Jeremy Corbyn – Socialism DOES Work

Jeremy Corbyn could become leader of the Labour Party, the main opposition party in the House of Commons (UK Parliament), after he received the most nominations from Constituency Labour Parties and unions.

If Corbyn does emerge as winner, after a final ballot that will begin on August 14, then it could represent a fundamental shift towards the left of the political spectrum for the Labour Party.

Listening to Corbyn’s address to the Oxford Union (video below), I get the sense that he talks a lot of sense.

And yet many people (including senior members of his own party) don’t want him to become leader. They say he is ‘too left-wing’ and that such can ‘scare-off voters’.

Lately politicians have been saying some very insensitive things in the media, and it’s not surprising that some are being alarmist about Corbyn.

But how can a person who says there is too much inequality in the UK (and in the world in general), and that something needs to be done to address it (not just empty rhetoric) possibly be wrong by stating what is clearly a fact?

How can someone who calls for workers rights, an end to poverty, re-nationalisation of key industries, increased taxes on the very wealthy, and the scrapping of Britain’s Trident be the devil?

Are you saying you really want corporations to continue evading tax? For utilities to be controlled by profit-driven corporations? For £100 billion to be spent on a nuclear deterrent which will never be used? For the likes of Rupert Murdoch to continue hijacking the media agenda, influencing politics to the detriment of state power? Is that what you want?

In my view, if we had more politicians like Jeremy Corbyn, more leaders like Elizabeth Warren, conscientious politicians like Bernie Sanders  … who are capable of identifying the real issues, communicating effectively how those issues need to be addressed; issues such as corporate tax evasion, unnecessary foreign wars, inequality and poverty… if we had more leaders who are incorruptible and not part of some revolving door,  I think the world would be a better place. Minimally, there would be enough oversight to ensure that corporations pay their fair dues and behave responsibly even when conducting their affairs abroad. Public institutions would be protected, developing countries would not be preyed upon, and there would probably be greater respect for human life.

These are the kinds of  Leaders Abraham Lincoln if he were alive today would count as true friends. And it’s because there are many leaders who are out of touch with ordinary people, whereas a few can see what is happening on the ground, how actions of corporations are affecting ordinary people, how actions of leaders are endangering people, and are rightly concerned.

Why do I say this?

Giving a few examples, since when has it been known that inequality is the real cause of poverty across the world? Since when has it been known that the actions of corporations, including in paying bribes to officials, deprive developing countries of resources which they desperately need to effect development? Since when has it been known that the structural adjustment policies of the likes of IMF and World Bank are counterproductive against the narrative of poverty eradication? Since when has it been known that tax havens and secret accounts facilitate if not encourage corruption?

When all these have been known, why is it easier to start wars, than to fix these things which would do so much towards helping the poorest countries?

WS-pigsReferring to a point Corbyn made about the IMF in the above video, many people underestimate the damage structural adjustment programs (SAP’s) do to developing countries. They take for granted that the conditions the likes of the IMF prescribe put countries in a very difficult position – with no money to spend on the weakest in their societies.

And as you would expect, most of these people who attack socialist policies have never lived or spent any considerable length of time in developing countries, let alone had personal hardship that threatened their existence. They don’t know what poverty is, or what it means to have no money. It’s a bit like Ian Duncan Smith (British Conservative Party Politician who is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions ) calling for people to live on £53 a week, when he’s never had to live on £53 a week, and flatly refusing to do so when challenged.

They just talk because they think they know, when the truth it they don’t really know.

For once, I must say it is refreshing to hear a prospective political party leader of a big economy describe the likes of the IMF for who they really are. Architects of destruction.

On a practical note, it would be helpful if some of the people advocating for SAP’s spent some time period in the countries which borrow from the IMF/ World Bank. Let them go and  spend say 3 – 4 years (not just a couple of days where they pretend to blend into the culture) in Malawi , or in Cameroon, or in Senegal, not living in expensive hotels or exclusive suburbs where all the rich expats are having a dip in their swimming pools. No, but living amongst the people, ku ma line kwenikweni, in the districts where working people such as bus drivers, nurses, teachers and civil servants live. There they will begin to see the effects of SAP’s. There they will find the hatched eggs of the serpent.

This week, a lot has happened. There was the story of Cecil the Lion, then a few days ago,  David Cameron used an animate term (‘swarm’), to describe migrants; describing humans who are fleeing terrible living conditions, using a term which he couldn’t possibly use to describe Europeans, or Americans.

No wonder in the past some activists have hit back with images such as these:-

nhs

Being left-wing is not a bad thing. Being left-wing amidst other things means you care about other human beings, and you are not so narrow-minded, so self-absorbed and selfish, so brainwashed by individualistic ideas (‘trickle down economics’ , ‘survival of the fittest’ and other nonsense) which are senseless, do more damage than good to society, and do not have practical application in the real world. I’m not saying that those who do not identify as being left-wing are these things, but in my view, on the bare minimum, on the surface, thats what being left-wing must be.

I’d like to think many left wingers have a greater appreciation of inequality than their detractors;  that they get it when circumstances beyond people’s control push them to the brink. And these circumstances vary from corrupt African politicians (who receive bribes from unscrupulous investors, in exchange for favourable investment agreements which do nothing for the people of that African country) to selling off a public hospital to a private company (which then lays off staff as a cost-cutting exercise – leaving vulnerable families with no income – purely for profit).

