Sunday, 30 March 2008

Fitna - The irresponsible movie

Hyped beyond significance

Many would have read about some impending film to be released by some Dutch politician that has created more commentary than a serious blockbuster movie that addresses serious issues of the day.

Geert Wilders is by the standards of Dutch politicians a poorly educated rabble-rousing populist whose political ascendancy has served to stoke the embers of discord, reaching to out to remove the rivets of societal cohesion that binds our quality of life to the kinds of objective purpose that allows us to persuade different cultures of our way of life.

Fitna, the movie

I decided to watch Fitna, the “movie”, not so much out of curiosity but for the purposes of highlighting the flawed nature of trying to create a social debate by intemperate and provocative material.

The caricatures of Islam in the film are unnecessary and the montage of trying to push an agenda against Islam by the narrow but emotive pictures of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Madrid and London bombings just appeals to the baser instincts of a more civilised humanity.

Mr. Wilders lack of academic mien shows and it follows the common saying that implies copying from one source is plagiarism but that from many sources is research – this is a collage of tired images glued together without intelligent purpose. He is being sued for breach of copyright for the use of one of the Mohammedan cartoons.

Violence in both books

The Surahs that he selected from the Qu’ran for the film could with adequate theological study have similar verses produced from the Bible or some other religious book – all religions have a temperance element and a fundamental element. I cannot remember the number of Psalms that wanted to strike terror to the heart of my enemies. Fitna analysis.

Anyone who concentrates on just the Old Testament and the book of Revelation could come away thinking that the Bible was quite a bloody book, and that is just in the search for balance in any argument.

To suggest that the Qu’ran is very much like Hilter’s Mein Kampf is a bit rich considering Hitler was using the flawed Christian ideology of holding the Jews accountable for the death of Christ.

Both the Bible and the Qu'ran predate Hitler's tome by well over a millennium and it is unlikely that Hitler was reading the Qu'ran when he was narrating his struggle - legend has it that he thought he had the spear (Spear of Destiny) that pierced the side of Jesus on the cross and hence his obsession with world domination.

The abuse of expression

Beyond this, we have all this talk about the freedom of expression which is fine but no one seems to touch on the responsibility that evolves from being able to express yourself freely without causing offence.

For the kind of rhetoric Geert Wilders spews out, we the taxpayers of the Netherlands have to pay dearly for his security and that in my mind is just as bad as the uncontrolled welfare regime we dole out to the immigrants he is so much against.

If Mr. Wilders had to foot the cost of his irresponsible use of the freedom of expression just as the immigrants should be persuaded to take on a better work ethic, we probably would have a better place for vigorous debate.

Irresponsible to the extreme

This "seminal" work of Mr. Wilders unnecessarily endangers Dutch activities all around the world where people are a lot more emotive about their religious affiliations than the contemporary Dutch are.

This is not about having the balls to talk about issues others are afraid to talk about, it is simply reckless behaviour that takes no account of consequence – many audiences however have been brought low into this diatribe, excited by provocation as they find themselves running into the last refuge of the scoundrel – Patriotism.

We all need to talk

Do not get me wrong – there is a debate to be had, a serious rubbing of minds of intellectuals within our society to address the concerns about the growth of Islam and Islamic cultural views within Western societies that are fast losing their religious heritage for liberal agnostic secularism.

I do not think you can raise a standard of secularism against the force of the passion for religion – either Christianity or Islam – that is the battle that the West is appearing to lose because if there were a stronger religious adherence amongst us, it would be difficult to be labelled as outright infidels.

Muslims and conservative Christians have coalesced on “hot-button” social and religious issues in the United States, so, it is not a case of these people not being able to co-exist.

Bad news for all

The case of Fitna which Mr. Wilders wrote and co-directed with the Scarlett Pimpernell which I think is no doubt an attempt at humour, does not carry the debate forward – the best you can get out of this is a shouting match of extremists and riots in religious hotspots along with a boycott of Dutch products just because one Dutch member of parliament has a big mouth.

It is interesting that only those organisations that align with tugging at the base instincts of humanity have offered to air this tripe – we seek a better and more cohesive Dutch society, Mr. Wilders is definitely not the man to take us there – not by any stretch of the imagination – our leaders in the centre need to speak up for our values better and seize back the agenda and initiative from these trouble makers.

Frankly, I am not impressed, not one bit at all.

Related articles

Friday, 28 March 2008

Zimbabwe: Thanks Mugabe, Now Give Way

Keeping faith

Today, I keep faith with Zimbabweans that the reign of the Grand Despot of Africa – Robert Mugabe – shall come to an end. That the will of the people to be set free from an old liberation message that was valid a generation ago but insignificant to the issues of today would fulfilled.

The tired rhetoric of colonial powers holding back Zimbabwe should now have bored the people to death, as they cast their ballots they should be asking questions.

Answered in voting

Who can really take Zimbabwe beyond this fight with imaginary enemies of state when the enemies themselves constitute the self-same government?

Are there ways in which the gerontocracy could have been smarter with the old colonial powers in negotiating better deals for Zimbabwe despite the reluctance of these powers to arrive at the best terms?

Is there someone else who has better leadership qualities to move Zimbabwe from being a basket case to being the bread basket of Southern Africa that it once was?

Can Zimbabwe afford another sunrise with Robert Mugabe at the helm?

Who has new ideas, hopes and a vision for Zimbabwe?

Hoping against hope

I am not sure if the results of the election would express the democratic wish of the people, but anyone Zimbabwean – white or black – knows that the government of Mugabe has lead to country to the edge of the abyss.

Any man who has served a cause like Mugabe has for 28 years and has produced the disaster he now runs is a grotesque failure – if he would not as an old man let his people thrive, then, in the hope that he has not found the elixir of immortality, we might well start the longest wake in history in seeing him back to mother Earth just as Ian Smith did a few months ago.

