My regular Sunday piece of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring). This week: cars, the UK’s ‘Big Willy’ politics and Fear of a Black President. Oh, and laughter.
This week started with a warning from Tim Foresman, former NASA scientist, UN Environment Programme dude, and Google Earth creator that Kiwis are addicted to their cars. To be fair to us, a Scientific American columnist also wrote for BBC Future that he couldn’t see the end of the internal-combustion car this century the whole world is so addicted…
This week the UK had probably their only major cabinet reshuffle of their 5 year parliament. A major talking point was that they are now down to just 4 women out of 27 in cabinet. It is a return to Big Willy politics apparently. As more boardrooms push for a diversity of views and all the improvements that brings, Cameron is going the other way. Conservative support among women was already dire after benefit cuts and high female unemployment from the reduced civil service, and that can now only expect to continue.
Even more so as straight after that reshuffle the next Question Time in parliament Cameron’s bizarre main attack was against the Labour leader for getting his shadow finance minister coffee, asking if he was ‘butch’ enough – in the world of the Eton-schooled white male upper-class cabinet, only their ‘fags’ get drinks, and service isn’t what leaders do. Christ and numerous other examples thrown out and with the ‘real man’ stereotype we can prove that we can uselessly strait-jacket both genders…
The UK’s austerity politics isn’t going down well generally, and there are open questions on where and what alternatives can replace them.
The action-doll Wealth Creator Man is mocked, and the fixation on growth and debt is challenged. Are we happier if we stop caring for our kids or cooking and outsource all family life so that GDP grows with us paying for childcare and restaurants? If we refuse to (or more likely cannot) spend more and grow, does recession mean mass unemployment, or more leisure time for all? How can we create a better steady-state economy, without debt & growth?
There is a hunger for change from the inequality we are currently producing.
Across the Atlantic in the US the tale of how they created a fabulous middle class society and then destroyed it for inequality and recession is told in one graph.
But it’s pre-election conference time there, so all focus is on that. (Should it be? One article questions if the massive media resources are well-focused there on politicians and their groupies (us?), and maybe if politicians were ignored they might produce a politician who relates better to wider society…)
But a bigger question is whether the US is coping with a Black President.
A fabulous in-depth article in The Atlantic suggests that Obama can only succeed by being ‘twice as good’ and ‘half as black’. That he cannot mention race or lose ratings. That indeed such is the Fear of a Black President that:
“The thing is, a black man can’t be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there,” Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama, told the journalist Gwen Ifill after the 2008 election. “However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president.”
The huge racist response to Obama saying about the shot innocent black teenager Travyon Martin, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” seems a particular case in point. The birthers desperate disbelief is such so that they indeed still don’t have a ‘true’ black president. Indeed the racism is so alive in the US that at the Republican conference a black camerawoman had peanuts thrown at her, and told that that was what they feed monkeys…
A black president hasn’t solved racism, and even fabulous images of a young black boy touching the president’s hair to see that it was like his own can be challenging for some.
Despite this First Lady Michelle seems to have modified and projected her image to be massively popular with a very large section of US society – but without the power she isn’t as challenging.
On that heavy note maybe we should break and look at why we laugh.
My current comedy favourite at the moment is Tim Minchin, so to combine the serious and humourous, here’s his attempt at a Palestinian Peace Anthem: