Friday, 3 November 2017

Spotlight on culture of sexual abuse and harassment

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has brought out into the open a history and culture of sexual abuse, harassment and exploitation that has become pervasive in day to day life in the USA and UK. Not only has it given victims a voice, it has also meant abusers are now being held to account irrespective of wealth and status. There are some exceptions, of course. It has also opened up a debate about notions of male entitlement and the casual mistreatment of women that has become normalised over time. The usual excuses for inappropriate and indecent sexual behaviour are now being held up to scrutiny and rightly dismissed and condemned. The UK Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon has had to resign claiming that what was acceptable in the past is now no longer acceptable. People have been quick to correct him that it was never acceptable just accepted because the perpetrators had power and influence.

The Black entertainment industry has a notorious reputation for misogyny and sexual violence. It might seem like there’s no point in raising it but this is probably an ideal time to call it out and hopefully put an end to it. The music industry needs to take more responsibility for the well-being of its workers and behaviour of its stars. Sexual harassment and exploitation are so endemic that it is taken for granted. That needs to change. This is important for the safety of people just trying to do a job, the professionalism of the business and the integrity of the art.

In Nigeria sexual abuse and exploitation of women have been pervasive and routine across all walks of life. Not only is the abusive behaviour normalised, it is also unchallenged. It is so ingrained in social culture that banks recruit young females to market banking products with the understanding that customers will see them as sexually available. Many of these women, single or married, are often coerced into sleeping with prospective customers in the hope of securing new account business. Lecturers in further and higher education routinely proposition female students with offers of better grades or threat of failing for sexual favours. This behaviour has gone on unchecked forever. This is a country where some regions have sought to legalise child brides. It is time for all the countries providing international aid for development and governance training to exert influence to challenge inappropriate behaviour. It is impossible to promote the empowerment and development of women when they can’t feel safe in social and professional settings.

In Nigeria, and many parts of sub Saharan Africa, there is a psycho-social dynamic driving the sexually predatory behaviour. There is an almost primordial inclination to see women as objects subject exclusively to the will of a man. It is a traditional mindset that sees man as the head of the family and women as subservient subjects with no will of their own. Unfortunately it still persists into the 21st century and shows little sign of abating. Now some men want to continue to dominate and demean the women in their lives. And women who have become high achievers, and even family breadwinners, still find themselves at the mercy of envious and insecure men who want to humiliate and brutalise them.

All societies need to take action to address sexual harassment and exploitation in professional and personal situations. A lot needs to be done to change prevailing attitudes towards sexually inappropriate behaviour. Victims should not be coerced and intimidated into silence. Also, perpetrators should not be allowed to pay off or threaten victims in order to cover up misconduct. Knowing what is appropriate behaviour and being held to account for sexually inappropriate conduct should be standards that are ingrained in the fabric of all societies.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Guns are the Problem

courtesy @cagle.com
President Trump doesn’t think that this is the time to talk about gun control. If not following the worst gun massacre in America’s history I wonder when is. It may not be clear to Donald Trump but the National Rifle Association is not as interested in the welfare of American citizens as its lobbyists would like us to believe. The over thirty thousand people killed by guns in the last year suggests that something isn’t right. And it is possible that gun possession might be at the heart of the problem.

The American people have come to believe that constitutionally guaranteed rights are inalienable. I think the continued espousal of the second amendment rights means it’s time to challenge that notion. The second amendment was meant for a time when America was made up of isolated and unprotected settlements. The Wild West was a desperate time, it was every man for himself, and clearly gender equality was inconceivable. However, in the 21st century there is no rational reason to bear arms routinely. There might be a rational to take up arms in self defence but then one would have to be under threat. To be under that kind of threat one would have to be living in a failed state or a complete collapse of law and order.

There remain serious questions about the justification for not having more rigorous control of gun ownership. However, the real issue that is probably even more concerning is the mentality that drives Americans to believe individual gun ownership is required to ensure their personal safety and overall wellbeing. The idea that guns are needed to protect a way of life seems so completely out of step with modern day sensibilities. There is little or no evidence to suggest that even a significant number of people have required a gun for any form of self defence. Nor can it be said that open carry policies create anything other than an atmosphere of heightened fear and anxiety. It does appear that at this point in time gun ownership has created a less safe and more dangerous environment for all law abiding citizens.

Relaxed gun control regulation has led to the adoption of related policies  that have created an unsafe environment. ‘Open carry’ policies seem a clear provocation to aggression and intimidation. ‘Stand your ground’ policies certainly hark back to lawless frontier times. It almost appeals to some sort of wild eyed savagery that is reminiscent of prehistoric times. Access to semi automatic weapons is hardly a proportional response to a desire for self protection. It all comes down to a circular argument justifying gun ownership by citing protection against criminal entities. However, criminals are so well armed because of the free access to guns, legal or otherwise. This means it’s harder for law enforcement to contain criminal violence therefore making it necessary for individuals to own weapons to protect themselves.

