Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Racism and the President

To most people watching the passionate and sometimes rabid protests against anything President Obama does there is a troubling reaction that his election is not a transformation in the issue of racism that they desire but just a milestones on the dreary and long journey to prove the obvious. There is only one race the Human Race should be trite and accepted. There is however a problem that every time there is an issue or event that can be viewed as evidence of this racism a powerful group of pundits and commentator use that to further to argue that those who see racism are themselves playing a race card. The President himself is very consistent , he sees anything but Race driving any issue. I think its not that simple.

The basic issue here is that President Obama has been in his role for less that 1 year in which he inherited a lot of crisis from the prior administration and even though he has formal authority to deal with these things, the apparent support for his informal authority i.e. credibility was very soft as its quick erosion has shown. There are many possible explanations for this including the much vaunted lack of experience but that does not explain the visceral opposition, the level of organisation and the persistence of Fox News in attacking him. There is an edge to all this especially from a people who made the mantra of any criticism of a President during a war being the same as disloyalty to the troops and hatred of country. Most of the policy criticisms seem to deal with perception of what the President will do i.e. so called Death Panels, allowing health benefit for illegal immigrants amongst many others. Simply it is an issue of credibility.

This is the first African American President therefore it is a new challenge for many US citizens. These are people who are finding it difficult to see ultimate power exercised by someone from a group for whom they have little respect and interaction . Why is there any surprise they do not trust or give any credibility to the potential of that person to have integrity or transform their lives positively. Layer this with political differences as well as the obvious class and panache of the guy then this becomes even more hateful. Finally throw in cheerleaders like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannaty with the subtle and not so subtle support of the rest of the Fox News Network and Talk Radio rabble then we are off to the races. It is a complex and volatile cocktail and many of those who participate are in so much denial that they have buried any racial motivation deep into a sub- conscious a natural defensiveness with an issue and label that carries so much social disdain.

When the word racism is used to describe this pattern it is an oversimplification and it groups a broad range of people widely divided across the spectrum into one stereotype. It also makes it even more difficult because it is an emotional red card that introduces a knee jerk defensiveness and also absolves the President (if he wants it) from critical problem solving. Any relationship is co-created the President has his challenge truly cut out. Thankfully he knows the solution and can deliver it. By the way racism is live and well but it does not manifest itself independent of a reasoned disagreement it actually acts as an exacerbating factor that distorts the quality of interaction and engagement. It is therefore a false debate as to whether something is racist or reasoned disagreement actually it can and often is both. The tinge is found in the tone, tenor and the persistence of opposition almost in absolute disproportion to the facts.

The President as always must respond with unrelenting pursuit of excellence without excuse or self pity. He has raised the bar and the consequence must be institutionalized. Is it Racism? No matter it is still a challenge to turn it around.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Join France! We need true Outcome measures.

As a lapsed economist I am always mystified by the failure to recognise the difference between output and outcome measures. This might sound like semantics but it has profound consequences on the macro-economic indicators that determine which country is progressing or failing. One of the most powerful illustrations of this is the idea that GDP, GNI et all actually measure progress of a country. They are at best process or out put measures they do not really tell you what the consequences are of such a shift. It is like using the amount of money you have in a bank account or how hard you work to determine your quality of life. It is a poor measure of whether you are physically healthy, emotionally flourishing, intellectually stimulated, spiritually thriving or even financially growing. It is the same for a country. Surely the test of a society's prosperity lies in the life opportunities of its citizens, their capacity to pursue unique aspiration, their environments robustness, the fitness to survive and thrive, the social capital that underpins their interaction, the quality of what they produce as a result, the added value of such production to them and the world around them.

France intends to introduce new additional measure as a result of the work of eminent economists like Stiligtz and Sen. It will include, well being, happiness, environmental sustainability. Forget the Nigerian 7 point agenda setting the right outcome measures gives us an agreed objective standard to judge the contribution of all sectors and aspects of our society especially government. Then we can truly start to have a discussion about where we fail and where we prosper and what needs to be done to drive the progress we seek.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Inalegwu 'Journey to Idomaland' continued

Inalegwu 'Journey to Idomaland'

The pics are part of a travel dairy to the Nigerian heartland out of the cacophony of competition between Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa fight for dominance to one of the Minority ethnic groups the Idoma. A week in Otukpo . I also met the legend Bongos Ikwe . It was another Nigeria. More later enjoy pics.

Becoming a Nigerian

Lets put this bluntly I am tired of cynical, opinionated, formally educated, elitist buffoons who constitute the greater portion both formal and informal commentators on this country Nigeria. The new sexy is that this is a failed state a new form of what their leader taught them that Nigeria is only a geographic expression. Never mind the fact that the peoples of this so called geographic expression belong to two, maximum four linguistic families. Nothing shows connection more than etymology and even more importantly they have inter-married, have shared histories and even similar mythologies. Perhaps more mind blowing is the archeology of the area links them so emphatically. It is true this pundits never let a fact come between them and their assumptions, a classic definition of bigotry. Of course it appears a curious thing that people can be bigoted against the country of their birth but this is not really true if you review it dispassionately. Most people born in this country have never matured to become Nigerians. They are largely individuals whose fear of failure and disappointment from expectations of greatness has turned them from grasshoppers to locusts. The true shame is that they hide behind the guise of failing governance to perpetuate their wanton destruction.

Take a look at Lagos State by all account with a Governor and Governance that has captured the public imagination with vision, commitment and dedication ably backed by the most Nigerian form of evidence of progress, shiny new infrastructure. Roads being built, refuse being cleared and new shiny buildings all the time. In fact parks are being thrown in for good measure. There are very few people who do not admire the government of Governor Fashola. Now that is my point can you see any change in the behaviour of the elite? Are they any more law abiding in lagos? Do they rush to pay their taxes? Are there any attempts to stop putting their debris on the roads or even the most dangerous behaviour drive against traffic when no one is there to stop them? By common agreement this is a committed government but where is the corresponding response of goodwill from the ever complaining educated, widely travelled and opinionated elite?

It takes more than citizenship to be a Nigerian, it takes an awareness of the privilege that it is to be part of this incredible aggregation of people. It demands a commitment to elevate oneself and fellows from the doldrums of self congratulatory mediocrity towards a relentless pursuit of excellence. it asks not for blind loyalty or patriotism or reflexive criticism but genuine insightful and seriously analysed perspectives both positive or negative. Perhaps most importantly it behoves a sacrifice for generations to come that does not absolve by blaming governmental failure but by accepting onerous duty that comes from the many lives lost in the creation, maintenance and defence of the idea of this most complex and improbable country.

God one day let me truly become a Nigerian.

Monday, September 07, 2009