Did We Do Any Learning? [6]

equality v justice

Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that create huge inequalities.
Pope Francis

 

Life isn’t Always Fair

It is a lesson we have all learned. Sometimes fate turns around and bites us. But I have never seen this inequity so clear and so devastating, as I have over the last three months in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Ebola.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia from 1965 to 1967, a long time ago.  It was an incredible experience for me, going from the University of California at Berkeley and California’s super-urban Bay Area to the then small upcountry town of Gbarnga, where I met Africa face to face and received so much more from the experience than I was able to contribute.

Afterwards, the terrible civil wars tore Liberia apart in a way that was incomprehensible to those of us who had lived in the country and had come to know her people and culture.

Recently, I began to feel more optimistic about Liberia’s future. There was hope. Liberia had known peace for ten years. Children were back in school. There was laughter in the street.

And then Ebola struck. Once again, Liberia teeters on the edge of chaos. How much more can the country take? Yes there are things we can do, must do, to help. But I can’t help thinking, over and over: isn’t it time that fate gives the people of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone a break?

 

Curt Mekemson @ Wandering through Time and Place

Half of the profits from Curt’s recent book, The Bush Devil Ate Sam and Other Tales of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia West Africa, will go to Friends of Liberia, a group of returned Peace Corps volunteers.

 

Wake Up and Think for Yourself

This year my sixty-seven year old country finally woke up. Millions of Pakistanis learned to think for themselves.

Four months ago, frustrated people stepped out of their homes and stamped their thoughts on the streets under the leadership of Imran Khan. Old men, housewives, students, and children slid open curtains of indifference and made history.

War is when your government tells you who the enemy is. A revolution is when you figure it out yourself. ~Anonymous

This year millions of Pakistanis learned about pain. Pain that transcends boundaries of flesh and geography. Pain that sets things into perspective. Love, family, home, and health. Everything else seems extravagant. You don’t expect to send your children to school and never see them again.1

We saw hope and held on to it tight. Perhaps too tight because it left blisters. We learned about healing as skins of faith quickly formed protective layers on our stubborn wounds. My people are even more stubborn.

This year I learned about victory. A victory that marks an end to our closed minds and blind hearts. I have seen my extraordinary people walk to hell and back. They tell me to keep going. Because that is exactly what they will do. They always do. And this revelation makes me realize our power.

I had a dream about you last night…and in it you said, ‘Chin up; it only gets harder.’ ~ Marshal Ramsay

Think. Question. Challenge.

Because once people begin to think aloud, they are impossible to ignore.

 

Nida S. @ on the road to inkrichment 

  1. On 16 December 2014, terrorists ran down an Army public school in Peshawar (Pakistan), leaving 132 children and 9 members of the school staff dead in cold blood.

 

 

In Search of a Messiah

I have thought about poverty and inequality, and for me, there are no easy answers yet. Years of inequality, poverty, rising unemployment (indices to gauge development according to economist Dudley Seers), and insecurity, have made many Nigerians pant for a benevolent dictator, a fairy godmother with a magic wand to wave all our problems away, while we dance with the prince and midnight never comes.

In the lyrics of Bob Marley, Most people think great god will come from the sky take away ev’rything, and make ev’rybody feel high. I believe in The Messiah, but I don’t want to be guilty of a messiah complex. These days when someone offers me help, I ask why, I ask how, I ask what, I ask where, I ask how much. And, I keep asking until I understand.

The race for the 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria resembles a dem-all-crazy; they say we have to choose the lesser of two devils. Democracy delivers to us what we demand of her. Poverty and inequality like kwashiorkor, can make people swallow nutrition devoid of protein, and then roll over to sleep not realising death is waiting.

I have learnt that on the drive to my destination, it is unwise to hand over the keys of my life and snooze in the passenger seat. Going by what I read on social media it seems many have learnt this too. The challenge is to remind the driver that he is driving our car and so we decide where he goes and when he stops.

Timi @ Livelytwist

 

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Beyond Bob Geldof’s Ebola Christmas

charity

The debate and backlash that surrounded Bob Geldof’s resurrection of Band Aid’s 1984-charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas, to raise funds for Ebola held my attention for many days. While some questioned the rich celebrities’ motives, others were appalled by the patronizing lyrics, which they claimed cast West Africans as people who cannot solve their problems and so were always in need of foreign aid. In between were a thousand other pros and cons. I capture selected sentiments (edited), below:

 

They need all the money they can get. What have the people complaining done?

My parents gave money when I was two. Now I’m thirty-two, I have to give money—hang on, my daughter is two. Is this a generational thing?

Well at least they’re changing the lyrics.

How about new lyrics: cure the world, yes they know it’s Christmas time, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

It’s called Band Aid not Deep Surgery for crying out loud!

 

Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the countries facing the wrath of Ebola, cannot afford to turn up their noses at financial assistance from Band Aid 30. I suppose it is left to the rest of us to speak up for them. And we did.

