For journalists, scoops are as energising as oxygen. But they don't come for free. A lot of time and effort is needed to research them -- which is why a MercatorNet scoop normally means rum and raisin ice cream, not a Pulitzer Prize. However, this week we can claim to have bagged a scoop. A modest one, admittedly, but still a scoop for those interested in "reproductive health".
We interviewed Choi Seon-jeong, the president of the Planned Population Federation of Korea, which is a local affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Most people will be surprised that this body, best known in the West as a doughty warrior for abortion rights, is campaigning in Korea to prevent induced abortions and to increase the population. The problem is that Korea faces a "national crisis of super-low fertility" and is literally in danger of disappearing. Something had to give.
Could this be the way that abortion itself will disappear? As country after country shivers in their demographic winters, abortion rights may seem like a very stupid idea indeed. Time will tell.
So far this week we also have Robert Reilly analysing the rationale underpinning Gay Pride Month; George Friedman on the real struggle in Iran; and Francis Phillips on an honourable general in Saddam Hussein's army. Enjoy!
June 27, 2009
A while ago, I received a painful reminder of past folly. After a bout of energetic housecleaning, my mother sent me my high school literary magazine. Would that she had chucked it in the rubbish bin! I discovered that I had written a sonnet on fame, and how to get it. It was very, very bad. As I dimly recall, because I cannot bear to read it, it concluded with a line like: "But write as Stephens did, and live". Even at the time I didn't think much of James Stephens, and he wasn't famous even in his native Ireland, but it fit the metre better than my erstwhile infatuation, Dylan Thomas, whom I admired as much for his capacity for Herculean drinking as his unintelligible verse.
Anyhow, to the point. Which is that, thankfully, I never became famous, either because I failed to follow my own advice, or because I did -- still not sure which. "Thankfully", because fame is so destructive that we should be vaccinated against it. The latest example of this is, of course, Whacko Jacko, who was one of the most famous people on the planet and one of the unhappiest. To see such a talented entertainer die drug-addled, full of self-loathing, twice divorced, and massively in debt, a banquet for the bloggerati, ought to innoculate anyone against the lust for fame. Fat chance.
Another well-trodden path to fame is financial success, followed by politics, followed by ridicule. This is the story of Mark Sanford, disgraced governor of South Carolina and ex-presidential hopeful. A new contributor, Charles Sendegeya, analyses his sad story in this weekend's instalment of MercatorNet. He has an interesting angle on the wretched affair. You should also check out Brian Lilley's story on politically correct eating habits, Margaret Somerville's analysis of conflict of interest for doctors, and Denyse O'Leary's critique of scientific objectivity.
June 24, 2009
A tsunami of indignation is sweeping the Western world at the blatant manipulation of Iran's presidential election and the subsequent crackdown by the victorious President Ahmadinejad's followers. Everyone has an opinion. Before June 12, I had no idea how many experts on Iranian affairs there were in the world. Now every newspaper has one.
But it would be wise to prod and question all interpretations of news emerging from a nation whose culture, languages, religion, and history are quite alien to the West. Dollars to doughnuts that most of you do not even know how many countries border this nation of 70 million people from several ethnic groups. I didn't. (Answer, seven). Most people know little of Iran's recent history -- a coup engineered by Britain and the US in the 50s, a rapid and destabilising modernisation under the Shah, half a million to a million deaths in the Iran-Iraq War, a generation of government by Shi'ite mullahs with a baffling theology. All of these make interpreting politics in Teheran an exceeding fraught exercise.
George Friedman offers a rather sceptical take on the current chaos. Unlike most of the media, he feels that Ahmadinejad won an irregular but representative election. And in any case, his liberal opponent is not liberal by any Western standard. It's a controversial view, but well-informed and well worth reading.
In other contributions so far this week, Brian Lilley looks at the seal-eating habits of Canada's head of state; Carolyn Moynihan interviews an expert on "unsafe abortion"; and Amos Hunt reviews the unlikely animated blockbuster, Up. Enjoy!
Father’s Day, observed today in the United States and some other places, owes a lot to commercialism, as does Mother’s Day, but perhaps we should be grateful for that. Without the spending spree there would be one less reminder that dads are an essential part of the family. In fact, as Warwick Marsh writes in one of today’s articles on the subject, fatherhood is becoming cool, with fathers and children are appearing in more advertisements, father-friendly stories in the media, and more and more good “dad” movies around.
