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WATCH: The Global Climate Ghetto – The Environmental Crisis from the Perspective of the Global South

WATCH: The Global Climate Ghetto – The Environmental Crisis from the Perspective of the Global South

December 14, 2019

Transcript by Geraldine Ring

 

“And the third group, are the anti-ecological environmentalists. They who love trees, forests and organic food, but find no inconsistency between their environmentalist ideology and discrimination, racism and colonialism. In their conceit, they believe that they can be anti-fascist and hate blacks, Asians, immigrants and embracing discriminations against women, the working class and the poor. And you howl Coltrane, as he asks simply with Diana, Dylan, Mali, Masekela, ‘Where are you? Sing me a song of consolation and ascension, send me to Google at the river Congo to find dead souls in the Amazonian forest, take me on a sudden Guernica trip to hear them black bodies singing.’ They’re burning flesh.”

In this lecture, Ambassador Lumumba Di-Aping, Chair of Rights of Future Generations Working Group, voices a critical analysis of the impact of climate change, especially on non-emergent poor countries of the South. [Hosted by the V&A Museum in conjunction with the Sharjah Architecture Triennial and the Royal College of Art London. October 4, 2018]

 

Transcript

Introduction

Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art, London:

Let’s start in 2009 during the Copenhagen climate conference. Lumumba is the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations and chair of the G77 plus China group of 132 developing nations. For the first time in the history of that group the chair has forged an agreement between them that they will negotiate as a single block. The crowds waiting outside of the Vela Centre in Copenhagen are seized by a concern. Will an accord be signed in the wake of Kyoto, and what will be the agreed global average temperature increase. Will it be 1.5 degrees, 2 degrees, etc.?

Unbeknownst to everyone else the G20, a group of the most powerful economies on the planet, had been meeting in secret with a proposal that they had agreed upon to commit the planet and its people to an average 2 degree temperature increase. Then somebody leaked the text to Lumumba Di-Aping.

And so with President Obama flying back to Washington content in the notion that the secret G20 agreement had been sealed and would soon be adopted by all the other Earth’s nations, Lumumba called a press conference – you can hear a fragment of it in the piece next door – and delivered an extraordinary speech, shattering the callous façade of agreement that northern countries were preparing for their poorer neighbours. I have no doubt it will be remembered as one of the greatest, and most significant, political interventions in our lifetimes.

So at great personal risk and sacrifice, Lumumba broke with all the protocols of diplomatic speech – the secrecies, the silent disparities, the resigned subjugations. He spoke truth to power. He described the text as climate genocide, and indeed it was. He accused the G20 of trying to colonize the sky, as indeed it was. For hidden in the scale of the global average temperature increase were the differentiated hazards and vulnerabilities of climate impact. As Lumumba said, it would have meant certain devastation in Africa. Lumumba did something else that is extremely important. He connected the language of numbers in climate negotiation to an existential calculation: a calculation of life and death. We should heed his lesson. Lumumba has been an incredible inspiration to many people. Please join me in welcoming him to the stage tonight.

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Lumumba Di-Aping:

Good evening, good evening. It is a real honour to stand in front of you to deliver these remarks on the tectonic challenge of climate change. As you all know, this tectonic challenge is man-made. It is a civilizational, moral and existential challenge – to humanity today, tomorrow, and for the future generations. If not addressed properly, the effects of this ecological challenge will be catastrophic to all future generations. Be they from the west or from the south, be they white, black, yellow or in-betweens. These remarks are thus driven by a certain consciousness. And an enduring determination and a vigilant critique of anti-ecological knowledge, immaturity and environmental dis-enlightenment, bent on not only denying science, but one that has marshalled successfully so far a grand strategy to render impotent any moral, social, economic and political, or categorical transformative leadership.

These remarks are against the haunting suffering of 99% of the human family. They are personal outrage against horrid violence inflicted against humanity. I represented the Global South as their chief negotiator in the trenches of Copenhagen in 2009. These remarks am I telling it like it was. A naked experience. They are remarks aimed at igniting, for the interests of the future generations of the world for a robust, truthful and just discourse on climate change.

But before I proceed, let me take this opportunity for a world of dedication to my family Ulysses Henry Epping and Sonja D. Epping and to Dom Henry Walsborough of Ampleforth. May your wings be strong. May your days be long. Safe be your journey. Each of you bears inside of you a great gift of love which you have given me abundantly. May bring you light and warmth and the pleasure of giving, as you have always done. Eagerly savour each day the taste of its warmth, of its mouth. Never lose sight of the thrill and the joy of living. Son, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth, and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous. We stand upright and be strong and may you stay forever young.

Now, now if you were born in Africa. If you went to school there and if you were fortunate, or perhaps unfortunate enough to have had a British Council sent English teacher who admired and taught you Charles Dickens, COP15 would have descended upon you the way a thousand ton of slab of concrete nightmare have done. A diluvial desolation, a hell of other implacable global injustice and bull everywhere.

You would have seen COP15 chairperson, the Honorable Prime Minister of Denmark, presiding over the UNF Triple C Court of Chancery, which – to paraphrase Dickens – gives to the many might the means of abundantly wearing out the right and the downtrodden global poor, the means of exhausting patience, courage and negating hope, and the means to deject, close the minds and overthrow the brains, and break the hearts, and the means to force them to succumb and sign an accord and a pact that not only denies their humanity, but cages them to watch helplessly their entire nation, countries and state drowning slowly under water, savaged by the extreme hurricanes, rains, heatwaves, droughts, fires and getting torched red and scorched yellow – and ultimately incinerated like Giacometti’s men and women and you needn’t recall Eichmann.

There is not one honourable man, woman among the UNF Triple C Chancery lead negotiators. And developing countries have known, have been experiencing, and witnessing the world that is to come. The new normal to arrive. Desolation. In that UNF Triple C Chancery, dominated by G8 plus China and India and India’s delegation, it was all pretence. And you ask, “On a 2 degree Celsius pathway? Are you serious?” And they come down the slinging, with their prepared answers, “The perfect, the perfect is the enemy of the good”. You come to your senses. There is not one honourable man, woman among the UNF Triple C Chancery lead negotiators. Their well-rehearsed sermon was “Two degrees on a legally-binding plate. Call it a pact. Mitigation and adaptation – pledges without any commitment to emission reduction targets. No technology transfer, no finance.” They repeated this sermon ad infinitum and sang it like a hymn and, as it turned out it, it was one, from a secret text – known only to them. And thank God, it was leaked by a rat, as the Guardian put it, years later.

See, the UNF Triple C have been turned into an attrition arena, a holding spectacle purposely – purposely intended to preclude forever any attempt to reduce ambitions forever, or until perhaps 2030, 2050, when the burden shifts to advanced developing countries in the future generations. See the UNF Triple C, COPS, have been turned into “this is spectacle, historically”. And they kept giving this atrocious, vicious, malice co-ordinated against all demands for deep emission cuts, all negative emissions.

This belligerent animosity towards developing countries, in general, has always come from three groups in the alliance – and this is very important. The first group is the quintessential Western establishment type with their apologist among the intelligentsia, particularly their juris economistas aided by journalists and editors. And the second group are the clevers, the ID 77 insiders and members. They are adept diplomats, sophisticated, delicate and dexterous representatives of the new economically superior emergent block in cahoots with developing countries, fossil fuel heavyweights. They apply their finance for infrastructure muscles in Asia, Africa and Latin America to force their will. They have become the poor countries’ and LDCs’ main trading partners. And the third group, are the anti-ecological environmentalists. They who love trees, forests and organic food, but find no inconsistency between their environmentalist ideology and discrimination, racism and colonialism. In their conceit, they believe that they can be anti-fascist and hate blacks, Asians, immigrants and embracing discriminations against women, the working class and the poor. And you howl Coltrane, as he asks simply with Diana, Dylan, Mali, Masekela, “Where are you? Sing me a song of consolation and ascension, send me to google at the river Congo to find dead souls in the Amazonian forest, take me on a sudden Guernica trip to hear them black bodies singing.” They’re burning flesh.“The first group is the quintessential Western establishment type with their apologist among the intelligentsia, particularly their juris economistas aided by journalists and editors..”

But Copenhagen continues. The game is on and it’s the only game, the only one in town, so be, shape up. You remember Ruth’s first words in her seminal work, ‘The Barrel of a Gun’. For I count myself an African and there is no cause I hold dearer. Be, or the only legacy you live. Ulysses your son is a burden of absolute unforgettable, unforgivable shame, the burden of having signed to the total destruction of his world, the future generations’ world. It’s 3 o’clock. You are holding an espresso, double shot. You remember Mahmoud Darwish. You aim the sea, sky and earth at me, but you cannot root that continent out of me. You cannot root my son out of me, and not his generations – never. And time goes on, negotiating. It’s midnight now. You are in Copenhagen. The negotiation texts are over a thousand page. And it’s freezing cold. So you say to yourself, two degrees is four degrees, three degrees and they simply feast, two degrees the riches are theirs. Two degrees, we are dead and they are not. Two degrees, do they care? Four degrees, and we don’t live and they won’t live. Do they know? Shouldn’t they care? We will rise and they will wise. We can rise and they won’t rise. Five degrees, we are shades and they are hues. Six degrees and the world is fire. We are on fire. Our breath is gone. We are done and the world end done. Six degrees, we are all done. Done. Done.

Diplomatically, the G8 in the leadership of the US, China and India where the main culprit diplomatically, the USA, negotiated on the basis that what of society does wrote the wars of Sparta and Athens. The powerful exact what they can and then we have to comply. In such a world, it is no use that the destitute poor of the South must suffer what they must. And Africa has a peculiar position in climate change negotiations as a non-industrial bloc of nations that has contributed near zero emissions since the heralding of the Anthropocene, the geological age of man-making.

Since the 15th century Portuguese endeavours in despised islands to the advent of the Industrial Revolution in England in 18th century, Africa has, had been a colony, denied the dignity of being human, denied freedom and free will, justice and development. And thus to understand the predicament of an African negotiator, or the African negotiators, one has to first recall that until mid-1950s Africa was not part of the global affairs – the global affairs and politics of the multilateralism. Until 1950s, African states were colonies, not equal member states in the global scene. A non-white, and in particular the African was deemed sub-human, a useless harmful stock of a Negro race whose temperament and capacity were peculiarly suited to hard labour, not least because they were significantly less susceptible to physical pain than white man. And further, it was common perspective among the elites that slavery was, is, and will be needed for the regeneration of contemporary European cultures. And, of course, all of this was justified and justifiable for the incomplete humanity of the state. Thus, if colonies demise, they become freedom, then the metropolis gives herself the right to be the new robbers, the ravagers. As long as they cannot rule, cannot be rulers and owners, they are men of knowledge after all.

In a recent article by Sir Robert Tony Watson, a distinguished and respectable scientist and a former director of the United Nations, inter-IPCC, three degrees, he said the following, “Three degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees, Europe in permanent drought. Vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert.” And he goes on, “The prospect of a five degree warming has prompted some of the world leading climate scientists to warn of the end of the human civilization.” This elegantly-phrased paragraph embodies profound truth about the challenge and calamity of the climate change in what it states and what it curiously omits. A curious omission in that important passage which forces us to ask, “What does science say about the climate change in Africa?, what is the state of affairs on climate in Africa? And what bearing did it have on its position on Copenhagen and Paris Agreement?

