Noam Chomsky: America is the gravest danger to world peace

Iranian grandfather and his grandson
Iranian grandfather and his grandson

This article titled Noam Chomsky: America is the gravest danger to world peace from Salon is beautifully written and I can’t help but comment.
I think in a world where western countries have in the past used their economic advantage to suppress dissent or force countries which do not agree with them into line, or to punish countries which disagree with them (e.g. Cuba, Zimbabwe), such carefully articulated views must be more widely disseminated in so far as showing who is in the wrong and being unfair.
In my view, it can never be right or fair for some countries to be at mercy of other countries which have an economic oligarchy / monopoly … and greater military power. The average Iranian has never done anything wrong to any American, so why should they suffer as a result of economic sanctions on Iran for the decisions of their leaders? And why should they suffer at all – just because their country’s leaders fundamentally disagree with the Americans?

In the past Americans through doctrines such as Manifest Destiny have pursued imperialist ambitions culminating with their defeat in Vietnam. And when the Shah of Iran, the puppet leader the American leadership installed in Iran was ousted, and the Islamic Revolution took off, it seems some have harboured this unreasonable anger against Iran since then. In my view it is no more than a hegemonic attempt to control other people, to exploit their resources, and suppress dissent that is driving America into conflict, and you don’t need to refer to the hacking of communications of world leaders by the NSA to see this kind of poisonous mindset.

The opposition to this nuclear deal is frankly disgusting, and for me it shows a number of things about some American leaders including:-

  • there are too many warmongering American leaders who still believe it is up to them to police the world, and tell others how they should live their live.
  • the United States is partial and dishonest about nuclear power, as it is about carbon emissions ( do as I say, not as I do)
  • If you are willing to indiscriminately bomb iran, its children, its women, what does that say of how you see the Iranian people? ……………………   Would those same leaders be happy if some country bombed New York or San Francisco?….. It’s people, its women, its children causing deaths of hundreds of thousands of people?…………… Of course not….. So why then is it acceptable or somehow even a consideration for the American airforce to bomb the people of Iran, just as they’ve done in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – causing untold devastation and suffering, causing deaths of over a million people and leading to the rise of ISIL? Why is it acceptable to bomb a middle eastern country but not acceptable to drop bombs on the people of California? The answer to that question is this: because those hawks and others who think like them, advocating military action or heavy economic sanctions against foreign countries, are racists who do not view Iranians as people in the same way that they view American people; they don’t see Iranians as people deserving peace, happiness, prosperity and security. They see them via a patriarchal lens that categorises people based on their skin colour, where they were born and what they believe in …..
  • If it was possible for some of the leadership to have normal family relations with people of Iranian / Iraqi heritage, say grandparents of a spouse in Iran, or had married Iranian women/ men, and got to visit Iran, and see the ordinary lives of the Iranian people; people who just wanted to be part of the global village, to send their kids to school, to be able to afford groceries, to be able to afford nice holidays, to have safety and security, I think some of them would realise the flaws in their thinking, and begin to see things differently. But as things stand, it’s stunning just how offensive some of the rhetoric is – which I think points to being closed minded.

Such type of divisive conduct is what made dictatorships such as Nazi Germany, and such type of thinking is what was responsible for everything from the holocaust to Colonialism and Slavery; that certain people have more value than others; that certain people deserve to be treated better than others; that certain people should be subservient to others.

I totally reject such type of thinking.

All people are equal and valuable under the sun, before God, irrespective to where they live, their skin colour, their nationality, their sexual orientation, gender or age, irrespective of where they were born, or how much money is in their bank accounts.

You may not agree with the Iranians or the Afghan people or Iraqis over one policy issue or another, but that doesn’t authorise you to bomb their country and bring death and devastation to their lands… what happened to your Christian values – if you claim to have values? Would Jesus Christ – the same Biblical character who courted the poor – authorise the bombing of Iran? Bombing another sovereign country unprovoked, and for no sensible reason only shows you to be a coward akin to a school playground bully. If he can’t get what he wants he fights.

But even if you were not Christian/religious, what about simple and old-fashioned humanity and decency? What about propriety?

I don’t believe Iran is capable of bombing Israel, if anything they are more troubled about the plight of Palestinians, as is every true muslim. Let’s be honest, Palestinians are in a much worse situation than that which black people of Apartheid South Africa ever were, and if I were a muslim I too would be more concerned than I already am.

So this ridiculous fallacy that Iran is a threat to world peace must be put to bed sooner than later, and Chomsky does a good job at this. Over the course of my life in the UK, I’ve known a few Iranians, and they tell me their country cannot attack Israel or some other country because the military wouldn’t have the support of the people. Army officers would simply refuse to effect any such nonsensical order. The establishment may have gotten away with rigging elections during Ahmadinejad’s tenure, but they would never get away with such an atrocity. The rhetoric of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president, was largely because being a volunteer to the Revolutionary Guards – he may have felt obliged to appease his fellow hardliners, the same camp he may have had to return to after serving as president. So, far from his talk being threats, it was just theatrics.

Also how would the world react against Iran if they indeed fired even a single missile into Israel? The Iranian leadership is not stupid not to know that such would be the end of the Islamic Revolution. It’s a disingenuous western lie by an unholy alliance of the right-wing media and dodgy alarmist politicians who are drumming up the hatred against Iran, for some other motive – my guess a financial motive. The same kind of lies that claimed Weapons of Mass Destruction existed in Iraq.

After all the ills of the last 200 or so years, each country should decide what they want to do, and how they want to do things, it should not be up to Europeans or Americans or anyone else! to dictate to the rest of the world how they should live their lives or how they should generate their energy or what kind of policies those countries should adopt. After everything the Americans and Europeans have done in the past, which history can testify to, it sure is high time to get off the high horse.

Racism and Bigotry is encouraged from the top, but the real enemy is Global Inequality

The other day – about two weeks ago, the British Prime minister referred to the migrants at Calais trying to cross into the UK as ‘swarming..’ It was an insensitive term and many people rightly took offence. On twitter, many condemned such a wording as dehumanizing.

A few days ago, Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary joined Mr Cameron, speaking of ‘marauding migrants‘ threatening the standard of life of British nationals in the UK. Again, Like Cameron, you have to wonder on which planet these people live on. Amnesty International called the language shameful. The Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael had this to say:

“The Tories’ language is becoming increasingly hostile and unsavoury. In reality, they are too scared to deal with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Calais.

“Britain can’t escape the problem just by sounding ‘tough’, it needs to take a lead.

“It’s time we proved our worth on the world stage, signed up to the EU asylum policy and accept our share of vulnerable refugees, rather than expect other countries to do it for us.”

I think it is insensitive to describe other human beings in such animate and dehumanizing terms, and just goes to show how out of touch politicians really are. It also shows that humans from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are not valued in the same way British or European people are.

It’s a fallacy to see British leaders going around the world preaching democracy and peace, when right on their doorsteps, they are treating foreigners like crap. You can’t make that up, and you’d hope the world is watching.

Asylum Aid criticised the Foreign Secretary’s words as

“inaccurate and inflammatory statements”,

I agree, they present a skewed picture that divorces nuance for the situation. I’m waiting for the day a sensible British politician will rise up who will say to the people of the world that the actions of British leaders in the past have caused immense human pain, and damaged other lands far away from British shores. And some of that damage is still being felt today. I may not be alive when that happens, but I hope one day someone will be honest and brave enough call a spade a spade.

Knowing what I know about British History (both what you are taught in school, and what you find out for yourself), and having experienced first hand the institutional racism in the UK, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that in some sections of the UK population non-white people are treated differently to white people. There is extreme hostility against foreigners, which is not entirely surprising since the media fans hatred all the times. But it’s kind of strange seeing migrants contribute so much to the UK (not only via the NHS, but in the taxes they pay).

The government’s attitude towards immigration is so frustrating precisely because it is so wrong-headed. There is endless proof that the long-term benefit of migrants and asylum seekers are manifold – Ugandan refugees, for instance, have created approximately 30,000 jobs in the Leicester since 1972. Last year the Treasury’s independent advisers said that immigration is beneficial to the economy as new arrivals are most likely to be of working age – and even the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, Robert Chote, stated that growing immigration to the UK “does tend to produce a more beneficial picture” for the economy. Read more here

So then why would a leader or a minister speak so negatively about migrants? Cameron and Hammond are hardly Nigel Farage, they can’t possibly be that ignorant not to see the repurcussions of their statements.

