Today 21 March, 2015: Love poetry...
The First Day
by Christina Rosetti
I wish I could remember the first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me;
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or winter for aught I can say.
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it! Such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow.
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much!
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand! - Did one but know!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
The longing in this poem is for a day the poet cannot remember because the moment of meeting
that person who would eventually change her life forever went unrecorded. I wonder if love poetry
in the age of online dating has changed considerably? Everything is recorded on email and text message before the first encounter which is already assumed to be potentially momentous.
I would like to see today's poems. How do they begin?
“I reread the first email you sent me”?
Although I hate providing links on this site because I feel that this culture of hyperlinking causes even more ADD and general fragmentation of the mind, I will here break with my own rule because African American Leonce Gaiter’s “Black authors in the ‘write white’ trap” and Nigerian author, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s searing “African Books for Western Eyes,” are so cogently argued, they sing with the frustration felt by many black and African writers whose writing is -as Gaiter puts it so well here - “neatly sealed in racial ziplock bags” by the mainstream (read white) publishing industry. Nwaubani explains that what is called African writing can only be successfully published with “the approval of ‘white people’.”
This is why black and African writers suffocate in a small and overcrowded box in which a wealth of wonderful stories is stifled by the handful of reassuring stereotypical tales which are deemed appropriate to represent myriad multifaceted lives…
Today 7 February, 2015: Women
My president has made news this week for stumbling. Countless memes have zipped across the inter webs showing him at various stages of tripping. Last week he made news when he was elected the Chairman of the African Union as if he were somehow the legitimate democratic leader of the opposite of a failed state. But then again his cohorts at the AU are no doubt envious of his ability to cling to power for 35 years despite a blatant disregard for the welfare of the majority of Zimbabweans whose standard of living is in seemingly interminable free fall…
Between stumbling and assuming the chairmanship, President Mugabe also made some other comments at the AU summit on women’s empowerment which deserve more attention: “Mugabe…has said it is impossible for women to be ‘on a par with men’ because their primary role is having and looking after babies…‘You see, we men make the very women we want in power pregnant. You see, and we remain. It’s not possible [that women can be at par with men]’.”
I completely agree with President Mugabe. Women are so blessed. Women can get pregnant and bear babies and still do everything that men can do although they usually do it much better. Women and men are not on a par. Women are far superior.
Today 26 January, 2015: The rape victim honors her rapist…
We are watching the Australian Open but there is a break in the tennis to celebrate Australia Day. According to the inter webs, 26 January is “the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove…in 1788.” Although the Australian government is trying to reformulate it as a day to celebrate their multicultural diversity, its colonial origins cannot be offset by this Aboriginal lady who is now singing the Australian national anthem. How perverse! Like a rape victim forced to commemorate the day she was raped. For the Aboriginal peoples, there is no doubt that 26 January, 1788 marked the commencement of the infinite violation of their land and their lives.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the western media is insisting on trotting out endless streams of besuited, beardless Muslims speaking in flawless French and perfect English to apologize on behalf of all "moderate" Muslims for the tragic killings and to voice their infinite support of the values of freedom of speech, democracy and civilization. Thank God that Aamer Rahman, one of my favorite stand-up comedians, an Australian Muslim – and that will teach you a thing or two - has responded with this most excellent tweet:
“As a random Muslim I'll apologise for this Paris incident if random white ppl will apologise for imperialism, drone attacks and Iggy Azalea.”
Let these words be contemplated, all the way…from LA to Tokyo!
On a whale watch off the coast of California, I learn that every day nearly 1,000 whales and dolphins are caught in fishing nets. The fault lies not with the fisherman - the supplier - but with the demander - the fish lover, the seafood connoisseur.
The shark fin soup sipper enjoys a bowl whilst the finless shark is still trying to swim finlessly, slowly bloodying the ocean.
Today I am thankful for the lives and works of three great Africans who passed away last year: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Doris Lessing and Chinua Achebe.
Today 22 August, 2015: Brooklyn Traditional Music Show, #Afropunk Fest 2015
I happily go along laboring under the delusion that I have a lot of hair until I set foot in any event frequented by the Triple-B.* There is so much fabulous big BIG hair, hip Afro-fusion fashion and ganja filling this perfect summer eve that you can get a secondhand high from all the smoke. The deejay has to work overtime keeping the crowd rocking to popular Brooklyn traditional musicians like Lil Kim and Biggie because of the long wait between Kelis and Lauryn Hill. But when the sound goes off just when Lauryn Hill’s about to perform the songs the audience actually knows, I think we have suddenly been transported back to Zimbabwe. Rumor has it, however, that this is no power outage. Apparently, the “miseducated” organizers cut the mics because she was too late starting her set and they want to make way for Ms. Grace Jones and her ever-funky masks to take the stage. They are sending a message but at least this all-inclusive one is on point. Read sideways and think laterally:
The spirit of Cecil the lion joins me today in wishing you well on your journey now that you’re retiring from The Daily Show today. Cecil has recently been the victim of an ugly tug of war with all sides deploying him to score points for their own agenda. If you were still with us to cut through the hyped-up hullaballoo, the world would be a better place.
This week, we went on a tour of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Economic and Social Council has a symbolic architectural feature. The ceiling is unfinished to remind us that the work of improving society is never done. (When I say “we,” I do not mean me and Cecil the deceased lion, I am referring to other live humans). It is people like you who unflinchingly stare down hypocrisy who make sure that that ceiling remains visible to all of us wherever we are.
Thank you for your hard-hitting but ever gracious interviews, valiantly speaking truth to the powerful, right to their very faces. Thank you for trying to counter Fox News’ vicious misinformation campaign with common sense and sanity. Thank you for trying to keep Obama from straying further right and reminding him to close Guantanamo Bay. Most of all, thank you so very much for saving us from jumping out the window during the dark George “Dubya” Bush years when torture was called enhanced interrogation and nuclear was pronounced nucular.
We could go on and on but we have to find some witty comments of our own to make the first Republican primary debate palatable. Couldn’t you have steered us through 2016? Okay, well, you gotta go but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, come back to visit when Trevor Noah takes over!
Hasta luego, inschallah!
Today 7 July, 2015: Words to live by...
"Don't let small minds convince you
that your dreams are TOO BIG."
Today 7 June, 2015: Fantastic Fridge magnets
Everything is easier SAID than done…except for talking…that’s pretty much the same.
Dear Maths, I’m not a therapist. Solve your own problems!
She is spherical, like a globe. I could find out countries in her.*
* Having grown up in that one small country, Africa, where voluptuous women are in general still cherished by the more traditionally-minded, I assumed that the above was a poetic compliment to a curvaceous goddess of a woman.
Unfortunately, in the original play by MacDaddy Shakespeare, it is meant as an insult!
I prefer my initial interpretation.
Today 29 July, 2017: Memo to Executive Producer, Donald Trump
Re: Failing TV show
Listen, your show has definite potential. You’re certainly trying to challenge Game of Thrones for outlandish plotlines, power-hungry scoundrels, palace intrigue, and constant threats from the gnome-led Department of Injustice. You even have your own version of the Undead (Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare). Plus, your ever-changing cast of characters has memorable names: Ivanka, Jared, Melania, Reince, The Mooch, Spicy, the Grim Reaper and Kellyanne Conjob.
But let’s discuss some areas where improvement is needed.
Today 3 July, 2017: The person whom you learn
A very wise person told me the most enchanting definition of spouse I have ever heard. The word for spouse, srɔ̃, when directly translated from Ewe, a language spoken in regions of Ghana and Benin, is “the person whom you learn.” Marriage is the process of learning another person. Should your marriage falter and you decide to seek a divorce, part of the divorce proceedings will include the elders asking you whether you have really studied this person completely. Is there no way you can learn more and save this relationship?
Today 2 June, 2017: Hey America, written by Shariq Siddiqui
Hey America, you aren’t as exceptional as you think…(Except with the date format)
Countries with no paid maternity leave: Liberia, Suriname, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Western Samoa, Tonga, USA
OECD countries without universal healthcare: Greece, Poland, USA
Countries that seek to tax their overseas citizens/Permanent Residents’ overseas income: Eritrea, USA
Countries that do not use the metric system: Myanmar, Liberia, USA
Countries with an incarceration rate higher than 500 per 100,000: Seychelles, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turkmenistan,
El Salvador, Cuba, US Virgin Islands, USA
Countries using the MM/DD/YY format: USA
Countries opting out of the Paris agreement on climate change: Nicaragua, Syria, USA.
Today 23 May, 2017: Dear CNN…
Dear CNN, firstly, please use “Breaking News” with more accuracy and precision. We can’t really take you seriously when you use it every five minutes.
Secondly, we’re so very sorry to hear about the terror attack in Manchester which has killed so many young people merely trying to attend Ariana Grande’s concert. Thanks for flying US anchors all the way to the UK to interview concert-goers, survivors, and those who tragically lost loved ones. You have done a great job exposing the human suffering that results from this barbaric violence.
But CNN, why don’t you fly more often to Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq which according to this article is where the most suicide attacks occur? Why don’t you show us the pink bedroom of the eight-year-old little girl who has been killed in Basra or the teenager who wanted to be a pop star but was blown to bits just trying to buy vegetables for his grandmother in the market? Why don’t you show us the prayers and poems and vigils that keep these communities going in the face of such savagery occurring monthly, weekly, daily, sometimes hourly? Why, CNN, why?
Today 1 May, 2017: International Workers’ Day
“The capitalist has bought the labour-power at its day-rate…He has thus acquired the right to make the labourer work for him during one day. But, what is a working-day?
At all events, less than a natural day. By how much? The capitalist has his own views of this…As capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one single life impulse, the tendency to create value and surplus-value…
Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him.
If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.”
~ The late great Karl Marx
According to some estimates, May Day is celebrated in over 80 countries worldwide. But not in the US which is very strange since it began there in 1886 when workers went on strike to demand an 8-hour working day instead of a 12 or 16-hour day. Lives were lost in pursuit of that goal. Today, around the world, the workers’ struggle is still being waged and in the US, people will march today to protest various types of worker exploitation, including the scapegoating of immigrant workers and other types of injustice.
A luta continua!
Today 1 April, 2017: Every day is April Fool’s Day Now
Most of the world is presently governed by old men who range from being utterly incompetent to zealously malevolent. Zeitgeist quotes received today...
