Monday, March 26, 2007

A Perspective On The Legacy of Slavery

I have heard many comments about the issues surrounding slavery over the last few days, some of which have been thoughtful, sage even. Some have been a crock of manure. I have heard some eloquent discussions from blacks and whites and a lot of clich├ęd nonsense that borders on the edge of hallucination and hysteria.

On the one side there are those who despite recognising the tragedy that was slavery see it in its historical perspective. Wicked and brutal as it was, it was one human tragedy amongst many from a bygone age. That it happened at all is deeply regrettable and shameful but we cannot now re-write the history books. If we could we would do so in a flash but then there would be no history and without it there would be no present or future. We are where we are today because we have the lessons of history to guide us towards a brighter future.

We are entwined by our histories and history has tested all peoples and nations. What happened, happened. Nothing can change that. What is more important and much more majestic is that we have triumphed over the adversities, disasters and tragedies that have been inflicted upon us and which we have inflicted upon each other. Black people not only survived the horrors of slavery, they overcame it and forged a place of honour in the roll call of humanity. Whilst abhorring the inhumanity of slavery we can now only wonder at the courage and fortitude of its victims. It has made the survivors stronger and wiser and it was ever thus.

Yes slavery was an epic tragedy but in historical terms it was just one amongst countless others no less important, no less ignorant nor tragic. It is vital we remember and understand this episode of history. We should bow our heads in memory of those who suffered unspeakable pain and by doing so ensure it will never happen again. However, to pretend that this is a greater or lesser injustice than those suffered by billions of others of all races and cultures over millennia, is a nonsense.

From the dawn of time rape, pillage, torture and murder has been equally spread throughout humanity. Africans have been as guilty of these crimes against their fellow men, woman and children as Europeans, Indians, Arabs and Asians. We have all been colonised, some of us several times and Britain is no exception.

From the beginning of time, the most adventurous, advanced and powerful tribes, have always been curious as to what lay on the other side of the next range of hills or across the seas. They went, saw and conquered. That is and always has been the nature of the beast from which there is no escaping. It is in-built into our genes and part of nature's plan to ensure the survival of the fittest. In the course of this process genes are transferred along with knowledge and technology making the human race stronger as a whole. This is evolution at work.

The knowledge and technology of the Romans for example, was assimilated by the survivors of those they conquered. Whilst we do not forget those they enslaved, massacred or fed to the lions in the Coliseum nor do we demand an apology. We understand the inevitability of these events. History is littered with victims but from the darkness of ignorance comes enlightenment and progress.

Nothing has changed. Having colonised and de-colonised the globe, mankind driven by his innate curiosity is now looking to the stars and beyond. This is a natural process without which evolution would not nor could not flourish. Let us hope we have learned the lessons of history and will never enslave the occupants of distant galaxies. Let us also hope they have also learned theirs!

Lastly, there are those who say we should now apologise for slavery even if it was our ancestors and not us who were responsible because we are still living off the wealth of slavery. Yes, that is to some extent true but the survivors of slavery are also benificiaries of this wealth. This kind of argument is ill thought through and does not merit any credibility whatsoever.

May the souls of oppressed peoples everywhere rest in peace. However, until such time as we go to the aid of oppressed peoples irrespective of economic interests, the lessons of slavery cannot be said, to have been truly assimilated.

Rwanda, Angola, Somalia, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Congo/Zaire, are today’s humanitarian tragedies and we lift not a finger, black or white to help. What more is there to say?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Comic Relief – What Kind of World?

I watched Comic Relief on BBC television on the 16th March 2007. There were heart wrenching stories a plenty designed to entice money from our pockets. As usual the British public responded with typical generosity. In doing so the ordinary citizens of this country were exercising a duty of care that is the duty and the responsibility of governments; namely to look after the welfare of the sick and the poor.

Comic Relief highlighted brilliantly the inequalities and injustices that blight the world we live in. How is it that in the 21st century we tolerate these appalling slums with open sewers which run unchecked and unfiltered into the streams and rivers on which the inhabitants depend for cooking, washing and drinking? There are no words to describe such horror. What kind of governments do we have that would rather spend hundreds of millions on extravagant and monumental white elephants in the name of prestige, before they will supply clean water, hygiene, energy and education to millions who live in conditions so adverse it almost defies imagination?

What kind of world and what kind of people are we that we so easily assuage our consciences with a small pecuniary donation over a telephone line before erasing the images from our minds and returning to our vicarious passions for the latest celebrity gossip, mobile phones, reality television and designer clothes?

What kind of society thinks it’s alright for children to have to care for sick parents on their own, as long as we donate enough money to give them a day out each year? How unthinking, uncaring and insulting that is, to some of the most wonderful and compassionate beings on God’s Earth. It’s a shameful reflection on our priorities and our national psyche that we can believe for a single second that it is alright to burden theses children with such overwhelming responsibility and forlorn loneliness.