Zimbabwe shall be free indeed

Zimbabwe shall be free and I pray that today, it would be by reason of each and every vote that encapsulates the yearning and aspirations of people who have been denigrated, enslaved, dehumanised and oppressed but whose indefatigable spirit would deliver their freedom faster than any despot can attempt to curtail it.

Related articles

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Wiping out another World's Lost Tribe

The conquering might of strange diseases

We would never know the complete truth about how the conquistadors introduced the pox and syphilis to the tribes of the Americas that eventually wiped out swathes of indigenous and enduring civilisations in such a short time.

We are however left with the monuments and the historical heritage of peoples whose resourcefulness and genius still leaves us in bewilderment and wonder, all for the purposes of discovering new civilisations for the West.

Some would think these stories belong to centuries old folklore but the fact is there are still many undiscovered tribes in the far recesses of the world yet unexplored.

Seeking out others to wipe out

The next question would be if it is necessary for us to demand as we sit in the comfort of our homes channel-hopping between National Geographic and Discovery that these “lost” tribes be sought out and exposed to public scrutiny bordering on ridicule in the name of the quest for knowledge.

Recently, a television company – Cicada Films – involved in the production of a programme called World’s Lost Tribes for the Discovery Channel found themselves in this throwback that appears to have inflicted the discovered in remote Peru with a fatal flu that has killed four people and has a possibility of making the “Lost” tribe history.

They are not lost

For all intents and purposes, none of these tribes are lost, they have their place in the world just like we all do and they live off world and its resources according to their age-old traditions that might not align with ours.

They have a right to their unexplored corner of the world and we sometimes have to temper our curiosity with concern for the fact that our searching them out might be worse than inflicting upon them an incurable plague.

Can we help them?

If however, these people do get infected, there is no guarantee that our chemical potions that we call medicines would be efficacious in their undefiled bodies – running a medical emergency team into their communes might just do a lot more damage to their existence.

As it stands, there are accusations and denials, which are to be expected, but one cannot really say that the television company having seen more “modern” tribes in their journeys; they were not tempted to go to more remote areas to see the legends, the myths and ululate in the glory of bringing the curse of modernity to the blessing of remoteness.

Accessories to murder

In my view, if we were to discover these tribes from afar by chance, so be it, but when we venture into these areas, we must be self-quarantined to ensure that our curiosity does not kill what we are curious about.

Once again, we find people who exist in their cocoon of almost insignificant impact on the world bearing the brunt of intemperate modernity and dying to a cause that they never had the opportunity or power to avoid.

We are no less culpable and accessories to murder if we do not condemn these forays into the unnecessary to satisfy the questionable with the aim of entertainment better served by other issues involving the tribes we already know that roam our streets; the homeless, the helpless and the destitute.

We need to think about what we do in the search for knowledge of other civilisations.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

T-Mobile offers T-Stagnant deals

Sugar cane props

It is late shopping night in Amsterdam so I went into town, something I rarely do to get some stuff.

My backup cane was broken a few weeks ago when I employed it in creating a sense of order around me. It was a cane that I could split into three meaning it could go in my bag for convenience especially in aircraft luggage bins and it was quite light but sturdy.

I went to the Englishman Hatter for a replacement but they had all these trendy canes that would do for clowning rather than for formal attire.

Ending up with a make-do cane that splits and joins up with the aid of elastic band would be a stop-gap to when I can get the real thing. For once, having to lean on a sugar cane might just be as trendy as one can get.

Acquired for a piddle

T-Mobile had acquired Orange Netherland about half a year ago and they have been offering us deals to switch to new mobile contracts – a few months ago, I left one of the shops in a fit of pique because having signed a 12-month contract, I had really been railroaded into a 14-month contract – these companies get away with the most illegal stuff in my mind.

Today, I went to both the Orange and T-Mobile shops and I really could not find a decent deal, all their offers were really for kids with a flair for MP3 players and cameras – I am a businessman, I need a phone and a deal I can use for business.

Besides, I need a company that behaves like one that operates in Europe without charging me outrageous prices for Internet connectivity in another country where the self-same company pretends to be an entirely different commercial entity.

The European Commission needs to get on the case of these daylight bandits, it is just unacceptable.

Give me a deal I cannot refuse

Some people would say I could get a Blackberry – well, that is drink and blueberries are for muffins – just give me a phone that can handle multiple mail accounts, would serve wireless connectivity, 3G, EDGE, UMTS, GPRS and HSDPA (My HTC P3600 already does this.) and do not charge me the world to roam the world and still keep connected.

As far is T-Mobile is concerned, what I saw was the equivalent of a T-Stagnant deal, I need to shop around for something that really makes that useless “A-grade” customer rating I have with Orange make people throw deals at me like I have run into a waterfall.

Buttocks are richer Botox

Golden undies

Whilst I was out shopping for canes and mobile phone deals, I could not help but noting the number of billboards that now have David Beckham (Golden Balls) modelling Emporio Armani briefs.

Now, some advertising executive might think he has me on his demographic, I am afraid, only Sloggis do it for me and if you modelled them on cows, it would not make any difference to the fact that they provide in the mode, adequate support for the crown jewels.

Cheap undies

I had hardly walked up a shopping street when I came across a group of teenage boys all dressed up to their trendy nines with trousers hanging down the wrong place that I cursed under my breath – Young man pull up your trousers, I cannot stand the sight of your cheap and tattered underwear.

It is interesting to read that 1 in 5 men now go for Botox treatments, it really makes you wonder; I can handle a massage, a facial, a manicure and even hazard a pedicure.

