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Mark and Steve talk about the press coverage of the Financial Crisis as well as touching on a few other news stories including the World Anti-Racism Conference in Geneva.
Mark: Hello, again, welcome back to EnglishLingQ.
Mark here with Steve, again.
Steve: Hello there.
Mark: Today, Steve has a number of topics that he’s called from the news files.
Steve: Well, exactly.
You know I was thinking about the world we live in and right now, of course, everyone is talking about the Crisis and people feel that they have to get a report every hour of something that relates to the Crisis.
One report has things improving and one has things getting worse and people get pepped up and then they get depressed.
We don’t need all this information, we have too much information and particularly the slight bullets of information and Twitter and Facebook and who’s brushing their teeth and who’s drinking coffee.
I’m just not into that, I like to sit down with my book, put on my classical music and read in peace for two hours.
Mark: I think you’re mixing together a few different themes there.
Steve: I thought it would stir up the pot.
Mark: I don’t see where news necessarily relates to Twitter.
I mean most of what happens on Twitter are individual people’s comments on what they’re doing, what they saw, what they read, as opposed to receiving actual news updates.
For instance, the Financial Crisis, I don’t think it’s Twitter that’s affecting it or mini bites of information.
Steve: No, I realize it’s not causing it, but what I’m saying is every time you turn on the news…like I don’t watch the news on TV anymore, but you would essentially see similar little blips of information about the Crisis; at 5:00 o’clock, 6:00 o’clock, 7:00 o’clock, slightly changing each time, with no significant information.
The average person doesn’t need to have a report every hour on what’s happening with regard to the Crisis.
There’s nothing he or she can do about it.
Mark: Well, I don’t think that many people are sitting there in front of their TVs waiting for the next update on the Financial Crisis.
I mean I think your point about all this news coverage obviously having an affect, I think, yeah, I agree with.
For instance, well, anywhere from the massive we’ve got to get the G-20 met and have to come out with massive new funding and programs and so on, which, to my mind, if it’s supposed to make people feel confident I think it has the reverse affect.
Because what it says is there’s a huge problem and these people are clutching at straws and opening up their pocketbooks trying to somehow turn the tide.
It doesn’t really give a feeling of comfort at all, I don’t find.
Steve: No, but it did have the affect of at least causing a short-term rise on the stock market.
But I agree with you that the kinds of people there you wouldn’t trust them very far anyway.
Most politicians are not very much trusted in their own country and you’ve got a whole bunch of them together all trying to protect their own interest, to the extent that they understand it.
Steve: That’s not a great formula, but one thing too on the Crisis, just kind of wandering a bit.
One of the things about the Crisis, if you listen to programs, like I’m learning Portuguese now so I was listening to a Brazilian radio program that is loaded up in LingQ, right, and I downloaded it and listened to it.
One thing that annoys me about it, by the way, is every 30 seconds they come in with some music, which I don’t like.
I like to just listen to talk, if I want music I’ll go to music.
Steve: Anyway, there you have the perspective of Brazil, which is what they call a BRIC country, Brazil, Russia, India and China.
They’re sort of not in the lower echelon, but they’re that next level of country that’s moving from being considered not a developed country to being, in fact, largely a developed country.
Russia kind of falls in between because of their history and, of course, there in those countries, and probably in China and India and elsewhere in the world, they would like to blame the West or Japan, like the industrialized world, for global warming or for the Crisis.
Like the Crisis is the American’s fault or global warming is the developed world’s fault and, to some extent, it’s true.
Steve: Because the banking system in the United States – Canada is different – and in some parts of Europe is very creative and it has been part of creating the economic growth that we’ve seen.
Steve: The propensity of Americans to consume has created tremendous demand in the world.
Steve: And the gashouse emissions by the developed world are far, far greater, certainly on a per capita basis, than in the underdeveloped world.
Mark: Greenhouse emissions.
Steve: Greenhouse, yeah.
Mark: That’s if you buy the argument…
Steve: Forget that.
Mark: …that greenhouse gas emissions do cause global warming or that there, in fact, even is global warming.