The conclusion of the fourth assessment report by IPCC is that in all four regions, in all seasons, the median temperature increase lies between three degrees and four degrees Celsius – roughly one point five times the global mean. But as African we knew that is the real situation, the actual reality we live. Africa is already suffering from climate change – even with the admission of IPCC itself, which is a highly respectable report. “Africa’s major economic sectors are vulnerable to current climate sensitivities with huge economic impact and this vulnerability is exacerbated by existing developmental challenges such as enduring poverty, complex government, institutional dimensions, limited access to capital including markets, infrastructure and technology, ecosystem degradation and complex disasters and conflict”. And this brings us to some very important considerations. I want to highlight here. What limit on warming does this require globally? And the answer is simple. Keeping temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1 degrees Celsius. Keeping it below 2 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees Celsius. And we are asked to sign for 2 degrees. Further, what emission reduction that is required for 2050. The answer again, “Limiting temperature increase requires limiting GHG concentrations and emissions. Limiting concentrations to 350 ppm CO2 yields. 350 ppm yields 14% chance of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius globally, and a considerable chance of exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Even temperatures and risks of these levels are arguably unacceptable to Africa. To limit concentrations to 350 ppm CO2 emissions must be limited to 750 Gigaton CO2, and that is between 2000 and 2050. And of this amount 330 Gigatons has been used between 2000 and 2008, leaving the world with 420 Gigatons.

Lesser level of ambition have been misleadingly presented as consistent with keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius. And we are reading the same report of the IPCC. “In particular, developed countries have called for a 50% global ambition reduction by 2050 from 1990 levels. This, however, entails a risk of more than 50% exceeding the 2 degrees Celsius, and it would not be reasonable therefore to characterize this as a 2 degrees pathway. Even if you were to say it’s a 2 degree pathway, it’s not. Even an 85% global cut by 2050 entails the risk of exceeding 2 degrees Celsius of around 25%.”

We go to the question of allocation. How should the budget of this global resource then be allocated? We call for a sustainable approach. And a sustainable approach to climate change requires the Earth’s emission budget to be set at levels that avoid dangerous climate change. An equitable approach to climate change requires the Earth emissions budget to be allocated fairly, because part of the critical issues that we face are related to issues of economic inequality. An equitable approach to climate change was thus the central issue. And Nicholas Stern stated, “If the allocations of rise to emit any given year took a greater account both of history and of equity, in stocks rather than throughput flows then rich countries would have rights to emissions levels, which were less than two tonnes per capita. The negotiations of such rights involve substantial financial allocations at $40 per tonne CO2. A total world allocation of 30 Gigaton would be worth 1.1 trillion.” Mind you, in 2009, a barrel of oil was priced as 100-115 euro. Will asked Annex I countries to take an allocation of 390 Gigaton CO2, based on their population ratio, 20% of the world population and non-Annex I would be allocated a 1,270 Gigaton. And the basis of this is the concept of contraction and convergence so that Annex I would actually use 640 Gigatons. More than their fair allocation. Whether it’s borrowing, or the inevitable – the West, obviously, until there is a new way of producing energy would need significant allocation.

Let me proceed, and bring to your attention another issue. And that would be around the goals for mid- and long-term cuts for Annex I. The scenario we assumed in 2009 was that Annex I countries would cut their emissions by at least half by 2017, and become neutral by 2050. We are in 2018. Nothing has been done. None. On this scenario, the 20% of the world’s population in Annex I countries would still have used 640 Gigaton. That’s more than 60% of the total global budget and more than 40% of the remaining global budget. In a fairer world, they should have compensated, or should compensate developing countries for their overuse of a trillion-dollar resource, providing some financial and technology transfer, but of course that was not to be. On that issue. non-Annex I countries would still need to cut emissions drastically, if global emissions are to remain within the budget of the 350 ppm. But, of course, as I have said, the clevers were having none of it.

We wanted developed countries to have ambitious cuts, but then Annex I countries have to accept less of the burden of cutting their own emissions. On technology, there are a number of issues that are important. The level of technology and financing required by non-Annex I depends on, one, the number of tons of GHG to be reduced, and the cost per tonne of reducing emissions. The cost in total was around 489 billion euro. That is, if the average cost per tonne is 60 euro, which was then huge discount, because if you compare it with the barrel oil, the barrel of oil was 115. If we use the 100 euro as the base, the total financing required for the deal was 814 billion euros. I think that table gives you the full calculation.

What I would say, is that recent estimates put cost and damages from climate change into trillions. One recent study by Allianz Insurance suggests that, the value of assets at risk from sea level rise in port facilities alone by 2050 could exceed 22 trillion dollars. And you ask yourself, if the value at risk of inaction in a sum just for those cities is 22 trillion, and the value of action of a real solution is a trillion why would you choose that pathway? Other issue that was contested was the issue of adaptation cost. We cannot adapt without deep emission reductions by Annex I countries, without major financing technology transfer for emissions reductions by Annex I countries, major financing of producing actual opportunity cost. And I think, even speaking about adaptation was not acceptable for them. The final issue that bedeviled the negotiations was the issue of the institutions.

Achieving climate change resolution requires new institutions for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and finance. It would require a major mobilization to help people address inevitable damage associated with current and permitted work, and it will require a major effort to deploy technologies in all countries within the next five to ten years. We are talking about 2009. As others have said, that was the essence of the position of the African group. That’s the perspective I tried to persuade Annex I, the major polluters, and the major polluters from the South. In our view, this was an equitable framework for global climate policy, a policy that is transformative and does not hide behind economics of the 1% who control the global economy and their ideologies – its skepticism, denialism, all the rest. Ascriptions of radicalism, derision and vilification were the answers we received from Annex I countries, particularly after they managed to convert Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to abandon the African position which was approved on the 12th African Union summit and in the Algiers declaration an African common platform to Copenhagen. In that spirit, originally Zenawi on the 3rd of September 2009 announced that, “We will never accept any global deal that does not limit global warming to the minimum unavoidable level, no matter what levels of compensation assistance are promised to us. If needs be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of the continent.” Those the words of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

“Fanon said, ‘The colonized man will manifest his aggressiveness against his own people.'” And, of course, the EU managed to persuade Meles Zenawi to abandon the agreed African Union position. On the 15th of December 2009. Zenawi issued a joint press release with President of France Nicolas Sarkozy. Sure you all remember him. Which declared that the African Union’s position on Copenhagen was a 2 degrees Celsius temperature target, 10 billion dollars in fast-track financing, 100 billion euros in long-term financing. We were shocked. We condemned the position as a betrayal of Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “The two-degree target condemns Africa to incineration and no modern development.” And when I asked President Sarkozy in the negotiation, he said to me, “Ask Meles”. So I asked Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and he said, and I quote, “I want cash, not SDRs (Special Drawing Rights).” Later on it transpired that he secured 1 billion US dollars to fight terrorism in Somalia. Fanon said, “The colonized man will manifest his aggressiveness against his own people.” I will stop.

“And so you ask yourself, why talk about damage when we know we are really talking about mortality, death, social degradation, and annihilation.”Copenhagen has thus failed because of three reasons, and these three reasons will continue destroying any attempt to stop ecological degradation. The first reason – sorry, I mean two reasons. The first reason: the problem embedded in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. And it states, “The ultimate objective of the convention is to achieve a stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The truth is that climate change has already reached dangerous levels, dangerous levels that makes this stabilization impossible. Second, is the fiction of the plausibility of two degrees Celsius pathway. The two degrees Celsius pathway, the dictated perspective of the EU is a repetition of what I would deem a eurocentric perspective that dominates its occidentalism, the basis of its scientific moral and economic approaches to the climate change challenge. It is fully consistent with position and practices in world history. It is a perspective that defines what the maximum tolerable temperature on the basis of what it perceives to be acceptable levels of damage, rather than avoidance of all damage. And so you ask yourself, why talk about damage when we know we are really talking about mortality, death, social degradation, and annihilation. In view of that, the African position in the negotiations called for 45 degrees emission reduction by developed countries by 2020. That’s now gone. Finance for adaptation of 150 billion immediately as SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) from the IMF, and a global 500 billion in fast-track financing and another 5% of developing countries GNP in longer term financing and transfer of technology. Our logic was very simple. Countries like United States had then a budget of over 3.7 trillion dollars and they spent annually five to six hundred billion in defence alone. The 2008 bailing of Wall Street, you would recall, was well above a trillion. And they are questioning, or they’re claiming, that climate change is not financeable.

We have to reject the signing of Copenhagen Agreement for all those reasons. And of course with the collapse of Copenhagen we come to the reality of the Paris Agreement which is what we are facing now, or dealing with now. My own perspective. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in 2016, had been hailed as a major diplomatic success. It is indeed a tour de force, a rhetorical one that requires careful, critical and sign-centric reading. The Agreement reads as follows, “This Agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.” And the question is, “how?”. And I read again, “first by holding the increase in the global average temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels.” The strategic intent of Paris response would have been truly noble, if not for the sad fact that it was killed off by the fraternity of the ”shoulds”. There’s nothing legally binding in Paris Agreement. It’s all “shoulds”. Second, the reality and magnitude of existential crisis that we face as Africans is straightforward: keeping temperature increase in Africa to below 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a global response of less than 1 degrees Celsius. Keeping the temperature below 2 degrees Celsius requires a global goal of less than 1.3 degrees Celsius, and we are holding as a great achievement a non-committal position of maybe 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“What Paris Agreement begat us thus is a median temperature increase that lies between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius in Africa – roughly 1.5 times of the global average.”What Paris Agreement begat us thus is a median temperature increase that lies between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius in Africa – roughly 1.5 times of the global average. You calculate. It is therefore academic to talk of other purposes of the Paris Agreement. What is the use of dissecting intentions of increasing the ability to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production? What food production if you are in the territory of a 4 degrees Celsius? What poverty reduction? Africa is already buried 20 metres under poverty threshold. What sustainable development if we can’t survive? But, it had to be done in Paris, elegantly. COP20 had to yield and succumb to this end. This is because all the COPs, ever since the very beginning, have been largely a concerted effort to exclude the authority and the legitimacy of genuine science.

When they talk policy, they basically leave science alone. This rejection of science and scientific evidence has led to the systemic marginalization and former exclusion of the African continent, the small island states and the global poor South and 80% of humanity from Earth’s future. The Paris Agreement vision, strategic intent remains a normative high note that was disembowelled by history. It would have been a stellar ground-breaking outcome had it been adopted in 1950s. Furthermore, even if we discount the science and the plight of the poor who constitute more than 80% of the world population, its purpose, moral aim and ambitions lack the necessary delivery mechanisms. Because by deregulating its own climate contributions, it institutionalises the tragedy of the Commons. Which, in the first place, led to the crisis chain, and which will now further fail its strategy.

