Monday, May 27, 2013

The Road to Marcuse

Education has always been something I hold dear. After a long hiatus from higher education, I've returned to find myself more passionate than ever before about obtaining and spreading knowledge through creative expression and many mediums of communication. However, I am lacking the formal credentials that have become requisite of my generation - a B.A. or M.A. from an institution of higher education. I am well on my way, but it will be some time before I am validated in that sense. So the question I ask is "how do I present my qualifications?"
In my extracurricular studies concerning philosophy, I find myself wrapping my brain around the work of Herbert Marcuse. While having a discussion with a colleague of mine, I was informed of the International Herbert Marcuse Society. Since the early 21st century, the Society has been holding biennial conferences with this year's conference in Louisville, KY. This year's theme:

"Emancipation, New Sensibility, and the Challenge of a New Era: Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy".

I first stumbled upon Herbert Marcuse while watching the BBC documentary Century of the Self years ago, which I highly recommend viewing. His work from the ‘50s and ‘60s was reaching the states around the time of the Civil Rights movement and Student Organizations. Even Angela Davis studied with Marcuse in Europe during this time period. After re-discovering Marcuse earlier this year, I find myself making a connection with Repressive Tolerance, One-Dimensional Man, and other works. Fortunately, much of his work and critique is available on the web.

To be considered for panel presentation at the conference, you must submit the abstract of your paper by June 1st. The Society will review then the actual paper/presentation is due by June 15th. I've come to a stopping point in my abstract because I realize that I do not have the evidence or research to complete a paper to be submitted by the deadline. My vision for the research paper I plan to compile will take the latter half of the year to complete.

It is my intention to address the dynamics of the classroom in institutions of formal education - the problems, benefits, objectives, nature of the curriculum, etc. Then to present "historical alternatives"(Marcuse), or possibilities for true learning to be achieved in a formal setting.
I will conduct interviews among teachers and professors in public, private, and parochial institutions. I will study statistics, reports, and other information concerning school districts in San Antonio and Texas. To counter this information I plan to conduct interviews and research among educators at non-profit, arts, cultural, and community organizations.

I hope to have this research paper complete by this time next year. While I will miss out on the Conference this year, I'll have my topic ready to go by 2015. I'm eager to further my studies of the philosophy of social and critical theory of Herbert Marcuse.

Though Essay on Liberation was published in 1969, it should be considered to be as pertinent as if it were published in 2013; the same way that socially charged music of the civil rights era remains impactful. Much of the socio-economic issues remain prevalent in today's world - impoverished communities throughout major cities, unequal allocation of public funding, maintaining a "peaceful" society by the constant threat of war, etc. I highly recommend picking up any work by Marcuse to engage in a critical understanding of a post-modern, highly industrialized society that we live in this day and age.

So until the next conference, I'll remain diligent in my work on the road to Marcuse..

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Downtown Grocer: Major retailers and mom-and-pops

In response to the article, I believe that if H-E-B wanted to establish a downtown grocery store, the process would've been completed years ago. After the decline of the purchasing power of the inner city and the mass production of the automobile, H-E-B moved with the times to establish mega-stores in the suburbs and other towns such as Leon Valley, Alamo Heights, and beyond. As profit-driven as they were in the past, they are in full effect to maintain their position as a top competitor of major retailers - on par to compete with Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. - by establishing their own H-E-B Plus mega-store. With advances in high technology and automation enabling H-E-B to hire less employees, they're able to generate more product at a lower price and still able to sell in mass quantities at a discount to its shoppers, causing profits to soar. A recent article in a local newspaper provided a list of Texas billionaires with Charles Butt right at the top of the list, H-E-B grossing $7.4 billion in the last fiscal year. So until they get a bigger offer from the city, I don't believe they'll take the bait. There is a current incentive of $1,000,000 on the table.

H-E-B has carried independent local brands on their shelves, creating a sort of community grocer/farmer feel in the aisles, i.e., the nuts selection from Boerne, TX . Also, they stock fruits and vegetables from local farms right here in TX, such as the grapefruits from Edinburgh. They also take part in the Go Texan movement, supporting local grocers and farmers in TX. However, more of the H-E-B subsidiary brands are taking over the shelves, and it's not just Hill Country Fare. Central Market, Chef Style, Hill Country Essentials, EconoMax, and others come from under the same roof. I'm surprised to see Bolner's Fiesta spices still on the shelves. But keep in mind that these trends are not unique to H-E-B. Other grocer retailers such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have paved the way in carrying exclusively their own brands of product, continuing to expand their reach across the nation.

