Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
1 July 2007

On colonialism and Ronald Suresh Roberts

It is the most disconcerting experience to be reading Ronald Suresh Roberts´book on Thabo Mbeki while also reading the Rough Guide to Peru. Roberts talks at lenghth about the way Western discourse has infected our world view and at times he is actually quite interesting.

I like the fact that he is trying to create an alternative intellectual universe in which Thabo Mbeki always makes perfect sense and is really an intellectual hero. When he talks about the ways in which what we see as normal is really situated, he is rather good.

The problem is that he often argues like a little boy. For example he points out that Tony Leon (not his favourite man!) quotes Lord Acton. He then argues that Lord Acton was a dreadful man. Then this must inevitably mean in his book that Leon is also a terrible racist pig. Nee what, this is lazy reasoning of the worst kind.

The book also gives the impression of a rush job. It is not clear whether this is because he knocked it off in the past few months when the sponsors started asking questions about the million Rand they gave for the project or whether it is because he has such a busy mind that he cannot fix on one thing for long enough to actually build a sustained and coherent argument.

In any case, to read Suresh Roberts and then the guidebook makes the colonial mindset of the guidebook jump out at you. White people from Europe invariably ¨discovered¨all the great tourist attracions – as if locals did not live here and actually built the very same attractions. It is deeply irritating and almost puts me off travel.

The guidebook us aklso deeply patronising about local culture and politics. When pointing out some problem with Macchu Picchu they add that the authorities are aware of the problema nd claim to be doing something about it. The guidebook would surelñy not say the Italians are aware of the fact that the tower of Pisa is falling over.

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