From Veena Aunty: In his magisterial novel “Humboldt’s Gift,” Saul Bellow quotes Samuel Daniel:
“While timorous knowledge stands considering, audacious ignorance hath done the deed.”
From Abra: Trump & goons are like a daily April Fool’s joke perpetuated upon humankind.
Today 21 March, 2017: Happy Human Rights Day, South Africa!
Today is Human Rights day in South Africa, a most important holiday to observe because it celebrates those brave souls who stood up against the passbook in 1960. And paid with their lives.
But did I go to a braii, or take a swim in the pool, or watch a movie? No! I have spent the whole day obsessively watching coverage of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s myriad Russia connections and fuming about his mean-spirited budget which slashes funding for everything from Sesame Street to home-bound seniors who receive meals-on-wheels (I used to volunteer to deliver some of those meals and many of those who receive them can barely walk!). And then I just thought I better write Obama a letter, so here it is: DEAR PRESIDENT OBAMA, PLEASE SUE TRUMP FOR LIBEL
Today 16 March, 2017: Trump’s abhorrent Muslim Ban TROed; the Dutch take note
Two good things have happened in the last 24 hours. Right-wing, xenophobic,Tangerine Bully-wannabe, Geert Wilders, did not receive enough votes to become the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Seems the Dutch people see what madness has erupted in Trump’s America and voted otherwise.
Meanwhile, the Donald of Twitterhoea is trying for the second time to prove himself a hideous Islamophobe and a monster with a cold, stone heart who would turn away refugees by introducing the second version of his fundamentally unethical travel ban. El xamdullilah, a judge has slapped it with a Temporary Restraining Order.
May it be restrained FOREVER!!
Today 6 March, 2017: Hope or despair?
AUBADE by PHILIP LARKIN (1922-1985)
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
Today 25 January, 2017: Day of the Revolution
#globalmzabalazo = global struggle
Every day is protest day from here on out.
We – progressives, sane people and fact-lovers –
are on Code Red Alert!
Every day, we have to do at least one thing
to block the Trump agenda with the goal of peacefully
toppling it. Trump is a global threat and therefore peaceful
resistance to him must be global...
So if you’re wondering what to do, here are a few practical tips:
- Call a government official in your country, don't just troll them on Twitter or
rant on your Facebook page, call them on the phone. This article will help you locate your representative and walk you through the process, easy-peasy. Global citizens can phone their nearest embassy/consulate. In general, politicians lack integrity and have no principle dearer to them than their desire to retain their own power, even if that means currying favor with the Tangerine Bully. Thousands of phone calls will help US politicians find the backbone to vote against Trump’s proposed policies, especially if their international peers are also standing up to him. For US-based people, check out more at INDIVISIBLE: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR RESISTING THE TRUMP AGENDA where “former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”
- Get involved on the local level, even if it’s someone else’s locality. Try a site like swingleft.org or the Sister District project that aims to get more blue Democrats elected.
- Get involved on the national or international level. So many choices. Ask my BFF Google if these don’t suit you but here are a few: the ANSWER Coalition, Moveon.org, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch.
- Convene a group discussion at your place of worship, workplace, school, Alcoholics Anonymous meeting etc. You can use educational material from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program to kick off the discussion.
- Research the history of fascism and think about whether the electoral college system that was formed in slavery times is really the best system for a so-called democracy.
- Keep looking out for protests to attend. The Women’s March organizers are trying to keep a running list. I have heard rumors of something called Resistance Tuesdays that might organize weekly actions.
- Sign a petition, sign a lot of petitions. The White House petitions page offers a choice selection as does Moveon.org. You can join me in calling for Trump to STOP TWEETING.
- You can write your own petition and add to these suggestions when you share this list with your newly-formed Revolutionary Pod – the six people you are embedding down with to continuously evolve the most effective methods.
Every night before you go to bed, please ask yourself: what positive action have I taken today to impede Trump’s hate-fuelled agenda…
Today 17 January, 2017: Chimurenga anyone?
Here is a guide to various protests happening this week. Whether you’re a non-American, a sardonic American, a quasi-American or an anti-American, I really suggest you find a protest and protest Donald Trump.
What’s the point, you ask? He lost the popular vote by three million votes but still won the election due to the archaic electoral college system. Whether you believe he is or isn't the legitimate president of the US, he is the president-elect so why even bother?
The point of protesting is to ensure that US lawmakers in the Congress know that milllions and millions of people do not support any of his proposed legislation, from repealing Obamacare aka the Affordable Care Act to making Muslims sign up on a registry. His domestic policy is appalling, his foreign policy might be even more inhumane.
Furthermore, the Tangerine Bully is a barbarian because he brags about "grabbing" women by their genitalia and supports torture. He is cursed with that most fatal of misfortunes: an insatiable narcissism combined with a fragile ego. These flaws propel his rapid-fire reflexes when it comes to tweeting an embarrassing mixture of vengeful vitriol, utter trivia and irresponsible comments which can cause company stocks to plummet and governments to cringe (stop tweeting petition). Protesters can embolden spineless Republicans, wimpy Democrats, the outflanked media and the Government Ethics Office which will be monitoring his business dealings' myriad conflicts of interest to stand up to him.
No matter where you are in the world, geographically-speaking, the US effects your life, probably more than you would like to admit. So here are a few protests you might like to attend. If there isn’t one in your locale, please feel free to organize one:
Thursday 19 January, 2017: http://thehill.com/blogs/in-the-know/in-the-know/314379-michael-moore-to-host-star-studded-protest-outside-trumps-nyc
Friday 20 January, 2017:
Today 9 January, 2017: Box-challengers!
Saudi Arabian-born Michael Mmoh who is half-Nigerian and half-Irish is playing a tennis match against Dustin Brown, born to a Jamaican father and a German mother. In this still white-dominated sport, this is not a run-of-the mill occurrence. These players also challenge the boxes we use to divide the world up into separate nationalities, races, ethnicities etc. However, these players still have to choose a single nation-state to play for. Mmoh plays for the US and Brown for Germany.
When will athletes be able to represent two or more countries?
Today 11 November, 2016: What have we taught the children?
Children are logical to a fault. They think in black and white. The election of Trump will teach them the following life lessons*:
That it’s okay to bully and belittle…
That it's okay to brag and boast...
That it’s okay to never say sorry…
That it's okay to be vain and selfish...
That it’s okay to accord value to people based solely on their physical attractiveness…
That it’s okay to make fun of the differently-abled…
That it’s okay to never read a book or study…
That it’s okay to not pay your bills or your debts or your taxes…
That it’s okay to sexually molest women…
That it's okay to talk like you're in the third grade even when you're 70 years old...
That it’s okay to be a racist and a bigot…
That it’s okay to publicly humiliate the mothers of your children by cheating on them…
That it’s okay to say anything that pops into your head no matter whom it hurts…
That it's okay to lie...
That it's okay to replace principle with political opportunism...
That it's okay to ignore climate science and the crying earth...
That it’s okay to discriminate against people because they do not share your religion…
That it’s okay to use other people’s money to make charitable contributions…
That it’s okay to sue, sue, sue, mangle the law to protect your privilege, justice be damned…
That it’s okay to admire dictators like Putin and disparage democratic institutions…
That it’s okay to punch protesters and torture suspects…
That it’s okay to turn away those seeking refuge from war and terror…
That it's okay to defraud, cheat, and scam...
That it's okay to have affairs with porn stars as your wife cares for your newborn infant...
That it’s okay to do all of these things IF your father was a millionaire and IF you are a white man and IF you are a Reality TV star…
It’s okay to say and do whatever you like, no matter how unethical, immoral or hateful…
It's okay to pay adult film actresses hush money to bury the affair, say you knew nothing about it, then say you did, then say you didn't...
It’s okay because you will be handsomely rewarded for spurning every convention of basic decency...
* Work-in-progess. There will be more additions to this list…
Today 9-10 November, 2016: Anti-Trump Protests erupt in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle etc…
Have you seen the excellent film, Clash, directed by Mohamed Diab? A group of diverse Egyptians are shoved into a police van whilst protesting for and against the removal of President Mohamed Morsi. They have to learn to co-exist as they spend several uncomfortable hours stuck together, cheek by jowl with those of different political, religious and social views. There is the homeless guy who lives in the street next to the kid from Tagemma, a wealthy gated community. The unveiled nurse next to the young teenage girl wearing her hijab. They are driven throughout a tumultuous Cairo which is on fire as warring political factions take their battles to the street because all sides feel betrayed by the ballot box.
Now, after Donald Trump’s “Third World”-style campaign, protestors, thus far peaceful (please remain peaceful!!!), have taken to the streets in multiple American cities. The Tangerine Bully always threatened that he would not accept the election results if he didn’t win. He flippantly sowed those seeds and now the people are rebelling against his election…
Today 6 November, 2016: Hypocrisy
Melania Trump broke the law by working illegally in the US before she had the correct visa. Her husband calls himself the “law and order” candidate and founded his campaign on stopping “illegal immigration.” Now that his wife is also an “illegal immigrant” (his term, not mine), will he apologize for his hypocrisy?
Or, if he and his supporters discount Ms. Trump’s breaking of the law, then will he admit that he has double standards? Why does he forgive a European modelling without proper documents but crimininalize a Mexican for doing the same?
If he refuses to admit that he is an hypocrite and employs specious double standards, he should just confess to all of us that he is a racist.
And CNN, please stop debating ad nauseum if Donald Trump is a racist or an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe. A person who spews bigotry and says and does racist things is a racist.
Curious. Don’t dogs possess ultra-sensitive ears? Are these dogs deaf? If not, how do they stand the noise of a million honking hooters? Why do they rest here on these dividers amidst the booming roar of incessant traffic? Often they are fast asleep, curled up, apparently snoozing peacefully.
A documentary about Delhi’s homeless population informs me that they like to sleep on these same dividers because the breeze created by passing traffic repels mosquitos and functions as a poor man’s fan.
I will never be able to ask these dogs why they choose to rest here and not somewhere quieter like one of the city’s many parks. I will never know but I nevertheless celebrate their zen attitude and henceforth, will try to emulate their deep calm and evolved quietude in the midst of much mayhem.
And when this cool like that dog is ready to go,
he abides by the traffic rules and waits to cross at the crosswalk.
