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Month: July 2010

On Dictatorships

On Dictatorships

Being born in a country that suffered the horrors of one of the most systematic, calculated and violent dictatorships the world has seen in recent years, it’s hard not think about it. Here are some random thoughts on the dictatorships:

What would I’ve done back then?

This will probably be one of the biggest mysteries for me in the course of my life, since I highly doubt I’ll ever live under a dictatorship. The western world has become too flat, too decentralized, too connected and over-informed for a dictatorship to be the choice of any government, and the eastern world is catching up. Fortunately, only a mad man would believe in the year 2010 that a dictatorship is an effective way to rule, whatever his objectives are. The fact that dictatorships don’t work is too obvious by now.

One obviously appreciates being born after it was over. However, this sense of gratification is not enough to prevent one from wondering how one would have reacted in such a situation. Would I have been chased because of my thoughts? Would I have been too afraid to speak up? Or worse, would the system had such a prohibitive effect on my mind that I wouldn’t even want to speak up or question the establishment?

My guess: I would have been persecuted too. Not because I would have played a subversive role (I’m not a fan of politics and choosing sides). No, I believe I would have been punished because the prohibition to ask questions would have been unbearable for me. I hold objectivity, truth and integrity over any other personal value, and a dictatorship doesn’t allow that. I’m too curious and outspoken.

What would my generation do now?

Would the current western generation of young people fight against the system to the point of risking their lives, torture and even the safety of their loved ones? Are we capable of getting involved in a cause that puts everything on the line?

I don’t know. This generation is the most outspoken and self-entitled generation the world has seen so far, and there is certainly no lack of young activists. But it’s not a hidden cause, it’s not a rebellion, it’s never pain and death what’s at stake.

Again, I don’t know.

Permanent damage

I’ve always thought that the worst thing the last dictatorship did to my parents’ generation was to install the fear of asking. There’s too much status-quo worshiping in them, no risk taking, no questioning, no shining.

I blame the dictatorship. It has poisoned the minds of Argentinians and it only keeps spreading, from generation to generation, by being afraid to be different and challenge the system. It’s not just fear of failure, it’s fear of physical consequences, fear of being noticed.

The thing that saved me and all the other out-of-the-box thinkers in Argentina I know from that poison?

The internet.

Fun tragedy

Fun tragedy

A while ago, Duff McDuffee said that to make things interesting nowadays, we resort to “more.” Since stories can’t get better, we have to use more explosions, more 3D. This has become the entertaining strategy of most movies.

Consider sports. Players can’t play that much better than previous players. How do you keep it interesting? You talk more about it, before and after. You make them play more games. You show their highlights more times. You hold a one-hour special to announce a short decision.

Does this make you enjoy sports more? Of course not. In fact, the scarcity of past times may have been the reason you enjoyed them so much before.

The question then is, where does it end? I suspect that we will eventually witness the “Entertainment Tragedy of the Commons”:

“The tragedy of the commons describes a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently, and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.”

That’s where we are now. We are all self-interested in being entertained, and our limited resource, enthusiasm, is depleting. The reason entertainment works less and less is because it’s becoming harder to seduce us. In other words, the marginal benefit of adding explosions and highlights is decreasing with every movie and every game.

One wonders then… what lies ahead? What happens to a society that’s addicted to new, fun, adventurous and edgy?

Permanent dissatisfaction.

We are now embarked in a quest for experiences instead of growth. I believe growth is the end that makes not only individuals satisfied but also entire communities. By limiting our enthusiasm and focusing on other things less interesting but more fulfilling, we may reach a point where entertainment actually plays its proper role: to spice up life. Not to control it.

Some people might say that experiences make you grow, but I severely question that statement. True, some experiences will make you wiser. But traveling to get wasted in another country, or playing a new video game will not do that. Since when all fun brings wisdom? Fun is fun. It’s healthy and we need it, but it’s definitely not the way to become better, wiser or even funnier. Fun is quickly creating a generation of people that can’t find pleasure in anything for a continuous period of time. Heck, it’s creating a generation of people who can’t do anything for a continuous period of time.

Life is about choices, and with choosing comes settling. I’ve said it many times: you don’t have to settle, but you should know how to do it.

I dream of a society that understands the importance of settling to reach high levels of satisfaction (or happiness, if that’s the word you like) like generations before mine did, but that also is brave enough to challenge stability, like generations before mine didn’t.

(Thanks to Peter Stromberg for sparking the thoughts for this post.)

Briefing freedom

Briefing freedom

Mark Braddock, creative director at Block Branding, wrote a piece for the “Australian Creative” titled Advertutionalisation, where he talks about how he’s been “trained” to respond to a brief:

I get pretty much a free rein to write what I like (…) And that’s the bloody problem.

I have been trained, Pavlovian dog-style, to respond to a brief. I know how to take a brief, apply a little lateral thinking and create a serviceable, if not always groundbreaking, piece of communication.

We all dream about how wonderful things would be without the constraints of a brief. Oh, how wonderful it would be to have creative freedom, real creative freedom. Well, I’m telling you there is a reason that most real artists end up destroying themselves and/or those around them. When you remove the brief, you end up in one hell of a scary place.