An inalienable right should be one that is required for sustaining individual life and dignity; as well as protecting social order. Gun ownership in modern times cannot be said to meet that standard. The mentality that puts gun ownership above a right to life is one which suggests a slide towards stateless lawlessness. The onus for law enforcement and protection of liberty cannot be solely down to individual perception of safety. For as long as it isn’t possible to guarantee that owners of guns will use them responsibly there is a need to change the mindset that everyone should be entitled to own a gun. The enjoyment of shooting cannot override the threat of innocent people being shot and murdered without provocation.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Ontological

What’s the point of running if you can’t come to a stop?
What’s the use of sitting if you can’t get up?
Of what use is believing if you can’t take a knee?
How can it be fair when we’re not treated equally?

Who wants a rose that can’t be held?
What do you do with iron you cannot weld?
Is there any good in being slick if you can’t feel friction?
How good is a tale if it’s all just fiction?

How can you be unique if you’re not truly different?
How can it be clear if it’s not really apparent?
How can you love if you’ve never really lost?
Is hell different from the purgatory of Faust?
How can you live for so many years and only take a second to die?
If honesty is the best policy why is it so easy to lie?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Failing Association

Football across the British Isles is a bonding experience for children and adults of all ethnicities and genders. People grow up playing, watching and enjoying the game. And while it is true that it has become a lucrative form of employment for professionals; it is also a unifying experience for many supporters and amateur players out there. It is because of this that the Football Association has a responsibility to set standards for both the performance and administration of the game. In recent times however, the FA has struggled to demonstrate any moral responsibility for the well-being of the game or its minority group players.

The FA investigation into charges of bullying and discrimination in the case of Eniola Aluko and Lianne Sanderson fell very short of any standard of fairness and thoroughness. The barrister appointed to lead the investigation appeared to not have a lot of understanding of the nuances of racism and discrimination. It was right that she should have looked for evidence of the claims made. However, in cases of racism there is a need to also explore attitudes and the environment in which the alleged incidents occurred. In basing her findings solely on the conclusion that there wasn’t any overriding proof she made little effort to actually even explore what the experience of the alleged victim of discrimination was. This showed a lack of sensitivity and an ignorance of the social context of racism.

It is ludicrous that a second investigation should have actually concluded with a decision after Eniola Aluko declined to cooperate with it. While her non cooperation was far from ideal, without it any findings could hardly have been credible. The investigation didn’t question Mark Sampson as to why he had made earlier self admitted remarks about Ebola. It also seems strange that Mark Sampson was cleared without the investigation actually giving Lianne Sanderson a hearing in person. It was almost as if her claims had already been deemed unsubstantial. This is in addition to no effort being made to interview Drew Spence about prejudicial comments made to her in the presence of some other England players.

The FA should have realised the Eniola Aluko being dropped from the England squad following her complaint would give the appearance of victimisation. There should have been more effort taken to explain the reason for her exclusion to her in person. This would have given her a forum to express her feelings about it. The FA then paying up her contract and paying a further sum for a non disclosure agreement certainly seems like an effort to quash rather than resolve the issue.

While Mark Sampson’s eventual sacking as England Women’s Football Manager is claimed to be unrelated to the allegations of bullying and discrimination it does raise significant questions. The incidents at Bristol Academy clearly show that he was not a person of unimpeachable character. It also further demonstrates that the FA and its coterie of advisors are barely competent or capable of simple good judgement. The FA claiming that the incidents in Bristol showed no safeguarding risks seems to fly in the face of adult protection requirements and standards. There may not been any child protection concerns but multiple adult protection concerns should have been flagged immediately.

The FA is an organisation that makes a big show of publicly espousing social responsibility. However, in its operations it doesn’t demonstrate much social awareness or much of a social conscience. Almost every opportunity it has to act with integrity and address traditional and institutional bias falls woefully short. There is so much focus on being seen to be doing the right thing that there isn’t much capacity to actually understand what is right and act appropriately so. Providing a platform for the young to thrive in the game and for players to be supported and protected, where necessary, should be one of the first principles of the organisation. Unfortunately, that seems to be what comes last in consideration if you work for the Football Association.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Nothing Right About Race Hate

Courtesy New York Times
The pursuit of racial purity didn't work out for the nazis in 20th century Germany, even at a time when the most liberal nations advocated it. So why do some people imagine it can work now in the 21st century? Given that most nations' origins involve quite a pool of nationalities the idea of racial purity is really just jingoistic pandering to a disaffected underclass. Unfortunately it has set out to target disadvantaged minorities and is becoming successful in further marginalising them. 

