Thursday, 26 July 2012

Mel Brooks and the Student Movement in Chile

There is a classic double entendre in a Mel Brooks movie where Harvey Korman tells Brooks, in a Marie Antoinette setting, that 'the people are revolting'.  I have borrowed the line for an extended piece published by the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy, here I have been Visiting Fellow this year. I try to explain (in English, for a change), some of the causes of what is happening in Chile.

It is not easy, as the back and forth with my editors will attest. Each point requires further explanation, especially to a foreign audience. Why must universities be non-profit, but not schools? Why are undergraduate programs so long? If 70% of tertiary students are first generation, why are they complaining about access? If they are in favour of public education and against high fees, why do they shut down public education for six months, but keep paying their fees during all that time? Why did they keep demonstrating once two education ministers resigned and the government agreed to several demands? Why do they tie in very specific demands, such as interest rates, with the electoral system or tax policy?

This is a complex issue, but here is my attempt to explain it. For now.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Politics and the Age of Acceleration

When the University of Toronto Nobel Prize winner John Polanyi was asked what age we live in, he responded, ¨The Age of Acceleration". And he wasn't talking about CERN.

One of the big problems that political parties all over the world face is that those raised in the age of instant messaging expect quick answers. Political parties, like most political institutions, don't move quite as fast. So while there are many reasons why voters may feel disenchanted, one big one is that they live in the age of acceleration, but political institutions don't.

And, as I point out in this column published in El Mostrador today, we've been taught for years that maybe that's not a bad thing. Institutions are not supposed to be easy to change. So it may well be that highly institutionalized political systems (good) are the least equipped to respond to a rapidly changing world (bad).

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Chavez no se va

The subtext here is interesting. It's a reelection slogan and a farewell at the same time:

Siempre te voy a amar
Chavez no se va