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Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Having seen the film, I had been familiar with T.E Lawrence, the man and his story, before reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom: but I had no idea of his skill with the pen. This book – excelling not only in historical and military account, but also in literary merit – establishes himself as one of the greatest men and truly one of the most talented writers of the 20th century.

A recommended read, Lawrence’s book is a crucial work in understanding the conflicts in Arabia today.

In these pages the history is not of the Arab movement, but of me in it. It is a narrative of daily life, mean happenings, little people. Here are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock peoples. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history, and partly for the pleasure it gave me to recall the fellowship of the revolt. We were fond together, because of the sweep of the open places, the taste of wide winds, the sunlight, and the hopes in which we worked. The morning freshness of the world-to-be intoxicated us. We were wrought up with ideas inexpressible and vaporous, but to be fought for. We lived many lives in those whirling campaigns, never sparing ourselves: yet when we achieved and the new world dawned, the old men came out again and took our victory to re-make in the likeness of the former world they knew. Youth could win, but had not learned to keep: and was pitiably weak against age. We stammered that we had worked for a new heaven and a new earth, and they thanked us kindly and made their peace.

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The Road to Hell

Michael Maren’s The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity shatters the glossy image of NGOs as humanitarian organizations concerned with the betterment of third-world peoples. Instead, he claims Aid as a new kind of colonization. Focusing on Somalia, Maren shows that NGOs there not only didn’t help refugees, but actively killed them. That NGOs supported the power of Siyaad Barre and, later, Mohamed Farah Aydiid. And that NGOs were largely responsible for continuing and worsening famine conditions in the early ‘90’s. In the end, he shows them as no more than Corporations concerned with profit.

It’s an excellent book. Not only for exposing the Aid industry, but for the history and understanding of Somalia.

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