Category Archives for "Politics"

January 1, 2017

Tibet: Cultural Genocide

Much like the American West, a people are being destroyed by a dominant, more populous and aggressive culture.

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What’s it about?

The Economist writes a briefing on the effects of modernization and China’s administrative methods on Tibetan culture. Social transformation sometimes welcome, often resented.

Tibet: Cultural Genocide:

  1. The Chinese government has coerced hundreds of thousands of Tibetan nomads into settling into new villages.
  2. Han Chinese make up 90% of the population of China. Tibetan’s are less 0.5%. Most of them are in areas that are now occupied by Han Chinese.
  3. Central Tibet, because of its forbidding environment, is still Tibetan dominated but that is changing. Lhasa the capital now compromises 22% Han, up from 17% in 2000.
  4. New roads and railway lines connect central Tibet to the rest of China and have brought an influx of Chinese tourists, most of the benefits flow to other Han Chinese, who run the hotels and restaurants where tourists stay.
  5. Traditional Tibetan culture is under attack from both modernization and the in-flux of Chinese culture. Monasteries, once a central feature of Tibetan culture, are closing as the young lose interest and the Chinese government restrains their influence.
  6. Through a mixture of coercion and choice Tibetan culture is eroding. Some woman, for example, now use skin-whitening products following the common Chinese practice.

Quote

The Dalai Lama accuses China’s government of “cultural genocide”, a fear echoed by a tour guide in Qinghai, one of five provinces across which most of the country’s 6m Tibetans are scattered “We know what happened to the Jews,” he says. “We are fighting for our existence.”

Less commonly told is the despair felt by many young Tibetans who feel shut out of China’s boom. They are victims of Tibet’s remote and forbidding topography as well as of racial prejudice and the Chinese Communist party’s anti-separatist zeal. They often cannot migrate to coastal factories, and few factories will come to them.

Even fluent Mandarin speakers rarely find jobs outside their region.

A far away land (and problem)

Chinese and foreigners alike have long romanticized Tibet’s high-altitude vastness, Buddhist culture and simple nomadic economy, seeing in it a place of peace and tranquility. The reality for Tibetan’s is different.

China’s campaign to eradicate support for the Dalai Lhama and ensure no further uprisings, has broken whatever peace they had.  Even nursery school’s often teach in Mandarin Chinese. A singer who tried to protect the language was imprisoned for three years. Educated Tibetan’s are co-opted into Han government positions. Tibet’s economic wealth flows to Han migrants and Tibetan society falls under strict Han control.

Take Away Points and Context

  • Much like the American West, a people are being destroyed or assimilated by a dominant, more populous and aggressive culture.
  • While most traditional pastoral cultures face problems when they modernize, Chinese repression compounds the problem.
  • Because of China’s wealth and influence, and the often romantic view Westerner’s have of China, little is done to protect and assert Tibetan’s rights.

 

Full Article:

Tibet: The Plateau, Unpacified

The Economist

See also: Free Tibet a charity that promotes the rights of Tibetan’s.

 

Tibet: Cultural Genocide. Your comments are welcome below.

December 31, 2016

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future

It's human nature to be pessimistic, but this can have political consequences.

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What’s it about?

Johan Norberg argues that people often think things are worse than they are. Bad things are more newsworthy and memorable. Nature blessed us with an ability to recall negative events easier than positive ones, and “40 million Planes Landed Safely Last Year” does not make a good headline.

Progress:

  1. 71% of Britons think the world is getting worse; only 5% think it is improving.
  2. Only 5% of American’s guess correctly that world poverty has halved in the last 20 years. In both cases a Chimpanzee guessing randomly would do better.
  3. In two centuries the number of humans living on less than $2 a day has gone from 94% to 10%.
  4. Improvements in medical science mean lifespans have increased dramatically. 68% of the world has modern sanitation, a luxury 18th Century Kings lacked.
  5. Better nutrition and the spread of education means people are smarter too. IQ rates are rising all the time.
  6. Tolerance has spread. More people are able to read, hear, and imagine themselves in other people’s shoes.

Quote

Despite the bloody headlines, the world is far safer than it used to be. The homicide rate in hunter-gatherer societies was about 500 times what it is in Europe today. Globally, wars are smaller and less frequent than they were a generation ago.

