Mugabe and his cronies…

mugabe.jpgI read an article online this morning which got my blood boiling. Jerry Rawlings, ex President of Ghana, was talking in support of Robert Mugabe. He was saying that Britain was being ‘disrespectful’ towards Mugabe by having said in a statement that he would probably end up like Liberia’s Charles Taylor in an international court for human rights abuses. He apparently said: “No British official, be he a politician or Royalty, has the right to say those words about a Pan-Africanist like Robert Mugabe.

Excuse me!!! What is Mr Rawlings going on about?! Has he looked at the state of Zimbabwe recently? I don’t think anyone – especially not an African – needs to be praising Mugabe right about now…

Last week, the US Ambassador to Harare predicted that inflation in Zimbabwe would reach 1.5million% by the end of the year, if not before! Money there is becoming absolutely worthless as hyper inflation has become the norm. Zimbabweans cannot afford to buy even basic goods. 25% of the country has left to live abroad (which is actually a good thing when you think about it). Opponents of the government are regularly and openly suppressed often through physical violence… Mugabe is messing up his own country in a big fat way! Where is the room for praise in there?! Yes he did some good back in the day, but his expiry date passed a LOONNNGG time ago.

It just pisses me off to see the reaction of some influential Africans in this whole sorry saga. It is irresponsible, in my opinion, for someone like Jerry Rawlings to use his voice in this way. Likewise, former Zambian president Kaunda spoke in support of Mugabe in a BBC article. Again – irresponsible. Don’t even get me started on the South African response which I recall to be something feeble like ‘let Zimbabwe sort out its own problems’.

I want to say only positive things on this blog, but I can’t ignore this. It’s infuriating. It angers me. Where is the condemnation? Which African leaders are openly expressing dissent? And why the hell not? Do they not care about their brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe? If we all truly want a better Africa, these people with power need to start walking their talk, not praising someone who is now clearly not contributing to the good that is going on in the continent. GRRRRRR!


Who Cares About Paris Hilton?

parishilton.jpgThe ‘Paris Goes to Jail’ story has been getting on my last nerve for some time now…It’s very simple: do the crime, do the time…

I’m glad I’m not the only one… MSNBC newsreader Mika Brzezinski was so incensed that this piece of nonsense was getting so much coverage that she point blank refused – live on air — to read the story on Ms Hilton’s release (it was supposed to be the lead story).

Instead, she put a lighter to it. She shredded it and she tore it up. Good on her!  Check it out:

What’s Going On?

news.jpg30 years ago, Marvin Gaye wrote ‘What’s Going On?’….30 years later his words couldn’t be more relevant than they are today. He sang:

“Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today”

Last week a 17 year old girl was killed in Croydon, South London. Stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in a surburban street. I often park on that road when I’m going to the cinema.

Over the weekend, 5 murders of young people took place in London. Young people whose lives were cut short while they were in their prime.

This year, there has been huge media coverage of other murders of young people – by young people – in and around London. Goodness knows what’s happening in other inner cities.

WHAT IS GOING ON?! I know I’m not the only one asking this question and I’m certainly not full of answers. I know that there are some young people who are so far down the line, so steeped in a life of crime and violence, that they are already lost. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. Maybe these people need not to be the focus for making changes, although I do believe redemption is possible for all at any stage.

While time is spent trying to get people out of gangs, how many more are on their way in? Maybe the politicians, educators, social workers and other people who work closely with young people need to focus on those who are growing up now. Those who are the ripe ages for getting into gangs… Or maybe those even younger. Instead of focussing on what is going on within gangs, maybe the focus needs to be on what it is that creates the conditions that encourage people to want to get into gangs. Maybe we need to really get to grips with understanding what a gang or that kind of lifestyle is providing for the young person that is not being provided elsewhere – and then bleeding well get around to providing it ASAP.

The problem is complex. No criminologist has yet been able to give one reason for why or how people get into crime and violence. It involves family, education, work, money, peer groups and a number of other factors. However, there is one thing that I think is majorly missing from the discussion. It’s emotional intelligence. It’s about how people deal with themselves and their feelings.

