🇺🇸Happy 4th of July!
Let’s commemorate the American independence and the shapers who molded our invaluable culture of individualism, and free-thinking.
This date should be a yearly reminder to reflect on what made the U.S. a prominent country so it can continue to be what it has been: An individualistic country with the values of equality and dreams.
The U.S. was, is, and will be a synonym of progress but we’ll need to work hard to keep it going.
Five years ago, we were also forced to move to the United States. When we moved we had little and knew little but wanted BIG. We left a life of “luxuries” to have a life of frugality, where life was safe and valued.
I remember my freshman year of high school. I was lost, annoyed, and determined to learn the freaking language. That was my only goal, which pushed me to learn it in six months.
That’s why I can look back and say, “I’ve been pretty damn successful.” I learned ENGLISH. Just kidding, I still make lots of mistakes and can’t speak it properly.
I wrote a detailed essay about the first four years of high school, projects, and life. I wrote it for myself because I wanted to remember. But, if for some reason, that sounds interesting and worth your time, you can read it here.
Life continues, and just like the 4th of July. It’s not a date to celebrate how great I’ve been but to reflect: on the good things and the mistakes. That way, I can continue to improve at what worked and stopped doing the things that didn’t.
This week’s Curiosities will be focused on the United States of America.
Curiosities 🇺🇸 🇺🇸 🇺🇸
During the “Why Go to the Moon” speech, John F. Kennedy was made an honorary visiting professor in which he jokes how his first lecture will be brief.
In this “lecture,” he gives my favorite speech on the history of progress where he eloquently shares a tale of why the “vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished still far outstrip our collective comprehension.”
Then, he pours out and condenses, “the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century.”
It’s a great reminder to understand the past that helped us get where we are. If we can remember this past, we can understand the present, and build a better future.
2. Achievement in the American Society
Achievement and success have lost their meaning for many years.
Here’s a reflection on what has happened, and what success seems to mean to Americans:
Success has been drained of any meaning beyond itself, men have nothing against which to measure their achievements except the achievements of others.
Self-approval depends on public recognition and acclaim, and the quality of this approval has undergone important changes in its own right. The good opinion of friends and neighbors, which formerly informed a man that he had lived a useful life, rested on appreciation of his accomplishments.
Today men seek the kind of approval that applauds not their acions but their personal attributes. They wish to be not so much esteemed as admired.
They crave not fame but the glamour and excitement of celebrity. They want to be envied rather than respected. Pride and acquisitiveness, the sins of an ascendant capitalism, have given way to vanity.
Most Americans would still define success as riches, fame, and power, but their actions show that they have little interest in the substance of these attainments. What a man does matters less than the fact that he has "made it."
3. Is the Rising Concentration of Wealth a sign of the Country’s Development?
In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a rising concentration of wealth, which caused turmoil in society. Of course, there were many scapegoats but I don’t think we understand what fully caused it back then.
Today, we might be experiencing something similar. The concentration of wealth does not mean taking money away from those who have it. A person‘s gain does not always mean another person’s loss.
Instead, it means we should focus on strengthening our factors of production so we can have a positive-sum economy where we all get to increase the pie and all of our desires and needs are satisfied.
In the United States, the rising concentration of wealth provoked a widespread feeling that something had gone wrong with the country's development. The rich (and many of the native-born not-so-rich) blamed foreigners: aliens born in China, Japan, Italy, Spain, Poland, and Russia who were incapable of speaking English, or understanding American values, or contributing to American society.
Many of the middle class, especially the farmers, blamed the rich, the easterners, and the bankers. The Populists of the 1890s blamed the eastern bankers and the gold standard. The Progressives sought reforms to try to diminish the power of what they saw as a wealthy-would be aristocracy.
But the Populists and the Progressives remained minority political currents in America until the coming of the Great Depression. In the meantime, the voters continued to elect Republican presidents who were more-or-less satisfied with American economic and social developments, and who believed that "the business of America is business."
4. America’s Next Bubble: College Education
College isn’t just this noble thing where it’s focused on the pursuit of knowledge and educating the next generation of students. It’s not like that, and we need to stop believing that.
It’s a corrupt business where students go not to learn but to get a job, where professors research not for knowledge’s sake but to publish papers. We’re in denial, and we need to see it for what it is. This is what’s known as the neoliberal college where higher education started operating as a business.
Here are some thoughts on why higher education is a bubble:
I've come to believe that the problem is much broader it's not just the most talented people who are, perhaps being misdirected and encouraged to go on a very narrow tracked career.
But that this is a broader problem and that we are, in fact, experiencing something of a bubble in education. A bubble that is as pernicious as the bubbles we had in technology in the 90s and housing in the 2000s and like those two other it is characterized by two things:
Runaway costs where people are paying more and more for something where the quality hasn't gone up and 90's was tech stocks in the 2000s was housing. I'm not saying it's worse than it was thirty years ago but I don't think it's gotten much better.
Secondly by an incredible psychosocial dynamic where you cannot question it and in the 90s in Silicon Valley, you couldn't question the Nasdaq valuations and in 2005 you could not question people buying houses. It was strictly taboo and forbidden and in the same way this is the one thing people still really believe in our society.
Questioning the value of education is like questioning the existence of Santa Claus with three-year-old kids.
From Peter Thiel.
5. Amerigo? More Like America.
The word “America” comes from the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci who in many ways inspired the American spirit of courageous independent thinking that inspired the four men in the picture below (maybe five haha).
Amerigo could have been from the 1500s but he inspired generations of Americans such as the youngest president in this picture, Teddy Roosevelt
I took this picture on the 4th of July of 2018 picture at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Since this visit, I learned to appreciate and became radically interested in American History because I wanted to understand how historical events influenced our present. Not only, I wanted to see to understand its culture, its people, and perhaps even predict where America might be going.
And yes, I did surprisingly well on the AP U.S. History exam.
I’ll talk to you next Sunday,
Juan David Campolargo