User:Vuara/The first global alphabet
Font: Latin Extended
In Europe, Latin script is used for a large number of languages which belong to diverse groups including Romance, Germanic, Slavic and Turkic. Because of the economically dominant role played by West European and North American countries in recent history, the typographic professions have catered first to their typographic needs. Consequently, the set of characters which serve West European languages (including English) has become the de facto standard. Through the technological development brought on by computers and communications, this process has been further accelerated. So-called 'standard Latin' or 'Latin-1' character sets, and consequently fonts, support the major West European languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. As a result of the prevalence of this terminology, fonts which support other Latin-script languages, including minority languages in Western Europe -- have been grouped under the broad term 'Extended Latin'. The major languages supported by various 'Extended-Latin' character sets include Czech, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Turkish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Lappish, Welsh, Maltese, Vietnamese, as well as a host of African, Polynesian and other languages. As we shall see below, practically every use of Latin script for a language other than Latin could be rightly called 'extended Latin'.
The Romans honed the Latin (or Roman) alphabet based on that of their once powerful neighbors on the Italian peninsula, the Etruscans. The latter had, in turn, evolved their alphabet based on a western version of the Greek alphabet. Intending only to write their own language, Latin, little did the Romans know that they would one day be credited with inventing the most popular script of all time. Today, Latin script has in every sense become the first global alphabet. It is quite ironic that English, the language in which the largest number of Latin-script books have been published, is not closely related to Latin. In previous centuries, Spanish, Portuguese and French, all three close relatives of Latin, have played the role of emissaries for Latin script. As an alphabet of choice, Latin script has become the lowest common denominator. Typically, when speaking of 'transliterating' a language, one usually means that the language is written in Latin letters. Behind this choice is the implied notion that the audience of people which can decipher Latin script is larger than that of any other script. For instance, when the People's Republic of China decided on Pinyin as the standard transliteration scheme for Mandarin Chinese, it based it on Latin script. Likewise, the various transliteration schemes for Japanese use Latin (Romaji) script. However, what is common, familiar, and even popular, is often not without fault. As a writing system for diverse groups of languages, Latin script is riddled with deficiencies. As we know it today, the Latin alphabet consists of 26 letters, 5 of which represent vowels while the remainder are consonants. Ironically, the repertoire of the alphabet did not develop into its currentform until after the demise of Latin as a vernacular. In fact, the small forms (alternatively, miniscule or lower-case) of the letters did not fully mature until the 8th century AD. However limited the basic Latin alphabet may be, it has been effectively extended through a host of ingenious techniques which include the use of accent and diacritic marks, small appendages, digraphs and even trigraphs. When we consider the phonological features of Latin in light of all possible, human-produced phonological features, it comes as no surprise that the repertoire of Latin script needed to be amplified. For example, Latin had no symbol for the initial sound in the English word 'shell'. As a result, English uses the digraph 'sh' to stand for the sound, German uses the trigraph 'sch', while some other languages resort to placing an accent over an 's'. The following are a just a few of the many phonological phenomena which were not foreseen for the original Latin repertoire: tone (as in Vietnamese or Chinese), pharyngeal sounds (as in Maltese), clicks (as in some African languages), ejectives (as in some Amerindian languages), alveolo-palatal fricative (as in Polish). Yet, in some way, all these phenomena have been represented successfully in Latin script, thus raising it to the rank of 'global alphabet'.
EPISODE ONE: "THE GLOBAL CONDITION"
From Public Radio International, I'm Christopher Lydon. This is the Whole Wide World. Kicking the tires of globalism, also known as "globaloney," the "ism" nonetheless of our age. A complex web of money, ideas, disease, culture, terror, hope, pollution, warfare, and conscience pulling the world together, tearing the world apart, or maybe both. There's a doctrine of global markets for Jeffrey Sachs to decipher…mobile capital and still a lot of people stuck in misery. Globalism is also the instant-message Internet, world music and literature, connections that Zadie Smith and the architect Tay Kheng Soon will think about out loud. How is it the so-called "world community" is coming apart around war with Iraq amid the global visions of a more functional human family? We're talking about global trends that could kill us, or make us wiser, more human; and we're sorting them, next…on the Whole Wide World.
CL: I'm Christopher Lydon…and this is the Whole Wide World. The mission of this radio series is to pull apart the riddles of global-ism and to thread our own path through the contradictions that come with a shrinking planet. Six billion of us earthlings can feel it now, that we're inextricably bound in many dimensions – environment, economics, culture, the genomics of our one global species. At the same time, though, lopsided measures of wealth and tools, toys and power, and the politics of terror seem quite capable of undoing everything. This hour we'll take a short journey from big-picture economics to architecture to literary fiction. For much of the first half hour, we're talking with a development economist who's chafing at the limits of his science and of US politics. Jeffrey Sachs: It's a little preposterous of a population that's five percent of the world's population that absolutely depends for its prosperity on global peace, to think that we will bully the world…
CL: But there's a "back of the book" here, too, of writers and artists talking about globalism, and plain folk with their own take on it. [Montage of quotes]
Colin Channer: We people in small countries can now engage global cultures without necessarily becoming destroyed by it.
Amber: The Romans understood globalism, the British understood globalism, the Russians understood it. I don't think Americans quite get that.