Sympathizing with Maggott, I feel that if H-E-B were to set up a downtown location, I hope that it would be in support of keeping local grocers' items on the shelves, as a merger of the two forces. In understanding the dynamics of the city, it appears now that San Antonians are looking for options. Not just in grocery stores, but in clothing retail, restaurants, nightlife etc. I would advocate for more farmer's market events based in downtown and its surrounding areas, possibly an afternoon-evening farmer's market in order to accommodate peoples' daily work schedules ending anywhere between 5pm-8pm. Or instead of $1 million given to one store, why not split up that incentive among 4 or 5 independent grocers? It could be used to contruct loading docks, outdoor seating, etc.

So with any grocer or retailer that opens up shop in the downtown area, I hope they keep in mind the needs of the community without sacrificing culture. If you would like to see a grocery store pop up in downtown SA, what would your decision be?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Char Miller and San Antonio

I recently attended a lecture at Trinity University presented by former history professor Char Miller, speaking on the release of his new book titled On the Edge: Water, Immigration, and Politics in the Southwest. Months prior I took time to read Deep in the Heart of San Antonio: Land and Life in South Texas.

My family and I relocated from Philadelphia, PA to San Antonio, TX in the summer of '93. Coming into adulthood over the past few years, I've taken on a greater understanding the dynamics of the history, politics, economic, and social issues concerning the current state of this city. "Deep in the Heart" proved to be inspiring and so I made it a point to show up for the Miller lecture. After moving from south Texas to Claremont, CA, Miller finds himself making a case for the significance of regional environmental geology as the director of the Environmental Analysis program at Pomona College.

His speech was riveting and grounded at the same time, involving the audience by alluding to references that hit close to home. For example, St. Augustine grass is not native to San Antonio, given the recurring droughts. He even went so far as to conduct an experiment by not watering any plants or landscaping for a year to see what was natural to the region. True to nature, the St. Augustine didn't make it. So why, he asks, are we so adamant to replicate the luscious lawns of the midwest and east coast? It is important to consider the number of golf courses scattered about San Antonio.

He addressed other topics such as immigration, comparing the Statue of Liberty on the coast of New York to the purported "electric fence" of the Southwest. The Q&A session came about with everyone making cases for their questions and statements. I had been preparing a few questions for the lecture and was determined to raise my hand at just the right time and, sure enough, my question was the one to close out the presentation. I thanked him for giving us the opportunity to engage in this community dialogue and that I was able to deliver my thoughts. I informed him that I gained a great understanding of the history and politics after reading "Deep in the Heart". My question went something like this:

"Your book covered the first 300 years, beginning with Spanish settlers from isles of Las Canarias, leading right up to 2004. There has been significant change in the past 9 years, worthy of documenting through literature. Is there a possibility of you writing a 'Deep in the Heart' pt. 2 and if not you to write it, then who?"

He broke the ice by saying that we'd have to ask his publisher. Then, in all seriousness, he began to comment on the structure of formal education at a primary/formative and college/university level. He said we seem to be stuck in an 18th-century methodology of how information is dispersed. He urged that he did not want to be the only one to write the story of San Antonio; that it should be a community dialogue, noting that everyday people working together can bring about dynamic social change in an urban and suburban setting.

After the session, the audience convened in the hall for hors deuvres, pastries, wine, and conversation.

With the words of Char Miller still ringing in my ears, I've started this blog in hopes of writing the story of the development of our communities in the 21st century. Given the diverse ethnicities, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds in the cities of the U.S., how can we unify our identities to forge an unprecedented sense of harmony?

P.S. After the Char Miller presentation, an elder man and his wife approached me to further inquire about my story. We then struck up a dialogue about the history of neighborhoods in San Antonio, from the inconsistent structure of sidewalks to the emptiness of most public parks. I made the statement, "After taking into account the structure of downtown and residential neighborhoods, it seems apparent that this city was designed without the needs of the people in mind." To which he replied, "Oh, well this city was designed with the needs of the people in mind...the needs of the people who own it."

Community at Large: First Post

Community At Large: Revisiting Culture in the 21st Century
Location: 29.4239° N, 98.4933° W

Good day,

the intentions of this blog will be to re-establish a sense of culture and community in a postmodern, highly-industrialized society. This blog will address economic, political, and cultural issues affecting San Antonio,TX and other city communities across the United States, possibly the world. This blog is intended to be a discussion to provoke dialogue and conversation among the members of our communities. Though civil rights leaders advocating for sensible legislation have brought about many freedoms in our current state of being, I feel that room for improvement is much needed and together, through (comm)unity, we can bring about a substantial change for ourselves and future generations to come.

All forms of literary and constructive criticism are welcome. Critical thinking is encouraged.

If you have a story to tell, words to contribute, or questions, please send email to Thank you all for taking the time to read. Stay tuned!


Rene Jaime Gonzalez