I was just watching Russel Crowe’s version of the Noah story at some friends’ house. Setting all of the other absurdities of the story aside, like the impossibility of successfully saving all the animals on the earth from only a pair of each (the lions alone would decimate any chances for herbivore reproduction in days, let alone the massive problems of an extremely limited gene pool), I remembered the crux of the story.
Noah discovers grapes, learns to make wine and then proceeds to become a raging alcoholic. The movie implies that he’s drowning his sorrows over failing to kill his two female grandchildren, thus preventing God’s plan to eliminate humanity from coming to fruition.
His son Ham finds Noah drunk and sees Noah’s genitals. The 950 year old Noah then curses Ham. Noah’s three sons then move out to establish the three races of humanity, the Europeans, the Asiatics and the Africans.
Ham moves to the African continent. All Africans, then, are descended from Ham.
To racists, this would provide a great explanation for Africa’s developmental problems. Africans are suffering under an ancient curse, because a guy saw his drunk Dad’s penis.
People in the United States believe this shit. What’s scarier is that they vote.
It has been announced that Bangui mayor Catherine Samba-Panza has been appointed the Interim President of the near anarchic Central African Republic.
Her ascension couldn’t come at a better time. The Central African Republic, fragile even in the best of times, has been slowly sinking into chaos. No one really knows how many people have been killed in the fighting between Christian and Muslim militias (though this shouldn’t be read as a religious conflict), but reports last year pegged more than 1000 civilian deaths within a two day span. Experts have started using the g-word.
From the NYT:
The interim president selected on Monday at a raucous, five-hour session of a “national transition council” of rebels, rivals and politicians was Catherine Samba-Panza, a French-educated lawyer with a reputation for integrity and no ties either to the Muslim rebels or the Christian militia. Her selection was greeted with cheers in the assembly hall and dancing outside. That she is a woman — the third female head of state in post-colonial Africa — was especially welcomed by many people who felt that men had done nothing but lead the country on its vicious downward spiral.
Though encouraging, it’s too early to tell if Ms. Samba-Panza will be able to contain the bloodshed in the CAR. Certainly, Liberia gained much under the leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but it’s hard to say whether there’s been a great transformation in Malawi under Joyce Banda. Rwanda’s female majority Parliament is vastly preferable to Kenya’s (or the United States’) overpaid and corrupt boy’s club, however.
The conflagration in the CAR has been troubling for a number of reasons. First, it represents a general pattern of instability just below the Sahara. Neighboring South Sudan, which just recently obtained independence, is now facing a conflict ridden humanitarian crisis.
Second, the conflicts in South Sudan, the CAR, Northern Nigeria, Mali and Somalia rage on compromise the positive narrative of a newly prosperous and economically viable Africa. The 80’s and 90’s were a stain on the continent. Though I don’t foresee a return to the extended civil wars of Angola and Mozambique (for example), general regional instability compromises the ability to sustain development over the entire continent.
Third, even if the CAR manages to suppress the violence, there are few viable options for the long term economic future of this landlocked and historically marginalized country. Without a long term economic plan chances are high that tensions will flare up once more, setting the country back again.
1. We need to fix our food production system before it kills us (NYT)
2. Four big money gangs that run the world (Sydney Morning Herald)
3. Is too much data clouding our judgement? (Michael Moritz blog)
4. Japanese trucker takes a vacation and heads to Syria, where he acts as amateur journalist (Japan Times)
5. More meaningless debt panicking. For one no one can agree on how much debt is too much, no one seems to be considering the issue of low long term interest AND the fact that countries nearly always amass debt following an economic shock. Certainly the inability for our Congress to effective debate and compromise is problematic for our image, but people are still watching. Seriously, how much do we know about the Chinese legislature? The US is still massively important on the world stage (for better or for worse) and its patently silly to claim otherwise. The fact that people are watching should be indication enough. These articles make for sensational reading, but not much else. (NYT)
6. Dying doesn’t cost as much as we like to think (NYT)
7. Urbanization in Africa. Lagos will become the largest city on the continent in 2013. Formal unemployment will still top 70% in some cities. (Economist)
8. Japan’s new right wing parliament presents the world with dangerous challenges, and Japan with a backward looking and bleak future (Economist)
9. Air conditioning, the past and the future. It’s going to get hotter than you think (Economist)
10. What exactly is “no negotiation”? I think we’re all smart enough to know better. (Washington Post)