Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
This month, I’ll provide an update on my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader, and the situation with the Presidential election there. In Culture Watch, we’ll look at the impact of the growth of elites and inequality in the U.S. My Writing and Reviews will include the latest book and movie reviews. Voices in Action will include a provocative quote, and the Calendar will be updated.
The Guatemala Reader: I’ve decided to self-publish to preserve the 20 essays and include photographs, a map, a bibliography, and an updated version of “Democracy in Crisis.” The elected Presidential candidate Bernardo Arevalo’s ascendence is being challenged by the “Pacto de Corruptos.” Which motivated the Brazilian President to warn of a potential coup in Guatemala at the United Nations. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/19/brazils-lula-warns-guatemala-risks-a-coup-prompting-rebuke-at-un
I am a history buff, but Peter Urchin is unlike most historians. His background is as an evolutionary biologist studying lemmings and mice. Analyzing the complexities of the natural world allows him to understand the most complex systems of human society.
He predicted the turbulence of 2020, which included outbreaks of political violence that the U.S. hadn’t experienced in years, and most interestingly, he’s expecting another crisis in 2024. He identifies several harbingers of societal crisis, including “elite overproduction,” and analyzes examples of this phenomenon throughout history. One example was the 2016 Presidential primary, which included 17 major candidates, and due to the intense competition, many incentives existed for people to start breaking the rules.
I found Turchin’s insight eye-opening, as he offered a fresh perspective on contemporary issues, including rising inequality, political polarization, and the erosion of social trust. According to Turchin, the greatest threat to the status quo today is the non-college-educated white Americans. An illegitimacy crisis is underway, according to Turchin, as one study indicates that by 2040, 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate, and eight states will contain half the population. He says that white supremacists are not a marginal force; “they are inside its institutions.”
One of my favorite authors,” Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, says,
…Peter Turchin has pioneered a new science of making history predictable—by applying methods that had already succeeded in other complex fields. You’ll want to know what he sees lying ahead and what we can do about it
The Problem with Jon Stewart provides insights into another reflection on the impact of elites as seen through our two-tiered justice system—and why white-collar criminals are so often above the law. He’s joined by Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Yale professor and founder of the Center for Policing Equity.
My Writing, Interviews, and Reviews
Double-click on the Million Mile Walker poster at the top for the latest Arizona Authors Association newsletter, Authors Dispatch, which includes two of my book reviews of local writers. Under “Member Accomplishments,” which focuses on the Making of the Guatemala Reader, they inserted the wrong issue—so here is the correct one in case you missed it: The Million Mile Walker Dispatch, August 2023 (mailchimp)
My latest review takes us back to 1540, and the largest exploring party to set foot on what is now the U.S. Coronado’s party discovered New Mexico, Arizona, and the Grand I’ I’m posting it here to celebrate Hispano Heritage Month—there it is in its entirely: #readabook#southwest#millionmilewalker https://millionmilewalker.com/…/coronados-quest-the…/
And here’s another podcast that provides the other side (true story) of Coronado’s Quest based on decades of research on indigenous accounts, which contradicts the one perspective we’re used to: the European one.. (from “Throughline” Tenochtitlan: A Retelling of Conquest, NPR) https://www.npr.org/2021/10/06/1043792004/tenochtitlan-a-retelling-of-the-conquest?fbclid=IwAR3uOAMtlzQ8uRdEgJ_n8oJO74iQM65KVdLSlq_P2gFJtEeWE8ibpZW9xOs
Smoke Signals is a road map on self-discovery–how Native Americans relate to modern popular culture. It’s based on Alexie’s short story, “The Lone Ranger & Tanto Fistfight in Heaven.” It is a timely movie that counteracts how Native American culture is presented on the screen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_Signals_(film)?fbclid=IwAR2mS7YuFV4cGemnG7zrx-cBhAl4_3cLb3tAtjIWo4D2sPfxaof4U6fczo8
A Million Miles Away is an inspiring movie that gives a new appreciation of the immigrant family experience! It is a drama about his patch from farm worker to engineer and astronaut. It is a tale of perseverance, community, and sacrifices to accomplish a seemingly impossible dream!
Voices in Action
Book bans in public K–12 schools continue to intensify. In the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year. Over 40 percent of all book bans occurred in school districts in Florida. Across 33 school districts, PEN America recorded 1,406 book ban cases in Florida. Report on book banning by PEN America as part of Book Banning Week, October 1-7. https://pen.org/report/book-bans-pressure-to-censor/
Ignorance is not bliss; it’s stupid. Banning books shows you don’t trust your kids to think, and you don’t trust yourself to … talk to them. ― Anna Quindlen
What Others Are Saying
While enjoying a hot cup of morning java, I found this in the Fall issue of The Westerner: “Academic Achievements: (’71) Mark D. Walker’s latest book, My Saddest Pleasures, has been recognized as the 2023 winner of the Peace Corps Writers Award for Best Travel Book.” This brought back many fond memories of studying at Western Colorado University in Gunnison and living/working in Crested Butte! (But that’s another story…)
- October 14, The local PEN America Arizona chapter is hosting a book Banning Event! (My son-in-law is on the panel!) Arizona State University, The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ
- October 12-14, Tempe, AZ, Desert Nights Writers Conference, hosted by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.
- November 4, The Arizona Authors Association Literary Awards Banquet, Bottegas, Italian Ristorante, Glendale, Arizona
You can find my 80 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos, on my website, including a reduced price for my new book if you read it and pass it along to your local library: http://millionmilewalker.com. “Follow” me on Twitter—at https://twitter.com/millionmile and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/millionmilewalker/ for the latest international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it or, better still, purchase my latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, the Best Travel Book according to the Peace Corps Writers Group. https://www.cyberwit.net/publications/1919.
Mark D. Walker