A horrifying photo essay from Foreign Policy about the world's most failed states.

Postcards from Hell

Life in Zimbabwe has undoubtedly gotten better since a power-sharing agreement between Robert Mugabe, who has ruled this southern African country since 1980, and Morgan Tsvangirai, his most prominent opponent and the current prime minister, entered into force in February 2009. Inflation is down from 230 million percent, goods are back on the shelves, NGOs are able to work again (though they are often still harassed), and the country is able to tap into foreign credit lines from regional banks and China. The bad news is that Mugabe has kept up his dictatorial rule as if nothing had changed; for example, he celebrated his 30th anniversary in office to the spectacular fanfare seen here, where children display militant loyalty to the ruling party. Mugabe and Tsvangirai operate autonomously, holding occasional talks to resolve disputes over cabinet appointments, land expropriation, opposition arrests, and media freedom -- among other things. With little sign of progress for months, both leaders are now looking forward to fresh elections as the "only way out" of the political stalemate, as Tsvangirai has put it.

Do click through to see the complete photo essay. It's scary stuff.

This is interesting ...

Postcards from Hell

Someone recently sent me this fascinating video related to the new book by sociologist Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford prison experiments fame–or infamy, I guess). The theme of Zimbardo’s new book is the way time is perceived among different cultures. Of relevance to the Foreign Policy essay is the idea that populations and cultures in northern climes have adopted a future-oriented timeframe, likely because it’s necessary for their survival. You have to stock food, fortify shelter, and so on to prepare for the winter months or you’re going to starve. Or freeze. Tropical populations have a more present-oriented concept of time. Food is available year round. There’s no winter for which they need to prepare. I’ve read some interesting commentary on how these differing concepts of time might explain why warmer countries have been slower to develop than cooler ones.

I don’t know nearly enough about developmental economics or sociology to gauge the validity of the theory. I just find it interesting.