The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The media is weaving new mythologies about the Tangerine Bully during Trumpmania aka the Republican National Convention. They are dubbing him the “Blue-collar Billionaire” and keep repeating that he has such “great children” and therefore he must be such a “great guy” to have brought up such “great children.” If his five children are great, did the three different mothers who gave birth to them have nothing to do with their upbringing? Was the Tangerine Bully a single father awaking before dawn to cook them oatmeal and make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for them to take to school? Did he board the bus to take them to school every day? Or were they raised by their mothers, nannies, chauffeurs and other paid staff?
Trumpmania has been a depressing volcano of vitriol directed against the world at large and Hillary in particular. Hillary has done herself no favours by lying about her emails. Melania Trump, the ultimate trophy wife, plagiarizes Michelle Obama and for days, the campaign denies it. It’s such an Allison-in-Wonderland upside-down world that Ted Cruz appears to be the only man of principle.
As we walk through Columbus Circle on this summery night in Manhattan, we see on the opposite side from Trump Tower, this beamed on to a wall. An elderly Latino man almost falls off his bike. It’s such a very bad word. He tells us in Spanish that he is shocked to see such an insult. I don’t ever want to put curse words on this site but the Tangerine Bully with his appalling lack of moral integrity, odious hyperbole and hate-engendering rhetoric has flushed us all down the toilet and now here we are…in the sewer.
Today 2 November, 2016: Rasputin and/or
State Capture and/or
South Korean President Park Geun-hye is accused of falling under the influence of a Rasputin-like cult member, her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and sharing secret state documents with her.
South African President Jacob Zuma is accused of capitulating to the whims of the wealthy Gupta family. Many South Africans suspect they have captured the state apparatus to enrich themselves.
US presidential candidate Donald Trump is accused of being under the influence of Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton has gone so far as to call him a puppet of the Russians, the quintessential Manchurian candidate.
What exactly is going on?
Today 25 October, 2016: Boycott the Tangerine Bully's Brand!
Guys, I’m giving up golf! I will no longer play golf at any Trump-owned golf course. Okay, just joking. Clearly, I never played golf and never will. But I will make sure that I never, ever, for the rest of my life, buy a product that will result in a dime of profit for racist misogynist, Trump, or Trump progeny. Almost all Trump-branded products and businesses are made and/or staffed by black, brown and yellow people. Who is working in the kitchens of Trump hotels if not the “Mexicans” he so disparages? Who makes the Trump-branded clothes manufactured in Honduras, China and Bangladesh? How many of these workers are women whom Donald Trump has boasted he “grabs by the p----y”?
Trump patriarch and Trump progeny only seem to care about one thing: money!
So join the #GrabYourWallets campaign begun by Ms. Shannon Coulter and make sure you boycott shops from slash-priced Marshall’s to department stores like Macy’s that sell Trump products. Don't forget about Amazon.com and Zappos! Call them up and tell them no, you don’t want to spend your money there until they remove such an offensive brand. Here’s the list of online and brick-and-mortar entities selling Trump products with their phone numbers/contact details. Get dialing!
Today 19 September, 2016: Dear World Bank, why would you lend Mugabe the big bucks?
Robert Mugabe has for 36 years ruined Zimbabwe’s economy. His government is responsible for the murders of thousands of political opponents and ordinary civilians. We still do not know the whereabouts of activist Itai Dzamara who was abducted on 9 March, 2015. Why would you lend him more money to keep on killing the country’s people and economy?
Today 16 September, 2016: BREAKING NEWS!
Donald Trump announces that he believes the sky is blue
Today, Donald Trump wants to garner free publicity for the opening of his new hotel in Washington, D.C. So he has built up a lot of suspense to make sure that as many cameras as possible follow him to see if he will finally admit
something everyone already knows
(with the exception of white supremacist conspiracy theorists).
After five years of insisting that President Barack Obama was not born in the US and is therefore not the legitimate president of the US, Donald Trump has now seized the opportunity to turn common knowledge into another brand-building opportunity.
As the biggest proponent of the so-called “birther movement,” the Tangerine Bully began bullying the president in 2011 to release his birth certificate and prove he is American by birth. He pursued this offensive inquiry in order to expand his bully pulpit and propel himself into the position of Supreme-Bigot-in-Chief. He could not believe a black man could be a "real American"
or become president of the United States.
Should we be grateful today that he ignored an invitation to address the
Black Women’s Agenda in order to hold a press conference at his new hotel to tell us
something we already know?
I don’t want Trump’s admission that the president is born in the US.
Everyone already knows that just as we already know the sky is blue.
Why does the media treat this as breaking news
and give him more unpaid for airtime?
All we really need from Trump is his tax returns.
Because many people say, I would not say it, but, believe me,
many people are saying that those returns have the potential
to break his whole campaign apart
if they reveal him to be the most incredible, tremendous
Chief Executive Con Man the world has ever seen.
The very same gun-toting conservatives who defend the second amendment right to bear arms are the quickest to condemn American footballer Colin Kaepernick for exercising his first amendment right to protest. If he wants to kneel during the national anthem to draw attention to the plight of people of color who too often, so often fall victim to police violence, he could not do anything more patriotic.
A true patriot must always protest to improve the nation.
Today 9 September, 2016: The most important news story happening in America today is…
...NOT about the Tangerine Bully’s latest nonsensical drivel.
The most important news story in America today is about the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's struggle to block the Dakota access pipeline. Corporations and corporate interests in favor of the oil pipeline argue that it won’t cross “Indian land.” I really don’t know what they mean. All land in the US is Indian land.
Everyone else here is an interloper. We should never forget that.
Today 15 August, 2016: Supergirl aka Wonder Woman
Is there a worse possible time to shop for groceries than a busy Monday evening at the Fascist Food Coop here in the heart of bourgie Brooklyn? Alas, it needed to be done but there is always a silver lining. As I maneuvered through the jammed aisles aiming for the crackers, I discovered a large obstacle blocking my access. A shopping cart parked right there with an impossibly cute little girl sitting in it.
“Hello,” I said, “you are wearing a very nice dress but I have to reach across you.” She proudly patted her Supergirl costume, the red S emblazoned against the blue. As I scooped up a packet of bourgie organic saltines (flavored with extra virgin olive oil), she said conversationally, “Do you know Wonder Woman?” Of course, Wonder Woman was one of my childhood heroes! I used to wear her star-strewn red and blue costume myself when I was small. Did the little girl know the difference, however, between Supergirl and Wonder Woman? “Yes, I do know her,” I said, deciding there was no point in pointing this out to a kid no older than four. She nodded conspiratorially, “Have you seen Wonder Woman, she punches the rude boys. That’s what I do to Alex.”
“Who is Alex?”
“Alex is a very rude boy. So I punched him.”
Today 6 June, 2016: Dear Republican Party…
The word hypocrisy does not begin to describe your actions. Endorsing the Donald of Trumped-Up Self Importance is tantamount to treason. You know very well that his divisive demagoguery can only be destructive for your country’s long-term interests. But you’re so desperate to win the White House, you have used the excuse of party loyalty to justify your sudden support for a misogynistic thug with a bad hairstyle who lacks both character and the conservative ideals you claim to cherish.
Country before party, patriotism before power. If nothing else, be pragmatic! In the short term, the dangerous Donald may win the presidential election in November. But in the long term, this bigoted bully will obliterate whatever integrity your party may have ever had. Not only will he alienate Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans and women but all people of principle. It’s a losing strategy, Republican Party. You’re on the path to self-destruction.
Today 31 March, 2021: If you see nonsense, don't mind your own business. Hollaback!
I despise cowards who attack those who cannot protect themselves. Xenophobia and racism are on the rise again because politicos responded to the pandemic by promoting xenophobic racism.
If you see someone being victimized because they are Asian or black or disabled or a foreigner or elderly, you can be a hero by following these practical guidelines for constructive intervention: Hollaback!’s 5D’s - Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct. Hollaback offers bystander intervention training. Great idea, right! Let's all do it and (pro)actively prevent hate and hate crimes.
Today 21 February, 2021: Post-Trump we can watch TV again without fearing he might start a nuclear war via tweet while we are distracted!
Voilà, a random, genre-crossing list here of some of my fave TV shows. These are not documentaries of which I like many nor Nollywood films of which I like two. But since we are here, Namaste Wahala is so bad, it’s off the charts fantastic! It belongs to the genre henceforth known as cross-cultural cheese - an Indian man and a Nigerian woman fall in love and luckily they are both super-rich and of course they live on “the island” but the families object to the marriage. Can you imagine why? Stymied love is a classic Bollywood plotline and this Naija gem even incorporates some Bollywood-style dance numbers. They are poorly-executed but at least the fashions are beyond fab.
My other fave Nollywood bioscope is part of the same genre. (ATM) Authentic Tentative Marriage is about a white British girl who meets a Nigerian con man online. She flies to Lagos (or maybe it's Abuja, can't remember now) but she's off to marry him sight unseen. The scurrilous fellow wants a visa to live in the UK and she seems to be the perfect mark but there is more to her than meets the eye. Hilarious! However, I am not here to talk about films, I am here to talk about TV series.
In no particular order, I recommend the following:
1) The Wire – Correctly recognized as the GOAT of television series. You can’t watch this and simultaneously doomscroll on your phone. It’s like American Shakespeare, you need to pay attention and then you get the payoff! (People who have watched Breaking Bad tell me it’s also a very good US series but I have not seen it so I can neither contest nor attest to its quality).
2) Vikings – What a fantastically well-written show (at least up to Season 4 which is where I stopped watching). A lot of blood and gore but it is so interesting it will make you look up the real history of when the Vikings terrorized and colonized the island we call the United Kingdom today.
3) Occupied – The crime writer Jo Nesbø came up with the prescient concept for this political thriller. It’s like the excellent British drama, The Politician’s Husband, and the great Danish series, Borgen, about a sexy woman prime minister's parliamentary intrigues except Occupied has a lot more action and…thrills! A hurricane in Norway, a country sans hurricanes, results in a shock win for the Green Party which then cuts off oil production but one teeny-weeny problem, Russia and the EU need their oil and they are not averse to occupying little Norway to get it...
4) Messiah – Ambitious and exciting. Has the real messiah returned or is he just a confidence man? From Syria to Israel/Palestine to Texas to D.C., this unique polyglot unsettles individuals and international politics.
5) Years and Years – A visionary series which starts in 2019 and imagines a terrifying world in which the planet is careening towards climactic apocalypse, Brexit’s ramifications are manifold, Trump is re-elected (thank God that didn’t happen IRL!) and then Pence. The lives of a British family led by a strong matriarch unspool over the next decade and a half in all sorts of mind-churning ways.
