Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Scaremonger's Paradise....

I am an eternal optimist....nothing really breaks my resolve.

Well, nothing except death, that is. Somehow I haven't been able to work that one out. The truncation of breathing and bodily functions, resulting in the complete shutdown of nature's most beautiful and complicated machines. It's a huge conundrum for my somewhat simple mind.

I don't know about you, but I have the greatest difficulty with the 'senseless' strain of this conundrum.

You know I mean, right? The type of death invoked by some loony who has lost all inspiration and has somehow managed to convince themselves the only way to impact the world around them, is to end as many lives as possible. On goes the guns, a suitcase full of bullets and hey presto!

It smacks of a special brand of selfishness, so narcissistic that the perpetrator has made a judgement call and decided they occupy a more important space and by right, a more significant purpose than the victims they  cut down. It's a sad state of affairs and the randomness with which it occurs, can only mean one thing......sooner or later, it will affect us all.

As our cities from continent to continent, become more known for the dastardly acts of the Grim Reaper's disciples, than the beautiful sights and people they hold, it appears even the most romantic of us can begin to see the finish line. Humanity has somehow short-circuited itself into a spiral of hopelessness and indeed, the falcon has started to lose its hearing and the falconer, his sight.

It may not occur to those of us who inhabit the more politically stable countries, but terrorism in all its guises, has taken over the world. The incident that is currently causing us so much revulsion in Boston, is a snippet of what the Iraqis and Afghanis experience on a daily basis! We are all caught in the eye of a most unpredictable storm and worryingly, a lot of us on this side of the world, don't seem aware of the sheer scale of the pervading destruction across the globe.

Personally, I have always believed that the moment we stepped into the abyss, was when people were getting blown up in their place of worship. Anyone who can detonate a device in a church or mosque, would not flinch when it comes to decimating a finish line in a sporting event.

In today's poor excuse for society, you work to get some funds for your holiday and alas, the method of transportation is a perpetual target for the off-key army. They spend copious hours plotting how to blow up your plane, helicopter, bus or train and if by chance, you do manage to evade the venom of their hubris, they track us down to our schools, universities, colleges, parks, bars, hotels and basically, anywhere you plan to have fun.

Age, creed, race, class are no longer determinants in how the end comes. Sooner or later, the United Nations will have to introduce the terrorism factor into their algorithms, as their boffins get together to calculate the latest indices of global life expectancy.

As it stands, a sudden movement or noise in any form of travel is already a cause for grave alarm. We are already being forced to live a life directed by the unhinged and an existence structured by psychopaths. It's the crazies who run the world now.....we are just living in it. Worst still, they look just like you and me, making them even harder to track down.

It's their time now and their weapon, fear, has become a global currency traded with impunity and shocking effectiveness.

But I am a keen student of history and my bookshelf is full of literature that tells me these things come around in phases. Change, I am told reliably, is the only constant and like I said at the beginning, I am an optimist.

Our time will come....

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher and the Division of Memories

"It looks like one of the best birthdays I have ever had. There's no sympathy from me for what she did to our community. She destroyed our community, our villages and our people. For the union this could not come soon enough and I'm pleased that I have outlived her. "It's a great day for all the miners, I imagine we will have a counter demonstration when they have her funeral."

- David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, who turned 70 a day after Margaret Thatcher's death.

A few months ago, I came across a piece written by Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie, entitled "We Remember Differently". It was a sobering, beautifully delivered, well-balanced article, which to my mind brought some maturity to what was an increasingly puerile debate, on the back of Chinua Achebe's book, "There was a Country". In his book, Achebe had placed sole blame on Obafemi Awolowo, the then Nigerian Finance Minister and number two man, for the Igbo's starvation during the Civil War and went on to forward a theory that he did so, to grab political power and advance his own people, the Yorubas. He damned Awolowo with his own words:

"All is fair in War and starvation is a weapon of War...."

In the midst of the furore that greeted the great man's book, Adichie successfully addressed not only the reasoning behind the lifelong antipathy Igbos now held for Awolowo, but went on to also explain some of the ethnic pictures which Nigerians had painted based on their version of historical memories. For me, her towering moment in the article was when she reminded some, of how the 1966 coup was viewed by some Nigerians as an Igbo vanguard to eliminate leaders of the Northern and Western regions, whilst sparing the Eastern premier. In conclusion, she hoped we would allow our different memories to sit side by side, rather than attack each other for holding disparate views.

