by Hassan Malik. Originally published by our partner site, World Policy Blog.
Recent events in Pakistan have highlighted the best and worst of the country’s politics and society. News outlets worldwide have been running an all-too-rare story about a rich, powerful man of privilege who risked everything to defend a poor woman on the fringes of society from a public lynching. Sadly, this story was revealed through reports of the man’s murder at the hand of his own security guard.
The anticipation is palpable as the Referendum in Sudan draws near. This Sunday, millions of Sudanese will take to the polls for this monumental vote. Residents of Africa’s largest country have already begun traveling to voting centers in order to make their voices heard. Hundreds of international observers are in place, the ballots are en route, and journalists from around the world are on the ground to document the event. Among the crowds of observers will be former US President Jimmy Carter and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, both on location as a part of the Carter Center’s delegation.
The US Foreign Policy establishment is being roiled by the revelations emerging from the Wikileaks secret document dump – or maybe it isn't. While the embarrassing Wikileaks leaks have made front pages around the globe, the reality so far is more heat than light: Italy's Silvio Berlusconi is a sleazebag, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai is corrupt and possibly nuts, Russia's Dmitry Medvedev is playing Robin to Vladimir Putin's Batman, China is cyberspying on the world and Saudi Arabia wants the US to take down the
Recently I was struck by the similarities underlying dystopic visions found in a novel first published in 1953, and another released this year. In both Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, the future America is an illiterate country. Americans are not only illiterate in both of these bleak futures, but they are illiterate (unwittingly or not, it’s difficult to say) as a result of their own design.
By the time I got home, my jeans were soaked, my shoes had puddles at the toes, and shivers signaled the onset of a mid-September cold. It was so worth it. Brooklyn Book Festival 2010 may have been drenched, but that didn’t keep me from feasting on literary splendors from near and far, at a veritable buffet of authors, critics, publishers, journalists, comedians and more. And kudos to the crowd for showing up in droves to walk the outdoor bookstalls, settle under umbrellas to hear readings on the steps of Borough Hall, and splash through the rain to get from one great event to another.
A very real challenge of state-building — particularly in areas devoid of institutionalized democracy — is striking the right balance between strong top-down leadership and social inclusivity. The cold efficiency of executive authority and the beautiful chaos of pluralism. Lean too heavily in either direction, and you may wind up with either a dangerous precedent of quasi-authoritarianism or a political system paralyzed by protracted and irreconcilable debate.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has crafted an ambitious agenda; two key planks of which are fighting Russia’s endemic problem with corruption and moving the national economy away from its reliance on extraction-based industries (primarily oil and natural gas production) towards more value-added pursuits-Medvedev’s current pet project is the construction of a Russian “Silicon Valley” outside of Moscow. It all sounds like a well-reasoned plan for the future, yet it’s worth noting that his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, made many of the same pledges, but his eight years in office ended without any notable successes either in tackling corruption or in esta