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Lockdown Therapy for Capitalism

Lockdown Therapy for Capitalism

April 23, 2020

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 

Vogue, Special Edition: Freedom on Hold. The issue has sold out. 

A migrant worker’s child sleeps on a highway in locked-down New Delhi, India, March 29, 2020. On March 30 2020, 8 year-old Rakesh Musahar died of hunger as his family struggled to make ends meet during the lockdown. Rakesh hailed from the Mahadalit Musahar community. He was a ragpicker & sold junk in the market. His father Durga Prasad Musahar was a porter. Rakesh died on Mar 26. His family waited for several hours for local admin. officials to come & make arrangements. However, nobody arrived. Dejected, Durga Prasad & a few other locals finally carried the boy’s body on a cart and cremated him.” [Source] REUTERS – Adnan Abidi

One might think that artists wouldn’t mind being isolated and having more time in studios on account of the current Coronavirus situation.  After all, we spend an enormous amount of time alone, and isolation allows us to have uninterrupted amounts of time to let our imaginations fly.But there are other elements in play when we examine creativity.  For example, it is crucial that we feel safe to expose all our senses to our environment so that we ground our minds properly to our surroundings, harmoniously with all our channels open.

When the “lockdown” started I was at an art residency in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I lived in a communal setting with twenty other artists and writers.  As soon as public spaces became inaccessible and “social distancing” became the norm at the residency, many of the fellow artists experienced lack of productivity.  I felt an immediate blockage to my making process.

Perhaps, since our society does not make artists’ activities a priority, this might be the last thing one would consider as a serious “problem”.  And to a lesser extent such a concern might be secondary to many artists themselves who will be subjected to enormous economic difficulties.

It is “understood” that this is a “crisis” and we must “fight together“ against our “common enemy” which is the virus.  
But who could blame those of us who are very much suspicious of such a momentum, as we hear “decrees” being issued to dictate our social activities while all instruments of state violence and repression are in place to regulate our behaviors.  
After all we live in the same society which has baselessly demonized Muslims while bombing, colonizing and destroying their countries in the name of “war on terror”.  Young black people have been openly demonized to justify gentrification, mass incarceration, exploitation through substandard labor conditions and so on and so forth in the name of “war on drug” and “tough on crime”.

We know that a “crisis” presents opportunities and tools for the ruling class to shape and perpetuate the social structure.  The system in which they thrive is always “too big to fail” while oppressed people keep failing so that they are safely cornered into hopelessness, cynicism and complacency to the feudal order of money and violence.

Caption: “I’ve joined @voguearabia in the fight against Covid-19 to support their #stayhome campaign, and emphasize the importance of safe habits during the pandemic. #strongertogether

Townships are in lockdown — but many Africans fear hunger more than Covid-19. In South Africa, three people have been killed as police have attacked crowds with whips and rubber bullets for defying a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Five more were killed in Kenya, including a 13-year-old boy hit by a stray bullet fired by police enforcing a stay-at-home order in Nairobi. In Uganda, soldiers shot and injured two people for riding on a motorbike during a curfew, Population of Kenya: 51.39 million (2018). Deaths with/from COVID19 in Kenya: 14 (April 21, 2020), Getty images, Source

It is not a speculation that there are people who prosper and even benefit during an economic crisis—as smaller business owners struggle, large corporations and banks benefit from huge government subsidies, giving them more power to buy failing small businesses, for example.  And it is a fact that many of those people have enormous economic power to shape the policies that can benefit themselves. It is not a speculation that they would appreciate having strict measures of control against the people by limiting their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel, or by installing means of surveillance, check points and official certifications for activities that might give freedom to the people beyond the capitalist framework.  It is not a speculation that they would benefit from moving our social interactions to the digital realm, which can commodify our activities as marketable data for the advertising industry, insurance industry and any other moneyed social institutions Including education, political institution, legal institution, and financial institution.  Such matters should be seen within the context of the western history being shaped by unelected capitalists with their enormous networks of social institutions.  In fact, private foundations and NGOs are working with governmental organizations and global institutions to implement potentially dangerous policies of draconian measures as well as financialization of our activities for sometime.  According to researchers—Cory MorningstarAlison McDowell and others, the potential impact of the transformation which is about to take place through the Internet, block chain technology, artificial intelligence, and etc. under the banner of the fourth industrial revolution can be devastatingly inhumane to our species’ path.  Examining those matters must not be subjected to being labeled as “conspiracy” and dismissed.

