SCOTLAND, why destroy an age old institution? …ENGLAND, why the Selfishness?

When you can build on its past successes or rectify the short-comings of a thing, to make it better, more efficient, quicker, etc, why would you destroy it, and start all over again?

The noise is deafening, I’m sure we’ve all heard it by now: ‘Scotland must be free’ they say, ‘Scotland deserves more’ they huff. Across the road, not too far away from these quips, another discussion is developing: ‘Scotland can’t go it alone’, ‘Ofcourse they can!’ another protests, ‘We are stronger together, this is a 300 year old institution’, ‘ No we aren’t, we haven’t benefitted from it.’… ‘Why should Scottish people trust Alex Salmond?’, Scotland this, Scotland that, ‘Scotland must remain in the UK’,…. the Yes camp, the No Camp (which patronisingly is called the Better Together campaign)…bloody hell!

Can everybody please just take a step back and calm down for a second.

We know about all this, about all the arguments on both sides of the issue. We know. I’m not sure we really need everyone from rock-stars to celebrity footballers appealing religiously to  the ‘undecideds’ because, then, the whole message becomes lost in the sheer numerousness of the hysteria, and to personalities. Sunken in an ocean of propagandist fervour. So, there will be some people who will vote ‘No’, because they don’t like Alex Salmond and the SNP. And there will be others who will vote ‘Yes’ because they are somewhat suspicious of Alistair Darling’s eyebrows. And think Cameron is a posh t**t.

C’mon. That’s not how you decide whether to form a new country or not? Surely, that can’t be the basis of such an important decision.

And I’ll tell you why, because if you go with knee-jerk impulses brought on by political hysteria and what is clearly propaganda, whatever decision you make, you could end up with a country that resembles Bosnia and Herzegovina, or something not too dissimilar to South Sudan. I mean, if Scotland votes for Independence, who should stop Shetland (a subarctic archipelago of Scotland), a few years down the line, maybe post-Salmond, to decide to do away with these pesky Scottish. And declare its own country? Or another likely outcome is that soon after a ‘Yes vote’, they decide to remain within the UK? Why can’t they do that?

Readers, that is precisely why when it came to the crunch, in February 1861, when the Confederate States of America tossed out their silly secessionist plan, the United States (the Union) rejected their scheme, and a war was declared a month later.

Because some ideas are idiotic, and must not be accepted.

A vote to decide Scotland’s future is not idiotic. And Scotland is no Confederacy. The UK is not the US, but, to break apart a union that has done so much for so many people, in so many ways, over a period of 3 centuries, may not be the best way to resolve what at the bare bones is a resource and power argument.

UnionJack1We know the merits of the union, the concerns, the scare-mongering, and even the unadulterated truth surrounding some of the issues. Any sensible 15-year-old will tell you what the deal is. But amongst those issues, are a few facts, which I believe must be spelt out again and again before tomorrow 18th of September, and even after that. By anybody who cares, even an alliance of rock-stars, politicians and celebrity footballers.

Fact 1: Scotland has benefitted from being part of the United Kingdom. Whether we can call that benefit proportionate, or whether the benefit has been ‘enough’, or indeed whether there is such a thing as proportionate benefit is a different story

Fact 2: Successive Westminster governments have not prioritized other parts of the country other than London in terms of  ‘development’. It’s not only Scotland that has ‘suffered’, its pretty much everywhere from Hull to Swansea, from Ipswich to Derry that hasn’t seen the type of improvement which London has had. Everybody knows that. London has been the Garfield-like overfed, obese cat, gobbling on much of the cat food while the rest of the cats survived on crumbs that fell out of the fatcat’s plate. While they had just about enough to remain alive, yet the fatcat expected the rest of the cats to carry it around. Perfect servitude.

Too little has been done to rectify this. If more Scots are to treasure this union, this North- South imbalance has got to change.

