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READ ON THE STREET

Two sides of the same coin

Written by Malcolm Robertson, founding partner
15 August 2020

Good morning,

I once provoked a mild-mannered argument with a prominent journalist when I wrote that “sometimes, pictures are better than words”. “No, they’re not”, he replied, and the debate – in as far as it was one – didn’t really get more sophisticated than that. 

As with most things in our lives, balance was the issue. I will always believe in the power of photographs to shape our view of the world and to give us pause for thought. Some of the photos we’ve selected this week do just that, with the shocking images of an oil slick off the east coast of Mauritius serving to remind us that, just as one crisis envelopes us today, so too do others quietly, dangerously endure.  

But the influence of words is of course undeniable and I hope that the blend of images and written content that we present this weekend entertains, educates or just gives you cause to reflect on a world of uncertainty, from which there must surely come opportunities to live in a better way. 

Have a great weekend.

Mauritius oil spill

These are sobering and upsetting pictures from the devastating oil spill in Mauritius. The country’s environmental minister, Kavy Ramano, said it best: “we are in a state of environmental crisis.” 

See for yourself at NPR

Rivers of gold

This photo from National Geographic shows the canoes of miners floating over a spot where gold was found in Venezuela’s Caroní River. The image was first published in the March 1963 issue but, even then, the equipment was dated. What is most powerful about this image then, is what we don’t know; the specific, individual circumstances which led each person to endure such great a risk in the pursuit of treasure. 

Read in National Geographic

Socially distanced in Paris

Diners at this Parisian restaurant might be in want of intimacy, as they face one another beneath plastic shields – yet another example of the hospitality industry seeking creative ways to enforce social distancing. 

Find out more at CNN

Eye of the storm

A spectacular flash of lightning illuminates the sky over Edinburgh during the dramatic storms earlier in the week. 

See more in the Edinburgh Evening News

Why Britain failed its coronavirus test

This piece from Tom McTague is a sobering read which highlights the failures of the British state in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. However, as McTague points out, the UK was sick long before the virus struck, and the systemic failures that were laid bare by the crisis require a comprehensive and concerted effort to rectify. While Boris Johnson may have the radical instincts required, it’s questionable whether he has the capacity to address Britain’s underlying health conditions – “although he may campaign as a Ronald Reagan, he might govern as a Silvio Berlusconi”.

Read in The Atlantic

Rentier Capitalism

This piece in the Guardian is a standout analysis from Professor Brett Christophers of Sweden’s Upsala University on a large element of Britain’s jaded economic model: rentier capitalism. 

As he puts it, the model is “fundamentally orientated to ‘having’ rather than ‘doing’, and it is based on a proprietorial rather than entrepreneurial ethos.” That, in short, is the UK since the 1970s. Living – quite literally – off past glories, however those came about, and inherited ownership. This is one of the many reasons cited for the relative decline of the UK economy in the league table of the industrialised world over the last century and more. As we lift our sights from life-support in this crisis to what might come next, such perspectives should offer sharp lessons for policymakers here. There is a book to follow – Rentier Capitalism: Who Owns the Economy, and Who Pays for It? (Verso). We look forward to that when it comes. 

Read in The Guardian.

Kamala Harris makes her case

Headlines were made on Tuesday evening when Joe Biden announced that he had picked Kamala Harris as his running mate. 

A former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, she is the first black woman and person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and the fourth woman in US history to be chosen for a presidential ticket. With change being so desperately needed now, can she prove to be a voice of progress? 

Read in the New Yorker

Build back better

Benny Higgins has devoted a significant amount of his time to public and third sector leadership. Having helped create the plan for the Scottish National Investment Bank, he was then asked to chair the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery for the Scottish government. In this piece, he signals the need for urgency, to get on with the job of restructuring, and signals a measure of caution around the ‘dilatory’ response from the government in certain aspects.

Read in The Scotsman

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