I’ll end with a story I once read of a South African woman. Her parent’s two storey house was confiscated during the apartheid regime, when she was just a little girl. Subsequently her parents couldn’t pay for her education, so she was forced to work as a cleaner. Today she’s still unable to rebuild her life, with no qualifications, living in a country where she can’t earn enough to put herself through school, as well as look after her own family. With little prospects to advance in life other than to continue working, she is stuck in poverty.

And the house? She still remembers it, it’s still there, but up until now her family has not been able to get it back.

Not everyone who is poor is poor because they are lazy and don’t want to work. Someone please ask Jeremy Corbyn ‘s detractors to go and witness with their own eyes these types of scenarios.

Why income inequality is bad for growth

class1

Give credit to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD—an organization that has so often either mirrored or defined (depending on your point of view) the consensus on economic policy issues—for so thoroughly embracing the idea that high and growing income inequality may well be bad for growth. The Paris-based organization of leading developed and developing economies late last month issued its latest finding in its report “In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits Us All, which finds that “econometric analysis suggests that income inequality has a sizeable and statistically significant negative impact on growth.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The new report finds that between 1990 and 2010 gross domestic product per person in 19 core OECD countries grew by a total of 28 percent, but would have grown by 33 percent over the same period if inequality had not increased after 1985. This estimate is based on an econometric analysis of 31 high- and middle-income OECD countries, which concluded that lowering inequality by just one “Gini-point” (a standard measure of inequality used by economists) would raise the annual growth rate of GDP by 0.15 percentage points.

More here

Source: agenda.weforum.org

Addressing the roots of Economic Disparities

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 I choose to write about these things because the plight of my people is tied to historical events which most of them do not know about. We are poor today, but how did we become poor. Have we always been poor? Were we created poor? Did evolution design that we would be poor? What happened before the here and now? Every one of them needs to know the unadulterated truth. Unbiased. Pure. I pray to the creator of the heavens and the earth that one day they will know such a truth…and I’ve made it my mission to make sure that as many as are interested, do get to know the truth.

“Sometimes history needs a push.”  — Vladimir Lenin

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” ― Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World

“The best way to predict your future is to create it” ― Abraham Lincoln

I began writing this article over a year ago, and I’m so glad I dithered. Because between then and now, a number of events took place which prompted people who are probably better placed than myself to delve into the debate on inequality, armed with better evidence and statistics.

Firstly we have Suzanne Moore writing for the guardian in an article titled Inequality isn’t inevitable, it’s engineered. That’s how the 1% have taken over in which she says:

 ‘Most wealth, though, is not earned: huge assets, often inherited, simply get bigger not because the individuals who own them are super talented, but because structures are in place to ensure this happens.’

This view is echoed by  Laura Sullivan, Tatjana Meschede, Lars Dietrich, & Thomas Shapiro of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, who co-authored a report with Amy Traub, Catherine Ruetschlin & Tamara Draut of Demos, a public policy organization. The report titled The Racial Wealth Gap (neatly summarised by this article on Forbes here) which looks at the racial wealth gap in the United States says:

“The racial wealth gap is reinforced by federal policies that largely operate to increase wealth for those who already possess significant assets,” wrote the authors, noting that more than half of the $400 billion in annual federal asset-building subsidies, such to promote homeownership retirement savings, economic investment and access to college, flow to the wealthiest 5% of taxpaying households. The bottom 60% of taxpayers receive only 4% of these benefits.

It’s main findings include:

‘..in 2011 the median white household had $111,146 in wealth holdings, compared to just $7,113 for the median Black household and $8,348 for the median Latino household…’
‘…While 73 percent of white households owned their own homes in 2011, only 47 percent of Latinos and 45 percent of Blacks were homeowners…’

‘…in 2011, the median white household had an income of $50,400 a year compared to just $32,028 for Blacks and $36,840 for Latinos. Black and Latino households also see less of a return than white households on the income they earn: for every $1 in wealth that accrues to median Black households associated with a higher income, median white households accrue $4.06 …’

If the world’s largest economy can have such debilitating inequality, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if data emerged that showed that the problem is far worse elsewhere?

Allow me please to get satirical by introducing a new character from an old YouTube clip by Stan (Warning: Very strong language):

Ignoring Stan’s annoying robotic accent – which reminds me of the adobe acrobat text-to-voice reader – I was struck by just how blatantly forthright his assertions (or allegations if you like) are. But what’s my point with all this:-

1. Inequality and Poverty is engineered.
mndlaNelson Mandela said so, when he said

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

And it doesn’t matter if you live in Tanzania, Togo, Brooklyn or in a refugee camp in South Sudan. If political leaders across the world wanted to, they could act to combat inequality. Unfortunately they don’t because:-
–Selfish Interests
— Ignorance. There are leaders of countries, and of black communities who were raised to believe they have to be subservient to white supremacy.
— Some of these leaders are afraid of upsetting big business, which funds their political parties
— Among those who genuinely want to orchestrate change for the masses, for the poor, such as Elizabeth Warren in the US, and say Julius Malema in South Africa, you will find that most of these leaders do not have the resources to create an alternative on their own.

