Having an opinion on the SGR

Does belonging to a specific tribe preclude independent thinking? I ask myself this because I have been surprisingly labelled an opposition supporter because I have criticized some aspects of the newly launched railway.

My position on the railway is pretty simple; that, in my opinion, its impact will probably be greatest in cargo freight services, not passenger services.

This is because a train lacks the flexibility of a bus service, especially between the cities, even if there are small stations along the way. And, so far as I have seen, most of those stations are quite a distance from the small towns they are meant to serve, so the train would be truly beneficial only to those who are traveling to either Mombasa or Nairobi.

This inflexibility also comes in the form of fixed schedules, and that there is only one track to be shared by trains; I have traveled by train, and the 5- hour commute will certainly be a relief from the 11-hour plus nightmare I experienced in the past, but if there’s only one track, I don’t think the service will as frequently available as buses, coz those you can board any time of the day.

I also had an issue with the price, which had been initially set at 900; it’s been lowered to 700, and that’s splendid; but, if there’s only a handful of trains, all hoping to use one track, the issue of daily frequency once again pops up, and buses will still have the upper hand, coz I can wake up at 4AM at get a Kathii bus to take me anywhere on the Mombasa-Nairobi road, but I can’t do that with the train.

As a cargo service, the train will hopefully reduce the number of trailers on the road, and that will probably play a role in saving our roads from the strain of accommodating overloaded trucks; equally important is that cargo will be delivered much more quickly, coz trailer drivers tend to take their time or are unnecessarily encumbered at the numerous roadblocks on the highway.

Now, this is my opinion, but it was dismissed as “speaking like ODM”, because apparently sharing ethnic heritage with the leader of the opposition party means that I cannot form opinions of my own.

I really hate such assumptions, but seeing as it were that we are heading into an election, I guess it’s time to keep opinions to oneself, lest someone thinks one is a mole serving the other side.

 

 

Like clickbait, Charlie Hebdo seeks to provoke outrage

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Maybe I have become too daft to get satire, and require your help understanding this latest satirical work from Charlie Hebdo.

Too soon? Totally inappropriate? Or has the whole world missed the context in which this becomes satirical?

Too soon? Totally inappropriate? Or has the whole world missed the context in which this becomes satirical?

It was released to coincide with the first anniversary of Aylan Kurdi’s death, and it my opinion it beautifully achieved its purpose.

What was its purpose, you ask me?

I think sometimes Charlie Hebdo just seeks to stir up outrage and controversy for one simple reason; we love to hate.

You see that cartoon with humans apparently stuffed into the lasagna and a primeval rage kicks in, the same emotion guys writing up clickbaits talking about how they found a hotel serving human head, or how human bits have been discovered in a potent traditional Asian medicine, hop on.

In our times, people rarely express their outrage to such offences by staging rallies; there are no pitchfork wielding mobs to chase Frankenstein out of town, which is good in a way, by the way.

Instead, people will channel all their rage into disseminating this offending item; “can you believe these guys?” is one of the many thoughts running in your head as your share the offending piece, seeking an affirmation of your outrage.

They get web traffic, and their profile is raised. They are earning from your outrage. They thrive in controversy.

Muslims, you can have your corner. Maybe there is satire here, but the average Muslim would get pissed off at the immodesty portrayed.

Muslims, you can have your corner. Maybe there is satire here, but the average Muslim would get pissed off at the immodesty portrayed.

I believe it’s the reason that they released the Italian piece on Aylan Kurdi’s death; in the beginning of this year, they posted a cartoon suggesting that Aylan would have grown to be a sex offender. It was an allegory to the spate of sexual assaults in Germany, attributed to immigrants. But’s that a dead three year old boy. They knew people would visit their sites on his anniversary, and then slap them with this latest post, and fury would do the rest.

Speaking of Aylan Kurdi, Katie Hopkins disparaged the opinion of his father, who lamented that his son’s death has done little to change the circumstances of refugees and migrants; she’s now riding high on that wave of social media storm. Controversy=spotlight= ‘relevance’.

Charlie Hebdo does produce good satire occasionally. Here, the bishop in red is confessing he's a pedophile, a documented problem in the catholic Church. the Pope advises him to "make films, like Polanski." Polanski being Roman Polanski, celebrated film producer; also wanted in the USA since 1978 for having sex with a 13yo girl.

Charlie Hebdo does produce good satire occasionally. Here, the bishop in red is confessing he’s a pedophile, a documented problem in the catholic Church. the Pope advises him to “make films, like Polanski.” Polanski being Roman Polanski, celebrated film producer; also wanted in the USA since 1978 for having sex with a 13yo girl.

Maybe I can’t see the satire in Charlie Hebdo’s lasagna and penne reference because it’s too soon to the disaster to dispassionately assess it, but, if this was meant to be a satirical piece, why would they release this second piece, an apparent response to Italians outraged by the first cartoon.

Charlie Hebdo, Mafia and the buildings

This second item may actually have a point, according to some articles I have spotted online, but with a statement that absolves Charlie Hebdo and blames the mafia for the substandard houses, coupled with the gore (there’s a dead man with a plank in his head in the background), it’s really hard to see the point.

