Five Best Tuesday Columns

Margaret Atwood on the Middle East, Paul Mason on capitalism's decline, Christopher Nolan on the future of movie theaters, Alexander Motyl on NATO's friend in Moscow, and Michael Powell on the New York he's seen.

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Margaret Atwood in Haaretz on how the Mideast conflict would look to Martians. For the paper's special issue on the Israel peace conference, the author imagines how we might explain the unsolvable Israeli-Palestinian conflict to beings from another planet: "'We see what the problem is, more or less,' say the Martians. 'But from our own vantage point, which is on a planet far away and in another galaxy – we had to vacate Mars because of climate change – both sides would be well-advised to agree to jointly care for the ground they stand on. It isn’t very much ground, and it’s getting dryer and more polluted by the minute. If it becomes uninhabitable by human beings, what will they all do then?' [...] And they get back into their spaceship and zoom away."

Paul Mason at The Guardian on the bleak future of capitalism. disturbing new report on the future of global economy predicts a world of great wealth, and massive inequality. "The OECD has a clear message for the world: for the rich countries, the best of capitalism is over. For the poor ones – now experiencing the glitter and haze of industrialisation – it will be over by 2060. If you want higher growth, says the OECD, you must accept higher inequality. And vice versa." Even worse, Mason argues, that's before we account for the effects of climate change that will only hurt economies even more and make growth nearly impossible. "The growth of high-skilled jobs and the automation of medium-skilled jobs means, on the central projection, that inequality will rise by 30%. By 2060 countries such as Sweden will have levels of inequality currently seen in the USA: think Gary, Indiana, in the suburbs of Stockholm."

Christopher Nolan at The Wall Street Journal on innovation at the movies. For the Journal's 125th birthday today, the director of the Dark Knight trilogy was asked to predict the future of movies. The biggest change has been, and will continue to be, delivery, as 35mm film cans give way to instant electronic delivery and programming. "A movie's Friday matinees would determine whether it even gets an evening screening, or whether the projector switches back to last week's blockbuster. This process could even be automated based on ticket sales in the interests of "fairness." Nolan believes that despite the changes in technology and presentation, films will still bring people to the theater. "This bleak future is the direction the industry is pointed in, but even if it arrives it will not last. Once movies can no longer be defined by technology, you unmask powerful fundamentals—the timelessness, the otherworldliness, the shared experience of these narratives. We moan about intrusive moviegoers, but most of us feel a pang of disappointment when we find ourselves in an empty theater."

on how Vladimir Putin saved NATO. The end of the Cold War made the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mostly obsolete, but Russia's recent adventurism in Ukraine changed all that. "By violating the postwar international order and unilaterally annexing foreign territory, Putin reconstituted Russia as a threat. By vowing to protect all Russians living abroad, Putin repositioned Moscow as a menace to Europe ... By supporting anti-Ukrainian militants in eastern Ukraine, Putin effectively arrogated the right to wage war in a Europe, where it had been considered unthinkable. Why, then, shouldn’t he wage war against other members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, such as Moldova and Georgia?" Motyl argues that Putin walked into his own trap, as the attempt to bring Kiev closer to Moscow, only succeeded in pushing it further away. "The greatest irony is that Putin is driving Ukrainians to embrace the West."

Michael Powell in The New York Times on gentrification and an ever-changing New York City. In Powell's last column for the Times, he ruminates on the many changes he's seen while living and reporting on NYC. "My hope was to revisit the city I knew, and to chase the changing city I half-knew. I rediscovered an intoxicating, blink-and-it’s-gone place: Guatemalan immigrants battling to save their Queens park from ruin, Senegalese mothers fighting in housing court for heat, and former patrons rallying to save a beloved postal delivery man’s home from foreclosure’s maw." He adds that it wasn't the hipsters and their trust funds that saved New York's roughest neighborhoods. "Contentious, cacophonous, Italian, Puerto Rican, Polish and Jewish homeowners and tenants organized and stood their ground and saved Williamsburg," but today, "To be a New Yorker sometimes is to be a gentrifier and displaced in a single breath."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.