Spotted three thought provokers this morning

1. On Indonesia

Rob Bainton reports something that does not instantly come to mind when one thinks “Indonesia”. Looks as if we need to think again.

Indonesia sent a rather accomplished team of secondary students to Zagreb, Croatia, to participate in the 41st Physics Olympiad. The team: Christian George Emor from North Sulawesi, David Giovanni from Tangerang, Banten, Kevin Soedyatmiko from Jakarta, Muhammad Sohibul Maromi from East Java, and Ahmad Ataka Awwalur Rizqi from Yogyakarta took the competition by storm and scooped four gold medals and a silver medal. Awesome effort considering there were 376 participants from 82 countries!

In a country that is knocking on the door of 250 million people the odds must be in favour of there being a good number of incredibly gifted people living in the midst of that burgeoning sprawl of humanity. This goes to show that some of them have been uncovered…

2. On marriage, gay or otherwise.

Read this article, keeping your irony detector turned on.

In recent decades, the issue of gay marriage has been widely debated.  Should two men in a committed relationship enjoy the same benefits as a man and a woman in the same domestic arrangement?  If it were simply an issue of basic human rights and equality, then the answer is clear – gays and lesbians are human, so human rights should apply.  But gay marriage violates tradition, and tradition is important to many people. 

Traditions are part of our history, part of our culture, and part of who we are.  The degree to which we suffer to maintain traditions reflects their great importance.  Maintaining tradition has been worth the pain of genital mutilation, ceremonial scarring, and foot binding.  Nevertheless, traditional practices have been disappearing steadily.  For example, in many places, women are now considered full persons.  They’re allowed to work outside the home, to wear pants, and to vote.  For those who value tradition, this is a trend that must stop. 

One might argue that traditional practices should be abandoned when they no longer make sense.  But as French mathematician Blaise Pascal recognized, the heart has its reasons that reason doesn’t understand.  Some things are simply more important than reason, and for many, tradition is one of them…

3. On Africa

Tolu Ogunlesi writes of 5 things we didn’t know about Africa.

…Ledgard goes on to declare: “We are all Africans. We originated in Africa. That is proved by the continent’s rich genetic inheritance. Africans are more diverse than the rest of humanity put together, because they are drawn from the pool of humans who did not leave…”

Africa is indeed the world’s past. In its darkest recesses lies overwhelming shame – the shame of slavery, of colonialism, of neocolonialism –  fuelling the guilt of the world.

But Africa is also the future. Ask China. (PDF)

Ask Europe in a few decades, when its streets will teem with pensioners, beneath whose combined weight economies will totter; when it’d be easier to find a mosquito in Germany, than a teenage German.

55 percent of the world’s cobalt is in Africa, as are 15 percent of the world’s arable land, 16 percent of its gold, 89 percent of its platinum, and a sixth of its population. Add China and India and Western Europe, the resulting landmass would still be smaller than Africa.

There is an invasion of fibre-optic cabling across huge swatches of the continent, that is certain to smash much of the invisible ceiling that has kept Africa on the ground floor while the world inches towards the penthouse.

It is a fact that it is now much harder than ever before to be a dictator on the continent. Vicious wars have ended in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Angola.

Africa, the scar of yesterday (In 2001 Tony Blair called the African situation “a scar on the conscience of the world”) is also the potential star of tomorrow. It is where the guilt of the world will be assuaged.