Isn’t such talk exactly the kind of talk which sows the seeds of racism, hatred and bigotry in society? Are these the kind of behaviours these leaders want to encourage in Britain? I think not, my guess is there is an agenda – some political capital is to be carved from all this.

To me this is how it looks: they are saying migrants, whose ancestors, Europeans took advantage of, looted their lands of every natural resource, enslaved their peoples, raped their women, made wars against them, divided up their lands along nothing but profit-driven motives, and generally reduced to poverty entire peoples – as they did in India and China; and whose descendants – the migrants – are now trying to find a way of escaping hardship, poverty, discrimination and violence in their own lands,  are not worthy of peace, of security, of assistance – seeing their past troubles, of prosperity. Essentially that they are subhuman, thats what the actions say.

https://soundcloud.com/rttv/calais-ryan

The Greatest Cover-Up in History ? How Imperial Britain’s Racist India, Africa & China Narrative ‎Still Persists

Actions speak louder than words, and what we are seeing here is an entitlement mentality. That it’s okay for historical European abuse of non-European peoples to be swept under the carpet; that the bombing of Libya, Iraq and support for Syrian rebels is irrelevant to the migrant crisis and must be brushed over, that if you plunder resources of other countries, and create economic and political instability…  its okay because if s**t happens, you can always close the borders. It’s the sort of things these people on this poster would say

criminals

During Nazi Germany’s reign, Hitler’s honchos put out propaganda which was later enacted upon to make life difficult for foreigners in Germany, in particular for Jews. What followed was a human atrocity that culminated in the holocaust, but which the Nazi machinery justified with all sorts of abominable stories. But there was a sinister motive behind the hostile rhetoric, and the Nazis made a lot of money out of it.

There’s always a sinister motive behind hostile rhetoric.

Today, the migrants at Calais are not being threatened by gas chambers or execution, but the language directed towards them – by politicians, not least the likes of the Daily Mail – is no better than that which was used by the Nazi machinery. Still, most of these migrants have no access to land or capital in the countries they flee; a polar opposite to Western corporations operating in Eritrea, Ethiopia, the various West African Countries, Syria and Iraq  – who have access to land and capital in those same countries.

The migrants have no security, and indeed may be at the mercy of criminal gangs and trafficking networks – something which expats in the aforementioned countries do not have to fear. The expats can get on with their easy and comfortable lives seamlessly, while the nationals of those countries – and their migrant brothers and sisters drowning in the mediterranean – struggle with day to day living, and can’t afford an existence, never mind a luxurious lifestyle.

Why do we keep on blaming the poor migrants whose poverty the West is partly responsible for? Countries where corruption, tax-evasion, profit-shifting and white-collar crime are responsible for the loss of over US$1tn in illicit financial outflows

ChristianAidDeath & Taxes – the true toll of tax-dodging

That is the real problem driving migrants to Europe – Inequality. Because if you have security, a good job, great educational and financial prospects and a social life – in your own country, why would you want to leave and risk your life for a pie in the sky?

British Red Cross managing director Norman McKinley recently said about the cuts to the money asylum seekers receive in the UK:

“These cruel cuts will plunge families into further poverty, making it agonisingly tough for parents to feed their children, and practically impossible to buy clothes and other essential items.”

What he forgot to mention is that many foreigners support family members back home. I know people who send as little as £20 every other month to a relative in Africa for one thing or another; to help someone pay for school, or for food, or to settle some bill. It’s not much, but it does the job, and helps people at the other end.

So then, if a government introduces policies that have the effect of creating economic hardship for an already deprived community/ section of the population, how will they be able to help their relatives abroad – who are in worse financial circumstances? It doesn’t make sense and if anything it’s counterproductive…

One final thing I should say is this. How many Swiss ‘migrants’ do you bump into everyday? Or how many ‘Norwegians’ or ‘Mauritians’ do you know or do you bump into on a regular basis?

Switzerland, Mauritius and Norway are rich countries, and their nationals live in their own countries because the countries have the capacity to create jobs and distribute wealth fairly amongst their people. When you look at Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and most countries in West Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, the story is rather different.

Further, European and American corporations are not paying bribes (in exchange for lax tax arrangements) in Norway or in Switzerland, or are they? At least you rarely hear of such corruption, unlike in the countries from whence migrants come.

If Western businessmen continue to fleece the countries from whom migrants originate,of valuable resources, how can European leaders realistically expect migrants to stay in their own countries? When the funds the country is losing is exactly the kind of money that would create jobs and an economy that can support that country’s citizens… Let’s be honest here… it’s not going to happen, and some of this rhetoric is a smokescreen to the real problems.

Mr Cameron, and Mr Hammond, if you are really serious about reducing immigration, begin by pushing for real global economic equality, at national level, within the EU, within Commonwealth, at UN level and beyond. That in my view has got a much higher chance of curbing migration to Europe than anything else.

Bad & Deceitful Counsel: Malawi’s unutilised advisers

YouthDevelopment2

There’s an old Ghanaian proverb that says When a King has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.

This proverb essentially means a leader is defined by the circumstances and people around him. If a King is surrounded by good and honest people, wise men and women of good repute, truly knowledgeable and full of wisdom and grace, it is highly likely that they will provide sound advice to him; it is also highly likely that they will foresee potentially troublesome situations well in advance.

The result will be that the King will make good decisions, and fewer mistakes; the advisers will shine a torch for him, to see where the potholes are, all of which will benefit the people of the land he rules.

On the other hand, if a King’s advisers are unwise, evil or plain bad, if they are more interested in accumulating wives, wealth and personal possessions, and power, their advice is unlikely to be sound or helpful. They are more likely to give that King the wrong kind of advice, and if he listens or implements such bad advice, it is likely that his reign will be disastrous. Indeed many mistakes will be made, and the people of the land will be the ones who will suffer most.

The assumption implicit in these scenarios are that the King does listen to his advisers, since it is possible to have a wise King who happens to have a few bad advisers amongst the majority good ones, but who is strong enough (mentally) to filter out the bad advice he receives, selecting only that which is progressive and helpful for the realm, leaving out the crap.

There are too many examples of sayings or scenarios similar to this proverb throughout history, although a few are worth a mention.

In Genesis chapter 26 verse 26, we are told that Abimelech, the Philistine King went to Beersheba to see Isaac from Gerar with his adviser Ahuzzath and Phicol the commander of his army. This is one of the earliest mention of the presence of an adviser in the Bible and some scholars say Ahuzzath may have been a  ‘friend’ or ‘minister’ to Abimelech. But whichever way, if you read the story in full, you will see that throughout the period Abimelech lived at peace with Abraham’s son, save for a few minor scuffles between their herdsmen. It’s quite possible that this peaceful co-existence was largely due to the advice the Philistine leader received from his advisers. Indeed many stories in the old testament testify of the eventual downfall of Kings primarily because they listened to the wrong type of advice, ignored the right kind of advice, or sought no advice at all.

For those who disbelieve the Bible, dismissing it as a collection of fairly tales, maybe the influence of Piers Gaveston on Edward II of England will convince you. He was an adviser to Edward II and according to one account here

 Piers Gaveston was a knight’s son who had been Edward’s friend since boyhood. When Edward, still a prince, feuded with important officials in his father’s court, Gaveston was seen as the cause, and was sent to exile. Summoning him home was Edward II’s first royal act. Gaveston was made Earl of Cornwall, but his political fights with the existing nobility would define the rest of his life, which didn’t last long. The nobility, without whose money and prestige and feudal armies Edward could not run the country, forced Gaveston into exile twice more in the next five years. He was never openly attacked for his sexuality, but instead was hated because he gave advice to the king that was no good, and the king should be taking the real nobility’s advice, anyway. In 1311 a committee of aristocrats and bishops imposed a series of Ordinances on the king, which declared that “through bad and deceitful counsel, our lord the king and all his men have everywhere been dishonoured.”

Bad and deceitful counsel. It’s one of many stories but it always ends pretty much the same way.