Needless to say, a draconian momentum against the capitalist hierarchy accelerates hardships of “invisible people” who struggle against economic deprivation and social repression.  How do homeless people “stay home”?  How do people in jail practice “social distancing”?   How are people vulnerable to domestic violence protected?   How do small business owners continue to stay in business?  How do poor people survive while public services and spaces are eliminated, while affluent people are stock piling in their generously equipped gated communities.  How do people with addiction stay sober?  How do people with suicidal tendency secure their dwindling connection to humanity?

Food distributed to homeless migrant workers in New Delhi. The painted circles on the ground are to maintain social distancing. Vikram Patel, Harvard Medical School, April 17, 2020:  “Since the first case was reported in late January, there have been (as of 15 April) about 400 confirmed deaths. During this same period of roughly 75 days, if we extrapolate data from recent years on mortality, over 1.5 million Indians will have died due to other causes.” [Population of India: 1.3 billion (2018). Deaths with/from Covid: 603 (April 21, 2020)]

But those discussions are rare among us.  A hint of doubt can trigger those people who are “fighting together”.  Because once our creative minds learn to live safely in an authoritarian framework of draconian rules and decrees, the narrow framework restricts our thoughts and ideas.  Our minds get weaponized to uphold the authoritarianism as a path to “democracy”, “freedom”, “justice” and “humanity”, which have been mere euphemisms to describe blank checks given to the ruling class.  Once people turn into soldiers of the authoritarianism, the path to the ”solutions” is paved by their  relentless adherence to corporate political parties, official decrees and carefully concocted narratives within the capitalist framework.  Our discussions cease to be mutually respectful exchange, instead, they become battle grounds in which dissenting voices are vetted, attacked and eliminated.

A society that can’t sustain artists is a society that kills minds to care, understand, empathize and share.  A society that enforces its imperatives with fear instead of trust in humanity deprives a healthy mechanism to guide itself.

As I see how public sentiment is developing over the virus situation, I must mention one more thing.  There has been a proven method of silencing anti-capitalist voices within our society, used by media, political figures, corporate dissidents and others.  It requires a few steps.

First, amplify the voices of people who willingly sacrifice those who they consider to hold lower positions than they do in demanding their righteous positions within the capitalist hierarchy.  The voices might come from racist nationalists, patriarchal misogynists, flag waving anti-immigrant activists or heartless Trump supporters demanding old people to die during the coronavirus pandemic.  Those people recognize that an aspect or a policy of the establishment will compromise their lives—after all they are also oppressed by the capitalist order.  However, they do embrace the capitalist order in essence.  They do not tolerate sharing their positions with people who they despise.

Second, claim that you are with victims of racism, misogyny or xenophobia, or old people who are vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Third, falsely equate an anti-capitalist perspective with that of those political villains.

Forth, dismiss those who are calling out the ruling class agenda as “racist”, “misogynists”, “fascist worshiper” and so on.

This method has been very effective.  I am sure that anyone who has expressed a concern over capitalist domination can recall being labeled as what they actually oppose.

The method achieves a few things at the same time.  First, it obscures the mechanism of capitalist hierarchy. Second, it divides people who should be fighting against the system together—obscuring the meaning of class struggle.  Third, it augments the capitalist hierarchy.  Forth, it vitalizes the political legitimacy of corporate political parties which utilize the division.  Needless to say, the narrative of division is actively generated by corporate political parties as well.

