(Via World Hum.)
HONG KONG: It’s the end of the era of the white man.
I know your head is spinning. The world can feel like one of those split-screen TVs with images of a suicide bombing in Baghdad flashing, and the latest awful market news coursing along the bottom, and an ad for some stool-loosening wonder drug squeezed into a corner.
The jumble makes no sense. It just goes on, like the mindless clacking of an ice dispenser.
On the globalized treadmill, you drop your eyes again from the screen (now showing ads for gourmet canine cuisine) to the New Yorker or Asahi Shimbun. And another bomb goes off.
There’s a lot of noise and not much signal. Everywhere there is flux and the reaction to it: the quest, sometimes violent, for national or religious identity. These alternate faces of globalization – fluidity and tribalism – define our frontier-dissolving world.
But in all the movement back and forth, basic things shift. The world exists in what Paul Saffo, a forecaster at Stanford University, calls “punctuated equilibrium.” Every now and again, an ice cap the size of Rhode Island breaks off.
The breaking sound right now is that of the end of the era of the white man…
Read the whole thing.
What does ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent return to Thailand mean for Manchester City, the English Premier League team he purchased during his exile? What does his return mean for football (soccer) in Thailand?
That was the subject of an AFP story that I wrote last week.
You can find it on Yahoo News here: “Thaksin return raises hopes of Thai fans.”
It’s been a tense week in the Andes. On Saturday, Colombian forces launched a surprise raid on a camp inside the Ecuador border and killed a senior FARC member. The result has been an ongoing diplomatic kerfuffle between Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.
AFP has a run-down of the events: “Regional tensions rise after Colombia raid into Ecuador.”
And the NY Times‘s Simon Romero narrates a video report about the incident.
Meanwhile, Bolivia expert Miguel Centellas discusses a Bolivian dimension to the story.
Reuters has some analysis on the political implications for the region: “Andean crisis shakes hopes for regional unity.”
And as for Thailand…
Today we learned that a Russian man alleged to be a notorious arms dealer was arrested here in Thailand yesterday. He is accused of selling arms to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and he was lured to Bangkok by American DEA agents…posing as FARC members looking to buy weapons.
I’ve got a travel story in today’s New York Times. It’s about how Bangkok’s legendary Khao San Road, long a meeting place for backpackers, now offers a variety of upscale amenities.
Simon Romero had an excellent story in the New York Times yesterday about Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, fighting to defeat the high-altitude soccer ban I mentioned recently. I particularly like the lede (as well as the delightful image, above):
Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, donned a green jersey the other day, watched a llama sacrifice for good luck and flew to a snowy spot nearly four miles above sea level, where he scored the winning goal in a brief match pitting him and his aides against a group of mountain climbers.
It was a textbook lesson in Andean political theater, and the perils a globalized sport can meet when it comes up against a small country’s nationalist passions.
On the surface, Bolivia’s president was simply staging an amusing stunt to fight a ban on international soccer games at altitudes above 2,500 meters, or 8,200 feet.
It’s well known that Mr. Morales will play soccer against virtually anyone, from the foreign press corps to local squads in the hinterlands, to let off steam, and recently broke his nose doing so. But in fact, the ban, enacted last month by soccer bureaucrats in Switzerland, played right to Mr. Morales’ trademark populism, and gave him an opportunity to act as a unifier of his otherwise fractious country.
“Bolivia’s dedication to soccer cuts across the deep dividing lines in the country, which are economic, racial, regional and ideological,” said Jim Shultz, a political analyst in Cochabamba, in central Bolivia. “Fighting the ban is great domestic politics.”
A friend of mine who’s studied politics in neighboring Ecuador once told me that he felt the Ecuadorian national football team was the single greatest cohesive force that the nation has working in its favor. The game trumps race, class, politics — everything.
Two related books that I recommend highly: “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization,” and, in the case of Bolivia and its “market dominant minority,” “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.”
On this map, East and West Germany are next to each other, as one would expect. But Romania’s closest neighbour is Armenia? And Poland and India are side by side? Well, this is not a straightforward geographical map, but a cultural one. It plots out how countries relate to each other on a double axe of values (ranging from ‘traditional’ to ‘secular-rational’ on the vertical and from ‘survival’ to ‘self-expression’ on the horizontal scale). This makes for some strange bedfellows – for example: South Africa, Peru and the Philippines occupy almost the same position, although they’re on three different continents.
Here’s a great IHT story by Somini Sengupta about outside influences creeping into Bhutan.
Once, Bhutan guarded itself from the world outside so ardently that it allowed in satellite television only seven years ago. Today, globalization is officially sanctioned, and it is rushing in fast.
Today, at least here in the capital, outside and inside coexist.
Tall white prayer flags grace the side of a hill as offerings of good will to what Buddhists call sentient beings, even as the naughty rhymes of Snoop Dogg throb at the disco.