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Stephen Harper's Reading List
Yann Martel is the author of The High Mountains of Portugal and Life of Pi, the #1 international bestseller and winner of the 2002 Man Booker (among many other prizes). He is also the award-winning author ofThe Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios (winner of the Journey Prize), Self, Beatrice & Virgil, and 101 Letters to a Prime Minister. Born in Spain in 1963, Martel studied philosophy at Trent University, worked at odd jobs—tree planter, dishwasher, security guard—and traveled widely before turning to writing. He lives in Saskatoon, Canada, with the writer Alice Kuipers and their four children.
Yann Martel: Yes, exactly, especially\r\n fiction. Why? Because fiction, art, is the best way to explore the \r\nother. So, one of the books that I sent Prime Minister Harper of \r\nCanada, was "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, which is about a \r\n12-year-old black girl in urban Ohio, I think in the ‘50’s. And that as\r\n far from Stephen Harper’s, who was an empowered, white, middle-aged \r\nmale in Canada, that’s as far as far a distance likely as you can get in\r\n North America. Well, no matter, you read that novel, you read "The \r\nBluest Eye," and you are that 12-year-old black girl from a highly \r\ndysfunctional, African-American family. So for a few pages, you’ve been\r\n that black girl. The same thing with, you know, Zora Neale Hurston, \r\n"Their Eyes Were Watching God," wonderful language, you are an \r\nAfrican-American speaking in the African-American vernacular. You read,\r\n "Maus," by Art Spiegelman, another book I sent Harper, you are a Jew in\r\n Europe during the Holocaust.
So if a world leader does not read \r\nfiction, how do they know what it means to be the other? In a broad, \r\nemotional way, not just factually, you read here, another one, Chinua \r\nAchebe, "Things Fall Apart," a fantastic, fantastic Nigerian novel about\r\n the encounter between Nigeria and England during the time of \r\ncolonialism. How one flawed society met another flawed society, it’s an\r\n amazingly powerful, even-handed... it’s not a screed against \r\ncolonialism, it’s extraordinarily even handed about the tragedy of two \r\npeople that met who did not manage to meet each other, did not manage to\r\n communicate. If you don’t read any of that kind of stuff, how do you \r\nknow the world? How do you know the possibilities of the world? How \r\ncan you understand the other? Therefore, how can you get your vision? \r\nWhat kind of blinkered vision do you have if you’ve never read a novel, a\r\n poem, a play?
You know, we can’t be led by people—and let’s be \r\naccurate here, what I’m naming here are middle class, white males—we \r\ncan’t be led by middle class, white males who have no vision beyond a \r\ntechnocratic, economic vision. Otherwise, they will lead us like, as if\r\n we were a corporation where the bottom line is profit. And the bottom \r\nline of society, of us as a people, an American people, a Canadian \r\npeople, a Paraguayan people, what you want, is not an economic bottom \r\nline, it’s a cultural one, it’s an existential one. And that economics \r\nis one part of it, you cannot have governments that care nothing about \r\neconomics, that would be crazy. But you can’t just be about economics. \r\n You know, it has to be about "What are we here for?" And we are here \r\nto be together, to talk, to try to understand life.
You know, \r\nculture is not just money for the National Endowment for the Arts. \r\nCulture is everything, of which the economy is only a component. So a \r\nleader who knows nothing about the arts, to me, that is scary. And so \r\nlook at Barack Obama, bless the man, he wrote to me, he wrote me a \r\nletter about "Life of Pi." I’m not even American, he had nothing to \r\ngain, he just wrote to me because he liked my book and he wrote to me. \r\nAnd look at his language, look at his vision. I’m not saying that \r\nbecause you read books you will be a good leader. If that were so, you \r\nknow, literary, you know, reviewers at the New York Times would all be \r\npresidents. No, that’s not the case, but, so, it’s not that readers \r\nmake, reading makes you a leader, but to lead, you must have read. To \r\nlead you must read, because that nourishes your vision. So that’s what \r\nI’m trying to point out in this campaign, which there’s a blog, \r\nWhatIsStephenHarperReading.com, one word, what is Stephen, Stephen with a\r\n P-H, it’s a blog, you’ll see all the letters I’ve written, with the \r\nbooks that I send him every two weeks, and it asks people, "What do we \r\nwant of our leadership?" I think we want people who have a breadth of \r\nvision that you get by reading.
Question: Has he \r\nresponded to you?
Yann Martel: No, not at all, I’ve\r\n received five replies from his office, none from the man himself. And \r\nas I said, the contrast between Barack Obama, to whom I’ve never \r\nwritten, who writes to me, a handwritten note. I must be the first \r\nperson in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to get a letter from the sitting \r\npresident of the United States. One handwritten note from my own prime \r\nminister, to whom I’ve sent 79 books with 79 letters—nothing. The \r\ncontrast couldn’t be starker.
Recorded April 13, 2010
Why has the "Life of Pi" author been sending novels to the Canadian prime minister?
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.