2. Religion has been a debilitating cancer upon people of African origin.

If you have been following commentary on African troubles, the chances are you couldn’t have missed this one. Not only have many of the wars that have divided communities which previously lived harmoniously alongside each other been religious in nature (Muslim vs Christian), religion has driven adherents into poverty, allowed systematic and unchecked exploitation of resources by nonreligious often white minorities while the religious majority suffered, praying and believing for salvation or help from some messiah or deity.
I think this picture is much more pronounced in Africa than anywhere else on the globe. It has caused genocides, created poverty that has led to the death of millions of people. It has impeded scientific and personal development, entrenched ignorance and encouraged misinformation.
Religion has created pockets of powerful and extremely wealthy but irresponsible elites living in proximity to extremely poor and vulnerable populations that are tossed about by every wind of ideology, by one heist after another, but which are incapable of successfully challenging the elites;
Religion has created extremism (the likes of Joseph Kony) extremist groups (Boko Haram, Al Shabab) claiming to be fronting some religious line, but who are in all manner and form terrorists bent on terrorism using brutal tactics that instill fear in those who disagree with them.
Religion has also created a dependency culture, where you don’t work hard enough, ‘because God will provide‘, where people say ‘its not by my own strength but by the Lord
And I do agree that whether you believe in a god or not, the paintings of the white Christ (which interestingly have been shown to be historically inaccurate – see here and here) are not exactly confidence-instilling stuff to the undiscerning African youth.
But I’m not saying that there have been no positives to having a faith, no that’s not what I’m saying.
What I’m saying is that it is idiotic for a people who by even the least anthropological research are one, be it in Nigeria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda or Somalia to fight, kill and displace each other from homes and family, in their millions, because one’s pilgrimage is to Mecca, while the other faces Rome or Jerusalem. Its stupidity of the highest order!
If you need more convincing Consider these two articles here and here

3. Africans and black people have for long been made to believe (directly and indirectly) that they are inferior or at least not as good as white people.

The most honest and unbiased books on the subject include Peter Fryer’s Aspects of British Black History and Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain.
DSC_0001_20This assertion is not only false but inherently racist. As I tried to explain here and here, and as my colleague clarified here, this inferiority was invented.
Growing up in Malawi, a deeply religious country, one of the most annoying things I often heard was that ‘Mzungu ndi wa Nzeru‘ (the White man is Clever). I heard it everywhere! From friends, family, even domestic servants used to mention it. They’d say the statement when marvelling at something which they believed to be a western creation (to these people everything fantastic had been made by a white man – and obviously they didn’t know about innovations by non-caucasian people). No doubt they got this message somewhere, someone must have told them that ‘Mzungu ndi wa Nzeru‘?
Fortunately, my immediate family didn’t succumb to this kind of confidence-diminishing tosh. While my family were religious, they knew better and did not subscribe to this racist line. Instead, I was told by my immediate family that my father had been a very intelligent man, and that in our family we were extremely capable.
That if there were people who could do it, it was us.
I was told that no one had failed among my siblings in my father’s family. That if I failed, I would be the first one to do so, and my failure would be a huge disgrace to our whole family, and I would be the object of shame. I was told that my father would be extremely disappointed in me if I didn’t do well. So, from the word go, the pressure was on. I had to perform, there was no other option.
However way you want to interpret this kind of embellished encouragement, the result was that academically, I did very well, won two scholarships and was consistently in the top four of my classes.
My point here is that ideology that shaped western societies has been somewhat dishonest about the mental faculties of black and African people. And too little has been done to correct this anomaly.

4. Both historical and present events have created severe economic disparities between White and Non white people.

Unfair Advantage. That’s the real cause of the Racial Wealth Gap report I refer to above. You will find that this term Unfair Advantage is avoided or sugar-coated in discussions about poverty. When a writer brings it up, it’s often pushed under the carpet.
But it is unmistakably true; the actions of Europeans (and recently the US) throughout the last 500 or more years have given them an unfair advantage over others. And this unfair advantage translates into immense wealth for a significant section of white families, and poverty for the majority of non-white families.
As an example how this wealth trickles, I know a lady in Nottingham, whose husband is the 5th generation owner of their house. The house has been in their family for over 100 years.
But how many people from ethnic minority groups across the UK (or even in the US) have had a property be passed down through the family for over 100 years? Further what percentage of the wealth derived from colonial proceeds have trickled into white families today?

But is it really historical, this inequality?

Economists Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico writing on The historical roots of inequality, on VOX CEPR’s Policy Portal say that:

.. we turn to the impact of slavery on current income disparities and we find that it is indeed associated with a higher degree of income inequality. In other words, former slave counties are more unequal in the present day. They also show a higher poverty rate and a higher degree of racial inequality. Moreover, the data say that the impact of slavery on economic inequality and poverty runs through its impact on racial inequality, and not vice versa.’

So how do you fix it?

Well, as I wrote here, almost 2 years ago now, what should help are a combination of fixes including addressing educational outcomes for black and ethnic minorities. This also means changing the way black people have been taught, with a message that empowers.

You cannot have an empowered black population without a decent level of education that deconstructs the negative stereotypes. And while we are on this topic, giving black people handouts or free money will not help without addressing some of the other problems. Giving them preference in the form of positive discrimination on its own is also unlikely to go very far.

5. There are people who don’t want things to change. Who depend on systems within law that negatively affect black people and ethnic minorities more than they do white people.

Systematic Discrimination. Repression of Black, African and ethnic people. My observations based on a small sample of people I know, and others I’ve read about is that it doesn’t make a difference where you live. Black and African people have been victims of the system.

Whatever the real intentions of that system, the effect has been the same: Subjugation and dispossession leading to debt, poverty and all the associated ills….including bad credit histories, which affects their ability to get loans, which in turn affects their abilities to start businesses and be independent. A perfect storm.

As an example, read this, titled Trillion Dollar Scandal, and tell me how such a thing could be happening in the 21 century? Yet strictly speaking, not all form of siphoning money from developing countries are a crime. So the question becomes who made the rules that allows such plunder to be legal?