 

Jason Boring Maybe?

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"You know his name": Seems they are telling us to watch this only because of brand familiarity, and the cash cow must be milked.

“You know his name”: Seems they are telling us to watch this only because of brand familiarity, and the cash cow must be milked.

I tend to watch action movies in one seating; I remember completing Prison Break Sn1 through one night, and I have watched reruns of 24 in similar fashion.

This Jason Bourne just can’t keep me glued to it long enough to finish what is supposed to be two hours of action; it woefully clear it’s suffering a severe case of sequelitis, coz it’s nothing more than a bunch of contrivances stitched together, and to quote Cloud Atlas, which I’d watch several times over, it “expires in an ending that is flat and inane beyond belief!”

This movie trundles along without a convincing plot, and it is full of zany escapes and coincidences. Here are some.

 In Athens,

I don’t understand why the hitmen would dress up as policemen and then walk through a crowd of protestors, because 1) they sorely stand out, 2) the protestors would easily gang up on them. That’s a mob with Molotovs, raising the probability that a riot officer who falls behind would receive a terrible beating.

So, Jason and Parsons are escaping in a motorcycle, they have left the nameless Asset crashed into a wall, they are going through streets where burning cars are rolling about, lit mattresses are being thrown from the rooftops. Let us just assume the CIA can somehow track them through this mayhem.

In this scene towards the end, TLJ weirdly looks like Batman's Joker.  In this movie, you will notice the bags of old age under TLJ's eyes coz the plot isn't just captivating enough, and you have time to observe such things.

In this scene towards the end, TLJ weirdly looks like Batman’s Joker. In this movie, you will notice the bags of old age under TLJ’s eyes coz the plot isn’t just captivating enough, and you have time to observe such things.

How is it that at the very moment CIA’s Heather Lee is saying “contact”, Bourne is telling Parsons to “stay low!” “Hold on”? Even if he can get into the mind of the assassin, being the superspy he is, he doesn’t know where the Asset is perched, whether there were other hitmen, and most importantly, the street was no different from the other streets they had passed through.

In Berlin,

You mean to tell me none in the team sent to get Bourne had the presence of mind to guard the main entrance? CIA surveillance could see him in the house, fighting and all, so they must have seen him leave; couldn’t they think of manning the entrance(s)? Bourne just slams the door on one person and strolls out.

In London,

Did they really have to kill those agents?

And how does Heather just become good friends with Bourne?

In the USA,

So, only the airports in the US screen passengers or what am I missing? I know border posts in Tanzania and Ethiopia that are more thorough than these European posts in the movies. He hops from Athens to Berlin to London, and the issue of him being a spy wanted by the CIA doesn’t pop up, even though the presumably flies to these destinations, and the CIA is actually waiting ahead after Athens.

Did the Asset really need to kill the police officer? And why steal this highly conspicuous SWAT van if you want to make a clean getaway?

How does that woefully puny Charger manage to hold its own against the SWAT van that only seconds ago was shown flipping bigger cars like pancakes?

I wonder if its Bourne's sheer ballsiness that's transformed the Charger into a formidable car

I wonder if its Bourne’s sheer ballsiness that’s transformed the Charger into a formidable car

In my opinion, they should have made this a movie about Deep Dream fighting off the CIA; that subplot strongly relates to the issues of our time, I find it more credible, and it is a lot more thrilling than the action sequences captured by a person with a slightly unsteady hand. No, apparently it’s a film technique.

That moment Aaron is shot right after saying the man in a dark suit “has come to take my soul” is more dramatic than everything else in the movie.

It’s also one of those perfect coincidences.

 

Bernie Sanders, A Fluffer?

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Bernie Sanders

As in an Unfinished Business kind of fluffer.

To quote the movie:

When a company wants to do a sweetheart deal with a friend or something…

they generally pretend to negotiate with another company, right to the end.

Just to make it look legit.

Right to the end, Bernie Sanders took us on the ride of a socialist cause, and then tells us to effectively ignore the cause and back Hillary, herein the company that had been backed by the DNC from the onset, the recipient of endorsements from media houses.

Sanders is a politician like the rest, but one can comfortably say that his political inclinations are what American leadership needs than what it desires to perpetuate a terrible system.

I see Hillary and remember her saying, “we came, we saw, he died,” and that snarky laughter at the end. Libya is now torn to shreds, and its daily anguish is no longer newsworthy. Yet this is the same person who intends to reset Syria if she becomes president, clearly not learning from Iraq or Libya.

There’s also the legitimation of the Honduran coup.

I also recall watching some documentary where Hillary was heard describing African American youth as “super predators” as she lobbied for her husband’s three strikes law, which continues to devastate black communities in America.

While Hilary was on about super predators, Sanders had about 30 years of activism under his belt, fighting segregation in housing way back in 1961. The guy has been an activist longer than my country has been nominally independent, and writing about his activism would make this look like a hagiography.

But in my opinion, his standing on migration, wars of aggression (aka foreign policy) the penal system, etc. are within my spectrum; his are policies that carry hope like Obama’s eloquent speeches in 2008, but, unlike Obama, backed by half a decade of walking the talk.

