Showing posts with label society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label society. Show all posts

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Is Inequality a Prerequisite for Economic Development?

In the previous blog post, I discussed the potential correlation between economic development and presence of nationalism at a state (rather than tribal) level.  But of course, to incentivize economic development requires a whole host of different factors, the presence of many at the same time in equal importance, rather than any particular dominant one, allow for an economy to take off.  I have no illusion that nationalism is the most important factor, and for many poor countries where nationalism is a fact of life, its presence is not even the obstacle holding back development.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Why an International Tech Firm Should be Taxed and Tariffed Like Any Other Multinational

Surfing the Internet around the world is often an exercise in homogeneity.  With the exception of China and a few other countries restricting Internet access to certain sites, every country in the world popularizes the same website and Internet services.  Facebook is used by people around the world in dozens of different languages to connect with friends, while Google and Wikipedia are nearly unanimous as the first sources of knowledge.  On the mobile phone, the likes of Uber and Tinder have provided people in all countries with similar services, despite different on-the-ground conditions.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why a Village is “Culturally Purer” than a City

As even the least developed corner of the globe undergoes continual shift of populations off farms and rural villages into the embrace of concrete jungles of urban society, the influence of cities on the overall outlook of the society and its future trajectory is becoming more and more significant.  However, to say that major cities are the primary indicator of a society’s characteristic would exaggerate the role that such cities may play in the overall economic and cultural development of the society in question.  Instead, the primary focus should be on small towns and rural villages, where the poorest of the poor continue to reside.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Is Competition or Cooperation Better for Leadership Development?

In the capitalist societies of today, often winners in the race to the top, of wealth, prestige, and power, is determined by constant competition for limited resources among all capable actors.  Many have been taken aback by the ruthlessness of such constant competition, arguing that the hostility of the competitions bring out the worst in our leaders, prioritizing success over ethics and goods human relations.  However, examples can demonstrate that for the youth to become good leaders, competition is still necessary for honing their necessary skills, including the very ability to seek cooperation in order to achieve certain goals.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What is the Perverse Incentive behind “Close Enough is Good Enough”?

A few months ago, there was a good article written on the prevalence of chabuduo (roughly translated as “close enough”) mentality in China.  A mentality widespread among the nation’s craftsman, it is responsible for countless examples of shoddy manufactures that together plague the reputation for “Made in China” both at home and abroad.  The article argues that the persistence of the chabuduo mentality, so ingrained in modern-day Chinese economy but largely absent historically in its ancient civilization, presents itself as a massive obstacle for the country to move up the value chain.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is "Proper" Customer Service for an "Outsider"?

The author has been living in the town of Iringa for so long that, not entirely deliberately, he has become a frequent customer in many of the town's local eateries.  Given that it is rather unusual to see Chinese people hanging out in local eateries to begin with, he has become a largely recognizable face among the staff of these eateries.  And as a recognizable face, he is often treated with smiles, handshakes, and quite a bit of eagerness with it comes to being informed of what are on the menu and recommended for the day.  For the longest time, the author simply thought such behaviors are just the norms of how staff in food places talk.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can Honesty be a Trait not Developed but Enforced?

A few years back, the author was traveling through the city of Hamburg in northern Germany during his vacation days as a Master's student.  Perhaps one of the most shocking (at least to the author) was how the subway trains crisscrossing the city did not have actual entrance gates in most stations.  Instead of a series of gates where commuters had to stick their train tickets into before emerging on the other side so that they can proceed to the train platforms, the Hamburg metro simply had ticket machines inside the trains to validate tickets, while the stations themselves simply connected to the outside without restraint on entry or exit.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Does an Unusual Practice Become a Norm?

About a year ago, the author wrote about how few people here in Iringa carry umbrellas and do not mind being in the rain.  It was just another when the author was taking a motorcycle taxi across town when the rains started to fall heavily.  The author did have an umbrella in his hand, but the motorcycle was going way too fast for it to be opened.  Even as the drizzles turned into downpours, the author did not even attempt to get the motorcycle driver to slow down or stop. As his clothes grew wetter from the rains, he realized that he stopped minding being in the rains...in a way more Tanzanian, maybe.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is "Enough" Really Enough?

When the author was traveling around Eastern Europe a few years ago, a Chinese man met on the bus told him of a Chinese friend who used to work on a potato farm in Russia.  The man said his friend was busy gathering potatoes during the season when all the sudden, the boss of the farm told him to stop.

“Hey, we got enough potatoes for the season, so you can stop now,” the boss said in a rather matter-of-fact way.

“Wait, so what do we do with the rest of the potatoes?  We still have many hectares that we haven’t harvested,” the friend was positively confused by the boss’ order.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Is Lack of Optimism a Bottleneck for Development in Africa?

There is an interesting fact that few foreigners know about Japan.  That is, the biggest ethnic population of Japanese people outside Japan live in Brazil, numbering more than 1.6 million for a diaspora that just 2.6 million strong worldwide.  From a modern-day perspective, the oversized presence of the Japanese in an economically struggling and geographically distant country like Brazil seem rather strange, especially when Japanese migrant populations everywhere, including in US, Europe, and Asia, are shrinking as fewer Japanese seek to go and live abroad.