And this is what has been provided by IPCC fifth report. Climate change is already having negative impacts on Africa. It is impacting the health of land and marine-based ecosystems and the health of food security, of many of the regions and most vulnerable people. This rejection, is not only against the poor, it is also against future generations who have right and moral obligations against the current generations. We are thus obligated, morally, to make sacrifices for common good of humanity, but equally on behalf of posterity. And in truth, these obligations are not intolerable, as some economies want to convince us. And in the context of climate change these obligations can be achieved by freeing ourselves from fossil fuel addiction, by moving fully towards a renewable energy, an ecologically sustainable world and economy. Our challenge is rampant individualism, and not scientific or technological challenge anymore. And there is no economic or financial difficulties here.

The world has produced so much material wealth, so much knowledge that it can today – if governments were supportive and full range of renewable technologies were deployed that renewable energy could count for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades. By the way, that was the IPCC Renewable Energy report in 2011. It was announced in Abu Dhabi. And the necessary investment in renewables would cost only one percent of the global GDP. One percent of global GDP can in four decades generate 80% of our energy needs globally. This approach could keep greenhouse gas concentrations less than 450 ppm (parts per million). That level IPCC thinks is safe level beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic or irreversible. There is nothing radical in this. It is not as radical for example as Bill Gates mission to Microsoft in 1980. A computer in every desk and every home. 1980. Today, everyone of us has at least two three devices. If there is a will, it can be done.

And this brings me to a critical aspect of this tectonic challenge. Leadership, or lack of it. Recently, the Secretary General of the United Nations said that climate change is moving faster than we are. If we don’t change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change with disastrous consequences for people and all natural systems that sustain us. I would say to the Secretary General: Your Excellency, urgent action and leadership is what is needed, because – as you have rightly said – we have the moral and economic imperatives to act, as the ferocity of this summer’s wildfires and heatwaves shows the world is changing before our eyes. At least, the West have started to experience and see what we have been living with since 1950.

“The world needs a real solution and it is not Paris Agreement. What we need therefore is a UN to act to stop ecological degradation, because with that taking place there cannot be peace with a runaway climate change, there can be no peace.”If that’s the case and we agree with the Secretary General, what is critically needed is a critical review of the Paris Agreement, because it has not addressed the reality of the dangerous situations we are in. We must have the courage to call a spade one. The world needs a real solution and it is not Paris Agreement. It is within your powers, and your mandate, and your character – and I am speaking here to the Secretary General – to act  to fulfil the purposes of the United Nations in Article 1. Article 1 of the United Nations Charter says that the purposes of United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, and to that end to take effective collective measures for prevention. What we need therefore is a UN to act to stop ecological degradation, because with that taking place there cannot be peace with a runaway climate change, there can be no peace.

So let me conclude in humility. Let me say the Prime Minister of this country, Theresa May. Because yesterday she made a very important speech, referring to honourable Diane Abbott. There are billions of Diane Abbotts and their children out there whose rights to survival and their very humanity are being denied by the position of the UK in climate change which is fundamentally cynicism and ecological denialism in practice. So lead by the example. There can be no freedom which the UK speaks of champion. There can be no freedom, no democracy and upholding of fundamental rights if your policies deny the women of the South and their children their very right to existence and equity. And I would say the same thing to the Labourite and the Labour and to honourable Corbyn, there is nothing progressive and there is everything reactionary in a Labour Party that continues to follow Ed Miliband’s neoliberal pathway of 2 degrees Celsius that condemns Africa and small island states into drowning. There is nothing progressive in that climate neoliberal colonialism. There can be no justice at your home turf without global justice. You and McDonnell and Momentum would in full class consciousness, would have become another climate Trumpiskite. So let’s stand up. Let’s stand up for the rights of future generations, for the rights of earth, for rights of humanity.

 

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Climate Crimes

“Adrian Lahoud’s large-scale immersive video installation, [] explores the complex relationship between air pollution and the migration of refugees. It illustrates how atmospheric particles originating in the wealthy nations of the global north – Europe, USA, China, and others impact the global south, contributing to desertification and migration.

The research builds on an event that took place during the 2009 UN climate change conference, where Sudanese diplomat Lumumba Di-Aping argued that industrialisation in these regions in the global north was contributing to ‘climate genocide’ in Africa.” [Source]

“There is a strange sympathy between the atmospheric particles that float through the sky and the human beings who migrate across the ground and then across the sea. Each body sets the other into motion: the particle bodies flow from north to south; the human bodies move from south to north.”

 

— Adrian Lahoud

 

 

Green Fascism

Center for World Indigenous Studies

August 13, 2019

By Jay Taber

 

“Capitalism’s Last Supper” – by Stephanie McMillan

 

In his latest article on green fascism, NEA/PEN playwright John Steppling examines the New Volkisch Mythos of *Greta* that “is the validation of what amounts to royalist wisdom and the dangers of community control of anything…All the so-called New Green Deal solutions are there, it seems, to save capitalism before saving the planet.”

As Steppling observed in Scurrying Fascist Cockroaches, “the Green New Deal is the fig leaf that provides material for this manufacturing of a new fascist narrative. The green fascism of these new ‘products’ from the Democratic Party laboratories is pretty much in line with what Bill Clinton ushered in and what Obama sort of perfected.”

As he remarks,

“The same fingerprints are always found. The Gates Foundation, 350.org, the US state department and an assortment of varied NGOs of the moment.”

In my post Heart of Darkness, I wrote, “In terms of relevance to the indigenous nations often referred to as the Fourth World, the rollouts from the COP21 gathering of UN member states, Wall Street-funded NGOs, and the global financial elite resemble colonial initiatives undertaken as a result of similar 19th Century gatherings to carve up the world for capitalism. Then, as now, indigenous territories and resources were targeted for expropriation through coercion, with Africa being a prime target.”

 

Going out with a bang. Source: Tumblr

When France invaded Mali in 2013 with the blessing of the UN, it was to obtain the uranium needed to fuel nuclear power plants in France, at the expense of the indigenous Tuareg. With nuclear power development as the number one green initiative under the Bill Gates plan, Navajo and other American tribes that have uranium deposits or nuclear waste sites can expect to be treated with equal disdain.

As noted at Global Research, “Uranium is France’s key energy resource, according to the World Nuclear Association, with 75 percent of the European nation’s electricity being produced from nuclear energy, which explains French dependency on uranium. According to mineral resource analysts, beneath the deserts in Northern Mali and Eastern Niger, territory now exclusively claimed by the nomadic Tuareg tribes, exists the world’s third largest uranium reserves as well as substantial oil reserves.”

According to African history scholar Dr. Leonard Jeffries, the French don’t need permission to intervene in their former colonies because of the accords they forced on them before granting independence. “For five decades,” he says, “France has maintained a neo-colonial relationship that gave France control of components of the new African states, including their economies and military institutions.”

As reported at CEASEFIRE, France opened 2013 with a series of airstrikes on Northern Mali allegedly to prevent the establishment of a terrorist state, but had its eyes on something far more important. Like its neighbour, Niger, Mali is rich in uranium. “Following the ‘oil shock of 1973 in which the oil producing nations sharply increased the price of oil, the French decided an alternative route was needed. This alternative was nuclear energy.”

France now has 59 nuclear reactors, and, although Niger has been France’s primary uranium trading partner in the region, 5,200 tonnes of untapped uranium sources in Mali make “a favourable government and a suppressed civil society all the more urgent.”

Following the ethnic cleansing of Tuareg by the NATO-backed, Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels, a united Tuareg resistance has the potential to erode power from the central Mali government, and even control areas of land in which the Tuareg live, but the French want to mine. Thus the French had to brand the Tuareg as terrorists to justify its invasion.

While world leaders at COP 21 in Paris fawned over the Breakthrough Energy Coalition as world saviors promoting so-called ‘climate solutions’, the reality is that these con artists are setting us up for a global heist that we’ll be paying for long into the future. Breakthrough Energy Coalition is an assemblage of private sector venture capitalists whose agenda is carbon capture and nuclear power, both of which are unsafe, and require enormous public subsidies.

Two of the architects of the so-called ‘climate solutions’ — e.g. Bill Gates and George Soros — are noted for past involvement in serious fraud. The Green New Deal—like the Universal Climate Change Agreement—is nuclear power in a green outfit.

 

WATCH: Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

WATCH: Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

ZEMBLA – Onderzoeksjournalistiek

Documentary published on May 24, 2019

New Documentary: Victim of the World Wildlife Funds

 

“ZEMBLA investigates the collateral damage of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) battle for nature conservation. ZEMBLA discovers that WWF promotes birth control programs that include contraception and even sterilization for men and women.

The fight against poachers is getting grimmer all the time. ZEMBLA travels to India, where local inhabitants are wrongly accused of poaching, are being tortured and sometimes even killed. On camera, guards from Kaziranga National Park state that they are allowed to shoot unwanted people.” [Source] [Running time: 39:52]

WATCH: The Award Winning 2007 Documentary Sultbløffen [The Famine Scam] [Niger, BBC]

“My son, there are people that say things that aren’t true. There are people who organize in order to say things that aren’t true. They do this to save themselves.”

In 2009 award winning journalists Per Christian Magnus, Robert Reinlund, Anne Marie Groth, and TV 2 received the Great Journalist Award for their 2008 documentary Sultbløffen (also known as “The Famine Scam”). The Great Journalist Award is one of Norway’s most prestigious awards for journalism.

In 2005, the BBC alerted the world of a starvation disaster in Niger. Via compelling and emotive TV reports from the region, BBC claimed an estimated 3.6 million Nigerians were impacted.

The Sultbløffen documentary posed sharp questions in the way the Norwegian authorities and aid organizations described the situation in Niger. It was also very critical of the BBC coverage, which led to vehement reactions from the British. The BBC refused TV 2 further use of archive material from BBC’s Niger reports, which made it difficult for TV 2 to distribute the Sultbløffen documentary to other countries.

Regardless of BBC’s attempts to block the film from distribution, the documentary gained international honor for journalism, including third place in the Golden Nymph Awards. The “Golden Nymph” is the most prestigious television award in Europe.

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Further reading:In 2005 a BBC reporter made television reports about a famine in Niger. The international humanitarian organizations reacted quickly with aid. It later came to light that there had never been any famine. How did this situation arise? [“The Famine Scam“]

 

U2’s Bono and The CIA: The Dangers of Celebrity Activists

American Herald Tribune

August 2, 2018

By Thomas C Mountain

 

U2’s Bono picked a Capo Grande from the US intelligence community to run his “One” NGO, choosing Gayle Smith, who as Senior Director of the US National Security Council and Special Advisor to President Barack Obama used to tell the CIA what to do, especially when it came to Africa.

Ms. Smith, also known as “Obama’s Quiet Consigliere”, is infamous for her heart felt eulogy based on over 30 years of friendship at the funeral for Meles Zenawi, today Ethiopia’s “No.1 Most Hated Person”.

Previously head of USAID, known in Cuba as USCIA, Ms. Smith got her start putting time in the front lines for the agency, fresh out of college, spending years as a “journalist” (clergy and journalists are two of the CIA’s favorite covers) in the Horn of Africa of all places.