Although it doesn’t mean that even wise counsellors don’t get it wrong sometimes. In Daniel chapter 2 verse 24, we have Daniel pleading with  the executioner Arioch, who King Nebuchadnezzar had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon (after they failed to interpret his dream) “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

More recently, during President Ronald Reagan’s administration, despite a somewhat positive and respectable legacy, the US government was involved in so many controversies many of which were the result of bad counsel perpetrated by more than just a few dodgy advisers. Reagan’s White House aide Michael Deaver and national security adviser Robert McFarlane were convicted of various offenses. MacFarlane pleaded guilty in 1988 to four misdemeanors of withholding information from Congress and was sentenced, but later pardoned by George H.W. Bush. Deaver was convicted of perjury for congressional testimony he submitted to a congressional subcommittee and federal grand jury investigating his lobbying activities with administration officials. Then there was Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who was indicted but later also pardoned by Bush? The question is why didn’t Reagan refuse to authorise all these botched schemes?

At this point let us consider the well-known English idiom Birds of the same feather, flock together, and ask the question under what circumstances will a sensible leader allow people who are unlike him to influence him in some material way in terms of making decisions that have particularly far-reaching implications? After all what do crows (akhwangwala) know about hawks? Isn’t one bird a cowardly scavenger ever pursuing after leftovers, whereas the other is a bird of prey that is not only an able hunter, but belongs to the same group from which the King of the birds come. Shouldn’t there be an exercise of judgement?

But what has all this got to do with Malawi?

Well, these days as I talk to Malawians from all over the world, and read what other progressives are writing about in terms of development and the general climate on the ground in Malawi, I’m left surprised by the sheer number of good ideas they have. From the writing by one Malawian originally from Salima,  to those of another (who is not from Salima, but is nevertheless inspiring), I feel these kinds of ideas should be listened to? In any case, just because someone opposed a certain thing doesn’t mean that what they are advocating is not valid.

On this blog, I’ve purposely chosen to echo some of such views not because I’m sunk in an illusory world of familiar opinion. Instead, I believe that in the right hands, with the right leadership and mechanisms of oversight, with driven effectors, those same ideas these people advocate can help transform our country positively.

I mean take a look at the recent news headlines coming out of Malawi, can you see anything that you can point that has a chance of transforming a country with 14 million people? The Banning of Satchets? Breaking up Escom? Tobacco Sales (the country’s largest source of export revenue) in Lilongwe Suspended again

The news that populates the airwaves is not that of innovative ways of helping young people, or of increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a result of a clean and conducive investment climate. Something which Paul Kagame in Rwanda has strived and just about achieved. No, the news on Malawi news channels is filled with accounts of dubious court cases (some on prosecution of embezzled funds by government officials, and another – a recent one –  in which it is alleged the president is suing a well-known UK-based activist); you hear of a presidential aide who is said to have bought a PhD from some serial con-artist – brilliantly seared here by one Pasteni Mauka (himself said to be a DPP insider in concert with other disgruntled DPP insiders, now turned against the clique running the show at Capital Hill);

As if this is not enough, then you read of charities pitying Malawians and sending them token gestures. And celebrities – all of which also serves to remind us all just how terrible the country’s situation is. Every single day I get about 3 different stories in my inbox, on various charitable efforts happening in Malawi. That’s over a thousand a year! What concrete progress has those efforts achieved all these years, especially in terms of sustainability and ensuring that the recipients stand on their own feet?

Here please allow me to digress: when was the last time you heard that some famous star had gone to Mauritius or to Malaysia to give alms? When did a wife of a billionaire wear a sari, mingling with the women who live in the slums of Mumbai? There are poor people in these countries – just as there are poor people in America, and in England. But such places are not ‘headline grabbing’. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but the fact is you rarely hear of such charitable visits…Instead it’s always a poor African country at the receiving end of do-gooders (most of whom I doub’t know these facts). Most recently it’s increasingly becoming fashionable to go do something charitable in Malawi. Malawi is fast becoming the Oxfam of the continent, if it hasn’t already done so.

It seems it’s easier to give Malawians fish, instead of a fishing rod. Because if you give them a fishing rod, you probably won’t be able to go back in 2 years time and pose for carricatured photos demonstrating your charitable kindness. Photos which you can then put up on Instagram and twitter for all the world to marvel at your fantastic heart.

Then there’s the regionalistic hatred (‘Ntumbuka’ uyu, ‘Mbwenu Mbwenu’…azipita kwawo) spewed shamelessly on the comments of these news sources I refer to … which frankly speaking shouldn’t be authorised on any news site; there are stories of police beating up innocent people – over some lame vendetta. And oh, I almost forgot – a presidential press secretary who writes a memo encouraging government ministries to advertise on a radio station with links to the presidency. And then accuses the radio station of forgery???

And in most of these things one must wonder where Peter Mutharika or his advisers are. Fine, you can’t expect a leader to hold everyone to a leash, but there has to be some ground rules, some responsibility, some direction. And when people screw up at government level -be they advisers or otherwise, they need to face the music. That’s the only way to restore public trust in politics.

So then, next time you meet a King or a leader, remember When a King has good counsellors, his reign is peaceful.

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.

Bad-mouthing a country

monkeys-47226_640The other week President Peter Mutharika of Malawi said that Malawians should not bad-mouth Malawi. That people shouldn’t say negative things about the country.

Although I see his point, in that he would like a more positive message about Malawi to be visible, especially to foreigners, I was left wondering, how can one not comment on the things that are going wrong in the country when very little seems to be done to prevent against them; when those in power come across as either not caring, or are preoccupied with self-enrichment to take serious note of the needs of the populace.

For example, not too long ago, I read an article on Malawi 24 that said students at teacher training colleges were going hungry after the government stopped giving them allowances in April. The problem the article said was centred at Machinga Teacher’s training college where student’s had not been paid their allowances and did not have money to buy food. Yesterday another news report came out saying about 2.8 million people were at risk of starvation in Malawi. It quoted an assessment of the damage caused by the recent floods, by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (which only last year also warned of food shortages).

But as far as hunger goes, there is more bad news. At the beginning of the month, the Malawi Congress Party refused an invitation to a state banquet commemorating Malawi’s 51 years of independence on moral grounds, saying why would you want to celebrate when the majority of Malawians were starving.

“Even ambulances are not operating, how can we be dinning and wining at the state House, this is setting priorities upside down” said Dr Jessie Kabwila, MCP’s publicity secretary.

They questioned why instead of spending K300 million (£427,870.00) on the banquet, the money couldn’t be used on a necessary expenditure such as on paying civil servant salaries – which had been delayed.

On one level I understand why when commemorating an occasion in which dignitaries and a president of another country  have been invited, it would be rude to send them back without some kind of a banquet. On another level though, desperate situations require wise measures. Spending on food and strong drink when salaries have not been paid is irresponsible.

Maybe they could have asked donors to chip in? But again, why can’t they ask donors to chip in to pay civil servants? And much more importantly, where is the ‘independence’ if you have to run to donors for every piece of expenditure?

But I digress, the reason people complain about what is happening in Malawi is not that they like complaining, or that they are anti-DPP. There may be some people who are just disgruntled moaners, but I think they are in the minority.

One of the most common reason why people complain about the situation in Malawi is because there appears to be way too many thoughtless decisions (which adversely affect Malawians) at the heart of government, and not enough thoughtful decisions to help the people on the ground. And frankly this trend has been the same with all previous multi-party governments since 1994. In my view, the only administration which tried harder (or appeared to be trying harder) than the rest to manage Malawi properly was Bingu Mutharika’s first government. That’s not to say that it didn’t have its ills. It did , and we can argue about that till the Chickens come home to roost. But the point is Bingu tried.

Which reminds me of my post last year here, titled 7 Essential Ingredients of Effective Political Leadership which many African Leaders lack.

When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren’t Called ‘Hitler’

image from Mad Monarchist http://madmonarchist.blogspot.co.uk
Image from Mad Monarchist

Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is?

Most people haven’t heard of him.

But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in your stomach as when you read about Mussolini or Hitler or see one of their pictures. You see, he killed over 10 million people in the Congo.

His name is King Leopold II of Belgium.

He “owned” the Congo during his reign as the constitutional monarch of Belgium. After several failed colonial attempts in Asia and Africa, he settled on the Congo. He “bought” it and enslaved its people, turning the entire country into his own personal slave plantation. He disguised his business transactions as “philanthropic” and “scientific” efforts under the banner of the International African Society. He used their enslaved labor to extract Congolese resources and services. His reign was enforced through work camps, body mutilations, executions, torture, and his private army.

Most of us – I don’t yet know an approximate percentage but I fear its extremely high – aren’t taught about him in school. We don’t hear about him in the media. He’s not part of the widely repeated narrative of oppression (which includes things like the Holocaust during World War II). He’s part of a long history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery and genocide in Africa that would clash with the social construction of the white supremacist narrative in our schools. It doesn’t fit neatly into a capitalist curriculum. Making overtly racist remarks is (sometimes) frowned upon in polite society, but it’s quite fine not to talk about genocides in Africa perpetrated by European capitalist monarchs.

Mark Twain wrote a satire about Leopold called “King Leopold’s soliloquy; a defense of his Congo rule“, where he mocked the King’s defense of his reign of terror, largely through Leopold’s own words. It’s 49 pages long. Mark Twain is a popular author for American public schools. But like most political authors, we will often read some of their least political writings or read them without learning why the author wrote them (Orwell’s Animal Farm for example serves to re-inforce American anti-Socialist propaganda, but Orwell was an anti-capitalist revolutionary of a different kind – this is never pointed out). We can read about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but King Leopold’s Soliloquy isn’t on the reading list. This isn’t by accident. Reading lists are created by boards of education in order to prepare students to follow orders and endure boredom well. From the point of view of the Education Department, Africans have no history.

When we learn about Africa, we learn about a caricaturized Egypt, about the HIV epidemic (but never its causes), about the surface level effects of the slave trade, and maybe about South African Apartheid (which of course now is long, long over). We also see lots of pictures of starving children on Christian Ministry commercials, we see safaris on animal shows, and we see pictures of deserts in films and movies. But we don’t learn about the Great African War or Leopold’s Reign of Terror during the Congolese Genocide. Nor do we learn about what the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan, potentially killing in upwards of 5-7 million people from bombs, sanctions, disease and starvation. Body counts are important. And we don’t count Afghans, Iraqis, or Congolese.

There’s a Wikipedia page called “Genocides in History”. The Congolese Genocide isn’t included. The Congo is mentioned though. What’s now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo is listed in reference to the Second Congo War (also called Africa’s World War and the Great War of Africa), where both sides of the multinational conflict hunted down Bambenga and ate them. Cannibalism and slavery are horrendous evils which must be entered into history and talked about for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking whose interests were served when the only mention of the Congo on the page was in reference to multi-national incidents where a tiny minority of people were  eating each other (completely devoid of the conditions which created the conflict no less). Stories which support the white supremacist narrative about the subhumanness of people in Africa are allowed to be entered into the records of history. The white guy who turned the Congo into his own personal part-plantation, part-concentration camp, part-Christian ministry and killed 10 to 15 million Conglese people in the process doesn’t make the cut.

You see, when you kill ten million Africans, you aren’t called ‘Hitler’. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture don’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.

Leopold was just one part of thousands of things that helped construct white supremacy as both an ideological narrative and material reality. Of course I don’t want to pretend that in the Congo he was the source of all evil. He had generals, and foot soldiers, and managers who did his bidding and enforced his laws. It was a system. But that doesn’t negate the need to talk about the individuals who are symbolic of the system. But we don’t even get that. And since it isn’t talked about, what capitalism did to Africa, all the privileges that rich white people gained from the Congolese genocide are hidden. The victims of imperialism are made, like they usually are, invisible.

A Rotten Society

court-house-25061_1280What does one make of professor Garton Kamchedzera’s claims that Malawi is experiencing a dwindling of legal standards?

Last week, during a sensitisation conference organised by the Malawi Law Society in Lilongwe, the lecturer said

“It is very embarrassing and hurting to hear that some of my former students are implicated in dubious deals which has lowered the public trust on legal practitioners in the country which is one of the oldest and noble professions worldwide due to greed and hunger to make money fast”

During his presentation(titled ‘The Salient Failures of ethics for the Malawian Lawyers: Emerging issues in ethics’ ) at the conference, Kamchedzera said the legal profession was a calling from God, and so legal practitioners needed to be competent and comply with high ethical standards, so as to properly serve the public. He urged vigilance in ‘ reversing the country’s values through our decisive attitudes…’

This is a guy who in the past criticised Ken Lipenga and urged him to step down amidst massive corruption and fraud in Joyce Banda’s government. He has also said in the past that Malawi has leaders who like to be worshipped – an allegation I completely agree with.

What struck me this time around though is that he talked of ‘an already rotten society‘, saying the greedy behaviour of lawyers wouldn’t help fix such rottenness.

I’ve heard too many complaints about legal malpractice in Malawi and if you have dealt with lawyers in Malawi, it’s likely you too have a tale or two to recount, but that’s not what this post is about.

When I hear terms such as ‘rotten society’, the immediate question that comes to mind is not what does he mean by ‘rotten’, but instead, how did such a society become ‘rotten’? And, what’s keeping it rotten?

I’m sure these are questions which some progressives who would like to see a better Malawi will be thinking of. But assuming we all agree on what is meant by a ‘rotten society’, it seems to me that if you ask any knowledgeable commentator about these issues, they will identify one or more of the following as some of the causal factors :-

  1. Governance failures & Corruption since 1994 (Cashgate remains unresolved; Bakili Muluzi’s case has not been finalised; We don’t know the full-scale of plunder during Joyce Banda’s government; there’s a lack of continuity in state projects (the Shire Zambezi project hasn’t been completed); Malawi has in the past hurriedly negotiated resource contracts – which later prove to be flawed, and deprive the government of essential funds)
  2. Lack of discipline and disregard for the Law (Corrupt policing, bribery, rent-seeking, Thuggery, etc) Why would someone steal Solar Panels which are meant to illuminate their city at night (thereby bringing about a degree of safety)? solarLightsFurther, were the culprits of this crime found, and punished? Did the government launch an awareness campaign to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
  3. Lack of Independence of critical institutions (why should the head of the Anticorruption Bureau be appointed by the president? It’s a civil service role, why can’t it be advertised like any other civil service job? Same with the Judiciary, and even the State Banking Corporations [which as the MSB case has revealed were abused to channel money to the country’s then president]. On this point, has an investigation been opened into the affairs of Bingu Mutharika to find out whether what Mulli claims is true? Shouldn’t such an investigation be opened, and be free and fair?)
  4. Poor healthcare (ill-equipped, under-resourced, under-staffed hospitals)
  5. Pull down syndrome, and jealousy (Instead of people working to lift each other up, when one succeeds, they drag each other down). This is closely associated with a lack of a forward-thinking culture. For example since Malawi often has power cuts, how many people have invested in alternative sources of energy like solar? solar-cells-594166_640You may say you don’t have the money to buy them, but the chances are you haven’t even tried saving for them? Frankly, from my experiences many people are happy drinking away and using their money for partying – instead of attending to their problems. poverty
  6. Poverty and Economic stagnation (As a result of lack of money and under-investment in services). One effect of this is that there are so many young people without jobs (prime fodder for criminal activity).
  7. Excessive consumerism of foreign products (as opposed to buying local products, something that could help  revitalise local economies). They want to wear Gucci and drive big and expensive German cars, yet when there’s a fuel shortage (as happened in 2012) they can’t drive those expensive cars. Isn’t it sensible to first work towards a dependable fuel source? To establish a stable economy before thinking of driving a Range Rover? If you have a business, shouldnt you first establish yourself by putting in place measures that will protect the business and give you a breathing space should the worst happen and the market dries up or a much bigger competitor enters the fray?
    Further, when your country is often gripped with forex shortages, shouldnt luxuries take a back seat. And practicality triumph over the need for false appearances? (Malawi’s taste for imports hurting economy )
  8. And a cultural decay (It’s strange how Malawians want to fit in so much with western standards/ lifestyles. Why can’t we embrace our culture, and love ourselves for who we are? Why try so hard to fit into American or foreign cultures?)

These are some of the most common I’ve heard, although I’m sure there are many others.

So the question then becomes, what can/ must be done about them?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here since money is a big part of the problem. If the government doesn’t have money, or can’t properly prioritize how to use its resources, very little will change.

Having said that, it’s very easy to place blame on the government (its true that they would need to take a leading role – since few individuals have the capacity and capital to orchestrate state-wide projects), but I believe it is the duty of every Malawian to know these lingering problems, and begin working against them on an individual basis. Having an honest, transparent and responsible government would help, but they are only a part of the problem. Having honest, transparent and responsible people is where it all begins.

Africa’s Money Prophets – Flashy Cars, Houses and Rands

yacht
Tatoosh, the 303 foot Yatch owned by billionaire businessman, investor, philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

“This is where we are at right now, as a whole. No one is left out of the loop. We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy,
where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart.”
— Bill Hicks

This post is a rarity for me because I don’t comment on such matters. But after reading it, hopefully you’ll understand why I’ve decided to write it.

If you are Malawian, then the chances are you know who ‘Prophet’ Bushiri is. But someone you may not know as well is another pastor who lately has been causing a lot of controversy on social media. For my own reasons I’ve chosen not to mention his name on this website, so I’ll refer to him merely as the Pastor.

So, it seems the Pastor got into an argument with another person (or a group of people) online, and began posting photos of him posing next to expensive cars, and big houses, and generally indulging in conduct characterised by exhibiting of his wealth (complete with challenges / rewards of thousands of Rands to persons who owned similar cars).

If it was an ordinary person doing that, surely no raised eyebrows would feature (why would anyone care?), but why would a respectable Faith Minister, a man who is a religious leader, to whom hundreds, possibly thousands look up to, and who quite a few regard as a ‘man of God’ go out of his way to flaunt his wealth? What had gone into him? Isn’t this in the same category as that woman who began ‘preaching’ with her breasts out… to appeal to a certain audience…??

Imagine for a second an old testament scene, whereby Elijah the prophet, fresh from his thunderous encounter on Mount Carmel comes into a market in Haifa, aboard a golden chariot, pulled by healthy and well-built white stallions. And upon disembarking, Elijah stands proudly in front of the villagers of Haifa, chin raised, chest pushed out, feet asunder, arms akimbo, posing for anyone who cared to marvel at his expensive chariot made of gold, a prophet of prophets who had demonstrated God’s miraculous powers with tangible heroic acts; here stands a man who God listened to; here stands a hero who has vanquished Baal and his prophets to smithereens, look how God had blessed him!

How unlikely is such a scenario?

For a man who despite all the evidence of the supernatural, didn’t command a single flake of mana to fall from heaven, to quell his hunger, but instead asked a poor widow to bring him a morsel of bread (the last food she had), believing in God’s miraculous acts of provision to sustain her, such a scenario on the markets of Haifa is most unlikely.

So, to say I was surprised when I saw the photos of this pastor is an understatement. And several other Christians I know expressed similar sentiments.

To put it all into context, there is a traditional and conservative Christian doctrine in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa which implies that people who serve in various capacities as priests, Faith ministers or religious leaders should shun wealth, and live a generally humble lowly or at least unglamorous existence. At least until a few years ago, there was such a doctrine. Growing up in Malawi for example, this message was communicated to believers in various forms, including emphasizing that christians should strive to accumulate their ‘wealth’ in heaven (where moths cannot destroy it) by living an exemplary, godly and spiritual life here on earth; a life that shunned all manner of sin from alcohol consumption, theft, adultery…and suchlike, but instead sought after righteousness and godliness. I suspect that this doctrine in Malawi came from Christian missionaries who must have taught their congregations biblical stories such as the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (or Jesus’ parable in Mathews 19, whereby he said its harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle). So, its likely that they had a degree of influence in depicting material wealth as something which a christian should shun; an undesirable that was incompatible with a holy and Christlike lifestyle.

To an extent, one can understand their thinking. Many of the missionaries were of a traditional and conservative persuasion, people who did not descend from families of wealth, but instead found their roots in the Lutheran reformation. And so it is highly likely that they perceived excess and wealth with the lens of the puritanical religious standards of such movements.

What is not so obvious are the intentions behind such a message, considering that across Europe (where most missionaries originated) the Church was not only one of the richest establishment, owning vast swathes of land, but also occupied a privileged position next to the European aristocracy and their Monarchies.

But putting all that aside, I believe that material want has huge disadvantages for a society like Malawi, not least that when already disadvantaged and maligned people become desperate, many can be pushed to commit offences – a situation that is clearly not desirable. 

So, even though the traditional notion of the pastor or priest being a shepherd of his/ her flock is equally valid for most christians, I don’t believe pastors should be poor in that they struggle to conduct the affairs of their households due to lack of money / resources. Indeed one reason for tithes and offering is to help priests, as informatively outlined here by one Richard Wayne Garganta, when he says

The church under agrarian law tithing had specific social, communal responsibilities as a matter of law such as a percentage being used to meet needs of the poor. [Deuteronomy 14:28-29 2 Chronicles 31:14-15 Nehemiah 13:12-13]  The church also, in some cases, gave pensions to certain members. [2 Chronicles 31:16-18]  The communal use and distribution of tithes was for the Levites, priests, stranger, sojourner, fatherless and widows. [Deuteronomy 26:12 and Deuteronomy 14:29]  ….

But is it right for a pastor to flaunt their wealth?

In the first Epistle of Paul to Timothy, we are told in no uncertain terms, in chapter 3 that:

…If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

In verse 5, he says:

For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

In James 3, we are told that:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

For those of us who identify with Christian values, at what point does the commandments of Jesus and his disciples become muddled with the pursuit of wealth/ personal gain?

I’m not a religious scholar so I wouldn’t give you a definitive answer, but after reading verses such as can be found here http://www.openbible.info/t…/pastors_authority_in_the_church, it’s clear enough not to leave me conflicted. I get the sense priests and pastors must be meek, humble, respectable … and generally above reproach. It seems the standard or threshold with which they will be held accountable – by God – is much higher than that of us non-ordained folk.

I don’t know the pastor in question on a personal level, and its possible he is a genuinely good and humble man, but after all the noise made about him on Social Media, including on Facebook, and after seeing the posts of him proudly posing next to expensive cars (as if to say look at me I’m rich, I’ve made it), I’m somewhat lost for words.

Is it that he doesn’t have the right advisers, was his account hacked, or is his judgement really that flawed – so much that he can’t see the repercussions of his actions? Because such actions couldn’t possibly be in line with the word of God as laid out in the Bible – whether you read into them directly or otherwise. There may not be anything wrong with him amassing wealth, but flaunting it has no theological justification to stand on??

Frankly this is something you expect Kanye West, Rick Ross or some other excitable rapper to do. You don’t expect Kenneth Copeland, Billy Graham, Joel Austin, Joyce Meyer or T.D Jakes to do such a thing (not that these Christian leaders are blameless, perfect, or even my standard of uprightness).

But why does it even matter?

Because it doesn’t really give the right impression of religion, African pastors in general, or even of African people to outsiders/ unbelievers. And it erodes the important values in a society.

How?

Well, what message does it send to his congregation, or to society at large? If a 15-year-old member of his church, a young girl saw those pictures, and read those posts, what message will she get from it? Will they get a positive message about a man who was doing the work of God?

What about an aetheist who sees those pictures, what will they think?

I hope this post will not offend my readers but this is not an unwarranted criticism. I’m just wondering whether such behaviour on the part of an influential man will ultimately help those who follow and listen to him. On a continent with so many poor people, most of whom are vulnerable and look to religion as a source of inspiration, their sustenance from the stress and deprivation in their communities, a religious leader should be a uniting force.

Mammom - Copyright of http://www.kirsisalonen.com
Depiction of Mammon – Copyright of http://www.kirsisalonen.com

On a different note, doesn’t such behaviour reinforce a consumerist narrative in society – that says what’s important above everything else is riches and wealth? An attitude that encourages individualistic attitudes, fueling greed, and selfishness, as opposed to love, kindness, inclusiveness, sharing and working with a communal sense of purpose? Doesn’t it diverge from the doctrine that the church is the body of Christ.

At what point does the gospel of prosperity become the worship of Mammon?

Isn’t all this similar (on a micro-level) to what David A. Stockman, in his New York Times Best seller The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America  calls ‘a rogue central bank that has abandoned every vestige of sound money…Turning Wall Street into a reckless, dangerous, and greed-riven casino..’ . That those who should have known better, those who had the knowledge, and were entrusted with responsibility, created a monster.

What about the virtues of community, of family and charity, helping one another,…. of righteousness. What Jesus talks about in Mathews 5… where is the space for that when your pastor is posing next to limousines?

