Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Thought Picnic: Never underestimate the memory of a child

The danger of remembering
Sometimes, I consider myself a dangerous man, not because I am violent and ready to do any person any harm, but because I have dangerously keen memory.
I can observe and recall, experience and relate, participate and remember such ideas, events, places, things I saw or hear, what was or not done in such detail as to find myself somewhere on the autism spectrum.
How far bad my memory goes, I cannot tell to an exact time, I do not remember the trauma of my premature birth nor the months of incubation and I probably do not want to, it serves no particular purpose, though I have been informed of certain circumstances around my nativity and consequent development, probably grist for a possible life story.
Remembering from long ago
However, there are memories from around the age of three that I can recall, not only that, some do playback as vividly as if I were watching a film, all in my mind. Those almost flashbacks seem to be readily accessible and very useful, disarmingly useful indeed.
With a memory like that, it also means I do not forget, or it is not easy for me to forget what has been committed to memory with all the accompanying activities that make that memory within recall. A sound, maybe of music, perceiving a smell of something, seeing something that looks familiar, or thoughts that churn like delving into a lucky dip basket to retrieve a moment or moments.
Long ago a child did see
Then envision the scenario where a child is neither oblivious of or unperceptive of their environment, the tension in the home, the things adults attempt to conceal from our view that we see and understand too clearly but are given no voice to express. Like I said to an uncle something ago, we the children see all these things, do not be deluded into thinking we are blind or that the passage of time would bring a blurring of the memory into forgetfulness.
Yet, people forget, they ask questions they should not ask and get answers they never expect. They raise ghosts of the past and I built out the cities in which those ghosts once lived amongst us. The instigate issues today forgetting that every comet has a long tail, just as significant as the comet itself. Indeed, if there is a backstory, it is probably going to come to the fore.
See that you never forget
Maybe, it is a gift, or it is a burden, I cannot deny it exists and I am not shy to bring it out, my silence should never be taken for the absence of context, depth, reason and attribution. The things left unsaid have probably not ripened enough for that time and place.
Yet, people forget, they stir the still waters, plumb the depths of mysteries and miseries seeking some justification which when given a construct and a provenance might well change the outcomes. I do not want to be feared and I do not want to be taken granted, I will speak to the present and speak to the memory.
Never underestimate the mind that has little capacity to forget, all the good comes with gratitude, let us not talk of the other.