I believe the conviction of many Sanders supporters is that, upon failing to secure the Democratic nomination, Sanders should have decided to run as an independent, for he is after all. Isn’t this surely the only alternative if one had stepped on to the track knowing that virtually everything was skewed in favor of your competitor?

Unless he is telling all his supporters, that, after more than 50 years of fighting for social causes, he just allowed his message to be subsumed by the behemoth establishment to apply a varnish of legitimacy to an otherwise predetermined race.

As in a willfully complicit Unfinished Business kind of fluffer.

On Charlie Hebdo & the Limitations of Freedoms

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Like many people who went through my high school while the Director was alive, I learnt from him that freedom is never absolute; to actually enjoy freedoms, you must agree to abide by certain conditions, which if violated would warrant the denial of said freedoms.

Another way to express this is in the statement that your freedoms end where they infringe upon other people’s freedoms; so while it may be in my rights to have as much fun as I wish, I shouldn’t, in the process of having fun, bother people who would prefer calm.

I would be infringing upon their rights.

I am speaking about this because this Charlie Hebdo issue just won’t die down, and in the name of their freedom of expression/free speech, they infringe upon the right of the Muslim ummah to have some modicum of respect for their faith/religion.

It’s really simple; if the faithful assert that doing this and that generally goes against their tenets, there is often no need to engage in this and that, unless of course when you want to provoke a response by offending someone’s sensibilities.

As irreligious as I am, I see some sense in discouraging the depiction of the prophets, be they Christian, Muslim, or Judaic; nobody really knows how they looked like, and I have seen sometimes that people are more willing to argue about whether the Christian Jesus looks as is often depicted (very Caucasian-like, which is relatively odd considering he came from a Semitic lot) than delve into the teachings of the Bible; in other words, the focus is aimed at the messenger, though it should be on the message.

But whatever my personal opinions are, more pertinent are the dogmas that shape a religion; dogmas such as a strict observance of the Sabbath among devout followers of Judaism, who in Israel even have enforceable laws that restrict activities on this day, regardless of whether or not one is an adherent of the faith.

In Islam, the depiction of prophets is a no-no, so anyone portraying any prophet is offending the Muslim populace in general, and Charlie Hebdo has done that more than once.

From reprinting the Mohammed-with-a-bomb-in-his-turban image to renaming one of its editions as Charia Hebdo (a play at Sharia, Islamic law), and featuring Mohammed as its guest editor, the numerous portrayals of the prophet have been a cause of grievance amongst many Muslims, some of course feeling this more than others.

I have seen a good deal of the Mohammed depictions, and I can tell with relative certainty that those images that do appear on the cover page are nothing compared to illustrations that have featured in the inner pages.

One of these images is of a naked person bent over with a star pinned on his bum; the caption reads something to the effect of “Mohammed, a new star is born.” If I recall correctly, this illustration hit the shelves shortly after the controversial clip, “The Innocence of Muslims” which portrays Mohammed as a womanizing, homosexual, bloodthirsty pedophile.

There’s still another image of Mohammed, naked save for a turban on his head, prostrate on the ground with a film maker standing over him.

Charlie Hebdo’s illustrations are meant to be satirical, but I think they must have forgot some time ago to draw a line between what is satirical and what is distastefully abusive; what satire exists in depicting the genitals of anyone, much less a revered prophet? The only place one would expect to find such images would be in cartoon porn I guess, and the illustrator must be a little bit twisted to come up with such plates.

Satire is meant to be funny, for its message to be imparted to its readers, but there’s hardly any humor or message in such vulgar illustrations; unless the message is that we can trample over your religious figures, and your religion, with the might of our pencils.

I say this understanding well enough that the Charlie Hebdo attack is like September 11 for the French, and that comes with this shortsighted dichotomy that you are either with Charlie Hebdo, supporting free speech, or you are with the Coulibaly brothers, a terrorist in the making.

I am neither. I am not with Charlie Hebdo, because I know freedom is not absolute, so as much as they cherish their right to free speech, they should observe restraint where it is needed; why they would go ahead and post a cartoon of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit engaged in a sexual orgy baffles me, but it also makes me see that their editorial policy is not constrained by religious tenets, or maybe it could be that it is limited by only one?

As repugnant as I may find a person or something associated within him, I am not for killing the same person over such a flimsy reason, because once again, I respect the limits to my freedoms. So obviously I do not side with the Coulibaly and the Kouchis.

I want to iterate the most important point of this post; my freedoms are limited by my neighbors’; I can do anything I please, so long as in the process I do not cause displeasure to them. So anyone can write, illustrate or use whatever creative talent he has as he pleases, so long as it doesn’t unjustly harm/inflict pain on others.

Society is made up of so many different peoples; we must be able to recognize and respect these differences.

Meru to Moyale to Moyale and Back to Nairobi

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I was in Meru doing some work, and when it was done, it hit me; this was the farthest north I had come on the A2.

So instead of returning south to Nairobi, I disembarked from the shuttle and dashed to the Isiolo-bound buses, having already set my mind to go to Moyale, which is the farthest town north on the A2 in Kenya.

