Saturday, 23 June 2018

Make America White Again

It is probably no coincidence that the Trump administration has chosen to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council around the same time it introduced immigration control measures that  seem the exact kind of actions that would come under the purview of the Council. Separating children from their parents and then detaining he children in steel ringed camps was unreasonable and excessive. Withdrawing from the Human Rights Council would proved only a brief relief from the torrent of condemnation that followed revelations about children ripped away from parents at the US border.

Donald Trump claims his extreme anti immigration measures are designed to prevent America from being overrun by illegal immigrants. This seems a simplistic and racist feeding into right wing fears that the white American population will be exceeded by the population of people of colour at some point in the future. It is clear which people Trump has in mind when he paints his apocalyptic vision of an American future with foreigners running wild all over the land. He certainly doesn’t seem very concerned about the countless Europeans who are living in America illegally. Even the language he uses to describe non-caucasian migrants says a lot about his perception of them.

If Trump was truly interested in tackling illegal immigration then he would do more to tackle its causes. Businesses that hire migrant and seasonal workers could be given priority to apply for temporary visas for their workers. Some of the billions of dollars he wants to use to build walls could do a lot more good as development aid to neighbouring countries. At the very least he could have dialogue with his neighbours to look into migration and border security. Some cooperative efforts could go a long way to tackling the issue.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Nigeria Born Again

copyright: Asukwo eb
Since the return of party politics in Nigeria following the demise of military dictator Sanni Abacha the country has made some considerable strides. The economy is considered one of the key emerging economies in the developing world. There has been widespread access to mobile communications and internet services. Business magnate Aliko Dangote is considered the richest man in Africa. However social conditions have deteriorated. Poverty, unemployment and deprivation are rife. Wealth inequality has gotten worse. Corruption continues unchecked.

A lot of hope has been vested in incoming governments to curb corruption and neglect; and get development back on track. To date no government has been able to deliver on its promises. The current government under Buhari promised to fight corruption, instability and deprivation. It is widely acknowledged that it has failed to do this to any appreciable extent. However, Buhari has expressed an intention to stand for election to a second term as president. There has been a lot of debate on whether based on his performance he can be considered a worthy candidate. It is almost certain his party will support his candidacy but he himself has not distinguished himself as a saviour with the vision or will to bring about change in the country.

It’s incredible that in 2018 Nigerians are still hoping for an election campaign based on integrity, social and economic vision, and an honest manifesto; instead of cash distribution combined with thug driven violence. We still don’t have candidates who can give a good account of their past stewardship. Campaigns are rife with false claims, empty promises and personal abuse. The electorate deserves better and needs to hold political aspirants to a higher standard. The only way change will happen is if a new cadre of politicians is ushered in. The country desperately needs people with a passion for public service who are not driven by a desire for personal enrichment.

Nigeria is currently beset by extensive poverty, a lopsided economy, inadequate rural investment, wide ranging unemployment, unchecked crime and regional violence, poor access to healthcare, erratic power supply, decline in quality of education, mass emigration, and inadequate public services. Any politician not talking about these issues over the next year cannot possibly have very much to offer. Any campaigns that are not centred around offering solutions to these problems would only be trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Any chance of a better future will depend on the electorate demanding a better class of politician; and asserting their rights to have a political system that serves the nation as a whole.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

From the Mountain Top

He had a mission for all to love their neighbour as themselves. 
He had a dream that all should be judged by the content of their hearts. 
He had a passion for all Black peoples to fight for their right to be equal. 
Two spikes could not dim the glory of the gospel.
One bullet could not stop the advancement of equal rights. 
A hail of gunfire couldn’t kill the message by any means necessary.

Just as the river brings life to the village, 
The egg gives birth to new life,
Blood infuses struggle with a legacy.

As we remember those who died so we could live 
Let us honour their missive
And keep giving all we have to give.

One bullet
One people 
One message 
Equality! ✊🏿

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Abortion: An issue of faith or the greater good?

The state of Mississippi in the United States of America has legislated banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The reason given for this is “to protect the most vulnerable of life”. There are few exemptions but these do not include in the event of rape, incest or abuse. A legal challenge to the bill has already been filed, and it is likely to be the first salvo in a drawn out debate that may not see the bill implemented any time soon, if at all. A judge has subsequently blocked the law for a ten day period. Legal precedent across the United States gives women the right of choice regards abortion and allows for abortion up to about 24-26 weeks.

Religion was the foundation of rules and laws in almost all early societies. Religious belief and social law comfortably coexisted in early times. Most people lived their lives according to religious principles and these underpinned law making. Some of these principles still form the basis of legislation in many countries all over the world. However, they are now required to also meet the standards of natural justice and equality. Social order requires laws to be fair and reasonable; and not just a matter of religious doctrine or personal beliefs.

Laws are intended to maintain order and create harmony in societies. Over time laws need to be responsive to changes in social norms and behaviour. However, any changes should promote fairness and equality. Mississippi’s attempt to outlaw abortion takes little consideration of the consequences of criminality, emotional well-being or the best interests of society. There isn’t much of a scientific or medical basis to this attempted law change. The presumption has to be that its being driven by some notion of morality. It is no surprise that Mississippi was one of the states actively engaged in the unwanted sterilisation of vulnerable individuals (particularly African American women) under a state sponsored eugenics programme right up to 1963.

In many cases religious beliefs coincide with the secular laws. However, religious beliefs are meant to apply to groups of people who share those beliefs and abide by the principles underpinning them. The laws of the land on the other hand apply to everyone. It would stand to reason that if a society is considering incorporating any religious values into law then they have to make sure there is a universal benefit to be attained.