The burden of caring for sick and disabled relatives is extremely difficult, lonely and physically and financially crippling, even for adults. To leave these magnificent kids to fend more or less for themselves in such circumstances in a country as rich as the U.K., is quite simply morally reprehensible and unacceptable.

It’s time to act. It’s time to stop wasting millions and even billions on white elephant projects such as the failed Dome in this country, whose only purpose was to boost the political prestige of the nation and the political profile of a superficial image conscious government. There is an endless list of misspent public money, frittered away on unnecessary hair-brained schemes designed to “improve” that which needs no improvement.

The glut of new, totally unnecessary road markings and signs that is appearing along the length and breadth of Britain’s highways like an unsightly rash, is but one example. We have managed for decades without traffic lights and lane markings on roundabouts so why do we suddenly need them now? They do nothing for road safety or traffic flow except add confusion and distraction. Stop this madness. There are far more worthy causes that require attention.

Alleviating injustice and poverty and educating the illiterate will bring far greater social and economic returns than investing in white elephants or the non-productive Walter Mitty dreams of hair-brained bureaucrats, trying to justify their existence.

It is impossible to witness the misery and the unspeakable hardship in the slums of Nairobi or elsewhere and not feel deep in one’s soul that in a civilised world, such inequality is intolerable and unpardonable.

As individuals, we can all dip into our pockets as much and as often as we like but ultimately it is a drop in the ocean. As individuals we can do something. We can save some lives but we cannot solve the route problems of poverty or injustice, unless governments around the world dip much more deeply into their national treasuries and act in concert, to tackle the misery we witness in programs like Comic Relief.

They would find it a rewarding exercise. By boosting the productivity through education, of the billions who currently live below the so called poverty line, they would be enhancing skills and therefore potential global earning and buying power. More demand means expanding global economies. Everyone wins.

It’s time to outline and enact new strategies to combat the injustices that are responsible for so much misery around the World. Failure to act now will only lead us all to a darker place. This is the duty of governments not individuals. What we can do as individuals is hold our governments to account. This would be a much more effective way of tackling poverty wherever it is found.

There is only one way to bridge the gulf between the poorer and richer nations and that is through joint ventures in which all trading nations have a stake in the production, distribution and marketing of the goods we commonly produce and consume but this is for another day.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What Justice?

It has been reported that the International Court Of Justice in the Hague has issued arrest warrants against Sudanese Ministers for crimes against humanity. Why has no arrest warrant ever been issued against Zimbabwean Ministers, including President Mugabe for the same crimes?

If the law is applied unequally and inconsistently then it is not only unjust but it is totally lacking in any credibility. Why should anyone take these institutions seriously and why do we put up with their double standards and general ineptitude?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mayan Leaders Cleanse Ancient Ruins

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Mayan leaders will spiritually "cleanse" ancient ruins in Guatemala after a visit by U.S. President George W. Bush, unpopular here because of foreign policies going back to Central America's civil wars.

The leaders said they would hold a spiritual ceremony to restore "peace and harmony" at the Mayan ruins of Iximche after Bush tours the site on Monday.
"No, Mr. Bush, you cannot trample and degrade the memory of our ancestors," said indigenous leader Rodolfo

"This is not your ranch in Texas."


This is a sad reflection on how the World now regards America under George Bush but is he the sole cause or the natural spawn of ill conceived foreign policy spanning decades? You tell me.

Making expedient short term choices on the basis of perceived strategic self interest is not the same as making the right long term moral choices. Foreign policy that fails to recognise that self interest can never be served when the common interest and morality are ignored is doomed to the outcomes with which we have become familiar in South America and more recently in Iraq (the West's support of Saddam Hussein) and Afghanistan (the arming and financing of Bin Laden) where strategic allies metamorphosed into deadly enemies. This has been the unending pattern of politics throughout history. Is it not time we learned the lessons of past failures and altered our perverted political philosophy by doing what is obviously right rather than what is obviously wrong?

Let those who seek short term gain through perverted thinking and corrupt action dig their own graves. Their victories will be shallow and short lived and we will be there to pick up the benefits when their houses of cards come tumbling down, as they inevitably will and do.

Political philosophies founded on temporal moving sands, have never and will never stand the test of time.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Pakistan Terror Groups

I cannot for the life of me understand how the Taliban and other rogue groups are able to to obtain training and launch attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan and elsewhere with such impunity. The whereabouts of these training camps and "terrorist" hideouts must be known to every intelligence service worth the name. Why therefore can they not be surrounded and wiped out?

The excuse that these fanatics carry out their clandestine activities in wild and inhospitable terrain might have been a good excuse in 1807 but the age of modern and sophisticated communications systems, spy satellites and helicopters has eradicated any such excuses in 2007.

There is more to all this than meets the eye I suspect but what and why?