6. Black and African people are generally terrible at organising themselves

Again most of the people affected know this, but it’s not thought about any deeper than to accept the situation. Which sounds a bit like: ‘I know I’m disorganised, but what can I do about it’
It’s accepted as the way things are, a permanent disposition than cannot be changed. And when you take this to a community, organisational or even personal level it’s even worse.
In the UK, I’ve been deeply disappointed by some of the African businesses I’ve conducted trade with:-
— the Shipping company that said they would come on a Monday to pick up a consignment but turned up three weeks later on a Friday. No phone call, no email, not even a text to say, ‘Look we’re a bit tied up’ or ‘Theres a problem, we are sorry‘;
— then there was the computer repair shop that promised that my laptop would be fixed by a certain date, only for me to find it hadn’t been fixed when I went to collect it on that date. They didn’t care enough to inform me that the work hadn’t been completed, even a text would have sufficed and I wouldn’t have had to drive 3 miles for nothing. How the hell do they expect to grow as a business if they are so disorganised and have virtually no customer service?? This behaviour may be okay to other Malawians, but it’s not acceptable on a professional level.
— Then there is the church which wanted an event for their youth team. Having bent over backwards to request help from a dance collective run by some Brazilians in London, who put in a lot of effort in planning and creation of a schedule for the youth team, I was disappointed when the whole thing was trashed, after we’d put in so much effort to help them. There was no acknowledgement of our efforts, and in the end I had to apologise to my Brazilian friends for the trouble…
And then there is the time keeping, which frankly can be terrible…. Several years ago, one of my closest friends once turned up for work drunk and with a hangover from the previous night only to inform the befuddled and unamused manager that he wouldn’t be able to stay for work??

I can give many other examples, but I won’t.

However, when these habits permeate into other aspects of your life, such behaviour will vex the majority to the point businesses run by African or black people can lose clients/ potential customers.

The consequence of all this is disorder. And with disorderly conduct, you can’t operate successfully at a higher level or deal with people who have a sense of professionalism. And if you can’t operate a successful business, then you can’t have an income that allows you to train and empower your young people for a lifetime. And if you can’t train and empower your young people and create a positive culture of discipline that is patronised and passed down, then your young people have to find jobs elsewhere, working for someone who may neither give  the right transferable skills (that will help them be independent in the long run) nor pay them adequately.

7. Black and people of African origin are among the most undereducated people on Earth

Allow me to give some links to others who have studied this issue better:-

Why the Poor Stay Poor
Unemployed And Undereducated: Study Finds Black Youth Are Disconnected

14,000 British professors – but only 50 are black 

Black students and the class ceiling

My view is that the situation is a lot worse globally.

8. A historically peaceful disposition and accommodating culture of people of African origin has been used against them

While the arabs were fighting wars in crusades against ‘invaders’ and much recently while militants in Afghanistan and Iraq have been fighting against occupiers, using terrorism and brutal killings (none of which I support) as part of their campaign, in comparison with Africa, the African chiefs of the pre-colonial era were either largely fighting against each other, or welcoming and accommodating foreigners. Dancing to them, selling them slaves, carrying them on chairs. In Malawi for example, most people grew up being told we were ‘friendly people’. And in this fashion, people who for hook or crook took away what belonged to us, were tolerated, even celebrated

sedan-chair
source: usslave.blogspot.com

The result was that while Europeans found it hard to get a foothold in the Middle East, and were knocked back again and again, their attempts in Africa were significantly easier.

In Malawi today we have extremely wealthy foreigners living side by side with very poor people. Their wealth has been passed down the years from generation to generation, whereas the majority of Malawians living in Malawi fail to overcome the grip of poverty.

Inequality is a problem that’s not going to go away unless it is squarely addressed with the intention of ending it. I can bet my life on that.

Other links

Global Justice Now

http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/campaigns

Interesting website and community that has worthwhile campaigns worth looking at. I like their call to Activism which goes like this:

‘Global Justice Now is made up of a network of activists and local groups full of people like you who take action in their communities to challenge corporate power and the policies that cause poverty and inequality all over the world.

Whether it’s stopping water privatisation or unfair trade deals, campaigning by our local groups has been central to making sure the interests of ordinary people aren’t trampled by those of corporations.

Global Justice Now groups do creative street campaigning, lobby politicians, get media coverage and organise local events such as film screenings and talks.’

For the avoidance of doubt :

  • There are policies which some governments adopt which cause Poverty and Inequality. Having been born in a third world country, and having moved to Britain, and seen how deprived and disadvantaged people are treated here, having analysed and compared and contrasted… having observed and learned ‘how the world works’ I know this is true.
  • Similarly there are policies that worsen poverty and make escaping the debt trap much harder.
  • There are corporations out there trampling on poor people, and whose chief motive is the generation of as much profit as possible above all else. These are the kind of companies which are happy to have ‘tax arrangements’ in tax heavens hiding hundreds of billions, while the public purse suffers; with the result that poor people, including single parents, the disabled, old people, the unemployed and other disadvantaged groups are subjected to an austerity onslaught that worsens their situations even further. In a week where Britain’s Labour leader has been unfairly criticised by tax-avoiding business moguls, let me get this one point absolutely clear. Most Activists are not in favour of communism, or anarchy or an end to free market capitalism. Thats not what they want. The main contention of most activists is that the current system is not working for the majority, simply because it’s increasing inequality, and has given a license for certain sectors (banking, corporations) to abuse the public trust. With the government acting like a trafficker in the middle, facilitating the abuse. Thus, in my own case, I’d favour RESPONSIBLE CAPITALISM that has humane socialist elements in it. Elements that allow businesses to make money, but that sufficiently protect disadvantaged and poor; that protects the voiceless, and helps them become resourceful. Not the current system which attacks, demonises and victimises innocent people, and which ironically, works so hard to keep them in poverty. In other words why don’t we have a ‘do unto others as you’d like to be done unto’ system.
  • There are certain corporations who in concert with selfish, corrupt and greedy politicians create a toxic combination that leads to death, violence, crime, poverty and much suffering. Again, if in doubt ask any better-informed African.

