If you came here because you got a job offer from email@example.com it’s not real. They are scammers abusing my name and they registered a fake domain name. Report them to the authorities. Some explanation from the Toshl blog:
Recently, we’ve started getting emails at Toshl from people asking if we were really looking for a administrators in Texas and various other positions in the United States.
We are not hiring anyone in the United States. Any job ad claiming so is a scam. Do not send them your information, let alone money.The scammers even went so far to register the domain toshlinc.com and use the email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re contacted by any of these people, please report them to the authorities.
Any employment offers at Toshl will be listed on the Jobs at Toshl page and any email we send is from a toshl.com domain. We’re not actively hiring at the moment and when we will it will most likely be only in Slovenia.
Please don’t fall for scammers and if you find any such ad, report it as a scam and help us wipe those assholes from the face of the Earth. Thank you.
The question of liberty has been paramount in Western political thought since the 18th century. Not only in philosophical terms, but also in much more grounded realities of daily electoral politics. There, liberty is often represented by proxy in various economic and social policies pursued by the candidates. Almost everyone claims to be on the side of liberty or freedom, but what is understood under that term can differ greatly. That serves to obfuscate the issue for the general population unwilling or unable to get into the philosophical differences and opens the door to many demagogies. Nowhere is that more evident than in the United States of America.
Americans are prone to emphasis of negative freedoms at the expense of positive ones. Let us first get the terminology out of the way. Negative and positive freedoms do not indicate a judgment of value, but simply denote two different types of freedom. Negative freedom, as defined by the Italian political thinker Norberto Bobbio is: “a sphere of action within which the individual is, neither constrained by whoever hold the power of coercion, to do anything he does not wish to do, nor prevented from doing what he wishes to do.” Positive freedoms are anchored more in the community and which freedoms an individual can enjoy by participating in them. Those usually entail curtailing certain negative individual liberties for the good of the community, which can then provide additional freedoms to their members. Freedoms they would most likely not have been able to attain on their own.
As Bobbio points out democracy has long benefited and evolved as a result of this dialectical interplay of these underlying understandings of liberty. In other terms it’s the battle between “liberals with their demand that government should govern as little as possible, and the democrats, with their demand that the government of the state should rest as far as possible in the hands of the citizens.”
The reasons for the American preference of negative freedoms stem in a lot of ways from the historical underpinnings of the United States. Their progress of history has shaped the national dialogue and ideology in such a way that positive freedoms are not perceived as freedoms at all, but more as redistribution mechanisms that take away from an individual and give to other, undeserving individuals. Ironically enough, that position puts them at odds with the communal aspects of Christian ethics, which those defenders of negative freedoms so often espouse. Nonetheless putting more emphasis on individual freedoms is a legitimate position, one that cannot be neglected as we attempt to balance diverging individual societal goals in the pursuit of “freedom, justice and equality” as the much over-emphasisesed founding fathers would have put it.
But what are the reasons for this historical divide between the individualistic and a more communal Europe? Hopefully you will allow some slight simplifications within this essay, rather than a voluminous historic study on the matter. The goal is to outline the general dynamic which in my opinion played a great part in this ideological development of why negative are more charished in the US.
As Jeremy Rifkin points out in his book The European Dream, United States were founded on the basis of enlightenment which transplanted into a new environment thrived, but did not drastically evolve. The reason is the other dynamic which shaped the new world, one of American expansionism which set out to colonise the continent and further stretch the emerging federation of American states. That expansionist option and tendency mattered a great deal in terms of societal development.
As political anthropology teaches us, civilisations usually reach that next level of development when the environmental circumstances force the society into greater concentration of the population. The result of these conditions is that the civilisation must adapt to the new reality with new solutions or whither away. The new colonies for a long time had the option of outsourcing their conflict and economic strife. Groups with different ideologies and lifestyle preferences could simply venture out, build new settlements on new land. Same could be said for people who were poor or found other problems with life in the more established American cities. They could simply venture West, to work on their own land, to gold rushes later on, the space and opportunities were abundant. This also helped to shape the myth of the self-made free American man. Free from all constraints of society pressing down on him, free to go wherever he pleases, do whatever he pleases. This ideological undercurrent of unbounded freedom still runs deep within the American mythology and helps to shape their views on politics.
Europe on the other hand had no room to expand without colonisation, but those new lands were not perceived as driving cultural development. Due to a greater concentration of population these problems had to be dealt with locally. Coupled with industrialisation and the urbanisation of population this brought forth a new movement for the advancement of social rights. People were gradually readier to accept constraints on their own negative freedoms as that was seen as a requirement to societal peace. The removal from the existing society to start again unburdened by those constraints “out West” was never an option.
As we jump back to the present time, the consequences diverging developments of societies which started off in the same 18th century Enlightenment underpinnings are evident. Americans grapple with the notion that the state could or should provide healthcare to its citizens if that means obliging individuals to ensure their health insurance by law. They are similarly reluctant to impose mandatory schooling or a system which would ensure more equal opportunities to gain a quality education if it comes at even a small expense of private schools, higher taxation or any other changes seem to encroach on negative freedoms.
It is true that that gives them more negative liberties, but what they seem to neglect in that notion is that an individual’s rights do not exist on an abstract plain independent of the rest of society. We are bound by our socio-economic circumstances from the very beginning. Is not a person with quality healthcare and education provided to them, but pays more taxes, freer than the person who can dispose with his income any way he likes but cannot gain it due to poor education resulting from origins in a poor neighbourhood?