When the cult of mother becomes a curse

Speaking of the oracles
Òrìà bí ìyá ò sí. This is a saying in Yoruba that is not that easy to translate without losing the fundamentals of meaning and context.
Òrìà in Yoruba is the core of the indigenous animist culture representing the supernatural, elemental spirits that are varied depictions of polytheistic deities, powerful, revered, worshipped and honoured. In the main, they traverse the early plane in legend as human and the heavenly plane as spirits, they are the mainstay of the deepest cultural identity of the Yoruba.
Only, a decade ago, I had to reflect on who the Yoruba were when I met two Cuban professors whilst on holiday who appeared to have more insight and knowledge of Yoruba myths, mythologies and legend than I ever knew. Steeped in superstition in what Lord Lugard dismissed as a ‘vague dread of the supernatural’, you probably would never understand the Yoruba without being Yoruba.
The enduring hold of our oracles
I might extend that to suggest the Yoruba influence that remains strong in the practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji suggests some fundamental underpinning of the mother culture has been lost to the influx of new religions that have in most cases branded these traditions as savage, uncivilised and inherently evil.
Yet, these beliefs have sustained people for centuries and endure in the spirituality of the peoples and their descendants of the new world who were trafficked in the malevolence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Òrìà bí ìyá ò sí. Indicates that the mother or motherhood usually as seen from the perspective of the child is the genre of elemental spirits worthy and possibly demanding of worship, adoration and adulation.
In the cult of mother
Recently, in watching a film and a television dramatization, I was exposed to an interesting dynamic between mother and child, the blood relationship persisted to serve the purposeful hold of the Òrìà mother on the worshipper child, but it was progressively damaged through abuse brought on by drug addiction.
A child desires of a mother love, attention, care, protection, maybe encouragement and even guidance, but some children get little of that because the mother’s capacity to mother in a somewhat ideal mothering situation is impaired by personal struggles that distract the mother from that objective.
In the one case, as in the film, Moonlight, the mother only seemed to come to, late in life whilst in rehabilitation and she profusely apologised for being less of a mother than she could have been. It was a time of tears, of hugs and of healing.
Breaking the cult of mother
In the television drama, it was the 6th episode of the 5th Series of Law and Order: UK, called Deal where a drug-addict mother could care less about her son, first blaming her 13-year old son who for years had been told he was responsible for her problems and then when she was owing money to her drug dealer, she sold her son to the drug dealer to abuse as he saw fit.
The Òrìà mother bond was kept strong with threats to kill the boy’s mother if he stepped out of line. It is not until he saw that his mother had indeed sold him that the wicked Òrìà mother – worshipper child hold and bond was broken.
The travails of mother and child
The Yoruba culture places great burdens of responsibility and duty on the worshipper child to serve and sacrifice to the Òrìà mother, which in many cases is a willing and honourable function in the life of a child who has had positive influences of the mother, mothering and motherhood.
We as child strive to do as much as we can to uphold that Òrìà – worshipper bond, yet, that bond can be broken, broken beyond repair by agency or acts of either or both mother and child. The addiction that belies incapacity does not have to be drugs, it could be any other activity that brings on the infirmity breaks that maternal bond.
At peace, away from mother
As I wrote in my blog on Moonlight, the case of my mother is an addiction to a syncretism that combines elements of Judaism and Christianity with African-initiated interpretations of scripture along with strange animist traditions enlivened by incantations of the Psalms, rituals and holy waters, the result of which has broken the Òrìà mother – worshipper child bond.
Whilst it pains me that there is no relationship of any note between us, I cannot help but see my mother through the prism of those other mother addicts with no prospect of a Moonlight ending, because somewhere down the line she sold that motherhood to her devotion, hoping my fear of it would bring me into line, like the drug dealer’s threat to the boy.
Coming to terms with this has meant that I have decided not to waste precious time trying to make peace, but as I learnt in a conversation with a dear friend, I must find ways to be at peace with myself. I write about these things because I believe I am not alone in this kind of experience, it is also my own personal therapy in resolving the deep conflicts of the heart.


