Paul Theroux is a jerk — but still my favourite travel writer of all time.
He’s age-81 as I post. Still going strong.
Theroux says he’s mellowed. And I’d admit his most recent books are much more positive than his scathing critiques of the past.
In 2015, he published “Deep South” detailing four road trips through the southern states of the United States. Excellent.
In 2019 he published OnthePlainofSnakes: A Mexican Journey, his account of his extensive travels in his own car throughout Mexico.
In some ways it was a continuation of his Deep South investigation.
Near the start he recaps the deaths and damage done by the drug trade. The insatiable American market. The brutal competition in Mexico to supply it.
He does a terrific overview of illegal immigration before the pandemic. Mexico a net zero. Now mostly more desperate folks from Central America as well as many from India, the Caribbean, and even China.
Over the decades it’s gotten more and more difficult to cross the border illegally. And not because of any wall. Walls are considered a joke in Mexico.
In another instant, his comments come across as self-serving, as when he longs for a simpler Mexico with “inexpensive meals that were delicious, cheap motels that were comfortable, and friendly people who, out of politeness, seldom complained to outsiders of their dire circumstances: poor pay, criminal gangs, a country without good health care or pensions, crooked police, cruel soldiers, and a government indifferent to the plight of most citizens.” …
I was amused to read of all the time Paul paid bribes to crooked cops. An conspicuous car with Massachusetts licence plates — a sitting duck.
Theroux is mostly critical of ReTrumplicans. I like that too, of course.
“The per capita income in Oaxaca is the same as in Kenya and Bangladesh,” Theroux says.
“You’re dealing with people who have very little money and get very little help from the government. But they have a great culture they’re very proud of, their family values are very strong, and they’re very self-sufficient and creative. They mend their clothes; they fix their shoes; they’re actually able to take something that’s broken and repair it; they have a lot of cottage industries.
I admire that, and I admire the ones who pick up and go to the border. Most of the people I’ve met who crossed the border just wanted to earn some money to send back and then go home; they weren’t here to go on welfare or be the parasites they’re identified as.”
In fact, Theroux says, “the book was inspired by everything that Donald Trump and other people were saying during the presidential campaign about Mexico, Mexicans, and the border—their uninformed opinions and stereotypes.”
He adds, “One of the great reasons for traveling is to destroy stereotypes, to see people and things as they really are, to see the dynamics and the complexity of a country. As soon as he started saying things like, ‘There’s too many of them, they’re coming over the border, they’re rapists,’ I had a great reason for taking a year or two to get to the bottom of it.” …
In the near future we’ll have more refugees, not fewer. And they’ll be more desperate.
Afraid to return home. Willing to risk death to escape.
Of course each nation should have a system for handling claims for asylum. But only a small percentage will be granted entry. As populations are getting older, many nations — starting with Japan — need MORE young people to migrate.
BEST of many bad options for refugees not chosen for asylum is to stay on the border. Months. Perhaps years.
There are about 700 refugee camps worldwide, as I post.
Who should pay?
I’d first look to organizations like the Gates Foundation. And to other billionaires who have far more money than they could ever spend.
Life in camp should be minimal. But safe. Police. Schools. Clean water. Medical facilities.
Transportation home should be offered.
If possible, there should be opportunities to work and volunteer.
Some will be under age-18. They should have special protection as should anyone with physical or mental challenges.
Cork O’Connor, now a Private Investigator, paints a picture of racial conflict in rural America, as well as a sensitive look at the secrets we keep from even those closest to us and the destructive nature of all that is left unsaid between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, friends and lovers.
Of the series so far, this is the book I enjoyed least.
It’s too complicated. Too violent.
Gundamentalist Americans make insane mistakes yet the author seems to have nothing against guns — aside from Cork moving his own weapons away to safe keeping.
In Coach Education we have a concept called ETHICAL ACTION.
If you see something you think is wrong, take action.
Record what you saw in a diary. Keep records.
Videotape what you saw.
Notify authorities in a respectful, diplomatic way.
Ideally you ask the (possible) offender: “Why are you doing that? I don’t understand.”
People wonder why I’m so vocal about the high crimes of Donald Trump.
Ethical action. That’s why.
Trump inspired smarter people in Florida to enact a law called Don’t Say Gay. That’s like passing a law called Don’t Say Black. Don’t Say Latino.
We should take ethical action against people who discriminate when their Constitution clearly states that ALL ARE CREATED EQUAL.
Support the lesser of two evils if both sides are bad.
Martin Niemöller was a Lutheran pastor. Initially a supporter of Adolf Hitler and a self-identified antisemite. Later best known for his opposition to the Nazi regime during the late 1930s and for his widely quoted 1946 poem:
“First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I’m often critical of Elon Musk. Turned off by his egomania.
Disappointed in his juvenile comments from the bully pulpit of Twitter. One of the richest and most powerful men in the world attacking and mocking people who are unable to fight back.
I’m disappointed that a guy who claims he doesn’t care about money is so reluctant to pay more in taxes though his businesses have received billions of dollars in tax subsidies.
That said, I admire almost everything else. His work ethic. His companies, especially Boring and Starlink.
Elon Musk does much more good for the world than bad. He’s scientific and well aware of the risks of climate change. He calls for a carbon tax. Musk endorsed Andrew Yang and expressed support for his proposed universal basic income.
Though the headlines shout that Elon is a “free speech absolutist”, Musk himself says Twitter must abide by the laws of each nation. I doubt much will change in terms of Twitter policy in Canada or the USA.
In fact, I’m guessing Twitter will be better for me with Musk as owner.
Warren had me watch this recent interview. Elon defends his life and ethics quite well.
Rupert Murdoch hired him in 1996 to become the CEO of Fox News. In 2016 Ailes was fired, taking a $65 million golden handshake. He was under investigation for sexual harassment from Megyn Kelly and many other women.
Other FOX old men accused of harassing blonde women included:
Fox Sports President Jamie Horowitz Fox Business Host Charles Payne Fox News host Bill O’Reilly Fox News Latino vice president Francisco Cortes Fox News co-President Jack Abernethy
It was the culture of FOX. Hopefully things are better now.
Personally I wish some billionaire would buy FOX News and fire most of the opinion talking heads.
Follett got even more famous writing historical fiction: Kingsbridge Series ➙ Century Trilogy.
In 2021 he published a geopolitical thriller — Never. Quite a departure.
Never is set in today’s world.
The sprawling saga is a fictionalized story of our world stumbling towards a nuclear war that nobody wants.
It begins in the Sahara Desert. Islamic terrorists, drugs and human trafficking.
The American President Pauline Green is a 4′ 11″ Republican. A former gymnast. Of course she’s challenged on the right by a Trumpy populist. Top of the American agenda is a revolt in North Korea. Rebel military have seized the nuclear weapons.
A high-ranking Chinese Intelligence official offers insight into the mindset of that superpower.
This book is terrifying as you can see how a nuclear war could start. In fact, I’m affected enough to no longer want to travel to Taiwan or Korea for hiking. They are both too close to nuclear attack.
As always, Follett writes great love stories. It’s the human stories that separate his work from other authors.