Irksome Metrosexuals

If only someone with big fat and flabby buttocks would sit on their faces and aerate their clogged pores with bombastic flatulence – that would be Botox for free and probably healthier – they are called Metrosexuals, I hear.

So, as I was getting off the metro, the “man” in front of me who looked like he had Schwarzenegger muscles got up and made for the door with a handbag slung over his shoulder and bag handles that looked like something off Margaret Thatcher’s Salvatore Ferragamo hand bag.

Men with handbags, what next?

How I withheld the impulse of putting my good foot into his backside to shake the metro off his sexual vaunt, escapes me, I would have giggled with glee as he scraped the ground for the cuticle treatment that would have been damaged by breaking his fall and his hair flopped over his face like a Dulux dog – I know what I like about people, but that does not include those who leave me confused about the sex of the person.

Metrosexual – My foot! I should apply for a job in one of those men’s beauty parlours and make all their cheeks rogue-red with a decent oxy-acetylene torch – What is this world coming to? I ask.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Nigeria: The resignation of Adenike Grange

A new development

The resignation of the Nigerian Minister of Health, Professor Adenike Grange following allegations of graft would elicit much commentary and I would deign to add my own perspective to these interesting developments.

Obviously, the issues here cover the facts, the norms, the traditions, the aberrations and now the whistle-blower albeit an aggrieved one.

The President has spoken

President Yar’Adua had given an executive order ordering all ministries to remit to the Federal Treasury all monies that had not been properly allocated for spending by the end of the year 2007 and it appears the Ministry of Health and its officials flouted that order.

The President of the Federation has executive remit over all that pertains to Nigeria, he is implicitly the Chief Treasurer of the Federation and is crudely supposed to smack the hands of pilferers who try to raid the national till.

The clear fact is Professor Grange failed to follow a simple order from her boss and in the process had already committed an act of insubordination which could very well have embarrassed the President – she most definitely had to go - her resignation could only have been face-saving.

No leader of Chop I Chop

After the President gave the order, he followed up his request by auditing to see if the ministries had complied and found that the Ministry of Health had not fully complied, he definitely was not satisfied with the excuses and the rank disobedience of his appointees and their subordinates – he then requested and obtained the resignation of the appointed officials whilst ordering the indefinite suspension of the salaried officers.

The lesson we can take from this action is that the President has refused to be the leader of the “Chop, I Chop Party” and they who work to besmirch the name and dignity of his albeit illegitimate government would definitely face the music.

Prevailed upon by rotten people

Now, back to Professor Grange, there is a possibility that once she received the order she was prevailed upon but the norms of that institution which probably was steeped in corruption and headed previously by such incompetent buffoons that she found it hard to overcome the weight of their insistence.

Given that, it was still her responsibility to run that ministry and it is merely semantics to try and separate her responsibility from her culpability in allowing illegal actions to take place under her watch.

Bonus for what exactly?

It is quite instructive that the N300 million was to be shared out as a “Christmas Bonus”, there is probably no way how a ministry in Nigeria can really lay out clear performance goals as we have in the private sector for which the achievers could be justly rewarded.

People just have their noses in the trough and look for occasion to run off with funds that should be invested in issues that the ministries are supposed to be concerned with.

If our leaders still have to go abroad for health checkups and treatment, then all workers in the Ministry of Health have to have their pay docked till things begin to change – there is no way that any of them were deserving of any bonus talk less of a blanket Christmas Bonus where the allocations are just the plain daylight robbery of longsuffering Nigerians.

The disgruntled whistleblower

The matter of the whistleblower informing the anti-graft authorities is a welcome development; it shows that the little man in Nigeria now has a place to go to report corruption in public office and expect action to be taken to investigate and bring the people involved to book.

But looking closely at the whistleblower, it does not seem it was an act of altruistic piety but one of disgruntled pique – the allocations which would have amounted to N175,000 to the most junior thieves in this escapade was slashed to N40,000 to bulk up the takeaway of the middle managers.

I do not think we would have many whistleblowers in the future to expose these corrupt practices if everyone feels that they have been adequately compensated to keep their lips sealed, which is sad indeed.

Irregular alliances

That also is a snapshot of Nigerian partnerships where agreements are made and some influential apparatchik changes the rules of the game with impunity expecting nothing to result of that action – well, the game has changed – if you cheat someone even in an illegal alliance of looting the treasury, the cheated has every right to the “righteous” indignation of getting even.

Dishonest lettered people

Then we look at the names of the people involved, as academic excellence is considered a badge of honour in Nigeria, here we have a two Professors, a Dr. and all the others probably have academic letters of excellence garnered from global institutions of renown – we now know that no matter how much you have achieved academically, it does not proof in anyway that you have integrity, that you understand the responsibility of holding public office, that you are honest, that you are beyond reproach or that you can be trusted with any office.

Just as being religious does not confer godliness if you in and of yourself do not have that virtue after you have been stripped of everything that gives you substance.

Professor Grange is fully responsible

Finally, this allocation was approved by someone in that ministry and the Minister could not have been oblivious of that approval – she might not have shared in the largesse but she failed in her stewardship of her office and allowed the country to be defrauded to the amelioration of undeserving miscreants.

The full force of the law should be visited upon her for her dereliction of duty and hopefully an example shall be made of the issue that nobody should think public office is an opportunity for self-enrichment even if it is dressed as a Christmas Bonus.

Ministers cannot become bystanders to events that take place under their watch in their own ministries, if they cannot control their crowd they should return to their former day jobs. I am not convinced that this represents a sea-change in responsibility when holding public office - but I would say it looks like a start.

To the gallows of public shame with them all – Good job, Yardy!

