2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration and the 50th anniversary of Israelâs occupation of the West Bank and Gaza strip. Spending a few months as a trailing spouse in neighbouring Jordan, I make time to visit, with around 70 words of Arabic and no guide book.
The cab driver who takes me from Amman to the border says he paid 50,000 dinars (USD 70,000) for his second-hand car and the licence to operate this route.Â âJordan government is thief,â he says. âThief.â Like nearly half of Jordanâs population he is of Palestinian origin. His family left the small city of Nablus after the 1967 Six Day War, when the Israeli army routed the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan and occupied the Palestinian territories. Nablus is only 100 kilometres from Amman, but he has never been there.
Cows, what have we done to them?Â (Apart from stealing their milk and eating their babies.)Â One is standing here now, staring at me.Â For all the stuff Iâve read and heard, and the weight of human argument that these animals donât have that grand âconsciousnessâ thing, it is irresistible to speculate on what she might be thinking. Perhaps she wants me to turn the radio on, as I usually do while working in the garden I am making next to her pasture.
In 1989, as communism was collapsing across Eastern Europe, Francis Fukuyama achieved intellectual celebrityâand notorietyâwith a short essay, 8223134891 Â âWe may be witnessing,â he wrote, âthe end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.âÂ A quarter of a century later, he has not quite recanted. His latest work, (662) 807-9180, elaborates a notion of âpolitical developmentâ that still presents liberal democracy as a culmination of human progress.Â But getting there requires âthree sets of institutions in perfect balance: a competent state, strong rule of law and democratic accountabilityâ . Developing these becomes âa universal requirement for all human societies over timeâ . But develop them out of sequence or balance and you can end up end up with militarism (Prussia, Japan); clientelism (Greece, Italy), or authoritarianism (China). And even if you get everything about right, the institutions may atrophy and decayâas in todayÂ´s U.S.Aâbecause of state capture by powerful interest groups and a surfeit of checks and balances that make government action extremely difficult.
There may be something new in the way that ISIS has set about destroying ancient monuments in Â Syria and Iraqâbut archaeological vandalism itself has a very wide spectrum, as I realised during a recent visit to the Sudan National Museum.
A prizewinning novel explores Franceâs identity crisis with lyrical panacheâand a painful look back at the not-so-glorious past. But hang on a minute. A weird undertow appears to suggest that the answer to present troubles lies in more, er, sexual congress.Â Vraiment?Â I thought it was more a matter of politics.
LâArt FranÃ§ais de la Guerre (The French Art of War)
Captain PhillipsÂ (Directed by Paul Greengrass, 2013)Â
The most interesting question about this morality tale of American power efficiently eliminating vermin is whether it should be seen merely as a feel-good pot boiler or whether its uncompromising resistance to depth betrays a wider anxiety about the way the world is going.
Rwandans living or travelling in the West must, I imagine, hate encountering the casual question, âSo where are you from?â The answer will surely evoke either polite confusion or else impertinent enquiry. Were you (or your parents) among the killers or the victims, the interlocutor is too likely to wonder, so notorious is the Rwanda genocide brand. And are you a Tutti or a Frutti, or whatever theyâre called? If I were Rwandan I would definitely make a habit of claiming to originate from Burundiâa place so few people outside of Africa have heard of that you could be fairly sure of keeping the conversation on an innocuous keel.
Having this year happened to become a temporary resident of Rwanda, I felt the need to situate myself with a bit of reading. And itâs impossible to get away from the genocide as the defining publishing event. So hereâs my response to five of the most readily available textsâone ânovel,â one memoir, one work of âreportageâ, one of journalistic analysis, one of scholarship. I review these in the order I read them. Four were written by white North American men, so there was a clear risk that they might say more about North American men, and their way of seeing, than about Rwanda. Thatâs certainly the case with the first, which disturbed me most but taught me least.