Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sid Meier's Somalia

I was reading a news article about Somalian pirates today when it occurred to me that Somalia, from everyone else's point of view, rather resembles a barbarian settlement in Sid Meier's Civilization game.

However, the barbarians in the game make a nuisance of themselves on land and I haven't noticed them taking to the sea; the Somalians are much more aquatic.

In the game, there's only one way to deal with barbarians: as soon as possible, you march in and wipe them out, with superior technology or superior numbers, or both. Real life tends to be less simple.

Friday, 14 November 2008

President Obama

I've been a bit surprised by all the hullabaloo over the election of a new US president. Let's try to make some sense of it.

Q: Will President Obama make everyone's lives much better?

A: Probably not. He's a politician, not a magician. He'll do the sorts of things that US presidents normally do.

Q: Will he at least be a better-than-average president?

A: Maybe, but we'll have to wait and see. No-one actually knows; not even the man himself.

Q: Will he do good things for black people in particular?

A: Probably, but to a very limited extent. He'll want to make some kind of gesture to his black supporters, but without antagonizing his non-black supporters, who are more numerous.

Q: Is the election of a half-black president a sign of US moral superiority over other countries?

A: No. The USA has a much larger black minority than most other predominantly white countries. According to Wikipedia, the USA is 80% white, 12.8% black, and 1.6% "multiracial" (I omit other categories). The UK, for example, is 92.1% white, 2% black, and 1.2% multiracial. Other European countries probably have even smaller black minorities. If it takes the USA this long to elect even a half-black leader, it's not surprising that it takes other countries even longer. However, if a politician similar to Obama appeared in the UK, I think he could attract plenty of votes. Obama himself seems popular in most countries, at least at the moment.