Groundhog Day in #Uganda

This week, Uganda marks 50 years since gaining ‘flag independence’ from Britain. The  leading opposition figure Dr Kizza Besigye of  Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) has taken part in yet another public confrontation with the Museveni regime. The campaign is entitled “Walk to Freedom”, a slight amendment on the previous “Walk to Work”: 



Personally, I’m sceptical of Besigye’s motives. I mean, he knows that the Police have placed a ban on public demonstrations this week. And he knows full well how they will respond when provoked. These scenes are a virtual re-run of several previous stand-offs, especially in post-election period last year. Thankfully, at least this time round, Kizza Besigye did not get such a ferocious battering. 

I wonder what these kinds of tactics are aimed to do besides getting some publicity. I admit that perhaps I’m not in a position to comment being thousands of miles away from Kampala. But it seems to me that these confrontations always blow over with no substantive achievements. 

The regime of Yoweri Museveni would have no choice but to introduce radical reforms and/or step down if it was faced with an genuinely mass popular movement. Despite being the main opposition party, the FDC doesn’t appear to have the ability to organise the masses Uganda. This may be due to a general political apathy among Ugandan people. Or it may be due to the fact that the FDC do not appear to offer much of an alternative to Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM). 

Anyway, I hope I’m proved wrong, but I anticipate that this will just be another flash in the pan and things will return to normal until the next organised publicity stunt.

Africans: be IN the World, but not OF World!


Author’s note 11th August 2013 – This article was written at a time when I believed that socialism was the answer to the problems that Africans face. I no longer subscribe to that idea. I have posted a video recently which outlines my current understanding. Please view the following video in conjunction with the article:




A while back, I made a video in which I wondered out loud why so few Africans are involved in progressive politics and activism. This is what I said in the video description: 

“From where I’m standing, Black Britain is asleep and pacified. It’s bloody hard work trying to get even 50 Africans out to hear a speaker and see some cultural artists, LET ALONE going on a march or other forms of action. I’m confident that things will improve, but I’m a bit concerned that this might take a long time.” [What Happened to Black Power (UK)]

Two years on and still very few Africans are involved in political organisation of any kind. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how an idea in the Bible helps to understand the reasons for this.

In the world, not Of the world
I used to be a church-going Christian and I was a big Bible reader. One of the biblical concepts that resonated with me was that of ‘the World’. In Christian circles, there is this concept of being IN the world but not OF the world. I actually think that this is an excellent way of looking at the lack of political involvement among Africans. To explain, let’s first look at two sections of the Bible.

Just prior to his impending death, the Hebrew prophet Yeshua (aka Jesus) made a prayer concerning his followers. The prayer included the following request:

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated thembecause they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.[John 17:14-16] 

In another part of the New Testament, a follower of Yeshua wrote the following to Christians in Rome:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.[Romans 12:2]

The ‘world’ in one sense means simply the place that we all live. In this sense, you cannot be taken out of the world as long as you are alive. In a negative sense, the world refers to the evil ways of people in the world. It is this aspect of the world that Christians separate from – at least in theory! 

This means the unrighteous behaviour such as lying, cheating, stealing, drunkenness, fornication, etc. But more importantly, it refers to the ideology of the world – The system of ideas which dominates the world. Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ – in other words, an ongoing revolutionary overhaul of their ways of thinking. Another term for this might be a paradigm shift. Someone who has the wrong kinds of ideas will do the wrong kinds of actions.

Too Many Africans are OF the world
The most explicit and obvious way in which many Africans are ‘of the world’ is in our commitment to the political and economic system of the world – i.e. Capitalism and Neo-Colonialism. We are turned-off by the mere mention of ideas like Socialism. We think that Capitalism and Neo-Colonialism are natural. As far as we can see, Capitalism is the only thing that works and so there is no point in doing anything to bring it down. Somehow this faith isn’t shaken by the galloping Great Recession of the last 4 years which has hit Africans especially hard. I guess we’ve bought into the idea that this is just a temporary thing that will eventually blow over and we’ll all be fine. We think that the problems that African countries face can be fixed by them simply working harder and being more honest. They think it’s been too long since Independence for us to keep blaming colonialism.

