“Big Brother” is a colorful way of describing government intrusion into the private lives of citizens. It also alludes to the innate fear of government that democratized populations share. Although this fear is fairly tempered among most people, it does shape their attitudes toward government and public policies. Americans, for example, tend to sympathize with corporations facing hefty tax bills and the wraith of regulators. Traditionally, they have been willing to accept tax cuts that help big corporations at their expense as well as the weakening of regulator bodies that protect their interests, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It also inspires the “no snitch” mentality that prevents the victims of crimes from seeking police protection.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are either the two most important shopping days of the year or part of a brilliant marketing ploy perpetrated by US retailers en mass. Whether or not these after-Thanksgiving sale-a-thons are as necessary as people believe, customers are the focal point of the two prominent capitalist holidays. If the US government was to ever dedicate a holiday to consumers, which international advocates hope to make March, 15th World Consumer Rights Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday would both be good choices. It is, therefore, ironic that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its dueling directors would steal the spotlight with a bizarre story.
Zimbabwe joins the likes of Cuba and Myanmar as nations that have had to transition from the prolonged rule of dictators. When Robert Mugabe came to power, Zimbabwe was focused on its struggle to transition from British rule to independence and a deeply entrenched legacy of racial disenfranchisement. Ironically, Mugabe’s rise to power represented a new era of freedom for Zimbabweans. Now, his successor represents freedom from Mugabe. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to focus on the economy and the needs of the People. As Mnangagwa formulates his economic agenda, he will also have to decide the political fate of Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa will have to decide if he is willing to release power to an elected successor, thereby fostering democracy in Zimbabwe, or become the next Mugabe.
Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years. He was a dictator who was originally empowered by democracy in 1980. He then undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions to secure the legitimacy of his government and consolidate power, thereby engineering an ill-democratic nation reliant on his authoritarian rule. At age 93 and ailing, he attempted to laterally transfer power to his wife. Firing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagw was enough to spark protests against Mugabe, but the military’s decision to withdraw support from Mugabe is what forced his resignation. It is similar to what happened when Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak attempted to crackdown on protesters in the middle of the Arab Spring Revolutions. Like Egypt, Zimbabwe is likely to retain its superficial democracy with the emergence of new authoritarian leaders who will use ill-democratic processes to select new leadership.
According to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, the very act of observing changes what is being observed. In the field of psychology, the equivalent is called the Hawthorne, or observer, effect. As laws of nature tend to be universally applicable, the same phenomenon exists in other fields, including the computer and information sciences. When Google, for example, delivers a search result, whether derived from its search algorithm or sponsored content, Google changes the outcome of the next search result. Because Google values content largely on popularity and organizes information based on their relevance, every time an internet user accepts a search result that search result gains value and non-selected results lose value. In other words, Google changes what people are searching for by changing what people can find.
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