Camels are the heart and soul of Arabic culture. Biologist Tessa McGregor travels to Oman to hear how they are venerated, even in an age of four-wheel drive and oil-money opulence.
Tagged with “wealth” (8)
The Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz got everybody’s attention, and a Pulitzer Prize, with his fierce, funny, tragic first novel “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” Now, in a big new essay, Diaz has moved on to bigger themes — like apocalypse and the fate of the human race.
Junot Diaz looks at our recent headlines of earthquakes, tsunamis, meltdown fears, and floods and sees revelation. Not of the hand of God, exactly. But of human realities running amok.
We avert our eyes, he says. But these disasters must be read.
This hour, On Point: Junot Diaz, on revelation and apocalypse.
Nils Gilman describes deviant globalization as "the unpleasant underside of transnational integration."
There’s nice tourism, and then sex tourism, such as in Thailand and Switzerland. The vast pharmacology industry is matched by a vast traffic in illegal drugs. The underside of waste disposal is the criminal dumping in the developing world of toxic wastes from the developed world. Military activities worldwide are fed by a huge gray market in weapons. Internet communications are undermined by floods of malware doubling every year. Among the commodities shipped around the world are exotic hardwoods, endangered species, blood diamonds, and stolen art worth billions in ransom. Illegitimate health care includes the provision of human organs from poor people — you can get a new kidney with no waiting for $150,000 in places like Brazil, the Philippines, Istanbul, and South Africa. Far overwhelming legal immigration are torrents of illegal immigrants who pay large sums to get across borders. And money laundering accounts for 4-12% of world GDP — $1.5 to 5 trillion dollars a year.
These are not marginal, "informal" activities. These are enormous, complex businesses straight out of the Harvard Business Review. The drug business in Mexico, for example, employs 400,000 people. A thousand-dollar kilo of cocaine grows in value by 1400-percent when it crosses into the U.S. — nice profit margin there.
Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs & Steel (and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), offers some timely thoughts on why Haiti, once a fairly prosperous country, has sunk into enduring poverty — a condition not comparatively shared by its neighbor on the same island, the Dominican Republic. According to Diamond, Haiti’s environmental conditions offer a partial explanation. But you will also find clues in the country’s language, and in the legacy of slavery that has shaped Haiti’s economic relationship with Europe and the US. This interview — quite a good one — aired this morning in San Francisco.
The determinants of happiness are remarkably similar around the world, in countries as different as Afghanistan, the U.S, and Chile. Income matters to happiness but only so much; friends, freedom, and employment are good for happiness, while crime, poor health, and divorce are bad. Paradoxically, however, people in places like Afghanistan can be as happy as those in much wealthier and safer ones like Chile. One explanation is the remarkable human capacity to adapt to adversity and hardship. While adaptation may be a good thing for individual wellbeing, it can also result in collective tolerance for bad equilibrium which are difficult for societies to escape from.
T.J. Stiles, author of The First Tycoon, discusses the life of 19th century railroad magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt. Born humbly on Staten Island, an un-schooled fist fighter, he lived to earn the respect of New York’s social elite and amassed one of the nation’s first impossibly vast fortunes. Stiles contends that Vanderbilt did more than any other individual to shape the economic world today.
What business innovations, including the modern corporation, did Vanderbilt successfully create? How did he rout every competitor? What did President Lincoln ask of him in the Civil War? Why did he, one of the North’s leading business man, embrace the philosophy of the southern Jacksonian Democrats?
Cultural Obituaries: The Death of Boom Culture? (with Walter Benn Michaels, David Simon, Susan Straight, and Dale Peck)
Fiction in the Age of Inequality
Now that markets have proven a flawed index of our economic well being, our cultural life needs to look beyond the pat certainties of laissez faire ideology. Among the ills afflicting the American novel at the height of boom culture, Walter Benn Michaels argues, was a curatorial obsession with past oppressions—from slavery to the Holocaust to memoir-style accounts of family abuse. Writers should now be asking less about what it meant to oppose the Holocaust, he contends, and more about what it means to support free trade.
David Simon, creator of The Wire, and Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon, join Michaels and novelist-critic Dale Peck to discuss the social vision of contemporary storytelling.
With vintage Russian black humor, Orlov described the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spelled out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable. The American economy in the 1990s described itself as “Goldilocks”—just the right size—when in fact is was “Tinkerbelle,” and one day the clapping stops. As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach.
Russians were able to muddle through the collapse by finding ways to manage 1) food, 2) shelter, 3) transportation, and 4) security.
By way of readiness, Orlov urges all to prepare for life without a job, with near-zero burn rate. It takes practice to learn how to be poor well. Those who are already poor have an advantage.