It is questionable whether this change in law will create any significant social benefits. It won’t necessarily strengthen family units. It won’t protect children against abuse or neglect. It won’t empower and uplift women. And it certainly won’t lead to a reform of state welfare provisions. What it will potentially do is recreate an unsafe underground abortion industry and put women at more risk. It will also put pressure on women to rush decisions about their pregnancies that they might ideally need more time to come to terms with.

Politicians have a huge responsibility to maintain social order; and make and revise statutes and laws. However, there are too many instances of politicians pursuing the furtherance of their own enrichment, careers and big business interests rather than the needs of the people who elected them. It is down to the people to hold them to account and be prepared to challenge legislation and legislators  that do not serve the greater good.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Is Death Better than Bondage?

Black people continue to live with the pain and consequences of enslavement and colonisation. This has meant having to grow up with limited resources and, very often, few prospects. So many of us have faced so much frustration and hopelessness that we have been compelled to believe that we have to exist as if there is nothing to live for. Criminality, violence, drug abuse and illegal immigration have become easily embraceable life choices for too many of us. Our environments and perceptions essentially have our futures chained down and locked away.

In spite of the poverty and exclusion that Black communities have to contend with there are people of exceptional talent emerging from them on an ongoing basis. And for those who may not be sought out for their talents they stil have a great capacity for growth and development. The wisdom and maturity they garner from their lives is something they can share around them and pass on to future generations to keep hope alive. Even in the most oppressive captivity the mind has the potential and capacity to grow and evolve. And it is sometimes in these darkest moments that we may do our clearest thinking. Being shackled by dogma and self doubt is what really keeps us in bondage. Supporting those around us and leaving something of worth for posterity is certainly worth living for.

The history of slavery has shown us that those who refused to lie down and die but fought the hardest to resist oppression and escape enslavement went on to become the torchbearers for future generations. Not only did they uplift the people around them but they also left a legacy of honour and dignity for the human race as a whole.

Given the choice everyone would want to die free but it is also important to fight to create a better future for coming generations whatever the cost to ourselves. Sometimes it takes the effort of the many to realise the vision of a few. And maybe the prospect of the life we could not live is the greatest inheritance we can pass on to future generations.

I don’t mind the idea of dying fighting for freedom. Then even with my dying breath I will still feel a tinge of hope. That can inspire hope and fight in others. Even if you’ve done wrong, fighting for redemption can bring new life to you and others. To achieve that would be to truly be free.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Beyond Housing the Homeless

Housing is a focal point of social life in the UK. Not only is it key to quality of life, it is also a major determinant of social and economic status. A lot of people’s wellbeing is tied to their access to housing and their capacity for home ownership. Interest rates and mortgage provision are key indicators for the UK economy.

In spite of the social importance of housing too many people are becoming homeless, and remaining so for long periods. In many cases once a person becomes homeless they are no longer able to access council services or housing benefits. At the turn of the new millennium most local councils withdrew from provision of homeless hostels. This meant that charity shelters became the major source of temporary walk in accommodation for the homeless.

Two of the major causes of homelessness are family and emotional breakdown. The turmoil that results often leads to mental ill health, substance misuse and isolation. There are children caught up in sexual exploitation and adults losing their jobs who are finding themselves sleeping rough. An extended period of homelessness further traumatises individuals. There can’t be any success in tackling homelessness without also addressing the root causes. Too often people in crisis are left to suffer complete breakdown before they reach a threshold for public services. This often means that even when given temporary accommodation their lives have become so vulnerable and chaotic that they are unable to maintain it.

Too many local councils are tackling homelessness by putting people into bed and breakfast accommodation, and then passing responsibility on to central government funded housing benefits services. They are not doing any follow up or even collecting data about how many reported homeless people are ending up rough sleeping. This neglect extends to when rough sleepers apply for services. They are not prioritised, given support or followed up when their accommodation needs are being dealt with.

Politicians profer soundbites about creating more affordable housing to combat all housing problems. However, the homeless experience complex problems that can’t be resolved just by offering housing. There is a need for formal services to engage people who are sleeping rough, and dedicated care and support provision to get people resettled. They need ongoing help to deal with the trauma of being homeless and the complexities of bureaucracy. Public funded hostels are needed to provide bridging support for people at risk of homelessness and those currently sleeping rough. These hostels should be staffed with peripatetic or on site care and support workers. More recognition is needed of the need to care for vulnerable people before they become socially excluded.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

An interesting exploration of the lives of two mixed race girls growing up in South East London. It takes us on a journey through a life chasing dreams and dodging poverty. The story touches on the madness of celebrity from glamour, to superficial relationships and the accessorising of African poverty.

The story hints at a lot of things without dwelling too deeply on them. It’s never quite clear what social significance the different gender racial mix makes. There also doesn’t seem to be much insight into Tracey’s father fractious relationships. What were his feelings about his previous family? Did he develop a fetish for Black women at some point? How did he become involved with Aimee?

The story does delve into the phenomenon of celebrity adoption of Africa as a pet charity project. However, it does gloss over local corruption and repression and how these celebrities’ endorsement may or not contribute to it.

Her treatment of romantic relationships wasn’t altogether convincing. Some didn’t really add up or really seem particularly likely. They read as unsatisfactory as they eventually turned out in the book.

Some very interesting themes in there but it was a difficult read and not altogether enjoyable.