But we’ll save that for another occasion.
Steve: We’ll save that for another time.
But, let’s assume that is true.
I agree with you, there’s lots of evidence that, in fact, there’s very little relationship and that there’s all kinds of other factors at play.
But let’s assume, in the worst case, let’s assume that we are all being bad by driving cars, flying on airplanes and drinking water out of plastic bottles.
Mark: Heating our houses.
Steve: Heating our houses or not having efficient houses.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being less reliant on nonrenewable energy, I agree with that.
Steve: However, the point is that the worse case scenario for global warming, to the extent that they can predict it which isn’t very reliable, means that various low-lying parts of the planet might get flooded.
Steve: We might get back to where we were in the year 1565 or something when it was 10 degrees warmer, whatever, so some people won’t be able to live.
I mean Bangladesh would be seriously affected and there are other places that would be seriously affected, that’s bad.
Mark: Conversely, I guess…
Steve: Let me just finish what I was going to say.
But in all those countries, I mean in India or 100 years ago, life expectancy was 30 years and today it’s 70.
In China today hundreds of millions of people have a much higher standard of living than even the previous generation.
All of that was caused by the bad industrialized world.
So that hundreds of millions of people are alive today that would not be alive if it weren’t for the creative banking and the industrialized and wastefulness and the consumer society and all those bad things.
Mark: And, of course, the medicine.
Steve: Well, that’s right. No, but that’s all part of it. You can’t have one without the other.
Steve: So that society, because of the money that’s generated through big bad consumerism and all this other evil stuff…
Mark: Big bad pharmaceutical companies.
Steve: Big bad pharmaceutical companies and all this evil stuff has led to a situation where China…now, you might say China was maybe happier with only 200 million people and India was maybe happy with only 200 million people, but the other billion people are much happier for having had a chance to be alive.
Steve: So I think there’s a tremendous sort of contradiction there.
Mark: Well, that’s right.
And you always hear people talk about it.
Someone was saying this, even quite recently, someone who had had acupuncture.
It had really helped their back and was saying, you know, in this case, “The Chinese traditional medicine, I mean they’ve got it figured out.
This is just so wonderful.” I pointed out that, well, yeah, acupuncture does work for many things and I’ve had it work for me.
More than anything else I think it relaxes your muscles and muscle tightness can cause discomfort, but to suggest that the Chinese medicine, as a whole, is better than what we have now or Western medicine is obviously silly because their life expectancy, when they relied on Chinese medicine, was less than half what it is now, so I pointed that out to him.
I think he kind of, “Yeah, hey, maybe you’re right.”
Steve: Well now, of course there are many other reasons.
But, no, primarily even China had a very poor, low standard of living, up until very recently, but their life expectancy increased with the introduction of Western medicine.
When I was learning Chinese, I mean there are stories by Lushun who is was the icon, you know, of Chinese literature and stories where he was very bitter about Chinese medicine and how, you know, money was wasted on buying, you know, the liver from a duck that had been, you know, rolled over in mud or whatever they did, you know, the extract or whatever.
I mean, undoubtedly, in all these folk medicines there are different herbal mixtures that are beneficial.
Steve: You can’t…after thousands and thousands of years, starting back in the caveman era, human beings have been experimenting and it’s not just in China, it’s in every society.
Mark: For sure.
Steve: Whether it be Latin America prior to the Spanish coming over.
I mean in the Middle Ages they had more of these folk medicines than we have now.
Steve: It had some effect.
Mark: I’m sure.
They discovered some things worked; they discovered other things that they thought worked, which actually had no relation to an improvement in someone’s condition, but, then, because everyone believed it to be so it spread.
I mean the same thing occurred…you’ve talked about how scurvy was a big problem in the Age of Exploration during the long sea voyages.
They had known that it was a vitamin C deficiency way back when and had realized that fresh fruit would solve the problem.
But then, at some point, that fell out of favor and the treatment went back to drawing blood or whatever it was…burning leaches…I can’t remember.
So then for the next hundred years, even though they already had discovered the true remedy, they went back to using leeches and sucking blood and whatever.
