Mel Gibson’s fall says a lot about the changes in America over the past six years. We shouldn’t take those changes for granted. We should take stock — and celebrate. They are good news.


The Good News About Mel Gibson


July 16, 2010

FOR Fourth of July weekend fireworks, even Macy’s couldn’t top the spittle-spangled eruptions of Mel Gibson. The clandestine recordings of his serial audio assaults on his gal pal were instant Web and cable-TV sensations — at once a worthy rival to Hollywood’s official holiday releases and a compelling sequel to his fabled anti- Semitic rant of 2006. A true showman, Gibson offered vitriol for nearly all tastes, aiming his profane fusillade at women, blacks and Latinos alike. Continue reading

More often these days, Association Football shatters long held myths of national identity. You could watch that happening, in vivid detail, this week in Germany, as soccer did a magical job of demolishing the lies that Europeans like to tell about themselves.

Soccer shatters ethnic myths

Suddenly, there was no legitimate link between national identity and ethnic identity

Doug Saunders

Berlin —  Saturday, Jul. 10, 2010

The World Cup, which has been reduced to a stark contest between Northern and Southern European soccer cultures, is always about national mythologies. Sometimes, it confirms them. On Sunday, we will doubtless watch a display of Dutch stubbornness and unpredictability pitted against Spain’s mesmerizing bolero of syncopated passing.

But more often these days, it shatters those myths. You could watch that happening, in vivid detail, this week in Germany, as soccer did a magical job of demolishing the lies that Europeans like to tell about themselves.

I stood a few blocks from the Brandenburg Gate on Wednesday night and watched as several hundred thousand people, most of them wrapped in the German flag, cheered on their national heroes, then consoled them in their loss with a drunken mass rendition, in mangled English, of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The star of the night was midfielder Mesut Özil, a German superstar whose grandfather is one of the two million Germans born in Turkey. He played with Jérôme Boateng, whose dad is from Ghana; with Cacau, a black Brazilian German worshipped by Nuremberg supporters; with the Stuttgart phenomenon Sami Khedira, who has Tunisian roots; and with Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, two Polish-born Germans.

They also cheered with equal fervour, of course, for Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is about as Bavarian as you can get. But the point is, they were no less devoted to the 11 players whose last names were not Teutonic.

No longer could anyone in the fervent world of German soccer pretend for a moment that these men were anything other than the very essence of German – and, suddenly, in the conversations of the tabloid-reading, beer-garden-occupying millions, there was no legitimate link between national identity and ethnic identity. Germany, after a century and a half, had rejoined the club of cosmopolitan nations.

If you think this is hyperbole, note that Germany’s major far-right groups – which are small but have a good following in the country’s soccer stadiums – publicly announced last week that they will no longer have anything to do with national-level soccer. Those who would link nationality with ethnicity have been forced to retreat from national sports, as they have in recent years from national politics, national television, national music and national cuisine.

Earlier in the day, I strolled through the Turkish ghettos of Kreuzberg and Wedding, and found almost every shop and apartment wrapped in the red, black and gold flag of Germany, every kid’s face painted with the national colours. Turkish-born Germans were denied citizenship for decades – only in 2000 did Germany introduce a form of citizenship based on something other than blood lines – and this World Cup marked a historic assertion of German identity, in good part thanks to Mr. Özil.

This is symbolic stuff, but it makes a big difference in the real world. Look at what happened in England. The “go back to where you came from” variety of racism was socially acceptable among the standing-room classes right up into the 1990s. Then, suddenly, most national heroes became people with brown and black skin, who spoke with the same accents and scored goals for England.

British scholar Mark Perryman chronicled the result: Racism, beginning with the non-white-majority England team of 1996, became unthinkable in much of working-class England. The result was measured by German sociologist Joachim Bruss, who found that the proportion of non-European immigrants in Britain who now feel their ethnic identity has not affected their job prospects has risen to 82 per cent, compared with 54 per cent in Germany. France, after its national team became a multi-hued mix, began to experience similar changes.

It’s not so much that Europeans are embracing a new polyglot spirit as much as that they’re rediscovering their true nature after a century of pretend homogeneity. The continent has been an amalgam of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, and of clashing languages and cultures, for as long as it has called itself “Europe.”

Spain is an awkward, half-finished construction of at least four very different languages and ethnic groups, never fully unified; Britain is an equally fragmented bonding of four others; and Germany and Italy both were very recent forced marriages of a dozen disparate groups. In France, as recently as 1900, almost half the native-born population neither spoke standard French nor identified themselves primarily as “French.”

It was the decades of war, and the years of forced ethnic homogenization afterward, that solidified the European myth that national borders are tied to single ethnic and linguistic groups. Only now, after that illusion has been unmasked on big-screen TV, have people begun to cheer for something else.

[VIDEO] RSA ANIMATE: we are Homo Empathicus — author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.

This lecture was given at the Royal Society of Arts in London (The RSA) and was commissioned by them as part of their “RSAnimation” series of videos.

