Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: Hidden in Plain Sight

Almost a year ago exactly I asked some American citizens what they thought of Donald Trump vying for the Presidential candidacy of the Republican party. The answers ranged from dismissive amusement to...actually there was no range. Just dismissive amusement. And here we are, today. 

Reading around I found out that not only is this not Mr. Trump's first attempt at the Presidency but that a cartoonist- of course- actually envisioned his campaign 29 years ago! As much as I respect academics, they never quite seem to be able to see beyond the event horizon in quite the way that the creative class does. 

It was with this in mind that I chose to broach the idea of a President-less Tanzania for the week's column. Primarily I am just doing this to play with the idea of a state that looks different from what we have now. All things considered, Africa shouldn't be all too scared of experimenting beyond the strongman habit: what do we have to lose? And no, I don't mean the horrendous vacuums left when despots die so much as evolving the state by- you guessed it- devolving power:

"I consider public servants of all echelons analoguous to doctors. Yes, they are experts at what they do but at the end of the day you have rights. You should ask questions and always seek to understand and participate in your own care to the best of your ability. In Tanzania this is guaranteed to annoy most clinicians and all politicians. Yet they work for our benefit and we are paying them, however little, however much." 

I'm also doing this because whereas I was generally opinion-less about Magufuli in spite of his every attempt to charm by playing those drums, I no longer am. This piece by Chambi Chachage puts it well, I think. This incumbent is testing our democracy, and not in a good way.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Weekly Sneak Problems of American Imperialism

The Black Lives Matter movement is one which I don't think should remain an American one alone. This is a watershed issue that is kicking up all of the racial silt laid down through centuries not only of American imperialism but the colonialism that preceded that. It has deep roots in this thing we call globalization, and maybe it is time to acknowledge that globalization's history has been a bloody one. 

"Global citizenship is a hard concept for the United States of America. How can it not be in a country at war with itself? Black Lives Matter is a movement with deep historical roots, and an essential lesson in power and it's misuse. This is not the only, or even maybe the main story of American civic illness because the Native American experience doesn't get nearly enough attention. But in all honesty, the Africanist in me makes it hard not to gravitate towards this particular fight. 
Racism is wrong in all of it's iterations. It has no discernible function outside of justifying the worst of human behavior. I can't help but think that if America is going down the path of Strange Fruit, yet again, it might be the global community's responsibility to rectify that. America probably needs economic sanctions for it's wars against its own civilians as much as South Sudan does. And no, that' not a joke: I am not that funny."

Seven hundred words of commentary isn't nearly enough to even begin this particular conversation... 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Weekly Sneak: How to Curmudgeon

As the last piece in a series about the internet, privacy, freedoms etc I really got to let fly about my perspective on these technologies. To which La Dee said: do you realize you have turned into a grumpy old lady? Yes, I have. And yes, I know. My defense is that it is harder to catch a pessimist off-guard than your average bear:

"In the relationship between woman and machine I am firmly on the humans' side. Sometimes this means being a very careful non-consumer. I don't respond to advertisements voluntarily, and take pains to avoid too much capitalistic stimulus. It means being content with the limitations this places on my life, and it is liberating. Having no need for the latest newfangled doodad is salutary: it means that marketing departments can't exploit my self-esteem to make me a cash-spitting zombie. 
More importantly, I think, is that it keeps life rich. I am coming to believe that the more convenient life is for us, the less complex, then the worse off we are. It is a contradiction of modern life: never have humans been smarter as a species. But then again: never have we been more violent to the environment nor more subject to the manipulations of economic elites."

And I didn't even get to the parts about Net Neutrality wars etc so had to do it by implication. I figure there is only so far down this road I can go before I get a polite call from the Men In Nairobi about perhaps taking a chill pill. 

Anyways, a propos the topic of the column let me leave you with this lovely piece of news I just found thanks to Reddit:

Ah, the joys of modern life. 

A little birdie told me...

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