Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dreamscape: Of dreams within dreams

A gathering of old faces
In the ethereal world of the mind, as slumber took hold, I found myself on a journey to attend the wedding of a distant relation who only had a surviving sibling, her brother.
It appeared I had to fly there, but I ended up on a seemingly crowded bus and for the first time in a long time of memories that come to the fore, none of the occupants were from the Great Beyond.
Yet, I found an eclectic mix of people, all of whom I was supposed to know, but two of them stood out particularly, the first had only recently celebrated his 50th birthday and this was the first time I was seeing him for almost 30 years. We embraced and had a quick chat before I found one of the most uncomfortable seats towards the front of the bus with my back facing the direction of travel.
The other was at the back of the bus, I had not seen him for decades and he had an engaging audience, seemingly having some very knowledgeable and agreeable points about current affairs. I did not go up to him to greet him because I was harbouring resentment at something he had done long ago.
The detail of events passed
In a chat with another cousin, we went over how he stole the identity of another close relation and successfully used it to acquire a British passport declaring certain guardians deceased. His chicanery was only discovered years later when the true owner of the identity decided to obtain his passport. With the system hot on his tail, he fled to the United States of America, even in our anger and derision of the underhand activity everyone was left embarrassed by it all.
We travelled through lush tropical forests and barren landscapes until we arrived in the centre of gridlock traffic in Paris which also happened to have a border post. The customs officer appeared to have collected our documents and looked in the bus and made a comment about how better attired we all were, though casual, compared to others she had seen.
A passport forgotten
Meanwhile, I was informed that there was a case pending against me in France that every visitor must have done or they would have broken the law. The person who I thought was conductor cum guide, these things do get conflated.
I enquired as to the substance of the charge and learnt that I was observed protesting outside the US Embassy in Paris, that sounded quite laughable because, not only did I not know where the embassy was in Paris, the last time I protested in front of an embassy was in the Netherlands in 2012.
However, just at that time I realised that I did not have my passport on me and that meant I would not be able to get beyond the checkpoint, I became frantic with distress as I imagined being taken off the bus and put in detention, all sorts of scenarios played away in my mind and then I came to, I was not on that journey, there was nothing to be worried or distressed about, I was dreaming within another dream.
I extricated myself from that dream, though still fast asleep in the envelope dream, I aroused myself to wakefulness remembering other dreams within dreams that I had had in the two hours of deep sleep. The informed commentary with inputs from BBC Radio 4 getting intertwined with my dreams.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Hope and fears and catching myself

In my solitude,
I check my attitude,
It is the magnitude,
Of the interlude,
To what brings in the food,
As bills mount and collude,
And reminders reissued,
Caught in lassitude,
As positions elude,
Agencies in full platitude,
Covering their turpitude,
Yet I give much latitude,
To find much gratitude,
For the times of plenitude,
That to me accrued,
Sometimes I doubt my aptitude,
Buoying myself with fortitude,
I will not be subdued,
By all that ensued,
For in the multitude,
Of the favourably interviewed,
Is the certitude,
Of a career continued.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The UK: Asserting rights and affirming status by minorities in our courts