“Your sense of being a separate entity from the rest of the universe is just an illusion. You were born from the fundamental laws of the universe, time, space, particles, atoms, molecules and cells. You are nothing more or nothing less than the universe itself. Your brain is merely observing and unfolding the universe using your physical body as the vantage point. Think of yourself as nothing more than a complex subprogram within the game “Universe 1.0″.”

–Anon from Helsinki

Jeremy Rifkin

Author of ‘The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis

January 11, 2010

‘The Empathic Civilization’: Rethinking Human Nature in the Biosphere Era

Two spectacular failures, separated by only 18 months, marked the end of the modern era. In July 2008, the price of oil on world markets peaked at $147/ barrel, inflation soared, the price of everything from food to gasoline skyrocketed, and the global economic engine shut off. Growing demand in the developed nations, as well as in China, India, and other emerging economies, for diminishing fossil fuels precipitated the crisis. Purchasing power plummeted and the global economy collapsed. That was the earthquake that tore asunder the industrial age built on and propelled by fossil fuels. The failure of the financial markets two months later was merely the aftershock. The fossil fuel energies that make up the industrial way of life are sunsetting and the industrial infrastructure is now on life support.

In December 2009, world leaders from 192 countries assembled in Copenhagen to address the question of how to handle the accumulated entropy bill of the fossil fuel based industrial revolution-the spent C0₂ that is heating up the planet and careening the earth into a catastrophic shift in climate. After years of preparation, the negotiations broke down and world leaders were unable to reach a formal accord.

Neither the world’s political or business leaders anticipated the economic debacle of July 2008, nor were they able to cobble together a sufficient plan for economic recovery in the months since. They were equally inept at addressing the issue of climate change, despite the fact that the scientific community warns that is poses the greatest threat to our species in its history, that we are running out of time, and that we may even be facing the prospect of our own extinction.

The problem runs deeper than the issue of finding new ways to regulate the market or imposing legally binding global green house gas emission reduction targets. The real crisis lies in the set of assumptions about human nature that governs the behavior of world leaders–assumptions that were spawned during the Enlightenment more than 200 years ago at the dawn of the modern market economy and the emergence of the nation state era.

The Enlightenment thinkers–John Locke, Adam Smith, Marquis de Condorcet et. al.–took umbrage with the Medieval Christian world view that saw human nature as fallen and depraved and that looked to salvation in the next world through God’s grace. They preferred to cast their lot with the idea that human beings’ essential nature is rational, detached, autonomous, acquisitive and utilitarian and argued that individual salvation lies in unlimited material progress here on Earth.

The Enlightenment notions about human nature were reflected in the newly minted nation-state whose raison d’être was to protect private property relations and stimulate market forces as well as act as a surrogate of the collective self-interest of the citizenry in the international arena. Like individuals, nation-states were considered to be autonomous agents embroiled in a relentless battle with other sovereign nations in the pursuit of material gains.

It was these very assumptions that provided the philosophical underpinnings for a geopolitical frame of reference that accompanied the first and second industrial revolutions in the 19th and 20th centuries. These beliefs about human nature came to the fore in the aftermath of the global economic meltdown and in the boisterous and acrimonious confrontations in the meeting rooms in Copenhagen, with potentially disastrous consequences for the future of humanity and the planet.

If human nature is as the Enlightenment philosophers claimed, then we are likely doomed. It is impossible to imagine how we might create a sustainable global economy and restore the biosphere to health if each and every one of us is, at the core of our biology, an autonomous agent and a self-centered and materialistic being.

Recent discoveries in brain science and child development, however, are forcing us to rethink these long-held shibboleths about human nature. Biologists and cognitive neuroscientists are discovering mirror-neurons–the so-called empathy neurons–that allow human beings and other species to feel and experience another’s situation as if it were one’s own. We are, it appears, the most social of animals and seek intimate participation and companionship with our fellows.

Social scientists, in turn, are beginning to reexamine human history from an empathic lens and, in the process, discovering previously hidden strands of the human narrative which suggests that human evolution is measured not only by the expansion of power over nature, but also by the intensification and extension of empathy to more diverse others across broader temporal and spatial domains. The growing scientific evidence that we are a fundamentally empathic species has profound and far-reaching consequences for society, and may well determine our fate as a species.

What is required now is nothing less than a leap to global empathic consciousness and in less than a generation if we are to resurrect the global economy and revitalize the biosphere. The question becomes this: what is the mechanism that allows empathic sensitivity to mature and consciousness to expand through history?

The pivotal turning points in human consciousness occur when new energy regimes converge with new communications revolutions, creating new economic eras. The new communications revolutions become the command and control mechanisms for structuring, organizing and managing more complex civilizations that the new energy regimes make possible. For example, in the early modern age, print communication became the means to organize and manage the technologies, organizations, and infrastructure of the coal, steam, and rail revolution. It would have been impossible to administer the first industrial revolution using script and codex.

Communication revolutions not only manage new, more complex energy regimes, but also change human consciousness in the process. Forager/hunter societies relied on oral communications and their consciousness was mythologically constructed. The great hydraulic agricultural civilizations were, for the most part, organized around script communication and steeped in theological consciousness. The first industrial revolution of the 19th century was managed by print communication and ushered in ideological consciousness. Electronic communication became the command and control mechanism for arranging the second industrial revolution in the 20th century and spawned psychological consciousness.