Zadie Smith: I think there is an odd idea amongst a kind of white majority that minorities consider themselves from an attitude of otherness; they don't.
Tay Kheng Soon: Can you really be a global citizen? I doubt it. Am I Chinese? Or am I Singaporean? Or am I a citizen of the world?
CL: We'll also retrace some of my steps in the past year doing talk radio in the Caribbean, in West Africa, and in Southeast Asia, trying to show that a local conversation can strike a global spark, live on the Internet.
[Montage] …We have been independent for forty years and yet we still go cap in hand begging… …America has this view of itself that is just really amusing. That they have a basketball match – the East Coast versus the West Coast – and it's a "world tournament"… …Everything in Singapore is about fabrication; it's an air-conditioned nation… …We're tired of hearing from everybody else but ourselves….
CL: I started to write my own alphabetical list of the symptoms of our global condition: A is for AIDS, the pandemic; B is for Bono, or Bob Marley, for that matter; C is for climate change; D is for Davos, the bankers' forum in the Alps. E is for Ebola and the killer viruses; F is for the financial markets that never sleep, trading yen, euros, and dollars. G is for the genome, the universal code of our human architecture; H is for the hungry two billion, living on less than $2 a day; I is for the Internet, the free, global instant-message service; I is also for imperialism, the no- no name for military, financial, and cultural domination; and on through the alphabet down to Y for the global musician Yo-Yo Ma, and Z for Zadie Smith, novelist of the globally cross- pollinated North London scene that's Jamaican, Bengali, Jewish, Chinese, Pakistani, and (vestigially) English.
Zadie Smith [reading]: This has been the century of strangers: brown, yellow, and white; this has been the century of the great immigrant experiment.
CL: Listen to this thematic fragment of what, I think, is a prophetic global novel, Zadie Smith's "White Teeth." She leaves you no doubt that coming out of "a century of strangers" we've arrived at a new place. She's writing about London, and a neighborhood where the whole British Empire seems to have come home to roost. But try this out at a city playground near you. She's noticing kids with a mix of front and back names, like Quang O'Rourke and Isaac Leung, names that tell you: something's changed. [Music]
ZS: It's only this late in the day that you can walk into a playground and find Isaac Yeung by the fishpond, Danny Rahman in the football cage, Quang O'Rourke bouncing a basketball, and Irie Jones humming a tune. Children with first- and last-names on a direct collision course. Names that secrete within them mass exodus, cramped boats and planes, cold arrivals, medical check- ups. It is only this late in the day, and possibly only in Willesden, that you can find best friends, Sita and Sharon, constantly mistaken for each other because Sita is white (her mother liked the name) and Sharon is Pakistani (her mother thought it best - less trouble). Yet, despite all the mixing up, despite the fact that we have finally slipped into each other's lives with reasonable comfort (like a man returning to his lover's bed after a midnight walk), despite all this, it is still hard to admit that there is no one more English than the Indian, no one more Indian than the English. There are still young white men who are angry about that, who will roll out at closing time into the poorly lit streets with a kitchen knife wrapped in a tight fist. But it makes an immigrant laugh to hear the fears of the nationalist, scared of infection, penetration, miscegenation, when this is small fry, peanuts, compared to what the immigrant fears - dissolution, disappearance.
CL: We'll come back to Zadie Smith's vision of a hybridizing world. Vegetables before desert, though; dismal science before design issues. Let's suppose that globalization is first and fundamentally an economic doctrine, premised on growth through free trade; it's a vision of open markets around the whole planet, a trading world without borders. Jeffrey Sachs is an eminence that the world and I trust. He's a development economist; his head is a work in progress. A boy- wonder on the Harvard faculty, Sachs became the famous "shock therapist" of the late 1980s, applying market principles to the sick economies of the Communist Bloc. The cold shower worked for Poland, then it gave Russia something like pneumonia. But by then Jeff Sachs was famous for other remedies: he coaches the Irish rocker Bono of U2 in the campaign for debt forgiveness, instead of endless austerity, as the way to treat bankrupt countries. Jeff Sachs has moved to the Earth Institute at Columbia [University] in New York to be closer to the Kofi Annan, the UN, and the fight on AIDS and other world epidemics. I began by asking him if the "masters of the universe" that he knows well and moves among know what they're doing.
JS: No. I think that's painfully clear. People live in their own worlds, not necessarily in the worlds and the realities inhabited by billions of other people on the planet. No, they don't have the expertise to understand the deeper problems. It's fairly frightening. Certainly we're living in a dangerous time right now. We seem to be at the edge of war, of all sorts of conflict. We are facing monumental challenges whether it's a disease pandemic in AIDS that is the biggest killer epidemic in modern history; whether it's a change in climate that we feel or droughts this summer, the floods in Europe, and the floods in Asia, and the failed monsoons in India, and the drought in southern Africa, and, no, the expertise is not where it needs to be; it's not with the leadership. Even the experts don't talk to each other; they don't understand how their problems are connected. We're somehow not naturally geared to even understand the problems across the street much less around the world. So while you talk about a "converging planet," perhaps the most shocking thing is really how divergent our lives are right now…the billions of people who are struggling to survive and the billion or so very rich people who sometimes seem to be completely unaware of their presence until disaster hits.