Fast-forward to the demise of Margaret Thatcher and the euphoric reaction in some quarters to the passing of the woman most are calling the greatest British peace-time Prime Minister. To dispute Thatcher's greatness would of course be futile, as the history books will always remember her as the individual whose bloody-mindedness and purpose of cause, literally pulled the United Kingdom back from the precipice. Anyone who witnessed the civil collapse of the 70's and the resulting litter, industrial malfunction and dead bodies lying everywhere, would attest to the need for such a leader.

Of course, the very same qualities which ensured the country was straightened up from its bended-knee position, also meant the appointed culprit of the time, the trade unions (especially the mining industry), had to be broken for any progress to be made. In the quest for that dragon-slaying, Thatcher relentlessly pursued and destroyed the unions with a hardness that had not been previously seen in a British PM. Inevitably, the societies which were inextricably linked to those unions, still bear the scars of that bloody war.....yes, make no mistakes, everything Thatcher did, she did like a warrior. 

And I am almost certain she also believed all is fair in War...

Some people, especially those who live abroad may be unaware of the tsunami of jubilation that has greeted Thatcher's demise. There are people actually working franctically to organise parties to celebrate her death, whilst the mainstream gathers to honour her with a more dignified exit. To qualify further for the avoidance of doubt, the celebrations are not to celebrate her life, but to celebrate the fact she has finally died! 

The pit closures she effected did ruin those mining communities and I guess unless you live in those areas, one may not be qualified to comment, but I must saying seeing placards saying; 'The Bitch is Dead,' may have just been a bit too tasteless for my liking. 

Such anticipated hatred is probably behind the Thatcher family's request to not have a state funeral. It would be undignifyingly sad if such an iconic figure were interred surrounded by protest.


On the other side of town, where Thatcher is revered, the story is unsurprisingly different. Her supporters, mostly from the south of the country, want her to have a full state funeral. Her popularity amongst this demographic is nothing short of immeasurable and they will be the people who inevitably line the streets to pay respect on her final journey. To call this group of people disciples may appear hyperbolic, but one can only ask observers to wait until the ceremonies begin to adjudge for themselves. 

As for the military tributes, they will definitely be full honours, but then only the very bitter would deny her that....her Falklands war adventures have more or less secured her position.

So how do I remember Margaret Thatcher?

Firstly, I think her greatest trick was to pass away whilst a Conservative PM was in Number 10. Aside from this, I remember her like a strong, old-fashioned Nigerian mother. An individual so concrete in their beliefs, the possibility of any wobble was a distant thought. I remember her the same way I remember my childhood neighbour who when her children became errant, would declare: "you either obey my rules or move out of my house" and actually meant it, as one of those kids was to find to their chagrin.

At the time, the woman's confidence, sure and unshaken, appeared unreasonable and wicked to some (especially moi), but a few days afterwards, the prodigal daughter returned home, tail between legs. It was an outcome the mother unwaveringly believed will was a warrior's decision, delivered with a warrior's instinct! This was the Thatcher instinct - a self-belief which had few fans, but 8 times out of 10, turned out to be correct.

Ironically, when one looked at a picture of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, it was this lone woman in the centre of pompous public schoolboys, whose only exposure to female authority was probably when they were growing up at home. The manner in which she controlled, titillated, cajoled and ultimately put them all in their place, and the way in which they feebly reacted, but ultimately put her to the sword, would be my overall abiding memory of the most divisive British Prime Minister of all time.

Adieu Maggie....even in death, I am certain you would have wanted all these stories to be side by side, but then I cannot help but have this niggling suspicion you would not have really cared how your detractors remembered you. 

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Audacity of Hunger

Let's face it.....if history has taught us anything, it is that demagogues - though hard to shift - can be pushed over the precipice with a collective will. A will borne from such a special place, that it is always seismic and historical when achieved.

