Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

It is not African, and I haven't read the book yet, but I do give myself license to write a short entry about the film by Julian Schnabel based on the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby. I would rather not say anything about what it is about, since I can think of nothing better than to have the privilege of watching this film without knowing in advance what happens. But even knowing (as I did) it is still remarkable and heartily recommended. Trust me. Helps if you're a francophile of course.

It makes me think. The Gates Foundation, I heard from a friend, is sponsoring macroeconomists to spend time in Africa to try to come up with solutions to solve problems. A very strange approach. Everyone understands that African polities are seriously messed up. One reason they are messed up is because civil society has few powerful tropes to combat the "leader", who basically says, "Don't even think about crossing me, I will put you in jail, and besides, if you did cross me and succeeded, the other guys behind me or you yourself would be even worse than I am." In a poor desperate society, where everyone knows how easy it is to lose in one day of violence the asset they've worked for years to acquire (a store, a bicycle, a mobilette, a car, a cow) the value placed on order is consequently immense.

Wouldn't Julian Schnabel be able to help with a little creative non-destructive disorder? Isn't African civil society likely to benefit more from visiting artists, poets, musicians, writers spending more time with their peers in Kigali, Nairobi and Brazzaville? Than from macroeconomists, I mean. Of all people.

(Insider comment: Is this a delayed reaction to Thomas Sargent's lag operators and inverting matrices that was inflicted on me like a punishment Year 1 of Ph.D. program? ;-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", but the movie I'd rather see is "My Stroke of Insight", which is the amazing bestselling book by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor. It is an incredible story and there's a happy ending. She was a 37 year old Harvard brain scientist who had a stroke in the left half of her brain. The story is about how she fully recovered, what she learned and experienced, and it teaches a lot about how to live a better life. Her TEDTalk at TED dot com is fantastic too. It's been spread online millions of times and you'll see why!