Using public transport has its inconveniences, and by the time I got to Isiolo, the Moyale-bound buses had already left; in case you are wondering, they start their journey in Nairobi, so Isiolo is just a stopover.

Moyale is slightly over 500km fom Isiolo, and only 3 buses ply that route; Moyale Raha, Moyale Liner and Moyale Star. When the roads get better, maybe we will have more options.

Back to Isiolo.

If you miss the bus to Moyale and still wish to head north, you can do one of two things; spend the night and catch the bus the day after, or take a Toyota Landcruiser (pick up with seats at the back, a canvas to shelter us) to Marsabit and hope to connect from there.

I wanted to keep moving, so I took a Landcruiser to Marsabit, more than 200km away. It cost me a thousand and I partially understood why it was so expensive after Merille, which is coincidentally where Marsabit county, Kenya’s biggest county, begins.

The tarmac ends here, and then you go on and on, and on, on rough roads, diversions, and even more rough roads. But fortunately, we are on these rough roads because the A2 is being built, and I think in maybe 3-4 years, the whole stretch will be built, because there are more than 4 contractors involved on the road, predominantly Chinese, but a Turkish company is also involved; they build beautiful bridges, according to a passenger I was travelling with.

There’s an ocassional reprieve where we are allowed to use completed sections of the highway, and we got to Marsabit sometime past four or five.

I had hoped to get ahead of a bus as we sped to Marsabit but the plan didnt pan out, and it seemed that I would have to spend the night ni Marsabit and hope to catch a bus the next day.

Luckily for me, a school bus from Moyale had ferried students to Marsabit for some talent show, and we caught it just in time. We, because I made an acquaintance with some other guy keen to get to Moyale on the same day.

We hopped on, enjoyed the tarmac for many good kilometers and then it was a rough road all the way to Moyale.

Turns out the guy is a policeman. I crashed at the police line, roamed around Moyale Kenya, and went to Moyale Ethiopia.

They check for Ebola btw.

Passport control in Ethiopia nearly chased me away, but I got an entry stamp; haven’t taken the exit stamp yet, I am thinking I should go to their Embassy here in Nairobi and resolve that.

I satisfied my Moyale curiosity and came back to Nairobi.

Here are a few photos from the journey.

And Here’s a map of the Meru-Moyale Route.

proper - CopyGod willing I’ll be in Baringo in January.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

On the Events in Burkina Faso

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“While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”

I think these two quotes aptly apply to the events unfolding in Burkina Faso, where Blaise Compaore’s 27 year tenure has come to an inglorious end, after the people rose to demand an end to his long reign.

A soldier confronts a protester in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. So far, at least 5 have been killled so far

A soldier confronts a protester in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. So far, at least 5 have been killled so far

The first was made by Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, just a week before (then Captain) Blaise Compaore, allegedly with French and Ivorian support, turned on him or was complacent in the putsch that killed Sankara and 12 other former brother in arms, defenders of the revolution.

Though the 13 were killed, with Sankara being dismembered and hastily buried, the ideals that they lived persisted, even if Compaore tried vainly to kill memories of Sankara. How can you kill his memories, when every person who identifies as Burkinabe does so because Sankara oversaw the rebirth of Upper Volta to Burkina Faso?

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso

President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso

Compaore tried, but when you have an opposition leader called Benewende Sankara (no relation to Thomas) and institute policies that continually exacerbates the suffering of the people, you are setting the necessary conditions for a putsch, which was tried in 2011 but failed.

Compaore messed up because he was thinking he could fool everyone, every time; to the outside world, he wanted to present himself as a democratic individual, and maybe this mask stayed on for so long coz apparently Burkina Faso is considered an ally in the war against AQIM and their ilk as they have given US and France bases for their Sahelian edition of the GWOT.

You know American allies can never be baddies in global narratives, so the Obiangs in Equatorial Guinea will remain largely untouched (that $30m they recently seized from Teodorin is a pittance) coz their oil goes to American companies, Bahraini Shiites will keep on getting oppressed, so long as the Americans keep their base, the Naval Support Activity.

Burkina Faso is somewhere in the forest of pins and markers of US presence in West Africa

Burkina Faso is somewhere in the forest of pins and markers of US presence in West Africa

Back to Compaore.

On the local scene, Compaore was your run of the mill autocrat, though of course, in his attempt to portray himself as a democrat, he had to make a few concessions in local politics; there were political parties, there was an opposition, but in reality cooption and a divide and conquer strategy made sure that this was largely an opposition in word.

But attempting to change the constitution, as he had done in the past, gave the opposition a unity of purpose that could not be mowed down by bullets, and the people marched to parliament, razed it down, and his presidency was over.

The Citizen's Broom has been holding demos since last year, so the recent event didnt really start the other day

The Citizen’s Broom has been holding demos since last year, so the recent event didnt really start the other day

Burkinabe did what Guy Fawkes tried more than 400 years ago, and succeeded

Burkinabe did what Guy Fawkes tried more than 400 years ago, and succeeded. This is what is left of Burina Faso’s parliament

But the people’s struggle isn’t over; another military leader has taken over, and so the military rule that has been the staple of Burkina Faso since 1966, may yet endure.