The only type of violence that is growing more common is terrorism, and people wildly overestimate how much of it there is. The average European is ten times more likely to die by falling down stairs than to be killed by a terrorist.

Evidence that the past was more brutal than the present can be gleaned not only from data but also from cultural clues. For example, one study in Britain found children’s nursery rhymes are 11 times more violent than television programmes aired before 9pm.

Problems

Male blue-collar workers have seen no improvement in their earnings for several years. Technology could continue to destroy many low-skilled jobs. And nature is being thinned dramatically. Global Warming is a worry, too. Green technology is advancing and farming is becoming more efficient. Perhaps human ingenuity will triumph.

Take Away Points and Context

  • It’s human nature to be pessimistic, but this can have political consequences. A strong majority of voters in favor of Brexit and Donald Trump believe that life was better in the past.
  • Progress, both technological and moral, is all around. The Caste System is eroding in India, for example.
  • There will always be some losers from progress and it’s up to government and society to help those groups.

 

Full Article:

Better and Better: The state of the world

The Economist

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.

By Johan Norberg.

Oneworld; 246 pages; $24.99 and £16.99.

Progress. Your comments welcome below.

December 28, 2016

Barack Obama The End of Hope: Reflections on his time in office

A legacy of Obama’s humble view of America’s interests and influence may be a more leaderless global order.

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What’s it about?

The Economist writes an Essay on Barack Obama, covering his childhood, tenure, achievement, struggles and plans for the future. From being a skinny kid growing up in Hawaii, through to his time in office. Bold ideas either unimplemented or about to be undone, a mix of diplomatic bravery and timidity, and the mixed results of his character and skin-color on US race relations.

Barack Obama: The End of Hope:

  1. Despite being awarded the Nobel peace prize in his first year in office the US has remained at war. Bombing seven countries, often from unmanned drones, in 2016 alone.
  2. The failure of the Bush years, the Arab Spring and the rise of IS has seen America embedded, for one reason or an other, in the Middle East.
  3. Some trace a direct line from Obama’s reluctance to get involved in Syria (not enforcing the ‘red line’ he drew on the use of chemical weapons) to Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and to China’s Island building in the South China Sea.
  4. Despite the elation about race relations Obama’s election encouraged, the share of Americans who worry about them “a great deal” has doubled since 2008.
  5. One view is that race relations are not worse, but more visible. Disappointment, because it speaks of high expectations, may be grounds for optimism.
  6. The affordable care act and other changes Obama oversaw in the White House will by 2017 have boosted the after tax-income of the bottom 20% of America by around 18% compared to at the start of his tenure.

Quote

From the start of his Presidency, Mr Obama worried that he could not bear the weight of expectation he had inspired. On the night of his first victory he spoke of “unyielding hope” in “a place where all things are possible.”

Yet for all his achievements, his intellect and his grace, his eight years in office imply that even the most powerful leader in the world—a leader of rare talents, anointed with a nation’s dreams—can seem powerless to direct it.

From the ruins of Syria to the barricades in Congress and America’s oldest wounds, sometimes nothing has been the best he could do. Sometimes it was all he could do. The possibilities seem shrunken.

After its collision with history, so might hope itself.

The Limits of Power

Democratic leaders often leak political power as they govern, even as their efficiency improves. In Obama’s case, Republican election victories and a wide partisan divide meant that this process was rapid and costly. America’s finances have been patched rather than mended, immigration remains unreformed and despite several massacres gun laws have not been tightened. Notwithstanding the closure order signed on his second day in the job, Guantanamo Bay remains in operation.

Take Away Points and Context

  • Unable to pass laws, Obama turned to executive decrees and regulations, strengthening transgender and gay rights and improving the lot of federal workers, consumers and undocumented migrants.
  • History often moves in zigzags. Non Hispanic whites, will be a minority in the US by 2050. It is too early to tell the effects of Mr Obama’s tenure on race-relations.
  • Events and America’s deadlocked politics can limit the power of the brightest, most hopeful of Presidents.
  • A legacy of his humble view of America’s interests and influence may be a more introverted (if angry) America, and a more uncertain, leaderless global order.

 

Full article:

Barack Obama: A reflection on Barack Obama’s presidency

The Economist

 Barack Obama: The End of Hope. Comments welcome below.