A Jamaican Writer, Vandana Shiva, Mao-Kruschev, and more

First, a thought: the global media made a very big deal last week about the bombings in London, which killed 55 people. And it was appropriate, as it was a terrible thing to have happened in a city many reporters as well as readers know and love.

But it's worth considering that 71 people died on Saturday in a suicide bombing in Iraq, when a man strapped to explosives decided to detonate them. He decided to do it while standing beneath a fuel truck in the midst of heavy traffic, in an urban area: everything burned.

It's understandable that it's a smaller story than London; 8000 Iraqi civilians were killed by Insurgents in the past 10 months, and the western media has long since given up on talking about it. Same for the politicians, who see this as bad publicity: as far as I know, neither George Bush nor Tony Blair have bothered to make a statement about this most recent attack. Still, the victims of this Iraq bombing -- all civilians, as far as I can tell -- deserve a moment of sympathy.

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That said, here are three links:

1. Book Coolie has a guest essay by Jamaican poet and novelist Geoffrey Philp, on the author's relationship to standard English and patois. It's well worth a read -- an impressive step forward for Coolie's blog.

2. Via CultureCat, a link to an article by eco-feminist Vandana Shiva. Here is a sample:

If I grow my own food, and do not sell it, then this does not contribute to GDP, and so does not contribute towards ‘growth’. People are therefore perceived as poor if they eat the food they have grown rather than commercially produced and distributed processed junk foods sold by global agri-business. They are seen as poor if they live in self-built housing made form ecologically adapted natural materials like bamboo and mud rather than in cement houses. They are seen as poor if they wear garments manufactured from handmade natural fibres rather than synthetics. Yet sustenance living, which the rich West perceives as poverty, does not necessarily imply a low physical quality of life.

I don't know. I see what she's saying, but lately I find this type of anti-development argument really irritating. Poor people are generally well aware of their poverty; it's not just Jeffrey Sachs' invention.

Also, I would rather support efforts to achieve Jeffrey Sachs' "achievable" solutions than worry endlessly about who caused the damage to begin with, as Vandana Shiva does in this piece. Righteous anger about colonialism got people like Robert Mugabe and Kwame Nkrumah into positions of power. It did not help them govern justly or competently once they were there.

(Intriguingly, according to this blogger, in his new book The End Of Poverty Sachs actually argues that sweatshops can be a good thing in developing nations! I've yet to read the book, so maybe I will comment more on this later.)

3. There's a new biography of Mao Tse-Tung that talks about a secret pact between the USSR and China in 1962. China would support Kruschev's plan to deploy missiles in Cuba if the USSR would support Mao's invasion of India.

Both events (the Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1962 India-China war) took place within five days of each other. The book is called Mao: The Unknown Story, and the author is Jung Chang.

I hope this tidbit is going in the next Dan Brown novel too...