Schools don’t teach it. Many families don’t teach it well enough. Who is teaching it? Who is teaching kids that when someone pisses you off, the answer is not to reach for a gun or a knife?

I would really like to see the education system changed to reflect what we now know: that what’s going on inside a person, our attitudes and beliefs are crucial in our experiences of life. We know that emotional intelligence is a key part of a succesful life. Right now, education is not providing people with the necessary skills that will help them to build characteristics and values and become better people. I couldn’t care less about Physics when kids of 13, 14 and 15 are going around killing each other because someone offended them and they are trying to show how tough they are.

It’s not just about education though. It is time for our society to become more responsible. I’ve already blogged about the banning of Manhunt 2. We need more of this. There needs to be a global shift of consciousness towards promotion of what’s good, what’s wholesome, what is uplifting and beneficial for people – especially young, vulnerable, impressionable people. With so much emphasis on violence, crime, war, hatred and fear in every aspect of our lives – in papers, TV, films, music, computer games, politics (!) etc – is it any wonder that this kind of thing is going on.

Usually I will say ‘it’s all about the family – it’s down to the family’ and yes it is, but not everyone has a good family. Not everyone comes from a family that knows how to steer their child on the right path. Therefore it is up to society to be a family. The education system has to be a family. Society at large has to be a family. Isn’t there a famous African proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child”? All should be working for the betterment of everyone else. 

Maybe if that ever happens we’ll no longer need to ask what’s going on.

So Long Tony!

tonyblair1.jpgSo today is the day that Tony Blair leaves Downing Street, after 10 years as Prime Minister. Wow how time flies. 10 years ago I was nearly 17 and was preparing for my A Levels.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be sad to see Blair go.  Despite the fact that I stopped voting Labour some time ago, and that Tony Blair made a massive error of judgement – and that’s putting it nicely – with the Iraq invasion I still believe that he is an amazing politician.

He ushered in a new era for British politics; a new way of being and interacting with the people far far removed from the Iron Lady approach of Maggie Thatcher. Him and his ‘Third Way’, that clever maneouvering of the Labour party into a political space where it is now neither Right or Left, are the reason why the Conservatives are in such crisis. He made England into a global economic powerhouse.

He has made mistakes for sure. In addition to Iraq, he also made some very bad moves for education by (amongst other things) bringing in university tuition fees and abolishing state assisted places which assisted poorer students in attending private schools. Under him house prices have risen uncontrollably and the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. But aren’t some errors to be expected? Is it possible to expect a PM to please everyone?

Society has changed in the past 10 years and he has had to respond to that. Now we no longer have the same levels of unemployment and so on that we had a decade ago…instead terrorism and multi-culturalism are new challenges. I am interested in seeing how Gordon Brown will deal with these.

However, even from a distance Tony Blair is like an old friend, someone you could have a good chat with in the pub. Affable and likeable to normal people, musicians and entertainers, but also able to deal well with his political colleagues on a national and international level. He is a great leader, a great orator, someone who inspired people to follow him. Isn’t that really what a Prime Minister is meant to be? As a figurehead for the Labour party he has done his job superbly. After 10 years it’s a bit like saying goodbye to a good mate!

Numerous articles have been written about Blair’s legacy and how he will be remembered. Unfortunately for him I think Iraq will overshadow everything, but I’m pretty sure that he will brush it off and continue to thrive. He certainly has the personality for it. Good luck Tony!!

Chinese expansion into Africa…

China, as most of us know, has been showing a greater amount of interest in Africa over the past few years. The Chinese have been investing heavily in the continent, and trade between the two has jumped significantly. In early 2006, China – Africa trade was up by 39% to £18bn.

Personally I do not know enough about the relationship between China and Africa, or China’s intentions towards Africa… Some commentators – such as International Herald Tribune’s Howard W. French – are very enthusiastic and see China’s growing investment as evidence that Western governments and companies who continue to go on about poverty and aid are missing out on major financial benefits, to China’s advantage.

I think it’s great that China is investing in Africa, but I must admit I am a little sceptical. I know China is also offering aid and loans to Africa…and African governments must be careful not to end up in the same situation as they have with the West who previously came offering ‘development’ money – complete with handcuffs. 

