Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cynicism of Ideals and Idealism of Cynics

Southeast Asia used to be (and in many ways still is) a playground for some of the largest developmental organizations in the world.  The fact that Asian Development Bank has its headquarters in the region, along with multiple offices of UNDP and aspiring smaller NGOs, says much about how modern developmental work has shaped Southeast Asian economies.  Indeed, the long presence of aid organizations here have contributed much to how people locally perceive themselves, seeing themselves often as the deservedly unfortunate individuals who should receive the constant developmental support they are receiving.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Asian Americans' Ambivalence toward Entrepreneurship

Back in the States, the Asians live with a widespread stereotype: they are the arch-typical white-collar professional set, with high salaries and stable careers but little creativity or adventurousness.  They are the doctors, the lawyers, and the engineers of America, acquiescing with parental pressures, displayed and strengthened at every opportunity possible, to pursue these subjects.  The results are an ethnic group that is almost homogeneously represented by meekness sprinkled with diligence, as they quietly toil day in and day out to further the ambitious goals of non-Asian leaders.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Social Disease of “Being Satisfied with One’s Lot”

It was field meeting day at a small Tanzanian village 45 minutes down a one-lane dirt path from the nearest paved main road.  The staff of the NGO, which honorably hosted the author in his three-day visit, was waiting in the village’s main “square” for the farmers’ arrival.  The field team has been working hard all day to go door to door, getting people’s commitment to show up for a 2pm meeting that explains in detail what programs the NGO has to offer to help farmers increase their yields for the next planting season.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Transport Hub of (In-) Convenience

For some reason, Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is the transport hub of intra-Africa flights.  The country’s flag carrying Ethiopian Airlines host flights across the continent, bringing visitors of the continent to the city’s smallish but comfortable airport.  Aside from the usual assortment of foreigners (backpackers on their way to safaris, mid-level managers of commodity firms, sprinkled with a few diplomats), the demographic of the airport’s transit population says much about the state of the continent’s political economy.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Casualties as Tools of State Propaganda

A few days ago marked the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Incident, and as usual, the mainland Chinese news outlets are busy with other matters in order to cover up the event.  Interestingly enough, this year there indeed is something tragic going to distract the attention of the masses.  The rapid sinking of the ""Eastern Star," a massive tourist cruise ship on the Yangtze River, brought about the death of hundreds of elderly passengers and once again put forth the doubts of the whole world on safety (in general) of living in China.

Monday, June 1, 2015

the Fortresses of Inequality

In North Jakarta, there is a neighborhood named Pantai Indah Kapuk (PIK) that neither show up on tour guides or in any Jakarta tourists' itineraries.  It lies beyond a highway and a mangrove forest that separate it from the main commercial areas of old town Jakarta.  Sure, the traffic on the main streets of PIK still remain, as is the case for most of the metropolis, but the hectic mass of people and shops that is the old North Jakarta is replaced with straight neighborhood roads, devoid of street-side shops and even pavement for pedestrians, but full of delicately manicured bushes and flowers.