I think in our countries across Southern Africa, where people are struggling with poverty, bad governance, corruption and suchlike, ‘men of God’ (who often wield a lot of influence) should behave responsibly. Using their gifts and resources not only to help their flock become financially independent (which I admit may require a degree of motivation), but to heal and ‘set captives free’, and ensure that they are wholesome in other aspects of their lives. This is important so that their followers can contribute positively to society. That to me is befitting of the duty of a servant of God, and if you look at St Paul, and his epistles… such seems to be a considerable part of his message to the church. 

Practical Community led Activism

Now that the UK general election is over and done with, people this side of the world can get back to work, and begin focussing on the difficult issues facing Britain.
Among the terms that have been used by some commentators lately (often referred to together with the notion that the UK needs a federal system), is ‘Community led Activism’. This is probably very similar to the much talked about concept of a Big Society.

But what would Community led Activism actually look like? You hear it talked about, but few take time to really spell out how it would relate to everyday life.

I was curious, so after some thinking, probing about online, and studying various articles on the subject, I’m inclined to think any form of Community led Activism is incomplete without the following ingredients:-

(i) Change management strategies

(ii) Local ownership of change

(iii) Introduction of practice guidelines / best practices; and

(iv) Regular evaluation.

Community-led-ActivismBefore we open up churches as centres that are eligible to administer healthcare, before we begin community projects that serve communities while giving jobs to local people, and before our cities’ libraries also become art galleries, music venues-cum-coffee shops that operate for profit to raise money for communities, (as well as having free services for the most disadvantaged in society), before we increase local food production, before we have cooperatives in charge of local generation of green energy, before we bring back manufacturing from China, before we begin opening up parts of the greenbelt and brownfield land for building of affordable residential accommodation…

internetbefore we invest in information technology education to empower young people to be equipped with the necessary skills for the digital economy,..before all that and more, there has to be a general function that powers Community led Activism. Think of it as a macro level approach, underneath which everything else sits.

The best way to explain this is to look at a number of areas in which the above four ingredients may be useful.

Lets take Education for example. If you want to have devolution of powers from London to communities so that they get authority to decide on Education Policy as they see fit, there must be change management strategies employed in each of the communities concerned. This may come in the form of a new culture instilled at the devolved locality which establishes an effective management system to oversee, administer and evaluate the new policies, and move away from what hadn’t worked. Since the people who are already working in the environment are stakeholders, it is crucial that they are not maligned or resistant to the new proposals.  In fact Educational Authorities (or whoever is eventually given the responsibility to run the scheme) would need to embrace any new changes (and from experiences of the past this is not always easy, as Michael Gove’s stint as Education Secretary proved. See another link here).

Thus, change would need to be brought forward from the bottom-up (as opposed to top-bottom). Just as well, because Local ownership of change is also an essential ingredient. This is important since there will be localities which are happy with their current systems – which deliver desired or at least satisfactory outcomes, and so need not be interfered with too much. For such communities, Local ownership of change is empowering as they don’t have to do what they do not want; as will be for localities which have special needs by virtue of having different circumstances, and so which need slightly different solutions to the schemes/ solutions which others in the same country are adopting.

Similarly, for communities whose Education sector is lacking in some ways (be it in performance levels, funding or otherwise), if change is ‘owned’ at local level, then people are empowered to be able to find solutions that are tailored to the needs of their community. Since it is in the best interest of the community for certain results to be achieved, that change will be embraced quicker and more willingly if it is ‘owned’ at local level, and driven not by consultants hired by HQ, but by the stakeholders at local level.

But what about Introduction of practice guidelines / best practices? Well, lets take Job Creation & Employment legislation for example. Practice guidelines lay down the rules, to ensure there is uniformity across a region/ country. Employment legislation protects employers and employees across a jurisdiction (be it a state country or region) from abuse or unwarranted harassment. If a community seeks change in the labour market, for example to improve conditions for workers, then practice guidelines will be needed once that change is achieved (or even before) to ensure that the desired change is sustained, and is not short-term. Practice guidelines ensure consistency. They help everyone know what their particular roles are, and when such must be undertaken. And in relation to Employment legislation, guidelines at community level will enable employers and employees to know what their responsibilities are towards each other in the general scheme of things, without necessitating a change in the law at national / state level. This means if there is a problem in an industry that is concentrated in the North west of England (or say in a specific industry such as the hotel insustry), guidelines can be rolled out affecting the north-west (or that specific industry), without tinkering with the law at national level, thereby not interfering with the practice elsewhere.

Finally, there is the matter of Evaluation. This is important, because it means improvements or new policies can be reviewed, and if they are not doing as well, a better solution or alternative found. It allows the community to ask: Are we really doing as good as our research stipulated? And if not, why? It enables you to change course when new policies at community level are not having the desired effect.

You can apply the above ingredients to Residential property development, Healthcare, Tax policy, Welfare, Immigration, Pensions, Sustainability and Conservation… the list is endless, and I believe it is possible to make some good progress; even in a country which some people think is suffering a hangover of the politics of fear.

The Other: What people say about Migrants

P1060325Once every now and again something happens that prompts me to troll through the comments people leave in response to articles on news websites. This exercise is purely a curiosity driven exploration of the range of views out there. And except for the clearly idiotic  (which there are many), I think most comments reveal a lot about the people who write them.

So maybe comments could be a way of gauging what a part of the readership of a publications thinks about certain issues. Maybe it can be used to gauge popular sentiment, but I doubt it is necessarily representative of a population or locality in the way that a referendum does. It couldn’t possibly be, for many reason including because not all readers in a locality read the same publication (or even read a newspaper). And for those who read a particular publication, not all of them leave comments. Even those who leave comments do not always show their true colours.

Still, comments being opinions are subjective and often filled with emotion even though as subjectivity goes some opinions are rather scary.

Also it’s interesting to see that the notion of freedom of expression in some countries is quite difficult to pinpoint, if not altogether warped, while in other countries, it’s the quickest ticket to persecution, jail or worse. To some people, expressing hate and what could come across as vile, equates to freedom of expression. To others its heresy. No surprises then that in this nirvana of duplicitous opinions found on newswebsites, certain subjects (in particular those praising certain dictators) are out-of-bounds and you can very quickly get in trouble, whereas praising other dictators (for example Stalin for some bizarre reason) is unlikely to get you in any trouble, leaving one wondering whether the measure used in deciding what is acceptable isn’t questionable in itself.

Criticising certain religious figures is likely to go unchallenged, while criticising others could elicit violence. Which is why lots of people leave comments from behind an alias unconnected with their physical person.

It appears that the criteria for determining what is acceptable freedom of speech and what isn’t, isn’t straightforward. Especially if you consider that in some countries what passes as freedom of speech would be deemed to be unlawful, slanderous, even criminal elsewhere.

So in the end, what you are not allowed to say in public is not uniform universally (and indeed cannot be).  It’s down to issues like where you live, the civil liberties you are afforded, the cultural bias of your community, what the dominant religion is, the threshold of what the presiding authorities deems to be acceptable, how well resourced the authorities are, how stringently the law is enforced, how brave / foolish you are, and so on.

Political correctness has a nationality, and a religion.

Anyhow, in this realm, it’s not uncommon to find the bizarre, hilarious, fascinating, truthful, misleading, ignorant, mockery, satirical and the poetic lying cosily next to each other.

Since 50 million people worldwide currently are refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced within their own countries, then in light of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, and frequent drownings of migrants in the mediterranean sea, I thought it appropriate to list some randomly picked comments that were written in response to articles that had something to do with migrants / refugees, from across the world.

Enjoy 🙂

From Swinging guns and fleeing foreigners: What is the state doing?  (Mail & Guardian)

Zuma giggles while SA burns. If you have no house , no job, no money, no propects of getting a job you may as well join a movement – any one will do. Unemployment is getting worse- a clothing factory in Durban has retrenched 300 workers and moved its operation to Swaziland -cost of labour is much cheaper and without all the unions red tape. Meanwhile our President is buying new jets to the value of 2 or 3 billion….hhe he hheee…..let them eat cake

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Stewart •   Is apartheid to blame for this? Egalitarians probably believe so, but the reasons behind all of this are too politically incorrect to air. This more or less standard operating procedure for countries nearing collapse and about to achieve failed state status. Its almost inevitable.