Each more sophisticated communication revolution brings together more diverse people in increasingly more expansive and varied social networks. Oral communication has only limited temporal and spatial reach while script, print and electronic communications each extend the range and depth of human social interaction.

By extending the central nervous system of each individual and the society as a whole, communication revolutions provide an evermore inclusive playing field for empathy to mature and consciousness to expand. For example, during the period of the great hydraulic agricultural civilizations characterized by script and theological consciousness, empathic sensitivity broadened from tribal blood ties to associational ties based on common religious affiliation. Jews came to empathize with Jews, Christians with Christians, Muslims with Muslims, etc. In the first industrial revolution characterized by print and ideological consciousness, empathic sensibility extended to national borders, with Americans empathizing with Americans, Germans with Germans, Japanese with Japanese and so on. In the second industrial revolution, characterized by electronic communication and psychological consciousness, individuals began to identify with like-minded others.

Today, we are on the cusp of another historic convergence of energy and communication–a third industrial revolution–that could extend empathic sensibility to the biosphere itself and all of life on Earth. The distributed Internet revolution is coming together with distributed renewable energies, making possible a sustainable, post-carbon economy that is both globally connected and locally managed.

In the 21st century, hundreds of millions–and eventually billions–of human beings will transform their buildings into power plants to harvest renewable energies on site, store those energies in the form of hydrogen and share electricity, peer-to-peer, across local, regional, national and continental inter-grids that act much like the Internet. The open source sharing of energy, like open source sharing of information, will give rise to collaborative energy spaces–not unlike the collaborative social spaces that currently exist on the Internet.

When every family and business comes to take responsibility for its own small swath of the biosphere by harnessing renewable energy and sharing it with millions of others on smart power grids that stretch across continents, we become intimately interconnected at the most basic level of earthly existence by jointly stewarding the energy that bathes the planet and sustains all of life.

The new distributed communication revolution not only organizes distributed renewable energies, but also changes human consciousness. The information communication technologies (ICT) revolution is quickly extending the central nervous system of billions of human beings and connecting the human race across time and space, allowing empathy to flourish on a global scale, for the first time in history.

Whether in fact we will begin to empathize as a species will depend on how we use the new distributed communication medium. While distributed communications technologies-and, soon, distributed renewable energies – are connecting the human race, what is so shocking is that no one has offered much of a reason as to why we ought to be connected. We talk breathlessly about access and inclusion in a global communications network but speak little of exactly why we want to communicate with one another on such a planetary scale. What’s sorely missing is an overarching reason that billions of human beings should be increasingly connected. Toward what end? The only feeble explanations thus far offered are to share information, be entertained, advance commercial exchange and speed the globalization of the economy. All the above, while relevant, nonetheless seem insufficient to justify why nearly seven billion human beings should be connected and mutually embedded in a globalized society. The idea of even billion individual connections, absent any overall unifying purpose, seems a colossal waste of human energy. More important, making global connections without any real transcendent purpose risks a narrowing rather than an expanding of human consciousness. But what if our distributed global communication networks were put to the task of helping us re-participate in deep communion with the common biosphere that sustains all of our lives?

The biosphere is the narrow band that extends some forty miles from the ocean floor to outer space where living creatures and the Earth’s geochemical processes interact to sustain each other. We are learning that the biosphere functions like an indivisible organism. It is the continuous symbiotic relationships between every living creature and between living creatures and the geochemical processes that ensure the survival of the planetary organism and the individual species that live within its biospheric envelope. If every human life, the species as a whole, and all other life-forms are entwined with one another and with the geochemistry of the planet in a rich and complex choreography that sustains life itself, then we are all dependent on and responsible for the health of the whole organism. Carrying out that responsibility means living out our individual lives in our neighborhoods and communities in ways that promote the general well-being of the larger biosphere within which we dwell. The Third Industrial Revolution offers just such an opportunity.

If we can harness our empathic sensibility to establish a new global ethic that recognizes and acts to harmonize the many relationships that make up the life-sustaining forces of the planet, we will have moved beyond the detached, self-interested and utilitarian philosophical assumptions that accompanied national markets and nation state governance and into a new era of biosphere consciousness. We leave the old world of geopolitics behind and enter into a new world of biosphere politics, with new forms of governance emerging to accompany our new biosphere awareness.

The Third Industrial Revolution and the new era of distributed capitalism allow us to sculpt a new approach to globalization, this time emphasizing continentalization from the bottom up. Because renewable energies are more or less equally distributed around the world, every region is potentially amply endowed with the power it needs to be relatively self-sufficient and sustainable in its lifestyle, while at the same time interconnected via smart grids to other regions across countries and continents.

When every community is locally empowered, both figuratively and literally, it can engage directly in regional, transnational, continental, and limited global trade without the severe restrictions that are imposed by the geopolitics that oversee elite fossil fuels and uranium energy distribution.

