Monday 3 March 2014
Saturday 31 August 2013
I have a Greek friend in Southampton. He's not normal. But in a good way. He told me today that he turned down an invitation for a night out with some other Greeks who were throwing a random Greek guy a going-away party. He told his friend that he "didn't care for socialising with them," and that "they're good library friends." I asked him why he did this, and he said "look, I know him, he's a nice guy, we meet in the library every now and then and talk; but I'm not going to go out to celebrate some random person's departure. I'm an honest person and I didn't know how to convey this to my friend in any other way." He had a point, and he didn't care how his friend was going to interpret it, but then again, that's how he is. He wears the same clothes everyday, a fanny pack that houses his credit card, student card and wallet, and a set of very unattractive earrings. The fact that he wore the same clothes everyday was pointed out to me by some friends a while back, in a dismissive manner. But what they don't understand is that he sees no value for clothes. In fact, had it been socially acceptable, he'd probably walk around naked. The point is, he sees a lot wrong in the world - the inequality and poverty - and he acts accordingly. He wears those earrings in an attempt to lure away people who judge others by their looks, he has no intention of befriending such people. And he literally wears his heart on his sleeves. Anyway, today we were discussing how the world works over some succulent chicken shish kebab, which inadvertently led to this post.
The per capita GDP of the Democratic Republic of Congo is $800, while that of Qatar is just shy of $105,000. So, on paper, the average person living in Qatar is more than a hundred times richer than the average Congolese (if you go into the details it's much worse). Yaya Toure, the Ivorian midfielder for Manchester City Football Club earns around £250,000 a week. A week. And in Equatorial Guinea 70% of the population lives below $2 a day - which is $60 a month, which is around $720 a year. In Sudan, 46.5% of the population lives below the poverty line ($1.25 a day). An average hedge fund owner (whatever hedge funds are) would've probably made $250 million last year. Now, we look at these numbers and think Oh my God so much inequality, what a terrible world we live in, what are all those rich people doing with all that money, why do they need 17 cars and 8 houses, this is unbelievable. Then we read books written by Joseph Stiglitz or Noam Chomsky about the "prosperous few and the restless many", and think yes, these guys are right, the world is not balanced, I totally agree with them, I'm so glad that we see eye to eye, this inequality has got to stop. Then we wake up the next day, go to the shop buy some coffee or cigarettes we can do without, eat an overpriced burger, and buy some shorts and loafers for the summer.
The fact that the world is imbalanced is a thought we carry along with us, but in the back of our minds, we look for it and deploy it at our own convenience, to win an argument or show our sympathy for the less fortunate. But the fact remains that it's in the back of our minds. Unfortunately for us, this imbalance, all this inequality will not go away, ever, if we keep thinking the world is a terrible place. These figures I just quoted are exact to some extent, the Sudanese government might argue otherwise, but they're pretty much accurate, and if you look at them closely they reveal not only that the world is at an all time low, but its continuation is not beneficial, at all. You might like your life and what you're doing, but as long as the world stays like this, and it will, then we've failed as a species. Apparently evolution doesn't tolerate failed species, yet we're still here. We should be gone, one way or another.
It doesn't make sense for people to be allowed to earn billions of dollars, and then be ranked by Forbes in a list that only Britney Spears cares about, while others can't find food to eat. Food. Fucking food. It's offensive. It really is. I had an unfortunate encounter with a friend of my cousin the other day where I made an inappropriate racial comment intending for it to be funny. No one laughed. The friend got offended, and I got an earful. I eventually apologised, reluctantly, and we moved on. But then it occurred to me that we get offended by comments, and we don't get offended by poverty, by the fact that billions of people around the world can't afford to eat or drink water. When one gets offended they feel the need to confront the situation, only then can they move on; whatever it is that offended them then moves to the back of their mind, they never forget it, they can then fetch it at their own convenience. The only thing that allows a person to forget the situation is confrontation. Yet, with inequality, it moves to the back of the mind with no confrontation. Which means that it doesn't offend. It doesn't need a confrontation to ease the process of putting it in the back of the mind. It doesn't make sense to get offended by a comment or a cartoon or a book or an article or a tweet, yet we look at the disparities between the rich and poor and think oh that's just terrible and move on. It doesn't make sense.
