Repairs on my laptop are taking longer than expected, so I’m afraid I can’t delve into some of the deeper subjects I had in mind to discuss.
As some of you may have noticed, however, this blog is devoted to more than just voluminous rants and philosophical reflections. As the entire right-side of this page attests to, I’m aiming to create a hub of information, and spend much of my time bringing attention to all sorts of events, issues, causes, and personal interests. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and I owe a lot to my friends, peers, and colleagues who have introduced me to sources and subjects I had no idea existed. I think it’s only fair that I reciprocate.
As the title makes clear, my topics today will be a series of photo essays from Foreign Policy Magazine (also known simply as FP), one of my favorite and most regularly cited sources. Each of the three I’ll be sharing are pretty diverse in their subjects, which suits me just fine (and hopefully you too). As per my usual habit, I’ll be following them up with some musings and missives that have come to my mind, and that I think should bear consideration.
The first is Barriers to Entry, which consists mostly of photos of prominent landmarks and monuments from Washington, DC, following the 9/11 attacks. Though as iconic and majestic as ever, the sight of these prominent symbols being subject to tighter security makes for an interesting, and some would say tragic, message. It reveals how much the US is still effected by security concerns even a decade on, and the deep-seated and long-lasting impact acts of violence can have on a society. How many generations until we’ll feel safer? Will this be the permanent state of affairs, a new normal for Americans from now on?
I also found it fascinating how a lot of these security measures – mostly barriers of various designs and functions – were made to be subtle and even aesthetically pleasing. We want to be safe and unharmed, but we also want to be free; we don’t want our public spaces and national landmarks to be closed-off and suffocated, but we certainly don’t want to risk their destruction. We’ve been traumatized enough by the 9/11 attacks and the figurative and literal emptiness they left behind – we couldn’t stand to lose any more lives or national sources of pride.
Following that, we have Road to Prosperity, a collection of images showcasing China’s massive construction boom. Skyscrapers, bridges, high-speed rail, highways – every infrastructure project imaginable is being undertaken with unprecedented speed by one of the world’s fastest growing nations. In stark contrast to the ailing rich world, the People’s Republic seems to be embarking on an energetic and enthusiastic journey to development; the ambitious projects, lavish investments, and high job growth that have long defined the Western world are in full force in China. It’s even left many to wonder if China’s state-heavy and authoritative means of getting things done is truly the better approach.
But is it? Corruption is rife in China, and billions of dollars worth of money is siphoned off by government officials or their business elite partners. Some of these flashy looking achievements may be of shoddy construction, and if not that, then they’re often out of reach from many of China’s poor (and there are still hundreds of millions of them). And what about the environmental costs of all this building and resource extraction; could the Chinese, or the rest of the world for that matter, take any more pollution? Dissatisfaction and aloofness with the ruling elites is growing, as is visible discontent - even in an oppressive state like China, protests are at an all time high, and some state media sources are starting to get critical too. It’ll take more than public works to satiate the Chinese people’s growing demands for accountability and greater freedom.
Finally, we end with Cocacabana, a lighthearted-sounding name for a gritty series of images depicting a tour through Rio’s blighted favelas, or slums. Crime, drugs, and murder are rampant in these communities, which make up a large chuck of the aptly named City of God. Criminal syndicates and gangs rule almost unopposed (except by one another), creating a virtually autonomous community within a community that allows them to function with impunity. Despite this, most of the people here are savvy and hardworking, eking out a living almost from scratch, and managing to live almost self-sufficiently, as few outsiders – cops, politicians, or non-residents – ever venture in, let alone help.
But that may be changing. Brazil is growing rapidly, and becoming increasingly wealthy and more developed. Public spending is at an all time high, and previously neglected regions are receiving unprecedented amounts of aid, including clinics, schools, and regular police patrols. As a result, crime and poverty are falling, even if they remain terribly high. More and more Brazilians feel confident that they, and their nation, is going on the right path. Rio will even be set to host no less than two major international sporting events (the World Cup and the Summer Olympics). Whether Brazil’s most famous city will be ready for the spotlight, and it’s people delivered from their wretched conditions, is still a very open question.
So much to think about, so little time and brain matter. The world is full of events and paradigms to ponder, their implications big and small. It’s overwhelming to consider all the stories and issues that are transpiring around us constantly, millions of them overlapping and emerging simultaneously across diverse parts of the world.
So much for sleeping any time soon.