Global Justice Now must be supported and commended for the hugely important work they are doing.

 

Inequality in graphs and images

Lately, talk of inequality has dominated the media. Everybody is talking about it. Probably because of this year’s Davos Summit, but everyone seems to be keen on reminding us just how economically unbalanced the world is. Just how a few people own huge amounts of wealth, while the rest live on breadcrumbs.

Global Wealth 14Yesterday, it seems Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England entered the fray, when he said:

“Without this risk sharing, the euro area finds itself in an odd position,”

While the context of Mr Carney’s statement may have been different to the subject of this post, and directed more to institutions on a country level, on a personal level, I don’t believe in the RobinHoodesque notion of ‘stealing’ from the rich to give to the poor. I don’t believe that such an approach works because it’s a dangerous idea that is not only open to abuse, but that can backfire. And before you jump on me and criticise my socialist credentials, let me qualify it.

I know inequality is real, and I know its crippling effects on people and communities across the world, especially in poor countries.

My contention is that if people work hard to earn their money, if they pay their taxes and do not accrue wealth using dodgy (or outright illegal means); if they do not use tax havens or other immoral ways of depriving governments of the much-needed lifeblood of corporation tax; if these business magnets are no more than scions bequeathed of inherited blood money (money tarnished with the proceeds of slavery and colonisation), if they have earned their way to the top, why should anybody sensible think it is a good idea to take it away from them?

Why!?

wealth-gap-2I believe in fairness, I believe that corporations must pay their fair share in taxes. That the government must act in the interests of the people, not just working for the interests of corporations. I believe that those who are rich, or who have the means, must do more to help the disadvantaged – whose spending ironically often drives the profits. Doing all these things will likely lead to less inequality, less strife, and better social harmony.

And here’s why:

If you look at recent events, not only comments made at Davos, what you find is that it’s not so much that the money isn’t there. Instead the problem is that the money which is made on the back of extremely liberal national and international tax regimes – is stashed away in enclaves where cash-strapped governments be they in Africa or elsewhere cannot get to it.

As a result the government cannot sufficiently invest in services, cannot create jobs or help those at the bottom of the pyramid improve their lives. This increases inequality, including spurning side effects such as crime and social unrest.

So then, where’s a good place to start, when addressing this problem of inequality?:-

1. Change the laws to ensure that companies pay a fair share in taxes from the revenues they generate.

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Essentially, it also means being firm with tax havens to reveal the sources of blood money or any untaxed funds.

offshore_tax_jurisdictions

2. Crack down on corruption, and stop illicit financial outflows.

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3. Streamline services (a streamlined small government that is cheaper and efficient to run is preferrable to an inefficient large and bloated government that is expensive to run).

4. Stop unnecessary privatisation. But encourage responsible Investment

US_Africa_Summit_Day_1If you privatize everything, from where will the state earn its income??

Everybody knows that employment tax revenues are not a sufficient revenue source. That’s why there are so many governments across the world that have budget deficits, simply because all the tax companies pay plus the tax their employees pay – IS NOT ENOUGH to sustain all the functions of government. From Britain, the US, France, Ireland, Italy and Greece to South Africa, Malawi,  Ethiopia and Mozambique, and many others, budget deficits and debt are commonplace. As a consequence most of these countries fail to adequately invest in healthcare, in poverty alleviation, in education, in job creation for young people, in women’s health and advancement…because there isn’t enough money coming into the government coffers for them to spend on these things.

Simply put, the state has no full-time job and is only employed part-time. So how the hell can it spend, or raise its family properly?

5. Instead of privatisation, countries should enter into joint venture partnerships with businesses, for win-win deals because these will not only provide tax revenues from employment tax, and corporation tax,  but will additionally earn the government dividends (which can be significantly higher than corporation tax and employment tax combined).

CossartDevelopment_webfg2

It also means deals that involve raw materials should principally benefit the people of the country in which the raw material is first (NOTE I’m not using ‘politicians’ or a country’s leaders here. Contracts must benefit the people not a handful of politicians). As I like to put it, when was the last time an African mining company was given a 70% mining/ oil drilling stake in Europe or the Americas?

africas-natural-resource-wealth6. Empower young people by training them to acquire advanced entrepreneurial skills so that they become assets capable of adding real value to communities.

Providing Aid is not good enough, emphasis on ‘Trade not Aid’ (other than Fairtrade or better) is becoming cliché. Further, I think the advantages of possessing a first degree are overstated. In my experience they rarely equip students with entrepreneurial skills.

business-paper-clipWhat is required to begin denting inequality is to train young people to be ‘go-getters’. And that is a different ball game altogether over and above merely providing a quality education.

7. Finally invest in services (hospitals, transport, policing and security, infrastructure, the youth and women, etc) including investing in things like ecofriendly energy. Because if everybody paid their dues, such investment would create jobs. And they’d be enough funds for people to receive living wages.

