Books · Hong Kong

Ten Cities That Made an Empire- book review

At its peak, the British Empire covered territories around the whole world on almost every continent from Africa to Asia to Australia. I’m sure most of us know and have been to countries that made up this empire. However, at its core were illustrious cities like Bombay, Hong Kong, Cape Town and New Delhi, which provided the industry, commerce, and wealth that enriched the mother country of Britain greatly and allowed the empire to be sustained. Ten Cities That Made an Empire is a fascinating look into 10 of these cities that tell the story of the empire’s development.

In addition to those mentioned above, Boston, Calcutta, Melbourne, Dublin, Bridgetown, and Liverpool (the lone British city on the list) also feature. Boston, of course, stopped being part of the empire once the United States won its independence. An argument could be made for Singapore, Sydney or Kingston to be included, but otherwise the list is very sound. Bridgetown, as the capital of tiny Barbados in the Caribbean, might raise eyebrows, but having been colonized since the 17th century, it played a great role in the sugar industry in the British Caribbean, acting as a lively and prosperous shipping hub.

With three cities, India features prominently which is appropriate given its nickname as the “Jewel of the Empire.” While Bombay, now Mumbai, and Calcutta (Kolkatta) were built by the British, Delhi was a historic city that had been the capital of the Mughal Empire. The British built a new section adjacent to Delhi, aptly naming it New Delhi as its grand seat of power, a role which it still fulfills today. Cape Town in South Africa was taken from the Dutch and not surprisingly, soon became an important refuelling station for British ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope heading to the East. Hong Kong was seized as a prize of war from China’s ruling Qing Dynasty after victory in the Opium War, and hence saw its fortunes transformed from a mere fishing village to a free market business hub that it still is now.

The author, who has written several books and was a former Labour MP who is now the head of the Victoria and Albert museum, does very well bringing each city to life, showcasing fascinating historical facts and developments concerning architecture, politics, and economics. I admit I am very biased because I do enjoy cities very much, whether visiting or reading about them. Of course, there is always controversy and debate about the empire, regarding how much harm it inflicted on colonial subjects and the actual benefits that were derived from the British rule. Hunt does not vilify the empire or glorify it, though he shows how imperial officials often thought they were doing great work.

The chapters proceed in loose chronological order, and in so doing, illustrate the changing fortunes and status of the British Empire. We see how the empire develops and expands from an Atlantic slave-based power to an eastward-looking empire centered on its prized possession of India. The irony is that by starting off with Boston, the author begins with the British loss of America in the late 18th century, but instead of wilting, they went on to greater things by conquering the world. And in ending with Liverpool and its decay and slight resurgence in the 20th century, we see the empire and its power finally ending as Britain comes to term with a new era and world.

Africa · Books · South Africa

The Last Train to Zona Verde- book review

I recently finished Paul Theroux’s most recent novel, and I’ve just finished his second-to-last nonfiction book The Last Train to Zona Verde, in which Theroux makes a journey along the western side of Africa starting from Cape Town, the continent’s southernmost city. It’s an ambitious trip, Theroux’s last in Africa, that would have seen him travel up the continent along the western coast. But Theroux does not complete it. Dispirited, beaten down and weary, he calls it quits almost midway in Angola.

He starts off from Cape Town, first touring its vast township slums, then goes to Namibia by bus, travels around the country and attends a conference in the deep east, takes a detour to visit an elephant safari camp in Botswana, then goes into Angola, where he gets stuck in a remote area near a village for days when his minibus breaks down, which ironically is one of his better experiences.

Having been struck by the vast poverty-filled townships on the outskirts of Cape Town and Windhoek, Namibia, he sees worse in Angola and is utterly disgusted. Angola is a country that is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, but also one of the poorest. Having been ravaged by a 30-year civil war that lasted into the 1990s, the people have been neglected by a corrupt, oligarchic government. Theroux sees desperation and poverty everywhere in Angola, from the capital Luanga, where growing slums encircle the city, to smaller towns like Benguela and Lubango.

Theroux holds nothing back in his final chapters where he explains how and why he got to his breaking point, despairing over the squalor and the “broken, unspeakable” and “huge, unsustainable” cities: “No poverty on earth could match the poverty in an African shantytown.” Theroux believes that continuing on the journey would only mean going into more cities and hence, the same sight and disappointment over and over. Then there is also the danger. Timbuktu was Theroux’s intended endpoint but by then, Mali had been engulfed in civil war and the fabled city was in the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. Nigeria was also on the itinerary but Boko Haram was, and is still, ravaging a large part of the north.