Lieutenant- Colonel Isaac Zida, head of the presidential guard, is the new leader in the interim period, which may as well mean he’s the 7th president of this nation of 14million.

Lt.-Col. Isaac Zida

Lt.-Col. Isaac Zida

But I think the ordinary Burkinabe is tired of this force-fed diet of military rule, and are the protests will only stop when there is a civilian at the helm. So I expect Bobo Dioulasso and Ouagadougou to be restless until that change is seen, unless the army decides to ‘neutralize’ the protestors.

I wonder whether America and France will pull a Libyan intervention when that happens.

 

Apologies

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I must apologise to those who take their time to read these posts; the past few months have been challenging.

It started with me going home to Mombasa, for the first time in I think 2-3 years; I actually can’t remember when I was last there. It was fun, but then I quickly fell sick, suffering dengue fever, which I came to learn has no specific medication. Stuck between drinking bitter papaya leaf juice or some broad spectrum antibiotics, I chose the latter, and it was like 3 weeks before I fully recovered.

Then the wandering Hollow (think Bleach) took over and I chose the outdoors over the comp, and nothing was written down- moments were lived and forgotten.

And I forgot to mention that I lost access to my blog because the SIM used in my log in was left in Mombasa, where I had assumed I was returning to shortly after dropping by for an interview in Nairobi. my sickness and the bus’ breakdown conspired to make sure I arrived 5 hours past the interview time.

But I have realized it may be a while before I go back home, so I have replaced the SIM, and can now access the blog.

 

The Others

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I bet you are familiar with the following literary works: The Merchant of Venice, Oliver Twist and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

542100b Film Oliver Twist

Oliver Twist, the boy who dares ask for more. Screengrab from a film

They are masterpieces which have been translated into countless languages and vivified in films and plays. I bet there’s some literature class somewhere that includes one of these books in its reading list.

TheMerchantofVenice1

Film Cover From the 2004 Film, Merchant of Venice

Literature often portrays the writer’s society, and in these three, it does depict one ugly bit, that of anti-Semitism.

A poster for the movie adaptation of Dorian Gray

A poster for the movie adaptation of Dorian Gray

The depiction comes in the description of the character, and the one thing you will notice is the horrid description of characters who have been identified as Jews. In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the Jewish character is Shylock, who if you remember demands a literal pound of flesh when (the Christian) Antonio fails to repay money lent to him. In the end, he forfeits his demand and is forced to convert to Christianity.

And it is Shylock who gave this moving soliloquy:

He [Antonio] hath disgraced me and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation [read Jews], thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies-and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same diseases, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge… (Act 3, Scene 1).

By law, there were no Jews in England during Shakespeare’s lifetime, 1564-1616. And that is because they had been officially expelled in 1290, by the Edict of Expulsion and allowed back in 1657. They probably could have seen the Expulsion coming, given the discrimination they had suffered prior. The Magna Carta didn’t apply to them, they were direct subjects of the King, who could thus seize their property at will, and they had already been required to wear a badge (yes, a la the yellow badges of Nazi Germany) to mark their Jewishness some 70 years before.

Much of the rest of Europe followed centuries later, and they found refuge in Poland, Netherlands, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and the Maghreb.

Jews were Expelled Across Europe, finding safety in very few places

Jews were Expelled Across Europe, finding safety in very few places

But even if they weren’t official welcome in England, their reputation as ‘greedy moneylenders’ persisted; or maybe Shakespeare heard of the experiences of Jews in Italy and the rest of Continental Europe, where Jews lived in isolated ghettos in which they would be locked in by Christians (similar to Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-occupied territory).

Shylock is nowadays the name for a vicious loan shark, so you see his original depiction of the moneylender was powerful.

Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist also has such a Jew, the main protagonist, Fagin. It was written in 1838, and it’s clear anti-Semitism persists in Dickens’ society. By some counts, Fagin’s Jewishness is emphasized some 257 times in the 1st edition, though subsequent editions have been sanitized.

There’s nothing wrong with a Jewish character in a novel, but Fagin represents an ‘archetypical Jew’; he is described as a miser, grotesque, and leader of a gang of thieves who feels nothing for the children he has coerced into a life of thievery, including Oliver Twist.

Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is more forthright in its vituperative descriptions of a Mr. Isaacs, a Jew. He is ‘a hideous Jew,…smoking a vile cigar. ‘ ‘He had greasy ringlets’, ‘He was such a monster’, even though he had just ‘took off his hat with an air of servility’. He ‘was a horrid Jew’, a ‘most offensive brute.’

Their suffering in Europe came to a head in the Holocaust, but really, they had suffered a lot in between the Church Inquisition, the Alhambra Decree, and regular pogroms all over Europe.

And why were on the receiving end of society’s wrath?

Christian Europe was very intolerant of The Other, those who are not like them. Maybe be it could be because Jesus Christ was crucified at the whims of a Jewish mob, who preferred the thief Barabbas freed than Jesus.

Maybe it was because they stuck with the Jewish faith while Jesus Christ embodied a new relation between God and Man; either way, people don’t like different, so whenever things went wrong, it was the Jews who were blamed.