Continentalization is already bringing with it a new form of governance. The nation-state, which grew up alongside the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, and provided the regulatory mechanism for managing an energy regime whose reach was the geosphere, is ill suited for a Third Industrial Revolution whose domain is the biosphere. Distributed renewable energies generated locally and regionally and shared openly–peer to peer–across vast contiguous land masses connected by intelligent utility networks and smart logistics and supply chains favor a seamless network of governing institutions that span entire continents.

The European Union is the first continental governing institution of the Third Industrial Revolution era. The EU is already beginning to put in place the infrastructure for a European-wide energy regime, along with the codes, regulations, and standards to effectively operate a seamless transport, communications, and energy grid that will stretch from the Irish Sea to the doorsteps of Russia by midcentury. Asian, African, and Latin American continental political unions are also in the making and will likely be the premier governing institutions on their respective continents by 2050.

In this new era of distributed energy, governing institutions will more resemble the workings of the ecosystems they manage. Just as habitats function within ecosystems, and ecosystems within the biosphere in a web of interrelationships, governing institutions will similarly function in a collaborative network of relationships with localities, regions, and nations all embedded within the continent as a whole. This new complex political organism operates like the biosphere it attends, synergistically and reciprocally. This is biosphere politics.

The new biosphere politics transcends traditional right/left distinctions so characteristic of the geopolitics of the modern market economy and nation-state era. The new divide is generational and contrasts the traditional top-down model of structuring family life, education, commerce, and governance with a younger generation whose thinking is more relational and distributed, whose nature is more collaborative and cosmopolitan, and whose work and social spaces favor open-source commons. For the Internet generation, “quality of life” becomes as important as individual opportunity in fashioning a new dream for the 21st century.

The transition to biosphere consciousness has already begun. All over the world, a younger generation is beginning to realize that one’s daily consumption of energy and other resources ultimately affects the lives of every other human being and every other creature that inhabits the Earth.

The Empathic Civilization is emerging. A younger generation is fast extending its empathic embrace beyond religious affiliations and national identification to include the whole of humanity and the vast project of life that envelops the Earth. But our rush to universal empathic connectivity is running up against a rapidly accelerating entropic juggernaut in the form of climate change. Can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse?

This blog post has been adapted from Jeremy Rifkin’s new book ‘The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis’ (Tarcher/Penguin; January 2010)

Jeremy Rifkin (born 1945Denver, Colorado), founder and president of the Foundation On Economic Trends, is an American economist, writer, public speaker and activist. Rifkin’s work explores the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment.

Jeremy Rifkin was born in Denver, Colorado in 1945, to Vivette Ravel Rifkin and Milton Rifkin, a plastic-bag manufacturer. He grew up on the southwest side of Chicago.

He earned a BS in economics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1967. He was a self-described, “party animal”, and also class president. He had an epiphany when one day in 1966 he walked past a group of students picketing the administration building and was amazed to see, as he recalls, that “my frat friends were beating the living daylights out of them. I got very upset.” He organized a freedom-of-speech rally the next day. From then on, Rifkin quickly became an active member of the peace movement.

He went on to obtain his masters degree in international affairs at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in 1969.

Rifkin pursued anti-war activities at Fletcher, and avoided the Vietnam War by joining VISTA, although he jokingly claimed that he instead “saw action” as an unpaid tutor in the Brooklyn and East Harlem ghetto neighborhoods of New York City.

In 1977, with Ted Howard, he founded the Foundation on Economic Trends. He works out of an office in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.[1]

Since 1994, Rifkin has been a senior lecturer at The Wharton School’s executive education program at the University of Pennsylvania, where he instructs CEOs and senior corporate management from around the world on new trends in science and technology.[2]

He is married to Carol Grunewald.

[VIDEO] Özil the German

The New York Times

July 1, 2010


JOHANNESBURG — No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Özil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. Where others are hurried, he has time. He conjures space with a shrug. His left foot can, with equal ease, caress a pass or unleash a shot.

Özil, at 21, oozes class. He’s a German. That’s part of my fascination. Özil’s a Muslim German of Turkish descent who believes he has married traditions: “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part.”

The technique undid Ghana in the group stage with a fizzing volleyed goal. The attitude left England’s Gareth Barry for dead as Özil burst down the left wing to set up Germany’s fourth goal in its demolition of English illusions. Poor England, consumed by inhibition before Özil’s invention!

Özil’s a German but only just. The years I spent in Berlin in the late 1990s were marked by angry debate as the country moved from a “Volkisch” view of nationality — one based on the bloodlines of the German Volk — to a more liberal law that gave millions of immigrants an avenue to citizenship for the first time. Özil would not have been German until the immigration law of 1999.

It’s this legislation that has birthed the Germany of Özil and his teammates Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng (Tunisian and Ghanaian fathers respectively) and Cacau (naturalized Brazilian) and Dennis Aogo (Nigerian descent). The Volk have spread wings to hoist Germany into the last eight.

There’s a third reason, beyond brilliance and birthright, for my fascination with Özil. He is probably only on the team because “The Big Man” of the German squad, Michael Ballack, was injured a few weeks before the tournament.