It is imperative that we recognize the predicaments of the people who are most oppressed within our society, while we firmly recognize the dynamics within the capitalist hierarchy, and stay away from being a part of the mechanism which safely turns our predicaments into driving forces of capitalism.

I hope above writing can generate much needed discussions on the topic among us.

[Hiroyuki Hamada is an artist. He has exhibited throughout the United States and in Europe and is represented by Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He has been awarded various residencies including those at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Edward F. Albee Foundation/William Flanagan Memorial Creative Person’s Center, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the MacDowell Colony. In 1998 Hamada was the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Foundation grant, and in 2009 he was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He lives and works in New York.]

The Best Lecture You Will Ever Watch on “Conservation”

Mordecai Ogada, Director of Conservation Solutions Afrika – The Big Conservation Lie

Video published on Mar 27, 2017

“That hot afternoon in Amboseli; I experienced my road to Damascus. I realized that I was part of a system that had no respect for the very bedrock on which it stood. I was a qualified black face put in place to smooth over fifty years of exploitation in two and to create a pleasant backdrop that would allow for the renewal of this insidious arrangement. The technical knowledge I had from all the years and energy I spent studying conservation biology weren’t important here. The Dr. prefix to my name, my knowledge of Kiswahili, my complexion were all props to make things appear honest. These realizations came to me in a merciless flood, and I was momentarily filled with outrage and self-loathing. I was part of a fallacy whose sell-by date was fast approaching.”—Mordecai Ogada

A must watch lecture of Mordecai Ogada presenting on his new book The Big Conservation Lie. Sponsored by CSU SOGES Africa Center and The Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University.”

 

 

WATCH: A Message to Nature Conservancy & African Wildlife Foundation from Evicted Samburu

Just Conservation

May 21, 2013

Nakuru talks to Jo Woodman about her eviction from her home to make way for conservation. Video editing by Zoe Young.

The Samburu of Kisargei, in Kenya’s Laikipia district, were brutally evicted from the lands they call home after it was sold to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). AWF – with funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and a private donor – says it bought the land on the understanding that no-one lived there. When the Samburu protested and took the matter to the courts the land was hurriedly ‘gifted’ to the government. Nakuru Lemiruni’s six children were all born in Kisargei and she says she ‘cannot think of any other land as home’. She wanted to send a message to AWF. This is it.

Police chose a Friday “market day” for their attack, when the men were away and only women, elders and children were in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000- acre Eland Downs Ranch, police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground along with all their possessions.

Keep Off The Grasslands | Mark Dowie On Conservation Refugees

WKOG Editor: We especially like the fact that Dowie distinguishes between member-funded and corporate-funded  NGOs. We also enjoyed the irony that the person who alerted Dowie to the indigenous peoples predicament was Rebecca Adamson, who, in turn, has capitalized on the indigenous rights paradigm to become a corporate broker.” [Further reading on More on Adams:  The Corporate Buy-In]

Video | These people have names…

Nakuru Lemiruni sends a message to those responsible for evicting the Samburu tribe from their land. The Samburu of Kisargei, in Kenya’s Laikipia district, were brutally evicted from the lands they call home in 2010 after the land was sold to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). AWF, using funds from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), says it bought the land on the understanding that no-one lived there. When the Samburu protested and took the matter to the courts the land was hurriedly ‘gifted’ to the government. Police chose a Friday “market day” for their attack, when the men were away and only women, elders, and children were in their homes. Fanning out across the 17,000- acre Eland Downs Ranch, police burned the Samburu families’ homes to the ground, along with all their possessions. Identified in the Kenyan press as “squatters,” the evicted Samburu families petitioned a regional court to recognize their ancestral claims to the land where they lived and grazed their cattle The suit has been filed by the Samburu against the African Wildlife Foundation and the former President. They need money and public support to win.