There are a few bright spots such as isolated Angolan village where Theroux hears native ceremonies every night and see people living a traditional life, and a visit to a remote Bushman (Ju/’hoansi) community in Namibia. The book veers into an anthropological tone about these people, who may be the oldest living people in the world, but even then, there is disappointment when Theroux realizes everything is not as it appears.

The bluntness of Theroux’s despair is a little shocking to me, despite having read a couple of Theroux’s other books, as it can make one wonder if there is any hope for Africa.
There is, of course, though perhaps not in places Theroux visited such as Angola in particular. I have been to South Africa and visited townships in Cape Town and Johannesburg, so I know Theroux isn’t exaggerating the physical size and extent of poverty there though there is also progress (he does mention this as well). Theroux contends that any improvement in the slums results in more people coming and hence the poverty remains constant while the slums get larger.

While one could wonder whether Theroux should have bothered publishing this book if he felt so hopeless about those countries, the truth is there are very few books or articles, at least in the English language, about Namibia and Angola, and his writing is still a worthy if not pleasant contribution to literature on those countries.

Africa · China · South Africa

The strange case of China’s arrest of British and South African tourists last week

So after threatening stock traders and arresting over 100 human rights lawyers and activists two weeks ago, China decided to move onto new targets – tourists. Last Tuesday (China time), I saw rather bizarre news about a group of British and South African tourists being arrested in Inner Mongolia in China. What was strange was how little coverage it got with short articles in Sky News and the Independent being the only sources of info. On Wednesday, the Guardian reported on it and eventually the BBC. It was never breaking news or the headline story.

The more details there were, the more disturbing the incident seemed. The 20 tourists were a bunch of mostly senior folks, some doctors and executives, who were on a 47-day organized trip around China, but the authorities claimed they were suspected them of having “links with terrorism.” There was no specific details then, but the Chinese authorities kept insisting these people did something involving “terrorism” by “watching propaganda videos.” In addition, though the news had been reported on Tuesday, these people had been detained the previous Friday suddenly at the airport in the city of Erdos and they were not allowed to contact their embassies or anybody else. Their tour agency became suspicious over the weekend after not hearing from them and sent somebody to Ordos check on them Monday.

As the incident dragged on, no proper details were given by the authorities other than the tourists had been doing something related to terrorism. It turned out the terrorist activity the tourists had been doing was watching videos in their hotel. A spokesman for two of the detained said they had been watching a documentary on Genghis Khan. Yes, he was a terror to China… over 800 years ago. Some of the tourists were Muslim and had Islamic surnames and were members of a South African charity, which might have aroused attention from the Chinese authorities for whom even charities and religious organizations are suspect bodies. It seems the Chinese authorities had made a big mistake though they of course refused to admit. The tourists were eventually deported, 11 of them on July 15 and the rest on the 17th.

To get the Chinese official stance, read this
I certainly don’t find it convincing in the least.
“According to the police investigation, the foreigners first watched a documentary in a hotel room. After some of them left, the rest proceeded to watch video clips advocating terrorism. Police later found similar videos stored in a cell phone belonging to Hoosain Ismail Jacobs, a South African national.
The police detained five South Africans, three British nationals and an Indian national on July 11 in accordance with China’s criminal law which stipulates punishment for “allegedly organizing, leading or joining terrorist groups.”
All the detainees admitted to their illegal acts and repented.”
The whole incident raises a lot of questionable issues.
First, the fact the authorities arrested these people on watching a video in their hotel room meant the tourists were being spied upon, which is a disturbing case.

Second, the fact these tourists were arrested for basically watching a video shows people from other countries can be arrested for the flimsiest of reasons in China.

Third, the Chinese authorities never clarified exactly what the tourists had done. If the tourists had been watching “clips advocating terrorism,” which is very vague, the authorities should have specified what clips were being watched and should have said that at the start rather than vague claims about terrorist links.

Fourth, during this entire time, the case, which seemed like a major diplomatic incident, attracted little attention from the international media and the governments of the countries involved. Neither the UK or the South African government spoke out about this. It’s strange when you consider one country arrested 20 tourists, most of whom were seniors, suddenly and held them for days, all the time without specifying details or legitimate reasons. Of course, all the tourists were allowed to leave and the lack of official criticism and media attention probably helped, but it’s absurd that a country can be allowed to get away with such flippant abuse of foreigners.