Similarly, Ghana has advanced to the last eight — despite that defeat to Germany — even in the absence of its “Big Man,” the injured star Michael Essien. As for Uruguay and Paraguay, two other quarter-finalists, they had no “Big Man” to begin with.

Perhaps it’s not a bad thing that the first African World Cup has seen stars fail where they were not backed by teamwork. Cameroon, with its Big Man Samuel Eto’o of Inter Milan, and Ivory Coast, with Big Man Dider Drogba of Chelsea, are both out. Ghana, meanwhile, has endured through discipline and coordination.

Africa needs more of that kind of spirit. Since decolonization began in the second half of the 20th century, it has too often been the continent of “The Big Man.” That was the sobriquet V.S. Naipaul gave in “A Bend in the River” to the African dictator plundering the city of Kisangani in Congo through mercenaires granted license to run amok.

The colonizer’s plundering merely gave way to the Big Man’s impunity in stripping Africa’s assets bare.

Perhaps the most glaring examples have been in Zimbabwe and Congo, potentially wealthy nations that have hurtled backward. Robert Mugabe has single-handedly dismembered Zimbabwe, a wanton act hauntingly evoked in Peter Godwin’s “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun.”

In Congo, over a 30-year dictatorship that defined kleptocracy (Western-supported kleptocracy at that), Mobutu Sese Seko spread the wreckage that has provided the fissured stage for the recent slaughter of millions. Between games I’ve been reading Tim Butcher’s extraordinary “Blood River,” a riveting chronicle of the unraveling of a nation told through an impossible journey across Congo. Read it to understand African tragedy.

So I’m pleased that in this World Cup, the Big Men have proved dispensable. And I’m pleased it’s being held in a country that shares African problems but has not yielded to Africa’s curse.

South Africa has the mineral wealth — 90 percent of the world’s platinum reserves and 40 percent of its gold — that has proved the “resource curse” of African nations including Nigeria. It has what Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, described to me as “a very warped society” born in part of big mining, with its single-sex hostels for laborers torn from their families and thrust into those incubators of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It is still a land where poverty is racialized.

But it has resisted the devastating “Big Man” syndrome. Over the past 16 years, South Africa has had four free elections and four presidents. A robust judiciary and free press frustrate attempts to cow them. The interaction, under the law, of various interest groups holds South Africa back from the brink. This is its great lesson for a continent where, by 2025, one in four of every person under 24 will live.

“Ke Nako!” — “It’s Time!” — goes the chorus of the most haunting song of this exuberant World Cup: “Now it’s time to unite as black and white to be the pride of Africa’s might.” Yes, it’s time for an end to the African Big Man who trampled that pride.

When I lived in Germany, a Social Democrat once told me that the country’s ultimate victory over Hitler would lie in the reconstitution of the Jewish community, then being pursued by luring Jews of the former Soviet Union. I always thought that was a vain, slightly kitschy idea. But the Germany of Özil and Aogo is such a victory over the Big Man who destroyed Europe.

Africa, take note.

When scholars get to feeling expansive, they call today’s migration networks a challenge to the order set by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which established the territorial sovereignty of the nation-state. Judging by the wall rising along the Mexican border, nation-states do not appear to be going away. Their people, increasingly, do.

The New York Times

Jason DeParle

June 25, 2010

GORDON BROWN’S rant about a “bigoted” voter sped his exit from the British prime minister’s post. What punctured his cool? Her complaint about immigrants. When an earthquake shattered Haiti, Dominicans sent soldiers and Americans sent ships — to discourage potential immigrants. The congressman who shouted “You lie!” at President Obama was upset about immigrants. “Birthers” think Mr. Obama is an immigrant.

There was also the Hamas rocket that landed in Israel this spring, killing a farmworker. Not so unusual, except that the worker was Thai.

Perhaps no force in modern life is as omnipresent yet overlooked as global migration, that vehicle of creative destruction that is reordering ever more of the world. Overlooked? A skeptic may well question the statement, given how often the topic makes news and how divisive the news can be. After all, Arizona’s campaign against illegal immigrants, codified in an April law, set off high-decibel debates from Melbourne to Madrid. But migration also shapes the landscape beneath the seemingly unrelated events of the headlines. It is a story-behind-the-story, a complicating tide, in issues as diverse as school bond fights and efforts to isolate Iran. (Seeking allies in Latin America this month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had to emphasize the dangers of a nuclear-armed Tehran while fending off complaints about the Arizona law.)

Even people who study migration for a living struggle to fully grasp its effects. “Politically, socially, economically, culturally — migration bubbles up everywhere,” James F. Hollifield, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said. “We often don’t recognize it.”

What prompted Google to close an office in China, rather than accept government censorship? Many factors, no doubt. But among those cited by Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, was the repression his family suffered during his childhood in the Soviet Union before they immigrated to the United States.

One realm where migration has particularly powerful if largely unstated effects is school financePolitical scientists have found that white voters are more likely to oppose spending plans when they perceive the main beneficiaries to be children of immigrants (especially illegal immigrants). The outcome, of course, affects all children, immigrant or 10th generation.