6) O Mecanismo – Brazilian series unpopular with the progressive left because it paints former president Lula and his party as excessively venal but it is gripping and consuming. The mechanism as it is called in English refers to the vicious cycle of corruption which is painfully recognizable to anyone who grew up in a “Third World” country.
7) La Valla (The Barrier) – Futuristic Spanish series set in 2045. There is a virus and a barrier which keeps the rich protected from disease while the poor are left at risk but it's actually democracy which is the biggest casualty of this disease-ridden, unequal world.
8) Succession - One of the most subtly-written and smartest dramas out there. It’s a fictionalized version of Rupert Murdoch’s family. If you enjoyed The Loudest Voice, an excellent series on Roger Ailes’ career at the Murdoch-owned Fox News, you will relish Succession’s cultural cannibalism and sophisticated interpretation of our contemporary (sur)reality.
9) Counterpart – Set in Berlin or rather two Berlins but not just the cities on either side of the erstwhile wall. This is a sci-fi thriller in which everyone has a counterpart in the replica world and those in on the secret are engaged in espionage against the other world. Conceptually rigorous, intellectually stimulating.
10) Black Mirror – Fab! But also very disturbing, each episode explores some of the darkest aspects of the techno-dystopic near future…
11) Stateless – Based on a true story, this is a heartbreaking tale of life in immigrant detention camps in Australia. It is a reality we all have to contemplate more but this is not like homework one is forced to do because one should. It is brilliantly acted and flawlessly paced.
12) More international political thrillers – Clearly one of my favorite genres. Secret City is about Australia and China. Black Earth Rising is about Rwanda and Europe. The Night Manager starts in my most beloved Cairo and moves on from there…
13) More futuristic sci-fi – My other fave genre. There is Brazilian 3%, season 1 – brilliant premise for this neoliberal world. Only 3% can live “offshore” in a paradisiacal version of a gated community. Young people have to compete in a series of skills tests to “qualify” to enter. Otherwise, they are doomed to live out their impoverished lives in the squalid “ghetto.” Altered Carbon is rich in terms of cinematography and world-building. Humans can change “sleeves” (bodies) if their “stacks” (souls) are not destroyed and this creates several lives and shifting ethnic/gender identities for an interesting cast of planet-hopping characters.
Enjoy and you're welcome :)
Today 28 January, 2021: Insurrectionist Mob Storms Capital
There have been two insurrections this month. Trump thugs stormed the Capitol in D.C. on 6 January. Horrible. But all month, there has been another insurrectionist mob storming capitalism. Not horrible. If you haven't heard of the scintillating struggle between Reddit-reading retail investors (David) buying nostalgia stocks like GameStop, Nokia, Blackberry, AMC all with the goal of beating billionnaire hedge fund managers (Goliath), tune in! Jason Koebler breaks it down here. It's very exciting and very complicated and not all is as it seems but it is an uprising by young people who have learned to play the finance capital game and just when they started winning, the Wall Street powers changed the rules - mid-game! Not fair. Occupy Wall Street the redux, with all its populist overtones, will continue tomorrow and I am so fired up, I might also buy some GameStop stock - thanks Brian Jung and Bruce Wang - not because I think it's a value stock but listen up CNBC anchors, it's because the hedgies have been too aggressive. Now it's time to fight back and the only language they understand is $$$!
Today 16 December, 2020: When will post-Covid cafe life return?
Today I read this interesting article, "Why being stuck at home – and unable to hang out in cafes and bars – drains our creativity." The authors argue that, "creativity is social. It’s also contextual. The built environment plays a hidden but crucial role. Architectural researchers in the U.K., for instance, found that classroom design impacts the speed at which students learn. They found that classroom features, such as furniture and lighting, have as much impact on learning as teachers. Similar aspects of cafe design can enhance creativity." Since I do the majority of my work in libraries and cafes and am very sensitive to light and the built environment, Covid-19 has really thrown a wrench in the works.
Or at least my work :) May 2021 mark the resumption of the good old cafe life!
Today 7 December, 2020: Borders and Rome's pine trees
A year ago today, we published a special issue on the resurgence of borders and border walls thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Of course, at that point we had no idea about coronavirus and how it would shut down the world in 2020, this terrible, horrible, dreadful year. But is closing borders the best way to respond to disease? It's a question I considered anew in these last months and now, I am reading an article about Rome's iconic umbrella pines. Integral to Rome's urbanscape, these trees remind me of acacias on the southern African savannah because of their flat tops. But now there is an invasive insect threatening the pines' existence.
According to the article, the parasite "arrived in Italy from North America in 2015. The highly-invasive bug was first detected in the southern Campania region, around Naples, which is home to a large US naval base." This has been the year in which Americans were barred from entering Europe because of out-of-conrol coronavirus transmission in the US. But it seems Americans have brought other types of disease well before 2020. What does it mean? Can the Italian economy survive without American tourists forever? What of all the Americans of Italian descent who are busy fighting Covid-19 - indefatigable immunoligist, Dr. Fauci (aka Dobby); Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York state; the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio? Should they be barred from visiting their ancestral homeland? Imagine if borders had been closed when their ancestors wanted to come to the US, wouldn't the America of today be a lesser nation?
In this year of pandemic-fuelled border closures, I have been immensely lucky to spend many days in the eternal city, Rome. At numerous (almost empty) tourist spots, one can often find a plaque that reads, "This site is an artistic treasure belonging to Roma and the whole world." And if that is true, if the whole world owns Rome's ancient heritage, and I really believe it is true, then the whole world should be able to travel to Rome and enjoy the valuable historical lessons to be learned from the city's artistic patrimony. And needless to say, denizens of Rome should be able to travel the world to learn from those places too. Closers of borders and grantors of visas should contemplate all of this. Of course, in ancient times, Romans travelled very far afield to conquer, pillage and colonize and we should not forget that. We have learnt from the British empire that when you violently impose yourself on others, there is an inevitable weaving that happens and now Roman history, like the English language, belongs to all the globe...
Today 27 September, 2020: Donald Trump is broke!
Yes, he is not only morally bankrupt, spiritually insolvent and destitute of ethics and principles, he is also financially broke. No-one should be surprised by this. In 2016, I wrote that he would not reveal his tax returns because he was broke in an essay, If Michelle Obama didn’t shave her underarms…
Now that the New York Times has proved it, will his supporters finally realize he's the ultimate con man? Probably not...
Despite this maddening refusal to digest reality, I will be writing updates on the US election here.
Today 23 August, 2020: Breathing is still theme of the year...
Respiration by Jamaal May
A lot of it lives in the trachea, you know.
But not so much that you won’t need more muscle:
the diaphragm, a fist clenching at the bottom.
Inhale. So many of us are breathless,
you know, like me
kneeling to collect the pottery shards
of a house plant my elbow has nudged
into oblivion. What if I sigh,
and the black earth beneath me scatters
like insects running from my breath?
Am I a god then? Am I insane
because I worry about the disassembling of earth
regularly? I walk more softly now
into gardens or up the steps of old houses
with impatiens stuffed in their window boxes.
When it’s you standing there with a letter
or voice or face full of solemn news,
will you hold your breath before you knock?
Today 16 June, 2020: Do #BlackLivesMatter? Will anything ever change?
I wish I had something more insightful to say about the murder of George Floyd and all the other black people killed by the police. I spoke about the police killings of George Floyd in the US and Collins Khosa in South Africa and why the reaction has been so different. But in general, cynicism paralyzes me. After the 2014 murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, I wrote that some lives are more valued than others…And that is still a global problem. After Sandra Bland was killed in police custody, I wrote about the New York police officers who stopped me for riding my bike the wrong way in Prospect Park. They were intent on escalating the confrontation into outright conflict. Years later, I am cynical because hashtags and street protests are important but if they only achieve a few cosmetic changes that pacify us then we are still losing. Real systemic, systematic, institutional transformation takes immense political will and skill. Power structures do not give up their power that easily. Hence, six years later, not much has changed in Ferguson despite all the hashtags and protests. What will be different this time around? Or maybe I should ask, what can we do differently?
Today 19 May, 2020: "Borders, Covid-19 and the Global Depression 2.0"
A few weeks before the arrival of Covid-19, we published a special issue of New Global Studies on borders and globalization. With the global pandemic, border-thinking is on steroids. Countries, regions and cities have all rushed to close borders. The world’s extreme inequities are laid bare. What will happen next?
CHAIR: Pier Paolo Frassinelli (JIAS)
SPEAKERS: Melissa Tandiwe Myambo (University of the Witwatersrand); Patrick Bond (University of the Western Cape); Bruce Mutsvairo (Auburn University); Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins (Aberystwyth University)
RESPONDENTS: Olivia Rutazibwa (JIAS); Layla Brown-Vincent (JIAS)
You can watch our Zoominar (Zoom + seminar) here. That's basically all I have to say this month about this (economically and mentally) depressing situation...
Today 20 April, 2020: Lockdown Reading 101: Preparing for the Great Depression 2.0, Totalitarianism, Dictatorship, Fascism, Xenophobia etc.
George Orwell – not just 1984 and Animal Farm – but all his writings from the 1930s and 40s are essential reading in this time of lockdown, extraordinary state control over freedom of movement and assembly, closed borders, intensifying surveillance and privacy-vaporizing tracking as citizens are put into Covid-19 databases ostensibly for the good of the society at large.
You may agree with these measures right now. Since a vaccine is yet to be developed, the authorities have no other way to prevent the transmission of coronavirus except to advise shutdowns and lockdowns and stay at home orders and social distancing etc. Yes, perhaps these measures are necessary for a time but once you’re in the government database, and they’re tracking your mobile phone and all your contacts, will they stop doing so once this pandemic is under control? Especially once the imminent Great Depression 2.0 crumbles the global economy into painful splinters that will shatter lives and pummel dreams for a very long time to come? Will populations remain docile and obedient for fear of the virus indefinitely or will hunger and economic distress spur street protests and rebellions?
Michel Foucault’s lecture from 17 March, 1976 on biopolitics and the control of populations and Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record on nefarious surveillance are required reading. Fictional explorations of these themes are also available in any number of young adult novels, the classic movie V for Vendetta and several episodes of Netflix's ever-instructive Black Mirror. More than ever, science fiction is reality. And past is prologue. Totalitarianism, dictatorship, fascism, xenophobia, racism, populism etc. are all waiting in the wings - study up!
