Friday, September 26, 2008

Buying the Bridge to nowhere

Watching the American Investment Banks fall like a pack of dominoes it brings back memories of the Saving and Loans fiasco of the past two decades or so. There is this tendency for the US to sell everyone a pig in the poke and for the Brits as their greatest cheerleaders to ensure it resonates across the world.

Mwalimu Nyerere is reputed as saying that there should be universal principles with local standards unfortunately the US sells its aspirations as universal standards. With the help of its 'objective' media and the support of its 'rational allies' who are all committed to the good things whilst any deviation is an insistence on a lifestyle of debauchery. How else can you explain how so called objective media oversaw the invasion of Iraq building consensus for the fantasy of WMDs or even the perversion that is Guantanamo detention without trial or Abu Graib or even the somewhat callous use of open bribery to get the Northern League to fight the Taliban I suppose everyone thinks that this is just in the field of International politics surely it does not extend to any other field or does it ? Think about it the working assumption is that free markets or Market Capitalism is the universal standard that the entire world should live by. The same was said for Democracy until 2000 when it was convenient for the US supreme court not to count votes and to support an openly rigged election. It is the same kind of selective application of standards that is at work in this financial mess.

The people who brought us free unfettered markets forgot to tell us that when their backs are to the wall well to hell with the standards to which they held all of us. It is those who ask others to open their markets to any type of investors that shut their ports to the Dubai Investment company or even prevent the Chinese from taking specific slices of their economy. For years the there has been aggregation and leveraging of debt. It is repackage and sold to consumers whose need for instant gratification far outweighs the capacity to pay has been the engine room for growth in the US as well as the UK. The shouted this notion of consumer led economy whereby the media made a lot of advert revenue by selling everything as a must have. Every sale was a bargain, every gadget was editorialised like a cure for cancer. For all this greed there was credit on offer whether you could handle it or not. This dangerously designed and poorly executed attempt to lazily maintain growth was accompanied with the freedom to roam and gorge without regulation given directly to financial institution. Capital crossed borders in search of fresh kills with very little concern for its underpinning.

As it falls apart spare a thoughts for Nigerian Banks whose unintelligent mimicking of this failed policy is now starting to take root. Banks here give credit to business in ways that will make Shylock blush but offer the middle classes all kinds of credit to easily purchase Plasma TVs , cars even home furnishings. The cheap takings from funding consumption rather than production as become the business model. In spite of less than 20% of the population having bank accounts the same banks put pressure on their staff to seek additional accounts from the same middle classes who already have accounts. Their requirements are so onerous for the Woman in Oja Oba or Epe Fish market that it is only the very same 20% that now have four or five accounts from different banks.

Believe we already bought the bridge and surely whether there is credit crunch or not we cannot sustain the journey. This group think has to stop.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Race Election 2008 (AP copy)

Here is one explanation for the Palin factor and the closeness of the opinion polls so far. It is not he only one though. It is worth a complete read.

Poll: Racial misgivings of whites an Obama issue

Sep 20 07:57 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON (AP) - Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks—many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.
The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004—about 2.5 percentage points.
Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents—voters Obama can't win the White House without—agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.
Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution.
"There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots," said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.
The pollsters set out to determine why Obama is locked in a close race with McCain even as the political landscape seems to favor Democrats. President Bush's unpopularity, the Iraq war and a national sense of economic hard times cut against GOP candidates, as does that fact that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans.
The findings suggest that Obama's problem is close to home—among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.
The survey also focused on the racial attitudes of independent voters because they are likely to decide the election.
Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president—white, black or brown.
Not all whites are prejudiced. Indeed, more whites say good things about blacks than say bad things, the poll shows. And many whites who see blacks in a negative light are still willing or even eager to vote for Obama.
On the other side of the racial question, the Illinois Democrat is drawing almost unanimous support from blacks, the poll shows, though that probably wouldn't be enough to counter the negative effect of some whites' views.
Race is not the biggest factor driving Democrats and independents away from Obama. Doubts about his competency loom even larger, the poll indicates. More than a quarter of all Democrats expressed doubt that Obama can bring about the change they want, and they are likely to vote against him because of that.
Three in 10 of those Democrats who don't trust Obama's change-making credentials say they plan to vote for McCain.
Still, the effects of whites' racial views are apparent in the polling.
Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.
But in an election without precedent, it's hard to know if such models take into account all the possible factors at play.
The AP-Yahoo poll used the unique methodology of Knowledge Networks, a Menlo Park, Calif., firm that interviews people online after randomly selecting and screening them over telephone. Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to report embarrassing behavior and unpopular opinions when answering questions on a computer rather than talking to a stranger.
Other techniques used in the poll included recording people's responses to black or white faces flashed on a computer screen, asking participants to rate how well certain adjectives apply to blacks, measuring whether people believe blacks' troubles are their own fault, and simply asking people how much they like or dislike blacks.
"We still don't like black people," said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.
Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible." When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.
Among white Democrats, one-third cited a negative adjective and, of those, 58 percent said they planned to back Obama.
The poll sought to measure latent prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites."
Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn't.
Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."
Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they "try harder."
The survey broke ground by incorporating images of black and white faces to measure implicit racial attitudes, or prejudices that are so deeply rooted that people may not realize they have them. That test suggested the incidence of racial prejudice is even higher, with more than half of whites revealing more negative feelings toward blacks than whites.
Researchers used mathematical modeling to sort out the relative impact of a huge swath of variables that might have an impact on people's votes—including race, ideology, party identification, the hunger for change and the sentiments of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's backers.
Just 59 percent of her white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton's white backers plan to vote for McCain.
Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries—particularly whites with high school education or less—were motivated in part by racial attitudes.
The survey of 2,227 adults was conducted Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
Associated Press writers Nancy Benac, Julie Carr Smyth, Philip Elliot, Julie Pace and Sonya Ross contributed to this report. 
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Malice and Self Loathing in Mzansi