I wonder if this is the end of it or will it have repercussions in future.

Africa · Books

One Day I’ll Write About This Place – book review

Ahead of my recent trip to Taiwan, I ordered 6 books from Book Depository so I will have some good reading in the upcoming weeks. I finished the first one in about a week.

Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I’ll Write About This Place is a entrancing memoir about the writer, his country Kenya, and by extension his continent Africa. Wainaina is famous for his 2005 Granta article about how to write about Africans, a sarcastic commentary and critique of how Westerners often portray Africa. There is some of that in this memoir, though Wainaina’s criticism is often directed at his country. Wainaina’s book is several things – a collection of vignettes of his life, a wry take on his youth and university years in South Africa, a touching remembrance of his parents, especially his mother, and a lively and at times frustrated narrative about Kenya.

The book starts with Wainaina’s middle-class childhood, then moves to his wayward university years in Umtata (Nelson Mandela’s hometown), South Africa, during which he dropped out and spent a year not really doing much, and his years of struggle before his writing career starts forming. He does not fully explain what ails him, though perhaps there may have some depression.
There’s an interesting chapter about a trip to Togo to write about the country for the 2006 World Cup; Togo is little known to many people other than its most famous footballer, Spurs and ex-Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Wainaina holds little back in his thoughts and his recollection of his life.
There’s little idealism or romanticism about his observations, just a sense of blunt realism that takes in the good and bad, the joyful and the bitter, whether it is about his life or about his country.
His chapter about going to Uganda for a grand family reunion at his maternal grandparents’ home is great, as is his touching tribute to his mother after she dies of cancer.
It is a superb book about life in Africa from an African, specifically a Kenyan who has links to all over the continent.
Wainaina goes through some rough times, does not quite reach despair, at least not until the end.
The last chapters see Wainaina describe a Kenya festering with tension and descending further into tribal-based paranoia and hate, until finally tribal violence breaks out after elections at the end of 2007. Wainaina then leaves for the US to teach and write, somewhat broken. He later returns to his country in 2010.
This is not a book filled with lessons or colorful cliches. Instead, it is one that will help you appreciate one of Africa’s better Anglophone writers, and understand Kenya and Africa a little better.



A fantastic and flawed World Cup, and good football reads

The World Cup starts in one day (Thursday June 12) in Brazil, and it might be one of the most exciting and eventful ones in recent time, but for both good and bad reasons.

First, it’s being held in Brazil, for whom football is like a national heritage and is fittingly the one most strongly linked with the sport. All the other big nations like Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Argentina will be there, as well as regional powers like Mexico and Ghana, as well as dark horses like Belgium and Colombia. The world’s best two players, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi, are in their primes and desperate for World Cup success. Most desperate for the World Cup will be Brazil, whose last turn as host was all the way in 1950, when it lost to Uruguay in the final, a tragedy it has never recovered from. I mention all this in my column about the World Cup.

But the country has been rocked by huge and frequent protests and strikes, all fuelled by anger over the massive spending (over US$11 billion) on hosting the World Cup. The issue isn’t just the spending, but that the money was needed for more important services such as hospitals, schools, and other social resources. These problems had been ongoing for years, but the World Cup spending served to highlight this issue and serve as a lightning rod for many Brazilians’ anger. It might seem strikingly ironic that so many Brazilians are opposed to a World Cup in their own country, but it also shows the extent of their anger. There are underlying tensions in the country with racism, poverty and inequality.

I have to say all this took me by surprise.While I am slightly aware of some of these issues in Brazil, I was surprised by the protests and by the anger behind it. For instance, for the last World Cup in 2010, South Africa did not face such large protests despite being in a similar situation as a third-world country with serious poverty and inequality having to spend a lot on hosting the tournament (ultimately it was only about one-third what Brazil has spent). Don’t get me wrong, there were many South Africans who didn’t appreciate the government spending either, especially on fancy, new stadiums that looked good but were useless after the World Cup. For years, I’d been reading about how good Brazil has been doing economically and that its international profile had been growing to the point where it’d become a member of the BRICS emerging powers (the others being Russia, India, China and South Africa). Now, I suppose I hadn’t been paying enough attention but also, I’d say the news and journalism I’d come across on Brazil hadn’t been too accurate.