Even many avowed Pan Africanists are committed to Capitalism, and thus ‘the world. There is a tendency among ‘conscious’ Africans to go down the cultural nationalist route. This is the idea the answer to all of our issues is for us to focus primarily on reclaiming our culture (our spiritual systems, our names, our languages, etc). Cultural nationalists are usually quite committed to Capitalism. For them, we will find our salvation by creating our own African space within the existing system. We just need to get our slice of the pie and then we’ll be alright. Many Africans who share this kind of worldview are thus not interested in getting involved with any kind of organisations of initiatives which are anti-Capitalist.

Another way in which we are committed to the world is in our individualism. The idea of working together with other people to achieve a common goal is almost non-existent. The only people we work together with consistently are out workmates and our immediate family and possibly housemates. In this environment, it seems an alien notion to join a political. Even where we can see problems in the world, or in our communities, many of us only want to know how we can make a difference as individuals. We are unconvinced of the necessity of collective action. 

This point on individualism also impact on those who do actually join organisations. Once you join an organisation, you quickly realise that effective activism requires your time, commitment, accountability, reliability, patience, humility, etc. We start to realise that we will need to make some sacrifices in order to be a productive organisation member. This might mean us having less time to socialise, less time to spend with the family, less time to just relax, and so on. This conflict can result in different things, depending on if we take a collective or individualist approach. What often happens is that people will take the individualist approach which usually means they engage with the organisation less and less and just drift away. Another example of taking an individualistic route is to simply pick and choose when and how we will be active within the organisation.

The Way Forward: Learn from the Church?
Looking at the Churches, we see that they also face problems with people converting, being born again, and then falling away. They actually have a great term for this which is ‘back sliding’ – sliding back to the ways of the world. But despite this, the churches have thousands of Africans filling out the pews every Sunday and other days. We can perhaps look at them and see what we can learn.

For example, the whole experience of going to church can be an emotionally and even physically satisfying one. I’m talking about all of the ritual and singing and collective praying and so on. Too many Pan African meetings are about sitting down and being talked at for a few hours. If we’re honest, this is not going to attract people or inspire people to remain in our organisations!  Another strength of churches is that they provide people with a very clear ‘result’ – i.e. eternal life and salvation. I wonder if we Pan Africanists are clear enough about what we are offering to people. To this end, we should really study the examples of Socialism in the world today in places like Cuba and Venezuela and show these examples to our people.

Anyway, these are just some thoughts around the concept of being in the world and of the world. Hopefully they will inspire you to do something constructive for Africans and humans in general. Let’s finish with some Dennis Brown!

 

   

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Vybz Kartel – More than just a bleacher

Vybz Kartel is a dancehall artist who is known for super-slack explicit lyrics and for bleaching his skin. He is currently incacerated facing murder charges. Many of us will stop at that basic, simple overview of  Vybz Kartel and move on.

I am one of those Reggae/Dancehall fans who craves for a return to the days when conscious messages abounded. There is no doubt in my mind that music has a dialectical relationship with society – with ‘reality’. Too many Dancehall songs have lyrics focusing on slackness and vulgarity (as well as violence, intoxication, etc) partly because these are the things which pre-occupy the attetion of many young people in the ghettos of Jamaica, the US, UK, etc. But the cultural and political awareness and collective organisation among Africans in the diaspora was much more intense in the 1970s and 1980s. And this was reflected in the Reggae and Dancehall of that era which lots of progressive lyrics and imagery.

The influence also works in the other direction. In other words, the messages in the music also have an impact on society. The regressive lyrics encourage people to think regressive thoughts and do regressive actions.  Many young people were alterted to a PanAfrican, Black Nationalist, Rastafarian (etc.) worldview through the Reggae and Dancehall. I personally owe a massive debt to the likes of The Wailers, Dennis Brown, Steel Pulse, Buju Banton, Capleton, Anthony B, Sizzla and Luciano for inspiring me to be proud of  my African identity and history, our militant global struggle against White Supremacy, Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism. It was in the song Revolution by Hip Hop group Arrested Development that I first heard about Kwame Nkrumah – who is now one of my key ideological influences. Sadly, I don’t see many artists who are consistently putting out these kinds of revolutionary, conscious messages in Dancehall (or Hip Hop) today.