Treating dads as an optional extra in a child’s life is (was?) one of the crazy, mixed-up ideas of the latter twentieth century, a period dominated by the baby boomer generation. I have given the boomers a bit of a telling off in my article, which is OK because I am one of them. Maybe I have overdone it. Obviously, a lot of positive things have been done by the post-war generation (How dated that description sounds; I can hear a 20-year-old saying, ‘Which war was that? Iraq?’) and there are legions of good families headed by boomers. But the harm done to younger generations by our experiments with sex and family life are difficult to exaggerate. Anyway, that’s what a senior British judge, whom I quote, said again last week.
One particularly noxious result of the sexual revolution is the growth -- and acceptance -- of prostitution, and the trafficking of women that increasingly goes with it today. Nigerian contributor Chinwuba Iyizoba writes about the effect on women in his own society of the modern slave trade, which would have no hope of flourishing, of course, without the uncontrolled appetite for sex in developed countries.
Well, I could be very clever and find a link with the above in John Robson’s very interesting piece on art and socialism, but I’ll leave that to you, dear reader.
Do visit our blogs. There’s some fascinating stuff there: Japan’s ‘grass-eating’ men, in Family Edge; Latvia as a case study in depopulation, in Demography is Destiny; and how governments stir up apathy (and why) in Sheila Liaugminas’ blog.
Well, it is very late at night and I am completely bereft of ideas to lure you into reading this week's articles. So it's time to give our blog Demography Is Destiny a plug. We added this a couple of months ago as we feel that world population is one of the big stories of our day -- and one of the least understood and most ignored. Most people are transfixed by the fact that the world population will grow from about 6 billion today to about 9 billion people in 2050. What few people ask is how many will be here in 2100.
The demographers guesstimate that there will be, not 10 or 12 billion, but somewhere between 6 and 11 billion. In other words, the world will shrink. The other astonishing thing is how old people will be. Globally, about 11% of the world's population is over 60 at the moment. In 2050, that figure will be about 22%; in 2100 about 32%. This will probably give rise to the greatest economic and social transformation in history. And no one is talking about it. Except us, of course. That's why it's a good idea to subscribe to DID so that you can get all the updates!
In your rush to examine Demography Is Destiny, don't forget to check out the articles. George Friedman has a perceptive analysis of the turmoil in Iran; Denyse O'Leary asks whether swine flu is a disease of poverty; and Bill Muehlenberg points out that IVF can devastate lives. Great reading as the northern hemisphere moves into holiday mode.
This is a year of literary anniversaries. The one I have in mind at the moment is the 60th of the publication of George Orwell’s 1984. This has sent me back to my well-thumbed copy of his selected essays. One of these, "Such, Such Were the Joys" has particular relevance to this week’s MercatorNet. In it he reminisces about his old boarding school, Crossgates – and describes it as a place of horror where he was beaten so hard for wetting his bed that the headmaster’s riding crop broke.
That took place in about 1915. Nowadays this would be described as child abuse, but no one, not even young Eric Blair (Orwell’s real name) saw much wrong with it at the time. I say this, not to excuse the atrocious treatment, but to point out that we are often blind to abuses which startle succeeding generations with their iniquity. This is the point that Carolyn Moynihan makes in her article on contemporary child abuse – abuse which is applauded and even government-funded. It’s well worth reading, especially in conjunction with a piece by Andrea Mrozek and Rebecca Walberg documenting how family disintegration costs society in Canada and elsewhere.
And that’s not all. Brian Lilley asks why companies are "too big to fail"; Daniele Archibugi (an Italian) suggests that English ought to be the EU’s lingua franca; and I make a case for a deeper meaning in the explosions and car chases of Terminator Salvation. Finally Bernard Toutounji uses a rancid billboard to make some sound points about contemporary sexuality.
June 10, 2009
Warning: if your computer is not equipped with anti-viru protection, reading this email could be a health hazard. I am writing from the epicentre of the swine flu pandemic, Melbourne, Australia. I am proud to say that it has the highest per capita rate of swine flu in the world and is being blamed for exporting everywhere. The last time Melbourne featured as the world's biggest exporter was in the 1850s, when the product was gold. Now it is germs.
Fortunately, the swine flu, the media frenzy notwithstanding, is not a curtain raiser for the aporkalypse. For most people it brings just cough, sniffles, and rashers and is easily treated with oinkment.