Finally the forces of anti intellectual , xenophobic and kraal blockade have won in South Africa. As i watched the Mbeki resignation on television it seemed the final plan to reduce South Africa to its lowest common denominator has been achieved. The 'Activocracy' that runs the country has always hidden behind populist posturing to cover its ethnic loathing of the dominance of the Xhosa in political and intellectual life. This is quite simply a Zulu coup but this is Mzansi the prejudice never speaks its name it only shapes policy. Funny it is the same root cause that led this ungrateful and self denigrating bunch to kill their African cousins that also leads them to take out a man who is more instrumental to their liberty from Apartheid than the sainted ' Madiba'.

It was Thabo who helped turn the ANC into a global radical chic . You remember the concerts in London and boycotts cross the world. It was the same Mbeki who helped to shape the Nigerian interaction that drove the UN Anti -Apartheid committee which was by far the most critical international institution Maintaining the support for the Sanctions regime in the UN and pressure that led to the unravelling of the now vilified system. It was this same man who negotiated with the white businesses that led to final talks and arguably this approach was the child of his genius without which Mandela would not have been released. He more than anyone has his fingerprints on the transformation of the country from a blood bath waiting to happen to effectively an African powerhouse within the sisterhood of nations on this continent.

Maybe it is time for Mbeki to leave but a country which rewards years of service in fact a life of sacrifice with indignity and disdain is a country that deserves no less than the same. For me this beautiful country has fallen so far down my esteem and respect that I wish it the direction it seems to have chosen a descent into gradual irrelevance and insignificance on the continent.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

For the Love of God ( Resonance by Olu Alake)

Now this is an email i got this morning and has the provocative capacity to open further thoughts and reflection from Olu.

With absolutely no sense of irony whatsoever - God bless you for that piece! I spent a good part of yesterday debunking notions that otherwise intelligent people insist on regurgitating ad nauseum because some under-informed, self-styled 'man of God' (emi nko o? - man of Satan?) said so. Some of them made the mistake of trying to engage me in a debate about tithing as a Christian obligation...oh boy, did that get me started! I am perpetually amazed by how in this day of a wealth of information readily available at literally a push of a button, some people wilfully refuse to engage in any intellectual discourse or research of their own about something that is of such vital importance as their own spiritual welfare. I wouldn't trust my car to a mechanic of dubious expertise, so why would I my soul to a pastor who refuses to make the reasoned arguments?

I find so much of contemporary 'Christian' teachings so un-Christ-like that it fills me with such an inner rage. And you are right - by all measures of real Christian teaching, Nigeria is actually one of the most unGodly places on earth! (No charitable collective soul, no brothers being each other's keepers, unheavenly worship and appreciation of money and instant gratification especially in church (pastors measuring their success not by how many souls they save but by whether and how quickly their church can buy them a BMW, no sense of public service or sacrifice, lack of humility,... I could go on.).

There is a reason why churches have been Nigeria's biggest internal economic growth industry for the past 20 years - because the owners/leaders have cynically exploited the morass of political and economic misfeasance that successive corrupt hegemonies have left behind to peddle that most essential of commodities - hope. It is no wonder as well that the prosperity gospel, that despicable emphasis on material riches being an earthly manifestation of heavenly treasures and divine reward, found such fertile ground in Nigeria especially and across Africa in general. It appeals to the base nature of self-aggrandisement and individualism that has been festering away in our collective psyche as a result of our mass sodomisation by evil military-civilian and civilian-military regimes. It is obviously not in anyone's interests to observe that by the measures of this dodgy doctrine, Jesus Christ Himself would have been held as not an example of what is right but a manifestation of all that is wrong in the world. Or that it is unbiblical, ungodly and counterintuitive to believe in a beneficent God that especially provides a spectacularly return on material investment with a direct linear relationship between material input and output rather than the elevation of our higher purpose and selves, and then 'all other things coming unto us' as the good book itself promised.

