Did Castro hold back Cuba?

Cuban sign reading: 'To fight against the impossible and win.'

Alongside his depiction as a “brutal dictator”, negative reflections on Fidel Castro since his death on November 25 have focused on his “mismanagement” of the Cuban economy and the consequent “extremes of poverty” suffered by ordinary Cubans. This caricature is problematic – not only because it ignores the devastating economic impact of the United States embargo over 55 years, but also because it is premised on neoclassical economic assumptions. This means that by stressing economic policy over economic restraints, critics can shift responsibility for Cuba’s alleged poverty on to Castro without implicating successive US administrations that have imposed the suffocating … Continue reading

Bukowski: Poetry for the damned

If we turn to the post-Beat scene of writing from the American West Coast we find many noteworthy literary creatures. The poetry of Charles Bukowski stands in contrast to Houellebecq’s nihilism. Bukowski’s dirty realism pulsates with the same themes as Houellebecq albeit with much more in the way of exuberance. He doesn’t so much languish in complacent affluence as live and breathe the filthier side of life. Bukowski remains an essentially American writer in his unabashed individualism, which serves to complement the reservoir of squalor and misanthropy in his prose. He has no coherent social message to convey only defiant … Continue reading

Is Africa’s success story over?

The most impressive person I met in Botswana barely said a word. She was an older woman, small in stature. We were sitting next to each other at a table during lunch at a conference about Botswana’s economic model. In a quiet voice, she told me that she was a former government minister. We talked briefly about the conference, neither of us saying anything particularly memorable. Then we were both drawn away by other conversations. I learned later that Gaositwe Chiepe was the first woman to serve as a government minister in Botswana, the large but sparsely populated country just … Continue reading