Weekend Roundup: When Better Angels Lose Their Wings


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

In an enlightened dialogue, the Dalai Lama tells Archbishop Desmond Tutu that his years as a refugee have taught him to identify with the plight of so many others today. “This recognition that we are all connected,” says Tutu, “is the birth of empathy and compassion.” However noble this sentiment, the world can look a lot different to a German burgher trying to provide for his family and preserve the character of his community than it does to two religious leaders conversing in the misty hills of Dharamsala. As much as we may feel global, we react local. 

At the Global Progress 2016 conference in Montreal recently, Germany’s vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, concisely captured the backlash roiling politics in his country and the rest of Europe. “As the average citizens see it,” he said, “first the authorities spent billions on bailing out the banks, and now are spending generously on refugees from Syria and elsewhere — meanwhile cutting back on pensions, unemployment payments and other social benefits through austerity policies. ‘What about us?’ they ask.” That attitude may not make saints of citizens, but neither does it make them sinners. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel is discovering through repeated blows at the polls, when the wages of war outstrip the means of empathy, people retreat into their own suffering and better angels lose their wings. Bad faith results from good intentions if the capacity to fulfill moral claims is lacking.

Writing from Germany, Tobias Lill worries that if Merkel does not take action soon to relieve the anxiety of her citizens, the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party could soon arrive in power. “When vast swaths of the country have lost faith in establishment parties,” he says, “it can quickly lead to crisis.” The key to avoiding such a crisis, he argues, is providing better support for working families.

The refugee crisis was front and center this week at the United Nations General Assembly. As Willa Frej reports, U.S. President Barack Obama convened a summit of leaders from more than 50 nations who pledged $4.5 billion in aid to groups helping refugees to find education and work. The U.N. Development Programme administrator, Helen Clark, calls for a greater focus on “prevention and mediation” of conflicts before they turn into full fledged wars while “promoting inclusive economic growth and sustainable livelihoods” in the troubled nations from which refugees and migrants flee. Mercy Corps’ Neal Keny-Guyer argues that “conflict causes violent extremism more than violent extremism causes conflict.” Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, outlines the enormous economic costs of conflict in the Mideast and North Africa, stressing the importance of keeping “core government institutions functioning in times of conflict” in order “to maintain life-saving services.” Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister and U.N. special envoy for global education, is concerned that a “lost generation” is in the making as an estimated 265 million displaced children worldwide are out of school.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose country has been one of the primary targets of Donald Trump’s xenophobic campaign, argues that agreements reached at the U.N. this week “must aim at strengthening the state’s capabilities for the protection of migrants and their human rights, while recognizing their contributions to economic development and achieving their social inclusion, in order to eradicate intolerance and racism.”

WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones, in Istanbul, and Danae Leivada, in Athens, report on the deplorable conditions at the Moria refugee detention center on the island of Lesbos, which was engulfed in fire this week. The mayor, they report, has not ruled out the possibility that the blaze was ignited by members of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, whom Greek journalists have also accused of attacking them at an anti-refugee protest, HuffPost Greece’s Marialena Perpiraki reports.

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, writes that even though the U.K. and the European Union are parting ways, they can still find a way to work together. But, he warns, “We cannot shape a new European future at such a time of fragility by indulging in nostalgia — none of us, including the U.K., can bring back the past.”

Anastasya Manuilova reports from Moscow on why Russian sanctions against Western food imports has not dented popular support for President Vladimir Putin, as demonstrated once again in elections this week. She cites a key study that says most Russians perceive Putin’s import ban as “a sign of strength” in standing up to Europe and the U.S..

Foreign Affairs Reporter Akbar Shahid Ahmed reports on a speech at the Harvard Club in New York by Turkey’s first lady, Emine Erdogan, about the recent coup attempt. She asked Americans to imagine how they would react if the Brooklyn Bridge was seized by terrorists.

Writing from Beijing, Wang Jisi, one of China’s leading experts on America, argues that the “new normal” of U.S.-China relations is an ongoing contest over framing the new rules of a world order in transition. Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, makes no bones about his objective of military domination of the western Pacific. “If we have to fight tonight,” he says, “I don’t want it to be a fair fight. If it’s a knife fight, I want to bring a gun. If it’s a gun fight, I want to bring in the artillery — and all of our partners with their artillery.” Writing from Manila, Richard Javed Heydarian charts the latest antics of the “fiercely independent-minded” president, Rodrigo Duterte. Heydarian notes that on a trip to Jakarta, the president was seen as “criticizing America and its lack of commitment to the Philippines, while praising Chinese assistance to the Philippines.” That has made some wonder, he says, “whether there would be irreversible consequences for bilateral relations [with the U.S.], among the oldest and most intimate in human history.”

In the wake of the New York and New Jersey bombings, Afghan-born suspect Ahmad Rahami’s father said he had told federal agents about his son’s interest in terrorist organizations a few years ago. Daniel Koehler explains why he believes the United States needs “deradicalization” counseling that provides concerned parents like Rahami and authorities with an option to derail a terrorist attack other than prematurely calling the police or keeping a young person’s unsettling turn a secret.

Ed Dolan explains why business leaders seem wary of a Donald Trump presidency. “The biggest corporations,” he surmises, “are trembling at the prospect that this populist outsider would break the cozy relationship they have had with government for as long as they can remember.”

Dominique Mosbergen reports on another focus at the U.N. this week. “The General Assembly is meeting to tackle a global health crisis that’s estimated to ‘kill more people than cancer‘ does now in the coming decades,” she writes. “Antibiotic resistance causes the deaths of at least 700,000 people annually. That number is expected to balloon to 10 million by 2050.” She also reports from Singapore on the staggering health toll the ever more regular haze is taking on populations across Southeast Asia.

Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at an experiment in which a man’s thoughts are able through induced chemical reactions to control nanobots inside a cockroach.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

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