Mark: Consequently, scurvy was a problem for another hundred years before they rediscovered lime juice.
Steve: You know it’s amazing that in Chinese medicine or in other folk medicines, they resent the idea that there should be tests with placebo…
Steve: …to make sure that, in fact, it’s the medicine and not the psychological factor that’s the cause.
Because we know that psychosomatically, like if you believe something is going to help you, it’s going to help you, in many cases.
So the fact that Western medicine has to go through this very rigorous testing over lengthy period of time; whereas, folk medicine doesn’t.
Steve: And they resent the suggestion that it should be, you know.
Furthermore, you know all these Chinese medical practitioners, half the time we don’t know what they’re putting in their potions.
You know one fellow might use a certain mixture and depending on the mood or the moment somebody else, so…
Mark: It’s different.
Steve: That’s not to say that those things don’t have their place, but, as you say, the sort of systematic sort of anti-established Western medicine must be bad.
There are things in Western medicine…I think Western medicine has been too intrusive, you know.
I think there’s a tendency to over operate.
Mark: Over operate, over vaccinate.
Steve: There are definitely things that can be learned.
They always say that Chinese medicine is more holistic or these other medicines deal with your overall personality.
Well, Western medicine, any sensible doctor is going to say what do you eat?
Are you active, you know?
If there’s sort of tension in the family or there are problems then that’s going to cause health problems, too.
Yeah, I mean…
Mark: I mean I don’t think you can find a perfect…no doctors are perfect, no system is perfect, but the average life expectancy, the health, the ability to fix serious medical problems that would not have been fixable years past, those are major advancements that have been brought about by Western medicine.
Steve: But it is interesting to think that certainly there’s nothing unique about the West.
That if you had looked at the world 1,000 years ago then medicine as practiced in the Islamic world or the Arabic world or India or China was more advanced; they were technologically more advanced.
Then there are series of circumstances and also boring from some those traditions led to the development of medicinal science in the West, so why wouldn’t people learn from that?
It might be that the next 100 years sees China or India or somewhere else as the leader.
Mark: Fundamentally, the freedom, whether it’s economic freedom or political freedom or the freedom to develop medicines or solutions, causes advancement.
Steve: You know that reminds me of something.
We should always be willing to learn from anyone who has something useful and intelligent to say, so I’m reminded of yesterday.
You and I were trying to lift a very heavy television set.
Steve: And we had these things that strap onto our arms because it’s very difficult to grab a television; you can’t grab a hold of it and it’s like 160 pounds, like 80 kilograms.
So we’ve got these arm straps and we’re holding it and we can’t lift it up.
So, Kyle, your soon to be 10-year-old son…
Mark: Well, we could lift it, but we couldn’t get it high enough.
Steve: In other words, we couldn’t get our hands underneath it with the straps.
So Kyle, 10 years old tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, he says, “Why don’t you each get a little higher thing that you could step on?
So then you just step back onto this higher thing and lift it up.”
Steve: I mean 10 years old. We would never have thought of that.
Mark: No. Yeah, that’s true.
Steve: So, you know.
That’s because, of course, he’s much more intelligent than we are.
Mark: That’s right.
Steve: But, no, I mean one has to be willing to look at anything that works.
Mark: Absolutely. What else did you have in your bag of tricks?
Steve: Well, I always have things to talk about, you know.
One thing we could talk about is there is this Anti-Racisms Conference in Geneva.
Steve: And, of course, anti-racism is a subject that…you know it’s one of these things, I mean, yeah, in principle we’re all against racism.
In fact, racism exists everywhere.
I mean dogs are racist, wolves are racist.
It’s us against them; it’s always been there.
And so anti-racism has become a matter of beating up on some other group.
Steve: And so now the Anti-Racism Conference in Geneva has become an opportunity to beat up on Israel, period, end of story.
Steve: Now the fact that, yeah, there’s a war going on there.
Steve: There are a lot of refugees who left what was then Palestine 50 years ago, some of whom live in the Gaza Strip.
Does anyone know that there were 300,000 Georgians kicked out of Abkhazia in the 1990s that still live in Georgia?