Fact 3: A fully fledged Federal system of governance would work far better for the Welsh and Scottish economies than the current unitary system. Forget Devolution, if Scotland (and Wales) were to control taxes, the proceeds of their oil revenues, if they were given the mandate to legislate and decide on immigration policy, etc…who would be moaning? Why not just let them have what they wish to have? At some point Westminster politicians will realise that there has got to be a price to preserve this union, and from the look of things, anything other than significant control powers, whether you wish to call it Devo Max, or Mad Max, is unlikely to work. It will only postpone the problem.

Fact 4: Generally big rich countries, which are managed properly, carry more clout than poor small countries. Big countries can wield a lot more influence than smaller countries. Forget nuclear weapons, and the whole opposition to Trident, if you are big and rich, you’ll wield a lot more global influence than if you are small. More people will take notice of you, and it is easy to push one’s weight around.

Besides the US and Canada, think of Russia, India, China and Brazil. One of the main factors determining their influence on the global stage is their sheer size alone. There are a few exceptions (Switzerland, Israel), but not many.

If you don’t believe me, consider this: If what Russia is doing in Ukraine was being done by a country the size of Scotland, or the Size of Switzerland, how easy (even psychologically) would it have been for the international community to isolate it, and come down heavily on it with sanctions? A different example: China can pretty much get away with its behaviour in the South China sea because of its sheer size. Other than that, and the consequential military might, there’s little else that explains China’s actions. If a country such as Malaysia or Taiwan was throwing its weight around in the same way as China is currently doing, few would take notice. And sanctions would have been imposed by now.

Further, if we look back in History, what has been one of the major factors contributing to the fall of the world’s major empires, if not disunity and infighting? The Roman Empire,  the Kingdom of MacedoniaThe Persian Empires, even the Ottomans. In fact if it wasn’t for divisions and infighting over land, power and resource control in the Macedons, I’d probably be writing this article in Greek. Because instead of the respective ‘states’ of each of these ancient Kingdoms innovating and improving technologically, in medicine, commerce and in other areas, bitter conflicts and strife wasted their time. One brother fought against his mother’s son, killing a man who spoke his father’s language. Wars between tribes cost thousands of lives. Instead of improving, they were revolting against each other, and fighting amongst each other with the result that they became greatly weakened; falling behind other lesser countries, and kingdoms, who overtook them…

Had some of the disunited remained united, and focussed on improving and innovating, isn’t there a good chance that they could have weathered the test of time? And survived. Ending up greater than what we now know them to have been?

Fact 5: Westminster Politicians have used unconvincing arguments of Oil and resources in an attempt to scare Scotland. It won’t work. Similarly, the BBC and other news houses have tried to bully Alex Salmond, and have been biased against the Yes camp. Some of this has backfired. If only they were impartial.

Fact 6: If Scotland votes Yes tomorrow, there could be a period of uncertainty (and hardship) because some of the people who are against independence are going to try to create havoc for Scotland (or at least a level of unpleasantness), so that they can return and gloat, saying: ‘We told you so’.

The problem is, some of these organisations and institutions are very big and powerful. If in any doubt, ask Justin Welby will you.

Worryingly, a few of these institutions have leaders who are good chums with the top brass of the present Tory government. Salmond beware.

Fact 7: And, if  there is to be hardship, no-one knows for sure, for how long and how bad it’s bite could be. The Conservatives and Labour governments of the past few decades have had to deal with demonstrations over issues ranging from closure of Mines to Imperialist Wars. At least one series of these strikes were so severe, it brought down Edward Heath’s Conservative government in 1974.

How will Alex Salmond and his SNP colleagues deal with strikes and civil disobedience if the price of oil drops below what they would need to maintain an ‘acceptable’ level of debt? How much will such unrest cause the new country? And if it transpires that the SNP can’t be trusted any more, who will be trusted?

Further, with all the talk of fracking and finding alternative / cleaner sources of energy,across the world, and considering some of the forecasts on price of crude oil, who can say oil prices will not fall?