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The Sun Magazine

Issue 452 | August 2013

by Joel Whitney

Journalist Mark Dowie was speaking at an environmental conference in Ottawa, Canada, in 2004 when he was approached by Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee and the founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide. She began telling him how conservationists were mistreating indigenous tribes around the world. Intrigued, Dowie decided to look into the subject and write about it.

He traveled for four years to remote parts of the globe, and what he found troubled him. Everywhere he went, native people were being kicked off their ancestral lands to make way for national parks or protected wilderness areas. Dowie wrote a book and titled it Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. He estimates that over the past one hundred years there have been 20 million such refugees worldwide.

He also discovered that the large conservation organizations were partnering with corporations that wanted to build oil wells or gas pipelines or mine for minerals on these lands. Originally conservationists were opposed to drilling and mining, but, Dowie says, the lines between the conservation giants and the corporate giants are being blurred: “International conservation organizations remain comfortable working in close quarters with some of the most aggressive global resource prospectors.” These extractive projects are far more environmentally destructive than the presence of indigenous people, he says. In fact, it’s indigenous traditions that have protected these biologically rich lands, often for millennia.

Dowie was born in Toronto, Canada, and spent his formative years in Wyoming. He calls himself a “Wyoming cowboy,” and his son and ex-wife still own a ranch on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Dowie worked for Mother Jones magazine from 1975 to 1985, first as general manager, then as publisher, and finally as editor. In addition to Conservation Refugees, he is the author of Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century and American Foundations: An Investigative History. During his nearly forty years in journalism, he has won nineteen awards, been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and contributed to the Times of London, Harper’s, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation. He is currently a contributing editor at Orion and has taught environmental reporting and foreign correspondence at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

I visited Dowie at his home on Tomales Bay in Inverness, California, to discuss the fate of the conservation refugees. Inverness sits on the eastern shore of Point Reyes Peninsula, a protected national seashore. Dowie lives there with his wife — the artist Wendy Schwartz — and their yellow lab, Gracie, who welcomed me with a volley of barks as I crossed the yard on my first visit.

Dowie invited me to follow him through the reeds to his shore-side observatory, a small structure on stilts in the inlet. Six foot three and bowlegged, he stooped a little as he guided me past the poison oak. At seventy-four Dowie is silver haired, broad shouldered, and quietly assertive. When questioned, he answers quickly and without meandering. When challenged, he smiles as if appreciative of the chance to clarify his meaning. He emphasizes that the conflict between native peoples and conservationists is not a story of good guys versus bad guys but “good guys versus good guys.”

 

Whitney: Your book starts close to home with the story of Yosemite National Park.

Dowie: The creation of Yosemite was a long process that began with its “discovery” by white European Americans. Native Americans, of course, were already there. John Muir, forefather of the American conservation movement, is often cited as the park’s founder. He wrote and spoke lyrically about the spiritual renewal urbanites experienced when they entered places like Yosemite Valley — which he defined as a “wilderness” despite its long-standing human population.

Kenya’s Samburu People ‘Violently Evicted’ after US Charities (Nature Conservancy & African Wildlife Foundation) Buy Land

Around 2,000 Samburu families have stayed squatting on edge of disputed territory, says NGO Survival International

“Members of the Samburu people in Kenya have been abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for two decades was sold to two US-based wildlife charities, a rights group and community leader have alleged. … The London-based NGO Survival International said the Samburu were evicted following the purchase of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation. The groups subsequently gifted the land to Kenya for a national park, to be called Laikipia National Park.”

The pastoralist Samburu have reported constant harassment from police with women allegedly raped and animals seized. Photograph: Zhao Yingquan/Xinhua

Members of the Samburu people in Kenya have been abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for two decades was sold to two US-based wildlife charities, a rights group and community leader have alleged.

The dispute centres on Eland Downs in Laikipia, a lush area near Mount Kenya. At least three people are said to have died during the row, including a child who was eaten by a lion after the Samburu were violently evicted in November last year.

The London-based NGO Survival International said the Samburu were evicted following the purchase of the land by two American-based charities, the Nature Conservancy and the African Wildlife Foundation.

