The Tao of North Korea

You’ve seen those nighttime satellite pictures of the Korean peninsula. The northern half is dark, while the southern half is a thousand points of light. You might think: hat’s off to those thrifty North Koreans who are helping save the planet by conserving electricity! But of course, that’s not the message you’re supposed to take away with you. The nighttime map is supposed to be a...
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This Is Not a Transition

It has been commonplace to use the term “transition” when referring to what took place in East-Central Europe in the years immediately following 1989. The term initially had a refreshing vagueness to it. So much was up in the air. So much was changing. The fixed certainties of the past had melted away. At the same time, it was not exactly clear what the future held or, at least, when that...
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Slovakia’s Pendulum Swing

All the countries of East-Central Europe have experienced collective mood swings since 1989. Political parties have rotated in and out of power. The economic fortunes have oscillated considerably. And the level of social enthusiasm – on a spectrum from malaise to engagement – has also fluctuated a great deal. Slovakia has been perhaps the most manic-depressive of the countries in the region....
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The Disease of Short-Termism

It was famously described as the “end of history.” The collapse of Communism and the victory of liberalism near the end of the 20th century seemed to suggest that the great ideological conflicts of the previous eras had come to an end. A new and powerful consensus formed around the notion that market capitalism was the only way to organize the economy and democracy was the only way to...
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Both Sides Now

In the Greek myth, Tiresias one day came upon two snakes in amorous embrace. He struck the female snake with his staff. The goddess Hera was so furious at this act that she transformed Tiresias from male to female. For seven years, Tiresias lived as a woman, even giving birth to a child. Once again encountering two coupling snakes, Tiresias deployed his staff, but this time with a purpose, and...
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