Monday, 24 March 2008

Welthauptstadt Germania - Hilter's vision of a new Berlin

Looking for a city

If there was another European city I would like to live in, it probably would be Berlin, I suppose Paris would come a distant third.

However, Berlin that could be glorious in summer can be dreadfully inclement during the other three seasons.

After two utterly atrocious days of ugly weather at close to freezing with hail and sleet, I could not believe that I walked into the snow on Easter Sunday, and then Easter Monday smiled on me with sunshine as if the other days never happened – it makes you wonder what this global warming malarkey is all about.

I sometimes wish Europe were in the tropics, well, that is the Canary Islands; there is a European city down South that might unseat Berlin.

My old views of Berlin

I love Berlin all the same, I cannot count the number of people I have tried to persuade to visit Berlin for its history, architecture, heritage, art and more.

Until yesterday, I did not realise I was seeing another aspect of Berlin, beyond my fascination with mirrors of the East and the West, the architectural deluge of Potsdamer Platz, the sickening opulence of Imperial Prussia encapsulated at Potsdam in the Sanssouci Park and the museums; the Nazis had moved a number of pieces around to accommodate their intentions of grandeur.

World Capital - Germania

Well, I did not know that Adolf Hitler had such grand plans for changing Berlin entirely and even during the war was already far into plans for changing the place. That, I had to see, so off we went to this exhibition called Myth Germania.

Berlin being the seat of the Third Reich was considered too provincial by Hilter that he wanted to build a city that put Paris and Washington in the shade. Berlin under the Nazis was first showcased at the 1936 Summer Olympics where the propaganda, pomp and ceremony still has that event as one of the most talked about Olympic games.

Albert Speer was appointed the chief architect of the Reich with the title of General Building Inspector of the Third Reich and as one of the surviving members of Hilter’s inner sanctum gave insight into how Berlin was to become the world capital with the grand sounding name of Welthauptstadt Germania (World Capital Germania).

Altered to its foundations

A speech that Hitler gave in November 1937 to mark the advent of these great plans that would culminate in the opening of this world capital in 1950 is translated thus; “Today begins in Berlin a period of building redevelopment, which will alter the image – as I am convinced – and also the character of this city to its foundations”.

They did a lot, forcefully acquired the houses of Jews for the resettlement of other people who had been moved for the grand plan, monuments like the Siegessäule (Berlin Victory Column) were moved from the Reichstag to its current location, so many uncompleted train tunnels remain undiscovered and the dead were not spared – 20 cemeteries were moved out of the centre of Berlin for this grand city of the world.

The planned people’s hall was to become a world wonder, accommodating 360,000 people and up to a million in the grounds – the cult of personality would have reached a zenith never ever equalled in the history of mankind.

The destructive hubris of power

However, one could not help but realise how seemingly totalitarian regimes had a concept of art, culture, architecture, history and traditions that it did not matter to them if they razed, moved, destroyed or burnished some heritage, national treasure or cultural identity and dispossessed the people they rule over to achieve these grand aims.

In 2003, the Taliban of Afghanistan destroyed the Buddhas of Banyam because they were un-Islamic but Afghanistan is not primarily Islamic, the cultural and religious identity of a people that goes back centuries was destroyed for a passing fad of being able to wield untrammelled power.

The China we all acquiesce to with disturbing embarrassment because of its trade and economic influence has built the Three Gorges Dam that displaces 1.5 million people, destroys swathes of valuable archaeological and cultural sites; and it has significant adverse effects upon animal life.

But the powerful get away with their designs being almost unanswerable to anyone but the writ of history, long after the damage is done.

Democracies might not wield the tyranny of the powerful in this way, but they have laws like Eminent Domain in the United States or Compulsory Purchase in the United Kingdom which can be used to the same tyrannically damaging effect especially in times of war.

Obviously, there is sometimes need for laws like these before activists cloud the objectivity of debate with emotional tripe – the governments should however retain the trust of their people in these projects.

A sense of proportion

Just as Hitler had a speech around the beginning of this grand project, Albert Speer probably gave the closing remarks to this madness in words from his autobiography in 1969 – “When on the morning after my release from imprisonment I passed one of these buildings on the way to the airport, I saw in a few seconds what I had been blind to for years; our plan completely lacked a sense of proportion.”

Like then, history still repeats itself with the regularity of a grandfather clock, with no lessons learnt from the past – would we ever have a sense of proportion? Not if we remained human.

See a basic slideshow of the model of that city.

Mythos Germania Exhibition

(Shadows and Traces of the Imperial Capital)

15th of March – 31st December 2008

Gertrud-Kolmar Strasse 14/Hannah-Arendt Strasse

10117 Berlin-Mitte

Berliner Unterwelten e.V.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Inside China: Hatchlings of Democracy get nasty

Inside China

BBC’s Inside China season seems to be getting more interesting as they broadcast the topical issues that give us insight into this world of history and culture that has been seriously abraded by the sameness and inequalities of Communism.

A teacher stepped before a class of 8-year old children and introduced the concept of democracy then called an election for class monitor with the contestants being; a girl (Xu Xiaofei) and two boys (Cheng Cheng, Luo Lei), one of whom had been hand-picked as class monitor (Luo Lei) the previous two years.

Please Vote for Me was an eye-opener into a possible future of Chinese democracy that left me seriously winded by the manipulation, treachery, scheming and cut-throat competition – this was definitely no child’s play by any stretch of the imagination – this was war.

Moi, The Class Monitor

In two different higher institutions I was class representative, I do not think I had any political savvy, I just went in front of the class and gave an unscripted speech, then left people to decide.

Strangely, I never had to set up a political campaign committee though for greater office I might have had to do that, but I always got the popular vote and the responsibility that went with that office.

