It’s the shortest day of the year and I’m feeling very short on time as I try to wrap up projects that absolutely, positively have to be completed by this weekend’s holiday. The two that are keeping me up at night are a book chapter on the international blogosphere, and a fireplace mantel that I’m building for my sister and her partner’s apartment. Both need a bit more sanding and touch-up painting before I’m ready to give them away.
Some quick links that caught my eye today, in lieu of a proper blogpost.
Ory Okolloh of Kenyan Pundit let me know about a fantastic issue of literary journal Granta titled “The View from Africa”. The majority of contributions are from Africans, and the two that I’ve had the chance to read are excellent. Ory pointed me towards a piece by Binyavanga Wainaina, a Nairobi-based author who offered the satirical and very challenging “How to write about Africa”. (Pieces like this are great when, like me, you complain about how other people write or report on Africa… and you realize that you’re using cliches and sloppy generalizations as well…) I also enjoyed Lindsey Hilsum’s “We Love China”, which takes a close look at China’s increasing influence in Africa. It’s not a new story, but Hilsum tells it well, talking to Chinese entrepreneurs about why it’s a great time to be in business in Sierra Leone.
Ory’s also engaged with a great debate on her blog about the future of Kenyan journalism – she’s now three posts into a series, and her thoughts – and those of her commenters, are an interesting addition to the ideas Wainaina puts forward in Granta.
I went to Jamaica (for 36 hours…) a couple of months ago to lend a hand with a benefit for “Students and Staff Expressing Truth”, a computer-education and personal growth program based in Jamaica’s prisons, led by the remarkable Kevin Wallen. Wallen, with encouragement from my collegue Charlie Nesson, has started posting on Charlie’s blog. It’s a little odd to read Charlie’s blog and not know whether to expect Harvard’s most exciting law professor or a brilliant young social activist… but I suspect that’s how Charlie likes it. Kevin’s recent post about his “Unchained” radio show, which broadcasts songs requested by family on the outside for inmates, was especially moving to me.
It was amazing to watch people meet each other at the Global Voices conference earlier this month – David Sasaki and Georgia Popplewell, for instance, who’ve become a dream team covering the Americas, but hadn’t met face to face before coming to London. (BTW, don’t miss David’s excellent recent post on translation and language…)
I knew the meeting between Haitham Sabbah, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage living in Bahrain and Lisa Goldman, an Israeli of Canadian extraction, would be an important one. It was, though, not an easy one for either participant – Lisa called it “difficult” and “cathartic” – Haitham tells us the talk caused him three sleepless nights. It also led him to post an amazing piece, called “Should We?”, where he makes a brave commitment to building bridges between Palestinians and Israelis.
It’s not a surprise to me, reading back on Lisa’s blog, that talking with her could inspire one to commit to building bridges. A beautiful piece from a few weeks back – “Fear and loathing in the Middle East” – is one of the best meditations I’ve seen on the human tendency to fear that which we don’t know about… especially things we think we know about and absolutely don’t.
Back to work. Happy solstice, everyone.