“Symbols help us make tangible that which is intangible,” wrote the British-American commentator Simon Sinek. “And the only reason symbols have meaning is because we infuse them with meaning”.
I willingly accept that I’m infusing meaning (and my own perspective) into the signs I see newly sprung up across D.C. during the pandemic. That they are up at all, however, is significant. What point are they making? Why were they written and put up? What does signage have to do with the human condition, with aspiration, the balance between hope and realism?
Signs are visual aids to the act of…
Posted on September 26, 2021
One of the more charming aspects of Washington, D.C. is the way one can round a corner and happen upon a remarkable slice of life.
So it was with the street party in one distinct neighbourhood in the northwest of the city.
The evening had cooled very slightly, as if attempting to forget summer and the turbidity of August. The sky glowed soft and dark, the perfect finishing touch to a blue and gold day.
At one end of the street, a block party was in exuberant progress. People sat on porches, on front steps…
When people talk about the decline of the American empire, they reckon without the force of its immense cultural capital. (I use the words “cultural capital” here in the sociological sense of social assets such as education, style of speech, dress, etc.)
Consider the discussion on British domestic radio on the morning I left for America. The murder of a 28-year-old primary school teacher Sabina Nessa in a south-east London park is in the headlines and a female politician was brought on to talk about it. I remember thinking that I didn’t realise the politician — who’s of Bangladeshi origin…
All those who teach will, at some point, come up against a conundrum. Students are “remarkably confident in their views on nearly everything, but desperately scared of being ostracized”.
Those aren’t my words. They were written by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro. Mr Morson is the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities and a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University, where Morton Schapiro is president and a professor of economics.
Their observations on students’ fear of ostracism appear on Persuasion, which incidentally, describes itself as “a community for people who are open to…
What do Downton Abbey, the Kama Sutra, and the Bajrang Dal have in common?
The question was recently asked and answered by my friend, Gurcharan Das, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble India and a columnist for the Sunday Times of India.
Gurcharan’s new column picks up on an ugly incident — a book burning by militant Hindu nationalists on August 29 in Ahmedabad, in western India. The Bajrang Dal burnt copies of the ‘Kama Sutra’, the third century Sanskrit classic by the philosopher Vatsyayana. They judged it guilty of the crime of “insulting Hindu deities” by showing medieval…
On 13 September, nearly a month after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres convened a conference in Geneva to raise at least $600m in aid for the country. Donors outdid themselves, pledging more than $1bn, and Guterres hailed the generosity as a sign of international solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. The money, he said, would allow the UN to help Afghans “ in their time of dire need “.
Why cover the Russian exercise as an election?
On Sunday, September 19, two days after Russians started to cast something that was called a vote, exit polls were clear: President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party was expected to maintain its grip over the State Duma, or lower house.
The whole thing was confirmed the next day.
Much of the world’s media reported the developments as even-handedly as possible. The regime’s assertions were carried first; then came the opposition lament and the crisp claims by independent observers that the three-day parliamentary elections were neither free nor fair.
Politico’s ‘Declassified’ weekly column, advertises itself as looking at the lighter side of politics.
They certainly lived up to their billing in reporting the spat between Nicki Minaj and the British government over her Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s swollen testicles. Nowhere else have I read so succinct and hilarious a rundown of what happened after Ms Minaj recounted “the heartbreaking tale of her cousin’s friend, who got the vaccine only to have his balls swell up and become impotent, resulting in his girlfriend calling off their wedding”.
First up, there was England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty who denounced those…
France is hopping mad that the US, UK and Australia have announced a new three-way defence alliance. The subtext was obvious: Australia gets to share America’s highly sensitive nuclear submarine, something to which only Britain hitherto had access.
It’s an anti-China move but someone other than China is annoyed. France is hopping mad at the so-called AUKUS agreement. The ostensible reason is that Australia walked away from a deal it awarded to French bidders in 2016 to build a new fleet of diesel-powered submarines. France may yet try and recover the billions it has lost by Australia breaking the contract.
Two accounts about Afghanistan in September in two different publications merit attention.
Yaroslav Trofimov’s September 16 piece (paywall) from Baraki Barak in Logar province, south of the Afghan capital Kabul is in the Wall Street Journal.
Jim Huylebroek has written (paywall) in the New York Times from Chak-e Wardak, a district in Wardak Province. His story appeared on September 15.
Both pieces paint a picture of an Afghan countryside that is suddenly — and somewhat shockingly — enjoying an unaccustomed peace. Suddenly, after decades, people aren’t fearing gunfire and warring troops.
I found it interesting that two reports, in two…