It also doesn't make sense that we buy handbags, watches, shoes and other insignificant accessories for thousands of dollars and fail to see the incongruity of it all. It's not our fault though, you and me. It's a bigger issue. It's the fact that we've been brought up to think that it's normal to invest in such asininity, to lend our sympathy to the poor but not care enough to question the reason for the existence of chronic poverty. We've been taught to look at the poor as a demographic, a statistic that can be quoted in posts like this one to prove a theory, raise awareness or question morality. We've also been taught to think that imperialism has ended, that colonisation was a thing of the past, that tomorrow will be better than today, that poverty exists because it's difficult to eradicate, that there isn't enough money to go around. There is enough money to go around. There's more than enough money to go around. The average income in the world is ten times that in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not a problem that a book can solve, or an Earth Institute at Columbia University can solve. There are rovers on Mars for fuck's sake. There's no point putting men on the moon if men on Earth are starving. There's no point discovering a cure for disease if the only ones getting cured are those who can afford it.
Then we're told Africa's time is now. That Africa is open for business, that it's ripe for investment. Africa has been ripe for investment ever since the Europeans decided in the late 1800's to come over and claim it. Nothing has changed since then. The profits that are made in African countries are invested abroad. The poor see none of it, none. And no one should be commended for providing six jobs for slave labourers. And if that's not enough, the rich in Africa are put forward as paragons of success. We're all told that in order to be successful you have to become rich. And it's true. The rich are idolised. We have to sit and listen to what they have to say. Basically, if you're rich then your opinion counts. Fuck that. I couldn't care less what Mo Ibrahim has to say about African or Sudanese politics. If he really wanted to "help Africa" he would've never made that much money to begin with. There's no problem with being rich, but there's a problem with hypocrisy and self-beneficial charity. This is evident throughout the continent. And we only hear about those lucky enough to exceed expectations and make a lot of money. We hear about them in Forbes lists. Yet, what we don't hear about is that at the same time the poor are still poor. And frankly, whenever Forbes is involved, you know something is wrong. The fact that people are allowed to acquire so much wealth while others are still hungry highlights exactly what the fuck is wrong with the world. Again, we look, we read, we sympathise, we move on.
There are three wars in Sudan, a war in Syria, a political crisis in Egypt, a war in Afghanistan, a war in Congo, a something in Palestine (don't even know what it is anymore), all of which claim lives everyday. For what? Money? Power? Cheese? Whatever the reason, it's never worth it, ever. And the majority of us can't see that. See we all think that it's ridiculous that people could kill each other over land or oil. But they do, we do. Those engaged in wars and those making big decisions are also human. They think, eat, breathe like the rest of us. They too might think the wars are wasteful, but not wasteful enough to be called off. Some people around the world still think that killing people for oil or cocoa beans is worthwhile. And this is not their fault, because the world that we've created allows them to do so. It allows for East Asians to work for a pittance in the Middle East, it allows for billionaires to pop up in countries plagued by poverty, it allows for quarter of a million dollar cars to be driven in countries with no roads or street lights. It allows for alcohol to be advertised like it's a cure for cancer, it allows for Mo Ibrahim to write for the Christian Science Monitor, it allows people to overlook hunger and feel resentment at a set of words.