CL: That's the way it feels to me and I'm sort of the more scared to hear you say it, but is it a matter of expertise? Or is it a matter of heart, understanding, intention?
JS: I think heart and intention is the starting point because that would tell you: gee, I better really understand something about this issue, I better not just dismiss the poor and the dying around the world out of profound ignorance, as US officials have done implicitly and sometimes shockingly explicitly when they've said: "We can't treat people with AIDS, they can't tell time. We can't address their problems…"
CL: You mean they'll forget to take a pill or something…
JS: They won't know that it's morning or night; therefore, we're just going to have to stand by and let 'em die. And of course that's a matter of heart and ethics at the start, but then it really does get into knowledge: what to do, how to do it, how do you mobilize goodwill to real results? How do you make connections from community to community? How do you handle some of these big challenges that are real, global challenges, much more complicated than a lot of the things that we normally grapple with?
CL: I want to just ask you to stand back and decode this global thing and the many globalisms, I mean, economic doctrine about the free flow of capital, somewhat less free flow of goods and workers; environmental globalism, this dread of climate change [and] habitat collapse. There's the whole refugee matter, spilling here and there and having very scary effects in places like France and Australia. There's global disease. There's also global medicine and global pharmacies. But I also want to talk about the genome, which is…It seems to me we forget this enormous sea change in the way all of us think. We know now, as we didn't know when I was in college, that it's one species with a universal grammar, a whole host of universal human qualities. It's one brain, probably, the world over and all the old differences of race and complexion and hair kink and whatnot are very, very recent and cosmetic things. I said this to a wonderful man in Africa and he said, you know, it's good to know that biological connection but the disparity of social circumstances has never been greater, and he talked about, you know, we read about Chinese men putting themselves in the cargo bay as a way to get to England, or…but he was talking about, not just boat people [but] people virtually crawling across the Sahara Desert to get to menial jobs in Greece, say, but he also said a fascinating thing, right out loud, on the radio, he said, you know, my friends and I talk about...if you put a slave ship in the harbor at Accra in Ghana and said - we're going to America, risky passage, maybe generations of agony, but we're going to America, he said, it would be full overnight. And that's Ghana, that's in many respects a model…a model country. How do we deal with this…you know…these many, many strands?
JS: You made pretty clear and pretty vivid how much upheaval in our world there really is. This is the story of our generation. It's the story of recent generations. The world's changed in such fundamental ways over the course of just three or four lifetimes that we're just trying to race to get our minds around some of these realities. You know it took thousands and thousands of years for very, very slow growth of the human population to fill the world and all of a sudden, about two hundred years ago, the population explosion, we've got six billion people on the planet now; two centuries ago it was one sixth of that – about a billion people. The fact that our technologies have thrown us together so that people who are literally at the edge of death may be bombarded with television images of Beverly Hills and are somehow the most impoverished and the richest are thrown together in this common cultural space - we've never had that before. And our ethics did not prepare us for this. Our ethics taught us a lot about living within our local communities, but it often poisoned our capacity to bridge across communities, much less across different regions. It seems to be our fate after September 11 to fall into Sam Huntington's trap of the "clash of civilizations," as if somehow Christianity and Islam are going to be off to war with each other. We seem to be condemned through our simplicities and simple mindedness, our inability to have real discussion across cultures, our tribalism still in the early years of the 21st century, [our inability] to pull back from war, which could be absolutely devastating.
CL: Let's talk about that, I mean, the Bush Doctrine...we're number one forever...we'll intervene where we choose with friends if possible, but on our own if not; it's basically our way or no way...
JS: It's a little preposterous. It's a little preposterous of a population that's five percent of the world's population that absolutely depends for its prosperity on global peace to think that we will bully the world. When I go to China, as I do regularly, and you see these huge cities and the technological advances and the buildings literally going up before your eyes and literally around the clock, whether they're putting up new floors at 2 a.m. because they can't ...it's just…economic growth without limit. You understand that we're really not the center of the universe; we're not even the center of our planet. It's not for us to bully the whole world. It won't work in the end, but could do a lot of damage trying, no question about it.
CL: I wanted to bring Jeffrey Sachs back to economics and the scorecard of development. For a lot of poor countries the game is about getting loans and blessings from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But the Nobel-Prize economist, Joseph Stiglitz, who served high in the Clinton administration, and is now Jeff Sach's colleague at Columbia, has just blown a very big whistle on the development game; it's sort of a shell game, he has written, an invitation to still deeper debt.
CL: What does the world do with this kind of candor?
JS: There's been a huge progress from world markets and international trade for a lot of people. Think about China. It's booming. And a boom in China…that means 1.3 billion people with significant, even unprecedented economic advance in the last generation, heavily due to globalization.
CL: But not to the World Bank and not to…
JS: Oh, certainly not to the specific advice of the INS and the World Bank.
CL: But not to foreign loans is what I mean . . .