Fact 8: Even if Alex Salmond says Scotland has a potential to be wealthy like Norway (which I hope is true), unfortunately he doesn’t control the neo-liberal outfits (IMF, World Bank) which lend money to smaller, poorer countries, and which may be instrumental to Scotland in its early years as a country.  Often these institutions favour the kind of strict fiscal policy that would be in the briefcase of a chap such as George Osborne, and not some happy-go-lucky lets-spend-it all monetary policy which characterised Gordon Brown’s era as chancellor and Prime minister. And that is a huge cause of concern because then the questions which every sensible Scot will be asking will include: Are we going to end up like Greece which has instituted  tough austerity measures and thus crippled its economy. Or are we going to end up like Ireland – which is still reeling from the effects of the Eurozone crisis? Or shall we be the new Iceland (whose currency has struggled to regain people’s trust since the credit crunch). Are we going to end up like Spain – with massive unemployment – or like Cyprus, where our government forcibly confiscates our hard-earned cash from our bank accounts?

Sorry chaps, but nobody knows for certain.

Fact 9: If you are tired of illegal wars, corporate tax evasion and an elite club running the show, what you have to do is group together, and make a lot of noise through demonstrations and other means until your cause is given the attention it deserves. Together with thousands of other disaffected working class people. The one thing you do not do is decimate your numbers. Because then you are doing what Karl Marx said was counter-intuitive to a revolution. In any case, who says in 100 years time the SNP would not have become an elitist party, and we’ll be back to square one? It’s happened before, most recently in the last century, in Mexico, where a revolutionary party, the National Revolutionary Party (NRP) that in 1929 had united the people, had by 1988 (barely 60 years later) morphed into an autocratic and brutal regime that would terrorise the opposition and neglect Mexicans. Their terror only came to an end  in 1997 – when the NRP was ousted. Today, most Mexicans know that some of the negative effects of those 70 years of rule can still be felt in Mexican society.

As regards Scotland, already there has been a lot of arguments over who gets to keep what. A typical divorce scenario: Should we share the embassies? How much of the army and its equipment can Scotland keep? What about the British pound, can Scotland continue to use the pound? What about Debt, surely Scotland will need to be apportioned a part of the national debt – with few assets how will that affect its liquidity, a factor the institutions I mentioned above may need to consider before extending a line of credit? Can we share the queen? Can we share the overseas territories? All sorts of issues that need negotiating and resolving… but none of which have any concrete assurances.

Fact 10: The Race to the bottom scenario that has been preached by George Galloway is a certainty. Why would George Osborne (or indeed his successor – who is likely to be from the Labour party) allow Uk corporation taxes to be high, when just over the ‘border’ in Scotland, they are low? Already they want to appease corporations, and have been accused of being a soft touch on tax evasion by big businesses. So if Scotland cuts corporation tax, that right  there would be a sizzling gift to the English exchequer. And sadly, it will be the working class in both countries who would suffer.

To me, it’s a misplaced issue that has been blown way out of proportion and dealt with in a shambolic manner by both sides. But again, I’m not Scottish so my opinion is probably irrelevant. Having said that, I happen to dislike many of the Westminster club, for pretty much the same reasons as I’ve listed above. Which makes me an outsider (with an outsider’s view) in so far as ideology is concerned.  So, maybe, when it could be your last chance of doing so, and while Scotland remains in the UK, get yourself a bottle of Scotch then show your Scottish friends this article. Hopefully, some of the level headed ones in the Yes camp will reconsider their decisions.

Good luck.

The real reason why I oppose drilling for oil on lake Malawi

Whatever you choose to believe, here is one hypothesis you must seriously consider; That a nation that does not own its natural resources is not independent at all. That instead, what exists are different levels of servants (anchito) working for a foreign master (bwana) under a semi-sovereignity.

After all the unnecessary toiling, studying, chasing one research project after another that has preoccupied my time the last two years, I have come to the sobering,inevitable and unsurprising conclusion that there is a worrying number of people who think you or someone like me doesn’t deserve much good out of this life.

A worrying number.