They were accused of poisoning wells during as the Plague ravaged Europe, they were accused of sacrificing children for their Passover and received blame for many other unfortunate events.

This scapegoating was perfected by Adolf Hitler, who in this letter, reduces Jews to an Alien race who leave a pernicious effect. In this more recent history, the Jews were blamed for everything that ailed Nazi-Germany, setting up the stage for their elimination.

World War II put an end to the industrial slaughter of Jews, and the creation of a state for the Jews, Israel, effectively enabled Europe to get rid of its Jewish issue; now the Jews could go be a problem in another backyard, far removed from Europe.

The Communists

After World War II, The Communists became the new Other, as Communist Russia and US fought for global domination in a world win which the USSR became more cocooned as America spread forth its democracy.

These were the years of the Cold War, and the threat of the Red Scare felt very real to Americans, so much so there were Senatorial committees on the same. Hollywood probably made the fear of a Red invasion loom even larger, and movies to this day still continue to depict Russians/Eastern Europeans as the bad other, often the weapon supplier who can’t even speak proper English; of course there are exceptions in movies such as Angelina Jolie’s Salt (ito language skills), but those are topics for another day.

The Red Scare came in two phases, shortly after the Bolsheviks took over Russia & After WW2. It was more pronounced after WW2

The Red Scare came in two phases, shortly after the Bolsheviks took over Russia & After WW2. It was more pronounced after WW2

Asia is where America’s dislike for the Soviet invasion came to life, in the countless wars America financed or put boots in, all in the name of containing these socialists/communists.

Things got heated in Asia only after Mao Zedong beat America-backed Chiang Kai Shek and his Kuomintang, who fled to Taiwan (the Republic of China that still claims to be the rightful rulers of the larger People’s Republic of China); that was in 1949, and with Mao allied to Communist Russia, weapons started flowing freely around Asia.

Especially in Vietnam, which had been fighting its war of independence against France since 1946. It became an independent state in 1954, but barely a year later, found itself in a brutal war in which Communist northern Vietnam fought against US-backed South Vietnam. This war against the communist north would last until 1975, when the US finally decided to cut its losses. In the end then, the communists prevailed, despite Agent Orange and napalm raining down on civilians and fighters alike.

The Korean peninsula was the other place the Communist advance had to be stopped, and between 1950 and 1953, the peninsula convulsed with the drums of war. A Vietnam was avoided here, and the peninsula technically remains in a state of war to this date, with the US apparently mandated to take charge of war operations should those arise.

Beyond Asia, Cuba was another target for America’s Containment policy, but try as they have, America’s CIA has yet to succeed in assassinating that communist Fidel Castro, the leader of the revolution. But they have tried some 638 times since 1959, when Castro overthrew America backed dictator Batista.

Fidel Castro in his younger, cigar smoking years. Once the CIA attempted to plant a cigar-shaped bomb in his collection.

Fidel Castro in his younger, cigar smoking years. Once the CIA attempted to plant a cigar-shaped bomb in his collection.

In the era of the Cold War, when the bad other was the Communist/Socialist, anyone who so identified with those philosophies could be put down, and only a few people would whimper and the assassinated would be quickly forgotten.

Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, the first post-independence Prime Minister, sealed his fate when he sought the help of the USSR in quelling a mutinous riot. Mi6 agents sitting on their deathbeds suddenly seem to remember some sort of British intervention or CIA planning in the fateful handover of Lumumba to Katanga separatists who promptly executed him as was expected.

Ptrice Lumumba in Better Times

Ptrice Lumumba in Better Times

https://mankalela.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/pd2243849_belgium__2524504b.jpg

Lumumba, bound and headed for Elizabethsville (Lubumbashi), DRC, where he was executed

Likewise, Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara was easy game after all his talk about removing odious debts, the power of IMF and World Bank, and generally shunning foreign aid. These were the 80s, and WB-approved structural adjustment programs were shattering economies throughout the world and here comes this fool, challenging the powers that be with his Socialist/Marxist leanings; see who is he to end forced labor, allow people to own the land they work on, nationalize mines, build roads, and outlaw FGM decades before other nations follow suit?

Sankara emulated Fidel Castro, and had a penchant for the che-like red beret. He made too man enemies within with his marxist leaning policies

Sankara emulated Fidel Castro, and had a penchant for the che-like red beret. He made too man enemies within with his marxist leaning policies

Just what gall does this man have, to challenge the dominance of former colonial master, France? Sankara and 14 officers were executed in 1987, and he was dismembered and promptly buried in a decrepit cemetery.

While other leaders have mausoleums, and countless statues to honor them, this dusty, littered graveyard is Sankara's resting place, and will likely remain so until Blaise Compaore is unseated.

While other leaders have mausoleums, and countless statues to honor them, this dusty, littered graveyard is Sankara’s resting place, and will likely remain so until Blaise Compaore is unseated.

France supported the coup, and the man who led it was none other than Blaise Compaore, the dictator who still runs Burkina Faso. The first things he did was undo Sankara’s work, like nationalizing mines and land, so that slowly, the nation slid back to being the source of cheap labor it had always been. Nobody bothers Compaore, because is a ‘democratic’ leader, has been so for 27 long years, and le balai citoyen [Fre] will not bar him from ‘serving his people’.