So, I share much of the ambivalence toward Vybz Kartel. But there is another side to him than just the slackness, violence and cake soap. In fact, he is more than capable of using his undoubted intellect and music prowess to make uplfiting songs, and to give cutting social commentary. A great example is his Poor People Land (aka Mr Babylon) on a one drop riddim by Don Corleone. The lyrics are militantly pro-Black and pro-Poor, and like Anthony B’s Fire Pon Rome, he calls out big time Capitalist exploiters by name. Another example is Good Father, a tender homage to all fathers who look after and provide for their children. These songs aren’t exaclty ground-breaking, but the fact that it’s Kartel making them is significant. It means that millions of people will hear them who are maybe not paying much attention to similar songs by, say, Tarrus Riley, Lutan Fiyah or Pressure.

Interestingly, last year, Palmer complained that his conscious output is ignored by the Media. He said “Di media nah gimme nuh credit fi di reality, social conscious songs me do. Dem jus highlight the negative. Me do Mr Babylon addressing the squatter land issue in Trelawny, dem nah play it. Me do From Me Born Me Been Sufferin, dem nah play it. Me do Fallen Angel, dem nah play it. Me do Yeah Though I, dem na play it.” This is a story we have heard over and over again from artists, that when they look to cover topics other than the usual slackness and violence, the Media is not interested. Wise Intelligent (of the 90s Hip Hop group Poor Righteous Teachers) delivered a classic address at a Nation of Islam conference a few years ago where he suggested that the Music Industry deliberately dumbed-down musical output in order to curtail its revolutionary potential:

So, the fact that the vast majority of songs we hear from Vybz Kartel (and other Dancehall artists) are “niggerish” in content is partly because the Industry won’t promote their conscious material.

There is clearly more to Vybz Kartel/Adidja Palmer. This year he released a book called “The Voice of The Jamaican Ghetto”. The front cover has Palmer copying a famous Malcolm X pose. I haven’t read the book yet, but this radio programme below suggests it’s worth a read. Apparently, Palmer gives some penetrating analysis of a range of issues pertaining to the social, econimic and cultural climate in Jamaica. Check out the show here and if you read the book, let me know what you think. Peace out.

Western "Democracy" = Corporate Dictatorship

There are many people who I encounter online who consider themselves to be liberal, progressive types. They say they want to see an end to poverty and they want more people in the World to have a share in the wealth of the World. These people think that the prevailing economic and political system in the World – Capitalism – is essentially fine, and that it just needs some tweaking here and there to make it more humanitarian and compassionate. 

Here is where I and they part company. Capitalism is an anti-human system. It depends on the exploitation of the many in order to create profits for the few. Everything is about making more profits. The motive of Capitalism is the lust for bigger profits, not the wellbeing of the people. It is precisely because of Capitalism that there is so much poverty, disease and death in the World. As long as Capitalism reigns supreme, the World will never be a just place.

Now, usually, the well-meaning (and not so well meaning) liberals I mentioned earlier don’t really talk about Capitalism. It’s almost as though they are unwilling to admit that Capitalism exists. But when people like me mention the alternative to Capitalism, i.e. Socialism, these people are super-quick to attack. They will rail against the supposed evils of Socialism, they will pontificate about how Socialism doesn’t work and how Capitalism may not be perfect, but it’s the only viable system.

A favourite accusation I hear against Socialist countries is that they are dictatorships. This gets to one of the fundamental hang ups of many do-goody liberals. They are obsessed with the concept of democracy – by which they mean western forms of liberal democracy. Most of the time, these people have not spent even 10 minutes researching into the political system in places like Cuba, North Korea, China or pre-NATO/ NTC Libya. They just swallow the corporate story that these places are/were dictatorships.

But the bigger problem with these folks is that they totally ignore that the so-called democracy in places like Britain and the US is a sham. There are 2 or 3 parties in those countries that have any hope of winning an election. But all of these parties represent the same tiny group of people, the 1%, the super-super rich. These ‘democracies’ are in the business of transferring the wealth from the poor to the super-rich. This is a dictatorship of the 1% with a veneer of actual democracy. These same people also control the media, which means they control what information the public gets to hear. They relentlessly push the agenda of the 1% – ensuring that any views outside of their status-quo are portrayed as dangerous and even crazy.

