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
For the Jun/Jul/Aug issue of Bookforum magazine, Paul La Farge published a sketch of the utopian ideal, and the conceptions of utopia today. This is a quick response I shared with the editors of BF.
Mr. La Farge’s sketch of a utopian ideal as analogous to a game is intriguing, but the claim is misleading. The underlying premise for his game concept is distinctly Western (and especially American?), thus leaving the experiences of much of the rest of the world out of the conceptualization.
Think for a minute about the Wakhan Corridor. You say you’ve never heard of the Wakhan Corridor? Don’t feel bad, not many people have since it is one of the most remote places on Earth. Look at a map of Afghanistan; see that long, skinny piece jutting out from the northeast corner reaching over to China, the thing that sort of resembles a giant splinter sticking in the flank of the country? That is the Wakhan Corridor, a mere ten miles wide in some areas, it is a place that owes its existence to the geopolitical machinations of the 19th century; created by the British
It was the diplomatic equivalent of the age-old admonishment “I’m glad your father didn’t live to see this…” Last month Archbishop Desmond Tutu told The Guardian he was glad that at age 91, modern South Africa’s Founding Father Nelson Mandela was retired and not following day-to-day politics in his country anymore because if he was “issues such as corruption would certainly hurt him, as well as the gutter level of discourse by some politicians within the ruling party [Mandela’s own
Three days left to the presidential elections in Colombia. The outcome is supposedly quite critical for the country’s future and I am searching the German mainstream media for any updates.
When I hear of news like Noam Chomsky's recent kerfuffle with Israeli border security — an all-too-predictable episode of state-level hypersensitivity manifesting in the form of draconian policy — I'm reminded of a book written by Marc Ellis about post-Holocaust Jewish liberation theology. A bit of a jump, I know, but bear with me.