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Resistance to Change

For Mr. Coutinho, 43, the showdown with the government was the culmination of a hitherto quixotic quest to shake up a conservative and conformist society, a task that he has returned to doggedly throughout his career.

“They always say here, ‘It is the way it is — don’t question it,’” Mr. Coutinho said. “There’s a constant fear of change, so everything remains frozen in time and space.”

''The sense of stagnation is pervasive in Suriname, a former Dutch sugar and coffee colony of 600,000 people in northern South America. Most of the buildings in the center of the capital, Paramaribo — a mix of wooden cottages with gabled roofs and Brutalist gray office blocks — date to colonial times.

The country’s small size and isolation have also strengthened a complex system of oblique social controls that Mr. Bouterse, a former military dictator with as yet unenforced convictions for homicide and drug trafficking, relies on to stifle dissent, said Ms. Jessurun, the activist.

In this small, hierarchical community, the social price of dissent can instill as much fear as violent repression, Mr. Coutinho said. “If you cross the wrong people here, you’re socially dead.”

Government critics may find themselves passed over for promotions or attacked on social media. Their relatives’ businesses may lose a vital sanitary permit or be denied foreign currency to import inputs.''
- Anatoly Kurmanaev, A Philosopher-Banker Who’s Shaking Up a Nation, NYT, Published May 8, 2020, Updated May 11, 2020


Like America’s failed response to the coronavirus, the wildfires and poisonous air are best seen as a product of negligence at all levels of society, from individuals to cities and states to a federal government that, in recent decades, exited the business of getting anything done. These were natural disasters exacerbated by human weaknesses: a reluctance to plan, a preference for denial over prevention, for consumption and convenience over caution, and for quick fixes over lasting change.
- Farhad Manjoo, Human Weakness Is Responsible for This Poisonous Air, NYT, Sept. 16, 2020


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