Once an observer accused me of not leading my constituency by example because I was a noisemaker – well, my class did have a reputation for making noise and one had to separate example from representation – I replied, “My class is a noisy class, if I cannot represent them in what we are know for I would not be doing my job.”

No child’s play

I had hoped the selection of class monitor would be a speech and a vote; but the campaign involved a musical presentation, a debate highlighting the opponent’s faults with rebuttals and a final speech before the vote. Each contestant was allowed to have two class assistants to help with their campaigns.

This would have all been benign but for when the parents got involved as “political advisors” when in fact, they were literally living out their aspirations through their kids.

The China one-child-policy has unintended social consequences that are beginning to unravel, one of which was highlighted in another Inside China programme – Looking for a China Girl about the shortage of spouses for Chinese men.

The lone child dynamic creates a rather more selfish personality prone to demanding and obtaining their requirements without question, they become demigods – this is quite different from the first child personality.

Xu Xiaofei

Before Xu Xiaofei had time to give her quite talented musical performance, Cheng Cheng got the whole class to shout her down, she never recovered her confidence, but also being from a one parent family, it appeared lone children seem to need both parents more for their development of character than if they had siblings – her mother did try hard to prop her up.

Cheng Cheng also put her seriously on the defensive and the fault pointing debate that her final speech was more a plea for understanding than a manifesto for change.

Cheng Cheng

Cheng Cheng was something of the larger than life figure, garrulous, scheming and with ambitions to become the President of China, he completely intimidated his opponents that Luo Lei wanted to pull out of the election.

His musical rendition was a song that got everyone singing along after which he hugged everyone flattering them and asked them all to vote for him – he had cornered the electorate.

He could silence the class with his booming voice at one command, his confidence was overbearing.

His parents were the most pushy and forceful, they primed him, got him to rehearse and memorise his speeches and gave him all sorts of ideas to wrong foot his opponents – pollsters would have called the election for him.

Luo Lei

Luo Lei’s performance was rubbished by Cheng Cheng apart from saying that Luo Lei sang completely out of tune. He in fact did not think his parents should help him, he had a quality of self-belief that his parents first had difficulty becoming his “political advisors”.

Luo Lei’s father suggested he invite his calls for a free ride on the new monorail in town – that was the election bought the first time; everyone was going to vote for Luo Lei.

The big fight

Cheng Cheng was not going down without a fight but made the mistake of promising to vote for Luo Lei such that whilst he successfully listed a litany of faults of Luo Lei and was able to brand him a dictator by getting everyone who had been ruffled and beaten by Luo Lei to raise their hands; Cheng Cheng was a branded dishonest and a liar because he changed his decision to vote for Luo Lei.

Cheng Cheng was still the frontrunner though he did not trust his classmates would vote for him that he asked the narrator to enquire again of a girl who said she would vote for him when he was out of earshot.

The election bought again

At the final speech, Cheng again gave the best performance but Luo Lei had presents for his classmates in commemoration of an oncoming holiday after his speech.

The election was bought a second time and this time, it worked – Luo Lei was elected despite being a strict class monitor bordering on a bully and being a “dictator”.

Xu Xiaofei burst into tears and Cheng Cheng walked out of the class before the inauguration to shed tears in the toilet as his assistants were completely inconsolable.

They were eventually brought together to reconcile but these hatchlings of democracy looked like they would grow into leviathans with untrammelled might.

Even I would not enter the bear pit with these Machiavellian political heavyweights, I do fear if this is the democracy China would acquire in the next generation.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

In Nigeria, can wives make independent choices?

PDP, an unruly party

Once again, a rather inauspicious news report catches my eye and exposes an issue of social significance that it elicits commentary.

Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is an enigma; it has a way of gathering a storm to create a Force-10 gale, the impending hurricane accompanies a tsunami and everything else tumbles to a full magnitude earthquake – all this in a cracked teapot.

Sometimes, I wonder which organ gathers the most news inches; the government of Nigeria which should too busy solving Nigeria’s problems to be distracted by frivolities or the overwhelmingly disconcerting in-fighting that consumes the party that produced the leaders, such that they have no time to do Nigeria’s business.

Split down the dining table

In Enugu State, rival factions have dug-in to face-off each other; one camp being that of the current state governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime and the other being that of the former state governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani – I would name each camp for the chief protagonists.

There is nothing unusual about this development, if Nigerian politicians cannot be involved in intra-party conflict, they get bored; they are born to be in difference, in dissent, in disagreement, disruptive, in dissimulation and add to that, be held in disdain and hounded into disgrace.

What makes this worthy of commentary is this intra-party has hit the smallest unit of assumed Nigerian responsibility – a husband and wife have ended up in different camps – The husband is a member of the Enugu State House of Assembly as Hon. Tony Chigbo in the Chime camp and the wife; Mrs. Ngozi Chigbo is listed as the Financial Secretary of the Nnamani camp.

Any vibrant marriage should allow for the traditional marital bliss whilst being able to discuss ideas, especially professional and political ones where the partners might have differences of opinion – that, I would think is a marriage in maturity.

The sway of Unreconstructed Male Chauvinists

However, in what is a throw-back to the patriarchal hegemony that refuses to recognise the possibility of women having differences of opinion from their husbands and even worse, expecting the wife to be devoid of the intellectual capacity to make informed choices that are not dictated and commanded by her husband, the man finds himself fighting for both his honour and his marriage.

There probably is no reason for wives to discuss their political allegiances with their husbands but a mention can maybe avoid embarrassment if they end up on opposite ends.

My wife should be subject

The man declares that he did not know that his wife was associated with the Nnamani camp – below the scrutiny of essential news coverage, the unreconstructed male chauvinists (UMCs) would contend that the man has no control of his house that he does not know what his wife is up to.