Dear White South Africans

Dear White South Africans via ntsikimazwai.wordpress.com

The above seems to have solicited a lot of criticsm. Especially on the reddit link below. However, among the many posts reacting to ntsikimazwai, the one which I think takes a more mature line is this one. Which reads:

Dear white South Africans who were born after apartheid & white South Africans born before democracy who did not directly contruct a racist state,

You do not inherit the sins of your fathers and mothers and friends.

Certainly I think you should not.

You are not them. You were not them. And why should you be directly responsible for their moral, legal and political sins?

I’m especially sympathetic to you, 16 year old Kobus Verwoerd who never even met evil Oupa Hendrik who trampled on the dignity of most people in our country based only on their skin colour being different to his.

You cannot be responsible for what Hendrik did. You were but a future foetus then still.

But guys – and ladies – I’m afraid moral and social obligations do not just arise when we did things wrong ourselves.

We also have duties when we benefit wrongly.

Hendrik, the pizza you ate yesterday, bought with the trust fund from Oupa, which Xolani, 6 years old in Langa, will never eat, is a benefit you did not choose but which wrongly came your way BECAUSE OF Oupa Hendrik’s sins.

And yes I know 23 year old unemployed Charlize Vermeulen you don’t have a trust fund. But you don’t get assumed to be dumb when you walk into an interview, unlike Siphokazi. Why? Because white skin signals talent till proven otherwise. Black skin, laziness till proven otherwise. Cool huh?

You must see this stuff. Or choose not to?

And you must see that you have a moral conscience and an ability to reflect on this injustice of benefiting wrongly from someone else’s moral sins.

So in conclusion: you did not sin. I grant you that. Unreservedly.

But you benefit from sin. And you have a duty to make amends.

Please acknowledge this?

Unless and until you do we can’t get on with the next question: How can I make amends as a white person, young or old, for benefiting arbitrarily and so unjustly from the past, still?

Yours in non-EFF rhetoric,

Eusebius McKaiser

Plenty of food for thought, I think.

Anyhow, other similar views on this matter are as follows:

Biko would not vote for Ramphele

….Biko’s prophetic observation from 1972 explains the new South Africa: “This is one country where it would be possible to create a capitalist black society, if whites were intelligent, if the nationalists were intelligent. And that capitalist black society, black middle class, would be very effective … South Africa could succeed in putting across to the world a pretty convincing, integrated picture, with still 70% of the population being underdogs.” …

…Biko’s philosophy, profoundly influenced by radical philosophers such as Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire, was grounded in the necessity for the oppressed to lead and liberate themselves. Thus, not only were the minds of the oppressed a key site of struggle, but true liberation could only happen with the dismantling of the oppressive institutions of colonialism and apartheid….

….And yet, as Biko predicted at the height of apartheid, replacing the managers creates only the illusion of change: “I think there is no running away from the fact that now in South Africa there is such an ill distribution of wealth that any form of political freedom which doesn’t touch on the proper distribution of wealth will be meaningless,” he said. “If we have a mere change of face of those in governing positions, what is likely to happen is that black people will continue to be poor, and you will see a few blacks filtering through into the so-called bourgeoisie. Our society will be run almost as of yesterday.”

Full article at Biko would not vote for Ramphele  via Mail & Guardian

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What Boris Johnson’s ‘Greed’ speech reveals about the rot in Politics

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There are many things which the UK does well on the world stage. Tons! In fact too many raw and commendable achievements to list in one blog post or even to chronicle in a single book, and that is itself a testament to the past leadership, a great people and what a great country Britain has been and still is.

As someone who has been bred within the British system (in almost all good meanings of those words), I have great respect and admiration for the way Britain has done (for itself and the wider humanity), and how Britain continues to do certain things.

However, having said that, there are other things that current British political leaders have not been too good at, and are in fact utterly appalling at.

Before I explore this point further, please allow me to share with you a story that relates not to current political leaders in the UK, but to current political leaders in the US

Last year, I read an article that was commenting over the results of the 2012 US general elections. In October, several months later, the 2013 US government shutdown happened, reminding me about the contents in that article.

In a nutshell, the author of the article opined that  Mitt Romney was not a bad leader. That with a few deliberate but permanent tweaks to his persona, he could make a good president, even a great president. I know that summary in itself sounds somewhat mechanical and dreamy, but I totally agreed with this conclusion, for reasons which you will understand once you’ve finished reading this post.

In the weeks following the US government shutdown (and much recently, the ‘greed’ speech by Boris Johnson) , I found myself viewing these events with similar sentiments. i.e. that if you are someone who has felt the pangs of pain of not having enough, experienced the life of living in a poor family, of struggle, of constantly being sidelined, the want which  ‘the bottom’ 60% maybe 70% experience, in one form or the other, you are more likely than not, to know specifically how to treat or accommodate others (especially those who for whatever reason find themselves in that societal bracket) sensitively and constructively, than if you have lived a relatively comfortable and wealthy life, with little or no deprivation, pain or material want. It sounds apologetic or a bit like a get out of jail card justifying exploitation, but it isn’t.

The issue of how the ruling classes treat the masses is a lot more serious than how some people like to portray it. It transcends even the Marxist theory of inequality and poverty and many other attempts to capture its gravity. And here, we can also reference to the credit crunch, the riotous issue of healthcare insurance in the US, and repossession of personal property. To some people, these are merely transactional issues with little or no personal implications or emotion attached to them. To these lucky few, they still have a roof over their heads – one they own; they have enough food, money; investments, savings, affluent friends and family, they can still afford one or more holidays a year, they can still afford 2 bottles of fine wine a week, the golf club membership is intact, the steaks and gourmet dinners with acquaintances, business partners, or with family; the trips to the movies, they can still attend concerts and the Broadway featured shows, etc …. very little, if at all anything has changed in their lives. Which is totally fine. Whatever works for you.