I’d argue that it’s a tiny minority of people the ones that can work with real freedom. They don’t create to solve a need. They just create. If that creation ends up unleashing a need, that’s a different issue. Although I’m tempted to connect this “talent” with entrepreneurship, I quickly realize that I’m way off. Like in any other profession, most entrepreneurs create only after they had recognized a pain. On the other end, there’s people in a wide range of professions that create their best work only when they aren’t answering to anyone or anything.

Although we all dream of working without a brief, working with a brief gives us something to measure ourselves against. It gives us a nice, wide set of goal posts and a nice comfortable set of crutches. Clients give us the money and time, and all the excuses we will ever need.

When you aren’t free, you can rationalize any results. Even worse: You can rationalize your intentions.

I have therefore learned to love the brief like it is my own comfy little cell. It’s more than comfy; in fact, it’s like one of those cells that drug barons get to stay in. You know, the ones where they can pretty much live the life they want to so long as they don’t walk out the front gate. It is a cell, but it’s a very nice cell.

To hell with creative freedom… what about just freedom? The one we claim to enjoy, seek, fight for, miss, or whatever relationship you may have with it. What are we doing with it?

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment. We don’t want pure freedom.

We just want some wiggle room.

On Moving to Perth, Australia

On Moving to Perth, Australia

perth_city_scape

Here are the reasons why I moved to Perth. Once my adventure is over, I’ll write again saying whether my predictions were right or not.

Cultural Challenge

I know my country too much. I can walk down the busiest part of Buenos Aires while listening to music and reading a book (with fantastic comprehension), and I can assure you I won’t trip, bump into somebody else or cross a red light even once. I may be able to do this as well in Perth, but I won’t want to because I care about what’s out there. New things to see and listen to.

Personal Challenge

I’m a challenge-junkie. The good thing is that I aim high. The bad thing is that I get bored easily. This is why I always say that you don’t need have to settle. But you should know when and how to do it.

On a related note, this is why I’m starting to embrace the entrepreneur in me: the challenge usually lasts much longer.

Early Corporate Pinnacle

I was working as the youngest employee in the highest profile sector of one of Argentina’s top 5 companies. I got that job by the time I was 21, and I was working with people no less than 10 years older than me. With everyone promising me a bright corporate future and comfort, I realized that I could just turn on the autopilot and my work life would be pretty much solved, since the work experience in that company would open up doors for me in any other company, and I could always stay at that job and keep climbing the ladder.

Depending on who you are, this may be the best or worst discovery that you can have at a young age. For me, it was the latter.

Education in Argentina

I studied for 4 years in Argentina, the first 2 in the best public school (politic science), and the other 2 in the best private school of marketing. The first time I didn’t like the degree, but both times I had too much criticism towards the system. In Perth I’ll either try a new system, or realize that the education worldwide shares the same flaws. Whatever the case, it’s worth checking out.

Questioned Credentials

I got the dream job without having a university degree. In other words, I got the job that my degree was supposed to take me to. It’s hard not to question the value of mainstream education after that.

Important clarification: Traditional degrees will always be necessary. You need to study medicine if you want to be a doctor. But modern degrees have become nothing but inflated products of these companies known as schools. After all, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson didn’t study marketing…

Less known mediocrity

Mediocrity is everywhere, but new mediocrity will still be fascinating. Always choose the less known mediocrity.

Network and language

I want to perfect my English and expand my network. Moving to a new country is the best way to do this, and fast.

Currency and cost

Australia is one of the cheapest English speaking countries with top class education.

Australia’s economy

Thanks to their mining industry and the growth of Perth in particular, Australia has been one of the countries that better handled the crisis. I’m planning to graduate here, and have a valuable and big network by the time Australia is back on the top of the expansion wave, hopefully in 2 or 3 years.

My bet on Perth

The previous point applies particularly to Perth. Perth is ridiculously rich on minerals, and it has been focusing intensively on that industry in the last years. If you also consider its geographical location (nearest Australian city to India and China), you understand why it has been growing over 40% a year. It has played a major role in the expansion of those two countries of the BRIC, and I’m hoping to be here when the pessimism is over.

Big dip, big payoff

Perth is the most isolated city in the world. It took me 32 hours in total to get here from Buenos Aires. Few people would choose it as a destination, especially from South America. And that’s why I came here. The bigger the risk, the bigger the possible payoff.

Weird background

I already have a pretty unusual background of experience, hobbies and networks for my age and nationality (I haven’t met one Argentinian since I got here). Add Perth to the mix (with all that it implies), and I’ll be unique. I don’t know if for the good or bad, but unique for sure. I hear that being remarkable is kind of a big deal.

Education as a way in

To accomplish what I want, I need to spend a long time here. Coming here to study was the best way to do it because of all the visa limitations that countries like Argentina have. In all honesty, my decision to study here is just a mean to achieve my other goals. The academic education is a distant second. Or fourteenth.

A girl

Some time ago, one girl made me want to become the best possible version of myself. She started this snowball.

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