Sunday, 30 November 2014

Hands Up, Don't Shoot

There are so many things wrong with what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri; the killing of Michael Brown Jr., the lack of accountability of policing, the rioting, the Grand Jury decision, the conduct of the prosecutor. To name some. However, none is more wrong than the decision of Officer Wilson to repeatedly shoot and kill Michael Brown Jr. The key issue for me is the decision making that led to the officer shooting him. This was not a split second reaction in a sudden and unpredictable situation. This was a series of carefully considered actions by the officer; each action intended to bring matters to a fatal head.

There have been reports about Michael Brown's character and his actions on that day. These may indicate that he may have been a troubled youth. More importantly they show that he was a human being, a young Black man, and most importantly someone whose life mattered to many. His life should have meant more Officer Wilson. 

It is striking how we now live in times when the standard police response to dealing with young Black men is to shoot first, and then claim to be just doing their job. Where is it written that when confronting a young Black man you can't put your arm round his shoulders and offer him guidance? Isn't that the spirit of "Protect and Serve"? Rather than drawing a weapon and threatening, which has now become the customary response. I don't know how genuine the 'hug' picture from Ferguson is but the fact that it's striking says a lot about what the policing of Black neighbourhoods has become. 

There can be a lot said about what the basis of Officer Wilson's response that day was. Was it what he was taught in training? Was it what he had heard day in and day out from other officers? Or was it his own perception of young Black men. What we do know is that he acted without hesitation and with deadly determination. Somebody should have to answer for that.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Immigration Wrecking Ball

The UK government has decided to focus on immigration as a key element of its election campaigning in 2015. It isn’t exactly clear how this will translate into a social improvement manifesto. This focus on immigration dates back to the local interest in the BNP some years ago; and the current wave of popularity enjoyed by UKIP now. What it doesn’t equate to is a clear mandate for social action outside the apocalyptic promises that stoke the fears of the British electorate.

There has been a lot of finger pointing at the European Union as one of the causes of the rise in immigration into the UK. This is despite the fact that evidence shows that the most recent lifting of travel restrictions amongst a number of East European countries did not actually result in a net increase in immigration. It also ignores the fact that every year there are more British people travelling to live in European countries for work and personal reasons. However, the establishment and settlement of ethnic European groups in UK towns has become a sign of a siege akin to a plague of locusts.

The fears of the local populace about immigration are very varied and sometimes echoes of stricken statements by political and interest groups. Of recent claims have been made about immigration affecting British values, contributing to terrorism, draining welfare benefits, taking up available jobs, reducing availability of social housing, or contributing to crime and disorder. It is questionable how much of this true for a significant amount of immigrants. Nonetheless the perceived threat from immigration has become painfully real in the minds of many British people.

Recently a television presenter implied that immigration was a factor in the erosion of the British value of tolerance and inclusion. This was in response to the Government’s demand for schools to start teaching and promoting British values as part of the curriculum. Yet one may recall the oppression of the masses in feudal times; and more recently the "No dogs, Irish or Blacks" signs that were popular post world war 2 and the most British Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood" speech.

The idea that immigrants have swamped the benefits system is a very attractive argument often heard in pubs and marketplaces. Yet there is a qualifying period before migrants can claim benefits by which time most have secured jobs or left. And it can't be illegal aliens hoovering up these benefits since they aren't eligible at all.

The assertion that migrants are taking up jobs meant for honest hardworking Brits does beg the question of aren't British companies the ones employing them. So either there aren't enough hardworking Brits to fill jobs or they just don't fancy the jobs available. In which case it would appear migrants are actually helping shore up the British economy! Surely that can't be true. Migrants are supposed to be the cancer eating away at British values and wellbeing. A recent study reports that in the last 17 years EU migrants have contributed £5b to the UK economy.

While migration presents some challenges turning the issue into a xenophobic feasting frenzy only serves to hide the real issues undermining British values - low achievement in education and a growing work shy attitude. But telling home truths was never a good basis on which to run a political campaign. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Ebola: The Root Causes

It wouldn't be right to simply blame governments in the developed world for the causes and spread of Ebola. However the inadequate management of the Ebola infection in West Africa can be traced to historical actions by the triumvirate of West African governments, governments in the developed world, and United Nations agencies. Corruption and dysfunctional federalism has created a legacy of underinvestment in healthcare and social development. Most Sub Saharan countries rely almost exclusively on foreign aid and global development projects for public health services. Most developed countries prioritise redundant technology, arms and military hardware in trade relations with African countries. Vital resources that could have been directed towards social development are thus lost on things that are ultimately under-utilised or completely useless.  

If West African countries had invested in an adequate regional and primary healthcare infrastructure the spread of Ebola in regional areas might have been identified earlier and measures taken to address it. A lot of credit needs to be given to the work done in Senegal and Nigeria to stem the spread of Ebola. However, even those countries don't have a credible public health framework in place to prevent this happening in the future. The countries need comprehensive health services development plans linked to robust public health strategies.

Aid to developing countries should be made contingent on matched funding from recipient countries and the investment in permanent and long term healthcare infrastructure. The amount of aid received by West African countries is dwarfed by levels of trade with developed countries. So how come this expenditure isn't reflected in the development of social capital in the region? It's ludicrous that life expectancy in Nigeria is 50 years of age while the government boasts of a sovereign wealth fund of $1.4b. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A Selfie

I used to wait for good things

Now I just expect your call.

I used to sit around having fancy dreams

Now I just think of you and recall.

I may not see you everyday

But what I feel seems here to stay.

The timbre of your laugh is so pleasing

I can feel all my tensions easing,

The thought of you so appealing

I'm just loving the feeling.

I pray these months turn into years

And all my hopes don't turn into fears