“Most economists, it seems, believe strongly in their own superior intelligence and take themselves far too seriously. In his open letter of 22 July 2001 to Joseph Stiglitz, Kenneth Rogoff identified this problem. ‘One of my favourite stories from that era is a lunch with you and our former colleague Carl Shapiro, at which the two of you started discussing whether Paul Volcker merited your vote for a tenured appointment at Princeton. At one point, you turned to me and said, “Ken, you used to work for Volcker at the Fed. Tell me, is he really smart ?” I responded something to the effect of, “Well, he was arguably the greatest Federal Reserve Chairman of the twentieth century.”
To which you replied, “But is he smart like us ?””
Few things have the capacity to trigger an intense emotional response more effectively than this video of a 29-year-old deaf person hearing for the first time. For the able bodied, trying to imagine the life of someone missing one or more of the core senses feels pretty much impossible. In the UK, the Oily Cart theatre company specialise in providing entertainment for young people with profound disabilities. Their current show, an adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, endeavours to create a theatrical spectacle for children who are both deaf and blind – which at first seems like an insurmountable challenge. But if you cannot engage with two senses, make the most of appeals to the rest. So for the participants in Kubla Khan, the seating revolves; the smell of incense wafts across the stage; the audience dip their hands into water, into which the stage crew blow bubbles through straws to conjure up a swirling River Alph. There are times when human ingenuity can be inspiring.
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