Some of these people think that if you are black and were born in Africa, in a country that is considered poor, in a family that does not have strong and powerful political allies, with little or no personal ‘fortune’ of your own, that your place on the socio-economic ladder is right there where fate (or an accident of evolution) created for you, exactly in the societal ‘bracket’ in which you were born. Where social / financial progression is an unattainable pie in the sky. In this place, a dead-end job is the best you can expect, and hand-me-downs or clothes sold in ASDA (or Walmart) with brands such as ‘George‘ and ‘White Stag‘ are worn. It’s a place devoid of vacations, where Sirloin steak is an unjustifiable luxury, and where a McDonald’s burger counts as a treat; where trips to the movies and broadway featured shows are unheard of, and golf – the preserve of the extremely wealthy. Lets just say it’s a place where a gym membership is not even a consideration when one’s salary can barely cover everyday expenses. In this place £7.50 spent on 400g cherries would be an obscene expense; it’s a place where a typical evening consist of dinner that costs less than $10 for a family of 5, (and does not include wine), and typical everyday entertainment is either Eastenders or some crap show on the radio, while drinking a bottle of Carlsberg.

These same people would have you believe that such a life is ‘normal’ or at least relatively normal. They bet on showing you a worse existential state to justify that while they exploit your resources (and make lucrative deals with your country’s selfish and spineless politicians), they are doing you a favour, you are in fact getting a better deal than that guy over there, in whose country a war has been raging for years, where women are unsafe and rape is commonplace, that guy’s country has virtually no education system in place, and look, armed guerilla fighters! In a country with no local currency, courts presided by warlords and a society infested with corruption….

Such scare stories are meant to somehow pacify your human (umunthu) and natural rage against what is clearly injustice against your brothers and sisters. Injustice which in other forms sees you called black monkey’s in your own country. They are the kinds of people who in Victorian times would have suggested (or mixed with people who were likely to suggest), without qualms, that a woman’s place is in the home; that women should not be allowed to work or vote. These are the kinds of people who would have owned the cotton mills (or mixed with people who owned the cotton mills) of Manchester and South Carolina, including being at the forefront of recruiting cheap child labour – for maximum profit. They are the kinds of people who would have been involved in the mistreatment of Jews throughout a large part of  European history. These kinds of people would have suggested to Pontius Pilate that because Jesus was a friend of the poor and ‘rejects’ of society, that he indeed deserved the most severe punishment for calling himself the son of God.

The haughty demagoguery of these sorts saw them perpetrate beliefs such as Manifest destiny, Supremacism and the Slave trade, and their puppets coin phrases such as ‘Axis of Evil‘ and ‘War on Terror‘. For the purposes of this article, not least dramatic effect, I’ll call these people the Greedy architects of death.

Yet aren’t these precisely the kind of attitudes which precipitate global unrest? Is this not what deprives humanity of peaceful coexistence and harmony? I say this because beneath the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Ukraine, or even the economic troubles facing Zimbabwe, there is a simple altercation: that of land and resource control.

In the case of Zimbabwe, please reason with me for a moment. Why on earth should a country be punished with sanctions for wanting to take back land that was forcefully and deceptively taken away from it in the first place??? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in support of violence, but what is it that lies at the heart of the matter?

Another facet to their characteristics is that of standing. Here, a common trait of the architect is opposition to any deal in which they aren’t getting a cut. In other words, when others do something bad, and these architects are not getting any money or resources from that bad something, then the action is wrong/unforgivable/ atrocious etc. But when the architects do that very same bad thing, they can can sugar coat it and self-righteously justify it…with phrases such as ‘Oil for food‘ and ‘Regeneration’, helpfully assisted by their Bretton Woods colleagues, with selective use of the biased chastisement whip commonly known as ‘International law’.

annan-3But how does all this relate to Malawi and the oil drilling on lake Malawi I hear you ask? Well, because at the heart of Malawi’s problems is land and resource control, and the puppet masters pulling the strings are exactly the same kinds of people brewing trouble elsewhere.