Friday, 25 August 2017

Thought Picnic: Running on empty

The eyes can’t see
Almost two decades ago, I had a daring adventure that had me calling up a driving school with the aim of learning how to drive. Now, it was an unlikely prospect, but it was a demon I had to face up to. To prove to myself that I could be in control of such a vehicle which unlike a bicycle had control abstracted from direct interference.
In the back of my mind, I had another issue, I was concerned about my sight, I am short-sighted with the complication of astigmatism in one eye, which means I find it difficult to have stereo vision and by consequence, judging distance versus speed is a poorly developed skill.
I did not learn I had the astigmatic condition until I was in my 30s and it was only then that I had some corrective measures in my glasses, but the damage had been done as I learnt that this could have been corrected at childhood and it probably explains why I was so poor at tennis as a kid, I could never hit ball, because I could not anticipate as it bounced towards me.
Braking suddenly
However, the driving school tutor arrived at my door, I got in the car and we went through a few preliminary issues of concerns, intentions and safety. Critical to me was that we should not drive onto a major road, that we should only do the quiet streets of my neighbourhood. We had not driven 5 minutes when ahead of me, I saw a busy road and I slammed on the brakes.
This could have been my first accident with whiplash to boot, for unbeknownst to me, there was a fire engine behind us. I scolded the tutor for putting me in that situation and he scolded me back for stopping suddenly and endangering both of us. I was having none of it as I stepped out of the car to stop me lessons there and then.
He successfully calmed my nerves down, I got back in the car and we did another 6 days of driving, by which time, I did make it onto major roads, managed the three-point turn, but never fully mastered reversing into a parking space. I knew I could do it, but considering my limitations, I aborted that quest.
Running on empty
Now, consider one of those scenarios where you are travelling in a car on a long journey late at night and from the passenger’s seat, you notice the fuel gauge is reading to the left on E, 'Empty'. I am told it does not necessarily indicate an empty tank, there is some reserve fuel that could give you another few miles, one cannot say.
The thoughts begin to fill your mind with anxiety and trepidation, whether the car would suddenly stop in the middle of nowhere far from civilisation, maybe that light in the distance is a petrol station rather than a motel or a fast food joint, it could be that you get to the petrol station and you have no means to buy petrol, but we are getting ahead of ourselves, until then, you are running on empty.
Running on empty is a test of resilience, the demands of hope over possible disappointment coasting on despair, one is living dangerously in possibly what was an avoidable situation. We have all been there before, and if you have never had that experience ever, you probably have a perfect life, good for you.
Life after plenty
I have found myself running on empty at many stages of life, completely unaware of how much reserve fuel I have in time, in expectation, in hope and in realisation when I find, time, means and place to refill my tank and put aside the heretofore looming catastrophe.
At the time, you agonise between going at your own speed and reaching out for help, how from a life of individuality and independence do you seek assistance when you need it most? Something in the psyche fights against vulnerability defining you and in the process, you probably deny certain qualities of your humanity.
The need to show emotion, probably a moment to shed tears, finding a shoulder and readily leaning on it, meeting someone who not only listens but is able and ready to meet you at that very point of need.
For a better story
How we survive and thrive can sometimes be a mystery and there are times when people do forget that you are weak even when you seem to be strong, you have nothing much as you present a veneer of plenty, your apparent destitution will only be discovered through engagement and empathy. Running on empty is not the end of the journey even if it presages a sudden end to that journey.
I am thankful that there is some reserve, I do not know how much or for how long this journey would continue and might get to a petrol station and fill up before the car stops. Such is the feeling of a job seeker, the savings are drained, the bills pile up and privations come to the fore as you eke out subsistence from literally nothing. Running on empty is an experience in the hope it becomes a story told from a better standpoint very soon.


Thursday, 24 August 2017

A storied story

When I look at my life story,
In the hope that I have more of a story,
I am amazed at the story,
Mostly unscripted, yet a story,
From the birth of my story,
Through an ever-evolving story,
My blessings are my story,
My hardships too, my story,
In my thoughts, I craft a story,
In my writing, I tell a story,
As I suffer, buds another story,
I become stories within a story,
For all I have done is a story,
I remain responsible for the story,
The mistakes that cloud our story,
The good fortune that lights the story,
With struggles of an overcoming story,
If I ever get to write a good story,
Ye all shall read of that story.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Opinion: The utter dehumanisation of Kim Wall

