For the past two weeks we have paid more attention to the rest of the world than usual, what with the Olympics drawing our attention to Asia, and the conflict in the Balkans forcing us to learn that Atlanta is not in danger...that indeed, there is another Georgia—and how events in that Georgia could affect life in our Georgia.
As it happens, I belong to an international blogging collective (the Blogpower community) with voices that happen to be especially well-placed and often powerful to boot...a combination that will be most helpful for today’s exercise.
We are going to take a journey, Gentle Reader, all the way from India to Australia. We’ll visit Canadian friends, then we have much to discuss in the UK...and we get to meet a friend in the Sudan—and just for fun, we’ll toss in a few discussion questions based on Russian history.
Finally, through the miracle of Facebook, we’ll meet an actual volunteer soldier from South Ossetia who will describe the Georgian attack on his city.
There’s a lot to cover, so put on your travel hat, grab your virtual passport, and let’s hit the road.
There are 61 bloggers currently associated with Blogpower, but we will only be visiting about 20 of those today. There’s a full list of the community members available, and I would encourage you to dive in to the list and visit all of them.
And speaking of visiting...
Kori Brus, publisher of "The Conscious Earth", has been travelling India these past few weeks, from south to north, and now finds himself in Ladakh, an area of India that is primarily Buddhist...and covered by a far more extensive network of trekking routes than highways.
He tells us that despite the fact that India is a nation of more than 900 million people, it is quite solitary indeed for him on this trip...which has advantages he might not have anticipated as he visits a temple around the time of morning prayers.
We continue with the theme of culture and religion on a visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we find jmb’s "Nobody Important" blog awaiting our arrival.
In May of 2008 the city’s Museum of Anthropology was robbed, the object of the theft being spectacular pieces created by Bill Reid, an artist of Haida descent who trained as a sculptor and a goldsmith. (His work can also be seen at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., should you get the chance to visit.)
Some of the objects had been recovered, but I am now happy to report (again, courtesy of jmb) that when it comes to art thievery, the Mounties get their brooch; with all the missing objects now recovered. (Well, to be exact, a fraction of one object is missing...so visit the link for details, he said, teasingly.)
Ruthie "Zaftig" offers us a tour of the morality questions present in the movie "The Dark Knight" that begins as a general discussion of good and evil, but then becomes an evaluation of how terror affects human judgment—and addresses the additional question of how much freedom should we be willing to sacrifice for security...which might be the freedom to live in fear.
For your consideration: would Peter the Great have made a good "Dark Knight" Batman? Try to include a few words regarding the "Tsar as Father Figure" mythology in your response...
Immorality also figures in a story from Khartoum: Kizzie explains how bribery is endemic in Sudan—and she tells us how a judge was apparently bribed in an eviction case that has cost her family three years of their time, thousands of dollars in legal fees...and had them wondering if hiring a few well-armed "friends" to resolve the problem "extrajudicially" might have been the better solution.
She also reminds us of the death of Levy Mwanawasa, President of Zambia—one of two notable recent deaths in the region; the other being the death of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Both are major events unreported in US media...so visit the links and follow these stories.
In Iran the level of repression applied to union activists is increasing...and as of now the crime of union organizing can get you 30 lashes...or 50...or 70...plus jail time. Or it could get you the death penalty.
All of this is reported to us by our man in Corkadorogha, Ireland (..."where the the torrential rains are more torrential, the squalor more squalid, the hopelessness more utterly hopeless than they are anywhere else"...), James "The Poor Mouth" O’Donnell. (By the way James: "rains more torrential"? Spend a year in the rainforest around Queets, Washington and you may reconsider that position...)
Everyone is blogging these days...including a former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, John Prescott (fired by Tony Blair, no less!). Mike Ion, himself a former Labour candidate for Parliament (from Shrewsbury...home of Darwin and the Cartoon Festival), discusses the impact of the growth in the medium on UK politics and beyond—and for those who don’t know, there is as much reaction to political bloggers over there as there is over here...and in the UK, that makes Mike Ion a bit of a "must read".
All citizens of England have access to health care, unlike the US, but this is hardly a perfect situation. Should we hope to adopt a national health care model we might do well to learn from their experience, and some of that insight can be found in the following two stops on our tour:
An agency of the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) that tries to balance the costs and benefits of drugs and procedures that the NHS will pay for is the subject of a recent discussion at the "Letters From A Tory" blog.