As millions across the globe yank at the chains shackling them, it appears the resultant noise has somewhat left us all befuddled and perhaps disorientated. Let us then for the benefit of this post, focus on Africa and ask ourselves how the injustices from the Cape to the Nile, go on unchecked. Worse still, when we begin to get aroused by the so-called 'springs' from the North, it inevitably transpires we have exerted our nerve endings in futility.

As attested to in the post-tsunami environments from whence the likes of Mubarak and Gaddafi, have been swept away with euphoric relish, the underlying conditions of instability, corruption and insecurity, still persist.   The poor are still poor, whilst the rich have never been richer. The cats at the top table all bear a disturbing resemblance to Kim Jong Un and the dogs waiting for the scraps at the bottom, are a mirror image of the poor canines rescued from an abusive breeder.

The question of course is this: how long can this go on?

The Undeniable Power of the Collective 

Forever, if you ask me.

I say this because there is no concrete evidence the trodden masses, especially in Africa, want any change. It appears pestilence and famishment have inexplicably become the opium of the masses. Somehow, people have been ravaged and kept down for so long, the ground is beginning to feel comfortable and more reassuring than a promised place at the middle table. I may be wrong, but it appears Africans have contracted that dreaded disease of not believing in a better future....a perfect scenario for its ruling elite.

My only note of warning for those who currently fly above the weather and appear impervious to the realities on ground is this: a few decades ago, Ghana (the current political poster boy of Africa) had an uprising, where the incoming leader went back almost two decades and rounded up every leader that had overseen the country's malaise. They were all summarily executed....the incoming leader was Jerry Rawlings (for the uninitiated).

At the time, he uttered these iconic words:

"I don't know any law and I don't understand economics, but I know it when my stomach is empty."

To take one's country back, one has to be prepared to do what hasn't been done before and in all the African states, a united opposition is the only way forward. The continent desperately requires patriots, who will do anything to protect the continent's pride and place, not diplomatic bitches who have become weak from repetitive bending of the knees!

The ruling elite is not infallible, but it is buoyed by our failure to unite, as it continuously applies the tried and tested ammunition of 'Divide and Rule,' passed down by you know who.

It is time though that people let them hear the violent rumblings of those empty stomachs.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Merciless Kim!!!

Okay, I realise it's an open secret that I can't get enough of Kim Jong Un. A quick browse of my posts will soon reveal my love for the guy, just for the sheer amount of material he provides and boy, he is currently the gift that keeps giving at the moment or what?!

His latest gem was the 'merciless beating' he has promised to deliver to the US. The whole thing took me back to growing up in Nigeria, where the phrase 'beating you up mercilessly,' is often the menacing threat received on the playground when one supposedly stepped out of line.

The beauty in the threat of course, lays in the fact that the person who utters it, does so in the spirit of ultimate sabre-rattling, not necessarily because they possess the physicality or even guile to deliver a good old beat-down. I could even go as far as saying most individuals who promise a merciless beating, probably are not equipped to deliver one.....

I actually have a childhood friend who unfortunately got stuck with the nickname 'Merciless,' primarily because he was at the end of the beating he had so vehemently promised his tormentor. Almost 40 years later and even his missus calls him M! It's always a favourite, funny topic at any of our soirees.

Talking of funny, I defy anyone to watch those North Korean broadcasters announcing the state's latest tirade, without bursting out laughing. The volume and barking nature of their voices is currently my favourite guilty pleasure. And let's be honest, there is no sight funnier than Little Kim and his all-black, ill-fitting overcoat, ably assisted with his nicely balanced chunky cheeks!

What is not funny though is this latest bout of threats and counter-threats....and to my mind, they is no doubt that a few lives will unfortunately be lost and if history is anything to go by, the dust will settle. In any case, most us really know this is really about China than anything is definitely Xi Jinping's first real dilemma. Or is it?

Isn't the whole thing actually to China's advantage in a way? She can call off her attack dog off whenever she wants, but whilst the belligerent growling in Pyongyang goes on, the smaller states in the area begin to detach from the US and look towards China for protection. Very The Chinese have always been masters of diplomatic strategy. Read the The Art of War and you will see what I mean.

Irrespective of the outcome, eventually the Pyongyang regime will get the attention and a smidgen of the respect it craves and then, it will on to the next one!

There's still unsettled business in Iran...