Today 30 March, 2020: Is 2020 cancelled?
Another email about another conference/workshop/event postponed till sometime in the foggy post-coronavirus future or even 2021. Like the Olympics pushed till next year. When will it be over? No-one knows when we will be post-coronavirus house arrest…Time, like money, is a social construct. If governments all around the world can print billions and trillions of new currency to try and stimulate their economies out of the coronavirus-induced global depression, then can they also cancel this whole year? Money and time in the form of calendars and clocks are artificial inventions human society has contrived to structure and stratify our lives but now, a little virus comes along and we’re reminded that what is irreducibly real is the fragility of flesh, love that explodes membranes and erases borders, blood in all its senses, organs…breath. Only poetry can help us now in this time when we're afraid of and for each other's respiration:
A Ghostly Air, by Sidi J. Mahtrow
Was that a breath of cold air
I felt as I drove about in my car,
Or was it just the end of summer heat
That soon would be in full retreat?
Maybe, just maybe, it was you
That hovers nearby in the blue
To give me a quick brush of phantom breath
That could be life, or maybe death?
Or is it just a sense that somethings wrong
That makes one write a poem or a song
To answer an unasked question, fair
Are you here or are you there?
Today 24 January, 2020: Yeah, I didn't know either but it's true! The Iowa Caucuses
What am I saying here to filmmaker, all-round good guy and Bernie Sanders surrogate, Michael Moore? It's all explained in Election 2020 for Boffins.
Today 22 February, 2016: Congrats African Presidents, you are in it for the forever no matter what anyone else thinks!
Uganda’s main opposition leader, Mr. Kizza Besigye, has been arrested four times in eight days during Uganda’s “democratic” elections which Mr. Yoweri Museveni, already in power for thirty years, has miraculously “won”…again. Meanwhile, drought-stricken Zimbabwe will probably spend close to the usual million US dollars to celebrate Mr. Robert Mugabe’s 92nd birthday. This is his thirty-sixth year in power. But may he serve for many more because his good friend, the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, managed to rule for 42 years. Just want to say congratulations/amhlope/makorokoto to African presidents who have really shown the world how to put the life in the travesty of democracy which makes possible African Presidents for Life.
Today 17 January, 2016: Fairness, consumed and produced
Who should take the blame for the popularity of Pond's "white beauty fairness cream," Nivea's "whitening smooth skin" deodorant for "fairer & smoother underarms," and Fair & Lovely's "pimples off, fairness on" facewash, featured below amongst other products seen in an Indian supermarket. I have already lamented about this unenlightened obsession with light skin. But who to blame for these psyche-damaging products? The producer who manufactures them or the consumer who buys them thus creating a market thus producing the producer....
Look at them upside down. It's a head-spinning ideology.
Today 25 November, 2015: Defeated
In the last few days, I feel utterly defeated by the news out of Zimbabwe. The First Lady Grace, has said so many disgraceful things: women in mini-skirts should expect to be raped as they are “tempting” men (as if rape is a crime motivated by sexual desire when it is nothing more than a crime of violence, please don’t blame the victim and excuse the perpetrator); she said she sometimes skips a meal in solidarity with the hungry (is she a modern-day Marie Antoinette, does she not wonder about the causes behind the hunger or rather whose policies have resulted in hunger); Mugabe will continue ruling the country even when he is one-hundred-years-old because that is what the people want (which people, all the people?).
And then to top it all off, Dr. Sam Moyo, great struggler for a greater Zimbabwe, was killed in a car accident. Nematambudziko.
Today 12 November, 2015: LGBTI, Rainbow Africa, #chevyfeathers2015
Who knew that US car company Chevrolet is the major sponsor for the Feather Awards which celebrate diversity and issues related to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (and as one drag queen added, Asexual, Queer and Curious) South African and greater African community? Well, since 2009, Chevrolet has been the major sponsor for these awards. This year, the theme is Rainbow Africa and although I am underdressed and considerably less glam than the glitterati who have come all out to Johannesburg City Hall, I am delighted by this event that aims to highlight the virulent and violent homophobia of too many African countries. Although it is a glitzy media event with a red carpet, bright lights, expensive food and wine, I will not criticize because a) awards were given in some fantastic categories such as “Diva Extraordinaire of the Year,” “Fag Hag of the Year,” “Drama Queen of the Year,” and sitting at our very own table is the winner of “Hunk of the Year”, b) Boomshaka killed it in their performance but most importantly, c) I must applaud the nominees for the night’s most important category, “Feather of the Year,” which is an award given to an activist who fights for the terrorized LGBTI community in his or her country.
Congrats to the nominees, such bold and brave souls who face immense danger every day they fight for this cause: Katlego Kolanyane-Kesupile of Botswana, Don Spiros Skene of Mozambique, Ishmael Makhuludzo of Malawi, Titica of Angola, Muriel Yvon of Mauritius, Melusi Simelane of Swaziland, Sibusiso Malunga of Zambia and Ricky “Rikki” Nathanson of Zimbabwe.
I am awed and humbled by your courage.
A luta continua…
Today 25 October, 2015: Numbers this week…
The Chinese government has awarded the Confucius Peace Prize to my president who killed at least 20,000 people in Matabeleland in the 1980s and has overseen the displacement, rape, torture and murder of thousands of opposition party members since 2000 in a bloody bid to keep on keeping on as Zimbabwe’s dictator for thirty-five years now. A brief bright spot: over 10,000 South African university students and supporters gathered in Pretoria to demand that a proposed fee increase of ten to twelve per cent be scrapped: although he failed to address the crowd directly, President Zuma bowed to their demands – fees will not rise next year. Meanwhile, 30,000 face starvation in South Sudan, 7,000 Syrian migrants are arriving in Greece every day, 2.1 million Nigerians have been displaced by Boko Haram. But the death of four Americans who died in Benghazi in 2012 results in overzealous Republicans grilling Hillary Clinton for over eleven hours after an investigation of seventeen months costing five million dollars. Yet, the Obama administration has killed over 2,500 in drone strikes (although this number is impossible to totally verify as this data is not made readily available to the public) but nobody is being hauled in front of any committee to answer any questions. The good news is that with numbers like these Obama may have a chance at winning the Confucius Peace Prize next year. Me, I am left speechless by this Orwellian universe and read this poem to remind me that numbers are people...
African Lives Matter: tell them (they have names) – a poem (2015)
by JJ Bola
and when they turn the bodies over
to count the number of closed eyes. and they tell you 800,000: you say no. that was my uncle.
he wore bright coloured shirts and pointy shoes.
2 million: you say no. that was my aunty.
her laughter could sweep you up like
the wind to leaves on the ground.
6 million: you say no, that was my mother.
her arms. the only place i have ever
not known fear.
3 million: you say no, that was my love.
we used to dance. oh, how we used to dance.
or 147: you say no, that was our hope. our future. the brains of the family.
and when they tell you that you come from war: you say no, I come from hands held in prayer before we eat together.
when they tell you that you come from conflict: you say no. i come from sweat.
on skin. glistening. from shining sun.
when they tell you that you come from genocide: you say no, i come from the first smile of a new born child, tiny hands.
when they tell you that you come from rape: you say no, and you tell them about every time you have ever loved.
tell them that you are from mother carrying you on her back. until you could walk.
until you could run. until you could fly.
tell them that you are from father holding you up to the night sky. full of stars. And saying look, child. this is what you are made of.
from long summers. full moons. flowing rivers. sand dunes.
you tell them that you are an ocean that no cup could ever hold.
Today 13 October, 2015: Democratic Socialist ≠ Anti-Capitalist
The wannabe Democratic presidential candidates take the stage tonight for their first debate and besides Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, no-one knows who the other three are although former Maryland governor, Martin O’Malley does appear to be a somewhat serious character. In fact, compared to the Donald of Trumped-up Self-Importance, the Dems are too earnest, avuncular and in touch with fact-based reality to provide much entertainment i.e. TV ratings will be far lower than for the Republican Debate Circus. Yet, on the question of capitalism, there was still confusion amongst the Dems and the pundits.
Firstly, Bernie Sanders with his delightful Brooklyn accent and his just-got-out-of-bed-and-too-busy-saving-the-world-to-comb-my-hair gravitas is constantly lambasted in the American media which likes to think of itself as a wing of the free press but is in fact run by giant corporations, the type Bernie would like to tax a lot more. Hence, they keep accusing him, as if it were the most heinous insult, of being a socialist.
Bernie is no socialist. He calls himself a democratic socialist which he defines as basically being like a nice Scandinavian who promotes free enterprise but would like a strengthened social safety net, more worker-friendly regulations, other pleasant things like universal health care and free education and finally and foremost, much less egregious income inequality. If you listen carefully, he said that he is against “casino capitalism” and even though he talks about the revolution, his policies do not promote Soviet-style seizures of private sector assets or a Maoist-type uprising of the peasants.
Although a lot of very clever people from Karl Marx to Neil Smith to Pope Francis consider capitalism a structurally unequal system which propagates undemocratic socio-economic inequality, Bernie, Hillary and the Democratic Party are just as pro-capitalist as the Republican Party. They are merely quibbling about what type of capitalism America should have but none of them is genuinely trying to overthrow the system tout court. You can calm down now, Fox News.
Today 1 October, 2015: Empathy
Excerpts from Olive Kitteridge, an exquisite collection of sea-salty short stories by the formidable Elizabeth Strout. These stories gather force through the slow, cumulative documenting of the accretions of disappointment, aging and half-realized relationships; like all great masterpieces, they evoke new depths of empathy in the reader...
"Hope was a cancer inside him. He didn't want it: he did not want it. He could not bear these shoots of tender green hope springing up within him any longer. That awful story of the man who jumped - and survived - walking back and forth for an hour on the Golden Gate Bridge, weeping, saying that had anyone stopped to ask why he was weeping, he wouldn't have jumped."
~ from the story, "Incoming Tide"
"What young people didn't know,[Olive] thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away
carelessly, as if it were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again. No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't choose it."
~ from the story, "River"
Image: Tim Sanders
Today 9 November, 2016: Tragedy
Donald Trump has offended most of the world and insulted half of America.
But he has enchanted the other half. Now, the world is a much scarier place for everyone who is not white, male, straight, Christian, a non-journalist, a non-bully, a non-progressive and a non-intellectual…First, I will jump out the window. If I survive that, I will write a full analysis/eulogy for America and the American-dominated world right here in the coming hours.