But to others, those who have actually been affected, lack of health insurance, a repossessed home, or a rise in energy bills is a much more personal and grave issue that will materially and negatively affect them, often for a very long time. A repossession/ foreclosure means losing their home, not having security, their poor credit rating just worsened (making it harder for them to obtain credit in future – exacerbating an already bad situation), it means there is less money for a decent diet – which could affect their health; the impact on their mental health, and on their children (part of it being psychological), the societal stigma, the personal shame, the resulting hardship, etc…is all immensely difficult to deal with. Often depression follows.

Sadly, you never truly know how difficult such situations are, until you experience them yourself.

Yet, isn’t it incredible how the suffering of others somehow solicits critiques from folk who have never gone through it themselves. Barking senseless orders to those affected :

Oh they shouldnt have got a mortgage in the first place (what about those who were issuing the mortgages, don’t they get any blame) ; Shit happens ; It’s the system;  You can’t keep everyone happy;  Not everyone can live comfortably or achieve success in life; Inequality is necessary for competition

Which brings me to Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. In his speech recently he was quoted to have said that greed was a necessary motivator. That inequality was essential to fostering “the spirit of envy“, hailing greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity“.

Now, I think I’ve got a bit of an idea what he may have been trying to say, but I don’t believe his selection of words is particularly helpful in a country that has one of the widest gap between rich and poor in the western world, and whose recent policies have been criticised by even some of its greatest living champions.

Depending on who you choose to listen to (see other accounts here and here), his speech was either brilliant or hopelessly misleading. In my view it represents exactly the type of rotten politician who has been responsible for societal disharmony and global unrest over the last few years. The comments are similar to the contemptible and greed driven  line-up-for-oil-contracts-now-that-Gaddafi-has-died comments made by a UK defence minister after Gaddafi’s death. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t exactly like Gaddafi.

But let’s think a moment about Boris’s comments. Weren’t the same “hedge fund kings” he idolizes part of the devilish and unholy alliance of risk prone bankers, unhinged speculators and others greedy sorts who were largely responsible for the global financial crisis that recently destroyed the global economy? A crisis which in the end, after all the bonuses had been paid – and the rich had gotten richer, had to fall back on state-owned banks, financed by the same poor tax payer (here, the US term ‘tax dollars‘ is particularly appropriate ) virtually being shitted on by this speech, to bail them out?

Never mind his ignorant remarks on IQ (a rebuttal of which deserves its own blog post), how can in this day and age a self-respecting politician stand up, and publicly say that it is futile to attempt to end inequality? Where on earth is this man living? Does he even have a functioning ethical compass? No wonder many young people think politicians are out of touch with reality.

Can one preach at home inequality of races and nations and advocate abroad good-will towards all men?
– Dorothy Thompson 

[Here think about David Cameron’s agenda in his recent Sri Lanka visit]

My attitude to peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace – it really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Even the Great Nelson Mandela had some wise and thoughtful words of advice on poverty (which is an effect of inequality) via this quote:

BrK0ijM

I don’t have anything personal against Boris Johnson. In fact before he made that speech, I kind of liked him… but after such thoughless statements (which in my view go beyond all the silly but harmless things he’s said in the past), I’m surprised how he can be so insensitive??

But how is Boris Johnson’s speech related to Mitt Romney? Well, Mitt happens to be the fellow who said:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”  [leaked comments from a fundraiser in May 2012]

a statement which he later regretted, and which solely probably costed him the US presidency. [More Mitt quotes here]

My point with all this?

Shouldn’t Politics be about representing the people, both rich and poor; Leadership – whether in Africa, America,  Europe or elsewhere, should be about creating a functional, healthier, safer, happier, more productive society? How better to do that than by leading by example?

In my view, today’s leaders cannot help the poor or indeed know how severe the situations of low-income earners (or those suffering with sickness, that are unemployed, in debt, etc, ) can be, when they are cushioned from that horrible world by a media obsessed with sanitizing news. Unless they make a serious attempt to experience the common man’s life, they’ll remain blind – and we’ll continue to hear more such stupid comments.

It is vain, immature and wantonly elitist to go around advocating inequality and greed when you have never experienced its less than admirable effects firsthand.

Very few people choose to be poor, so how valid are divisive comments on greed when you don’t know how the victims of inequality live, how they deal with the daily problems they face (the solutions of which you smart-arsly cobble together in your speeches – with no first hand experience) or even how they became affected in the first place?

Boris Johnson’s claim to hardship probably extends no further than the couple of times his wife kicked him out their marital home, after repeatedly cheating on her. That clearly is not hardship.

Which brings me to my next point.

Don’t you think there is a higher probability that society could be more cohesive, stronger across the board, people more responsible towards each other, harmonious and more likely to successfully combat the problems of the day if high income groups were genuinely sensitive to the needs and circumstances of low-income groups, and low-income groups were sensitive to the needs and circumstances of high income groups?

I know it sounds a bit fanciful and rather idealistic, but allow me please to give you an example.

I watch Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss, both of which I think are fantastic shows. Sometimes they bring tears to my eyes as I watch hardworking folk struggle with the challenges of life, getting by on very little, a life that I’m accustomed to and know just too well.