After years of paying her dues “where diarrhea is a way of life”, she became a favorite of Madeline Albright and was awarded the Chief of Staff position at USAID in 1994 only three years after ending her journalism career. Think about it, “Award Winning Journalist” to day to day control of some 10,000 employees and Billion$ to spend in only 3 years? USAID or USCIA?

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Bono, who recently found himself forced to apologize after his “One” staff in South Africa sued them for sexual harassment, makes sure those that labor for his good causes are well compensated, at least at the top, with Ms. Smith pulling down close to $500,000 a year.

Speaking of ethics Bono’s name turned up in the Panama Papers, hey, the guy hates taxes, who doesn’t?

Of course for NGO’s fighting on the right side, fat salaries and juicy perks are S.O.P. with “overhead” accounting for 50% or more of expenditures.

Gayle Smith has put the CIA and a pretty impressive list of NGO’s on the same page and was the person most responsible for founding the Center for American Progress, whose boss, John Podesta chaired the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. Then there is the Enough Project as in “Enough of the CIA’s Enough Project in Africa” and its mouthpiece, George Clooney, founded by Ms. Smith and infamous for occasionally emitting brays of outrage regarding some crime in Africa, often times over matters long past. Does the name John Prendergast ring a bell?

Ms. Smith’s proved her value to the Clinton Mafia as head of the Africa desk at the National Security Council in 1998-2000 under Tony Lake, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, when the Ethiopian gangster government under Meles Zenawi invaded Eritrea, a crime today’s Ethiopian P.M. has apologized for. Close to 150,000 dead and 40% of Eritreans refugees, Gayle Smith and Tony Lake were out to get newly independent Eritrea on its knees where it belonged and tried to use Ethiopia to do its dirty work. And when war didn’t work they brought on UN Security Council sanctions against Eritrea in 2009 when Ms. Smith returned to the White House as “Barry O’Bomber’s” right hand and saw that Susan Rice was turned loose at the UN to threaten and cajole enough votes at the UN Security Council.

The history of most of the crimes directed by Gayle Smith remain buried deep in the bowels of the US intel community, with yet unknown acts of sabotage and destabilization committed by “humanitarians” working for the USAID in politically troubled spots on the planet.

One thing is for sure that when celebrity activists like Bono and George Clooney get involved in the 3rd World, those supposedly benefiting by their charity had better watch out for celebrity wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing

.

*(Bono Vox (U2) Toronto Int. Film Festival 2011 Image credit: Marco Manna/ flickr)

 

 

[Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and  reporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook or  best contact him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.]

Excerpt from The Big Conservation Lie

Book: The Big Conservation Lie

Author: John Mbaria and Mordecai Ogada

Publisher: Lens & Pens Publishing LLC Auburn WA USA 2017

 

 

The Epiphany

John Mbaria’s Encounter With Unseen Injustice

 

 

She was an unmistakable image of deprivation. The emaciated Samburu woman had thrown across her left shoulder a torn shuka, which left parts of her body exposed. She had braved the sweltering Samburu sun that baked the entire place bringing into being mirages of promise that failed to deliver more than that. As she advanced to the river, the woman attempted an upright position. But her stooped frame refused to yield. Nevertheless, this enabled me to peer into her cracked, multilined face. Her look was distant. Her thin hands held onto a cord with which she had strapped the empty twenty-litre water jerrican. Her entire frame talked of many struggles and probably as many defeats. The woman had emerged from a thick bush across the river, itself part of a natural spread dotted here and there by short, sturdy trees and broken, now and then, by awkward-looking hills. Some of the outcrops had been whitened by excrement from birds of prey. The vast, monotonous terrain extended into the distant horizon, giving packs, herds and flocks, and other residents a veritable abode. Some did not just live and let live; they visited local people’s homesteads with danger and intent.  Across the river was a scene removed from the reality of this unforgiving landscape. Under the watchful eyes of armed rangers, a group of us were happily and noisily climbing a rocky landform that formed part of the river’s embankment.

This was in 2001, and most of us were young, joyful journalists. We had been sponsored to the Shaba Game Reserve, 314 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, by the Sarova Group of Hotels, one of Kenya’s most prominent hotel chains with eight hotels—many of which are carefully stashed in some of Kenya’s most spectacular, most pristine pieces of wilderness. Located in Eastern Kenya, Shaba is where the popular reality TV adventure series Survivor III was shot in August 2001. Before that, the game reserve hosted Joy and George Adamson, the romantic conservationists who gave the world a reality show of life in the bush before they were tragically murdered. Together with its sister reserve, Buffalo Springs, Shaba boasts of seventeen springs that sojourn along subterranean courses from Mount Kenya—one hundred or so kilometres away—and which gush out there to convert part of this dry wasteland into a veritable oasis. Along its northern boundary flows the Ewaso Nyiro River that, together with the springs, has made the entire place a magnet for gerenuks, Grevy’s zebras, reticulated giraffes, lions, leopards, and hundreds of bird species that live side by side with the Samburu people. We were taken there to savour the unmitigated joy of spending time in a purely wild area. We were expected to reciprocate by meeting our brief—flowery feature stories embellished into captivating narratives that could attract and keep guests visiting the hotel and the reserve. Many of us were poorly paid cub reporters who could hardly afford the European cuisine on offer or the joys of partaking of a game drive atop four-wheel-drive fuel guzzlers. With a monthly pay that either equaled or was slightly more than the cost of spending a night in the extremely comfortable and luxurious hotel, we could not but agree to be spoiled for three days and be blinded by freebies. We roamed the area in vans packed with bites, booze, and soda. For lunch and dinner, three-course meals of continental dishes awaited—a veritable feeding frenzy ensued.

While on game drives, we hoped to spot elephants, dung beetles, and everything in between. Part of our exclusive experience included climbing a rocky landform close to the crocodile-infested Ewaso Nyiro River. It was while doing so that I spotted the elderly Samburu woman. Silently—almost in mime—and removed from my world, she was to take me through a host of lessons that dramatically altered my entire outlook on the grand wildlife conservation program Kenya and other countries in Africa have adopted since the dawn of colonialism.

“A conversation with the Samburu elders during a study on pastoralism, 2017” [Source]

For some reason, I found myself thoughtfully watching her every move. She dipped her jerrican into the river, rapidly filling it with the muddy, unpalatable water. The water notwithstanding, this had me thinking. With a load of European food still fresh in my belly, I could afford to summon some imagination. I conjured images of the immense peril the woman had exposed herself to. But what repeatedly danced in my mind was one image in which a four-metre, several-hundred-kilo crocodile emerged from the water, splashed dirty water into her eyes, and in a lightning move, grabbed the woman’s leg with its massive jaws, its saw-like teeth tearing into her flesh, as it then dragged her limp body into the deeper waters. In my mind’s eye, the croc went on to convert her entire existence into some unsightly bloody mess.

Thank God this did not happen. But in the case it had happened, I figured that it would have resulted in several eventualities: A photojournalist would have captured the bloody scene in a single, award-winning shot. The woman would have paid the ultimate price, ending up as yet another sad statistic. Many of us would have filed copious media reports detailing how “another victim met her death” or “I witnessed the worst case of human-wildlife conflict at the banks of Ewaso.” KWS rangers would have been summoned. And with cocked guns, fingers on triggers, eyes strained to the river, and adrenaline pumping into muscles, they would have first shot in the air to rattle any crocs. The rangers would have found it impossible to identify the culprit. Unable to isolate the life-snatching beast from the rest of the gang, they would have shot one of them—an act of appeasement to sorrowful relatives, tit-for-tat killing, justice delivered to a woman so shunned in life. The conservation juggernaut would have rolled on, as ever deceitful and callously removed from the plight of those who suffer the brunt of what it purports to preserve.

Yes, the woman lived that day, not just to take the dirty water home, but probably to go back to the river and risk her life many more times. Maybe she lived only to fall sick or die from the muddy, parasite-infested Ewaso waters. This is not just a possibility. Neither is it a mere probability or likelihood. It is a circumstance that is replicated countless times across most areas bordering Kenya’s twenty-two national parks and twenty-eight national reserves. Many of the people who live with wildlife in Africa meet their deaths, leaving hordes of orphans with no one to wipe their tears. There are hundreds of women—young and old—who have been denied the comfort of travelling through life with their spouses. There are men who must gnash their teeth in pain and immense anger each time they think of their late beloved spouses and children. There are countless more who live without limbs, just as there are many others who endure torn flesh, broken bones, blindness, destitution, and loss of entire livelihoods occasioned by encounters with wild animals.

In this Samburu woman, I saw the embodiment of a community praised for its traditional conservation ethics that spared for the world vast populations of diverse wildlife, a community, however, shunned by the world, even as acres of paper and decades of airtime are expended by many a conservationist and organization to discuss their welfare.

Upon this revelation, I refused to play along, and I made it my career to expose the rot.

~ John Mbaria, 2014

 

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Angels & Demons: Otherwise Known as the Conquerors & the Conquered

Revisionist Linguistics

March 31, 2018

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer

 

Michael archangel vanquishing the devil. 1603-06. Au Hans Reichle

The Abraham Lincoln statue, 1879, by Thomas Ball. Park Square, Boston

This opinion piece has been written to accompany the excerpt from the lecture given by Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans on July 5 for the OuiShare Fest Paris 2017.

OuiShare: “Unlocking the potential of creative humans to reinvent how we work and nurture systemic change OuiShare is a global community, a collective of freelancers and, at heart, an incubator of people driven by a set of core values. Founded in January 2012 in Paris, OuiShare rapidly evolved from a dozen enthusiasts to a global community spread across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and is an international leader in the field of collaborative economy, future of cities, future of work.”

From the OuiShare website: Jeremy Heimans: “PURPOSE, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, USA, Jeremy Heimans is a prolific political and social activist. He is CEO & co-founder of Purpose, a social business building global movements trying to change the world, and is also a co-founder of Avaaz.org, one of the largest and most powerful online activist networks in the world. He believes in the power of collective action to tackle the world’s biggest problems.” [Source]

Background

The concept of “new power” has been named by CNN as one of ten ideas that can change the world. “Originally laid out as the Big Idea in Harvard Business Review and subsequent TED talk, new power offers a frame to understand the distributed and participatory models that are rising in business, life and society.” [OuiShareTV]

According to Heimans, “power traditionally functions as a currency, something valuable to which society wants to cling. The new power, on the other hand, works like a current: it is fluid. While the old forms of power are based on pyramidal forms and a power that goes from “top down”, the new power works in reverse, “as an “upload”. The new models of power are founded and inhabited by the coordination and agency of the masses, without participation these forms of power remain empty. These new models are collaborative platforms that need the active collaboration of their participants to survive.” [Source]

Strengthening Current Power Structures With the Language of New Power

 

What the “new power” model actually represents is capitalism in its most efficient form. Citizens, en masse, are utilized, organized and mobilized to provide social media online content – which is then captured and exploited for increased corporate revenues – with no monetary compensation for their labour. Although such movements may appear to be “founded and inhabited by the coordination and agency of the masses” (Heimans) – they have been largely created, or co-opted, at or since inception. The “new power” “uploads” to an existing structure. The structure responds by “downloading” an illusion of capitulation in order to satisfy/empower the masses. Yet, by design, its true triumph is the achievement of the following: 1) creating/accelerating economic growth (i.e. market mechanisms),  2) consolidating added power into the hands of the West, 3)  the further insulating of the elite classes from all/any risk, 4) protecting and expanding the capitalist economic system, and 5) resolving issues only within the confines of the globe’s current power structures.

