Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Favorite book of a lifetime

15 May

(in the category: nonfiction but not in my own field)

I recently re-read a book that I first read almost 30 years ago, which I have remembered ever since as perhaps the best book I ever read.

Re-reading after 30 years is a severe test. Many other books that the younger me liked have failed this test — either because they are dated or because I’ve changed.

This book passed the test. The only blemish was a bad but short section on economics in the 20th century.

The book is a marvelously readable account of the history of discovery, both geographic and scientific.

The book is The Discoverers, by Daniel Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987, first published in 1983.

“This story is also about you”: Letter from an aid-financed jail

7 May

UPDATE 12:10pm 5/7/2013: The reference on Twitter to “Hollywood celebrity…” is an experiment in fake link bait described at the end of this post.

This is a letter just released from Eskinder Nega, a peaceful blogger and democracy activist serving an 18-year sentence in Kaliti jail in Addis Ababa, courtesy of the Ethiopian government supported by World Bank, US, and UK aid:

Individuals can be penalised, made to suffer (oh, how I miss my child) and even killed. But democracy is a destiny of humanity which can not be averted. It can be delayed but not defeated.

…I accept my fate, even embrace it as serendipitous. I sleep in peace, even if only in the company of lice, behind bars. The same could not be said of my incarcerator though they sleep in warm beds, next to their wives, in their home.

Why should the rest of the world care? Horace said it best: mutate nomine de te tabula narratur. “Change only the name and this story is also about you.” Where ever justice suffers our common humanity suffers, too.

I will live to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It may or may not be a long wait. Whichever way events may go, I shall persevere.

eskinder nega

UPDATE 12:10 pm 5/7/2013 “BREAKING: Hollywood celebrity charged with embezzling funds from global poverty NGO” This is a fake story that links you to this true story on Eskinder Nega.

The experiment is about why do we care about some misuses of aid an awful lot, but aid misused to finance violations of rights of brave individuals in poor countries is not amongst them?

The Revolt of the Pitied

4 Oct

Magatte Wade, Senegalese-American entrepreneur,  in the Guardian:

a young woman asked, “For the Americans on the panel, how do you deal with being a person of privilege while working in global development?” My eyes lit up with fury as she directed her question specifically at the white Americans on the panel. I let them answer, then smiled and added with a wink: “I am an American, you know, and also a person of privilege.” She instantly understood what I meant.

Her question assumed that those of us in developing nations are to be pitied. I know as a Senegalese that her attitude is precisely what disgusts us about many who work at NGOs.

For many of those who “care” about Africans, we are objects through which they express their own “caring”.

I replied to the young woman, “If you see us as human beings, there is nothing to deal with. We like to eat good food, we love to talk and laugh with our family and friends. We wonder about the world, and why so often bad is rewarded rather than good.”

The Real America and the Ideal of the Fourth of July

4 Jul

America is a multi-national nation where there is currently much polarized debate as to who or what is the “Real America.”

Perhaps the key to understanding America is that it’s a nation defined, not by ethnic attributes of the citizens, but by the ideal of July 4th– an ideal that all are created equal, with unalienable rights to liberty (yesterday’s post).

35 Words

3 Jul

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The Development of Freedom since 1776 has been about including more and more men and women in that word “all”.