Neither Christian dogma nor scientific evidence support the idea of racial purity. Jesus Christ advocated loving your neighbour as much as yourself and turning other cheek to provocation. So there is no basis for subjugation of other races or religions based on Christianity. Targeting other religions is distinctly unchristian. In science social genetics demands that for survival a gene pool must be diversified. This is an essential element to the survival of all species. Continuous interbreeding will lead to weakness, mutations and extinction.

It is not possible to enjoy harmony in personal relationships whilst wishing for a society that will thrive on exclusion and separation. It takes a particularly warped mentality to want to see others undermine and subjugate others. Denying some groups their rightful place in society only serves to create a more unstable and unsafe society for all. It also removes any moral legitimacy to calls for groups to integrate or be more patriotic.

Encouraging free speech is an important part of maintaining personal and social freedoms. However, society cannot continue to be Finding tolerant of hate speech and racially motivated aggression. Demonstrations intended to intimidate and denigrate other people will inevitably spawn resistance movements. On such emotionally charged issues it is just a matter of time before they provoke violence. Prejudiced and racist speech don't advance the development of new perspectives on dealing with inequality and improving social safety or harmony.

The true essence of national pride is creating a nation and consciousness where all citizens have a place irrespective of colour, creed or capability. Ensuring that there is an acceptable place for them and making sure they are accepted as partners in progress. That requires recognising and acknowledging historical and current inequalities. It also involves making reparations and accommodations in each case. 

Monday, 31 July 2017

Democratic Party Doldrums


A lot of journalists, political commentators, analysts and comedians are currently very preoccupied with Donald Trump and his modern presidential antics. And it is right that he should be subjected to a fair degree of scrutiny. All public officers should expect to be accountable for their stewardship. Trump's difficulty in accepting any level of scrutiny of his actions is another sign of the deterioration of political governance in America.

However, the reality of the day is that Donald Trump is the president of the United States and he was properly elected into office. There is little point in continuing to question how he could have become president. The duty of all fair minded people is to now ensure that he governs for the benefit of most if not all Americans. However, the Democratic Party has an entirely different challenge on its hands. Hillary Clinton's defeat wasn't just a rejection of her as person but also a repudiation of Democratic Party and its approach to grassroots politics.

The Democratic Party has failed to win significant elections in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as losing the presidential election. This would suggest that on a local level it just isn't making a good enough impression. On issues like cost of living, unemployment, housing and law order the party seems to lack a clear and relevant message. Opposition to Trump is necessary but it isn't all that needs to be done.

In selecting Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders the party opted for the politics of personality over sound social policy. The Democratic Party is frantically searching for a leader whereas what it needs is a message and a thumping rallying cry. It's time it came up with a set of messages that reflect the feelings and wishes of grassroots America, and tested and refined them. Key figures in the party need to see this as a priority over jostling for leadership of the party.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Changing Nigeria's Political Landscape

copyright: Micha Klootwijk
Politics in Nigeria is corrupt and unevolved. It is riven by mismanagement and tribal partisanship. There is a strong belief that it is unlikely to see a change for the better anytime soon. It is difficult to argue with that. Even the current crop of up and coming political aspirants are steeped in the lazy and uninspired principles of their forebears. Unfortunately entering into politics is driven by a desire that accumulate wealth or escape poverty rather than a vocation for selfless public service. This has created a status quo of corruption and incompetence in both the executive and administrative arms of government.

It is time for a new vanguard of socially conscious Nigerians to create a new narrative that both connects with the aspirations of Nigerians and addresses their most pressing needs. In order to do this there needs to be a profile created for public service. Capability and integrity have to take precedence over wealth and patronage. Public can no longer be seen as a passport to personal wealth.

Successive governments have failed to address security issues with regards extremists and crime and disorder. Public services only serve to entrench deprivation and inequality. Economic policy has been regressive. There is little appetite for investment in sustainable development. Economic regulation is inadequate and poorly enforced. The north east remains isolated, unsafe and underdeveloped. The south remains an environmental disaster zone exploited by oil companies and local militias.

An association of young people supported but not led by some like minded older and wiser hands need to come together to form a viable political party. Nobody with present or past affiliations with political parties or groups in the country should be eligible to take up membership. This new party would campaign on a platform of good governance, transparency, financial accountability, economic development, youth empowerment and open society. This new political movement will start small and look to grow its membership and relevance on a local and national basis. It will seek to develop a solid support base and promote its political values across all states. It would hopefully be able to build this up into a credible national presence.

It is time to reimagine Nigeria as a place where there is strength in diversity. Where unity can be achieved through fairness and unselfish patriotism. A place where social capital is built up, maintained and reinvested in national development. A place where elders are role models and mentors to the youth. A place where young people grow up with a sense of integrity and an aspiration to personal and public improvement.