Never in history have such powerful conglomerates managed to foment and then seize the required labour to create billion dollar platforms and profits – for free, as they do today. Such fervor for the citizenry to bestow their labour to the elites classes is textbook “Brave New World.” Karl Marx’s theory of surplus labour is classically interpreted as the “extra labour produced by a worker for his employer, to be put towards capital accumulation.” It could be said (even in jest) that one good example of surplus labor in modern times is “the extra labour (physical) produced by the “prosumer”, the willing participants for the elite classes (via social media), to be put towards cultural appropriation and modification (in the form of social capital) with no ownership over the means of production (digital platforms).

Consider that while Western society criticizes the Bolivian government for legalizing child labour laws in order to protect working Bolivian children, it remains completely ignorant of the fact that the elite global corporatocracy is exploiting labour from their own Western children for free – via social media – in what we can call postmodern Western domination. A Brave New World model of “soft exploitation” – with no protection from adults whatsoever. [2] Hence while child labour is a respected part of Bolivia’s social conscience – the gross exploitation and manipulation of their own children and youth (that enriches corporations as opposed to enriching families) does not even register in our collective consciousness at all.

This direct line to youth via the cell phone surpasses all levels of social engineering on a scale never before imagined much less thought to be achievable. The art of storytelling, exploitation and manipulation, at once consolidated to create a youth populace in the image of superficiality and consumption. The Children of the West have been thrown to the wolves. A gift to our corporate gods.

 

 

As one of ten ideas that can change the world, embraced and highlighted by some of the world’s most powerful and elite  institutions, the false perception of grass roots mobilization seizing power (designed and financed by the oligarchs) is a strategic marketing maneuver designed to create a short-term euphoria that feels like victory. The perceived victory –achieved via “the deployment of mass participation and peer coordination” (Heimans) – is always made malleable to further protect – the identical powers. Hence, it is not “new power”, it is “old power” simply rebranded with more vapid methods of exploitation targeting and manipulating the target demographic, which is “millennials”.

According to Heimans what societies are experiencing and undergoing today is “a big war over values”. What is unspoken is whose values Heiman’s New York PR firm pledges allegiance to and is paid to expand: Western values.”

Angels & Demons

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

In the realm of behavioural change and the new era of “storytelling”, language is always key and framing is paramount. Heimans repeatedly frames citizens as “consumers” while viewing himself and the corporate oligarchs he serves as those “on the side of the angels. In this particular segment of the lecture, focused exclusively on Syria, Heimans introduces far-right “Trump” values  as “nativist” and “tribalist” that  will “essentially return” society ” to a kind of nativist tribalist world”:

“… so I want to show you this from our own work in Syria so I use this as an example of a pick a positive counterpoint right so if we think of ourselves at the moment as you know kind of big war over values in the world right on the one hand you’ve got the trumps and the brexits who want to essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world…”

[The original lecture, in its entirety can be found here: https://youtu.be/UWgPFGJBx7I]

The old adage goes “The more things change; the more they stay the same”. One of the things that has stayed the same is the utilization of language to manipulate the masses throughout history. Today’s  infusion of propaganda into the Western psyche through mass media is astounding. What is perhaps more stunning, is how words that have been appropriated in the most vulgar manner, that  should have been deemed as abhorrent in the past (and thus rejected) are now being utilized and hence popularized by factions of the elite to give further advantage to those in power.

“It is no accident that the contemporary uses of the term tribe were developed during the 19th-century rise of evolutionary and racist theories to designate alien non-white peoples as inferior or less civilized and as having not yet evolved from a simpler, primal state.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

Revisionist Linguistics & Colonial Narratives

Two  terms that have currently been transformed from ones of indigenous degradation are “nativism” and “tribalism”. These words were at one time used in a slanderous aspect directed at those designated as genetic inferiors due to a non-anglo ethnic background. Today they are being used in a similar fashion, but to denigrate a different adversary along ideological lines and not ethnic ones. This transference of motive has dictated the meaning of these words.

In order to correctly digest the change in climate regarding the minute differences in language, we must first look at the particular terminologies in question, how they are defined and to what degree they are used today in comparison to yesterday.  According to Wikipedia the word “nativism” is defined as the following:

“Nativism is the political policy of promoting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants. However, this is currently more commonly described as an anti-immigrant position.”

In terms of this definition in a general context, the determining factor of what is considered native is the point of contention.  As this terminology has now been procured by many on the alleged leftist side of the aisle, the fact of the matter is that the one thing that has been constant in its usage is the European being the determined native in the argument.

Therefore, that which has been dictated as nativists has remained the same as the focal point (the European), whether it was in comparison to the original inhabitants of the land (the indigenous First Tribe nations) or those that are currently the enemy, the almost exclusive black and brown migrants from the Global South. Therefore, the collective personage of victimization is the European with all other people being seen as invaders in the eyes of the Westerner.  This rationalization is due solely to ethnicity and locality of the European in regards to where he or she wants to stay and what environment is most needed for capitalism. Consider that the modifications and usage of the word native, to “nativist” or “nativism”, thoughtfully and crudely reframed to represent “xenophobic nationalism” is “an almost exclusively American concept that is rarely discussed in Western Europe.”

The Historical Context

 “Nativism is currently gaining traction across the Western world” — What Is a Nativist?, The Atlantic, April 11, 2017

In order to understand the intricacy with which the term native has been appropriated as well as the current movement of nativism, we must look at the history of appropriation regarding native rights. Rights which have been transferred from the first people to those who conquered them. Historically if you look at indigenous tribes, the migratory patterns came about from the necessity to  travel to places which would allow them to survive, have freedom and not be in conflict with those who were in close proximity. The end result of this curiosity and the travel is  the definitive indication of man’s residence as no more or less than any instinctual animal that prizes self-preservation as a form of a survival above all else. Yet in terms of that migratory pattern there were only so many places that were amenable to the survival of man. Man eventually had to accept that like any animal, it couldn’t venture far past certain places on the planet or it would perish. This relationship of life to Earth was no different than any animal found in certain regions of the world and not others. The locale will determine whether or not a particular form of life will flourish or perish. As man is like any other creature, its body acclimates to the environment in which it resides – only to the degree it is physiologically possible.

What was different in regard to the travels of the European from a cultural aspect is that it was done entirely for economic reasons. That is the burgeoning stages of the formation of the capitalist system. The beginning invasion of the European into these vast  foreign lands was done at the behest of trade if necessary and conquering if possible. But as any foreign invader who possessed ulterior motives yet lacked the strength to impose their will, the relationship began as one of charity of  the original people towards the European. Yet, as the Europeans strengthened themselves and moved from a relationship of dependence to equals to eventual dominators of the indigenous, the response from the indigenous went from one of acceptance to anger, to fear, and finally a plea for some form human decency.  Surely a reasonable request considering  they were the original caretakers of the land and even helped the European in their many hours of need.

If we fast forward to the present day, there is a most insidious element regarding the extermination of the indigenous, the original native, by way of genocide or ethnic cleansing: witness the unspoken method of supplanting the native by the Europeans (conquerors) appropriating the terminology that should be descriptive of the dispossessed. The best means of masking heinous atrocities is to scrub the victim from history and disallow him/her/them to speak for themselves. [2] From a philosophical context, this is why it was necessary for the European to exterminate the original native in order to take her/his rightful inhabitance as keeper and defender of the land.

Once this was established, it was then easy to lay the foundation of transitioning roles, from that of a meek interloper to the role of shifting and shaping the narrative as conqueror. A revision of history that erased the extermination preceding the present day circumstances of European domination. This was and continues to be most easily accomplished by dehumanizing the people who at one time resided here. To strip away the humanity of the aggrieved is in essence to place man (i.e. the white anglo-saxon) as rightfully seizing the land away from the native or animal, which has been designated not only as undeserving  inhabitants of the area – but even as detrimental to the land itself. The destruction of the native was no different than the destruction of the buffalo in the mind of the white power structure. The singular caveat being the verbalization of the destruction via the indigenous peoples caused internal consternation for some Europeans at varying degrees. Here we have an offshoot of the economic system colliding with the religious beliefs and social structure of racism. All converge to appoint the Anglo at the top of the hierarchy as the only peoples worthy of protection. To absolve centuries of deplorable crimes committed by the Anglo, their descendants obfuscate the truth by sanitizing and rewriting history.

As time moved on, the eradication of the original peoples made way for the European to write history in their image. The original native was erased and replaced by what has been deemed as the ONLY human:  the white man. Over the years, this transition nefariously evolved into one where the unacknowledged basic human rights of the “savage” (i.e. Indigenous) was eclipsed for the overwhelming protection of “the humans” (ie. White man) who procured the land and continue to control it to this day.  As a result of this, the overwhelming desire that permeates the consciousness of the Western world is for ” the humans” to protect its potential reclaiming by the “savage.” In a historical comparison, the greatest fear of the slaveholder during chattel slavery was always the rise of the slave. This foreboding mindset has permeated into every aspect of the present day Anglo society, inclusive of regions that are predominantly non-anglo (land reformation in South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc.).

In reality, the Western mentality of nativism is merely a euphemism for the continued and escalating demand for the  protection of white people’s rights. It is nativism, which has fed the fervor for a wall “protecting” the U.S. from Mexico (described as any non-anglo who comes from south of the U.S. border). It is nativism that nurtures the belief (and fear) that any infusion of non-anglo people to Euro-dominated states is a sure sign of being overtaken by “the savage” – even when the surrounding environment demonstrates no signs of threat. The appropriation of being the native by way of extermination has led the Anglo to incur an abject (if not unconscious) fear: the fear of retribution (although there is no evidence to support this whatsoever).

The truth of the matter is this – “nativism” effectively erases racism. Discrimination and racist hatred of 21st century migrants and refugees is rebranded as conflict due to religious and cultural differences – not colour nor race. Political correctness replaces vulgar reality. Racists have been rebranded into politically correct “nativists” that are simply supporting the wrong political party due to a shortsightedness. No one in power wants to alienate nor offend racists when one day the same racists may tip the needle in your favour on a separate issue. But even more so, no one wants to be seen as an institution or thought-leader seeking support from or appealing to racists. Thus, the term “nativist” will be popularized in a country where racism is on fire.

Revisionist  linguistics is made to re-write history while simultaneously re-wiring our brains and preying upon our fears instilled by imperial, colonial and capitalist forces.

Nativism is racism – made politically correct.

Tribalism

Rebranding ethnicity as tribalism is a deliberate and systematic furthering of cultural denigration – one that by no accident furthers US imperialism and foreign policy. These rebranded pejorative terms have proven to be highly coveted by both media and academia resulting in the terms being more and more an embedded part of the social fabric – propagating the motive and desired effect: the representation (and selling) of Eurocentric and Western ideologies regarding what is and isn’t acceptable. The revamped derogatory terms are utilized by both the faux left and the far right.