JS: In the case of China, it's been very clever policies to attract foreign investment, the true globalization, a lot of American and European and Hong Kong and other factories built on China's coasts now employing tens of millions of people putting out all the goods we buy all the time. It's the biggest export boom in the history of the world. So that's globalization that's successful.... But on the globalization scorecard: has globalization worked for Malawi? Has globalization worked for Tanzania? The answer is: absolutely no! Is it because they're just bloody-minded dictatorships? No, those two countries happen to be multi-party democracies where the presidents are real leaders; they're a sophisticated people. But the problem is that with the malaria, with the AIDS epidemic, with El Nino, with the droughts, with soil depletion, with impoverishment, globalization doesn't reach them and the IMF and the World Bank advice in those countries has been absolutely dreadful. It was absolutely destructive of what those countries needed. What those countries needed was a health care system. What those countries needed was not the budget cuts that the IMF championed. What those countries needed was help. And the IMF didn't say, we bring help. The IMF said, we bring the message of budget cuts or else. So, globalization is complicated. And, sometimes the winners are winners because of good policies; sometimes the winners are winners because they happen to be on the border of a rich region. Sometimes geography is devastating as it is in drought-ridden Malawi right now and, frankly, that seems to be as much related to the warm waters of the Eastern Pacific and the current El Nino as it is [to] anything that President Muluzi is trying to do to keep his people alive and that interconnection of climate, population change, disease…it's complicated, it's off the radar screen of our policy makers. They don't care anyway, particularly about "these little places with dying people." And, by the way, Chris, you turn around and then the story is: Oh! The Congo! This place we could care less about may be a place where uranium is now going to be…is being smuggled or has been smuggled or could be smuggled to Iraq and, all of a sudden, these meaningless little places start looming in significance for the United States. The truth is: in an inter-connected world, it all matters and it matters not only for our heart; it matters for the most practical ways as well. We have a million people with AIDS. AIDS started in a jungle in West Africa, according to the genomic evidence. AIDS wasn't picked up as a disease that spread probably from a chimpanzee to a human maybe having eaten bush meat or hunting in the bush. It wasn't picked up in Africa. It probably fulminated in Africa for years, but since there's no health care system, since there's no disease surveillance, we just sat back and all of a sudden the whole world is fighting this pandemic. Are we interconnected with the jungles of West Africa? You're darn right we are….in the most direct and tragic and painful way. Are we interconnected with what you would have probably put on the map as the most remote place in the world that couldn't conceivably do us any harm (of course I'm thinking of Afghanistan), of course we found out we're interconnected with Afghanistan. Do we have a stake in the Congo? Well, if it's uranium that's getting to Saddam's regime, you're darn right we have a stake in the Congo. But we're not getting geared up to think about these things. We're geared up to believe that we run things, that it doesn't matter what happens in the rest of the world, that we really don't have to care. When I say "we," I actually don't mean the American people, I mean the way that the political system and our leadership has just missed the truth on this and is missing the truth right now.
CL: Listening to Jeffrey Sachs, it strikes me now that part of what we're hearing is a brilliant and idealistic man catching up with the limits of his best thinking, the limits on a lot of good effort. Jeff Sachs made house calls as an "economy doctor" to Bolivia and to Vietnam in the mid-1980s, with a bag full of monetary theory. I was amazed to hear—and I think he was amazed to say— that, at that time, it didn't occur to him that geography had something to do with the economic development paths of Bolivia, which is 13,000 feet up in the Andes, and for Vietnam, in the thriving Pacific Basin.
JS: And this obvious geographical point, it was so trivial that it sounds preposterous. Not only was it not in my own observation at the beginning, but it's not even in the professional observations today…because if you ask what's wrong with country x to a typical economist, they'll give you a long list of economic variables, they won't mention whether there's malaria, they won't mention whether you're on an earthquake zone, they won't mention whether you're landlocked at 13,000 feet – completely unrealistic because there's an incapacity, it seems, to move beyond the stovepipe of the narrow discipline to address other issues.
CL: So, global experience keeps a good economist humble, and it's kept Jeff Sachs moving – from the classroom to the world, from debt issues to diseases, from a Detroit boyhood and an American perspective to putting his big hopes with the UN. Doing radio myself on the road this past year, I've sometimes felt like a very poor man's Jeff Sachs, catching up with the many conundrums of growth and prosperity. You see spectacular differences in the trajectories of development between say Ghana, poorer today than it was on liberation 45 years ago, and Singapore, which got its independence from Britain and Malaysia [at] about the same time and now lives richer than most Americans do at home. You see very different shades of post-colonial feeling and politics: Ghana and Singapore have both come to love the Brits. The Queen of England is a celebrity and a friend, as she is in Jamaica. It's so unlike Zimbabwe and the raw anti-colonial anger that President Mugabe could still whip up in his reelection campaign. There are terrific contrasts in cultural vitality, as well. And, oddly enough, Ghana turns the tables on Singapore there. Ghanaians are hugely invested in their musical voice and its place in the world. What is Africa's comparative advantage in the cultural marketplace, I asked. The bold answer was: Africa supplies the content. In dance, design, and music, Africans see themselves as "the source." Rich Singapore, on the other hand, feels voiceless. And as a young playwright said to me on the air in Singapore: "Even if we find this voice, we wouldn't want to recognize it unless someone from the US or the West would give us a prize for it."
Chien Tse Chong: We don't really value what we have. Everything that we need could be easily imported, so why struggle over local culture, why struggle with a local voice, why struggle with anything that is indigenous.