He then says he is opposed to his wife’s participation in the Nnamani camp, but the instructive part is that the UMCs are not calling Mrs. Chigbo to persuade her but are putting pressure on the husband to call his wife to order.

Most definitely because, if I were to afford myself the broadest generalisation I could aver, men are schooled and traditionally expected to present their wives as beauty companions but really treat them as pseudo-slaves without rights, independence of thought and sometimes means – they are supposed to be constant supplicants to their husbands who then give them status in society – they must be subject to the broadest purview and authority of the husband.

This is a deep thing, but we have all bought into this concept and women have found themselves subsumed into what is the “norm”

Do wives have rights?

Obviously, societal pressure leads him to say, “I vehemently disapprove of her association with any other political grouping or faction outside the mainstream state PDP led by the State Governor, Mr Sullivan Chime.” Read, I am her husband, she has no right to have an alternative political allegiance.

It would be a while before we find men who would proudly promote their wives to be the best they could ever be without thinking they are in competition – the emancipated man would have said, my wife and I can have disagreements, but that is no one’s business – we have a strong marriage that thrives on mutual respect.

Meanwhile, no one bothers to contact the wife and interview her for her independent opinion, because the society we have does not reckon a married woman should be given that level of courtesy and respect.

That is the way things still are in many places.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Tattoos, Marks & Identity

Mark, tattoos and culture

I was a bit amused by Moody Crab’s indecision regarding acquiring a tattoo and then hiding it from persons who might not take to it that well.

In fact, I have nothing against tattoos as long as they do not appear below the elbow or on the neck – I think there is a thing about class and discretion when one acquires a tattoo, in the West.

However, I remember that a lot of women of generations before my parents had black tattoos usually of their names on their lower arms and then artistic decorations on other parts of their bodies.

I am not sure they used pin-prick and pigmentation methods but some sort of indelible ink (Research topic).

Yoruba tribal marks

The Yoruba tribe in times past also used marks to identify themselves and these were usually on the face, a good deal of that went out of fashion around the middle of the last century.

These were cuts made into the skin and then filled with pigmentation; primitive as that might sound now, they were used to identify kinship and promote the stereotypes of the different tribal groupings in Yorubaland.

My parent’s Ijebu tribe had the less prominent marks which were a short line on both cheeks called Pele Ijebu; the rather more prominent ones are used to identify indigenes of Ogbomoso which comprised 3 deep angled lines on both cheeks and a slash from the nose towards the right cheek. Samuel Ladoke Akintola sported one of those.

In fact, this kind of scarification was not limited to Yorubaland but other tribes around Nigeria sport even more elaborate marks for identity or status in society.

With protection from cashew nuts

Beyond that there are animistic protection marks made to ward off evil and bad luck, these can be made on the chest or on the scalp with medicinal potions rubbed into those bizarrely inflicted wounds – it would be interesting to know how many of us have encountered these things.

But back to the tattooing topic, when we were in Rayfield, Jos, we had an orchard of 14 mango trees, a fig tree, a lemon tree and a very productive cashew tree. My aunt learnt from our maid that the sap from the unprocessed cashew nuts can be used for body painting so she proceeded to write her name on her thigh and arm.

Over days, the sap which was probably caustic created blisters and within a week it all dried up and we had the marks.

All was fine till the patriarch caught sight of those marks, nothing could be done to remove the marks, they were permanent, but he did give her no less that a ton of marks that eventually healed – we were utterly terrified.

Thankfully, the self-inflicted marks of shaving accidents only hurt for so long and disappear after a while.

Dare to think and change the world - Arthur C. Clarke tribute

Finding our way

As I left home this afternoon en-route my manager’s home where we had a meeting before going to the airport, the taxi driver was clueless about the address I gave him.

At first he looked in a map not to find the street but to check the spelling of the street since Dutch names with double vowels never come out the right way with foreigners like me.

One he got the correct spelling, he keyed the information into the in-built GPS system in his car and the journey began.

I then opined that the man who took the thinking to a useful conclusion about satellites only died a day before.

Germination of an idea

The idea of geosynchronous satellites was first discussed by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and then Herman Potočnik in 1928 wrote about them being used in communications with ground relays, he died a year after at the young age of 36, one only wonders if this “Einstein” died too soon.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke mooted in a paper “Extra-Terrestrial Relays – Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?” he wrote in 1945 that these satellites would be ideal for mass broadcasting or as telecommunications relays but did not believe it would happen in his lifetime – how wrong he was.

Dr. Harold Rosen took these science fiction ideas and with his team in 1959 began work to create reality that on the 26th of July 1963, the first geosynchronous satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral into the earth’s geostationary orbit at 35,786 km (22,236 miles) directly above the equator.

Later in 1963 the very first satellite relayed telephone phone call in the world happened between US President John F. Kennedy and the Nigerian Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

Global village of unrewarded minds

This was the beginning of the development of the global village that linked the world by telecommunications and also that of travel through the development of the turbo-jet engine by Sir Frank Whittle.

Unfortunately, these names are not as familiar as they should be, their ideas changed the world and what a debt of gratitude we owe the men even though they are not as celebrated as one would expect they should be.

The earth’s geostationary orbit is named for Arthur C. Clarke as the Clarke Orbit or Clarke Belt, he was no doubt deserving of a Nobel Prize not as a matter of his actualisation but for his instigative thinking and the consequences of the same.

I commend these men as the men who thought and did the improbable, the impossible and the unthinkable, they had the courage to publish their wild ideas and others took these wild ideas and made a new reality - the rest is history - we eventually found where my manager lived.

Adieu! Sir Arthur Clarke.