So far this week, we have three articles. Unlike most critics, who found it incoherent and noisy, I detected a deep message in the latest blockbuster film, Terminator Salvation. Francis Phillips reviews a memoir of an ex-Maoist, and George Friedman analyses Obama's plan for Israel.
You might also check our our blogs. BioEdge has a fascinating story about an academic supporter of euthanasia whose husband suddenly became a quadriplegic. She is thinking of changing her mind. In Family EdgeCarolyn Moynihan discovers that some American juveniles are serving life sentences without parole. And Demography Is Destiny features a round-up of current demographic forecasts -- there are some big surprises.
Over and snout (sorry).
June 6, 2009
We need your help. No, don't reach for your wallet. Your brains is what we need at the moment. As a magazine promoting human dignity, we want to promote people who promote human dignity. So we have drawn up a list of "public intellectuals" whose writing and activism support sound, humane values. We decided to limit it to 20 names -- after lengthy consultation -- but we need your suggestions. No list is perfect, so feel free to dispute the worthiness of our nominations.
There's lots more good reading today. I'm a bit surprised, to tell the truth, that the chaos of the week ended up with such a good result.
We have two articles on business ethics. Alejo Sison wonders whether ethical conduct oaths are worthwhile for MBA grads and Pamela Golamco wonders why recent graduates feel compelled to work triple-digit hours. Chinese journalist Li Datang gives some fascinating background on the 20th anniversary of the Tienamen Square massacre and John Robson uses the 19th century poet and critic Matthew Arnold to impart some useful advice on political debates. Finally, keeping us right up to date with the latest news, our deputy editor, Carolyn Moynihan, applauds President Obama's speech in Cairo.
Until the loss of Air France Flight 447 over the Atlantic with the loss of 228 lives, the dominant story around the world was the loss of one life in Kansas. Abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in his church by a loopy man with links to anti-abortion activism and fringe militia groups. Deputy Editor Carolyn Moynihan explores whether heated rhetoric from pro-life supporters can be blamed. It's a sensitive topic -- we welcome your comments.
We have published four other stories so far this week. Peter Ziehan links geography to vulnerability to recession -- an intriguing angle on the dismal financial news. Francis Phillips reviews a recent novel about the moral conflicts of highly cultured Germans under Nazism. Tracye Hansen makes a clear and concise summary of why same-sex marriage is bad for children. And Chinwuba Iyizoba has some suggestions for President Obama's long-awaited address to the Muslim world later this week.
We are slowly working on a new site design to make our blogs more visible and attractive. Our latest, Demography Is Destiny, highlights the challenge of declining
fertility and rising dependency ratios. There's lots of news there which you won't find in the mainstream media. Check it out.
For someone who has never knowingly sought a friend on the internet, who has the most rudimentary second life on Facebook, and whose cyber-communications barely extend beyond email and Google chats, I am surprised and even flattered by the mounting number of friend requests that arrive in my inbox. To anyone out there who has tried to befriend me and drawn a blank I say, please don’t take it personally. Know that I put a yellow star by your request and really intend to come back to it, but, all too soon, it falls to the bottom of the box, then out of sight and out of mind.
But it bothers me, this cyber sluggishness, and when Alistair Nicholas’s plea for MercatorNet types to be up and twittering came through this week, it hit home, I can tell you. Alistair is an amazing fellow. He runs a communications advisory and training company from Beijing, which includes advising companies on the use of social media; in conjunction with China Time Inc he runs China Global Speakers; he has his own blog; he takes great photos (found on Flickr); and he tweets. He is a dad, too. When he talks about the need for “conservatives” (a catch-all phrase that’s not a perfect fit for us) to “grab Web 2.0 by the horns” it’s worth listening. I am, and if you’re the sort of person who needs that advice, I hope you will too.
To judge by recent polls, efforts to communicate the pro-life message more effectively have tipped the number of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” over the 50 per cent mark for the first time, as public opinion consultant Christopher Blunt points out in Pro-life nation? Labels are one thing, however, and substance is another. A horrifying report on child abuse in Irish institutions run by the Catholic Church and others during much of last century raises far-reaching questions about how so much inhumanity and evil could exist without ruffling the surface of institutional life. Irish journalist David Quinn asks the questions. What we need now are answers that go to the heart of the matter and not just indiscriminate attacks on the church by people with other agendas.