Somewhere in England
A quietly deliberated and adjudicated event a few weeks ago requires some pertinent commentary, in which abused entitlement was found wanting by the assertiveness of the knowledge of right, privilege, history and the law.
After #Brexit, the government of the day went into an overdrive of assumptions of what they thought the referendum meant to the exclusion of the views of the almost divided nation that voted 52% to 48% in favour of leaving Europe.
Unravelling the Brexit conundrum
What ‘Taking Back Control’ meant was completely undefined, it was not a question in the referendum and if the government was not going to return to the people to determine the detail of what their desires for #Brexit were, one would have thought the final arbiter would be with the representatives of the people in the Parliament of Westminster.
Instead, the government was on a course of excluding the legislature out of the final determination and direction apart from the courtesy of a rubber stamping the decisions. This is where we are introduced to Gina Miller.
Standing up to convention
Gina Miller, born in British Guyana, long term resident of Great Britain, a successful investment management expert thought the government, the executive was going about #Brexit by excluding the legislature, by that the Parliament and so with other parties sought judicial clarification as to how to go about #Brexit and in the end won the case at the Supreme Court.
What Gina Miller did which was to assert the rights that any indigenous British-born person with generational lineage and knowledge of the Constitution, history and the law could have done. That it fell to someone else to do this is not particularly unfortunate, it had to be done and Gina Miller did it.
Then a lawless peer wrote
However, this opened Gina Miller to splenetic opprobrium, abuse, death threats and violations of her person and standing, chief amongst the purveyors of this abusive onslaught was a Rhodri Philipps, the 4th Viscount St Davids whose aristocratic lineage stretches as far back as 1299. In him was the embodiment of entitlement and privilege along with a sense of aristocratic hubris that tempted him to consider himself above reproach and beyond sanction.
Railing against Gina Miller on Facebook, he placed a bounty with the words, “£5,000 for the first person to ‘accidentally’ run over this bloody troublesome first generation immigrant.” His tirade then descended into the utterly reprehensible by calling Gina Miller a “fucking boat jumper” and further questioned her status with this atrocity, “If this is what we should expect from immigrants, send them back to their stinking jungles.” [Guardian]
The law would not stand for it
This sickening onslaught did not stop with Gina Miller, he seemed to have garnered a penchant to not only be abusive but to suggestively inspire to violence anyone who could be enticed by his bounties to cause harm to others he did not like or agree with.
Whilst Arnold Sube had neither clout nor resource to fight back, Gina Miller was a different prospect. Having challenged the Establishment and the orthodoxy and won, she must have considered taking an uppity aristocrat and peer of the realm to the courts was a lesser challenge with a greater prospect of winning through.
Whilst we might forget that Rhodri Phillips was of mixed nationality parentage, his mother being a Chilean, I have concluded that hypocrisy is a coveted virtue of an entitled class without the ability to reflect before expression. For his show of stupidity, the 4th Viscount St Davids was on the 13th of July sentenced to 12 weeks in prison. Not long enough a deterrent in my view, but it is a humbling of an overbearingly offensive miscreant. [The Independent]
Know your status and know your rights
That minorities in the UK suffer so many forms of slight, abuse, threats, menace and attacks is not particularly news, I recently faced abuse on a train journey where the perpetrator pointedly questioned my status in the UK, not knowing that I was British-born despite my race. It landed him in court and I should soon be hearing the verdict.
It is not an issue of political correctness; some behaviours are just unacceptable today and must be vigorously prosecuted to the fullness of the law. At its core is the need to ensure that every law abiding person resident in the UK is not subject to unwarranted abuse in the first place and consequently be free from the threat of harm or the violation of their person.
In Gina Miller, we have found a reaffirmation of status and right, the right to pursue all legitimate means of redress in terms of constitutional law as a private citizen and the right regardless of presumed status to have the law deal sternly with anyone who threatens our safety out of malice, spite, racism or anything bad inspired notion of inciting violence against us.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

In the aftermath of Grenfell Tower

From that fateful night in June,
And the days that followed that conflagration,
Nary a tower block that I see,
Fills with the angst of the souls therein,
For in the other was the struggle and fight,
Against the rigid and established order,
That bullied and threatened,
Those who spoke and wrote of foreboding disaster,
The indifference of officialdom was palpable,
As the double-barrelled named,
Could hardly be bothered,
At the shrieking of the poorer,
In a borough of the stupendously rich,
To wit, they sought to beautify,
The Babel of today,
They spent pounds and saved pennies,
With cladding that offered skin-deep beauty,
Low in the building on that night,
A fire started that should not have spread,
But like tinder, the cladding lit,
And a ladder it became for the fire to climb,
To the top, the flames did race,
In the building, the victims did panic,
Many in flat and stairwells trapped,
As they succumbed to fumes and smoke,
By the time we knew what had happened,
Over four score souls had perished,
The councillors with their tin ears,
Ignored the tragedy as they had ignored the residents,
She of whom was spoken of as strong and stable,
Lacked the paps for care and compassion,
Scurrying she raced from the heart of the matter,
As selfless neighbours showed great humanity,
In it, we saw the great divide,
That had become an unbridgeable cavern,
Between the have-nots and have yachts,
Our unequal society indicted and convicted,
Which makes me constantly wonder,
When I see a tower teeming with life,
Do they all sleep in there safe and sound?
Knowing that from disaster they can flee,
If an ugly day does come like in June,
Where many in the edifice of mock-beauty,
Were cruelly and atrociously cremated alive,
Because someone somewhere did not care,
About life and livelihood that brings no profit,
To their selfish political aims,
In my city, I see many a tower,
Stripped of the panels of superfluity,
Revealing the raw underbelly,
That might well save a life or two,
As we find in many tests conducted,
All around the land and abroad,
That the safety we took for granted,
Was a standing crematorium,
We must not rest on this matter,
Until the culpable and accessory,
That conspired in this murderous enterprise,
See the sternest face of the law,
Even after that is done,
It would never really be,
Justice for the victims of Grenfell Tower.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Remembering Fela (1938 - 1997) through our shared history of AIDS