Responsibility is not outdated
This matter cuts to my heart that I am almost left speechless, yet, I find it is a topic on which I must comment even in the jumble of thoughts that afflict me.
A female freelance journalist researching a maverick submariner, met up with him one evening, apparently went on a submarine ride with him and unfortunately never returned home. The following morning, the submariner was rescued from his sinking submarine and as to the whereabouts of his guest, he said he dropped her off on an island the night before.
Eventually, the submarine was retrieved from the waterbed where it sunk and there was still no sign of the journalist, however, it was impossible not to hold the submariner responsible for the disappearance of the journalist, since he was last seen with her.
How you deal with accidents matter
Then, just as mystery piled on misery, a human torso washed up on a beach just as the submariner changed his story to suggest the journalist came to her demise by accident on submariner and he buried her at sea. The said torso, yet to be confirmed to be the missing journalist was apparently deliberately mutilated.
The journalist was Kim Wall, aged 30, Swedish and quite well accomplished, the submariner was Peter Madsen, aged 46 and Danish. [Independent]
This narrative disturbs and perturbs me on so many levels, accidents do happen whether by commission or omission, but most particularly, there must be a greater sense of responsibility at play. Kim Wall was the guest Peter Madsen on his possibly precarious vessel, it meant on a basic level that he had a sense of great duty to ensuring the safety of his guest and an all-consuming responsibility to ensure that he delivered safely back to shore after their meeting.
How reaction indicts you
Whatever, the accident might have been on the submarine, Peter Madsen should have come back to the surface if the submarine were submerged and immediately contacted the emergency services to come to the aid of Kim Wall to determine with certainty the mortal danger she faced after the said accident.
If Peter Madsen could not have delivered Kim Wall alive to shore, the basic sense of awareness of his responsibility should have been to bring her body back to shore and contact the police and her next-of-kin, ensuring a proper investigation of the event would lead to possibly acceptable conclusions.
I cannot speak to the state of mind of Peter Madsen, he was utterly irresponsible, his conduct extremely reprehensible, and his actions absolutely contemptible. That he did not readily assume responsibility for the safety of Kim Wal that he lied to deflect blame is not only cowardice, it presents a clear disrespect for the person and dignity of Kim Wall whether living or dead.
This was unforgivable
However, what shocks me to the core is how on Kim Wall’s death in his care, he arrogated to himself the right and authority to dispose of her body at sea without any reference or consultation with any of her family or friends. If that is not one of the greatest acts of gross inhumanity ever observed in recent times, I wonder what is.
Peter Madsen’s inability to immediately recognise the gravity of this criminality, for there is no other word to begin to broach this matter with any depth, is beyond belief. Whilst the death of Kim Wall might well have been an accident, for we do not know what happened aboard the submarine, one cannot divorce this matter from the violence against women that continues into death by the desecration of her humanity through throwing her into the sea like some dead fish.
Nothing Peter Madsen did can be found excusable, I cannot find anything defensible in the whole matter and it is necessary that justice for Kim Wall be found in visiting the full force of the law on Peter Madsen without mitigation. He was evil and grotesquely so, such as his ilk must never walk the streets where the civilised walk again, he is barely human and belongs in permanent sequestration for the safety of all. He deserves no mercy, not in the slightest.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Thought Picnic: Personal questions in the aftermath of Charlottesville

Where learning history matters
There are events in the world today that may not directly affect one, but cannot be ignored as they bring to the fore some critical issues of identity and identification in the context of residence, heritage, knowledge, history and an uncertain future.
In terms of history and knowledge, there is an understanding and appreciation of the trading of humanity as cargo for slave labour and the resulting burden of deprivation and civil rights struggle that reflects the plight of the underprivileged across the globe in terms of racial prejudice, gender inequality, wealth gaps, the voiceless minors, the sexuality minorities, the religiously oppressed and those for all sorts of reasons seemingly condemned to be the lesser of our diverse humanity.
A new angle of white privilege
The Charlottesville situation has become an instructive exemplifier of a broken society, that after so many protests and agitation in the last decade of law enforcement brutality in the senseless killing of young black people in America, it has taken the killing of a Caucasian lady in Heather D. Heyer by another Caucasian man in James Alex Fields Jr. to bring the issue of race and class into a turbulent national American if not global discussion. [Wikipedia]
African-Americans have hit the streets with Black Lives Matter, but the reality of Charlottesville shows that bizarrely and practically for anything to happen in America and possibly elsewhere in the western world, White Lives Matter in context and event first for engagement to become universal. This represents the epitome of White privilege.
A Nero on the fiddle
By consequence, it also revealed President Trump’s incapacity to reflect and consider his position as leader of a nation he intends to make great again to find the words and actions necessary to unite the whole country in all its diversity towards the purpose of greatness. Rather, he stood in the dividing line between the conflicting issues and spiritedly widened the gulf irresponsibly like Emperor Nero long before him who fiddled whilst Rome burnt down around him. [This is more metaphor of relevance than an allusion to historical fact.]
Where a man who such power should have found a way to walk in the worn shoes of the many whose soles bleed from treading the rugged roads as they flee the ravenous beasts of terrible American history roam to devour any that seek a semblance of freedom, like a cloven hoofed mule he laid a trail of dung from the beasts to people in flight exposing all to peril in senseless and unguarded verbosity.
We were once again intimated with the unfortunate observation that never in contemporary times has any man been given such great responsibility to only use the office he occupies with no inkling of duty or purpose, his breath-taking irresponsibility which has received deserved opprobrium might only well stiffen his unteachable mule-like imperviousness to reasonable discourse.
The questions that arise
However, the broader issue extends to how as a minority of many degrees this affects my status, my identity and sense of safety in a Brexit-convulsed United Kingdom. For instance, where have elements of privilege I have enjoyed by circumstance, upbringing and good fortune created both a profile and a shield against suffering what others like me do suffer?
What has given me the sense of highly-developed self-esteem that allows me to tackle racialised scenarios with the purpose to educate rather than take offence?
Why have I now begun to realise that I have in many cases endured and absorbed slight, abuse, belittlement, humiliation and denigration from people who in other circumstances besides the ones that brought us together in seemingly egalitarian settings where were it not for that, they would never have found the means to venture into my purview, but for the privilege of nature rather than upbringing?
Embracing my heritage and my humanity
Yes, I am presented with many questions I must find new answers to in the journey of self-discovery, yet, at the same time, I must not be absorbed by this quest as to lose my privileged sense of well-being, however, I hope it allows me to walk a long hard mile in the shoes of many who have never found opportunity, privilege, fortune or right as I have found to thrive everywhere I have lived.
I cannot deny who I am and the rich heritage that makes up my person, my personality and my outlook, but I have to embrace and contextualise how my own experience should engage better in either an individual or in a broader way redound to others who I may be blessed to bestow a greater sense of self-esteem and self-respect in our wonderfully amazing humanity.
There are lessons to learn from what happened in the aftermath of Charlottesville, whether that opportunity would be taken is to be left to history, I hope many are taking the better lessons to heart.