The groups subsequently gifted the land to Kenya for a national park, to be called Laikipia National Park.

Survival International said the land was officially owned by former president Daniel arap Moi, although AWF simply said it bought it from a private landowner.

With nowhere to go, around 2,000 Samburu families stayed on the edge of the disputed territory, living in makeshift squats, while 1,000 others were forced to relocate, Survival said.

Jo Woodman, a campaigner for Survival, said the pastoralist Samburu had reported constant harassment from police with women allegedly raped, animals seized and an elder shot as recently as last month.

“There has been an ongoing, constant level of fear, intimidation and violence towards the community, which has been devastating,” Woodman said.

A community leader, who did not wish to be named, described police harassment as enormous. He said police beat people, burned manyattas or traditional homesteads and carried out arbitrary arrests during the period leading up to and including the eviction last year. He said they also confiscated many animals and the intimidation has continued.

“The situation has been really bad for a long time,” he said. “[The Samburu] have nothing. Things like bedding and utensils were burned.”

Kenyan police were not available on Wednesday to comment on the allegations.

Survival has written to the UN appealing for urgent action to put an end to the violence and provide assistance to the Samburu, who have gone to court to establish their right to the land.

“In one incident, a Samburu elder was shot dead by paramilitaries,” the group said in its letter to the UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, dated 7 December.

“The displaced community has nothing but their livestock, thousands of which were impounded – with no reason given – on 25 November 2011. This is an urgent and serious violation of the rights of this community, which has been left squatting beside its land with no amenities,” Survival’s letter said.

The two conservation groups gifted the 17,100 acres to Kenya’s government in November to create a national park to be run by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

However, since then a court has banned the KWS from proceeding with the conservation project until a ruling on the Samburus’ legal case.

Both US-based charities indicated they were watching the situation with concern but were unable to comment for legal reasons.

John Butler, director of marketing for the AWF, said: “The African Wildlife Foundation does not condone violence. AWF has a longstanding history of working closely with local communities to ensure that conservation solutions benefit both people and wildlife. Unfortunately, we cannot comment at length on this issue due to a pending court case in Kenya.”

Blythe Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Nature Conservancy, said: “The conflict over natural resources across Africa is a serious issue. Everywhere we work in Africa, we’re working with local communities to address natural resource issues. We’re closely monitoring this situation; unfortunately we can’t comment at length due to a pending court case in Kenya.”

Kenya has a history of land-grabbing by senior government officials, particularly during Daniel arap Moi’s time in power. Land disputes are common as legal documents of ownership are often missing or have been forged.

A request for comment from Kenya’s Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife went unanswered. However the minister, Dr Noah Wekesa, was quoted as telling parliament last month that KWS had ceased all activity on the land, which would not be gazetted as a national park until the other legal case was resolved.

The Samburu’s legal case was heard in the town of Nyeri on Wednesday and lawyer Korir Sing’Oei said the court confirmed that the KWS had secured registration of the land.

“The court has turned a blind eye to the pleas of the Samburu community and allowed these illegalities to subsist,” he said. “The transfer [of the land to the KWS] is totally unlawful and it’s in flagrant violation of the interests of the Samburu community.”

The court had agreed to give further direction on the matter in January.

Korir Sing’Oei said he intended to address the violations of rights in a separate case.

“Last year, when the community was forcefully evicted from the land … their homes were burnt down and livestock confiscated in their hundreds and lots of their women were violated,” he said.

“Given the powerful actors who have vested interests in the land, this issue has been really hushed up in the local media,” he added.

The lawyer said the evicted Samburu had no intention of leaving Laikipia, a popular destination for wildlife-loving tourists and the area where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in a rustic lodge.

“Where would they go to? They have absolutely nowhere else to go,” he said.

The community elder said running away was not an option.

“That’s the place you call your home … it’s where you were brought up and where your children call home. It’s an ancestral land.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/14/kenya-samburu-people-evicted-land

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