It's clear now that there's no difference between Obama and Bush, no difference between Al Mahdi and Bashir, or Mubarak or Morsi. The way things are is no coincidence. There will be no eradication of poverty, or solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Modern day slavery will continue, most of the money will be controlled by a few, and Rihanna will continue to be a recording artist. So my proposition is simple. Let the West attack Syria, triggering a wave of contempt in the Middle East. Iran and Russia will join in to defend their ally. Israel will help the West in the Golan Heights. China will help Russia. The other Middle Eastern countries will only serve as bases for Western armies, and hence will get targeted by those supporting Syria. Japan will feel the need to join in and retake Pearl Harbour. India will attack Pakistan because during the last guard change the Pakistani guard's legs didn't go up high enough. Bangladesh will join India. Sri Lanka will join Pakistan, which will join Syria and co. The US will realise that it needs oil to fuel the war and will hence build a base in Uganda to secure the newly discovered oil. This move will upset China which is technically already fighting the US in Syria. China will start fighting the US in Sub-Saharan Africa from a Chinese restaurant in Sudan. A suicide bomber defending his country's sovereign rights that have been taken away by the West will blow up a holiday resort in Barbados. Military intelligence will deduce that there's a terrorist cell in the Bahamas, which will then be bombed by the US. Mexico will move in to protect the holiday makers in the Caribbean who form a large segment of the Mexican marijuana market, which is Mexico's largest export. Costa Rica will join Mexico. Brazil will provide ethanol to the US's fighter jets in the Caribbean. The UK will attack Argentina because of unfinished business. Mexico will attack Brazil for supplying the Ethanol, and for speaking Portuguese. This will spark a Spanophone versus Portugophone war in South America. The war in Syria will not go to plan, so the US and UK will ask for France's help. France will reject, and Italy will comply. France will bomb Italy for complying, and for Zidane's red card in the 2006 World Cup final. Germany will bomb France because they've done it before. Belgium will close its door and no one can come inside. Spain will close down Zara, this will cause outrage in the Middle East. A wealthy suicide bomber will blow up a mall in Spain. Eastern Europe will gain dependence and become part of Russia again, and join the war in Syria. As a contingency plan the US sends a nuclear missile towards Norway. Norway attacks Sweden for having more blonde people. Anyone with access to a nuclear arsenal will start entering coordinates. Nuclear missiles will be fired into Syria, Uganda and the Bahamas for maximum possible damage. Everybody dies.
The only solution is that we start over. From zero. From the first organism and earliest methanogensis. There's no other way. So tell your congressmen and MP's. The world needs the war on Syria - and the other two countries - more than anything else. And I'm sure my Greek friend will agree.
Disclaimer: Egypt was not mentioned in the scuffle because the world doesn't revolve around Egypt.
Tuesday 26 June 2012
Saturday 14 April 2012
Saturday 17 March 2012
Saturday 18 February 2012
Saturday 4 February 2012
“Indeed, many of the conflicts and barbarities in the world are sustained through the illusion of a unique and choiceless identity” - Amartya Sen
I've come to realise that many Sudanese youths are overly - and might I add, falsely - preoccupied with the concept of 'Sudanese Identity'. We always end up enthusiastically arguing this point when discussing Sudan. We seem to be stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between African and Arab.
These arguments arises from the fact that Arabic is the dominant language, and Islam is the dominant religion in the country, hence creating an Arab identity. Yet dark skin and frankly, an excess of local languages are evidence of African ancestry.
The above arguments are false in many aspects. Islam does not mean Arab, and dark skin and local languages don't necessarily mean African. And then you have the issue with Arab and African identities, which themselves are also not fully defined. So there is a problem with trying to identify with nonexistent identities in the first place.
My contention with this issue of Sudanese Identity is the consistent requisite of having to identify ourselves. Being from Sudan doesn't seem to be enough anymore. This is a very serious issue, because the end goal of all this ‘defining’ is less beneficial than we might think.
Older generations never had this problem. Everyone was Sudanese and content. No one questioned what their Sudaneseness transcended to. Because frankly, it doesn't really matter. Being Arab or African doesn't add or take away anything from who we are.
