Last King of Scotland

Kate and I rented it last night. (I know, renting: how quaint!). It is excellent and highly recommended. Aside from Amin’s brutality, mania and sadism, the hardest thing about the film is to watch as the hope, optimism and promise of future development and prosperity are squandered in the name of madness corruption, hatred and persecution. It reminded me of something I’d noticed while playing around with Gapminder the other day. Gapminder is a neat web app that allows you create customized visualizations of global statistical trends, everything from female literacy to per capita GD. What’s really cool is that you can plot two variables against each other to see if there’s a correlation. One thing that stands out when you mess around with Gapminder, is that when you animate the statistics over time, all of the colored little orbs that represent various countries will move in one direction that is generally the direction of progress: more wealth, less illness, higher literacy rates. Except for sub-saharan Africa, where the little blue marbles bounce back and forth or sink, distressingly, to the bottom. There are few things more depressing and outrageous than regress. What has always cut to the quick about the story of Nazi Germany, or the Afghanistan in the 1970s, or Iraq before Saddam and sanctions, is that the past was better than the present and likely the near future. It’s a hard thing to get our heads around, accustomed as we are here in the heart of the imperium to uplifting narratives of progress. But the story for many parts of the world in the last fifty years is the story of devolution.

Chris Hayes is the host of All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.

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