are a political manifestation of philosophical values, I find it useful to start with those values.
Many people these days tend to shirk labels. In this instance, I think it is good to know from which angle I approach these ideas. I have often identified my thoughts as those of a New Anahuac Nationalist. Roughly, it means that I approach things from an indigenous, Mexica frame of identity and philosophical reference, hence Anahuac. I don’t believe that we should strive for a carbon copy of our abuelitos, hence New. I also believe in self determination for our own people. I don’t believe that people with a different history, culture, language, and especially interest should be able to determine that our people should go fight in a war and how our taxes are spent. This is magnified by the fact that these lands were occupied illegally by foreigners, and that no proper reparations have been paid to the people of the original or of the new occupations, hence Nationalist.
In any case, my ideas of philosophy and theory come from this ideological framework. So the philosophies…
Selfishness vs. Altruism
At the center of many policies is the question of whether man is by nature selfish or altruistic. Capitalism takes the perspective that man is essentially wholly selfish. Thomas Hobbes, in The Leviathan, perhaps best describes the idea by saying that in nature, there is a “war of all against all.”
Socialist strains tend to believe that man is or can be made into a wholly altruistic being. It is the idea behind what the Chicano Movement called carnalism. This was the idea that Che Guevara touted with the idea of creating a “new man.” This is the idea behind a moral economy.
From an Anahuaca perspective, the ideas of European capitalism and European Socialism developed at relatively the same time, a couple of hundred years apart only. They are the mark of an immature society trying to find path, responding to one extreme with another extreme. In fact they are less mature than the Anahuaca philosophies and observations by about two thousand years.
Anahuac philosophies, however, caution against characterizing anything in extremes. I believe that we are natually both altruistic and selfish, and not one or the other exclusively. Bonfil Batalla, in Mexico Profundo, writes about the idea of the agricultural techniques in Mexica society. He points out that Mexica traditionally planted the corn with beans growing around it and other veggies being protected all in the same few square feet. This lack of specialization in growing only one food was for that individual to avoid being totally dependent on the society to live. One person could grow everything for her own sustenence while also contributing to the collective.
Entrepreneurialism vs. Dependence
A discussion of modern entrepreneurialism versus total dependence on is especially prudent at this point. In any society there should be an ability for a person to make his or her own way. Total dependence on society, I have seen, can create some very poor values, which I believe work against Our Restoration (O/R). Total dependence can lead to demoralization, a lack of intellectual curiosity, complacency, values which will keep us stuck in our current Dark Age. I can not see a point in seeking indepence for our people, only to create a system of total dependence in our new society. Dependence in some form is acceptable an healthy. It is good to know that if I work as hard as anyone else, I will have at least the necessary food, shelter and health care. Depending on society to make sure of thise creates a healty psyche. We do not have thse guaranties in the US today. However, depending on society to tell you how, when and where you will work, for the same pay is the total dependence that we must guard against.
Entrepreneurship, the ability and desire to develop and act on new ideas without depending or requiring social approval, is a SPIRIT that we should consider. In today’s society, entrepreneurship too often associated and manifest with the acquisition of wealth. In truth, entrepreneurship is a spirit found in many of today’s protest activities. Indepenent of anyone’s approval or consideration, people all over the world are organzing new forms of protest without waiting for official approval.
So the prior philosophical principle cited of avoiding extremes applies to this question. It is most ideal to allow for some dependence and some entrepreneurialsim.
In the most general of terms, most people who will help to build Our New Anahuac believe in equality. At the very least, it is easy to say that we see it as outside of our moral acceptability to live in a society in which at one end people can be wealthy enough to live ridiculously lavish lifestyles, while at the other end, people who have worked their whole life are unable to afford adequate health care in the event of a life-threatening illness.
Choice and Freedom
At the same time that we value some assistance, as mentioned in the above sections on egalitarianism and dependence, we are unwilling to totally sacrifice freedom in order to enjoy some basic assurances of health care, shelter and the basic necessities of life. In a society totally controlled by the state, total equality could be guaranteed. Everyone could be restricted to the same square feet for their homes, and everyone’s wage could be the same, but in so doing, every individual would necessarily sacrifice the freedom to choose a great deal of things for her/himself. Anyone living in any society will be required to give up certain freedoms, but total equality of condition would mean that individuals would be unable to choose what they would be able to do with an extra money, what they might be able to give their children for their birthdays, and even where they might live. Most are unwilling to give up such a degree of freedom for a promise of total equality of condition. As such, freedom and liberty must be factored into any economic system that we implement in Our New Anahuac.
The Mother Earth And Not Taking Before Giving
On the red road toward Our New Anahuac, we are taught to give to the earth in some way before we take. If we take willow trees for a temazcal we offer tobacco before doing so. Before we eat, we separate a pinch of food as an offering. The goods of the earth belong to nobody. Nobody can own water, petroleum, earth, land. We are caretakers of these elements. We can take for out use (not for our ownership) these elements if we give before we do so. We should not require a threat of global climate change in order that we give before we take. These moral imperatives will have an important role to play in our economic system.
Hard Work, And It’s Effects
In today’s society, the benefit of hard work is seen mostly through the prism of “productivity” for investors and the ostensible personal gain for the person exhibiting hard work. However, hard work offers other benefits which are usually not discussed, only because those people controlling the aforementioned prism see it and talk about it in their own ways. In today’s society, hard work keeps food and clothing available per our needs. Hard work keeps our vehicles operating. It keeps the stores stocked with good, and allows us to be out of that store in a reasonable amount of time. The hard work of others, essentially keeps our society running. It has the added advantage that many of us have come to value it as an ideal, not becuase it enriches capitalists, but because we value it as our ancestors valued it.
Hard work is the impulse that can drive someone to teach your children in the best way that they can or to handle your case in to the best of her ability, and it is the impulse that will encourage a mechanic to fix your car quickly, because you need to use it the next day. In an economy in which we depend on each other and place trust in each other, hard work is the currency of carnalismo, altruism. Positive innovation, for the purpose of this discussion, is an extension of hard work. Innovation is simply finding a new way to meet the needs and desires of the people.
The policies for Our New Anahuac must flow from our values as we go about the work of constructing economic policies. Without envisioning the bright future of our rising sun, and without being able to articulate our vision, we resign ourselves to being social critics, not builders of nations.
Let me begin by stating simply a framework for a policy on wages. Thereafter, I will associate the policy with the values described above. Our New Anahuac must consist of a maximum income, which is tied to a minimum income. In such a structure an individual will earn only X times more than the least paid person in society, where X shall be determined by further meticulous study.
Why a difference in income at all? In the values section, I listed the social benefits of hard work. Hard work, though, would fall by the wayside if laziness were rewarded with the same wage as hard work. If it made no difference to me personally whether I worked hard or worked lazily, any motivation to serve others through hard work would soon turn to resentment, upon seeing a co-workers slacking off and habitually under-working. If I worked with an idealistic, service-oriented mindset, as I do on a daily basis, to serve my neighbors, and the business owner next door worked with little to no regard for the neighbors, speaking rudely and insultingly to them and at the same time, this other business owner earned the same wage, it would be unjust, and it would stir resentment in me.
If on the other hand, my work helped my neighbors and it also helped me a modest amount as well,