Archive for the ‘Culture & Society’ Category

24
Apr

Is Tourism the Most Destructive Enterprise? Tourism explodes with globalization, enriching lives but destroying nature and culture.

By Elizabeth Becker

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The world has serious concerns over fiscal crises, security crises and environmental crises including climate change. 

And then there are vacations. Yes, vacations – the getaways when we can put aside lofty concerns and remember what living is all about: seeing friends, hosting family reunions, discovering a new artist at a provincial festival and running barefoot on the beach with salt air stinging our cheeks.

At least that was the definition of a vacation before globalization took off. 

Now vacations have joined the ranks of the biggest global industrial complexes. While few noticed, travel and tourism grew into a giant business sector and the world’s largest employer – beating out health care, education and retail. At least one out of every 11 people works in the industry, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Tourism contributes at least $6.5 trillion to the world economy every year. Since the 2008 recession, its growth rate has rebounded faster than manufacturing and financial services. And if frequent-flyer miles were a currency, they would be the most valuable in the world, even with all those blackout dates.

It turns out that tourism is the poster child for how to benefit from the global marketplace, for obvious reasons. Wholesale travel and tourism depends on open borders. With political developments and technology – new long-distance airliners that cross half of the globe in a single flight and the internet revolution – countries off the beaten path in South America, Africa and the Middle East are more accessible.

A chart of the rise of international tourist trips is a thumbnail history of globalization.

The modern era of “Europe on five dollars a day” began in 1960. That year 25 million trips were taken across foreign borders.

Ten years later the figure rose to 250 million, a significant increase but not earth-shattering.

Then came globalization and the opening of borders. The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s accomplished just that – opening long closed borders in Eastern Europe and Asia, a wide swath of nations behind what used to be called the Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain. This newly opened territory represented nearly one third of the planet, and by 1995, when most had opened up to tourism, there were 536 million trips.

Last year, the 1 billion mark was broken with the UN World Tourism Organization celebrating the event at its Madrid headquarters.

I dissect and explore this explosion of the tourism industry in Overbooked. The elusive octopus-like industry is everywhere and nowhere. Everyone takes vacations, but few see the industry behind them. Nowadays, any endeavor can be transformed into a travel package. Read more…

Elizabeth Becker is a former New York Times correspondent and senior foreign editor at National Public Radio.

As published by YaleGlobal Online on April 23, 2013.

19
Apr

China and the U.S. both want a rules-based cyberspace, but do not see eye to eye. A potentially dangerous Cyber Cold War awaits if they cannot agree on some rules of engagement.

By Trefor Moss

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Cyberspace matters. We know this because governments and militaries around the world are scrambling to control the digital space even as they slash defense spending in other areas, rapidly building up cyber forces with which to defend their own virtual territories and attack those of their rivals.

But we do not yet know how much cyberspace matters, at least in security terms. Is it merely warfare’s new periphery, the theatre for a 21st century Cold War that will be waged unseen, and with practically no real-world consequences? Or is it emerging as the most important battle-space of the information age, the critical domain in which future wars will be won and lost?

For the time being, some states appear quite content to err on the side of boldness when it comes to cyber. This brazen approach to cyber operations – repeated attacks followed by often flimsy denials – almost suggests a view of cyberspace as a parallel universe in which actions do not carry real-world consequences. This would be a risky assumption. The victims of cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sensitive about what they perceive as acts of aggression, and are growing more inclined to retaliate, either legally, virtually, or perhaps even kinetically.

The United States, in particular, appears to have run out of patience with the stream of cyber attacks targeting it from China – Google and The New York Times being just two of the most high-profile victims – and which President Obama has now insisted are at least partly state-sponsored. Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on April 19, 2013.

21
Mar

What Machiavelli Can Teach Us Today

Written on March 21, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Culture & Society, Foreign Policy

Machiavelli’s Virtue

By Robert Kaplan

Niccolo Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

What is modernity? Is it skyscrapers, smart phones, wonder drugs, atomic bombs? You’re not even close. Modernity, at least in the West, is the journey away from religious virtue toward secular self-interest. Religious virtue is fine for one’s family and the world of private morality. But the state — that defining political structure of modern times — requires something colder, more chilling. For the state must organize the lives of millions of strangers and protect their need to selfishly acquire material possessions. If everyone stole from everyone else there would be anarchy. So the state monopolizes the use of force, taking it away from criminals. The state appeals not to God, but to individual selfishness. Thus, it clears the path for progress.