CL: Which gets back to the conversation with Jeffrey Sachs…The Ghanaians know their music and they know their culture, they know their history and they're deeply invested in it. The Singaporeans basically have bought Hollywood and Bollywood and they'll tell you [they] don't know who [they] are anymore. They all want to talk, that's one thing in common...
JS: Especially with you, Chris
CL: Well, they bear with me…but um…the question is…I mean…none of the old, single answers apply. But are there still answers, Jeff, in figuring this puzzle?
JS: There really are answers and some are obvious, some are not so obvious, some require a lot more work. So, if you see in Ghana that malaria remains, as it does, absolutely rife in the cities, in the countryside, killing children still in very large numbers, you have to say, "Well that has to be attended to." It's pretty much common sense that each society, if it is going to have a chance, has to have healthy, surviving children that go to school and that therefore can participate economically in our global conversation, in our global economy. Singapore, as an island without the mosquito vectors that Ghana has, didn't have that problem. Singapore also, by being on the sea path between China and Europe and Japan and Europe, has about the best real estate in the world from the point of view of an international trading system. It was the center of the trading route. So when Lee Kwan Yew [Senior Minister of the Republic of Singapore] boasts about all that he's done (and he's done a great job), if he were out in the South Pacific, it would not be Singapore. He was just where he was because he had the best location in the world from the point of international trade. Well, Ghana, you got to get the port working…it's not…it's another obvious point. So you look at these problems and here comes the real rub: Ghana is in a trap of poverty, it just can't afford to fight malaria and keep the children in school and pay the doctors enough not to leave. And you can do it on a napkin; you can do it on a spreadsheet; you can do it on a full-blown budget. They can't afford to get out of poverty; that's the trap that they're in right now.
CL: That's one important point that Jeff Sachs says he got right from the beginning: there are certain desperate cases that cannot save themselves.
JS: I always did know from the practical experience (and I hope from the heart in the right place) that a place like Bolivia needed help. I knew from the first day of Poland; if we didn't cancel the debts, Poland could not get out of Communism. It all adds up to continuing crisis for Ghana and all of Singapore's success (and it's a success of globalization) doesn't prove the case that globalization works willy-nilly for Ghana, or for it's neighbors in West Africa, or for many other places in the world where it isn't working.
CL: So there's an uncomforting overview from a congenitally cheerful economist who says that his colleagues are not factoring in disease or population or climate, that the policy guys are in a bubble, that our better public instincts are not engaged yet. Coming up next…the globalization of arts and letters. You're listening to the Whole Wide World, produced in association with WGBH Radio Boston, from PRI, Public Radio International.
CL: It's my reflex by now, with an idea as broad as "globalism," to ask: what do the writers think? Because the poets and novelists always feel the trends first, and because the Salman Rushdie class of writers has been working these new, international themes and markets for years. Zadie Smith's novel "White Teeth" is a favorite among the rising global literati. Still in her mid- twenties, Zadie Smith is a sort of embodiment of her global theme: English father, Jamaican mother; she's a prophet of what looks from the outside like a sort of human hybridity.
ZS: I think "hybridity" is only a notion to people who aren't mixed. To people who are mixed, it's as much a fact as having two arms. I never considered it. It's just something that I am and I've always enjoyed being, not knowing any other kind of life, which is how we all are.
CL: I had been reading "White Teeth," underlining, scratching notes and thinking: this is a perfect distillation of the global idea, when literally I bumped into her in a Harvard Square bookstore, and then asked her to talk with us.
ZS: I think there is an odd idea amongst a kind of white majority that minorities consider themselves from an attitude of otherness. They don't. They just walk around having themselves as central subjects the way everybody else does. It's impossible to consider yourself as "the other," or "the black guy," or "the weird Chinese girl." No one thinks of themselves that way…and politics based on that idea don't make any sense to me; it's an unnatural position.
CL: One of Zadie Smith's characters in "White Teeth" is an English-Irish horticulturist. Joyce is her name. She writes gardening books and proclaims hybridity for plants and for people as the key to survival in the tough new climate. In short, we've got to improve our human genes by mixing them up, just as we've done to our flowerbeds.
ZS [reading]: If it is not too far-fetched a comparison, the sexual and cultural revolution we've experienced these past two decades is not a million miles away from the horticultural revolution that has taken place in our herbaceous borders and sunken beds. Where once we were satisfied with our biennials, poorly colored flowers thrusting weakly out of the earth and blooming a few times a year (if we were lucky), now we are demanding both variety and continuity in our flowers, the passionate colors of exotic blooms 365 days a year…. In the garden, as in the social and political arena, change should be the only constant. Our parents and our parents' petunias have learned this lesson the hard way. The March of History is unsentimental, tramping over a generation and its annuals with ruthless determination. The fact is, cross-pollination produces more varied offspring, which are better able to cope with a changed environment. It is said cross- pollinating plants also tend to produce more and better-quality seeds. If my one year-old son is anything to go by (a cross-pollination between a lapsed Catholic horticultural feminist and an intellectual Jew!) then I can certainly vouch for the truth of this. Sisters, the bottom line is this: if we are to continue wearing flower in our hair into the next decade, they must be hardy and ever at hand, something only the truly mothering gardener can ensure. If we wish to provide happy playgrounds for our children, and corners of contemplation for our husbands, we need to create gardens of diversity and interest. Mother Earth is great and plentiful, but even she requires the occasional helping hand!