Monday, January 30, 2017

"丟東西"對國民性的啓示

著者幫助建立的幾家小店中有一個共同的現象:開店不過幾周就有十幾張客戶的身份證被遺忘在店員手裏。雖説本店需要用客戶證件作爲貸款的前提,但這些證件衹需要被看到而完全無需留在店裏。當然,店員也從來沒有想要任何人的身份證。對他們來説,額外保存這些東西沒有任何實質上的意義。可也就不知爲什麽,多個客戶在知道身份證忘在店中也沒有着急,以至於即便店員多次打電話給這些客戶,這十幾張身份證還是遺留在店中達幾個月之久。照此下去,可能這些證件注重會在繁忙的店中丟失。

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When the Atmosphere Determines a Holiday

Chinese New Year, come to think of it, can be a very elusive holiday.  Since it follows the lunar calendar that shifts back and forth relative to the Gregorian calendar in use today, the exact date for it fluctuates every year.  There simply is not a clear reminder that "ah, it is Dec 25 today, so it is Christmas" or "ah, it is Jan 1 today, so it is New Year's Day."  Instead, to remember Chinese New Year's, one often just go with the flow as everyone else celebrates.  The local malls and streets, and at home the dinner table and the decorations certainly would not have one forget the important day.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ringing in the New Year's in Rural Tanzania

Looking at international news on New Year's Day, they are filled with the revelations of big ities around the globe.  The massive firework displays, the pulsing light shows emerging from skyscrapers, and the thronging crowds counting down in joy, the big city celebrations certainly deserve the coverages they get for their sheer scales, efforts, and mass participations.  Here in the little frontier Tanzanian town, the same, of course, cannot be expected.  But in its own, much more toned-down way, the people did go out to usher in the New Year, with drinks, food, and more reasonably scaled gatherings.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

“中華軟實力”之在非洲農村看抗日神劇

在著者爲組織運營的小店旁邊有一個販賣盜版DVD的商家。每天從清晨到傍晚,門前的一個巨型音響會將店内正在播放的任何DVD傳播到整個村裏。在這裏,這種DVD店非常常見。若干月前,著者也談到它們正成爲把韓劇帶入當地人民的視野。它們巨大的聲音給平靜的農村生活帶來一些色彩,也同時讓無電視、無網絡的農民間接的瞭解外面的世界。甚至可以説,當地農民的世界觀被這些店面銷售的DVD決定,而在他們無法走出農村的現實下,對外面世界的好奇心在某種意義上被滿足。

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lack of Street Addresses as a Bottleneck for Urbanization

There are many things provided as public goods that people in other parts of the world take for granted.  Many of those public goods simply do not exist out here in Tanzania, and the importance of those public goods are not realized until they are found to be non-existent.  One of these public goods is street addresses.  Even in the largest and most developed cities of the country, most streets have no names, there is no such thing as house numbering even on the streets that do have names.  Partially given the woeful state of the postal system, no systematic effort is undertaken to change this reality.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A "Pet" as a First World Concept

The house that the author resides in here in Iringa is now also inhabited by a 4-month-old kitten, a sort of pet that his roommate has been looking to acquire for sometime.  So far one of the most interesting thing about the experience is to observe how the Tanzanian housekeeper (who comes thrice a week) interact with (or, more accurately, behaves toward) the kitten.  To put concisely, it is almost one of bipolarism, petting the animal and giving her attention one moment, but loudly (and rather harshly) shooing it away whenever the kitten gets jumpy and playful enough to interrupt her housework.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Reconciling Religious and Traditional Pieties: Buganda Way of Taking in Christianity without Diluting and Losing Their Social Identity

“The great-grandfather of the current King is probably the most honored one of all the recent kings of Buganda,” the smiling young man kindly showing the author around the great halls of the Buganda Parliament proudly noted as they passed under a gigantic portrait of the young-looking king sitting on his throne at the turn of the 20th century.  “After all, he is the one who wrote a letter of Queen Elizabeth, asking her to specifically send Christian missionaries to the Buganda Kingdom so that the people can be taught of the great religion.”  He was quick to add as explanation.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How Modern-Day Liberal Internationalism is Fundamentally Neocolonialist

In a world where political labelling is rife, it is not easy to precisely define a set of values that constitute a political ideology.  "Liberalism" is a particularly tough one at that.  People speak of certain values being universal, especially when it comes to the field of human rights.  For such people, those who dare to oppose such values are not only barbaric and uncivilized, but also on the right side of history, sure to be perceived in the negative light in the history books of the future.  To them, it is simply unfortunate that these barbarians do not see their own barbarism and make self-motivated efforts to correct themselves.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Conceptualizing a Different Kind of Urban Space in Rural Africa

Iringa, in some ways, is a classic truck-stop kind of town.  Sitting on a top of a hill, it nonetheless serves as a transport hub where two of the country's major cross-country highways intersect.  A east-west highway connects the country's main port at Dar es Salaam with Zambia, providing ocean access for trucks coming from the landlocked interior of the continent.  And spurring off that east-west highway at Iringa is a highway leading north to the country's new showcase capital of Dodoma, where MPs and other political types from across the country congregate when the legislature is in session.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Bright Rural African Moon and Asia's Light Polution Problem

When one lives in a big Asian city, one tends to forget about what is up in the sky.  The context simply does not allow for casual relaxed upward observations.  On the streets, there are always people clamoring behind to ensure people move faster on sidewalks and pedestrian areas; high-rise buildings of all sorts densely sprouting out everywhere block out any chances of clear sky views at the ground level, and worst of all, flashy neon signs of commercial districts, along with thousands upon thousands of electrical illuminations make it impossible to see the sky clearly at night.