1. Deutschland über alles
Germany has again been rated as the world’s most admired country, according to a poll published by Gallup.
The way I heard it explained is that only four contenders are picked – The USA, Russia, China and Germany – because they are best placed to exercise leadership in the world, if they so choose. So here are the results since 2007:
In this poll it seems over 40 is a top mark, and down around 30 is rubbish. Under Obama’s second term the US did well, but Trump saw the US slump from 48 to 30. You can see how much Putin and Xi have impressed.
I heard on the radio that Trump’s best is in Africa. The Europeans detest him, the Germans 78/12 disapprove.
Germany does well in a range of other polls.
This brings to mind a German lecturer we had at uni, a lovely man. He told us his grandfather was the only Prussian general who lost a battle in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.
He also told us that the Germans might be admired and respected by others, but never loved.
We loved him, and we were sad when he had a heart attack and died at the age of 51.
2. Twiggy Forrest to show the way
Tim Dunlop has unloaded on the ABC for choosing Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest to deliver the prestigious Boyer Lectures this year, a series “designed to explain ourselves to ourselves”.
To Dunlop it is a sad commentary on the ABC and indeed our public culture in general.
By and large, especially in its mainstream presentation, that public culture is run by people lacking in daring and imagination who seek only to reproduce their own dull views and ensure that power is never troubled by those who would question its rightness and its virtues.
Dunlop tires of hearing from the Baby Boomers, saying we should look to the likes of:
- thoughtful, brilliant engaging people who barely get a chance to fully enter into the intellectual life of the country. Anyone of these—Amy McQuire, Jack Latimore, Lizzie O’Shea, Tim Lyons, Tim Hollo, Amy Cooper, Jane Gilmore, Jess Hill, Emma Dawson, Ingrid Matthews, Richard Cooke, Richard Chirgwin, Elise Klein, Jane R. Goodall, to name but a few—would make excellent Boyer lecturers, but few of them are in a position to ever make their presence felt, certainly not on any sort of sustained basis.
He guesses that Ita Buttrose may not have heard of any of those.
Beyond the tired MSM he sees hope and value in sites like The Conversation and Inside Story, plus The Monthly and The Saturday Paper, Australian Book Review, Overland, Arena, Sydney Review of Books, The Griffith Review and his organ of choice, Meanjin.
Not on the list is The Guardian, which I know to be out of favour with his sector if the intellectual left.
He does raise a good point about the quality of public discourse, and reminds us that Ita Buttrose is in fact chair of the board at the ABC. I’m not aware of anything else she has done, which may or may not be for the best.
While I can’t always keep up with him, John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations provides stimulating posts.
Any others? Please share.
3. Is China weak or strong?
Hamish McDonald asks the question and says the evidence can be interpreted both ways. He consults all the right people and compiles the best summary and analysis I’ve seen on where China under Xi Jinping has come from, where it is now, and where it may go in the future.
Some of China’s people have been and continue to be treated brutally internally, but overall there remains public esteem for the regime. Economic growth is considered by the regime as essential in retaining support.
Externally China is losing its shine in most places. China has stirred an evolving giant in India unintentionally. The conflict with the US has been hardened by Trump, and looks unresolvable. The Trump regime is now saying in public they want regime change, and the adoption of Western liberal/Christian values. That is delusional. We have backed the US, as demanded, but not all the way. So, McDonald says:
- In the event of the United States “decoupling,” as some security hawks seek, China is comparatively well placed to thrive on its own. With 1.4 billion people, the long-delayed rebalancing would create a massive internal market. “They would be much better off in a globally closed economy than we are,” Golley says. “We’d be one of the worst off. The Americans could handle it better than we can with their population.”
We have backed a country looking at a 10% reduction in GDP against one that will probably grow by two or three per cent.
Bottom line, impossible to say what happens next:
- Nevertheless, it looks like being a fraught hundred days until the US elections are over. Trump is painting his contender Joe Biden as a sellout to the Chinese; Chinese propaganda officials are saying they want Trump to win because he will bring down America and destroy its alliances. It all means that under Trump or Biden, engaged or decoupling, Washington will have permanently firmed up against China.
As for Xi Jinping’s position, it will continue to be enigmatic. “Any shock will come in elite politics,” said Geoff Raby. “It will be played out in a way we can’t see, that we won’t know about until it’s happened.”
I suspect China will continue to bully us, because they can, as a warning to others.
Tristan Edis points out that the Morrison government’s climate policy will come unstuck if Trump is turfed. Biden’s climate policy is impressive.
Scotty from Marketing is not positioning the country well. Trade negotiations with Britain and the EU have already hit a snag over our lack of a climate policy. We have only said what we won’t do. Angus Taylor’s “technology not taxes” won’t cut it.
4. How chairs shorten your life
The New Scientist reports on an investigation of the resting practices of the Hadza in Northern Tanzania, one of the last populations of hunter-gatherers on the planet.
A group of researchers tried to find out why the Hadzas suffer practically no heart disease.
The Hadza do not have chairs, which were invented about 5,000 years ago. They found that the Hadza actually spend about 10 hours per day in resting, the same as people in the US, The Netherlands and Australia.
They also shifted position about 50 times per day, the same as us.
Presumably a fair part of the success of the Hadza relies on the activity during active periods, and diet. The research group, as reported, does not sort out these effects, but concentrates on differences in how the Hadza rest. The Hadza divide this time between sitting, kneeling and squatting.
What they found was that the Hadza spend about a third of their time in “active resting”, that is, squatting and kneeling.
- Squatting forces you to keep the body balanced over the feet, requiring between five and 10 times as much muscle activity in the legs as sitting in a chair or on the ground, and sometimes even more muscle activity than we would expect from light activity.
Other research has shown that persistent resting as we do elevates triglyceride levels.
- Importantly, if the sitting time is broken up with light activity, even a bit of slow walking, triglyceride levels are greatly reduced. In fact, people asked to reduce sitting by spending more time walking and standing over a four-day period saw a 32 per cent drop in triglyceride levels. Sitting for long, uninterrupted periods also alters the walls of blood vessels in ways that make them stiffer and more prone to coronary heart disease, but breaking up sitting with light activity restores vessel function.
Seems that squatting and kneeling will do the same.
However, it is best developed as a practice in early childhood and continued through life.
- Deep squatting flexes the foot upward, pressing the talus, a small bone in the ankle, into the end of the shin bone, or tibia. If it is done often enough, these postures leave a mark on the tibia, called a squatting facet. Palaeoanthropologists have found these facets on fossils of human ancestors going back to Homo erectus, nearly 2 million years ago.
That answers the question as to how evolution could produce an organism that responds so poorly to rest, unlike many other species.
It didn’t. Humans were well-adapted to rest until they invented chairs.
If you are too stiff to squat, you are left with breaking up sitting time. However, if you can squat, your heart will thank you if you do.
I suspect that squatting from early childhood also opens up and loosens the joints in the ankles, knees and hips, making running easier. I wonder whether the Hadza suffer as much from back pain as we do. I suspect not.