Century Marks

Century Marks

Not out of Africa

The African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, is trying to stem the continent's brain drain. William Kamkwamba is a good example of the type of students recruited to ALA: at age 14 he built a windmill to provide energy for his family in Malawi and subsequently wrote the international bestseller The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. ALA has drawn students from over 30 African nations. Many go on to study in the U.S. and Europe, but ALA students have scholarships that must be repaid if the students don't return to Africa to work for at least ten years (Christian Science Monitor, November 1).

For these uncivil times

Faithful Democracy, an interfaith group, has issued some guidelines for civil political discourse. Chief among them is showing respect for others and judging the success of political conversation not by who wins a debate but by how much new insight is generated. The group recommends storytelling as the way to share political views. Above all, "keep your head" and avoid a shouting match. When someone refuses to listen to you or interrupts with arguments, say: "You just shared your opinion and I listened without interrupting, could you please listen to mine?" (faithfuldemocracy.org).

National glue

What if there had been a popular uprising in reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush? What if the Florida recount had gone forward and Al Gore had won instead? Possibly there would have been no invasion of Iraq and no relaxation of financial regulations that led to an economic near-meltdown. Justice Stephen Breyer and three other members of the Supreme Court disagreed with the majority that ruled in Bush's favor. Yet Breyer said the most important and amazing part of this ruling was that both Democrats and Republicans accepted it peacefully. The rule of law holds this very disparate country together (review of Breyer's Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View in the New York Review of Books, November 11).

Curtain call

Desmond Tutu, former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, has sent a letter to the Cape Town Opera, protesting a scheduled performance by the company in Tel Aviv, Israel. "Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity," Tutu wrote, "so it would be wrong for the Cape Town Opera to perform in Israel." He said millions of people are denied the right to education and cultural opportunities in Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies. A South African Jewish group criticized Tutu's call for a cultural boycott of Israel and rejected the notion that Israel discriminates. A representative of the opera company said that while it respects Tutu's views, the company is promoting human values through the medium of opera (ENI).

Liberating the women

People who favor reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan and making a deal with the Taliban are sometimes asked, "What about the women?" Columnist Nicholas Kristof went to Afghanistan to explore that issue. He's reached the conclusion that the abusive treatment of women there is not just the fault of the Taliban. It's part of the culture. Some women he talked with said that the war is worse for them and their families than Taliban rule. The road to a better life for Afghan women is through education and economic empowerment. The organization BPeace is helping women like Soora Stoda, who is building a potato chip factory; Shahla Akbari, who is making shoes; and Shahla's mother, Fatima Akbari, who has 3,000 employees, mostly females, making jam, furniture, clothing and jewelry (New York Times, October 23).