The situation in Brazil is hugely interesting but there’s also some good stuff on other issues in football. Here’re two great articles that show there’s more to football than just sport. The first is about racism in Italy, which sadly is still strong in parts of the nation and society, especially football. There’s some touching account of the blatant racism black players, which even star Italian striker Mario Balotelli faces, as well as revolting descriptions of deep and unabashed racism in parts of the country. To balance this, here’s a nice feature about Belgium and multiculturalism, which is most apparent with its young, talented team made up of players with roots in Africa and the Caribbean. Belgium is well-known for being a wacky sort of nation, one that’s almost artificial and deeply divided on ethnic and linguistic lines, and the article confirms this, but it also raises the prospect that the team represents a new generation that bridges this.

Finally, just as how exciting, fun and incredible the World Cup can be, the organization that runs it is equally as corrupt, dastardly and shady. Don’t take it from me, take it from British comedian John Oliver and his hilarious, but mostly true and apt take on why FIFA is so appalling.


Africa · South Africa · Travel

Random links – Cambodia, Cape Town, Game of Thrones

I’m in the midst of a three-day “weekend”, given due to today’s holiday which is dedicated to workers – Labor Day. However, I’m not in a very celebratory mood because right after the “weekend” ends, I get to look forward to a 6-day work week. It’s not too bad, though I’d prefer it if the order was reversed. It’s also an example of the wacky work rescheduling in China (and Taiwan) for holidays, that happens due to the need to make up days. For instance, we only worked three days this past week, but in return we have to work one more day next week, which actually meant we got one extra holiday.

Anyways, another reason I’m not in a festive mood is because on Tuesday I got hit by a car (my first time ever). I got struck by a taxi making a right turn while I was at the side of a road. It wasn’t too serious so I didn’t make a big deal out of it but the aftermath concerning the taxi driver and one of his colleagues left a bad impression on me, which I’ll probably describe in a future post soon.

For now, let me just introduce a few links.

My last travel post was about Cambodia, so it’s fitting I’m turning back to that country. Cambodia has its own version of kickboxing, Kun Khmer, just like how Thailand has its Muay Thai, but sadly this legacy was almost destroyed during Pol Pot’s genocidal reign. This VICE Fightland story takes a look at a new Cambodian mixed martial arts (MMA) outfit that is already competing in Asia after having outgrown the local scene.

South Africa’s Cape Town is a cool city and it’s this year’s “World Design Capital.” I visited in 2010 and it is the most beautiful city I’ve been to, with Table Mountain looming right above and its attractive colonial buildings and harborfront. Unfortunately it’s also possibly the most divided city I’ve been too, and the inequality is still there and strong. Basically, the more well-off and white residents live within the city, while the poor live in huge township slums on the outskirts, which are a completely different world. Khayelitsha, one of the more well-known townships, has over 400,000. Conditions in the townships are rough and dangerous, and attempts to improve local infrastructure often doesn’t help and instead exacerbates the poverty and alienation of the people from the city. Back in 2010, I went on a township tour and the guide, a black South African, said some harsh things about Cape Town, such as that it is a pretty city, but it is not for black people, a blunt remark about how few blacks lived inside Cape Town. My airport driver, a white local, pointed out new homes in the townships while driving past them on the highway, and said how those were attempts by the ANC, the ruling party, to move more blacks into the region. I wrote a piece about slum tourism that year that covers a lot of what I saw in Cape Town, including that township tour.

Game of Thrones is one of the baddest TV shows out now, and along with many other people, I watch it regularly. Among its strong points are its impressive sets and beautiful landscapes, which are shot on location in Morocco, Malta, Croatia and Iceland. Yet it’s Northern Ireland that provides the backdrop for much of the show, and I confess I was ignorant about how attractive it is. A lot of those ancient cities and formidable castles and fantastic scenery in the show really do exist. I’d never thought of visiting those countries, except Morocco, but if I ever do, I’d definitely like to visit the places where the GoT scenes are shot.

Africa · South Africa · Sports

Random links- football features and Kenyan NGO comedy

I’m a bit late to it, but here’s a series of feature stories about football worldwide, done as a leadup to this year’s upcoming World Cup in June. The one about the South African football magnate/ Robin Hood is an interesting piece that starts with a straightforward success story of a football club before delving the ambiguous and delicate social situation in that country. The site, Roads & Kingdoms, is a very interesting one that combines journalism and travel, the sort of thing I’d like to do if I had the ability.