What’s worse is that not only are these so-called liberals ignorant about the lack of democracy in the West, they are often the biggest cheerleaders for western militarism overseas. They seem utterly oblivious or perhaps unconcerned at the fact that the ‘democractic’ West continuously attacks genuine democracy around the World in order to defend the 1%’s global hegemony.


So they cheered loudly when the North Atlantic treaty Organisation bombed Libya into ashes. For them, this was a necessary bit of violence to remove a ‘brutal dictator’. Never mind all the massive increases in the quality of life for Libyans that had happened under Jamahiriya – what Libya really needed was multi-party democracy! They are now salivating at the prospect of ‘our boys’ going over to Syria to ‘liberate’ the country from the ‘evil’ ‘satanic’ President Assad in Syria. And they will probably jump into action when the US tries to engineer a situation in Venezuela this coming October during the elections there.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that for all of their lovely-sounding talk of ‘development’ – many do-goody liberals are actually enemies of human progress. They are (probably unwitting) cheerleaders for Capitalism and Imperialism, exploitation, inequality and injustice.

Buffness: If you can conceive it, You can achieve it!

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You have probably heard of this saying before, “if you can conceive it, you can achieve it.” It’s a very daring concept because it has a very high view of the creative potential of human beings. The idea is expressed in a powerful way by the Brand New Heavies in their 1997 hit “You Are the Universe” (remember when funky, empowering songs like this would get into the pop charts?):
Now, I imagine that it’s not possible to prove this concept scientifically. This means that many of us who have a certain kind of Western, ‘rational’ mindset will dismiss it. But I think this is a very valuable and practical idea which can be applied to our lives in order to make full use of our talents.
Before every act of creation, there is a creative thought, a plan, a blueprint, a vision. The computer or phone or tablet (etc.) you are probably using to read this blog began its life as an idea in a designer’s head. In his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, the recently deceased Stephen Covey refers to the 1st and 2nd. The 1st creation is the plan, the blueprint. The 2nd creation is the physical manifestation of that 1st creation. One of the keys to being effective in life is to understand this basic idea and then to use it to take control of our lives. It’s all about being proactive.
If you are a skinny dude and you want to get buff, you should create a clear vision for your body. It’s best to keep this as simple and as visual as possible. You can simply go online and find a picture or video of some dude whose physique you would like to emulate. Save this image or video somewhere that you can refer back to regularly. This is your blueprint, your first creation. You are already a creator! Your next step is to manifest this creation in the physical realm.
Having created a “vision for buffness”, you should record exactly where you are right now. What do you look like now? How much do you weigh now? Take photographs of yourself. The best thing to do is to find a specific place to take the photo(s). You should also weigh yourself and record this somewhere.
This will give you the baseline from which to measure all of your future progress. Every month, you should take new photos in that exact same place and with the exact same lighting so you can get a clear idea of your progress. You should also regularly weigh yourself to see how much weight you putting on. You will be amazed at how quickly you will notice changes to your body once you start putting in the work. This will really inspire you and give you confidence. I love looking at photos of me in the past, but I am a bit vain like that!
The next step in the skinny to buff journey is to think about food!

A skinny African gets Buff: Introduction

This is an introduction to what i hope will be an ongoing series of online articles and possibly videos called “A skinny African gets Buff.” Hopefully the title is fairly self-explanatory, but in case you’re wondering, let me explain what it’s all about.

I’m an African and for the vast majority of my life, I have been a skinny African. For most of my nearly 40 years trodding this Earth, I’ve been overly self-conscious about my body. Previously, I would never show it off in public unless I absolutely had to. Being naturally slim, it seemed as though I could eat any amount of food without putting on weight. Every so often I would tell myself I need to put on some muscle and I’d start doing some press ups, sit ups and stuff, but would get bored very quickly and it never lasted. So, as a result, this is what I looked like in June 2011:

Then last year, I bought the new “Super Creatine Protein Muscle Mass Shake”… Nah, just kidding! But last year I did start putting some serious thought and effort into building up my body. And I’m proud to say that this effort has had some good results. Here are a couple of photos showing what I look(ed) like in July 2012 (just over a year later):


I’m not yet where I want to be but I’m much much happier with where I’m at! And being happier with my body has helped me to be happier and more at ease with myself as a person. This whole experience is really empowering. I am learning that if I have a clear vision and if I dedicate myself to achieving that vision – I can achieve it. I want to apply this lesson to other areas of my life.