“In New York, we term it ethnicity, but in Africa it becomes tribalism.” —  “Tribe” and “Tribalism”, 1981, David Wiley, African Studies Center, Michigan

The results are threefold. The language

1) further decays Indigenous identity.

2) reintroduces elements of savagery and negative, subconscious colonial connotations reinforced via societal conditioning.

Such an example is the perceptions cultivated in Western children using social cues and constructs via mainstream media, with Disney’s infamous movie Pocahontas being one of many cases. By the age of five, most children in the Western world equate the words “native” and “tribe” with Indigenous peoples.” Indeed this is a Western construct digested by children who are fed by and privy to its tentacles. 3) provides a tool for the expansion of neoliberalism. “Tribalism” according to Heimans et al implies a “disorganized, primitive, and less civilized peoples.” whereas “modern governments” (Anglo governments) are meant to “promote the fulfillment of individuals”. Thus, African and Middle Eastern countries, targets for the expansion of neoliberalism, are by extension, prime targets for the labeling of “tribalism” (i.e evoking fear in the Euro mind) by those with a vested interest in US foreign policy (while foundation money is the oil that turns the cogs in the machine). This is the beauty of social engineering. The ability to reinforce the behavioural economics of hatred (via fear and racism) – in broad daylight, hiding behind a wall of words.

The Descent into Tribalism, The Guardian, August 23, 2006:

“Modern governments, when they try to justify their existence in historical terms, are apt to propose a rough-and-ready anthropology for human development. First came the tribe – savage in instinct, ritualistic in religion and run on the basis of a grunting solidarity; humanity’s first exercise in collectivism. The nation, which takes its place, is for more refined, literate peoples and can call upon scholars and scribes, chroniclers and preachers, who propose common goals for the nation. Organised states, with their bureaucracies, sanitation services and taxation policies, like to think that they exist on a higher plane than either the tribe or the nation. Ethics loom large and morality’s plans acquire a finer focus. Modern governments are meant to promote the fulfillment of individuals, their happiness and ease of life. Savages have become citizens and can look beyond the narrow ambitions of the tribe.”

Instilling Ethnic Fear via the Utilization of Cultural Language

Image result for tribalism kenya

Image: Tribalism is utilized to conjure up images of the “black savage” in foreign (frightening) lands. 

Tribalism in effect has various usages, but all to the same effect. Within the mainstream, it is continuously used in a pejorative context – but viewed as positive or negative depending on the personal beliefs directed at those utilizing the language. Regardless of the person who is using it or whatever the particular ideological thinking, the seemingly benign use of “tribe” (used in reference to small groups, etc.) by extension implies the term “tribal” (used in reference to civil wars, backwardness, barbarism, etc.) and as a result gives the user a free pass for acceptable racist expression.  By continuously intermixing the explicit term “tribalism” and the centuries long socially cultivated subliminal idea of “African” (ie. phenotypical non-anglo) savagery – the ultimate result is fear, which is a more intense emotion and ultimately dominates the meaning, even if it is only on a subconscious level. Although not acknowledged, this subconscious racism hums softly beneath the white supremacist power structures.

Although no people or culture is perfect, there are examples of many that are a complete reversal of the global imposition of Western culture and its foundational principles in a market economy with no emotional investment outside of the worst traits of man, such as greed and avarice. For example, African philosophy in a general context before victimization through colonization and imperialism has historically been strongly associated with tribalism and an intimate feeling of attachment with nature: we’re not here to “have dominion”… We are a part of the Earth, we are dependent  on it… we have ecological responsibilities …. “Nature” is not just a resource…. We are nature.”

To delve further, this ideology is visible in various Indigenous philosophies – philosophies that represent the antithesis of Western consumer culture and therefore a direct hindrance and threat to globalization, to industrialization and, most importantly, to capitalism. This can be equated with the race to kill off paganism to be replaced by both Christianity and Catholicism. Utilizing language, the word tribalism is revamped and utilized to instill fear and further racism (strengthening white supremacy). The word becomes another instrument to decimate surviving/existing cultures – with the goal of replacing such culture with superficial nothingness – a consumer society. These rebranded terms have been the catalyst for the modern day subconscious belief system, where indigenous self-reliance will always be seen as a  threat to neoliberal order. What a “Tribe” represents in Africa could be loosely associated by sought after local ways of living in the western world – such as transition towns, slow town movements and overall movements for relocalization. All these movements are in direct contrast and opposition to globalization and the goals of corporatocracy.

Autonomous communal living based on subsistence agriculture and sharing are the enemy of foreign policy, the IMF, the world bank and essentially everything today’s global elites and corporate superpowers hold dear. In essence, we are being wholly conditioned to automatically perceive/equate non-Western culture as an automatic threat. Further, US and foreign occupations, destabilizations, wars and the rape, pillage and theft of resources (oil, minerals, labour) across the Global South are conveniently blamed on “tribalism’.  Hence – tribalism also provides a free pass to imperialism – while cementing the image of the “un-noble” savage. Tribalism & nativism are recolonization via linguistics.

Note: These characteristics are presented in a general context. We must be cautious not to simplify all cultures as monolithic or even perfect, rather a regional designator that runs current throughout the tradition of these philosophies as a whole.

In countries that fall under the imperial gaze of European and Western states, “tribalist” discourse has effectively crushed critical discussion of ethnicity in all states that are under the auspices and domination of European control, be it internal colonization (the native reservation system) or external imperialism (state control in other continents by way of multinational corporations). In Euro-dominated institutions and landscapes, (see the “Academic Imperialism” lecture by Claude Alvares) those that raise questions concerning ethnicity risk being accused of provocateurs inciting “tribalism” (ie: enticing division within a nation that is supposedly united). The ‘criminalisation of ethnicity’ and the erasure of racism in America via linguistics – must be acknowledged as another dangerous yet effective instrument of soft power.

The Purpose of Purpose

In no uncertain terms, academia and media have strategically and deliberately rebranded/reframed the words native (“nativist”) and tribal (tribalist”) with the most negative of connotations. Academia and NGOs, as highly financed apparatus of the oligarchy reverberates the language through the eco chambers of foundations, think tanks, universities and entities within the non-profit industrial complex, all financed and ultimately controlled by the oligarchs.

Going one step further, the word native is currently in process of being replaced/rebranded into “nativist”, which simultaneously and effectively erases all Indigenous such as the American Indians who continue to  resist an ongoing genocide by Europeans that persists to this day. “Nativists” could be referred to as revisionist linguistics since in its new form, “native” refers to native-born Protestant Americans – the “nativists” of the land – stolen from native tribes.

Sycophants of the establishment are tasked with the popularizing of such terms when it serves their interests. To further those interests, U.S. media has been abuzz in directing this type of subtle terminology, exemplified by current U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration since it came to power. The slander of “tribalism” directed at an enemy has become synonymous with someone being “woke” in leftist circles that are centered in the U.S. but has now reached global levels.

An example of this in the left wing faction of the establishment is an article in The Atlantic entitled “The Tragedy of President Trump’s Tribalism” (November 2, 2017) This article illustrates the shifting of the U.S. linguistic landscape, where what was once acceptable overt racism has now morphed into covertly coded language of acceptability, including that used by academia. With a fair degree of certainty, you can bet that when the world’s most prestigious marketing agencies polled for key words that stir up negative emotions in American constituents – the words native and tribes were both at the top of the list. If not outwardly said, definitely in the mindset of those in power, be it conspicuously or subconsciously.

Revisionist linguistics is made to re-write history while simultaneously re-wiring our brains and preying upon our fears instilled by imperial, colonial and capitalist forces. This is carried out by those on the right side of spectrum as well as those on the faux left.

“… you’ve got the trumps and the brexits who want to essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world and on the other hand you’ve got people who support openness pluralism compassion science etc the challenge for those of us on the side of the angels…” — Jeremy Heimans, Avaaz/Purpose co-founder

As illustrated by the supposed left spectrum, the dogma to be digested from the tenacles of empire is clear. We can “essentially return to a kind of nativist tribalist world” – or we can join Avaaz, Purpose, Heiman’s et al and the oligarchs they serve are those on the “side of angels” (ie. “ethical” NGOs).

In similar lectures, one such corporation on the side of the “angels” in Heimans warped view is Unilever: “… you know we’re in the business of purpose of trying to figure out how to do mass mobilization of people and we can’t mobilize enough people if we don’t get the help of some of the brands who already on the side of the angels on climate change to reach into their consumer bases technology companies [and] media companies… companies like Unilever…”

Neotribes

Above: NEOTRIBES video promoting through advertising for Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s.  [Source]

Yet, Purpose takes revisionist linguistics to an even more unimaginable level. Consider the marketing of “neo-tribes” by (former) Purpose/Avaaz staff and like-minded digital marketing executives for the purpose of branding, influencing and the marketing of consumer products as well as (Western) ideologies. Here the word of negativity is spun into positivity when applied to themselves (ie. the angels): “As neotribers, let us dream big but also stay rooted in pragmatism.” Rest-assured, “an angel” of a “neo-tribe” can and will employ the words tribes and/or tribalist, as well as native, for those that they forever denigrate and seek to further colonize. It is at the sole discretion the Anglo male, the self-determined and acknowledged bringer of “civilization” to the global non-anglo savage through colonisation and imperialism, whether the words are spun as positive or derogatory, based on their own desires as well as the desired framing for further conditioning of the citizenry.

“Organizations can adapt two network strategies. They can either build their own brand tribe, or reach out to existing consumer tribes. While some people will advocate one way over the other, both should be considered whenever possible. Regardless it’s important for companies to understand how people exercise influence within their tribes when reaching out to them. This will make their initiatives more native and successful… To be truly native and successful you should strive to understand and share as much of tribal culture as possible…Don’t forget. Influencers are tribal influencers. — The 7 Cs of Tribal Influence, Tribaling, Tribal Growth Hacking website, August 27, 2013 (Emphasis added)

In 2016 Alexa Clay presented a lecture titled Neo-Tribes: The Future is Tribal. Clay’s position scaling social innovation at Ashoka Ashoka (Soros) is but one past held position in her very extensive bio. With John Elkington [further reading: Beautiful Delusions] and Maggie de Pree she co-authored the report The Social Intrapreneur: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers, sponsored by the Skoll Foundation. Clay belongs to the class of upper echelon in elite activism. In addition to advising the Clinton Foundation, Clay’s voice has been highlighted by the International Monetary Fund. Clay serves on the (all-white) advisory board of Purpose Economy (the Purpose Network, Purpose Companies, Purpose Foundation). Incidentally, the lecture this opinion piece is based on was created for OuiShare and NeoTribes are partnered with Coliga – a part of Tipping Canoe, “an accelerator for consumer driven communities.”

The task of Purpose, Avaaz, 350 and a multitude of NGOs expanding into countries across the middle east and Africa is simple: convert  Middle Eastern values (evoking revionist linguistics such as “nativist” and “tribalist”) into Western values (“openness, pluralism, compassion, science, etc.”). In short, good vs. evil. Indeed, Avaaz has used this very strategy in the past, over and over, to satisfy and fulfill the wishes of empire – and fulfill they do.