Remembering Fela
When I heard that Fela Anikulapo Kuti had died on the 2nd of August 1997, 20 years ago, I was very sad and I mourned him. He was the outlier, labelled the outcast who outed the potentates and powerful in their abuse of power and privilege.
His shrine was hardly a mile from Yaba College of Technology where I was a student from 1982 to 1985. There was an elite fraternity that invited him to perform on the grounds of the school and we the poor students had to find sneaky ways to view his performance from outside the barricades.
I supposed others will write about Fela’s life, his politics, his beliefs and ideology along with his activism, I would write here about a shared affliction.
Lesions and pain
On the day after Fela died, his brother,  Olikoye Ransome-Kuti announced that he had died from complications due to AIDS, further commentary suggests he had Kaposi's Sarcoma which is a form of cancer and the other parts of that commentary that indicated he suffered might well prove that is what killed him.
On the 22nd of September 2009, a little over 12 years later, I was admitted to hospital after a desperate visit to my doctor a few days before, when she saw the lesions on the soles of my feet and decided they looked serious, very serious indeed that she had to refer me twice.
What became lesions, started some months earlier as common Athlete’s foot until my self-medication attempts did not see it off before it began to seep pus and then became unbearably painful. Much as I was already aware that I was HIV positive, I was not on medication and to everyone around me but myself, my health was deteriorating and failing without me paying much heed.
Full-blown AIDS
When I did make it to hospital, and the first checks indicated the lesions were not related to diabetes, I was put on strong antibiotics which from my research suggested they were to attack fungating tumours, that was the first confirmation that I had fearfully thought was the case some weeks before, I had a cancer, but I did not know its name.
I will not be surprised if Fela also found himself in the same situation, in excruciating pain, the tell-tale lesions hidden from view, for usually, Kaposi’s Sarcoma can show on the face, in the mouth, or anywhere on the body, mine was on the soles of my feet, and so made them quite painful to walk on.
After a few days, the antibiotics failed, I was running a temperature and some deep biopsies were ordered, 9 injections of lidocaine after, the pain was just as demanding of attention and reaction, I folded tissue into a thick guard and bit on it as the doctor poked into the heart of the lesions.
The results came back a week later, I had Kaposi’s Sarcoma as a result of having succumbed to full-blown AIDS, I was dying.
Endure or die
My consultant came to chat to me and said, “We can treat this, it depends on how your body takes the treatment, if it takes, you’ll be fine, else you probably have five weeks to live.”
In a strange land amongst people of a different tongue apart from friends and neighbours who became my support network, I had no closer relation to turn to as the gravity of my situation sank in. I was by then on antiretrovirals (ARVs) for almost a week when 5 days later I was put on a regimen of cytotoxic chemotherapy.
I was on chemotherapy for 5 months every three weeks, though, by December, all the lesions had gone, my HIV viral load was down to undetectable but the pain of cancer lingered for another two months after that.
Healthcare options and choices
I sometimes wonder if Fela ever had access to anything like the care I had, though a late diagnosis presenting AIDS, there was a lot that could be done for me once they determined what the cause was, what the lesions were and what treatment was effective against it. The cost of my treatment was also borne by insurance for there was no way I would have been able to afford the cost.
If I transposed this situation to the UK, my feeling is my doctor would have seen the lesions and adopted a wait and see attitude rather than act with urgency. I am not sure of what the options would have been in Nigeria.
Making known to the public that Fela had AIDS before he died might have sown panic in the populace apart from the stigma that comes with being HIV positive that still exists today.
Get checked, get treated
The antiretrovirals of 1997 might not have given much respite to Fela as he succumbed to AIDS, however, if anything can be learnt from Fela’s and my situation, it is the need for regular check-ups and on diagnosis, prompt intervention for treatment before things go seriously downhill from there.
Now, antiretrovirals are quite effective and are free, they give people with HIV life expectancies similar to the uninfected, the advent of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis PrEP now reduces to a minimum the transmission of HIV for those without the virus, and studies now indicate that if your viral load is undetectable then the virus is un-transmissible. [Undetectable = Untransmittable]
In conclusion, as I remember Fela today from the perspective of our shared history, I ask that you get regular check-ups, get informed, get treatment and get on with your life. I got a second chance and I am here to share my story 8 years after AIDS and cancer.
Explainer between HIV and AIDS
AIDS is caused by HIV and it is a catch-all term for opportunistic infections that take hold when the immune system is completely compromised. A regime of antiretrovirals would give the body a fighting chance because HIV gets suppressed, the viral load goes down, the cells that can fight infection and disease gain ascendancy along with the drugs administered and you go from having full-blown AIDS to having HIV with an undetectable viral load and a chance to live again.