And then the millionaire or ‘boss’ steps onto the scene, in disguise, and after making observations over a few weeks, has their outlook transformed as to how others in a different world to themselves live and work. After this ‘eye opener’ the millionaires reveal their identities, and donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to some causes, or in the case of Undercover Boss, donates tens of thousands of dollars to their employees, paying for their medical bills, childcare, education, long overdue holidays, etc., sometimes transforming the employees life beyond their wildest dreams.

I know there are people out there who hand on heart don’t want to mix with those from less fortunate backgrounds, or those from a different religious persuasion, or those who they have been made to believe embody certain negative stereotypes, but how can society be harmonious or progress if people across the board are inflexible to understanding what causes inequality, poverty, hardship, but are only too willing to complacently make preachy damaging statements, from within their comfort zones?

Like Mandela, Gandhi to me represents the near-ideal leader all leaders should aspire or measure themselves against; how he had few possessions and believed in the notion that what you did for others was more honourable and worthy than what you did for yourself is. Or Thomas Sankara, the military leader of Burkina Faso, who being selfless and incorruptible, triumphed women’s causes.

A good leader thinks thus: We’ve created more jobs, even though we are in a recession and have implemented cuts that will affect mostly the poorest, I’ll take a holiday or two abroad this year because my family and I need it, we need a break.

A great leader refuses to take a holiday abroad because there are thousands of citizens who, although hardworking, are failing to get a job and certainly can’t afford a holiday, not even in their own country.

The difference couldn’t be clearer.

In the article I refer to above, the writer opined that Mitt was not a bad person in a Newt-Gingrich (or  Michael Howard )-creepy kind of way. To the contrary, he thought Mitt was quite a likeable person whom you’d probably have a fun night out with. What struck me most was the form the writer said the refining of a statesman would take:-

‘Picture this, say post Bain Capital , family man Mitt left his family, took time out to hit the road.

Spent at least 2 years without the safety net of his wealth (estimated to be $250 million), nor access to the political or business connections. If Mitt effectively took a sabbatical from it all; living rough, or say in $50 a night motels (with a daily budget not exceeding  say $75 a day) studying the political landscape, working with people on the ground, in homeless shelters, interacting with people in soup kitchens, with those who have faced foreclosures, hearing their side of the story, amongst black and latino voters, job seekers, support groups of alcohol and drugs abuse, among illegal immigrants and those without healthcare, keeping a journal, taking photos…across both Democrat and Republican strongholds, through the Swing States, with a backpack… don’t tell me that after such a 2 year-long odyssey, Mitt would be the same person he now is?

True, he’d most likely meet with frowns, and possibly lose artificial friends, colleagues, partners, donors, etc. In the absence of proper communication (and feasible marriage arrangements) his family could be hostile towards him, or even abandon him,  but a real conviction and desire to serve would prompt him to press on.

It is more likely than not that after having seen how a sizeable chunk of  Americans in a different ‘world’ than that in which he’s accustomed to lives,  that he would emerge a changed man,  full of firsthand insights and clear understanding of life in the slow lane, and without the superficial and aloof manner that probably alienated some of the potential voters away from him. Minimally, it would win him deserved commendation, from both rich and poor, that at least he’s experienced a little of what the local man goes through, even if its only for two years, and would immediately dispel any elitist labels. If I were an American, I would seriously consider voting for such a Mitt Romney.’

I can’t argue with that.

DSC_0015

Today we are still talking about Gandhi, 65 years after his death, with the United Nations General Assembly declaring in 2007 that Gandhi’s birthday 2 October will be the International Day of Nonviolence.  2nd October is also a national holiday in India in Gandhis honour.

When it comes to Mandela, we will continue to idolize him for a very long time indeed, and have idolized Abraham Lincoln, another great leader, for over 181 years! [see these Lincoln statues – in the US alone]. There’s even a Lincoln square in Manchester (UK) city centre with a statue of Lincoln.

I can’t help but wonder in what sense, and for how long, humanity will remember the current breed of politicians, many of whom appear to be doing more harm than good to society.

But I’m certain of one thing: unless some kind of miracle occurs, very few of them will be recognised or honoured in the same way that the world has honoured the likes of Lincoln, Gandhi or Mandela. And that alone is an indictment against their leadership.

Obama’s Tribute To Nelson Mandela

Obama paying tribute to Mandela, mentions Ubuntu, Empathy and self reflection…

How well have I applied his lessons in my own life

“We too must act …”

“Too many of us in the sidelines, comfortable in complacency …” he says

obama

The full speech via Whitehouse.gov

To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests – it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other.  To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe – Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement – a movement that at its start held little prospect of success.  Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would – like Lincoln – hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.

Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection – because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend.  That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith.  He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

But like other early giants of the ANC – the Sisulus and Tambos – Madiba disciplined his anger; and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,” he said at his 1964 trial.  “I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”  But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa- Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.  We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailors as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS – that revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.  It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask:  how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?

It is a question I ask myself – as a man and as a President.  We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation.  As was true here, it took the sacrifice of countless people – known and unknown – to see the dawn of a new day.  Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle.  But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done.  The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.  For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future.  Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.

We, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today – how to promote equality and justice; to uphold freedom and human rights; to end conflict and sectarian war – do not have easy answers.  But there were no easy answers in front of that child in Qunu.  Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.  South Africa shows us that is true.  South Africa shows us we can change.  We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.  We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own.  Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land.  It stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.  He speaks to what is best inside us.  After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength – for his largeness of spirit – somewhere inside ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach – think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

What a great soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.

Via Guardian, full text of speech here.

Via Mail & Guardian here