It’s been a pretty insane few months. Already in 2011 we’ve had three huge earthquakes, a nuclear disaster, two successful revolutions and more in the offing. Trying to keep abreast of everything that’s going on is tough and it’s something I feel the news agencies are struggling with as well. When I visit the BBC website, I am often shocked by what they select as their headline piece. Last week, they ran with the news that a US aircraft had been shot down over Libya, without any casualties or fatalities. Was that really the most important story in the world at that moment?
It certainly wasn’t the most important story in Britain. I know many people in the UK are infuriated by the military action in Libya, not because they don’t think it’s a worthy cause (this shocking video of a woman struggling to tell the media about her rape at the hands of Gaddaffi’s troops is harrowing), but because of the financial cost . The government are making cuts left, right and centre, but yet they can afford to fire dozens of missiles at Gaddaffi’s troops at just under £1,000,000 a pop.
As always, Johann Hari in his column in the Independent, captures the mood of the nation brilliantly (not least the 250,000 who took to the streets of London in protest yesterday). It’s the week of the budget, in which George Osbourne announced sweeping cuts, claiming that the national debt needs to be addressed. As Hari points out, though, the national debt has been higher as a proportion of GDP for 200 of the last 250 years. For me, the shock doctrine outlined by Naomi Klein is in full force here. The Tories are using the shock of the 2008 financial crisis to force through policies they have been seeking to impose for many years: cutting the welfare state, destroying the NHS, reforming every bit of Keynesian policy they can. It’s a horrible thought.
I didn’t post anything here about Japan last week, but this week I was directed to an article on the Reuter’s Blog which I was fascinated by. It’s entitled Don’t Donate Money to Japan, and behind the sensationalist headline is a lot of logic. Japan has more than enough money to deal with the fallout from the disaster (however great that may be) and the article bemoans the campaign-centric nature of charities in the mainstream. It is more beneficial to give your money to organizations that do not raise money for specific campaigns, but which take donations all year round and distribute them where they are needed most. Perspective is important here and whilst I would never belittle the Japanese disaster, one glance at the current state of Haiti after last year’s quake speaks volumes.
There was a great feature on Chews Wise the other day called GMOs and the Myth of Feeding the World. It addresses the problem of overpopulation and more specifically, how we will feed it. It takes a rather more skeptical look at it than many mainstream media outlets, pulling together figures to suggest that the problem and the solution may be very different to what we have been told. What resonated most with me was the current situation with bio-foods. We are creating these grains and not using them to feed people, but livestock. In doing so, we are wasting “the annual calorie needs of more than 3.5 billion people”. It’s shocking, and things like this are making me readdress my own consumption habits.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot more is my own ancestry. I was a guest speaker at Gwangju’s International Centre recently, where I spoke about growing up in Northern Ireland. In my research, I read lots about the polarized cultures at home and was surprised to read this article in Prospect Magazine which says our heritage may be very different than we thought. Myths of British Ancestry implies that the Celts were not the most prominent people in Western Europe and that a lot of our culture stems from the Basques. It’s a really interesting read.
I’ve been reading a lot of the New York press lately: Village Voice, The New Yorker, NYT and this week for the first time, I was directed towards an excellent piece in the New York Observer. Sexless and the City tells us about the current sex-free state of the young, trendy professionals of the City. Too busy taking coke to shag… it’s a sorry state of affairs, but maybe it will help deal with the old overpopulation problem I just mentioned…
I wanted to finish up on something beautiful and it’s a series I always keep an eye out for. The BBC produces the ‘images of the week‘ every seven days (funny that) and this week’s pictures are amazing. Enjoy!