CL: The hybrids see this world differently from the monoculturists; they are a lot more relaxed about diversity.
CC: I don't think that globalism will necessarily diminish the variety of literary voices. [Music]
CL: I met another hybrid soul in Jamaica, Colin Channer, a novelist who moves easily between Kingston and Brooklyn, New York. He is rooted in a small island that has global ambitions – in Olympic bobsledding (quite astonishingly!), also in track, in pop music, and in literature. What I kept seeing in Jamaica was the invasion of American brands and voices: CNN, KFC, BET – modern vehicles of what the Jamaicans label "cultural imperialism." But what Colin Channer also sees is a new context where small countries get relevant in the big world. Their leverage is what Colin Channer calls the "reggae aesthetic."
CC: Reggae is more than a music, you know. Reggae took the Jamaican people out of a kind of binary discussion with Britain about colonialism and slavery. It broadened the range of subjects that one could talk about. Reggae also had this really broad emotional palette, from anger to meditation to excitement to romance to eroticism. It's politics, Rastafarianism, it's socialism, it's philosophy, it's nutrition...(laughs) and weed, great weed, right? Reggae demonstrated a model of a narrative art that was its real power. One of the greatest achievements of reggae music was that it presented to Caribbean authors a model of art that could bring the ideas from little people in a small place to the world. Now that is a model of assurance and, as V.S. Naipaul says, every writer needs a tradition to lean on (I am paraphrasing Naipaul, right?), needs a tradition to lean on. Reggae gave the Caribbean writer that assurance that there was this tradition (right?) that was respected around the world (right?), and that it was okay to speak with passion about what you were seeing outside your window with assurance that it would be relevant to somebody far, far away. You know, when Bob Marley sings about…sings "No Woman, No Cry"…and when Bob Marley talks about Trenchtown, and when he talks about Trenchtown with the assurance that everybody else will understand it (right?), Marley is absolutely right, because somebody listening to "No Woman, No Cry" in Johannesburg will realize that Johannesburg is Trenchtown. Or somebody listening to "No Woman, No Cry" in Alabama will realize that Alabama is Trenchtown. Before reggae in Caribbean literature, there was always a tacit understanding that our experience was not universal, that it was local (right?) and that Dickens' world was universal (right?) or, you know, that the world of Hemingway was universal (right?). Reggae showed us that our world was universal but that the universal power of our art would only come when we wrote so specifically about our local (right?) that it would put somebody far away into the mindscape of our experience, and that is where the work would get its universal power. In other words, the less you try to be yourself, the less relevant you'll be, the less global, the less universal you will be. Creating art comes from being intensely local, intensely specific, so that people can then see, and in clear relief, how your life mirrors their own.
CL: The very Jamaican sound of that housing project in Kingston, Trenchtown, still resonates around the world. But for a lot of artists and cultural figures elsewhere, there can be torment in this modern transition – a sort of torture in finding a new identity. I felt it specially in Singapore, the richest little city-state since imperial Rome or perhaps 14th century Venice. Against the peacock skyline of modern, global Singapore, there was an architect I wanted to hear from again. He had said something I'll never forget: that the human spirit has been proven invincible in the face of adversity, but it may well be defenseless in the grip of wealth. Tay Kheng Soon has designed striking modern buildings, homes, temples, a huge downtown hospital. He draws on a lot of Malayan motifs, and he builds for a tropical environment. His beef with most of Singapore's new, world-class profile is that it ignores both history and geography. It has forgotten its "Asian-ness" and its equatorial climate…and it has patched over what's missing in authenticity with imitation and fizzy emptiness.
TKS: Well, the modern architecture in Singapore is completely copied from elsewhere. I mean, there's hardly any innovation at all. Most of the big buildings here have been designed by American architects. There is nothing so wonderful about it. We are living in the tropics and yet these buildings are huge energy guzzlers. They are uncomfortable. Street life around these mega- structures [is] totally poverty stricken; I mean, the city is empty at night. The central business district, like all the central business districts which we copy, has no life. Why should that be so? I mean, why are planners and architects constantly genuflecting on the altars of western taste? I can't understand this.
CL: In the global alphabet, K is for kitsch, the bad art of imitation and bubbly banality.
TKS: I describe "kitsch" as a narcotic, you know, because the pain of everyday existence is just too great. So we need a kind of…an aesthetic to dull the pain, you know, and kitsch is just a pleasurable form of narcotic, isn't it? And so you find all the major cities of Asia going through this phase. I mean, the change is incredibly fast and people are highly disoriented. So you have the city center of all the cities in Asia having the steel and glass towers trying to look like New York or Houston, and then the surrounding condominiums are all kitsch and the pattern repeats itself in every city -- Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Guangzhou, everywhere, Japan included. China is the biggest of all kitsches because it is going through incredible psychological trauma. When you have successful modernization pulling in one direction, the kind of reaction to that is a loss of identity and even a sense of alienation, and as a result of the pulling apart between modernization – power and wealth and identity crisis – then something has to fill the gap in between, you see, and I think that is kitsch. Terror and kitsch are opposite sides of the same coin. They are simply reactions to the rapidity of modernization.