Today 28 July, 2016: Two Wolves
An old Cherokee told his grandson, "My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth."
The boy thought about it, and asked, "Grandfather, which wolf wins?"
The old man quietly replied, "The one you feed."
The Republican National Convention last week certainly does not represent all Republicans since the Bush family was in absentia and even other big enchiladas like John McCain and Mitt Romney were MIA because they could not stomach the Tangerine Bully as the party’s nominee. But the RNC aka Trumpmania was immensely different from the Democrats’ brighter and more optimistic convention this week. In terms of content and tone, Trumpmania was doom and gloom all around, feeding the wolf of Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, bigotry, racism, jingoism, militarism and Hate Thy Neighbor. The Democrats on the other hand, despite the rifts between Bernie and Hillary supporters, are trying to raise a completely different cub…
...Which wolf will win?
Today 25 April, 2016: Equivocal does not mean equivocation...
“By multiplying both authorship and readership, the novel, from the times of Cervantes to our own, became a democratic vehicle, a space of choice, of alternate interpretations of the self, of the world, and of the relationship between myself and others, between you and me, between we and they. Religion is dogmatic. Politics is ideological. Reason must be logical. But literature has the privilege of being equivocal.The quality of doubt in a novel is perhaps a manner of telling us that since authorship (and thus authority) are uncertain and susceptible of many explanations, so it goes with the world itself.”
~ Carlos Fuentes, a clever chap
Today 7 December, 2016: Colonization by Malls?
Driving down NH17, what do I see? The recently-opened Mall de Goa, the second one in this state. Goa’s lovely beaches and calm vistas run along the west coast of India facing into the Arabian Sea. It was colonized six hundred years ago by the Portuguese which is why their huge Catholic cathedrals are still found everywhere and why this American export is named in Portuguese, Mall de Goa. But 60 years from now, historians will marvel at how rapidly global capitalism colonized the world with malls, our contemporary version of churches and palaces and temples and tombs. If former generations built structures to honor royalty and the dead and the gods, we build massive structures to sanctify consumption. But we’re doing far more than merely shopping and eating in these malls. We’re lusting after some version of a lifestyle we saw in a magazine somewhere, or maybe on a TV show. Here, in the “developing” world from South Africa to China to India, we embrace these malls like they are here to save our souls.
Is it terribly cliché to ask if they are here to steal them?
Today 1 June, 2016: For You...
"She needed a hero. So that's what she became."
I don't know the author of this quote but I admire the sentiment. To all women, I say,
a luta continua.
Today 8 July, 2016: Dear US Media…
You pundits and so-called journalists spend all day talking on TV but say very little. In the wake of shootings in Orlando and Dallas, your 24/7 sensationalist coverage is deeply problematic.
1. False Equivalence – Do not equate systemic, continuous violence with random, lone shark attacks.
If, for example, a solo gunman kills police officers in Dallas, you are quick to equate that with police killings of black men. This is a false equivalence. If there are a few instances of sick people who kill police officers because they are police officers, this is a tragedy. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed black men who have been killed by police because they are black. This too is a tragedy and this is a SYSTEMIC problem. Not every police officer is guilty but nor is it just the act of a few “bad apples.” That is why it keeps happening again and again and again and again and again...
2. Analysis without Facts – You are rarely guilty of imparting facts or useful information to your audience. Instead, you seem to regard your job as an opportunity to editorialize and/or invite guests on to shout at and over each other thus ensuring no substantive discussion can be had. Amazingly, in the wake of earth-shattering events, you don’t bother to assemble even half the facts before you whip up various opinionistas to weigh in with their half-baked analyses of what has happened. Even though it is not clear what has happened. The reason you do this is because you are rushing to…
3. Consolidate a Narrative – Depending on your subjective political position vis a vis the half-known, not-yet-understood event, you proceed to insert it with great confidence into one of your clichéd narratives, often relying on the…
4. Specious Use of Statistics – You allow your overheated guests to spew stats ad infinitum. But you never fact check these stats or offer a clearer interpretation of them e.g. if someone argues that the US police kill more white men than black men, this is true. But it is true BECAUSE according to the US census, white people (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) make up 77% of the US population so logically speaking, of course more white people fall to police gunfire. But if you consider the fact that black people make up only 13.3% of the population, it becomes clear that proportionally speaking, a black man is two to three times more likely to be killed by the police than a white man depending on which database you reference. Click below for one such database and arm yourself with a few facts. Just for a change.
These jokes circulated a while back. They must circulate again because they are hilarious!
Today 17 November, 2019: Facts and Evidence
Apparently, and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of this assessment, we are living in the era of post-truth, fake news and alternative facts. Irony died a very bitter death some time in 2015-16 and language has taken a battering since then with the the speakers of lies claiming the mantle of noble truth-tellers. Orwellian is an over-taxed adjective these days. It is in this context that I thought I would read a book published about one hundred years ago. P.G. Wodehouse’s Uneasy Money contains many a perspicacious observation like this: “At the age of eleven or thereabout women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.” ☺ But most telling was this extended statement from the character of Miss Elizabeth Boyd. In a very vigorous defense of facts and evidence, her confidence illustrates an astounding belief in truth, reality, proof, verity:
“…After a while you will have to go by the evidence. You won’t be able to help yourself. You haven’t realized what a crushing thing evidence is. You have to go by it against your will. You see, evidence is the only guide. You don’t know that I am speaking the truth; you just feel it. You’re trusting your heart and not your head. The head must win in the end. You might go on believing for a time, but sooner or later you would be bound to begin to doubt and worry and torment yourself. You couldn’t fight against the evidence, when once your instinct – or whatever it is that tells you that I am speaking the truth – had begun to weaken. And it would weaken. Think what it would have to be fighting all the time. Think of the case your intelligence would be making out, day after day, till it crushed you. It’s impossible that you could keep yourself from docketing the evidence and arranging it and absorbing it. Think! Consider what you know are actual facts!"
Now, you will have to read the novel if you want to know whether she is correct here but consider the splendid assurance she displays in stating the factual factness of the worth of facts. And then consider the millions of people these days who insist on negating facts: those who believe that the earth is flat or that white people are superior to other races or that climate change is not happening or that Trump has not committed impeachable offenses. So many millions of people are incapable of docketing the evidence and arranging it and absorbing it…
Today 13 October, 2019: I wanted to talk about my favorite dog but then...
Forget Paris, forget Rome, Cairo is the most romantic city in the world. It is a city full of cats but if you walk along charming Road 231 in Maadi Degla almost to the end where Samia Allouba Ladies gym is to be found, you will find my favorite dog. She is an old black street dog with a greying muzzle because she has given birth to many puppies. In the long, languorous afternoons, she likes to lie on top of the cars which are parked along the street under the sparse, dust-layered trees or in a comfy pothole smack in the middle of the road. I wanted to tell you about her amusing antics because she reminds me of the zen dogs of Delhi which I wrote about below and if ever a dog deserved an Instagram account, it's her, but alas, I watched the news and the Turks have crossed into Syria and the Kurds are being slaughtered and it is being reported that 35-year-old human rights activist Hervin Khalaf has been pulled from her car, raped, tortured and stoned to death and I can't bear to watch the video circulating on social media and I hope it's not true but what if it is? And how many are being killed whilst Donald Trump whose indefensible decision to withdraw US troops from Syria has paved the way for the ethnic cleansing and the war crimes happening right now on the Turkish-Syria border is...playing golf? And I start to feel that terrible impotence that overcomes one when confronted with such violence and I think about US wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and so on but then I remember that the US Congress has some power over Trump and they can rebuke him and at least force some action to limit this bloodshed in Syria and they are back from recess tomorrow and I will call some senators and congresspeople first thing in the morning and so should you. You can contact them here.
Today 6 September, 2019: Speak ill of the dead!
When Sally Mugabe passed away years ago, I was criticized for pointing out her corruption. I was told, munhu wafa wanaka, which loosely translated is sort of an admonishment against speaking ill of the dead. But we must speak the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth about the dead!
Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 21 February, 1924 – 6 September, 2019, lived for almost a century and contrary to the current whitewashing attempts to sanitize his reputation and bleach his blood-stained legacy, we who knew Mugabe will never forget that he was a murderer first and foremost. I am seeing a lot of coverage along the lines of great liberator who brought his country freedom from colonialism then became a tyrant in later years. Even before he presided over the Gukurahundi massacre of at least 20,000 people in Matabeleland in the 1980s, he was suspected of orchestrating the murders of his fellow freedom fighters Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara in the 1970s. Why? Because he was already a ruthless megalomaniac and did not want any competition from those many considered to be more able leaders. In his 37 years ruling the so-called free nation of Zimbabwe, he oversaw the assasination of many more rivals and political enemies. Once a murderer always a murderer. He also murdered democracy, human rights, the economy and the whole country. How often - when there is another power cut/food shortage/fuel queue - do people sigh, nyika yafa, the country is dead? The fact that he died in a luxurious Singaporean clinic is further evidence of his misrule because he also murdered the country’s healthcare system.
Now, he will be given a hero’s burial at the expense of the Zimbabwean taxpayer. Kill one man, go to prison. Kill thousands, turn the breadbasket of southern Africa into a basket case, destroy a country and be celebrated as the founding father of a nation. A great tree has fallen, they will say. This sort of cringeworthy revisionism is the jaundiced root of African oppression which will continue until we are willing to speak the truth about our despicable dictators.
Today 15 July, 2019: Wimbledon Epics and the Endless Disappointments of Women's Truncated Matches
The Wimbledon men's five-set final between the Fed Express - half-South African, half-Swiss Roger Federer - and the Djoker (although no longer, now Novak Djokovic is deadly serious) was a glorious epic between two warrior-champions who both deserved to win! It was almost as great, as cliche correctly has it, as the fabled 2008 battle between the ever-humble and gracious Rafa Nadal and Roger which is still the greatest match of all time. But this brings me to a sad point. Djokovic and Fed duelled heroically for five hours on Sunday but meanwhile, the women's anti-climactic, dyspepsia-inducing final on Saturday? I had planned to watch Simona Halep attempt to overcome Serena Williams whilst doing my hair but no, it was not to be. Halep beat Serena in a mere, not-on-the-edge-of-your-seat 56 minutes in two uncompetitive sets and my hair was not even a quarter done. Ridiculous!
Women tennis players should, like the men, play best of five matches at the Grand Slams. Playing best of three limits the time I have to do my hair but perhaps more importantly, it limits the ability for the women's game to soar to the great heights of the men's game! I write this as a committed feminist and tennis enthusiast.
