The title grabs you, doesn’t it? Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World portends something well-informed, if not brilliant. As 2021 begins I wonder what’s to come, and wish i could turn to someone knowledgeable to tell me what’s to come.
If you watch CNN you would recognize Fareed Zakaria, host of a weekly magazine of international affairs GPS: “the Global Public Square”. It’s on Sunday, and I never miss an episode, just about the best thing on that network. He also writes for the Washington Post. Zakaria was educated at Yale and Harvard, where he received his PhD, having been editor Foreign Affairs and Newsweek International, among other professional gigs.
I wonder if his influence extends as far as conceptual templates in the literary world. I saw an Atlantic piece today. New York Magazine had a piece just a few days ago. Are they copying Fareed? I’m tempted to join the club. For months now I’ve been thinking of doing a piece with a title like “five lessons from Sam” meaning the lessons my dog (Sam) has taught me.
4-feed me! (if Sam could talk, much of the time she would either say “feed me” or “let me go outside I need to pee / poo”)
5-when in doubt play the piano pianissimo. (recalling that Sam lives under the piano)
But I don’t mean to mock Fareed whose erudition & learning come across in every sentence, whether I’m listening to his wisdom on GPS or reading his book.
Even so, I’m conflicted. You see, there’s a small detail that I can’t ignore. It’s January 2021 as I continue to read Fareed Zakaria’s excellent book, and in case you didn’t notice, the pandemic isn’t over. Even if the title does dare to give us a name for the promised land, we are a long way from a post-pandemic world.
In the meantime I suppose his book is a fascinating study, perhaps a bit of futurism, pondering possible changes. What will life be like?
I’m not going to do the cheesy thing and tell you the ten lessons. I hate spoilers in movies (where someone spills the plot details spoiling the surprise), and won’t do that here even if it’s non-fiction. It’s fascinating reading with or without the surprises one gets turning the page.
The title is less an indication of the book’s objectives than an organizing principle, a way to structure the conversation, and helpful as a guide to the topics being covered. Fareed pulls in lots of sources while offering a discussion on a series of topics such as urbanization, the impact of computers & AI, or comparing different approaches to political economy. The prose flows (and I giggle to think that my assonant phrasing may have stopped you, pondering what I mean when I say that…How ironic that my comment on how his prose flows, might stop you, because mine: doesn’t. So it’s a terrible illustration actually). But just as it’s a great pleasure listening to Fareed on GPS, so too reading his thoughts & how nicely he segues from one to the next. I’m in awe of his writing & his thinking.
It seems especially poignant with recent events in Washington DC. I recall the disdain with which many received Kelly Ann Conway’s construct of “alternative facts”, a euphemism for the messages originating with her former boss. But as of 2021 one can’t deny that there is an enormous amount of information out there, including a great deal that is totally unreliable. Authority is a compass to orient us. The red light or green light is what we look for before we press the gas pedal. We will not know where we are nor who we are if we can’t rely on the location of the North Star, if all the alternative sources confuse us and problematize truth. Our ability to think clearly is clouded when everything becomes a matter for controversy, subject to doubt. Perhaps it should go without saying, but in a trustworthy book, you know where it’s coming from, its sources properly documented, the author’s objectives clear. We’re in a troubled time when experts are questioned merely for being experts when our leaders have to have body-guards to protect them from those who question the legitimacy of the electoral process.
It’s a pleasure reading Fareed. I only wish that whenever I emerge from the book & turn on the TV, that the world were as trustworthy, as civilized, as uplifting, as the discourse I enjoy in Fareed’s book.