What is really sad is that rather than engage in any critical thinking on these issues, the very considered opinions of the likes of you and I are now going to be dismissed as the devil-inspired rantings of the unGodly heathen. I love my country, I no go lie...

Monday, September 08, 2008

For the Love of God

Now the nature and disposition of God is the most abused cover for scoundrels I have ever experienced. As a Nigerian living here in Gidi it has developed into the basis of the most corrosive exploitation of the National psyche. The uncritical nature of the 'It is well' crowd is quite in line with their American cousins who gave us 8 years of a US Government whose policies has rained more munitions on the earth surface than any other in recent memories and caused the most deaths of non-combatant civilians in any war in the 21st century. They have achieved this through the direct use of the 'happy clappy' crowds and platforms to ensure an uncritical support for their policies. The loyalty of the believers who are enthralled into waiting and wanting for prosperity, saddled in polite bigotry and wallowing in unconscious incompetence is never in doubt. Their guilt and fears regularly topped up ever Sunday will ensure that any critical thinking is aborted before they are fully formed.

Let me first set forth that until recently i would have qualified as a believer in the mode of those I criticise. I shared the sanctified, tongue speaking, natty dressed , Sunday morning, social engagements. Quite a few times it was an uplifting experience, generally it was passively mind numbing and sometimes it was decidedly an insult on any intelligent mind. For many months my brain was in full conflict with my guilt and worry about my relationship with God. This in spite of the total lack of credibility of many of my co-religionist to my world view. Imagine the same people who brought us George W Bush now offer us Governor Sarah Palin. I feel sick to my stomach for my own collusion. I have watched as the large body of Nigerians finally capitulate to the Cultural assault launched by the fringe Scripture Union when I was in University and ably supported by our own culture of consumption rather than production into this adulteration that masquerade as commitment to God. How come we do not associate God with critical, challenging and direct thinking. I know there exceptions to the positions I am articulating but it does not serve the purpose of disrupting this wider pattern to focus on those. on the contrary it promotes complacency. In the same token it is easy to blame the Pastors but this is mostly about the laziness and total foolishness of the congregations.

I was born into the Islamic tradition and even though I am not a Muslim I have a healthy respect for the discipline and way of the faith. I have watched it however in its attempt to match the enthusiasm of the Pentecostals go into the new Fatwa narrative . I now know that Nigerian Muslim's issue Fatwa's over those that do not conform to their interpretation of proper Islamic practice like the man with 86 wives. The government watched from the sidelines as a Nigerian citizen was threatened with death and banishment by a dubious body without constitutional authority but with the name of God firmly in tow. There were very few voices to be heard to challenge this Fascist decree. The man was never before any authority nor asked to put any case. How did we get here?

For most of my life I have been very coy about the nature of my spiritual interests and even though i am adventurous in all other aspects of my life and openly challenge convention, i have been by my own standards quite conservative in my spiritual evolution. Yes , Khahil Gibran is a saint to me and his book the Prophet never leaves my thoughts, mind and daily crosses my lips, true I have read all Paulo Coehlo's books from page to page but I have been quite restraint in my dialogue about God in my life. That is until i started thinking for myself in this area. On my way to Lagos being driven to the airport, my colleague and friend Simon Mcintyre (now Simon Smethurst- Mcintyre, after he got married) challenged me on God. Being a committed Atheist he had an intellectual freedom and openness that was quite refreshing. I was forced to articulate for myself without any authority who God is to me. Here goes.

God is the embodiment of human connection and co-operation when it is bonded in love and driven by something greater than just self interest, elevated to create and humbled by emergence. God is the magic of the multitudes in the process of greater creativity and production for beneficial service without thought of recompense. God is the fullness of the complexity of all things in interaction, which completely surpasses the sum of the parts at a level and scale that the individuals cannot observe. God is innate purpose pursued, self interest submerged and love unbridled. God is possibilities untamed by the need for subsistence. God is our humanity unfettered, unsimplified, unintimidated in the pursuit of the pain and joy of a life committed to love.

Ok, enough . But there is method to this ranting. You see I love Nigeria with my heart and passion. As I now reflect it is a place that exhibits the least love of God in my understanding. You see where God is present then the sum total is more than the aggregation of the parts. Here in Nigeria with the level of individual excellence, the sum total is less than the aggregation of the parts. Yet we are listed as being in the top 10 in the world who believe in God. Go figure!