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uma’s announcement during SONA that no foreigners could own land in SA was met by probably the loudest applause of the night. It’s exactly that kind of anti-foreigner sentiment that gives some citizens confirmation that foreigners are the enemy that should be acted against.

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nocent black people? You mean those same people who moved from central west Africa and occupied Sub Saharan Africa? You mean those very same people who engaged in the Mfecane, cleansing the nearby peoples. Or perhaps the same people who displaced the Khoi whose paints are a start reminder in those isolated caves in the Drakensberg?

Stop telling lies about a history that only happened in the fertile tracts of your mind. Human history is a bloody one and there are no gentle peaceful tribes.

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While nothing good came of apartheid… The picture postcard of post-apartheid South African prosperity is nothing more than just a fairy tale.

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From  Incendiary SMS targets foreign nationals in Jo’burg  (Mail & Guardian)

Sibusiso •  The biggest walking fire is Zuma and his deafening silence….#ZUMAmustGO

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 Heraklit • South Africa open for business?
Gateway to Africa?
Looks more like Dante’s first stop over on his way into purgatory right now…

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Lets build my statues of Jan van Riebeeck, Rhodes, Ghandi etc….. -that should divert their attention for a while!

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From Rights violation charge laid against Zulu king  (Mail & Guardian)

BritinSA •  “The King is not to blame”. “The Kings words have been lost in translation”.

If you threw a match onto flammable material, then you DID start the fire.

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Brian • It is about time our governnment realize the cost of corruption they have created. Most foreign people in this country are not documented correctly if not at all. It is easy for them to do as they please. Some of the areas like Hilbrow and Kempton Park have been turned into little Lagos and drugs dealings is 2nd nature to them. Police are doing nothing about it. It is wrong for South Africans to take out their frustrations to our foreign brothers and sisters that are in the country legally and are contributing positively to the growth of this country. Not all foreigners in this country are criminals and sell drugs. Let those who are not documented correctly and committing all sorts of crime be broad to book and if possible deported back to their countries and that should be done within the law. As for the king and his utterances, it was wrong of him as a leader to say what he said.

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King Butter •  The Zulu’s should unite and fight this Monarchical Insubordination. Our damn King, in Our damn Province speaking to HIS people; and he gets insulted (BY FOREIGNERS??) for speaking the obvious truth, that ILLEGAL migrants should be repatriated.

Rod Baker to King Butter •  Exactly.He is YOUR king, the Zulus king, He is not my king, not the Xhosas’ king, not the Vendas’ king, Sesothos’ king etc. He is king of no one else but the Zulus.

So you go ahead and defend him – and while you are about it, also pay in full for his upkeep and leave us out of it. Our taxes should go to other things.

As for what he said, people in his position have to be extremely circumspect in what they say – and should know better than to say foreigners need to pack their bags and go. There are too many people out there who are willing to help the foreigners on their way, and help themselves to the latter’s good while they are about it.
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e should also be investigated by the nature conservation people for wearing furs and feathers of possible endangered fauna.

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From Katie Hopkins calling migrants vermin recalls the darkest events of history (Guardian)

SamStoneI was just about to write “the thing about Katie Hopkins is, absolutely no one likes her, so whatever she says, everyone automatically disagrees with her because she’s so ludicrous”

BUT….Then I just read the most up-voted comments about the same migrants article on the Daily Mail website, which said, starting with the most liked…

“She’s absolutely right!”

“Kate gets it right again.”

“I agree with her. She speaks a lot of sense and has the guts to say what others are thinking.”

And now I despair for humanity.

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Coolhandluke77 :    It is not unheard of for radical environmentalists to compare the whole of teaming humanity to locusts, cockroaches or other vermin. And many have less than progressive views on immigration.

Where is the outrage..? Where are the petitions..?

And speaking of hypocrisy, these immigrants are dying trying to get into Fortress Europe. That is the EU. But all the posturing by pro EU politicians has been against Farage, who is not even in power.

So apart from the fact that some should be choking on their own hypocrisy, I do agree with the article.

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 After we in the west have created the conditions under which tens of thousands of people feel so desperate that they will risk their lives to escape, we then turn round and say we can´t help them because we don´t have the capacity? We had the capacity to bomb their countries for weeks on end and create havoc where there had been stability. We really are a disgusting lot, dragged along on the coat tails of the Yanks year after year, doing the dirty work of international corporations that exist because they thrive on war and disorder. Speak for the ordinary people like yourselves, because that´s what these people are, just ordinary men, women and children taking the flak for the greed of the few.

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mizdarlin :  This is hate speech pure and simple..and should be dealt with as such..if she is as insane as she sounds, and having her taken away for psychological analysis for a few months might be the only way to find out-then do so at once and make her spew disappear…

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From Europe Considers Response as Hundreds of Migrants Die in Mediterranean Sinkings (New York Times)

Nancy , Great Neck:  That the countries of Europe are not monitoring the Mediterranean for attempted passages and such terrifying tragedies is beyond shameful. There is evidently a sense that monitoring passage attempts encourages them, but taking this as a justification for neglect of a humanitarian obligation is profoundly immoral.

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Rita,  California: Of course European countries need to work towards a common resolution of the refugee crisis. Borders are porous and the initial influx into one country will eventually disperse into others. The ultimate resolution requires stabilizing the region so that refugees can return home.

Massacre is the right word to describe the actions of those who take refugees’ money and then load the boats past capacity limits.

PS Erecting a wall or starting a naval blockade are not feasible solutions.

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John, Los Angeles:  A tragedy. But not Europe’s fault. At some point, political boundaries have to have meaning. If people want to risk their lives to illegally enter a country they are ultimately responsible for their own fate. Perhaps European countries should simply blockade north Africa and turn back all ships.

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Underclaw, The Floridas: Remember when President Obama launched an air attack in Libya that led to “regime change” in Tripoli (and the public execution of Qadaffy)? And remember how the United States then up and left Libya in chaos and anarchy? And remember how we were lectured about how Obama’s policy of “leading from behind” in places Libya was a “brilliant” foreign policy doctrine? Well, now look.

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From German Asylum: Attacks on Refugee Hostels a Growing Problem (Spiegel Online)

antfreire 04/11/2015  Since when is legal, or ethic that people that don’t have a satisfactory way of live where they live have to be accepted in countries where they decide to move? Does Germany have any commitment or moral duty to accept people from Sudan, or Siria, or Irak, etc. just because they are not doing well there? Will the people that promote this type of “serve yourself” inmigration bring a couple of this inmigrans to their house to live with them?

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Inglenda2 04/11/2015 When governments choose to ignore the wishes of their own people, it is almost impossible, for normal citizens, to take action against those responsible. The result is, that there will always be parts of the population, who express their justified, but falsely directed, frustration by violence against the weakest of the weak. In this case it is the refugees who are made to suffer. In psychological circles, such conduct is known as projection and is more common, for example in mobbing, than most of the general public are aware of.

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ernestokunn 04/14/2015  As Slavoj Zizek states, TOLERANCE IS NOT ENOGH. There are limits, certainly. It becomes an explosive problem if two ethnic or religious groups live together in close vicinity who have irreconcilable ways of life and, as such, perceive criticism of their religion or way of life as being an attack on their very identity. We all should stop with hypocrisy. Mainly our politicians.

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alfuryu 04/12/2015 It saddens me that again the Spiegel again only scratches the surface of what those outside Germany understand. After the war you did not pursue those animals that perpetrated crimes in fact you harboured them and protected them you even have specific laws that still protect them and the officials that support and still carryout what those outside of German would call racism. Your public bodies do not have open complaint procedures when such crimes are committed so inside the population we see the hatred or is arrogance of the Germanic race to think they are better than all. Come on Germany the world gave you a chance supported you after the war turned a blind eye to you not paying up what you were due in the 1950s or pursuing the guilty only the auschlanders are handed over funny old thing. The reality is there is a still a group of nutcases within Germany that need to be purged and it needs to be a bigger crime to be racist than it is to accuse someone of having the behaviour of a NAZI i.e. a bully, thug, a person who considers all others unequal. I see it

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From  Xenophobic attacks: Nigeria counts losses   (Vanguard – Nigeria)

Oldbendel • 5 High profile international football games cannot change the mentality of these big heads South Africans,send them to school where they can be tought some lesson on issues relating to globalization,cultural diversity etc,or else they remain barbarians forever.