In Rwanda, Belgian conquerors aggravated the tribal rivalry by giving citizens ID cards that clearly stated which tribe they were from. They then went on to assign each tribe a place in society, giving Tutsis the high societal positions and the Hutus were designated the labour. This is the root cause of the genocide, because primarily, an uneducated Rwandan society failed to see that being Rwandan comes before being Tutsi, or Hutu. Yet, the Rwandan Hutu labourer could’ve identified with the Rwandan Tutsi school teacher just from a common taste in music, let alone a common nationality. So if they had chosen to be Tutsi or Hutu and Rwandan, the story would’ve been different.
It’s obvious that the issue of identity is a global one, not only confined to the borders of Sudan. In his book “Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny”, Amartya Sen says that current identity classifications find their roots in the Western society’s theory of The Clash of Civilizations. He claims that the current identity characterisation is based on civilizations and religions. A concept which he claims is counterproductive to the ubiquitous credence of equality among humans.
He also goes on to say that we all have plural identities, and that if we choose to embrace one and ignore the others, we risk widespread animosity.
The point he’s trying to make is that it is impossible to identify any individual with one thing and one thing only. A person can be a Muslim, a woman, an African, a dentist, a feminist, a vegan, pious and a football fan all at the same time. And she cannot identify with only one category and ignore the others with no significant consequences. Identification with a single group causes divisions, which are perfect for inciting hate towards the ‘other’:
The implicit belief in the overarching power of a singular classification can make the world thoroughly inflammable. A uniquely divisive view goes not only against the old-fashioned belief that all human beings are much the same but also against the less discussed but much more plausible understanding that we are diversely different.
In the aforementioned text, by “diversely different”, Amartya Sen is not referring to a single identity with several sub-identities as we seem to view the Sudanese Identity. It’s in reference to the fact that we are Sudanese, but we’re also a lot of other things.
So since we are all of plural identities, we can find commonalities within our identities, and use them strategically. One cannot identify as only being Sudanese, because this makes an implicit commitment to this category while ignoring all other shared identities.
What we need to do is decide the degree of importance to attach to being Sudanese over other identity categories within which we belong. We cannot create a ‘Sudanese Identity’ that encompasses all existing identities within the country, primarily because we would be to identifying with a single category.
When we finally come to see ourselves as the plethora of identities that we are, the next challenge is how we appear to others. It’s important in the case of Sudan because we have been led to believe that certain people from certain parts of Sudan have certain habits, and this is what we would identify them with.
In Sudan, the Southerners didn’t define themselves as Southern, the Northerners have created this identity for them; and the same has been done for all the people in the outlying regions of Sudan. The north holds this power of ascription for the sole reason that it has always been the more developed, intellectual hub of the country.
The Sudanese Identity cannot house any other identities other than itself. It’s an identity just as being Muslim or Hausa is an identity.
A common misconception is the belief that the lack of a Sudanese identity has stalled any prospects of a revolution in the country. Revolutions don’t happen because of common identification, they happen as a consequence of injustice and corrupt rule. The commonality here is being human. Yes, this sounds ridiculously humanistic, but being human does come before Sudanese; what we fear for ourselves as humans, we fear for others, before that feeling is felt about being Sudanese.
The same concept can be applied to the wars in Sudan. The Sudanese Identity has been defined for us by the rulers of our country since its independence. The problem here is that it was defined, not that it was defined falsely. The fact that this defined Sudanese identity encompassed several identities involuntarily alienated some. The solution for this is not a Sudanese identity that includes every single identity within our borders, because that’s illogical.
We have to choose to be Sudanese, and that’s that. There’s a difference between defining an identity, and choosing one. Defining an identity not only puts limits, but it alienates others, consequentially by the person or people defining it. Plus, no one should have that right to begin with. While choosing one is a personal commitment, and identity is a personal issue.
So instead of defining the Sudanese Identity, we have to choose to be Sudanese, and more importantly, we need to create the conditions in which it becomes obsolete.