Thomas Hobbes conceived of the modern state in his Leviathan, published in 1651. Hobbes is known wrongly as a gloomy philosopher because of his emphasis on anarchy. Hobbes was actually a liberal optimist, who saw the state as the solution to anarchy, allowing people to procure possessions and build a community. Hobbes knew that in the path toward a better world, order first has to be established. Only later can humankind set about making such order non-tyrannical.

But what did Hobbes’ philosophy ultimately build on? It built on the first of the moderns, the early 16th century Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli, whose masterpiece, The Prince, was written 500 years ago in 1513. Here is an anniversary as important as the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, celebrated in 1992.

By taking politics away from the narrowing fatalism of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, Machiavelli created the very secular politics from which Hobbes could conceive of the idea of the state.The Prince may be less a work of cynicism than an instructional guide to overcome fate — the fatalism of the Roman Catholic Church at that time. Thus, Machiavelli, more than Michelangelo perhaps, was the true inventor of the Renaissance. The founders of the American Republic, who conceived of a polity in which church and state were separate and in which government existed to lay the rules for individuals to compete freely in the struggle to acquire wealth, owed much to Machiavelli and Hobbes. Read more…

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, and author of the bestselling new book The Revenge of Geography.

As published in www.realclearworld.com on March 21, 2013 (originally published by Stratfor on March 20, 2013).

14
Mar

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The surprise selection on Wednesday of an Argentine, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the new pope shifted the gravity of the Roman Catholic Church from Europe to Latin America in one fell swoop, and served as an emphatic salute to the growing power of Latinos across the Americas.

The new pope took the name Francis and is the 266th pontiff of the church. He is the first pope from Latin America, and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.

“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the new pope, dressed in white, said in Italian from the balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica as thousands cheered joyously below. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”

The selection electrified Latinos from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, and raised the hopes especially of those in Latin America, where 4 of every 10 of the world’s Catholics now live.

But the choice also may provide a strategic boost to the church in the United States, where its following would have lost ground in recent decades were it not for the influx of Latino immigrants, who have increasingly asserted themselves as a cultural and political force, and played a critical role in President Obama’s re-election.

The significance of the choice was not lost on church leaders. “It’s been more than 500 years since the first evangelization, and this is the first time that there is a pope from Latin America,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who is originally from Mexico.

“It’s a huge role that we never had before,” he said.

The new pope, known for his simple, pastoral ways and his connection to the poor, is in some ways a contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, an aloof theologian who resigned the office — the first pope to do so in 598 years — saying he no longer felt up to the rigors of the job. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on March 13, 2013 (a version of this article appeared in print on March 14, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: New Pope Shifts Church’s Center of Gravity Away From Europe).

12
Mar

THOUGHTS ON MOOC’ING

Written on March 12, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Bachelor in International Relations (BIR), Culture & Society

By Rolf Strom-Olsen, Academic Director for the Humanities at IE School of Arts and Humanities

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I have to admit that until very recently the sound “mooc” made me think, not of some bold experiment in democratising educational opportunity, but rather of the great Mookie Wilson, who, despite being a Met, was one of the great ballplayers of the eighties and, incidentally, the batter whose ground ball ended up defining the 1986 World Series (yes, we’re still looking at you Bill Buckner!).

But move over Mookie, the world of the Massive Open Online Course has arrived. And not that long ago either. If we excavate on Wikipedia, as the site for internet archaeology, we find that the term garners an article only in 2011, and, for a long time thereafter, is tended to by only a few ardent enthusiasts (there is even the obligatory suggested deletion for new articles of uncertain value). However, the MOOC has had a fast ascent into the world of higher education since then, propelled by:
(1) the remarkable success of several high profile sites that have become focal points for online course in drawing offerings from very reputable institutions;
(2) angst-ridden hand-wringing about the very future of the academy, largely playing out in the pages of publications like the CHE; and
(3) apparently significant public buy-in.

When I was approached by my institution to offer a class in the uncertain world of MOOCs, it was this last point – public interest – that was largely unknown to me. I mean, how many people are there that want to follow an online class in Aboriginal Worldviews and Education or Combinatorial Game Theory?

Ok, so I know the answer to that now. Lots! Really an astonishingly large number, as in (cf. Douglas Adams) vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly large. Coursera, the platform on which my class appears, generates enrolments of certainly tens, and for some of the more popular courses, perhaps hundreds of thousands of participants. Now the drop out rate is also very high – which makes sense, since the model encourages more or less blanket enrolment for any class that seems even remotely appealing, followed by mass exodus when the reality of listening to people like me for six weeks kicks in.  But when you have 50,000 people signed up, even a 95% dropout rate leaves you with 2,500 following the class. Which makes such courses an order of magnitude bigger than the typical large college lecture class.

Read more…

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