Consider the looting of the developing world…: not how or why the looting has happened, but how the West has regarded and changed (or, mainly, tried to change or made a pretext of changing) its relationship to the looters and the loot. Human drives and the typical structures of our societies (right across continents and hemispheres) seem to work against justice at every turn, so that a better question than “How on earth do people get away with all this?” might be “How could any wronged citizenry ever get even a little of its own back?”
The central fact in understanding “Nigerian organized crime” is the extreme inadequacy of the formal state, and the (justifiable) public contempt in which it is held. Persistent misgovernment has resulted in mass poverty and desperation, forcing ordinary people to venture outside the law to achieve simple survival. As a vampiric élite battened upon the nation’s wealth, educated and enterprising younger people were increasingly driven to seek their fortunes overseas, and most did their honest best to advance through legitimate means. For a minority, though, the riches to be won through criminal enterprise proved enormously tempting, and the global nature of the Nigerian Diaspora offered wonderful opportunities for illicit transnational commerce.
War is . . . so interwoven into the fabric of contemporary life that civilians hardly notice it anymore . . . . It hasn’t always been this way. Michael Kazin’s brilliant new book, War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, lends credence to the old saying, “the past is a foreign country.” It tells the remarkable story of how, one hundred years ago, a diverse coalition of Americans struggled to keep the nation out of the Great War.
Since independence in 1948, but particularly since the 2011 end of military rule, Myanmar (formerly called Burma), has taken a series of measures with chilling parallels to the worst 20th-century genocides. Government officials—eventually aided by Buddhist monks—over the years effectively banked the Rohingyas as scapegoats for policies that were not going to end well: blind ethnic nationalism, unchecked military rule (the new constitution reserves a role for the generals that is preventing essential reforms), and the super-corrupt “Burmese Way to Socialism.”
The last voyageurs were a group of recently graduated high school students, five high school teachers, a priest, and a playwright who traveled 3,300 miles over a period of eight months in 1976, trying their hardest to re-create the lifestyles of 17th-century French explorers . . . . The original voyageurs were the riverine version of frontiersmen. They crisscrossed North America in birchbark canoes, mostly transporting furs but also sometimes naturalists, physicians, Jesuit missionaries, and more. The “last voyageurs” weren’t transporting furs, but knowledge.
Two recent books offer windows into the role of moderates in American politics. Historian David S. Brown’s Moderates focuses on this theme with mixed results. Though Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope is primarily a memoir of a young staffer’s work for Barack Obama, he ends up offering practical insights into the need for political moderation. Together, these books show readers the perils of extreme party polarization and point toward a different model of politics.
All that I said about the reasons to stay in New York—sunk costs, the value of face-to-face contact, the desire for what is beautiful—applies to Earth as well. Much of Robinson’s fiction makes a convincing case that we have the resourcefulness, the ingenuity, the determination necessary to make most places on this planet not just inhabitable for us but also delightful. That fiction also makes a convincing case that we’ll need every last milligram of those virtues.
According to Alison Gopnik, we tend to think of parenting like carpentry: you start with a project, gather materials, then measure and cut and trim and fasten and polish to that end. But raising children is more like gardening: creating conditions for life to unfold and flourish according to its own pattern. What emerges may surprise you. • In contrast Margaux Bergen offers parental wisdom with a remarkably gentle and generous touch. Calm, sensible, and no-nonsense, Bergen advises with affection but not sentimentality. While we cannot know or control what’s next, we can face it well, with a strong cup of tea, an organized desk, and as many good relationships as we have virtue and discipline to tend.
Epstein is a journalist specializing in secrets: crime detection, business and finance and media backchannels, the hidden realities of politics and espionage—especially espionage. But in How America Lost Its Secrets, he pushes back as heavily and clumsily against lionization of Snowden as if this were his first book, written out of impulsive irritation that this previously obscure young man has managed to combine, in the public mind, the roles of 007 and an exiled murderer in a Greek tragedy.
A conversation with Chip Colwell, the senior curator of anthropology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and author of Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native America’s Culture, just published by the University of Chicago Press.