“When you get increased diversity, you weaken support for the common good,” said Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California.

Professor Myers studied Proposition 55, a 2004 ballot initiative in California that sought $12.3 billion in bond sales to relieve overcrowding and upgrade older schools. Publicly, most opponents framed their concerns in economic terms, saying the government wasted money and ran unsustainable debts. Still, anger about illegal immigration was, as one opponent put it, the “elephant in the living room.” School crowding, he wrote in a letter to The Riverside Press Enterprise, was “solely caused by America’s foolish open-borders policy.”

Holding all else equal (like other political views), Professor Myers found, voters who saw immigration as a burden were nearly 9 percentage points more likely to oppose the measure than those who called immigration a benefit. “That’s a big effect — it was almost enough to take it down,” he said. The measure squeaked through, with barely 50 percent of the vote.

Immigration also quickened the bitter split in the American labor movement. In 2005, a half dozen unions left the venerable A.F.L.-C.I.O. to form a rival federation, Change to Win. (The dissident unions included the Service Employees International Union and UniteHere.)

On the surface, the fight was mostly about the pace of organizing, with the breakaway group pledging more aggressive moves to enlist members. But the dissidents also counted more low-wage immigrants in their membership.

As Daniel B. Cornfield, a labor scholar at Vanderbilt University, said, the immigrants’ marginal (and sometimes illegal) status created a constituency for a more aggressive approach. “I don’t think it was a split about immigration, but immigration shaped the split,” he said.

The split, in turn, has had repercussions beyond the labor movement. Janice Fine, a political scientist at Rutgers University, noted that the Change to Win unions played an important (some have argued decisive) role in the early stages of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign.

“If they were inside the larger bureaucracy, it would have been harder for them to make an early endorsement and move money his way,” Professor Fine said.

Theorists sometimes call the movement of people the third wave of globalization, after the movement of goods (trade) and the movement of money (finance) that began in the previous century. But trade and finance follow global norms and are governed by global institutions: the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. There is no parallel group with “migration” in its name. The most personal and perilous form of movement is the most unregulated. States make (and often ignore) their own rules, deciding who can come, how long they stay, and what rights they enjoy.

While global trade and finance are disruptive — some would argue as much as migration — they are disruptive in less visible ways. A shirt made in Mexico can cost an American worker his job. A worker from Mexico might move next door, send his children to public school and need to be spoken to in Spanish.

One reason migration seems so potent is that it arose unexpectedly. As recently as the 1970s, immigration seemed of such little importance that the United States Census Bureau decided to stop asking people where their parents were born. Now, a quarter of the residents of the United States under 18 are immigrants or immigrants’ children.

The United Nations estimates that there are 214 million migrants across the globe, an increase of about 37 percent in two decades. Their ranks grew by 41 percent in Europe and 80 percent in North America. “There’s more mobility at this moment than at any time in world history,” said Gary P. Freeman, a political scientist at the University of Texas.

The most famous source countries in Europe — Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain — are suddenly migrant destinations, with Ireland electing a Nigerian-born man as its first black mayor in 2007.

As heirs to an immigrant past, Americans may have an edge in a migrants’ age. As contentious as the issue is here, the Americans’ capacity to absorb immigrants remains the envy of many Europeans (including those not inclined to envy Americans). Still, today’s challenges differ from those of the (mythologized) past. At least five differences set this age apart and amplify migration’s effects.

First is migration’s global reach. The movements of the 19th century were mostly trans-Atlantic. Now, Nepalis staff Korean factories and Mongolians do scut work in Prague. Persian Gulf economies would collapse without armies of guest workers. Even within the United States, immigrants are spread across dozens of “new gateways” unaccustomed to them, from Orlando to Salt Lake City.

A second distinguishing trait is the money involved, which not only sustains the families left behind but props up national economies. Migrants sent home $317 billion last year — three times the world’s total foreign aid. In at least seven countries, remittances account for more than a quarter of the gross domestic product.

A third factor that increases migration’s impact is its feminization: Nearly half of the world’s migrants are now women, and many have left children behind. Their emergence as breadwinners is altering family dynamics across the developing world. Migration empowers some, but imperils others, with sex trafficking now a global concern.

Technology introduces a fourth break from the past: The huddled masses reached Ellis Island without cellphones or Webcams. Now a nanny in Manhattan can talk to her child in Zacatecas, vote in Mexican elections and watch Mexican television shows.

“Transnationalism” is a comfort but also a concern for those who think it impedes integration. In the age of global jihad, it may also be a security threat. The Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty last week to the attempted bombing of Times Square said that jihadi lectures reached him from Yemen, via the Internet.

At least one other trait amplifies the impact of modern migration: The expectation that governments will control it. In America for most of the 19th century, there was no legal barrier to entry. The issue was contentious, but the government attracted little blame. Now Western governments are expected to keep trade and tourism flowing and respect ethnic rights while sealing borders as vast as the Arizona desert and the Mediterranean Sea. Their failures — glaring if perhaps inevitable — weaken the broader faith in federal competence.