 

End Notes:

[1] May 26, 2016: “Teens are spending nearly nine hours a day consuming media. And children ages eight to 12 are spending nearly six hours a day doing the same thing. Let’s say the average teen wakes up at 7 a.m. and goes to bed at 10 p.m. — that means that nine of their 15 waking hours are spent on their phones, computers, or tablets.” [Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/teens-average-phone-screen-usage-2016-5] | January 4, 2017: ” Teens now spend up to nine hours a day on social platforms, while 30% of all time spent online is now allocated to social media interaction. And the majority of that time is on mobile – 60% of social media time spent is facilitated by a mobile device.” [https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic]

[2] “The best means of masking heinous atrocities is to scrub the victim from history and disallow him/her/them to speak for themselves.” This paternalistic blueprint has been in place for centuries if not millennia. A recent example of this is deconstructed in the article “All Eyes On Dakota Access – All Eyes Off Bakken Genocide” which preceded the  Standing Rock: Profusion, Collusion & Big Money Profits investigative series in 2017. A more recent example is identified under the umbrella of the “Reject Kinder Morgan” national campaign in Canada. The latest anti-pipeline campaign in a series that commenced with Stop the Keystone XL (in 2010, see investigative series and timeline) – which permitted (and made obscure) a 21st century crude via rail boom with billionaires such as Warren Buffett (whose family foundation NoVo is a primary funder of TIDES foundations which distributes the anti-pipeline funding) profiting to the tune of billions. Akin to the Standing Rock website, the Indigenous resistance website for the Kinder Morgan campaign promoted by international NGOs such as 350.org and Greenpeace, is actually owned/registered to a 350.org employee. Further, Stand Earth, the rebranded Forest Ethics NGO founded by corporate ally Tzeporah Berman, is hosting the “Protect the Inlet” data.

[These protests have had zero impact on the volume of crude being produced and consumed. Rather, the result has been the phenomenal and exponential growth of the crude via rail industry resulting in the deaths of 47 people in Lac Megantic Quebec in 2013. The pipeline campaigns essentially hid the new burgeoning industry of crude via rail from public view (and more importantly, scrutiny and dissent) while all eyes focused on a single pipeline. At the end of the day, devising a plan based on the fact “crude has no economic value unless run through a refinery” would be the most effective strategy for stopping oil as an energy source, is kept well-hidden.]

 

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity ‘Charity’: A Gift for a Vicious System

Celebrity ‘Charity’: A Gift for a Vicious System

Al Jazeera

December 3, 2017

By Belen Fernandez

Irish rock star Bono talks to pupils at a school near Lesotho’s capital Maseru on May 17, 2006 [Mike Hutching/Reuters]

When movie star George Clooney married human rights lawyer and fashion icon Amal Alamuddin in Venice back in 2014, the Entertainment Tonight website declared that “it was charity that came out as the real winner” of the multimillion-dollar nuptial festivities.

The reason for the alleged win was that proceeds from certain wedding photos were said to be destined for – you guessed it – “charity”, that favourite celebrity pastime that so often translates into massive PR points and saviour-hero credit, not to mention tax breaks.

We non-celebrities have been so conditioned to perceive charity as something unconditionally positive – rather than a commodification and exploitation of faux altruism – that we don’t seem to notice reality’s conspicuous absence from the feel-good world of celeb-philanthropy.

Case in point: reports that rock star Bono’s anti-poverty foundation ONE managed in 2008 to channel a mere 1.2 percent of the funds it raised to the people it purported to be assisting have done nothing to interfere with the man’s portrayal as some sort of messiah for Africa.

In the case of the Clooneys, who now preside over their very own Clooney Foundation for Justice, celebrity worship and Amal-mania have also precluded sound judgement. Objectively speaking, it would seem that “justice” is not really an option in a world in which human rights lawyer-philanthropists by the name of Amal Clooney wear outfits costing $7,803.

The obscenity of inequality

Currently targeted for charitable assistance by the Clooneys’ organisation is the Syrian refugee population of Lebanon, where, the foundation’s website stresses, “refugee children are sent out to work for as little as 2 dollars per day”. Roughly calculating, it would thus take a Syrian refugee child approximately eleven years to accumulate enough funds for the aforementioned outfit (less if accessories are left out).

Fantastically expensive galas, celebrity photo ops with black and brown children in international charity hotspots, and other mainstays of the celebro-philanthropist repertoire do little, in the end, to alleviate poverty, hunger, oppression, and the rest of the global ills that are repeatedly invoked to tug at heartstrings and thereby provoke admiration and/or financial contributions to the cause being peddled.

This is not to suggest, of course, that one must always calculate and justify one’s expenses in terms of Syrian refugee income, but rather to point out that any sort of actual justice in the world would require dismantling the prevailing neoliberal panorama of obscene economic inequality.

In a forthcoming book titled Against Charity, authors Julie Wark and Daniel Raventos offer a meticulous and scathing indictment of the institution of charity as a key component of the neoliberal order – and of the role of celebrity philanthropists in keeping the have-nots in place and the powerful in power.

Celebrities, write Wark and Raventos, “draw attention to social distress but immediately cover it up by giving the impression that something is being done” by the wealthy of the world, who have the money to do things.

But fantastically expensive galas, celebrity photo ops with black and brown children in international charity hotspots, and other mainstays of the celebro-philanthropist repertoire do little, in the end, to alleviate poverty, hunger, oppression, and the rest of the global ills that are repeatedly invoked to tug at heartstrings and thereby provoke admiration and/or financial contributions to the cause being peddled.

Again, were global oppression to somehow magically cease, the “philanthropic” rich and famous would be up a creek – since no arrangement governed by literal justice would allow the obsequiously-celebrated “poverty fighter” Bill Gates to own a house with 24 bathrooms or for the ever-so-charitable David and Victoria Beckham to trademark their children’s names.

Disappearing context

Regarding the function of celebrities within “a system that sees famous people as brands and thus consumer products”, Wark and Raventos note that celebrity “excess” helps sustain the consumerist model by providing glorified examples of over-the-top materialism – while celebrity “beneficence” helps whitewash the brutality of institutionalised socioeconomic disparity.

Meanwhile, the “awareness” that celebrities purport to raise for their respective causes is frequently devoid of the political context necessary to comprehend contemporary causes of human suffering.

Take, for example, actress and philanthropic superstar Angelina Jolie, whose work as Special Envoy for the United Nations refugee agency elicits continuous media prostration before her charitable “radiance“.

Descending upon war-torn nations and refugee camps in characteristic superhuman perfection, Jolie decries earthly injustice – while regularly excising crucial pieces of the puzzle from her lament.

This was the case in a March 2017 speech in Geneva, when Jolie referenced “the conflict in Iraq – the source of so much Iraqi suffering to this day”, and yet proceeded to self-identify as “a proud American” and a believer in the notion that “a strong nation, like a strong person, helps others to rise up and be independent”.

Never mind that the US – a strong nation indeed – happens to have effectively destroyed Iraq, inflicting unquantifiable death and misery upon the Iraqi people.

In Iraq and beyond, in fact, the military and economic policies of the country of which our heroine is so “proud” have contributed to a range of humanitarian crises now abstractly seized upon by Jolie & Co – not least the Saudi-led starvation of Yemen, aided and abetted by none other than the US.

It’s showtime

A recent Vanity Fair cover story on Jolie touches on numerous aspects of the actress’ life, from her new Los Angeles mansion – “listed for around $25 million” – to her cofounding, with British former foreign secretary William Hague, of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in 2012. According to its website, the initiative “aims to raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence … in situations of armed conflict and rally global action to end it”.

This is the same Hague who, in addition to fervently championing the war on Iraq, argued in 2015 that just because Iraq had turned out poorly didn’t mean the west shouldn’t intervene in Syria.

In other words, so much for the prevention of violence.

Wark and Raventos observe that “the demigods of celebrity culture are a symptom of a general moral and ethical malaise in which, as capitalism is foundering in its own morass, mythmaking is essential for keeping the show going”.

If only the curtain would fall – not only on the sideshow of celebrity philanthropy, but on the myth itself.

 

[Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.]

 

The Market of Pain: Corruption & Fetishized Altruism in International Aid

Critical investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa

December 4, 2017

By: Emeizmi Mandagi, University of California – Irvine

 

United Nations website: “In Malawi, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson spotlights efforts to end child marriage.” [Source]

The University of California’s Global Peace and Conflict Studies Colloquium Series recently hosted UC Irvine’s Visiting Researcher Dr. Maria D. Bermudez on November 9, 2017 for a lunch colloquium. Drawing on over 16 years of experience working with international organizations including the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Dr. Bermudez  argued that within international and non-governmental aid organization, there is a fundamental form of corruption due to the culture of impunity in these organizations and in the market of “fetishized altruism.” While corruption in international aid is classically focused on corrupt acts by international workers for private or personal gain, Dr. Bermudez asserted that in fact there is a more fundamental form of corruption in international aid that involves inaccurate descriptions of realities and results for the purpose of demonstrating efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimately gaining leverage in the competitive market of donors and funds.

“The White Man’s Burden (Apologies to Rudyard Kipling)” Judge, 1 Nisan 1899, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Dr. Bermudez opened her talk stating that the United Nation’s budget for international aid in conflict areas is 40 times higher today than it was in 1950. However, the issue is not necessarily the quantity of money but rather the type of money that is coming in today. Dr. Bermudez emphasized that there is a stark difference between approved core funding, and the real expenditure provided by voluntary contributions from private and corporate donors, foundations, and member states. The allocation of this budget is therefore based on what the members of the donor organization desires. This is in line with a critique covered earlier this year by the CIHA blog on “Culture in Aidland,” a talk by Mark Schuller who highlighted that the current reward system is not designed to hold agencies accountable to the recipients of aid, but rather to the donors. Similarly, Dr. Bermudez mentioned that in 2014 alone, 151 countries received more than $127 billion USD of Official Development Assistance (ODA), but such exorbitant amounts of money are difficult to track and understand how the money is achieving desired results (and who is deciding what are the desired results!).

Dr. Bermudez offered the UN as a case study, which she argued is an organization that supports a culture of impunity. As a committee that reports to itself, the structure of the UN is problematic because, despite its best intentions, the organization and its members can easily engage in abuse, corruption, and secrecy as they are usually shielded by diplomatic immunity. There is little to no accountability of members, nor is there proper follow-up on investigations despite the implementation of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) Reports. Instead, the status quo established at inception in 1946 continues to be upheld.

Dr. Bermudez further explained that in the field of international aid, there is a market of “fetishized altruism.” She explained that individuals are drawn to the altruistic and heavily idealized concept of “helping” – for example, helping Africans to get access to clean water by building wells, or advocating for the end of female genital mutilation. International aid agencies adopt particular programmatic goals and approaches informed by such moral justification to “help”. However, this results in an unlimited proliferation of international aid actors. This raises the question of who provides oversight on these aid actors and ensures they do not cause more damage than good. Additionally, who ensures that these aid actors are properly trained and prepared? With such a high number of available aid actors, there is an increasing need for training that informs aid actors of the local cultural customs, social norms, current political environment, and the necessary historical context and background. Such training usually requires a deep commitment to a particular location which is often not the scope and structure of international humanitarian work where scale and global reach are valued. At CIHA Blog, we seek to provide humanitarian actors, scholars and students who work on the African continent with a source of information and resources that can help ground their work and efforts in local contexts and histories.