CL: An antidote to this, says Tay Kheng Soon, may be resolute self-searching and self-expression in the midst of all this change. What's missing from the Asian skyline, Tay Kheng Soon says, is the Asian consciousness.
TKS: I think there has to be some kind of toughness in the local sensibility and I don't mean a kind of return back to the village or the return back to some kind of presumed golden age in the past. You know, I mean a kind of toughness in wanting to be yourself in the contemporary time. Can you really be a global citizen? I doubt it without having some kind of notion of your own self and your own worth. I myself have this question: Am I Chinese? Or am I Singaporean? Or am I a citizen of the world? I think any kind of thinking person in the contemporary world has to take his own existence and his own consciousness seriously. Otherwise, if you do not take your own consciousness seriously, then you are simply an object of manipulation.
CL: It may well be harder to be yourself in Singapore than it is in Jamaica. TKS believes the real project in Asia is to break with the old conformity and authoritarianism most especially in the new global China.
TKS: One artist I met - Chinese artist who migrated to Paris - said to me that the worst thing for the Chinese people is China. He said it in jest, but I think he's quite serious about it. China is a great destroyer of the human spirit and if you read Gao Xingjian's book called "Soul Mountain" (which is regarded in China as pornography, but he got the Nobel Prize for that book and it's a very deep book), I mean, when I read it tears came to my eyes. There's a cry from the heart; this man - there's a cry from the heart about the kind of conditions in which the human spirit is being violated almost as a reflex against the privations of everyday life. It's a horrific kind of existence and, of course, today it is being assuaged by all the glitzy buildings and, you know, lifestyle in the bright lights of Guangzhou and Shanghai and all these other places. And it's going through this, but there is (I'm told) a kind of resistance movement, artistic resistance movement. Deep thinking intellectuals are beginning to emerge, particularly in Beijing, who are questioning these things. In Taiwan, there is a kind of deep dialogue going on also. In Singapore there is a very small group of people beginning to address these questions of life in the modern phase and how do we actually address the kind of degradation of the human spirit both by development as well as by deprivation. So these are the kind of deep issues that are there.
CL: So there is a taste of some differences among serious people. Jeffrey Sachs marvels at the biggest export boom in human history, the 24-hour pace of construction in the big Chinese cities, globalization at its best, he says. And Tay Kheng Soon warns you that the human spirit can be crushed by development maybe faster than by deprivation. Will the human beings who live through all this be nourished and sustained by it – as the writers Zadie Smith and Colin Channer seem to think – or will they be disappointed and degraded by it? Let's remember that the global fault-lines and the divisions of entitlement run through our own country, too. "Amber" is the radio name of a talk-show caller in Boston. She's a young woman without a country, without identity papers. She's been living in America for almost 20 years now, an impoverished guest at our rich table. An exile in our midst, uninvited, maybe not quite welcome, but she notices things.
Amber: I was born, raised in the West Indies, you know. Therefore, like most West Indians a la Colin Powell, I was born a conservative and I've been recovering ever since. I'm this strange little hybrid creature of the new world, the old world. I'm African as far as I'm concerned because of where my roots are; I'm American in the big context of that word "American," not the puny, tiny, small context that it has come to represent. I'm European based on having Scottish grandparents; I'm English based on the education I had; I'm Latino based on where my grandmother and one grandfather came from; and I was raised to believe that there's nothing wrong with what I was told at my dining room table, my dinner table, without the electricity but with the hot piping food… and stern lectures from an old grandfather…that that was a fabulous thing to be. It was great to be able to enjoy Cuban jazz and yet want to read Dickens, to live Elvis and yet to love Calypso and still know who the hell Picasso was. There was nothing wrong with that; that was encouraged at my dining room table. And I was told that was the heart of what globalism was. You would think that I would be eating this idea of globalism up, but I am not. I don't know what that word means anymore; I don't know what globalism should mean, might mean, could mean, in present society. The only thing it appears to stand for anymore is the idea that an American businessman can pay a teenager in the Philippines, you know, five cents a day to make Nikes so American kids can walk around the streets in them. Then turn around and re- sell to the Philippines, you know, repackage rap music (allegedly from the American ghetto), and then we all sit around and pretend we're all one big, connected society, which we're not. We're further apart now than we've ever been before. We're just a lot better at buying American McDonalds. That's it. That's all globalism has become today. I should be able (you would think in an era of globalism) to see that world that my grandfather kept telling me to go see, go enjoy. God put it there for you, girl; go get it, you know, go see it. It doesn't work that way. Things are tighter than they've ever been. I can't put this into fancy language, so I will just put it in simple terms: you can't get in here, here being America; you can't move around in here; there is nothing but fear and suspicion on the ground level. And Europe, you know, is slowly becoming the United States of Europe as well. It used to be you could count on this notion of jobs that real, quote unquote, Americans didn't want. There was almost a secret code that folks were needed to come here without papers, without their green cards, to clean those toilets, wipe those kids' behinds, stuff like that. Now, no one's even hiring for those jobs anymore 'cause, you know, we might be the wrong-god-worshipping heathens looking to do damage or threaten Ashcroft's national security, quote unquote. Even that seems to be disappearing, even that little small portal to globalism seems to be disappearing.