All across the world, being communist/ socialist government meant that sooner rather than later an anti-communist rebel movement will pop up strongly supported by the ‘civilized west’, and if an opposition party came up with similar philosophies, the government wouldn’t be bothered that much if it chose to thoroughly crush such daring opposition.

Containing communism trumped over human rights, so America left its footprints in Siad Barre’s reign in Somalia, in Ethiopia, and in Angola, where Cuba had even committed soldiers.

This strong anti-communist sense persisted until 91, when Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika saw the collapse of the USSR, and with it, communism. China is still officially a communist country, but in reality it has a serious capitalist bent. The only other communist/socialist nations are Laos, Vietnam and North Korea, but communism is effectively dead.

With the fall of the USSR, America’s position as global leader became even more certain, which meant its new enemy would become the new global other.

The Muslim/Arab (The Terrorist)

In the early 90s, the Muslim/Arab became the new Other, and that is a title he still holds to this day. I say Muslim/Arab because there is often no desire to distinguish the two but let me clarify; the Muslim is a follower of Islam, and he could be of any race or ethnicity.

‘Arab’ is an ethnic identity, or more appropriately, a general identity for countless ethnicities. The Arab is often associated with Islam, even though there are Christian Arabs, and Arabs of other faiths.

There is a brief history of the happenings that shaped this tag, but I think the three most important events are the formation of the Islamic theocracy in Iran (this violently displaced vested interests), Soviet-Afghanistan War (US sponsored Mujaheedins who later rose against their benefactors) and the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

But the watershed event was September 11, 2001 when some 3,000 died in attacks blamed on Muslim extremists. That was the beginning of operation Enduring Freedom, and the Global War on Terror, and now virtually every other Muslim/Arab is often perceived as a terrorist.

I get this feeling that whenever a Muslim/Arab commits a murderous crime, his rampage is more likely to be framed as an act of terrorism while when a non- Muslim/ Arab, especially a Caucasian, commits a similar crime,it is not.

5 people were killed in the 1993 attacks, and it was declared an act of terrorism. James Holmes killed 12 people in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, but in court, he was charged with murder and attempted murder, even though he had a stash of handmade grenades and explosives at home, ready to be used.

5 people were killed in the Boston Bombing, and president Obama was quick to call it an act of terror. Meanwhile the Sandy Hook killing was chalked off as another mass killing, with 27 fatalities after Adam Lanza was done.

John Allen Williams, aka John Allen Muhammad, killed about the same number of people, and he went in on several charges including terrorism.

Maybe one last case that demonstrates this dichotomy in the description of terrorism is the case of Anders Brevik, who bombed a building in Norway before descending upon Utoya, where disguised as a police officer, he killed 69 people.

In Norwegian court, he was effectively charged for terrorism, but check on news about him and he seems to be consistently referred to as a mass-killer. I am certain that if Anders were a Muslim, the terrorist tag would have been slapped immediately.

Good-terrorist-bad-terrorist

Anders on the Left, a Hamas fighter on the Right. The question here is what makes one a terrorist?

I say that because of the Boston Bombing incident. Both Caucasians, the Tsarnaevs probably could have been regarded as lone wolf attackers by some local extremists (not terrorists per se), until it was discovered they are from the wrong side of Europe, Chechnya, and that they had converted to Islam.

By British law, terrorism is “terrorism is committed by a defined act designed to influence a Government, the public or an NGO for the purpose of advancing a religious, political, ideological or racial cause

In other words, all the aforementioned acts, and countless others, should be acts of terror but it seems selective amnesia affects people when it involves Muslim &/or Arab-looking men. [By this definition, US, UK, France would be leaders in terrorism, considering their many covert and overt efforts to influence governments]

Terrorism Attacks in US between 1980-2005.

Terrorism Attacks in US between 1980-2005.

The chart above is a summarized FBI report, and it shows that the malignment Muslims generally face is disproportionate to the amount of terror they have inflicted in the nation.

But even when these cold facts stare at people, it seems that the Muslim is still treated as the other, the perceived terrorist bent on carnage. Globally then, we have become so inured to this caricature of a Muslim/ Arab person, so that it doesn’t matter much when they kill each other in their homelands, as these killings only reinforce their caricatured lifestyle.

Which is why a respectable magazine such as the Baltimore Sun could reduce the death of Palestinians (Arabs) as 70 Others in the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict.

I think it is important to remember that the acts of a few gun-toting madmen shouldn’t be used to define a motley of people, coz then they become others and we lose all lose out.

This Israel-Gaza Conflict

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That is actually a slightly incorrect title, coz it is not an Israel-Gaza conflict but more of an Israel Crushing Gaza Campaign, which is more pertinent to what I am going to write next.

Israeli Defense Forces soldiers relaxing

Israeli Defense Forces soldiers relaxing

On the other side, Gazans prepare to bury their dead

On the other side, Gazans prepare to bury their dead

You see, there are rules in this world, and one such rule, globally acknowledged by some 146 countries is to prevent genocide or punish those who commit such crimes. But once again, the state of Israel is committing what should be clearly called out for what it is, a slow extermination of Palestinians using an array of tactics.