“It basically tells people that government cannot do its job,” said Demetri Papademetriou, a co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington research group. “It creates the anti-government rhetoric we see, and the anger people are feeling.”

Still, rich, aging countries need workers. People in poor countries need jobs. And the rise in global inequality means that migrants have more than ever to gain by landing work abroad. Migration networks are hard to shut down. Even the worst economy in 70 years has only slowed, not stopped, the growth in migration. And it is likely to grow, in numbers and consequence.

When scholars get to feeling expansive, they call today’s migration networks a challenge to the order set by the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which established the territorial sovereignty of the nation-state. Judging by the wall rising along the Mexican border, nation-states do not appear to be going away. Their people, increasingly, do.

Africa is an enormous, wildly diverse place, so it’s naïve to suggest that (athletes from) Ghana or Algeria feels especially at home in South Africa.

Globe and Mail

Africa’s finest making a mockery of Pele’s prediction

Brazilian legend’s faith in continent’s teams seem misplaced after another World Cup writeoff

Stephen Brunt

Cape Town, South Africa

Monday, Jun. 21, 2010

Pele was wrong.

But now he has plenty of company, a wide slice of the football world who thought that bringing the World Cup to Africa would inspire greatness from the six sides the continent sent to the tournament.

Back in the 20th century, Pele predicted that an African team would win the World Cup by the time it was done (to be honest, Pele says all kinds of stuff, and his batting average isn’t all that great). Though it didn’t come to pass – it was never even really close – there were enough encouraging signs through the 1990’s to suggest that it was only a case of destiny delayed.

At Italia 90, Cameroon made their memorable run to the quarter finals led by the amazing Roger Milla. Four years later when the tournament was played for the first time in the United States, Nigeria made its World Cup debut with a golden generation of talent. They won their group, and almost knocked out eventual finalist Italy before falling in the round of sixteen. Two years after that, Nigeria won the soccer gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics, a showcase for players under 23 years of age.

At the same time a new wave of African stars began to make their presence felt with the very best sides in Europe.

But the great World Cup breakthrough remained elusive. Senegal knocked off the defending champions France to open the 2002 World Cup, but that turned out to be their peak. Four years ago, a young Ghanaian side played well before losing to Brazil in the round of sixteen.

Surely this time it would be different, because the African countries would finally benefit from the advantage teams from every other part of the world had enjoyed at least once in the World Cup; a continental home field.

Africa is an enormous, wildly diverse place, so it’s naïve to suggest that Ghana or Algeria feels especially at home in South Africa. Still, the six teams (including the host) from the continent figured to at least be less discombobulated by the experience than those coming from afar.

Why it hasn’t panned out that way, why in this final week of group play, it seems entirely possible that not a single African side will advance to the knockout rounds, is a complicated question. Key injuries are certainly part of the story. Ghana, the best African team here, is without midfielder Michael Essien, and Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba, dominant at Chelsea this past season is playing with a broken arm.

But that doesn’t explain why Cameroon is already officially done, why the home team is on life support, needing to a huge win over France today even to have a chance of going on – a predicament no other World Cup host has ever faced.

Portugal’s stylish 7-0 destruction of North Korea on Monday pretty much ended Ivory Coast’s hopes. They’re out if Brazil and Portugal play to a draw, or if Portugal wins, and the massive goal differential means even if Portugal loses and Ivory Coast defeat the North Koreans, it will have to be by an enormous score.

Nigeria and Algeria, both last in their groups, could still get through, but a whole bunch of things would have to go right. (The Algerians, based on their game against England, can at least be said to have overachieved here, after arriving burdened with extremely modest expectations)

The only African side that controls its own destiny is Ghana – and they have the unenviable task now of trying to take at least a point from a German team that’s hurting from its shock loss to Serbia, that needs a result to insure moving on, and that has a long World Cup history of coming through in the crunch.

The African problem isn’t individual talent, and given the various hired guns in their coaching ranks, the problem shouldn’t be tactical. But this is a competition of teams, assembled quickly at the end of the European season, and maybe there’s something in that – the fact that these are mostly citizens of the world, football mercenaries, that London or Barcelona or Milan is more their home than here.

Or perhaps, like Pele, we got a little overly romantic in anticipation of this remarkable event, we wanted a historic result to go with the setting, and the truth is it just wasn’t there.

Inexplicably, this is how suitable wives are ‘selected’ in parts of India as well

June 7, 2010

Off Runway, Brazilian Beauty Goes Beyond Blond

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RESTINGA SÊCA, Brazil — Before setting out in a pink S.U.V. to comb the schoolyards and shopping malls of southern Brazil, Alisson Chornak studies books, maps and Web sites to understand how the towns were colonized and how European their residents might look today. 

The goal, he and other model scouts say, is to find the right genetic cocktail of German and Italian ancestry, perhaps with some Russian or other Slavic blood thrown in. Such a mix, they say, helps produce the tall, thin girls with straight hair, fair skin and light eyes that Brazil exports to the runways of New York, Milan and Paris with stunning success. 

