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Quote of the Week: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Many of my colleagues say, ‘Well, you know, music is above or beyond politics.’ I have the opposite view. I would very much like to be in the centre of the political debate. And I think one of the problems of classical music, or whatever you call it, is that we have been marginalised as part of the uppermost crust of society.  We play our Mozarts and our Beethovens, and it’s quite pretty and it doesn’t annoy anybody.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, a Finnish orchestral conductor and composer. Salonen is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Quote of the Week: Angela Merkel

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I am regarded as a permanent delayer sometimes, but I think it is essential and extremely important to take people along and really listen to them in political talks.”

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and the leader of the Christian Democratic Union(CDU), a German political party, since 2000. She is the first woman to hold either office. Merkel entered politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989 and was formerly a physical chemist in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
 

Quote of the Week: Janan Ganesh

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The role of human agency is over-rated in politics. Not every development in public opinion is a reaction to something a politician has said or done.” 

- Janan Ganesh, a political columnist for the Financial Times. Previously, he was a political correspondent for The Economist. He appears weekly on BBC1's Sunday Politics television show and wrote a biography of George Osborne, the UK chancellor.
 

Politics, Economists and the Dangers of Pragmatism: Reflections on DFID's Governance and Conflict Conference

Duncan Green's picture

DFID really is an extraordinary institution. I spent Monday and Tuesday at the annual get together one of its professional cadres – about 200 advisers on governance and conflict. They were bombarded with powerpoints from outside speakers (including me), but still found time for plenty of ‘social loafing’, aka networking with their mates. Some impressions:

They are hugely bright and committed, wrestling to get stuff done in some of the most difficult places on the planet, familiar with all the dilemmas of ‘doing aid’ in complex environments that I talk about endlessly on this blog. A visitor muttered about the quality and nuance of discussion compared to the uncritical can-do hubris of much of what they hear in Washington.
 
In fact, since the Australians and Canadians wound up their development departments, DFID looks pretty well unique in the international scene – heroic keeper of the flame or aid’s Lonesome George heading for species extinction? We’ll find out over the next few years.

Quote of the Week: John Adams

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

- John Adams, the second president of the United States (1797–1801), and, before that, the first vice president of the United States (1789-1797). Adams was a statesman, diplomat, philosopher, and leading advocate of American independence.

How to Insult Your Opponent

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You really should not go around insulting those who take an opposing viewpoint in public debate. The ideal is clear. You treat opponents with respect. You take seriously what they are saying. In responding, you do not cheat, you do not unfairly sum up or characterize what they are saying. You acknowledge facts; you are not entitled to inventing your own facts. Above all, as much as possible, you avoid logical fallacies. You argue logically and cogently. For, that is the only way that the search for truth is advanced, and it is the only way that informed public opinion created. In short, abuse is no argument. Civility in public discourse is a great and worthwhile ideal.

And yet!

Much of public debate and discussion takes the form of invective. It was always thus; and it seems it will always be thus. The culprits, I suppose, are human passions; those self-same unruly horses that carry us to great heights when we want to achieve something worthwhile. We often become so convinced that we are right that we cannot imagine how anyone would disagree. And when we confront opponents who are as certain as we are that they are right something seems to snap. Faces contort. Abuse and spit fly. No matter how often people are told to calm down, commit to logical reasoning, respect facts… nothing seems to work. A huge chunk of public debate on the great issues of the day is characterized by the trading of insults.

Insults must serve a purpose, otherwise how come all public political cultures have them?

Quote of the Week: Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“The essential thing, the ultimate goal of politics and thought, is a bigger life for the individual. A bigger life – that remains the main objective…to increase our divine attributes to have moral life.”

- Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a brazillian philosopher and politician and currently the Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard University. His political activity helped bring about democracy in Brazil.

Quote of the Week: Malala Yousafzai

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I want to bring change to my whole country.  On the spot, I could only help one or two children, but if I want to help the whole country then I need to be a politician.”

- Malala Yousafzai, an education activist from Swat, Pakistan.  She is known for her activism in support of universal education and in support of women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have, at times, banned girls from attending school.

How Change Happens: Great New Case Studies + Analysis on ‘Politically Smart, Locally Led Development’

Duncan Green's picture

The research star of the show at last week’s Thinking and Working Politically event was a great new ODI paper from David Booth and Sue Unsworth. Bioversity International/Ronnie Vernooy

Politically smart, locally led development seeks to identify the secret sauce behind 7 large and successful aid programmes: a rural livelihoods programme in India; land titling and tax reform in the Philippines; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the Eastern Congo; the EU’s global plan of action to reduce illegal logging; civil society advocacy on rice, education and HIV in Burma and inclusive governance in Nepal.

The paper identifies a number of common elements:

Is the Political Interview Now so Boring it is Useless?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The political interview is supposed to be one of the cardinal moments when the news media contribute most directly to the quality of governance in a given country. Assuming that the media system is reasonably free, the political interview –particularly the broadcast versions on either radio or television – is a moment when the leading stars of the news media can:

  • Make political leaders and other news makers throw a bright light on the leading issues of the day;
  • Hold leaders accountable by asking tough questions regarding their stewardship of the affairs of the state; and
  • Speak truth to power.

It is now increasingly recognized, however, that the political interview is in trouble, even outside authoritarian political contexts (where regimes control broadcasting fiercely).  For an excellent recent take on the issue, please see this piece by Ian Katz, editor of BBC’s ‘Newsnight,’ ‘Boring Snoring?


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