CL: Amber, you live inside this country but outside the gates in a certain way of the society itself. What's it like to deal with…the sort of…the dark side of INS restrictions all the time?
Amber: You mean, I can't mail a letter in the main post office of the city I live it for 15 years…
CL: Why not? Tell me…
Amber: 'Cause I don't have a Massachusetts ID and a social security number. When I have tried to go to Boston Housing to report a landlord who is malicious, they will not let you in without that number, and either you leave right away or, you know, you sit there and you try and invent a lie, make up a lie.
CL: Amber, you say it is tough to get into the society, but what about into the conversation, into the culture?
Amber: Yes, the great national and international debates and dialogue of our day. Aah, I'm supposed to pretend…
CL: Are you sneering?
Amber: Yes I am. I am supposed to pretend at this stage that, you know, the microphone has gotten bigger, it's being passed around to more people, but that's a lie, you know. The microphone has not gotten bigger; the conversation has not gotten bigger; it's not being passed around to any new or different voices; it's the same people, the same voices, at the same seats at the same table; it's Rupert Murdoch, it's Bill O'Reilly, it's the New York Times, it's the Washington Post, increasingly all saying the same thing, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing on the ground level…
CL: Saying what, Amber?
Amber: Representing their interests, the interests of the comfortable, the interests of those in power, the interests of the satisfied. They sure as hell don't represent the interests of those on the streets of Palestine, Iraq, or Detroit, or Brixton. Those voices are being closed out even more; those voices don't even have the option to protest…[they] are becoming more and more frustrated. That is globalism. There is a reason why Africa to Mr. Brokaw and Mr. Jennings is nothing more than the place incubating AIDS or Ebola; it's not the place to go look for the African version of Dickens. That's globalism. Wouldn't it be great if Americans could look at Africa and see a place…and I am using Africa solely as an example…could see a place with million of human lives, rich lives, diverse lives, interesting lives, lives that want to read and learn about Sigmund Freud and William Shakespeare, life that might be the next Freud or William Shakespeare, life that could teach America and Americans so much. Wouldn't that be great if that was part of this globalism? Shakespeare in Port au Prince debating Freud in Beijing, loving Billy Holiday in Berlin, eating jerk pork in Moscow – that's my idea of globalism. We would be enjoying what it means to be human at its core, to be global, to be us.
CL: That's one undocumented American's view of the many globalisms. The paradox is everywhere: Globalization is a way to wealth for some, to calamity for others. It's a by-word for empowerment, also for a condition of helplessness. It's a race; it's a map; it's the 21st Century system. A successor to the Cold War, and to the ranking of first, second and third worlds. It's an economic doctrine that liberates the flow of capital, regulates the flow of exports, and tries to stop the flow of people. Aren't we all wondering: which of the global trends could kill us? Which could make us stronger? Or wiser? Or more human? We like to think of this program in Zadie Smith's biological terms as our own new garden of diversity and interest in the hybridized, herbaceous border of broadcast radio and the Internet. Please visit our global community online at thewholewideworld.net. The Whole Wide World is a collaboration of Lydon and McGrath Productions and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, in association with WGBH Radio Boston. We had help from producers Ben Walker and Katherine Bidwell, from engineer Tom Tiger, and Jake Shapiro of the Public Radio Exchange. Jay Allison of transom.org, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is our radio visionary. Thanks also to Keith Kiya Wilson, Justin Grotelueschen, Kezia Parsons, Josh Ward, the Christian Science Publishing Society, and public radio stations WCAI and WNAN on Cape Cod. Support for this program is made possible in part by the PRI Program Fund, whose contributors include the John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation. Mary McGrath is our executive producer. I'm Christopher Lydon.
Robert L. Owen was born in 1856 at Lynchburg, Virginia, of Scotch-Irish and Indian ancestry. Educated in the private schools of Lynchburg, he attended Washington and Lee University where he received a Master of Arts degree in 1877. Soon afterwards, he moved to the Cherokee Nation where he practiced law, taught school, and served as secretary of the Board of Education of the Cherokee Nation. In 1885, Owen was appointed agent for the Five Civilized Tribes and functioned in that position until 1887. Owen served as the attorney for the Choctaws beginning in 1890 and later in the same capacity for the Western and Eastern Cherokees. He organized the First National Bank of Indian Territory at Muskogee in 1890 and acted as its president until 1900.
Owen was elected to the United States Senate from the state of Oklahoma in December 1907 and was reelected in 1912 and in 1918. In 1920, Owen's name was submitted as a Democratic candidate for President of the United States. In the end, he ranked fourth among the candidates but declined the nomination for vice president. As a senator, Owen was the drafter of the Federal Reserve Act and the Farm Loan Act. Child labor laws were another of his interests. Owen retired from the U.S. Senate in 1925.
After his retirement, Owen engaged in activities which promoted the interests of Indians, both in the field of legislation and in the courts. He maintained his interest in world affairs and international law and became involved in a goal to enable people all over the world to speak together in a phonetic global alphabet. His later years were spent pursuing this project. Senator Owen died in Washington, D.C., on July 19, 1947.