Meanwhile, this TV series seems interesting- a Kenyan “mockumentary” comedy about a corrupt, inept NGO. The country, and sub-Saharan Africa, has more than its fair share of these kinds of organizations, as well as good ones too.

China · Travel

Dental disappointment and random links

I’m still aggravated from spending over 1,100RMB (US$185) this afternoon to try and get a filling done on my tooth at a nearby international clinic, but at least I was able to enjoy the snowfall, Beijing’s first for the year and season, and a few online links.

First, the reason I had to get a filling is because my previous filling just flat out came out. It got dislodged on Wednesday in the Nanjing South train station as I was eating a salty duck jianbing (pancake) which was particularly chewy. The reason why I said I tried to get a filling done is because the dentist failed to do so, having spent over 10 minutes prodding into my mouth with a needle to apply the anesthesia without any success. She even used a second needle, as at one point she asked her assistant to change it. Admittedly the tooth is the furthest back in my mouth, but it is disappointing that a supposedly qualified and highly paid professional can’t carry out such an ordinary task.
The only good thing is because the filling wasn’t actually done, I didn’t need to pay a further 1,000 RMB. I will visit Taiwan in a few weeks so hopefully my former dentist there can help me. I’m not wealthy but the reason I went to this clinic is because I wanted to deal with an English-speaking dentist. Back in Taipei, I saw my dentist for years, having first gone with my mother, so I trusted him.

I was doing some random blog browsing earlier in the day, and I came upon a surprising bit of news about Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, who was also PM in 2006 but only for less than a year. The blogger claimed Abe resigned the first time around, because of a seriously upset stomach. Basically, he suffered from chronic diarrhea due to ulceratis colitis, a bowel disease caused by ulcers and which results in frequent and bloody bowel movements. At first, I thought the blogger was just saying nonsense to be mean, but it turns out he was saying the truth – Abe did step down as PM because of chronic diarrhea. Now I’m no fan of Abe, his policies or Japan in general, but when I read the piece, I can’t help feel some sympathy. As someone who has longterm bowel issues myself, the thought of someone suffering from a serious bowel disorder and still becoming prime minister is kind of admirable. Coincidentally, ulcerative colitis is also what forced Manchester United player Darren Fletcher to be out of football for some time. Fletcher, a Scotsman, has come back as his condition has improved.

The NY Times has a list of 52 places around the world to visit, and number one is … Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a great choice – the city is scenic, boasting the impressive Table Mountain which looms right over it, historic, and has a fair bit of culture and of course, glamor. For me, it is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to. Of course, I’m sure many of the other places listed are pretty good to visit too.

Meanwhile, here’s something about Scandinavia, specifically some negative stuff about countries that we often only hear good things about. A British writer wrote in the Guardian about problems with Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, half tongue-in-cheek and half serious, and not surprisingly, he got spirited responses from people from those countries, with a bit of banter thrown in. Here’s what they said, as well as the British guy’s defense. The Brit actually wrote an entire book about those Scandinavian/Nordic countries as well as Iceland that was recently released.

Africa · China · South Africa

Beijing blues- the saga of the “psycho” rental agent; and South Africa’s funeral farce

The weekend is supposed to be a time for relaxation and joy, but so far it has been the complete opposite, full of anxiety and concern.

This is because of the latest threats from my apartment agent in which he wants me to meet his demand or else pay over 5,000RMB. I say latest, because this is part of an ongoing drama stemming from when I moved in, having taken over from the previous tenant whose lease still had a month. Unbeknowst to me, the agent hadn’t been informed I was actually moving in so when I called him, saying I was the new tenant, he literally blew a gasket and ordered me to go to his office right away. When we actually met in person, among the agent’s first words to me was to threaten to kick me out of my home. “Who said you could move in? Who let you live there? Get the hell out! Where you going to go?”
Eventually we settled on a new lease, in which he raised the rent by a substantial amount, and I also had to pay him an extra fee for the time remaining on the previous tenant’s lease (which she had already paid the agency for, and which I had paid her). The agent wants some sign of a deal between me and the previous tenant, which was private and doesn’t concern him, and he gave me an ultimatum by next Tuesday to cough it up, even if it’s a handwritten scribble. Otherwise he’ll (A) make me pay up 5,000 for that time I spent on the previous tenant’s lease, (B) call the police and (C) notify the authorities. Such a prolific guy he is, he combined several threats within one main threat. I believe the latest drama from him is because of a dispute he has with the previous tenant over her deposit which he still has. Way back in October, after he got over his pique and let me sign a new lease, he talked to her and said she’d get her deposit back. Since then, he’s apparently reneged and finally has drawn up this subleasing accusation. Which has some validity to it (I wasn’t aware of it), but given he made me pay an extra fee and let me sign a new lease for an increased rent, he benefited from it. In addition, the fact I moved in while the previous tenant’s lease was ending made it easy for him since it meant continuous rental revenue and no need for him to go search for a new tenant.