CalumCarr has been telling us for years now about the troubles faced by those who seek help from the NHS for mental disorders (a problem that has touched his own family), and a new report from the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland describes grievous flaws in the system—including a case of "Not My Problem" culture that is so serious that the report itself is entitled "Not My Problem - The Care and Treatment of Mr. G".
Leadership is sometimes a matter of committee, and we are given the view from the other side of the table as Grendel recounts his experience on hiring and purchasing committees. We learn a bit of British slang ("...use the word "prat" in a sentence, please..."), we consider the absurdity of dreams, and we are offered a few words on unintentional non-disclosure disclosures.
Have you ever wanted to go to a job interview and tell the interviewer you’re looking for a new job because you hate your current job? You have a friend in Grendel.
The UK portion of the journey continues as we visit Sackerson’s "Bearwatch" blog. He reminds us that our desire to restrain Government through the vehicle of the Constitution is well-recognized—and well-respected—around the world...and he brings to the table a question raised in this election cycle by Ron Paul: what is legal tender?
For your consideration: what effect would a strict Constitutional reading of "legal tender" have on credit expansion? Would we, on balance, have been better off with such an interpretation? A few words on the impact of home ownership on personal wealth—good and bad—would add some "seasoning" to the rhetorical stew you could create...
Theo Spark’s friends (the "Last of the Few") combine Conservative thought with the sorts of adult images (adult images is code for "maybe the younger kids shouldn’t be going there unsupervised..."—you have been officially warned) that one might see on Page 3 of a British newspaper; and the blog makes the point that Basra is on the road to reconstruction through the use of a striking image taken in the At Tannumah district of the city.
The great "what is mind versus what is matter?" debate, originally begun by Descartes and Hobbes (and later revisited by Homer Simpson), is one element of a conversation from Gracci at the "Westminster Wisdom" blog. Can security ever exist for the masses when the masses are ruled by anyone other than an autocrat? That question, also addressed by Hobbes, is an important second pillar of the sturdy philosophical structure presented in this piece.
For your consideration: is security worth the cost? Just how much cost might you be willing to accept for how much security? Can anything actually approaching total security be achieved, or does the effort to create total security inevitably create insecurity? Using the Russian word grozny correctly in your answer will get you extra points...
We need to take a step back from all of this deep thinking, and my friend Colin Campbell has just what we need. His "Adelaide Green Porridge Café" blog features an image of military maneuvers that make me wonder if the Australian commander might be smarter than ours. (I’d also be curious what the commander has to say about global warming...).
Is Wales a part of the UK? Or is it, like the Duchy of Cornwall, destined to be an independent nation? "Miss Wagstaff Presents" this issue, and others, in her ongoing quest to analyze the question of whether the political relationship with the UK is serving the Welsh people...or instead, serving only the political needs of the Labour Party. (For those unsure, Wales is located roughly 20 miles east of Dublin, just across the Irish Sea. It’s the same Wales that has a famous Prince.)
Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer (and fifth in the world in 2006), is the source of the next bit of humor, thanks to "Sally in Norfolk"...and I will consider this story every time I freeze a grill. (She also visits a lead mine...another fascinating story.)
Which brings us to the final stop on our tour.
Ellee Seymour wants us to visit the "ProActive PR" blog and meet Alan, a 26 year-old student who was in Tskhinvali, the largest city in Georgia’s disputed South Ossetia region when Georgian forces advanced on the city.
Power had been mostly cut off, as had water, but Alan was able to send messages by cell phone which Ellee’s friend Katarina was able to translate into English. The story begins August 4th, where he describes seeing three dead bodies, victims of either Georgian mortars or artillery fire.
The diary gives an hour-by-hour recap of the events of August 7th, including a street battle just a few blocks away—and a description of being so tired that grenade explosions up the block could not wake Alan up.
The diary includes pictures taken on scene...and no matter what you may think of the positions of either side, this is a soldier’s story in the end...and that makes it a very human story, indeed.
Well there you go: we’ve seen a bit of the world, we have some things to think about...and we had a few laughs to boot.
If you have nothing to declare, continue through Customs to catch your ride home...and thanks for flying Blogpower.