Yet Brazil is not the same country it was in 1994, when Gisele Bündchen, the world’s top earning model, was discovered in a tiny town not far from here. Darker-skinned women have become more prominent in Brazilian society, challenging the notions of Brazilian beauty and success that Ms. Bündchen has come to represent here and abroad. 

Taís Araújo just finished a run as the first black female lead in the coveted 8 p.m. soap opera slot. Marina Silva, a former government minister born in the Amazon, is running for president. And over the past decade, the income of black Brazilians rose by about 40 percent, more than double the rate of whites, as Brazil’s booming economy helped trim the inequality gap and create a more powerful black consumer class, said Marcelo Neri, an economist in Rio de Janeiro. 

Even prosecutors have waded into the debate over what Brazilian society looks like — and how it should be represented. São Paulo Fashion Week, the nation’s most important fashion event, has been forced by local prosecutors to ensure that at least 10 percent of its models are of African or indigenous descent. 

Despite those shifts, more than half of Brazil’s models continue to be found here among the tiny farms of Rio Grande do Sul, a state that has only one-twentieth of the nation’s population and was colonized predominantly by Germans and Italians. 

Indeed, scouts say that more than 70 percent of the country’s models come from three southern states that hardly reflect the multiethnic melting pot that is Brazil, where more than half the population is nonwhite

On the pages of its magazines, Brazil’s beauty spectrum is clearer. Nonwhite women, including celebrities of varying body types, are interspersed with white models. But on the runways, the proving ground for models hoping to go abroad, the diversity drops off precipitously. Prosecutors investigating discrimination complaints against São Paulo Fashion Week found that only 28 of the event’s 1,128 models were black in early 2008. 

The pattern creates a disconnect between what many Brazilians consider beautiful and the beauty they export overseas. While darker-skinned actresses like Juliana Paes and Camila Pitanga are considered among Brazil’s sexiest, it is Ms. Bündchen and her fellow southerners who win fame abroad. 

“I was always perplexed that Brazil was never able to export a Naomi Campbell, and it is definitely not because of a lack of pretty women,” said Erika Palomino, a fashion consultant in São Paulo. “It is embarrassing.” 

Some scouts have begun tepid forays to less-white parts of Brazil. One Brazilian designer, Walter Rodrigues, recently opened Rio Fashion Week with 25 models, all of them black. 

But here in the south scouts still spend most of their time hunting for the next Gisele, and offer few apologies for what they say sells. 

Clóvis Pessoa studies facial traits that are successful on international runways and looks for towns in the south that mirror those genes. 

“If a famous top model looks German with a Russian nose, I will do a scientific study and look for cities that were colonized by Germans and Russians in the south of Brazil in order to get a similar face down here,” Mr. Pessoa said. 

Dilson Stein, who discovered Ms. Bündchen when she was 13, called Rio Grande do Sul a treasure trove of model-worthy girls. A year before discovering Ms. Bündchen, whose parents are of German ancestry, he found 12-year-old Alessandra Ambrosio, now famous for her Victoria’s Secret shoots. 

Today, younger scouts like Mr. Chornak have taken up the mantle. With catlike quickness, he jumped from his chair and strode up behind a tall girl with a hooded sweatshirt. “Have you ever thought of being a model?” he asked a 13-year-old with light blue eyes and pimples. 

The girl smiled, her metal braces glimmering. 

Later, Mr. Chornak pulled up at a school where the director, Liliane Abrão Silva, showed off albums from school beauty contests. She allows scouts to visit during class breaks. 

“Since I got to this school, five have left for São Paulo to become models,” she said. “The girls who do not have money to go to university will have to stay here and work in the fields.” 

The next morning, Mr. Chornak studied the girls returning with red lollipops from recess. “There is nothing special here,” he declared. 

At another stop, Mr. Chornak staked out a school in Paraíso do Sul (population 8,000) with the tools of his trade: business cards, camera, measuring tape and a notebook. 

The bell rang and students streamed out. Mr. Chornak stopped a tall, skinny blond girl. Within seconds he was fluffing her hair and taking her measurements, directing her to pose against the wall. 

Mr. Chornak also drove to Venâncio Aires, where a billboard heralded “the land of the Fantastic Girl,” alluding to a television show that featured a local girl. 

At a small tobacco farm he visited Michele Meurer, a blue-eyed 16-year-old discovered while riding her bicycle to school. Timid and shy, she cried profusely the first time she went to São Paulo. The next time, she lasted six days before Mr. Chornak sent her home. 

Her mother, who grew up speaking German, had never left the town until the São Paulo trip. They live in a four-room house with chickens and dogs. Michele keeps the freezer in her room for lack of space. 

Mr. Chornak counsels Michele to use sunscreen while working in the fields and to watch her diet. Bursting with pride, her father enrolled her in English classes in case she went abroad. 

“I want to give them a better life,” Michele said tearfully of her parents. 

Recently, she went to São Paulo again, where Mr. Chornak put her in a three-bedroom apartment with 11 other girls. Two weeks before São Paulo Fashion Week, Michele packed up and left. 

“I am very disappointed that Michele gave up,” Mr. Chornak said. “I invested a lot in her.” 

Myrna Domit contributed reporting.