For the end of any experience, like writing for the UH newspaper, looking back at what has happened is important. It's time to reflect on past columns, looking at what worked and what did not, where mistakes were made and where insight was gained. In the end, where this process is most beneficial is in thinking about what lies ahead. As always, history teaches us what the future should look like.
Here is a breakdown of the mistakes made and successes won in this column:
Ideas for writing an article may come spontaneously or through a deliberate process involving research and interviews. This is not to say that spontaneous writing does not need observation. Rather, ideas may come from a slow process or may come from the instantaneous high one may get from drinking a cup of coffee. While some may see me as being under the influence of marijuana, nay; the drug of choice for all pirates is caffeine.
Deliberately thought out ideas, however, may not make for better quality. Such was the case with the article on intellectual property, “Technology transfer good for patent holders” (Aug. 24). That column challenged a UH professor for using his position in a public university to make a profit. For many years, private corporations have profited from public subsidies, such is the case with public universities that are funded by public tax dollars. Logic says that this is communism.
However, the article did not articulate that trend clearly enough and instead chose to focus on one UH professor, whose gains were miniscule compared to what goes on in other places.
Focusing on insignificant issues was also a problem in the article “Republicans will bring Armageddon” (Sept. 28). That column was supposed to shed light on the connections between politicians and the weapons industry. However, this point was missed, and instead Republicans were singled out as the problem, not the connection between politicians and the weapons industry in general. The weapons industry is comprised of private corporations who make profit, once again, through a subsidy of public tax dollars. This is the military-industrial complex. It is in the interest of politicians and corporations to stimulate the sales of weapons of mass destruction.
In both columns, the bigger picture was missed entirely. Instead, the focus was on minor infractions. This was a major mistake; to be guilty of such a crime is unforgivable. In fact, the laws that govern war, for example, make it a crime for any journalist to misreport and therefore encourage war. If they do so, they would be charged with conspiracy to wage a war of aggression and could be sentenced to death. The Nuremberg trial following World War II convicted Nazi media outlets on such charges.
Understanding these mistakes, ironically, highlights some of the successes in this column. The abuses committed by multinational corporations are a major concern. For example, the article “Corporate farms just create shark bait” (Sept. 16) pointed out how agribusiness has dumped nutrients and chemicals into the Mississippi River, which get sent into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying the ecology in which sharks live. Sadly, this could be the cause of more shark attacks in the Gulf. The possible connection between the two emphasizes how disastrous multinational corporations are to this planet.
Meanwhile, government officials understand the potential threat that multinational corporations pose to maintaining order. This was subject of the article “Drastic climate change a threat to freedom” (July 15). In October 2003, Pentagon officials released a report on global climate change, discussing how it could potentially endanger national security. Why did they issue the report? It may have been to ensure, in case of some major catastrophe, big government and multinational corporations do not want to lose their stranglehold on the people.
Their stranglehold on the people has been around for a long time and continues to take many forms. Inequality, hunger and poverty are results of this. These have been the subject of the following articles: “CAFTA will be as bad as NAFTA” (Oct. 19), “World would be a better place if livestock wasn't on the menu” (Sept. 21), and “Read Dr. Frankenstein his rights” (Oct. 26). In a world of plenty, hunger is unnecessary. Access to food is prevented because multinational agribusiness corporations have to make billions. There are over 800 million undernourished on the planet, and not because there isn't enough food. Rather, a history of colonialism and current economic institutions prevent food from getting to those who need it.
Understanding these problems should lead one to speculate logical solutions. The article “Cuba has some surprises” (Nov. 4) was an attempt at this. There is no defending Castro's dictatorship. However, the Cuban people have shown what can be done with so little. The health care system in Cuba has accomplished so much in spite of the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. government. Additionally, Cuba may be implementing the first national project on sustainable agriculture, providing enough food for everybody without sacrificing the integrity of the environment.
Too easily, however, we forget that our purpose should be to improve the human condition. Most of the blame for this comes from the media's ability to continue selling us the consumer lifestyle. Major monies are invested in advertising goods and services that are largely unnecessary; desire for these things is created through marketing campaigns. Some of these things bring us happiness. Unfortunately, in spite of what the corporate media tells us, this happiness is not universal. AIDS, hunger and poverty have not been eliminated.
Taking a step back and looking at the articles written in this column is helpful. There have been successes and there have been failures. Without self-criticism, one should not expect improvement, and improvement should be the goal. This should not be forgotten. The human project should be one of improvement. Where things are wrong, good solutions are needed. Where there is hope, time and energy should be devoted to make this hope achievable.