Of course, once I have said that, I will promptly be labeled an anti-semite so that presenting my argument becomes impossible. But since I am writing, and you are reading, let me continue with my train of thought.

I know we are familiar with the dramatic version of genocide, in which one group attempts to annihilate another group in a very short time, but then again, there is no time limit to constrain the definition of genocide; so long as the actions of one group seem intent on eliminating another group, it is a genocide. and I am beginning to think Israel’s leadership has the genocidal bent it so rabidly accuses Iran of.

So, what passes for genocide these days? Well, that hasn’t changed much since the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was passed in 1948, coincidentally the same year the state of Israel was carved from Palestine lands.

In Article ii of this convention, we find this block of qualifiers. : genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical,
racial or religious group, as such :
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Let’s check these issues separately.

(a) Killing members of the group;

I don’t think anyone needs me to expound on this. As of today, at least 135 Palestinians have been killed while I am yet to hear of a casualty on the Israel side. Actually things have been so relaxed in Israel, some Israelis in Sderot went out to admire the hellfire being visited on Gaza.

And how did it get to this point? It stared with the search for 3 missing Israeli teens (there are even suggestions this was a black flag), and before you knew it, 9 Palestinians had been killed and 500 arrested over boys the Israeli government knew had died from Day 1 of the search. But why pass an opportunity you can use to crush enemies?

The killings didn’t start today; they go back much farther, when Jewish resistance movements (Haganah) were the terrorists wrecking havoc in Palestine Mandate so the British could leave and the Palestine Arabs could be pushed aside. The Haganah became the Israeli Defense Forces, so I guess i can see where the IDF pick up their manners.

You need to remember that Palestinians live under an occupation that is effectively condition c, as in:

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

I mean, what other outcome is expected when people are systematically crushed every day? Palestinians have their houses in line for demolition for one reason or another, those who have managed to hold on to their land have their olive groves burnt, are denied access to water and sanitation services, and their children imprisoned; Since 2010, Israel has detained some 3,000 Palestinians. 3 out of 4 of these children get tortured and thrown before military courts. They are often stone-throwers, and like the kids in Sarafina, you know why they throw stones at IDF convoys. And some kids end up as target practise for the IDF.

Palestinian house being demolished as IDF watches

Palestinian house being demolished as IDF watches

Then you have the regular military operations into Gaza or West Bank. The killing of people is always a tragedy, but the bigger loss is that barely capable infrastructure is often senselessly destroyed. Hospitals, police stations, and other buildings have been destroyed as they have been in the past few days, and because Israel has placed restrictions on imports and exports out of Palestine, and Hamas is not in good terms with Egypt(Gaza-Egypt border hosted many smuggling routes to ferry in things like cement) reconstructing is going to be difficult, and so the lives of Gazans will be all the more harder.

Gaza is once again feeling the full weight of the Israeli military

Gaza is once again feeling the full weight of the Israeli military

In between the cramped quarters and the difficult existence under the IDF, Palestinians are slowly being ground away, one person at a time.

Israel wants to be recognized as a Jewish state, an odd assertion, but understandable for a nation that has been led by rabid ethno-nationalists who don’t seem as interested in appreciating the presence of Arabs, Christians and other minorities as they are in keeping the nation very Jewish.

I know some Israelis are against this continued state-entrenched discrimination and killing of Palestinians, but unfortunately their voices can barely register on the world stage as their government continues its demolition of Palestine.

By the way, you do know the reason Israel is assaulting the Gaza Strip at this moment? This is my take. There are two reasons.

————–1. TO OVERSHADOW IRAN’S NUCLEAR TALKS

Israel opposes the nuclear talks being held between Iran and the P5+1, it has been since day 1. There’s a deadline looming for this round of talks, and that is the 20th of this month. Israel’s incursion into Gaza has brought global attention on Gaza and Israel and now the need to sort out the Iranian issue will probably take a backburner.

————–2. TO SEVER THE RECENT HAMAS-FATAH COALITION

Palestine is gaining more recognition, much to the displeasure of Netanyahu, and the administrative reunion of Gaza and West Bank, administratively split since 2007, through the coalition between Hamas (rules Gaza) and Fatah (governs West Bank) was going to be a headache for a leader keen on villifying the Hamas leadership. The kidnapping of the trio gave him a good pretext to prod the Hamas into reacting and now he gets what he wants. Now, a legitimate government (Hamas-Fatah) is fighting back aggression from foreign forces (Israel), but the narrative will be so well spun by those spindoctors more often than not managed to make these clashes seem like a fair fight between two forces, never mind the fact that in reality, it is a David vs. Goliath in which David doesn’t have a sling.

What I don’t get about the Israeli-Palestine situation is always this: how is it that a people who suffered so much could mete out a similar kind of suffering to other people? Come on, Gaza is like the Warsaw Ghetto, and so what the Palestines are doing is effectively another reincarnation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

And why won’t the world stand and do something to restore some Palestinian dignity? will all this stop only if the Jew or the Arab is eliminated?

Why can’t people learn to coexist?