This is not just about ‘looking good’ out of a sense of vanity, or a shallow desire to ‘fit it’. Physical fitness is a fundamental part of our existence. It has ramifications on our health, our diet, our lifestyle, etc. I have found that being serious about my fitness has helped me to think more deeply about myself as a person, my goals, my purpose, my ambition, my values, my identity, my worldview and even my politics. I know this probably sounds weird, but hopefully I’ll be able to break this down in this series.

My aim is to share lots of the excellent advice that I have gathered over the past year. My hope is that this series of articles (and maybe videos) will be useful to my fellow skinny-dudes who want to put on some muscle. Obviously, we all have different bodies and not everything here will apply to every skinny dude. We all have to listen to what our bodies are telling us and adapt our routines accordingly. But I reckon at least a few of these points will be useful to everyone.

When I was researching for my own benefit, I found that lots of articles used a lot of weight-training jargon and didn’t break things down into normal English. It was all this talk about “reps”, and “sets” and “Lats” and this and that. For an absolute beginner like me, this was useless. I had to do a lot of work to get past the jargon and find out what the hell they were actually talking about.

So, I will not use any jargon words without explaining what they mean. I’m also not going to tell you to spend money on supplements or any new fangled product. I gained well over a stone (from just under 13 stone to about 14.5 stone now) in one year, without buying a single protein or Creatine shake. And I also didn’t spend my whole life in the gym.

I would love to hear feedback from anyone who finds these articles to be helpful. And if there are things I’ve got plain wrong, then post comments and share what you know. I’ll happily make changes to what I’ve written.

So, stay tuned for the next installment of… “A skinny African gets Buff“!

Everything is as it should be!

Recently, I’ve been getting used to the idea of accepting every moment as it is. It might not be how I want it to be, but it is as it should be, based on what has happened before.

We all know the idea of cause and effect – if certain things happen, then certain results will occur. So, if you close your eyes, you will not be able to see what is front of you. If I drink a whole jug of water, I will go to the toilet in the near future. Nothing radical here so far. The universe is based on principles like this. There is order to the universe, rules and laws.

By choosing to accept the moment, we align ourselves with the Universe. As Deepak Chopra puts it in “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”:

When you struggle against this moment, you’re actually struggling against the entire universe. Instead, you can make the decision that today you will not struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment. This means that your acceptance of this moment is total and complete. You accept things as they are and not as you wish they were in this moment. This is important to understand. You can wish for things in the future to be different, but in this moment you have to accept things as they are” – p. 57-58

I find that by taking this approach, I avoid many negative feelings that would normally occur if I instinctively judged the moment. No-one can force me to feel bad about something. I am in control of how I will responds to most events or situations. By accepting the moment as it is and not judging it, I am freeing myself to choose my response to that moment. I empower myself to take control of my emotions and my feelings rather than other people or situations controlling them.

Accepting the moment also helps me to conserve my energy. When react negatively to something someone says to me, my reaction uses up some of my energy, in a negative way. It also puts out negative energy to the person I am speaking to. This in turns pushes me away from that person, it puts up a barrier between us and prevents us form being able to connect with each other. I’ve recently learned that this is how arguments occur. Each person reacts to other’s reaction and eventually, all lines of connection and empathy are blocked.

I’ve been practising this approach for a short while now, and I’m finding that I experience much less angst and frustration, etc. I’m also feeling much more empathy with people around me, more of a connection with them. I definitely recommend it to everyone!

Recommended resources:

Deepak Chopra on The Law of Least Effort
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPuW_LeBLTY

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [Habit 1: Be Proactive]
Stephen Covey

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success
Deepak Chopra

Entire audio available on YouTube here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiiT8_aFiJA