Note: GPS does not use geostationary orbits but these satellites as many other orbital belt variations derived from the original and pioneering ideas I talked about in the blog.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Yar'Adua memorial gathers the wreckers of Nigeria

The Preamble

Sometimes the simple reporting of news of an event contains a bit more than what people observe for their entertainment, so ThisDay reported this event.

One such event took place recently at a memorial lecture in honour of the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, the elder brother of the current President of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

I must note that there is a Nigerian parlance used to describe sibling relationships where senior is used instead of the more correct elder and junior is used instead of younger – so as the report states, Shehu was Umaru’s senior brother.

One could almost say someone was out to cause mischief by inviting certain friends of the late Shehu, Tafidan Katsina (traditional title) to that commemoration.

Because that crowd included the erstwhile President General Olusegun Obasanjo, his vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tony Anenih – that post is now occupied by Obasanjo.

What brings these men together is the fact that Shehu Yar’Adua was in period between 1976 and 1979 the military deputy of Obasanjo and when the seeds of political governance were being sown during the military era, Shehu Yar’Adua was the leader of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) the precursor to the currently ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Shehu Yar’Adua met an untimely death in jail having been incarcerated by the despotic Sani Abacha regime for insisting the military regime restore democratic institutions.

That gathering was to honour this man and reflect on “The challenges of Nation Building” with the guest of honour being President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

Barbs of speech

Whoever created the programme of events was really courting mischief because first of all there was the opening prayer, a staple for any Nigerian gathering which called Anenih to the fore whose prayer included words to the effect – “Thank God for the President we have now. We pray that God will give you the courage, wisdom and political will to clear the rot you inherited from the previous administration.” - The head of the previous administration that held office for 8 years was Obasanjo.

Obasanjo then stepped forward to give a welcome address and said, “Some people stood by the late Tafida in his hour-of-need, while some chose to abandon him.”, referring to times when an Anenih clique clamoured for the despotic regime of Sami Abacha to continue amidst the suffering of Nigerians.

He went on to say, “Yar’Adua unites Nigerians even in death, because here today, there are people who, ordinarily, would not like to sit together,” and “If not for Yar’Adua, those seated here would not be here to talk of corrupting themselves or self aggrandisement.” - Signifying the relationship breakdown between all the men for which each man would have been culpable; the anti-graft agency had set its sights on some of them and none can really show transparently and honestly audited sources of their great wealth.

Then Abubakar had his turn to talk and said, “The late Tafidan Katsina would not use power to terrorise any body”, no doubt a reference to Obasanjo.

Conduct and decorum

In any polite gathering and society, one would expect that when people congregate to honour someone, especially, one who is dead at a memorial lecture, common courtesy would allow for the proceedings to concentrate on honouring the man.

One is ashamed that people who at one time held the reins of power in Great Nigeria and who should have progressed to the status of elder statesmen worthy of their calling and conducting themselves with dignity resorted to intemperate barbs, venting their enmity in public and consumed in malice, spite, rancour, pride and dissimulation.

However, this meeting clearly shows the problems that have plagued Nigeria for decades and they are not off the horizon of pulling Nigerian down into the dregs.

Partnership and loyalty

The first issue that comes to mind is the fact that too many leaders have started projects together for leading Nigeria to some Utopian goal.

Along the line, selfish and vested interests, self-preservation and an unprincipled goal of raping Nigeria and its resources rather than governing Nigeria to a place of world prosperity and power has beclouded the false ideals that brought the people together in the first place.

Loyalty only comes out of corrupting influence, patronage and nepotism, where these are absent there is no unity of purpose, because the core unity of purpose was to gain power and then abuse it.

Obasanjo as much as acknowledged the issue of loyalty, Abubakar highlighted the abuse of partnership and Anenih showed there were great divisions in that project they were all involved in.

Corruption

That is a topic that is already overworked but note the rot that Anenih indicates the government he was part of created, and Obasanjo’s acknowledgement of the malaise of corruption and the gall of people to show up as saintly politicians is no so much a revelation but the way things are.

Power tripping

The abuse of power is no better demonstrated than when some obese buffoon with unaudited sources of wealth bellows at someone else saying, “Do you know who I am?”

By inference, it indicates that the person is willing to terrorise, would employ the means of menace having an army of hoodlums who fall in line to his caprices to take the law into their hands and get away scot free.

They have abridged legal process, appropriated law enforcement and given themselves to the use of litigation to gain undue advantage with legalese that makes Nigeria a fierce jungle of big dog eat small dog, every time - the little man simply has no one to run to for justice, fairness and probity - all the avenues for redress have been clogged up by these power trippers.

These self-same rotten politicians have used every bad rule to retain power, frustrate process, disenfranchise the electorate and allocate Nigerian resources to their own selfish intents. If they fall into areas of leadership that demand the separation of powers, they undermine the other institutions that are supposed to give governance balance and hold each sector of power in check.

There could not have been a worse but also glaringly representative gathering of people who having no maturity should really be in line for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBO) beyond which they should be committed to trial for the way they have raped Nigerian and refused to let Nigeria free from their rotten grips so that the country can progress.

Respect

The lack of respect for peers, the lack of manners in formal settings, the lack of respect for authority and the lack of respect for the dead are just some of the atrocious attitudes these horrible men displayed.

To crown it all, when the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria came to address the gathering Obasanjo refused to honour the President by keeping seated.

Someone should have gone to him, pulled him up and thrown him out of the gathering. There is only one President and Commander-in-Chief in Nigeria and all powers or potentates, no matter their previous office must defer to that authority.

It simply shows how Obasanjo handled his office with levity and does not understand the judicious use of power and authority to the greater good, it beggars belief that this man was once in the army because he would not have gotten away with such insurbordination to his military superiors.

