Democracy field notes

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The Brussels Summit

When future historians look back on the agreement forged in Brussels during the past several days and nights, they’ll surely be struck by its historical significance. The complex deal agreed by representatives…

Fareed Zakaria’s Dream

If there was a machine capable of detecting reticence and hostility towards democracy there’s no doubt it would be working overtime in this European crisis. It would buzz and bleep in more than a few locations…

Europe: the Devil’s New Playground

Shortly after touching down in Berlin last week, I contact a friend who says she’s on her way home to Athens, to vote in this weekend’s cliff-hanger election, the most desperate since the defeat of military…

Silence, Power, Catastrophe

In The Fixed Period, the 19th-century English writer Anthony Trollope describes a university college where the professors are compulsorily retired at 67, given a year to contemplate the world, then peacefully…

Rethinking the Occupy Movement

From Tunis to Oakland, Madrid to Athens and Sydney, an estimated 900 major occupations of public places by citizens took place around the world during the past 12 months. The following notes probe their…

Every Joke is a Little Revolution

Every joke resembles a tiny revolution, George Orwell once wrote. He had a point. Even when they’re instantly forgotten, of little or no consequence or just plain silly, jokes momentarily disrupt the settled…

Bob Brown and the Virtue of Humility

Archaeologists tell us that Sumerian kings had their face slapped once a year by a priest to remind them of the importance of humility. Medieval historians note that monarchs were sometimes forced to swear…