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Micho • Nigeria is the most accommodating country in Africa. I can say that we are America in Africa. Go to all these African country, blacks are seen and addressed as foreigners, I could remember when I was in Gambia, they used to Address Nigerians as fucking foreigners while white and people from Mauritania and worshiped like gods. Nigeria just need good leaders we shall be very great. The wrath of God is on any country that maltreat foreigners, that is one of those warnings that God gave the people of Israel when they left Egypt.South Africa will be punished for what they are doing, but I pray to God to forgive them because of the faithful ones among them.

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Okoko • When the igbos shops were looted in Nigeria due to envy by other tribes, no one shouted. When igbos were deported in their own country, it was normal for yorobber folks. Xenophobia is everywhere, even in Nigeria.

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Somalis, Sudanese and Ethiopians are some no-nonsense taking people, i wonder why they played calm thus far. Hopefully they won’t follow trend and start blowing up South African investments and killing South Africans in their country. The situation is getting really out of control.

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Emma Kuyty •  Absence of love,hatred,wickedness,jealousy etc are synonymous among African Negro and Negra,it is only almighty JAH JEHOVAH that will help Africans.

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Ekwe111 •  Mandatory S.O.S. deductions were levied on Nigeria Govt. employee salaries and elsewhere in the 80’s, principally for the liberation of SA and Zimbabwe; countries that bitterly resent and spite our citizens today.

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From Paytriotism – Becoming British is a Costly Business  ( Economist)

Cutters. Apr 20th, 12:18

Becoming a UK national and gaining access to all the rights and privileges that go with it are far to cheap.

It is bad enough that the dregs of the continent are able to arrive unrestricted, putting massive pressure on local services and adding insignificant amounts to GDP (0.04% per head reported), without British citizenship being cheaply sold.

The cost could rise by 5x as much and demand would scarcely falter.

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guest-olwnaon Apr 19th, 15:56

When our govt receives fees for whatver – residency, health, visa renewal, citizenship, tuition fees, all amounting to billions, it keeps its mouth shut and go to the media to stoke animosity and hate against immigrants. What happened to all the money collected from applicants at the visa processing centres? Yet border staff were made redundant! what happened to the billions that our universities receive from genuine students? if one non EU student pays al least 12,000 pounds as tuition fees per year for a 12 month course, if universities admit 1000 non -EU students that gives a total of 12,000,000 per university. But we know that only the 1999 universities (new breed universities) charge the least amount. Other red bricks, Russell, 1964 universities charge a lot higher ranging from 17-26k. Unfortunately, when immigration figures are collated, 92,000 non EU students are added. What arrant nonsense! I see why vice chancellors and Principal live larger-than-life lives while PhD holds struggle to get regular teaching hours. Yet we are asked to blame immigrants. NO!

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 CA-Oxonian, Apr 16th, 18:39

The excessive fees imposed by the UK government throughout the residency and citizenship application process are just one more sad indication of how insular the UK really is. While the USA is stifling its tech industry with absurd visa restrictions the UK is stifling its entire economy. Apparently Little Britain is quite happy remaining a moribund, inward-looking, and rather stagnant sort of country. Too bad. Aside from the atrocious weather and inept approach to providing services, it’s not entirely a bad place to reside.

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From Rising tide of UK anti-immigrant sentiment (Al Jazeera)

Sayyed Musawi
one thinks that the arrogant Brits ought to remember they plundered the world for centuries stealing, including the Kohinoor diamond they stole from the Indians, the cheap labor they have benefitted from Immigrants, and the contributions made. Just imagine if all Immigrants were to leave britain today with their wealth and Britain were to be honest and give up the money they stole from Nations, the wealth stored up stolen, and the contributions made to it then I am sure britain will just be another empty, depressing European country.
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Arthur Coxon  TODAY THERE IS NO COHESION IN BRITISH SOCIETY WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT IMMIGRANTS, AND RELIGIONS IN THE COUNTRY. ONE FEELS AS IF YOU ARE LIVING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. IT’S A TOTAL NIGHTMARE !!!
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SeaNote  If immigrants don’t assimilate, get rid of them.
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Bohdan Chochoł
Oh yeah, the infamous ‘We’ (this & we that) approach to life. While there is a major generation gap now  between under and over 30-year-olds (the young being less prone to nationalist-ic ‘introversion’), the fact Poles became so numerous and at such break-neck speed cannot bode well for British civil society (for genuine civil society in Poland has yet to get into the air, even while the British institution is probably plummeting). The grounds for pessimism  are clearly enough expresed by the “editor-in-chief” (ah yes: hierarchy-mania) of “Our  Pages=Vantage Points=Side-s” (each meaning suggested by the /plural/ term “Strony”; cf.: [–link removed–]). Should it be for purely materialistic reasons that Poles have a right to live in Britain – en masse?
I abhore the so-called road the country went down from Thatcherism onwards; if it’s a road, it’s one that leads to living hell. I understand how difficult it is to get anywhere now in Poland if you’re young and without the kind of status symbols so conveniently listed by Pan Redaktor Naczelny Andrzejko. I equally appreciate how hundreds of thousands, if not millions Poles do not exactly live in Britain but exist as poorly-paid labourers, while others have truly found a place in the world where they wish to remain, because in Britain they’ve found something they could not find in a country like Poland. And yet, between those two more or less extremes is a lot of people who could almost certainly do more for their own country by living in it. Pressurizing the centralised bureaucratic autocracy there into responsible administration, for a start – rather than terrorising local surgeries for their -odding “prrreeskrrreeptsyon”, or ranting how well they know English at OAPs who can’t even begin to understand their Slavspeak, etc. And what about all those crumby shops on the High Street, money laundering or what?
No bad feelings intended, it’s just a subject that defies any softly-softly treatment .
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Mohammed Rahman Islam is a religion of peace.

I invite you and all the readers to study the life of prophet muhammad pbuh and decide on your own. 
He was totally against terrorism. The first three wars of badr , uhud , ahzab were defensive wars to protect the home city of medina. 
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Bader Rammal
No Muslim country invited you to invade and colonize their countries. You colonized….You pay the price….Don’t complain and whine about the results and outcome of your past reckless irresponsible behaviors.

From Britain’s criminally stupid attitudes to race and immigration are beyond parody – Frankie Boyle (Guardian)

GiulioSica  Brilliant writing and analysis, as ever. Thanks Frankie. It really is shameful the way the racists are unashamedly crawling out of the woodwork trying to rewrite history and ignore the present world problems.
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foralltime...”We have streets named after slave owners.”… Spot-on with that one, Frankie…

Penny Lane is a street famous worldwide thanks to The Beatles 1967 hit, but the Liverpool street owes its name to an outspoken Liverpool slave ship owner and staunch anti-abolitionist. James Penny was a Liverpool merchant who made his money from the transportation of slaves.

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atillazenun  Yet another article trying to guilt people and countries for their achievements. Where would the colonies be without the infrastructure that was created for them? Ever thought of that?
If you are so pro-immigration, please list your home address so that a family of four can be sent to live in your spare bedroom.
No?
But you are OK with tax payer money being used to support mass immigration “somewhere not too close to you?”. Get real.

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Fence2  Is the next generation responsible for past generations actions?
No, because if it were then there would be guilty atoms and molecules out there, which is ludicrous.

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moneymonkey  What a lazy article, roll out the tired old nonsense.

Everything we have, we stole from the immigrants in the first place…. UKIP are racist…

wacism, wacism, wacism….

etc etc.

orlandaowl responding to moneymonkey

…… monkey your effing self. Ironically, your beloved Fuhrer is married to a German!

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herbmonkey  Absolute rubbish. Why am I made to feel bad about events that ocurred before I was born. £11.4bn in foreign aid last year came from all our pockets. Yes we had our colonial past and faults but can we be really be held responsible for local corruption where african govenments drive around in Mercedes while their people starve. This piece once again paints the entire nation with a shitty sheen that is only representative of what pisses off the writer. I and my friends speak different languages, do show remorse for the terrible past crimes of our nation and do not display this “casual racism” that apparently the entire natioon should hang our heads in shame about.

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SimonBol Frankie: this is great stuff. You are saying in this single piece what sociologists and historians cannot say in a whole book.