Such pride consumes the whole body polity of Nigeria, people cannot defer, they cannot give way, they have to be heard, they have to be melodramatic and they cannot arrive at consensus for the good of the many.

Each has to create their own clique, each has to rival the other for ascendancy and it is all a fight to the finish or the death in many cases.

Expressing disappointment in Obasanjo cannot begin to illustrate my disgust, but that meeting just showed how the challenge of nation building would never be achieved in the lifetimes of these kind of people – It is all a shame, it is.

My holy week begins with Matthäus Passion

Hardly religious

This year has not been had the most religious of my allegiances, having remembered Shrove Tuesday, I did not give anything up for Lent as the 40 days of privation have gone without anything more than halving the amount of sugar I put in my tea.

I had planned to meet Chippla for quite a while, since we share a passion for classical music – after he had arranged for us to go for a concert, it stuck in my mind that I was going to see the Holland Boys Choir until the dramatis personae got on stage, at which point I was asking for my money back.

Matthäus Passion

As it transpired, we were not seeing the Holland Boys Choir but the Bach Choir being conducted by Pieter Jan Leusink in almost 200 minutes of Matthew’s version of Jesus’ passion composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The performance was at the Grote Kerk in The Hague which somehow seemed have transmogrified into a den of iniquity; with a pub where the transept would have been – in fact, it is no more a functioning church but an event venue.

Ich Sprechen Bisschen Deutsch

Little did I know that I would be having my own passion having forgotten that last Sunday was also Palm Sunday.

I bore my cross by sitting in an uncomfortable plastic chair and trying to follow the German as hard as I could where the text turned into incessantly long arias and I lost the concept of time and space.

A lady just in front of me had the best guide, she was reading the music of the performance and then I thought of how unmusical my parents were because this could have been something I would have liked to do as a kid.

Doze and wake

The Land of Nod beckoned a number of times and I did visit dreamland for a minute or two.

But this was not Palm Sunday as we had it in Nigeria where the ushers went around with prickly palm leaves to scratch the necks of dozers who suddenly got forcibly deported from the Land of Nod to the attention of the gospel.

The choir singing was beautiful and the performance was excellent even though there were times it all looked and sounded monotonous.

Conducting comic

One had to give it to the conductor; he was energetic, animated, involved and as eccentric as you could find another to conduct a choir. As we marched to Golgotha, I almost thought I was watching Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the crooked walk with the double-handed clawing motion – forgive me, I was watching something more serious than that.

Then I remembered how I commented about an album sleeve that had the title of Sacred Songs with the self-same conductor posing on the cover with a humongous Monte Cristo smoking from his lips.

Nature call inconveniences

At the interval, the ladies even shared the men’s toilets in trying to use the cubicles; ladies must hate concerts because there is never adequate provision for those nature calls.

Not only was I relieved that we had reached the end of a 16-page text version which must have read like 400 pages of words, end-to-end.

I was glad I neither had a Judas to betray me nor a Caiaphas or Pilate to condemn me – if only the sun would just shine for another day to usher in the spring.

Moderate applause

When it all ended, I applauded but was too caught up in my rigid churchianity that I could not find myself doing the standing ovations others indulged in, especially, in a church building.

Thankfully, none of the musicians succumbed to the big-headedness of taking adulation because you cannot do an encore of nailing Christ to the cross again – can you?

The evening closed with a beautiful meal and wonderful company at Chippla’s by which time I had written a new aria for the resurrection in my head – I drew no strength from that because when I got home I fell in bed and never got up till the next morning.

References

Listen to Matthäus Passion – site in Dutch but links to the performance – Thanks to Wouter for this link.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Matthäus Passion.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Cleaning up tough Bare Stains

No prophet of economics

The layman observer economist in my dreams suddenly acquired a mitre to my collection of hats.

In fact, the economist part is not so much the science but the basic observation of human character and nature; the mitre infers the accident of prognostication.

Before anyone beats a path to the church of the prophetess of sub-prime consequences, I have nothing to offer you about the lottery numbers for this weekend or any other weeks in the future, the ones for last week, even you can find out.

Dishonesty breeds distrust

I had before mentioned in a series of blogs regarding the sub-prime mortgage crises; that the activity started off with dishonesty regarding means and ways, it lead on to greed regarding acquiring economically unsound customers and this was given a false copper bottom by slicing up the debts and repackaging it with the best ratings on the market.

In a bull market, a good number of banks bought that bull and have now been caught out without the bull but a pair of paper marché horns.

For over six months, banks have been wary of what other fellow banks have gotten into and how much of bull or horns they have got left. So, no bank is willing to lend to another just in case the money goes into a black hole – that is the loss of trust.

Throwing in everything

The horses have already bolted, I say, meanwhile, someone is trying to lock the gates anyhow. The black hole no matter how minuscule was created when banks and customers veered from trustworthy contracts at the beginning of sub-prime deals and this is just one of the many causative issues in what we now know as the credit crunch.

Escaping the gravitation pull of the black hole is tending towards to seriously expensive with almost $1 trillion thrown to the beast with sub-prime, credit-crunch, recession and inflation heads in monetary stabilisation, socialist amelioration, write-downs and bale-outs with no let or give of respite.

Bare Stains

So, whilst the Northern Dust in England received emergency funds that resulted in a bank-run last September, we have Bare Stains (Bear Sterns) granted such emergency funds sending a shudder through the markets and giving us a feeling of foreboding that we are no where near the end of the economic crises.

If honesty were still not the best policy, especially in business, what other policy do we have to do business and avoid this mess?

These are just bare stains which cannot be easily wiped off with emergency funds; the real muck is still somewhere out there waiting to be unveiled, no amount of throwing money and policy at it would solve it till the truth is out about how everyone got caught out.