This example also clearly illustrates the contradiction in preferences between the materially wealthy who are able to enjoy the negative liberties and the poor who cannot exercise them fully as their more basic needs aren’t met. Further emphasis on the negative freedoms without corrections only deepens the divide throughout generations and works against the idea of the “American Dream” in which anyone has the option to come out of poverty and “make it big”. That is not to say that the US are completely void of positive freedoms or that nobody is fighting for them. But the reality is that in the past decades the political spectrum has shifted to the right, increasing income disparity. What the wealthy negative freedom advocates do not seem to realise is that social cohesion is in their long term self-interest as well. Without it and without a re-emphasis on economic equality and the equality of opportunity the US will gradually become a much worse place for them to live. Gates of mansions can only keep out reality for a short time.
Bobbio, Norberto. 1990. Liberalism and Democracy. Verso.
Bobbio, Norberto. 1993. Left & Right – The Significance of Political Distinction. The University of Chicago Press.
For some quality reading on the consequences of economic inequality see the October 13 issue of The Economist.
And so thus the meta story surrounding the iPhone 5 is the same as that of the iPhone 4S a year ago: a gaping chasm between consumers so excited to buy it that they stay up until (or wake up in) the middle of the night to pre-order it, and on the other side, a collective yawn from the gadget and tech press. That story a year ago was lost amid the tributes to Steve Jobs, who died the day after the 4S was unveiled.2 If anything, that chasm is growing. The collective yawn from the tech press was louder this year; the enthusiasm from consumers is stronger.
Niceness is my explanation. The bored-by-the-iPhone tech press/industry experts surely value niceness, but they do not hold it in the same top-tier regard that Apple does. They are not equipped to devote an amount of attention to niceness commensurate with the amount of effort Apple puts into it. Apple can speak of micron-level precision and the computer-aided selection of the best-fitting of 725 identical-to-the-naked-eye components, but there is no benchmark, no tech spec, to measure nice. But you can feel it.
And that is what resonates with millions of people around the world.
That’s the attention to detail I’ve always appreciated in products and services, not just Apple’s. They’re just a good example of delighting users with details that the press will never rave about. That’s what we’re aiming for at Toshl. A lot of the little gems will only be appreciated after a while of use, but it will delight the people who use it. That’s what really matters in the end, that’s how you can build a long term business with loyal customers and sleep more peacefully knowing you put your best effort and taste in what you make.
As I’m saving my more structured thoughts for some essays I intend to write soon, just some random observations of life in San Francisco. Less philosophical, more practical. Alexis de Tocqueville would have scoffed at it. :) Neither complete, nor balanced.
- Parks are awesome. Golden Gate Park, kudos. Dolores Park can be very nice too, especially for the Mission neighbourhood hipster scene and the cafes around it. Few more would be even nicer.
- I miss squares. As in town, city squares. Areas off limits to cars. Narrower roads. I’ve written about the appalling lack of urbanism here before, but I’m reminded every day. The grid system of streets makes for a bit easier navigation, but takes much from the city’s soul and enjoyment. European style cafes with tables outside and unencumbered by lots of bypassing traffic are that much rarer to boot.
- Loving the diversity. Every street, house party, bus is filled with people from different ethnic backgrounds here. Makes it a much more enjoyable experience.
- Food is benefits from the diversity as well. Restaurants, food shopping are much better stocked with curiosities from around the world. While there’s some things I miss here too, it’s more of a challenge to browse through Slovenian shops and find good hummus, kimchi or naan bread.
- It’s next to impossible to find good hamburger meat here. Ironic for a land that claims to be the home of it. I miss the quality of fast food places back home. Things like a good horse burger, or pleskavica, čevapčiči in the tradition of our Balkan brothers would be a revelation here.
- Smoking is pretty rare. I don’t know if it’s the strict non-smoking legislation or something else, but it’s very enjoyable in any case. On decrease back home too, but still way more cigarette free here.
- On the other hand, tough to find a good sisha bar here (or hookah, nargile, kaylan, water pipe, bubbli bubbli :), whatever you call it). From what I’ve heard there used to be a lot more, but they’ve pretty much lawed them out in 2011. Anyway, a nice one still persists on Jones street.
- Toilets are half-filled with water all the time, not just a little, quite high. Weird at first, but turns out there’s less of a need for a toilet brush for it. Quite nice. Haven’t figured out the ideological implications yet. Maybe that the bowl, like the glass, is always half full? :)
- Middle of a modern American city and the electrical wiring is still above ground? I sort of understand that in Damascus, but here? Come on.
- News shows on all major networks are sub-par. That drizzle of exclusively US-centered infotainment passes for news, really? The Daily Show is a comedy show, yet it does a better job of reporting. Just switch to Al Jazeera or the Slovenian TV Dnevnik (if you speak Slovenian) and be done with it.
- Service is much better. In shops, bars, restaurants, generally. Part of it is cultural, part can be attributed to the tip system. Which I don’t like as it adds unnecessary complexity. But works in some cases. Even in cases where tips aren’t expected, e.g. a bookshop, service is much better and friendlier.
- Getting a European-style coffee with milk can be a challenge. It’s not the technical capabilities, the coffee and espresso machines are good, it’s more of a format problem. It’s usually waaay to watery, large and served in a paper cup. You know, Starbucks style drizzle. Lately I’ve been successful by ordering with this little tractate: “double espresso, with a bit of warm milk in a ceramic cup”. Your mileage may vary, but often I can get a cup of fluid that’s a bit, but not completely unlike the coffee I like.
Enough for today. I may sound a bit whiny, but San Francisco is generally quite enjoyable. Questions, comments?