Does the importing of Chinese goods into Africa undermine production of indigenous African-made goods? And what about China’s financial support for Robert Mugabe’s destructive regime and their 2005 pledge to give him money but not interfere in ‘internal [Zimbabwean] affairs’?

A Ghanian government minister today echoed my sentiments, encouraging Africa to avoid a colonial relationship with China. Africa must remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and keep the relationship one that is as mutually beneficial as possible.

Where are the positive video games?

So the computer game Manhunt 2 has been banned from the UK…Good! We already have enough violence and senseless killing in the real world…Actively promoting and encouraging it in the virtual world is a step too far I think – and that doesn’t just go for Manhunt 2.

The British Board of Film Classification issued a statement following the ban, saying “To issue a certificate to Manhunt 2…would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors.” I’m extremely happy that they have taken a responsible stance on this and shown an appreciation of the fact that not everyone is of sound enough mind to know the difference between a computer game and reality. In fact, the game has already been implicated in the murder of a London teenager.

Forget about choice, freedom of expression and so on – if the companies making the games do not care about the potential dangerous effects of their products, someone else has to. Research has consistently shown that violent video games are significantly associated with increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior. It is actually thought that the research so far actually underestimates the effects of such games.

What I want to know is: is it only murder and extreme violence that sells? And who creates these things – who thinks ‘wow! cold and callous slaughtering of people is a really great concept for a game!’?? Aren’t games meant to be fun? When did killing someone become people’s idea of fun?

Finally – where are the positive video games? Where are the ones that promote good citizenship, promote social harmony and positivity. It may sound cheesy but the banning of Manhunt 2 in the UK acknowledges that video games have a strong impact upon the people who play them – so why aren’t they being used as a catalyst for positive societal change, especially considering that the gaming industry is now arguably bigger and more powerful than Hollywood?

Sportsman = Spokesman?

lewishamilton.jpgThe Times published a commentary piece this week on 22 year old Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton…In “Can Lewis Hamilton Escape The Curse of Tiger?“, the author predicts that rather than becoming a social commentator and black activist  like Mohammed Ali (as is apparently his obligation as a person of colour), Lewis Hamilton is doomed to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods in becoming a corporate cash cow who will be falling over himself in sponsorship money but will apparently have no, or little, effect on “global black consciousness”.

But why on earth should Lewis Hamilton become any kind of spokesman or activist for black issues? He is not a politician -he is a racing car driver.  Why should he or Tiger Woods be expected to have any effect on ‘global black consciousness’? Just because they are in the public eye does not mean they have anything that we necessarily need to hear outside of what they do. Furthermore, both Hamilton and Woods are of mixed heritage – so why should they be representatives for any ‘black’ cause?

Mohammed Ali was a boxer, but he also had a great mind and had many intelligent things to say about politics, culture and society. But it was not his duty as a high profile black man to do so. I would argue that there are currently far too many people – particularly rappers and other entertainers – who are speaking out on issues that they don’t really know enough about. Many of them do not have anything particularly enlightening to say. However, those people – rather than the breadth of people who are genuinely qualified to impart their opinion – are (often wrongly) being seen as representatives for the millions of diverse black people around the world.

Take the recent incident on the UK Big Brother show which resulted in a contestant being thrown out of the Big Brother house for using the N word. The context in which the word was used is debatable, as is the speaker’s intention when she uttered it. However, I’m not bothered about that. What concerns me is that many people felt that she should have been allowed to use the word because ‘black people’ use it! When you ask who these ‘black people’ are, the names of rappers such as Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent tend to come up. I mean, since when did Snoop Dogg, P Diddy or any other rapper become the figurehead for black people? They do not represent me, or anyone that I know. However, it’s assumed that because they are in the public domain and they are black, they have something important to say on black issues. That ain’t good when every other word coming out of their mouth is ‘N—a’!

Don’t get me wrong… Just because someone is an entertainer or a sportsperson does not mean they don’t have anything of value to say. However, David Beckham, Freddie Flintoff, Marilyn Manson and Paris Hilton are not expected to provide opinions on politics or culture – so why should black entertainers or sportspeople be expected to do the same?