Today 27 June, 2019: Oscar Wilde validates my obnoxious behavior in London
In 1882, Irish wit, Oscar Wilde travelled to the US and wrote an essay called “Personal Impressions of America” which, if we are to be honest, is rather petulant and high-handed in its treatment of the former English colony, a point he dwells on. It is full of back-handed compliments: “If the Americans are not the most well-dressed people in the world, they are the most comfortably dressed,” he says, and then goes on to criticize their sartorial choices, “men are seen there with the dreadful chimney-pot hat” and they sport “the shocking swallow-tail coat.” However, he does remark that at least, unlike his homeland, most men have hats and coats whereas so many in Britain are too well-acquainted with rags. The insults continue apace, “everybody seems in a hurry to catch a train. This is a state of things which is not favorable to poetry or romance.” America is noisy and lacks pathos. “One is impressed in America, but not favorably impressed, by the inordinate size of everything. The country seems to try to bully one into a belief in its power by its impressive bigness.” Americans don’t know about Art (capital A), they are none too bright and a tad trigger-happy. Basically much of what we see in the US today especially in the persona of that most useless president.
Wilde’s essay has given me leave to tackle a subject which often leads to heated debate…but at least I am not insulting the whole country. I am merely pointing out an empirical fact. On this trip to London, and as I am unable to resist doing on every trip to London, I am very rude and obnoxious to the very sweet and accommodating Londoners I meet. I am rude and obnoxious because I grew up in a former British colony in which we were misled to believe that London was practically Heaven and secondly, because I am now a proud New Yorker and therefore, I find so many things about London very trying: the shops close ridiculously early; even the parks close; too many train lines don’t run all night; the roads are extremely narrow so when I am biking to the British Library I am almost squashed between two of London’s famous red double-decker buses; Wimbledon is not as user-friendly, screen-filled and/or functional as New York’s excellent US Open; everything costs much more than New York but is of lesser quality; and of course, this city’s paltry options for free, easy-access wifi drive me absolutely bonkers. And sorry to be clichéd but London weather is horrendously grey and dismal and damp and it’s hard to feel fully awake sans a confident, assertive sun that can be relied on to be present for more than ten minutes.
I will put this peevish list of London irritations here so that going forward I will be able to refrain from telling Londoners the many ways in which their city is inferior to New York, an empirical fact. Many self-proclaimed global citizens, Afropolitans and the artistic and intellectual cognoscenti claim to like London more than NYC but be aware Londoners, that is because they find it “quaint,” “cute”, “charming,” “quirky” and “like a little village.” They are, in other words, saying that London is not New York. As I have been saying all along.
Rumi, a great and high-minded poet, says, “Wherever you stand, Be the soul of that place.” I love this quote although I have no idea what it means but I feel that I must try and learn from it and perhaps it will teach me how to be less impolite and obnoxious to the poor British people who, shame, are already suffering from Brexit fatigue…
Today 8 May, 2019: Reality
A few years ago, I was presenting a paper at a conference in the US when a white South African academic, a longtime resident of the US, got very angry at me. I was showing a picture of the shacks of Alexander Township alongside a photo of a fancy mansion with swimming pool in next-door Sandton, often called Africa's richest suburb. It was a comparison of Johannesburg's uneven development much like Time's cover this week which showcases South Africa's staggering inequality. But at the conference, this professor accused me of trafficking in cliches. She claimed that I was trying to shock my audience by illustrating such extremes. And I said, So you are angry with me for showing these pictures but instead, wouldn't it be better to direct your anger at the reality underpinning the images?
Today 1 May, 2019: Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 3…Fight like a Girl!
As a boxing and kickboxing instructor, I would like to congratulate Arya Stark on her ambidextrous fighting skills. She always follows the advice I give anyone entering into a fight – Try not to get hit! Although she normally begins waging battle with her left hand, when she does get hit, she can deftly switch to the right hand. Thanks to YouTuber Vraj Mehta for putting together this amazing history of Arya's famous, Night King-killing dagger forged from Valerian steel and thanks to #GOT for proving once and for all that we should all try to fight like a girl!
Today 11 April, 2019: On Micro-Labor and the Infinite Loop
Upon the recent publication of a research article, my dear colleague congratulated me and then quickly followed up with, "And now you have to market it!" I thought to myself, More marketing? I already have a whole entire website dedicated to me, me, me, a non-celebrity and a person with no desire to become a celebrity! But he seemed to think this was not enough. In addition to having my own website, I should also market my article on several social media platforms, a LinkedIn profile, an Academia.edu profile and so on and so forth. Yes, I thought, fantastic idea. But then when will I have time to write the research article due next week? A peer-reviewed research article is, after all, the condensation of several years of intense work. Normally, it has been through several drafts and the rocky road to publication is full of pitfalls: a negative review that lambasts the piece for the exact same reasons the second reviewer deems it genius; the editor who sits on the article for months and months if not years and years etc., etc. But after all of those years of research and nasty reviewers and difficult revisions and MIA editors, once the article comes out, you have to begin the type of infinite micro-labor so well elucidated in this article by Ruth Whippman. Here is one paragraph:
"Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently 'maintaining a presence on social media,' attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time."
Not everyone is outraged by this system. Some argue its merits or at least its necessity. But I am with Ruth on this one, these unpaid micro-labors are part of a precarious and unjust economy in which we produce free content for platform providers, sharing none of the profits but yet experiencing all of the anxiety of constantly selling ourselves...
Today 20 March, 2019: Cyclone Idai
I never thought I would see Chimanimani on the international news but the tragic loss of life and ongoing destruction caused by Cyclone Idai has for once put this sleepy, mountainous area on the international radar. I don't yet know if my grandmother's house has survived the vicious wind and the heavy rains but I do know that Chimanimani, on the border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, is badly hit. I have family members from Beira - on the coast of Mozambique and a city 90% destroyed by the cyclone - all the way to Mutare, in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands. Malawi has also been badly effected. Hundreds have died thus far and thousands have lost their homes. I am grateful to the organizations trying to help and if you can imagine the horror of seeing your household, animals and loved ones washed away in a torrent of mud and water, please consider giving what you're able. Herewith a list of legitimate charities.
Today 12 March, 2019: "The Longest Suicide Note in History"
I admit that I have poor time management and constantly leave my work till the last minute. But I am not a country! How is it possible that the UK government has not yet sorted out how/when/if to Brexit - what former Aussie PM, Kevin Rudd terms "the longest suicide note in history" - when they are approaching one of the biggest deadlines in history on 29 March? I have a lot of work to do today but yet I am following all the developments here and am so distracted by this Brexit debacle that I may miss some of my own deadlines!
Today 5 March, 2019: The infinite search to describe the indescribable
Does this quote adequately explicate that most complex, multifaceted, tricky, sometimes painful, sometimes euphoria-making, often burdensome and bedeviling, at times wing-providing, rocket blastoff emotion we're always singing about?
"Is there a way to grasp what love means without becoming a lover first?
Love cannot be explained. It can only be experienced.
Love cannot be explained, yet it explains all."
~ The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by Elif Shafak
Today 20 January, 2019: When will it end?
Two years ago I travelled to Washington, D.C., to protest against the worst president in the history of the US during his inauguration. I knew that he should be impeached before he'd even been president for two hours. It's not that I'm psychic and could see into the future of what a venal, vile leader he would be. No, I learnt everything I needed to know about him during his campaign. He began his campaign as a racist, misogynistic con man and he has continued as such. America, I'm ready to impeach, been ready...Let me know when you're ready...
Today 7 December, 2018: Is the UK committing suicide in slow motion?
As someone who studies globalization, I am trying to understand the anti-globalization backlash and Britain’s attempt to leave the European Union is one such instance of backlash. From the outside, and perhaps from the inside too, the complexity of Britain’s attempt to disentangle itself from the EU of which it has been a member for 45 years since its first iteration as the European Economic Community appears to be a case of slicing off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The #BrexitDebate in the House of Commons is Prime Minister Theresa May’s chance to convince a majority of MPs to vote for the deal she has hashed out with the EU. (I thank God every day that I am not Theresa May! What an horrible job!). It doesn’t appear she will be able to do so and no-one seems to know what will happen in that event. Maybe if I could understand all the intricacies of how Brexit might be achieved without destroying the British economy, I would have a different point of view but in my humble, non-expert opinion, Britain is committing suicide in slow motion. In such an interdependent, networked, globalized world, how can the UK withdraw from the customs union and the single market and still retain its position as one of the world’s top six economies?
Today 18 October, 2018: Searching for the right angle...
Grief’s Weird Sister, Gratitude
by Jennifer Michael Hecht
How to read a tome of Collected Poems?
Read one that pivotally changes you
and lose track of the page and title.
How to clean a house? Lose your ring in it.
Milosz not having to make peace one day
because the people are dead, nor revisit
some cities of his blood, because they are
razed. I’m still reading for that one.
If I wince that I got cuppy, said too much,
maybe years ago, sometimes the sudden
knowledge that my auditor is no longer
will come in as wistful relief, if with grief.
So I’d like to find it. This “how” isn’t
an engineering question, but angle,
translated to hope by way of loss.
Today 11 September, 2018: Thank you, New York City!
Picture this: an Irish pub in the Bronx, the Irish woman who works there walks in with her little girl, the Latino chef is awaiting customers just texting on his phone, the little girl who is about 7-years-old marches up to him and says, “Javier, I want you to make me a cake for my Quinceañera because it’s my birthday today.” Never mind that this is a Hispanic tradition of celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday, never mind that she is neither Hispanic nor 15 and never mind that her mother with her thick Irish brogue can’t pronounce Quinceañera. She wasn’t born in the Bronx like her daughter who pronounces it flawlessly. Then the little girl says, “And for my birthday, I’m also going to have a bar mitzvah.” (Never mind that she’s not turning 13). Her mother tells her that she is a girl so she will have to have a bat mitzvah. “But you’re Irish,” continues the mother, “you’re not Jewish or Hispanic.” Piqued, the little girl tosses her long braid, “So what? I want to have my bat mitzvah and my Quinceañera. What do the Irish have? They don’t have anything.”
The Irish-American bartender says, “What? You didn’t enjoy your baptism.”
LOL! Thank you, New York City!
Today 11 July, 2018: Classic
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." ~ A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
These famous lines ring eerily true, today as they did for previous epochs...
