Writersflock

Monday Briefing/Read: The Economist — “Progress and Its Perils”

Posted in Current Events by mcarmen5 on 12/21/2009

My Economist arrived in the mail today and I was immediately drawn to this issue’s special report, “Progress and Its Perils.”

I highly recommend picking up their holiday special issue, which I usually like for their number of interesting articles and reports.  A couple years back, it was a feature on “Happiness” that was refreshing in its modern take and economic angle.

Not only is this issue’s cover pretty neat (check out Adam and Eve’s chic green iPod!), but I think it brings a bit of somber introspection to this decade’s challenges at the closing of 2009.

Another great article from this issue is Lexington’s “Bah, Humbug.” Given some of the recent progress in health care reform, readers will find something worth thinking and talking about (just be sure not to bring it up to that politico uncle of yours at Christmas dinner).   It focuses on the case of Christian Science lobbyists who want to make health insurers pay for “faith healing,” or prayers, as Christian Science followers believe illness and cancer can be overcome with prayer.

Economist, 12/19/09

Going to America” is another interesting look at the shifting demographics in the U.S. While nothing entirely new if you’ve been following news and bits on population trends, it offers insight into the reasons why steady immigration may be helping the U.S. sustain growth and to avoid the problems of advanced aging countries like Italy and Japan. The other side of the coin, of course, is never far from such a claim, as the article takes into account the growing tensions in the racial fabric of America.

Filth: the Joy of Dirt

Finally, some light and fun pieces worth skimming: a piece on Politeness and its apparent decline in modern society, a feature on “Filth: The Joy of Dirt,” that looks into our contemporary obsession with soap and cleanliness, and for wine-lovers or history buffs, a piece called “Hedonism and Claret,” on how the 18th & 19th century English bourgeois shaped the wine industry.

Overall, this issue is definitely worth its newsstand price tag, or at least a browse when you’re in line!  That’s the Monday Brief for this week, enjoy!

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2 Responses

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  1. Pablo Garcia said, on 06/20/2010 at 5:03 pm

    I was looking for the “Progress and its Perils” because I remember reading it when it was printed. Definitely thought it was interesting. My favorite part is definitely the end of the article:

    At the end of Madach’s poem, Adam is about to throw himself off a cliff in despair, when he glimpses redemption. First Eve draws near to tell him that she is to have a child. Then God comes and gently tells Adam that he is wrong to try to reckon his accomplishments on a cosmic scale. “For if you saw your transient, earthly life set in dimensions of eternity, there wouldn’t be any virtue in endurance. Or if you saw your spirit drench the dust, where could you find incentive for your efforts?” All God asks of man is to strive for progress, nothing more. “It is human virtues I want,” He says, “human greatness.”

    Ms Neiman asks people to reject the false choice between Utopia and degeneracy. Moral progress, she writes, is neither guaranteed nor is it hopeless. Instead, it is up to us.

    Especially the “it is up to us”. This is interesting because even when we think about this economic downturn and what have you. We can place a lot of blame on government and banks and not enough regulation. But economic growth and stability is in the hands of the consumer. He is the one who decides whether to save or consume. I like to think that the government and banks and bad people were to blame for this economic downturn, but I would also say that it was also the consumer who decided his consumption patterns.

    Overall, good article haha. Man should always strive to progress, even if we never achieve the perfect ideal (which is nearly impossible to define as well), striving for it will always make us better off.

    • mlissm said, on 10/01/2010 at 2:34 pm

      I’m so glad you found the article interesting, too. I really enjoyed it and found that issue’s special report to be among my favorites. I’m just really happy to find someone else who not only read it but shared their insight. So, thank you so much for that! It definitely made my day. I’ll be posting more related briefings so we can discuss! :)

      And you’re right to note that there not only needs to be government and corporate accountability, but personal accountability as well in the habits and hands of the consumer. The bait (easy credit, sub-prime loans, etc) may have been attractively (or wrongly, if we subscribe value to it) in front of us, but we also had a choice at the time whether to take it.

      While I also agree that the pursuit of “progress” is often better than not striving for it at all, I couldn’t help but wonder what complications the next lucrative field of development may bring. We’ve had the IT boom and that brought with it its share of bounty and traps. I suspect our next frontier will be in that of the bio-tech/bioengineering fields, with potential consequences and weighty considerations that will overshadow those from the IT/web era.

      We can see some of the consequences of the Green Revolution of decades past today when we consider the decline in agricultural diversity and the seed wars between farmers and firms like Monsanto. Ethical considerations will be paramount in this field of development and I hope that we’ll be educated and insightful enough to find that balance between “progress and its perils” when confronted.


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