Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Subtlest Form of Torture


~ Robert Johnson

Of Note: Many believe that the United States has a destiny to disseminate democratic principles to the rest of the world. Proponents of the proselytizing avenue think that books about creating democracies are an excellent way to spread the word. As a matter of fact, the U.S. State Department is one such advocate and has had a project to do so for 25-years called the Arabic Book Program. Its objectives have included "translating into Arabic, publishing and distributing selected books from American writers in various areas including economics, management sciences, politics, humanities, arts and the environment." That basically covers all the bases, though philosophy and religion are not mentioned. So how has it done over the years with its stated objectives? A recent report by the State Department's Inspector General gives it poor marks. For beginners, the program has only translated 6 to 10 titles a year and distributed few of those to libraries in the Middle East. Many of the titles are chronically out of stock. What's more, translated works include Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and several recent works on environmentalism. While these may be entertaining or informative, core documents have been left untouched, such as The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Further, there is no prioritization of its limited resources "on primary source documents of political philosophy or books that constitute expositions on core principles that can assist struggling nations." The United Nations has even weighed in on the issue. A 2002 Arab Human Development report stated: "Translation is one of the most important channels for the dissemination of information and communication with the rest of the world." Many believe it is time for the Arab Book Program to step up to the plate and take seriously its charge. With the current fiery energy engulfing the region, minds may be clamoring for information on democratic principles that has been kept for years just out of reach.

Today's Weather Report: The sunshine today has made the difference between a gloomy disposition and a happier outcome. At 24 degrees Fahrenheit, it's almost balmy. My sister, Marie, teased me recently about calling anything in the 20's balmy. But it's the truth after a long winter with many days of subzero temperatures. Today I will finish up the last of three books that contain all the blogs I wrote from 2007 through 2010. There are over 800 pages of blog material plus the same number of pictures. Marie has kept me in pictures since the beginning, although I've contributed some as well. Thanks to her, the blog is enlivened daily with a gorgeous scene of one kind or another. Plus, she keeps taking new ones from which to select. All I can say is please keep it up.....I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

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