This is a lesson about life and society here, and one that’s shaken me a bit. The guy is a bit of thug, a tall, lanky guy who always look as if he’s sizing you up, his agency is a small one, and I don’t rule out the possibility of him showing up to demand money from me or calling people to get physical on me. Regarding this issue, I’ve had two different people, both local Chinese, tell me not to be too trusting or honest about dealing with people. As one said, you might be honest but you think the other person will be the same and admit if he’s wrong?

Coincidentally I was going to write an article for my paper about settling in to Beijing with the headline being what the agent said to me. My point was going to be that despite Beijing having a rough reputation, it wasn’t so bad. Given the new threats from my agent and that I might be forced to leave my current place without my deposit, I’m not so sure right now.

Aside from my rental agent problem, I was shocked, amused and then angered by the news about the fake interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. What happened is this guy who was supposed to be doing the sign language interpretation for all the speakers at the funeral, including Barack Obama, was faking it the whole time and making gibberish gestures. Understandably South Africa and the ruling ANC government have been embarrassed, as they should be (one official even claimed the interpreter was overwhelmed by the English because he’s a Zulu speaker!). Usually such a farcical incident would be really funny, which I initially thought, but taking the broad view, it’s a shame that the funeral of such a famous and influential icon is being tainted by this BS. That very “interpreter” had the nerve to claim he is schizophrenic and had a schizophrenic incident as he was signing at the funeral, accounting for his meaningless and ridiculous gestures. Obama also had his own incident at the funeral, where he was pictured having a “selfie” taken with the British and Danish prime ministers, the latter of whom Obama also appeared to be very happy with as they sat next to each other. Usually I’d be disgusted by the taking of a selfie at a funeral, especially when the people have big smiles as if they were hanging out at some restaurant or mall, but the circumstances kind of mitigate that. The local culture in SA concerning funerals means there’s singing and dancing which means it’s not only about being solemn and shedding tears.

Africa · South Africa

Mandela’s South Africa

Here’s a striking diverse set of opinions about Nelson Mandela from his countrymen. Most of it is positive, but it starts off with an angry, disillusioned young man who has a strikingly different feeling about Mandela. I’m no stranger to hearing some negative opinions about Mandela, both personally and from reading. There are some who think he “sold out” his black countrymen to the whites, mainly because Mandela tried to be pragmatic and not forcibly take wealth, property or companies from the whites. This meant that even with the removal of apartheid, the economic elites continued to be elites and the majority of sectors like banking and construction remained in the hands of whites. This also meant that South Africa avoided the fate of Zimbabwe during the past decade, when Robert Mugabe ordered armed invasions of white-owned farms.

Going back to the angry young black man, I can understand where his anger comes from but I think it’s very misguided. Mandela should not be blamed for everything and it’s foolhardy to think that even as great a person as he could do things like eliminate poverty just like that.

The Atlantic takes a look at the tough question of what’ll happen next to South Africa. One white South African is so worried that the country will go berzerk on whites after Mandela dies that he’s amassed an arsenal. Others have a chilling view with a pragmatic intention – “there are those who actively wished Mandela dead. The deification of Saint Mandela, they say, reveals just how deeply racist most white South Africans are—they only respect “good blacks.” Others believe his death will clear the path for us to have the really tough discussions that are so crucial in South Africa right now.” There is a certain logic behind these dark thoughts – with Mandela dead, South Africa and its ruling ANC party may find it more urgent to tackle serious problems facing it, as they’re unable to take comfort in Mandela and live off of his glory.