Does anyone care that there were another 50-60,000 kicked out of Southern Ossetia that are all living in rented accommodations in Georgia?
How many people left Nagorno-Karabakh when the Azerbaijanis were fighting the Armenians?
How many people were killed in that war?
How many people were killed in Chechnya, which is a very tiny little place?
You know 100,000-200,000?
Steve: And, yet, all of a sudden, the world campaign to fight racism is sort of concentrated on this United Nations Conference and…I have trouble pronouncing his name…
Mark: Ahmadinejad or something.
Steve: Ahmadinejad is there.
Now, yeah, there’s a struggle going on — one group doesn’t like the other group — but for the United Nations Conference on Anti-Racism to become sort of a pedestal for, basically, denying the right to exist of a country to me is an indication of just how far down the United Nations has come.
I think it’s lost a lot of its credibility.
Mark: I agree.
I haven’t had respect for the United Nations for a long time, as far as I can remember, but it’s just getting worse and worse.
It’s basically a pulpit for bashing the West and Israel is perceived as an extension of the West oppressing the downtrodden again.
So it’s just the favored cause of the left-wing and the downtrodden and Israel is now in the wrong.
I’m not saying who’s right or wrong, but it’s certainly not obvious to me that Israel is in the wrong.
What’s more, as you point out, for the United Nations to be sponsoring this thing is really wrong.
Steve: I mean I can understand the Arab position that the Israelis, largely European Jews, arrived there with their European technology and basically helped themselves to this land.
Steve: Even though I’m of Jewish background, I don’t believe that the fact that Jews lived there 2,000 years ago really justifies them taking the land away from the people who are living there.
But, lots of stuff has happened.
There are all kinds of places over the last 100-200-300 years where people have moved in; besides which, the United Nations recognized Israel.
Mark: What’s more, that’s what people have done since time immemorial; one group moves in kicks out another.
There’s no right or wrong, they’re there now.
Mark: If you think you can kick them out kick them out, but it’s not up to the United Nations.
They’re there, they’re defending themselves, the people are them are perfectly within their rights to try and take it back.
Obviously, from the perspective of world peace, we would prefer that everyone learns to get along and that they can accept new boarders and let bygones be bygones.
I don’t think it benefits anyone to continue to have that situation fester.
Steve: Well, that’s the thing.
I mean if we were able to get past that stage, because there are all kinds of people who have moved into other areas.
I mean Genghis Khan used to have mountains of skulls or something after he devastated some country.
Steve: I mean in Canada, for example, in Canada the French were defeated by the English, so forth and so on.
Mark: Yeah, but, of course, the natives…
Steve: And the natives! There you go.
Mark: …would feel like, well, it’s our land.
Mark: But the fact is our ancestors – it wasn’t my ancestors – the original Canadian people who came to Canada from Europe were more advanced and took the land and that’s what people have always done.
That’s just how it is.
Steve: I mean the Norman conquest of England, the Anglo-Saxons. However…
Mark: Exactly. How far back are you going to go to redress past wrongs?
Steve: And, of course, the former Soviet Union is a tremendous example of peoples having been moved around at the whim of Stalin and now they’re kind of trying to settle their scores.
But, in all of this, there is no question in my mind that there is tremendous opportunity for people to let bygones be bygones and to figure out a way of living together.
If Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria that part of the world, particularly with all the oil mining that’s there, if the Middle East decided that they were all going to pull in the same direction that could be an amazing center of economic power, development, influence, which would rival now…
Mark: For sure.
Steve: …you know we talk about the Far East, China, Japan, Korea, we talk about India, but if the Middle East ever decided to work together would be unreal.
Mark: For sure. Well, with that we should probably…
Steve: We’ve solved most of the world’s problems.
Mark: I think we’ve solved the world’s problems.
We should mention, that Anti-Racism Conference, Canada did not send a delegation, which I very much respect.
Steve: And they were the first to say we’re not going.
Mark: Exactly. Anyway, we’ll leave you with that and we’ll talk to you gain next time.
Steve: Bye for now.