So, assuming you’ve heard of the Scotland independence debate, then even though I identify with old fashioned views that divorce must be avoided wherever possible and people must discuss to resolve differences, one part of me says that maybe Scotland should become independent from the UK. Because maybe then will they be able to use their resources for their own country’s benefit. Maybe if independence occurs, some of these architects will begin to realise just how their selfish and greedy actions have been hurting other people across the world?

In Europe maybe if Crimea joins the Russian Federation it will not be exploited by the pro-western kingpins of resource control – some of whom have probably been responsible for financial trickery or misconduct elsewhere?

Similarly, let the people of Malawi resist (at all costs and in whatever manner) drilling of oil on their beautiful lake because in the end, it’s not the local people who stand to benefit from the profits of the oil drilling. As the Paladin episode at Kayelekera has shown (and as other examples on the continent continue to demonstrate), it’s only a few corrupt government officials with off-shore bank accounts in tax havens in Switzerland or the British Virgin Islands who benefit. It’s large Investment Banks that provide the capital to the architects who will get the lions share, it’s a handful of millionaire tycoons with surnames like Borshoff and Ichikowitz, who live in mansions thousands of miles away and whose surnames the locals can’t even spell or pronounce properly, they are the ones who stand to profit. It is the Greedy architects of death (whose actions spur domino type effects, causing wars, and thereby suffering and hardship to millions across the world) who stand to benefit.

It sounds like a tedious link to make, but what has been the number one cause of unrest across the world if not battles for resource control?

That is my reason for opposing drilling on lake Malawi. Because while there is a high risk of environmental degradation which could affect the lives of fishermen who depend on the lake for their livelihoods (it happened in the gulf of Mexico, and happens in the Niger Delta all the times [see another link here via Amnesty International] – how can anybody sane think it will not happen on lake Malawi?), and which could negatively affect tourism and life ecosystems in and around the lake, in the end, there will be tears and loss as very few Malawians will benefit proportionally from the oil resource. In the end it could create strife….

But I’m not saying that the transactions a poor country such as Malawi signs with foreign ‘speculators’ are all bad or useless, and do not bring some material benefit to the country or its inhabitants. No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that comparatively, the benefit to Malawians is too small, too insignificant, chicken feed – unsustainable. In my view, it’s no more than a trojan horse that later comes back to bite and haunt the country. Instead, the net benefit of most of these deals is significantly in favour of these architects, who come into an area, pour in their capital, make billions of dollars in profits, then move out richer than they came in – leaving behind more than just a mess. Leaving behind broken lives,in which the local man remains economically where he was prior to the ‘invasion’, or even poorer, resigned to licking his wounds, as one aggressor after another wrestle for his country’s resources.

And that is hugely problematic because no matter who Malawians elect in May 2014 elections, if the status quo of dealing with investors is maintained, where African leader treat the national purse (and national assets) as private belongings, where investors are allowed to illicitly wire billions of untaxed funds out of the continent, if economic disparities across the country are not decisively addressed (in this I mean by creating companies in which trained locals are majority shareholders and investors are minority shareholders), if the leaders of western countries continue to be hypocritical over the well-documented conduct of business leaders from their countries, poverty levels will continue to linger in Malawi and across Africa for a very long time. And come next election very little would have changed, people will be scratching their heads, and you can come back and read this article again.

By the way, you don’t have to believe anything I’ve written above 🙂 . As I said in the first paragraph, it’s just a hypothesis, a theory based on my observations 🙂 … But even so, take a look at what these people here are saying (AfDB-GFI Joint Report: Illicit Financial Flows Render Africa a Net Creditor to the Rest of the WorldSub-Saharan Africa loses 5.7 percent of GDP to illicit financial outflowsIllicit financial outflows from Africa crippling continent’s development – UN ). With such stories of behaviour which is clearly hurting Africa, should Malawians really risk another Kayelekera? Would it be wise to entrust the lake to people whose number one motivation is profit and little else? Could anybody say the country is really independent? How can you justify independence when you depend too much on the help of others for your existence?

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