Wednesday, April 29, 2020

German-speaking Catholics have a great songbook named Gotteslob. It is great at two levels: in both content and layout. By content I mean the percentage of songs and prayers where I feel that “I really like them” versus those where I think “Ouch, that’s some obsolete remainder from ancient times”. By layout I mean how scores and texts are fit to a page. Music scores and lyrics are optimized for both readability and using the available paper as much as possible. Many people have invested their love and energy into this common intellectual artwork. The first version was published in 1975, and a second version in 2013. But there is still no online version of the Gotteslob. In case you wonder why: copyright issues. Authors and private corporations insist on their right to control usage of what they consider their intellectual property.

I sometimes dream about setting up a platform for producing free online songbooks. This platform would feature only songs and prayer texts whose authors agree to publish them there under a CC-BY licence. Similar to Musescore but without focussing on sheet music or a particular music typesetting software. A pastor who prepares a service for next Sunday would select the songs and prayer texts and then publish a link where community members see simple scores and lyrics to be consulted online during the service, and the choir sees SATB sheets, musicians see specific scores for their instrument. And the immigrants can consult translations to their mother tongue.

But stop dreaming, here is another topic. The water crisis in Venezuela shows the struggle between communistic and capitalistic belief systems in the domain of piped drinking water.

Wikipedia has its own article about Water supply and sanitation in Venezuela, but this article is almost ten years old. The quotes in my following thoughts are from a June 2018 article Venezuela’s Wealthy Beat Water Crisis Drilling Private Wells.

In 2011 things looked quite well, but the public system for providing people with drinking water has meanwhile collapsed.

Caracas once had a world-class water system, pumping water from far-off reservoirs over towering mountains into the valley that cradles the city. Now its pipes are bursting, pumps are failing and a small herd of cattle grazes at the bottom of the Mariposa reservoir outside the city, feeding on grass that should be deep underwater. A lack of rain compounds the lack of maintenance, experts say.

Well driller companies are doing well in Caracas because those who can afford it started to care themselves for their own drinking water:

Since the government couldn’t provide water, they decided to drill their own well alongside their apartment building in the tony Campo Alegre neighborhood, an increasingly popular solution among the well-to-do as Venezuela’s water system crumbles along with its socialist-run economy.

Note the expression “socialist-run economy”. The author seems to believe that everybody believes that lack of management competence is more likely to occur in socialist than in capitalistic cultures. Interesting. But that’s another story.

Is drinking water a common good or private property?

Most of the private wells are going in illegally. The law requires a permit before drilling starts, but the paperwork can take up to two years, and few are willing to wait. When officials stick their nose in, a building’s residents ask the best-connected among them to pull strings.

But drilling isn’t an option for the vast majority of Venezuelans who have seen wages pulverized by a collapsing currency and five-digit inflation.

I pray: let us hope and do our best for getting these issues fixed. I believe that we need to make very clear, at international level, that neither intellectual work nor natural resources should ever become “private” property. Their usage should be governed by public authorities, not by private corporations. A businessman once told me “Having natural resources is not enough, you need somebody who cares about making them available, and this guy deserves a wage for their work.” I replied “Yes, but please let us pay wages then, let us manage what we are called to manage, let us stop denying our responsibility, let us stop granting ownership rights over something we don’t even own ourselves.”