By now Bob Geldof knows:

  • Rhetorical questions like, do they know it’s Christmas time at all? will be answered on Twitter and Facebook, with viral effect, as long as he keeps asking.
  • Hyperbole, that literary device sometimes used to coax emotive response, has been withdrawn from his poetic license—where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears; where nothing ever grows; and now, where a kiss of love can kill you and there’s death in every tear.
  • Irony, well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you, has never been more tongue in cheek.
  • Synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, is the preserve of Africans for Africa.
  • White savior complex means that in the absence of a black Jesus, Africans might accept a mixed race one, the scion of a black father and a white mother or vice versa.
  • The danger of a single story will haunt him, although thirty years later, Africans are yet to acquire their own Cable News Network, African Broadcasting Corporation, or Al j’Africa to tell their multiple stories.

 

But I suspect Bob Geldof also knows:

  • Visibility creates heightened awareness. Celebrities generate greater visibility for causes than the United Nations does1.
  • When it comes to charitable giving, people act from the heart not from the head. Facts and charts are boring.
  • Emotion is the language of donation, images of children and women, the defenseless, make viewers emotionally invested2. Images of a prosperous Africa will zip purses close.
  • Words can evoke powerful empathetic responses because they transport us into other people’s world. Hence, no peace and joy this Christmas in West Africa – the only hope they’ll have is being alive.
  • He is a musician who knows how to compose popular songs that will sell.
  • He wants to help on his terms not yours.
  • Generosity is most potent at Christmas.

 

So, can we take a pause from shouting ourselves hoarse on social media and dismount our righteous soapboxes please? Give us your aid on our terms, sounds chivalrous, carries the ring of revolution even, but isn’t it as naïve now as it was then? Does he who pays the piper not dictate the tune?

Band Aid 30’s charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas? in aid of the Ebola crisis, has become the fastest-selling single of 2014, selling over 200,000 copies since its release about a week ago3.  Who is buying the ‘demeaning’ song that Fuse ODG, British-Ghanaian rapper, refused to be a part of because he is, “sick of the whole concept of Africa – a resource-rich continent with unbridled potential – always being seen as diseased, infested and poverty-stricken.”4?

It would seem no amount of revising would have made the ‘new’ song acceptable to those condemning it. Only a song by Africans for Africans stands a chance of not being condescending. The Africa Stop Ebola, single, an African initiative that includes well-known musicians such as Tiken Jah Fakoly, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, and Oumou Sangare, was recorded before the release of Band Aid 30’s charity single. It is currently at number seventy-eight on the iTunes download charts. Band Aid 30 is at number one5. Telling isn’t it?

Perhaps frustration arises from fighting something intangible—Geldof still raises millions with his ‘questionable’ lyrics and the African countries in question readily collect financial aid from the sale of lyrics that ‘demean’ them. Remember when the local radio stations in Nigeria played Band Aid’s song over and over and we sang, danced, and clapped (omg, omg! horror of horrors!) to the catchy chorus, feed the world . . . ? Right, that was thirty years ago. But, will the stations play the new version?

The long-term solution for underdeveloped African countries is not charity. There should be more to aid than handing over millions of Pounds6. Okay. But is that Geldof’s job? Really? Should only Bob Geldof be put on trial? Or maybe he should be hung for exploiting human nature.

A man can’t ride your back unless it is bent7. There are many ways to straighten our backs. Using Bob Geldof as target practice is one of them. I get it. Can we now concentrate on other ways of straightening our backs so that Geldof wouldn’t dare resurrect Band Aid 40 in ten years’ time, because not only would our outcry have sensitized public opinion, we would also have perfected African solutions to ‘Afro-global’ problems.

A new generation of Africans wants to tell new African stories. They know that media isn’t 100% objective. It exists to serve the interest of the owners, which include profit and propaganda. Maybe we don’t have to be so defensive about the old stories; they are part of our stories too, no? Those stories will evolve as those societies truly do and the burden of change lies with us.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

  1. Geldof decided to remake the single after the United Nations contacted him, saying help was urgently needed to prevent the disease from spreading beyond West Africa. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/17/us-health-ebola-geldof-idUSKCN0IZ0GY20141117 
  1. Oxfam, the international aid agency, reports in 2012, that three out of five people polled said they were or had become desensitised to images depicting issues such as hunger, drought and disease. http://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2012/12/show-africas-potential-not-just-its-problems-says-oxfam
  1. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/nov/18/band-aid-30-becomes-fastest-selling-single-of-2014 
  1. Anyone who has experienced Africa in a positive way is a citizen of the New Africa and needs to play their part in challenging perceptions– and if I can make chart-topping music that celebrates Africa then surely Band Aid and its extensive network can do the same. – Fuse ODG  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/19/turn-down-band-aid-bob-geldof-africa-fuse-odg  
  1. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/20/-sp-africa-stop-ebola-band-aid-alternative 
  1. My quote. For further reading: I don’t know of any country in the world where a bunch of foreigners came and developed the country. I know about countries that developed on trade and innovation and business. – Herman Chinery-Hesse. http://www.povertycure.org/issues/foreign-aid/
  1. Quote by Martin Luther King Jr., “Whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.”

 

Image Credit:

Map of Africa:  http://all-free-download.com/free-vector/vector-clip-art/africa_clip_art_19737.html

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.