Today 25 June, 2018: What are you doing Saturday? Wanna go out?
Wherever you are this Saturday, let's meet up for the #FamiliesBelongTogether rally to make clear that we are 1000% against the Tangerine Bully's abhorrent, revolting, reprehensible, despicable, disgusting, immoral policy of separating children from their parents as they try to enter the US as migrants or refugees. Hundreds of cities are holding rallies and so find one near you here. If you plan to stand me up this Saturday, please at least sign the petition.
Today 7 June, 2018: Grumpy (African) New Yorker in London
London, long time, no see! Grey, glum, gloomy weather as usual but I realise you can't do anything about that. You should, however, reconsider the audacious prices you charge for everything...But even more pressing, London, I thought by now you would, like New York, have almost ubiquitous, often free, super high-speed internet...But no London, this is not the case! Why have you not yet addressed this dire weakness? You know it's 2018, right!
Today 5 May, 2018: Many happy returns, KM, you are so totally right on and very witty to boot!
On 5 May, 1818, Karl Marx was born in Germany. Two hundred years later, people are still warring about his legacy – were his ideas responsible for the barbarism of Stalin and Mao? Is his critique of capitalism still relevant today? If communism has failed everywhere, does that mean he got it all totally wrong?
Like rabid dogs, right-wing conservatives froth at the mouth at the mere mention of his name. Progressives often try to imprison him in an ideological straitjacket that reduces his intellectual dexterity to simplistic slogans. I will leave it to you to read more about him to answer the questions above for yourself but for me, Karl Marx is not a monolithic figure whose huge body of work can only yield one narrow interpretation.
There are several Karl Marx’s: there is the philosopher, the political theorist, the activist, the socio-cultural-economic analyst, the historiographer, the writer extraordinaire, the ingenious wit etc. Reading Capital (Volume One) around the time when the global economy was collapsing in 2006-8, I found his work so riveting, I could barely put it down to read Harry Potter which I was also reading at that time as a break from my dissertation work. But KM’s critique of capitalism’s central features was so incisive and acute, his historical analysis of capitalism's founding on the theft of land was so persuasive, his portrayal of the psychology of capitalist exchange (before Freud had established the official field of psychoanalysis) was so bull's-eye-accurate that I could not stop reading it even to find out whether Severus Snape was working for or against Lord Voldemort. KM also included many LOL-lines to keep the reader giggling e.g. he describes an economist named Arthur Young as, “a rambling, uncritical writer whose reputation is inversely related to his merits.” Well, there are lots of those but Marx is not one of them so if you have never read anything by him, you can start here.
Today 11 April, 2018: Dear Kids, Parents and Educators, a little technophobia is required
If you have ever tried to wrestle an iPad from a toddler, you will know that the persuasive technology design embedded in many apps and sites is dangerously addictive as outlined in this article, The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children, by Richard Freed. Social media and too much time spent on smartphones is making teenagers increasingly vulnerable to suicide, anxiety and delayed independence according to Jean Twenge’s research. Of course, social media also has many positive aspects but there are a lot of new studies illustrating how destructive it can be for mental health. Our phones, according to Tristan Harris, are hijacking our minds. And it's just so creepy, too...Today, I learnt that although I do not have a Facebook profile and have never had one, apparently Facebook collects data on non-users and stores this as “shadow profiles.” I increasingly feel like we’re living in an infinite episode of the chilling, techno-dystopian series, Black Mirror. While Facebook is in the news because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, let’s not forget that we already knew that the company told advertisers that they could determine when teenagers were feeling "insecure," "worthless," “stressed,” “defeated,” “overwhelmed,” “anxious,” “nervous,” “stupid,” “silly”, “useless” and a “failure,” information presumably valuable to companies peddling expensive "solutions" to these negative emotions.
How much longer will we have to live in this Twitterhoea world in which our options are whittled down to two reductive choices: thumbs-up (like) or thumbs-down (dislike)? The real world is so much more complex and nuanced and ambiguous and that’s why some comedic geniuses have pointed out that Mark Zuckerberg and Julian Assange are two sides of the same coin...although one is mostly revered and the other mostly reviled, they both trade in other people's confidential information and private data...
Today 8 March, 2018: Dear Women, wa thint' abafazi, wa thint’ imbokodo!
Today is International Women’s Day and I keep thinking of this famous saying in isiZulu, “Wa thint' abafazi, wa thint’ imbokodo.” These powerful words were sung by South African women protesting apartheid policies and loosely translated mean, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock!” In 2018, we will need the WHOLE YEAR to celebrate ourselves and push for equality and justice. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done in every corner of this round globe...Don’t bet against us!
(RIP Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the original rock, 26/9/1936 - 2/4/2018)
Today 25 February, 2018: Dear America, are you joking?
1) Dear America, more guns = more violence.
2) Less guns = less violence.
3) I would post a link to some research to prove this FACT but your congress, representatives you voted for, outlawed federally-funded research on gun-related violence in 1996 with something called the Dickey Amendment...Click here to read more...
Today 19 January, 2018: 365 days of havoc and mayhem
Last year this time, I travelled to Washington D.C. to protest at Trump’s
inauguration on Friday, 20 January, 2017. It was rainy and cold but thousands
came out to register their vehement objection to the proposed policies of the
sums up how much the Tangerine Bully-in-Chief has “achieved” in terms of
reversing humanity’s evolution towards a higher state. Well done, you very
stable genius, you’re an inspiration to white supremacists, authoritarian
dictators who repress democracy and oppress the free press, and sexual
One year into this travesty of a presidency, I am still seeing people debating
whether or not Trump is a racist. That is an utter waste of time. Donald Trump
is a racist. I know this because he says and does racist things.
The question America needs to ask itself is whether Trump
was elected in spite of being a racist or because he is a racist….
More on that soon…But tomorrow, there are marches to protest Trump planned in
Africa, Asia, Europe and the US.
If there’s not one in your city, why not organize one?
Today 12 January, 2018: When will President Very Stable Genius learn to read?
It would be great if Donald Trump could learn a bit of US history. This is what is written on the Statue of Liberty and this is what US immigration policy has aspired to be in better times...
Today 21 December, 2017: Can you...
Can you spot the similarities between these two poems? Read them one at a time and then both at the same time, take what you need from each and then rewrite them together...
It takes courage, by Author Unknown
It takes strength to be firm,
It takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend's pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.
Today 3 November, 2017: Cool down music
When I teach fitness classes, that formatted, pulsating music gives me a headache after a while. Yes, it is necessary for those classes which require a steady, 32 counts but at the end of the class I always try to play some real music for the cool down. Herewith, some of my all-time faves - gentle, tender, sometimes ethereal songs with links to their Youtube videos. But please do buy this music if you like it – Support the artiste, por favor!
This takes me back to the days when I used to burn CDs for my aerobics students and loved ones…so much more soul-enriching than watching the news. This is for all of you but especially for TL on your special day, never almost, but fundamentally!
La Cumbia del Mole by Lila Downs (also teach a cumbia dance number to this classic)
Mil Pasos by stunning Soha
Neria by lifetime-achiever Oliver Mutukudzi
Quizás, Quizás, Quizás by Ibrahim Ferrer & Omara Portuondo
Nude by Radiohead (I don't think I know any other song by this group. But this is lovely, delicate...)
Alf Leila Wo Leila Part 1 by Oum Kalthoum, the most popular Egyptian singer of all time
Jerusalem by Alpha Blondy
Mona Ki Ngi Xica by Bonga
Koop Island Blues by Koop
Zvinoshamisa by Louis Mhlanga & Eric Van Der Westen
Fragile and La Belle Dame sans Regrets by super-fly Sting
Quase sung by Daúde and composed by Antônio Cícero and Caetano Veloso, sultry, bittersweet...
Here are the lyrics in Portuguese: And here is my translation:
Por uma estranha alquimia Owing to a bizarre alchemy
(você e outros elementos) (You and other factors)
Quase fui feliz um dia I was almost happy one day
Não tinha nem fundamento Although there was no fundamental reason
Havia só a magia dos seus aparecimentos Only the magic of your presence
E a música que eu ouvia And the music that I was listening to
e um perfume no vento... and a perfume on the breeze...
Quase fui feliz um dia I was almost happy one day
Lembrar é quase promessa To remember is an almost promise
É quase quase alegria, It’s an almost almost happiness,
quase fui feliz à beça... I was almost so happy...
Mas você só me dizia: But you only said to me:
Meu amor vem cá sai dessa My love, come here, snap out of it
Meu amor vem cá sai dessa... My love, come here, snap out of it...
Today 8 October, 2017: Rereading Shakespeare helps...
If you missed this brilliant, insightful article last year, please read it now. "Shakespeare explains the 2016 election" wrote Stephen Goldblatt in the New York Times on 8 October, 2016. One year later, Shakespeare is still da man, reminding us how dastardly leaders can only attain power through the complicity of enablers.
In 2017, we are reminded every day that they can only retain power through the continued complicity of these same enablers. One day, these enablers will be called to account.
Today 6 September, 2017: This is serious!
I write about many serious issues on this site – politics, vegetarianism, feminism, race, ethnicity, the downside of social media etc. etc.
But this is very serious. I have finally got caught up with the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and I have to say, White Walkers are very silly. White Walkers avec dragon even sillier. I understand that some people optimistically view the Undead/White Walkers as a metaphor/parable about climate change and the imminent destruction of the human race and planet Earth. Okay, that’s one reading but nevertheless, I have to break it to you, maniacal GOT fans. In all truth, Vikings is so much, way, way, in every which way, better than GOT.
It goes easier on wanton sadism and gratuitous violence and it is somewhat based on fascinating historical events albeit some of which are quite disturbing. Major selling point: it is much more tightly written by one very adept writer. Michael Hirst’s dialogue is blistering. When Ragnar Lothbrok – fallible, sexy, idiosyncratic, hot, compelling, mesmerizing, maddening – delivers these lines, I stand up and applaud which doesn’t make a lot of sense as it is a TV show. But I love these lines:
“Power is always dangerous. It attracts the worst. And corrupts the best…Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Today 21 August, 2017: Dear Eclipse, it’s me, not you
Maybe it was my homemade
eclipse viewer (a cereal box).
Or maybe it’s because it was
only a partial eclipse in Brooklyn.
But really, so much hype,
Taking the subway,
the MTA’s poetry-in-motion series
transports us closer to the celestial
than you, Eclipse (it’s me, not you).