I wrote a post in which I commented that we had taken out my kids from Spanish schools in Spain because the Spaniards are unnecessarily tough on children. As an example I mentioned that in many Spanish schools kids don´t have a choice of food and they are forced to eat whatever food there is. I also commented that the “colleja”, an unusual Spanish spanking that involves hitting a kid on the back of his head, is still considered acceptable by most Spanish parents as a way to “teach kids a lesson”. But at the same time in my post I recognized that Spaniards, as adults, are by far the most organized and ethical people in the Latin world. This includes not only all Latin America but also Portugal, Italy and France. I am not saying that Spaniards are a global model but they are more likely to treat you well, less likely to rip you off, than other Latins. They may not be the brightest, something that I attribute to an education that focuses more on memorization than on reasoning, but they are the best behaved and ethical. So the question here is: does being tough with kids pays off in terms of ending up with better behaved adults? My hope is that the answer is no because I don´t endorse some of the practices of the Spaniards vis a vis children. I would like to believe that a system like the American, that relies more in self discipline and rewards, is better.
I have been criticized many times in this blog for having done well in life. Especially in my Spanish blog. Many readers know however that I grew up in a middle class family environment –the son of professors– and that I made my money by founding different companies. They also know that I started my companies by writing a business plan, searching for investors, recruiting a good management team, and executing out a strategy. So there are not many secrets about how I made my money in technology. Criticizing me for being rich in my blog. If it is done with humor, I leave it. If it is a direct insult, I don’t publish it. But the attitude of some readers towards my makes me wonder if people who hate successful people realize that what a society needs successful businesses in order not to eliminate poverty.
In our society we are accustomed to grouping people by their age, their gender, their nationality, their profession and their work situation, but there are not many who classify people as being either solitary or gregarious (what’s more, I don’t believe that a word even exists to describe someone’s level on a solitary/gregarious continuum). But if we were to do so, meaning, if we were to create a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is someone who doesn’t talk to anyone throughout the whole day and 10 is someone who lives surrounded by family, friends and coworkers, and is never alone, I would be close to a 10.
Is America really under attack to the point that the life of American citizens has to be so hard? This is what I felt when I had the experience of taking my son Tom to renew his passport to the American Consulate in Madrid, an ordeal that took three hours and still not ended until days later. My son is a US Citizen and his passport had just expired. My son is also a Spanish citizen, so I have been exposed to the process of renewing both his passports and I am sorry to say that the American system is a lot more inconvenient.
The story of how the smoke that comes out of cars is destroying the planet is somehow similar to the story of how the smoke that comes out of cigarettes are destroying people´s lungs. In both cases, an activity that was previously considered harmless turned out to be damaging. In both cases, awareness came slowly and by the time most people were convinced a great deal of harm was already done. And in the case of Global Warming the guilty party turned out to be the Americans. But an unusual element of Global Warming is that, until it was discovered, I would have said that, in spite of what Europeans believe, the Americans were more environmentally minded than the Europeans. Now the opposite is true.
During Franco´s dictatorship Spain was a very Catholic country. After more than 3 decades of democracy, Spain is not a Catholic country anymore. First, loss of religion became apparent with the legalization of divorce and contraceptives and the promotion of sex ed. This was followed by the decriminalization of abortion, the acceptance of drug possession for personal consumption (drug users are not criminals in Spain, but treated instead as medical patients) and a general acceptance of premarital sex. Later, gambling in public places became commonplace, prostitution was legalized and regulated, and gay marriage became legal as well. So other than euthanasia, I can´t think of anything that the Church used to oppose to that is not legal now in Spain. While 95% of the Spanish youth declared in the 60s that religion played some role in their life, now only a third do.
I am of Jewish origin, proud of my heritage but non religious. I am a secular person. Religion plays no significant role in my life. Judaism to me is interesting as a historical phenomenon, as a culture, but not as a religion. I don´t pray, I don´t listen to religious speeches, I believe that God, as portrayed by religion, most likely does not exist, and even if there is some all powerful being above us, it is unlikely to be say Protestant, or Jewish, or any other religion in particular.
Once, I did a ranking of life in the States vs life in Europe (in my case Spain) along 100 different categories, and surprisingly the result was basically even. There were significant differences in the quality of life in both sides of the Atlantic but USA exceeded in some and Europe in others. Let me give you some examples. In America justice works faster than in Spain, but in Spain it is much less likely that anyone will ever sue you. Or that America and Spain are equally safe, but America requires much more policemen per capita to achieve the same results. Or that America is much better than Spain as an environment in which to start a business, but in Spain there’s much less competition. And I could go on and on, but I would like to pause on one subject in which Americans and Europeans are significantly different, and that is what I would call a likelihood to believe in things not proven. Americans are believers, Europeans are cynics.
China calling itself Communist is like Latin countries calling themselves Catholic. The Communist Chinese seem to like money as much as the Catholic Latinos like sex and yet both have “ideologies”, whose main principles are based around repression of what those cultures like the most. Maybe it is unsuccessfully trying to fight these “excessive” desires that makes these cultures come up with ideologies that are so far from their own reality of life. You are as unlikely to find a Chinese who believes in sharing his wealth as you are to find a Brazilian who practices abstinence. But there you go.
Last night I had dinner with Japan´s Finance Minister Koji Omi at the home of Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa in Madrid. During dinner we spoke at about the coming STS Forum in Kyoto that Minister Omi chairs and I will attend. This global conference –whose objective is to raise awareness on key challenges to the sustainability of our planet– has already been held 3 times before. Around 30% of the participants are Japanese and the rest from all over the world.
Personally, I found Minister Koji Omi to be a man with a strong sense of moral commitment to improve the state of the planet. His interest is to transcend beyond Japanese politics and to have global impact. This is good because Japan currently has an developmental model that is more friendly to the environment than the United States and its environmental footprint per dollar of GDP is among the lowest in the world.