Good Reads: Globalization and the glass half full
Here is a survey of a few good articles to explain global doom, the globalized taste in literature, and the peculiar mental shortcuts and errors that smart people make.
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One of the odd things about a globalized world is that we view all political leaders, even those from other countries, to be our own leaders. When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, many Kenyans living in the village where Mr. Obama’s late father grew up expected Obama to finally build the roads and create the new jobs that their own Kenyan government had failed to build and provide. And when Obama the candidate came to Berlin to announce that he would a different president than his predecessor, George W. Bush, many Germans cheered.Skip to next paragraph
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Now many of those same Germans express the same disappointments in Obama that young Americans feel. According to Pew opinion poll, printed in Der Spiegel, many Germans wouldn’t vote for Obama if elections were held today, and ahem, if Germans had the right to vote in a US election.
One other effect of globalization – the rise of the English language – has transformed the world of literature in surprising ways. As more Europeans adopt English as their second language, they are reading more English-language novels to brush up on their English skills, and acquiring a taste for English novels, and even books by English and American authors in local translations. This means not only greater profits for those English and American authors, but also that English and American ideas, tastes, and sensibilities are becoming globalized.
As Tim Parks writes in a blog this week in the New York Review of Books, those who keep up with English literature trends see themselves as global citizens. Among Dutch – who frankly speak English better than most Americans – Mr. Parks noticed that Dutch readers had come to see English language novels as “better,” because they are likely to be read by readers around the world. And by arming themselves with information about this globalized world, Dutch readers are creating a separate globalized identity to complement their Dutch identity.
The Dutch, Parks writes, use their novel-reading “to reinforce this alternative identity, a sort of parallel or second life that complemented the Dutch reality they lived in and afforded them a certain self esteem as initiates in a wider world.”
Thinking makes it so
And finally, from the world of science, we now know why smart people make stupid mistakes. Remember those geniuses who ran the global economy in the 1990s, and then ran that global economy into the ground in 2007? The problem is that smart people take mental shortcuts. They hear a question, and assume, before the question is fully asked, they know the answer.
In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
I won’t tell you the answer. For that, you should read the New Yorker article by Jonah Lehrer.