Dr. Bermudez argued that the inherent structure of international aid organizations itself creates a “market of pain” in its attempts to aid communities. For instance, organizations face the double client dilemma when they compete for aid, because organizations have to meet the demands and expectations of donors rather than the needs of those they supposedly serve. Dr. Bermudez concluded by stating that there is a strong need for monitoring the results of international aid projects rather than focusing on manufacturing data and reports to stay relevant in the international aid sector. She held that there needs to be a shift in what is expected of international aid organizations regarding accountability for corruption, adequate training of international aid actors, a focus on the respective communities receiving aid as opposed to a focus on donors, and the types of solutions and projects implemented.

 

[Maria D. Bermudez is a visiting researcher at UCI. She holds a PhD in International Relations by SciencesPo, Paris, France and brings 16 years of experience working with international cooperation in the field of Human Movements, Forced Migration and Refugees, Human Rights, Post-conflict Institution Building and Rule of Law, in more than 20 conflict or post-conflict countries, for different organizations such as the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).]

[Emeizmi Mandagi is an Irvine Intern at the University of California.]

 

Thomas Sankara: Africa’s Unsung Inspiration

21st Century Wire

September 5, 2017

by P.D. Lawton

 

Thomas Sankara, a man in his early thirties transformed the world’s poorest country at that time, Upper Volta, into a self-sufficient modern thinking nation in just four years.

This African miracle nation remains little known about in the West because its story contradicts every negative image that has ever been painted of African leadership and African nations. Sankara would prove to the people of Burkina Faso, to other African nations and to the colonial powers what could be achieved in the blink of an eye by Africans under African leaders of integrity.

Upper Volta in 1983 was little more than a French run labour camp for French run Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). This region of West Africa was up until the mid-1800’s part of the ancient Mossi Kingdom, and has always been called ‘The Land of Upright Men’, men of integrity, hence the name Burkina Faso. Spiritually the people of this region are of great significance and still  to this day practice the world`s most ancient belief.

In the August Revolution, Sankara and the military overthrew the CSP (Council for the Salvation of the People) headed by conservative Jean-Baptiste Quedraogo and formed a new government of the National Council of the Revolution (CNR).

Two years later infant mortality had dropped from 280 deaths for every 1000 births to 145, with the aid of Cuban volunteers and a mass vaccination program. School attendance rose, in two years, from 12% to 22%. In just the first year of its implementation, Sankara’s environmental program to halt desertification in this Sahel region, over 10 million trees were planted. Without international aid which was not forthcoming from the World Bank with which to improve infrastructure, Sankara and the population got down and dirty and with their bare hands and laid hundreds of kilometres of railway track to facilitate manganese extraction. This was not done by forced labour at gunpoint, there were no bloodbaths under Sankara who did not believe in war but instead, in ideas. Like Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Sankara got the people of his country to prove to themselves that they could achieve anything they put their minds and hearts into. The previous government were brought before a tribunal and asked to explain to the people of the country why they had misappropriated so much money. This was there only form of punishment and public humiliation. This is on record. One of Sankara’s first acts as president was to slash his ministers’ salaries, starting with his own. He sold the previous government`s fleet of Mercedes and replaced them with little Renault 5’s, which is what he drove. This is a stark contrast to the Kenyan governmental 2003 purchase of $12 million worth of luxury cars. Sankara remained humble and refused to allow his portrait to be displayed across the country, explaining that it was their revolution and that “There are 7 million Thomas Sankaras.” At the time of his assassination his salary in 1987, was $450 a month and he owned one car and four push bikes.

Sankara dissolved all other political parties, seen by him as representative of the colonial powers and open to subversion, just as did Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana.

This man was loved by his people. In his attempt to raise the consciousness of the people as a  whole and to do away with colonial and long standing feudal practices within society he abolished all gender regulation, making women the equals of men, appointing many to government positions, allowing them to join the army which they did and proved themselves the equals of male soldiers; and started a National Women’s Day on which all women could stay at home and the men to take their places in going to market for the day`s groceries. Women loved it! Great strides were taken to speak openly against domestic violence and women’s traditionally subordinate role. Thomas Sankara was the first leader in Africa to do this; brave to say the least in an extremely patriarchal culture, and one of the first leaders in the world to promote women’s rights for genuine reasons.

“We must give a job to every woman of this country. We must give every woman the means to earn an honest and decent living.”

 

“Our country produces enough to feed us all. We can even produce more than we need. Unfortunately for lack of organization we still need to beg for food aid. This type of assistance is counter-productive and has kept us thinking that we can only be beggars who need aid. We must put aside this type of aid and succeed in producing more because the one who feeds you usually imposes his will on you. Let us consume what we can control. Some people ask me: But where is imperialism? Just look into your plates; you see imported corn, rice or millet. This is imperialism. No need to look any further… Of course, we encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid. But in general welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us; thus beguiling us and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political and cultural affairs. We choose to risk new paths to achieve greater well-being.

Thomas Sankara recognized the western-run pseudo-philanthropic-humanitarian effort for what it is in Africa today. That it is the same as “Debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa,” which he said before the OAU summit in 1987. In his enlightened understanding of economics, he refused all but essential aid and encouraged instead for people to buy produce and products grown or manufactured within Burkina Faso. This policy for the domestic economy`s revival (which happens to be the exact opposite of all World Bank economic policy) created in just 4 years,  a cotton growing, processing and fabric industry that beautifully clothed the entire population as well as exporting. So people would feel pride in modern-traditional clothes, in Burkinabe fashions and look African instead of advertising coke and blue jeans. All government workers, teachers etc. had to wear Burkinabe clothes (this was actually not to everyone`s taste so government workers tended to have a spare outfit at all times in case Sankara called by, they called the traditional clothes the Sankara-is-coming-outfit).

Sankara started a mass housing project and brick factories to build homes so no-one would live in an urban slum but would live with dignity whether in the rural areas or in a city. In 4 years all regions of Burkina Faso were connected by a network of roads. Sankara was the first African leader to encourage people to take up sport or other forms of fitness as “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” And Sankara was the first president to speak about real environmentalism. He started a project to plant a grove in every village, a grove of trees and shrubs to remind people to respect and protect the land. Tens of millions of trees were planted in under 4 years to combat desertification. During all of these programs Sankara got down and dirty; he personally planted hundreds of trees, made bricks and laid stones on railway lines, there were no tasks that he asked people to perform that he wouldn’t do himself. This man was a hero.

Within 4 years Burkina Faso had become self sufficient. The average for the Sahel region is 1700kg of wheat per hectare. In 1986 Burkina Faso was already producing 3900kg of wheat per hectare.

Within Sankara’s understanding of the nature of colonialism and how it had undermined Africans own self-worth and within his understanding of neocolonialism and how subversive force counter-revolutionized people back into accepting western economics; were the reasons for his political, ideological indoctrination of the people. He forced into people’s minds progressive thinking and had them repeat mantras of how they were going to change the future of themselves, each other and their country. These activities were labelled by Western media as communist indoctrination meetings. Sankara also started the Pioneers Movement which trained children under twelve in social responsibility. He knew they would be the county’s future and his efforts were to oppose what he knew would take place in Western-backed counter-revolutionary thought. His ideological training of the adult population was based on a number of de-brainwashing techniques, to instill new positive thinking and confidence, but also as he said:

“…. a soldier without any political or ideological training is a potential criminal.”

He didn’t want Burkina Faso to ever become part of an orchestrated bloodbath run by armed men with no aim, no principles and only gain, which he saw happening across Africa.

Already by 1984 Sankara`s revolution was influencing people across the continent, giving hope and questions to people and giving ground for fear from the imperialist powers.

The final nail in the coffin for this sublime hero of Africa was what he later said at the OAU summit in 1987. He asked the leaders present in the most affable manner to unilaterally reject African debt.” A loan is a gamble, like in a casino “, he explained that while African states remain in debt to the colonial powers they will remain dependents. He put forward an economic solution for Africa that is in complete contrast to World Bank policy and said:

Let’s make sure that the African market belongs to Africans. Let’s produce in Africa, manufacture in Africa and consume in Africa. Let’s produce what we need and consume what we produce.”

 

“The Debt problem needs to be analysed starting from its origins. Those who lent money to us are the same people who colonized us, are the same who so long managed our states and our economies; they in-debted Africa with ‘donations’ of money. We were not involved in the creation of this debt, so we should not pay it. The debt, moreover, is linked to the machinery of neo-colonialism, the colonizers became technical assistants, I would call them technical assassins, and they suggested, recommended to us the financiers, they told us about the financial advantages. That is why we indebted ourselves for decades and renounced the satisfaction of our people`s needs. In today`s shape, controlled and dominated by imperialism, the foreign debt is a well-organized tool of colonial re-conquest: in order to make the African economy a slave of those who were so clever as to give us capital with the obligation of reimbursing them. We are asked to reimburse our debt. But if we do not pay, the capital lenders will not die, if we pay, we will die. We cannot pay, and we don`t want to pay. We are not responsible for the debt burden. We have already paid a lot of the debt. We are asked to co-operate in researching balance mechanisms, balance in favour of those who own the financial institutions and use the power against the peoples. We cannot be accomplices. The Paris Club is there, let’s create the Addis Ababa Club for cancelling our foreign debt. Our Club should say-our debt will not be paid. Don’t think it is a proposal made only by young people like us. Mrs Bruntland said African countries cannot pay, as did Mr Mitterrand and Fidel Castro… we should explain in other conferences that we cannot pay. We must be united, otherwise, individually we will be murdered. Avoiding debt repayment is a condition which will allow us to free resources for our development.”

Source: Asad Ismi, ‘Impoverishing a Continent: The World Bank and the IMF in Africa‘, (2004).

The assembled “open unpatriotic sons of Africa,” bought and paid for by foreign powers and their corporations, refused to hear him and just as he knew would happen if they did not back him in unison, Sankara was not present at the following year’s OAU summit.

Back in Burkina Faso with French Intelligence and the Foccart business network behind them, Blaise Compaore began agitating, telling people that Sankara was holding back from them the prosperity on offer. Compaore and his top military men assassinated Thomas Sankara on the 15 October 1987.

“In a way, great men enlighten people, enlighten their time long after they`ve gone; and I say after their death because its when you`ve lost something that you become aware of its true value. Sankara has become a moral and spiritual reference for us all.”(Jean-Hubert Bazie from Robin Shuffield’s documentary)

Main Source: documentary on YouTube, a film by Robin Shuffield, ‘Thomas Sankara, The Upright Man’. Watch this short impactful film:

 


[Author P.D. Lawton is a native of South Africa and host of African Agenda, and committed to finding African solutions to Africa’s political and socio-economic problems.]

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