Thought Picnic: Scrambling from subside to upside

A meander between cities
Just a week ago, I went for a long walk through parts of my somewhat twinned city that I had never been before. My adventurous walk which brought me to parks and meadows I never knew existed also led to the discovery of the fact that the river that divides the city of Manchester from that of Salford is a meandering waterway that you could cross multiple times almost in a straight line.
If one was not aware of this feature, you could with the bearings you originally had of first crossing the river, think you are walking in one direction only to find that you are not. The good fortune of having my phone on me, even as I tried to use skyscrapers as my focal compass points that left me a little lost, was my salvation when I eventually crossed the River Irwell four times on my way back home.
A thought to unthink
Then, one night of crossing the river visited an end-it-all thought, a jump for the finish that was resisted with the thoughtfulness that the story I would love written about me should end differently. You are challenged by situation and circumstance, plenty of hope coupled with the lack of means, the privation that shows on the scales as you run out of belt holes on the shorter end in realisation and situation.
This is turbulence, severe and shaking, the jolts are demanding of your ability to reason and demands are made on resources running scarce and you begin to seek the comfort of self-assurances that you cannot account for. Daily, opportunities come for which you project and prospect in the anticipation of interest that leads to interviews that come and but for the grace of God you flunk. Uncertainty begins to wield and hold sway.
An anchor for a soul in turmoil
It is then that you seek a hold, a stay for your sanity, a grip for your mental state, an anchor for your soul, the reading that you will not be overwhelmed, that whatever it is would not leave you completely overcome and overwrought with infirmity; the inability to get a result. Pushed further down by those seeking more out of you in the pretence that they have something useful to offer.
You then appear to find that assuredness in the amazing sturdiness of certain congregations of faith where the numbered is of the ethnic minority as if this matters not much to the indigene but a few. There I was greeted, as a grandfather, I probably looked like one in my dressing and with my cane, and still, there is such reserve in me not to be drawn into the sentimentality of the genuflected and the emotional.
A best on its way
I find it familiar and maybe too familiar to old experiences that have made me too sceptical for assimilation whilst recognising that there is something radically different in the message that provides succour and confidence making you wonder about the significance of it all.
Deep in my premonitions, I know this all will pass, it does quieten me, relieve me for certain aspects of productiveness and even upsets me, but I calmly assure myself, things turn and they will turn, I just have to banish the fear of the worst and face the prospect of the best that is yet to come and quite well on its way to me.

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.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Another bother

Ever need to bother,
With tension nearing smother,
Before you say, O brother,
You’re are on to another,
In verse and rhyme, we pother,
Words weighed by the fother,
Seeking relevance in tother,
Breaking rules taught by mother,
Threading paths a whole nother,
As the plot goes souther,
I’m about to go further,
As I shriek with a wuther,
I seek comfort in the other,
With a visit from my fairy godmother.