How to Write about Africa

Kenyan literary critic Binyavanga Wainaina offers some handy tips for all would-be saviours of Africa.

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Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.

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John Mearsheimer on Israel National Radio

John Mearsheimer
John Mearsheimer

John Mearsheimer, during his 2008 visit to Israel, interviewed on Arutz Sheva‘s Israel National Radio show.

John does a great job arguing for his positions yet his extremist pro-settlement hosts seem determined to paint him as an anti-Semite. All Mearsheimer really argues is that he wants it to be possible to criticise Israel’s bad policies in the United States – it’s difficult to see why any sensible person could have a problem with this.

Toward the end, after they’ve ditched John, they even claim the next Holocaust will be in America and that it’s being brought about by a new sophisticated anti-Semitism, contained in Mearsheimers & Walt’s book The Israel Lobby, and this new anti-Semitism is the “most dangerous thing on the market today.”

Mearsheimer on Israel National Radio (48:31) | MP3

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Germany: why did Marwa al-Sherbini die?

On 1 July, Marwa al-Sherbini, an Egyptian woman who wore the headscarf and was three months pregnant, was brutally murdered in a Dresden courtroom by a German man of Russian descent who declared ‘you have no right to live’. Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations investigates the climate of tacitly sanctioned bigotry within which this murder happened.

Marwa al-Sherbini and husband Elwi Ali Okaz

Marwa al-Sherbini was stabbed eighteen times in the space of thirty seconds. It was a frenzied attack, clearly motivated by racism and Islamophobia. Yet the German state and media, have been in a state of denial. The press reported it as a neighbourhood dispute, with headlines such as ‘Murder over quarrel over swing’. Amidst widespread anger in Egypt, the press officer at the German embassy in Cairo declared the murder an isolated case and a ‘criminal act. It has nothing to do with persecution against Muslims’.

As the funeral of Marwa al-Sherbini took place in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria and attracted huge attention in the Middle East, the German public and media have woken up to the anger that the murder, and its apparent denial, was causing in the Muslim world.

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The quality of sacrifice

Don’t miss Democracy Now’s coverage of the passing of Robert McNamara which includes a discussion on his later qualms about the massive human suffering that he had inflicted on Japanese and Vietnamese civilians. Geoffrey Wheatcroft here reflects on the true scale of the tragedy of modern wars that is concealed by the mealy mouthed tributes to dead soldiers. ‘Tributes to soldiers killed in action only underline that the victims of today’s wars are mainly civilians’, he writes .

A week ago, on 1 July, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, the commanding officer of the Welsh Guards, was killed in Afghanistan. He and Trooper Joshua Hammond, who was killed with him, were returned to RAF Lynham on Monday with full military honours. As they were borne off the aircraft, did any of those watching remember another date, and other deaths in action?

Ninety-three years ago, on 1 July 1916, the battle of the Somme began. By the day’s end, almost 20,000 British soldiers had been killed, among them no fewer than 30 officers of the rank of lieutenant colonel or above. “Equality of sacrifice” can be a dishonest phrase, but it had some meaning then.

But then the army, and the nation, knew to expect terrible casualty lists, filled with soldiers of all ranks. Thorneloe was the first commanding officer of an infantry battalion to have been killed in either Afghanistan or Iraq during nearly eight years’ combat, in fact the first of his rank to be killed since the Falklands war. In general, what’s so remarkable about “coalition” casualties in these wars is not how high they have been but how low.

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The womb-like psychological warmth that is submission to power

Medialens is an absolutely indispensable resource for intellectual self-defense and unmasking the ‘necessary illusions’ within which power envelops itself. Here is their latest media alert, focusing on UK media coverage of Iran, Gaza and the MPs’ expenses scandal. (You can pre-order their new book Newspeak in the 21st Century here.)

In a recent alert, we described how the modern corporation is an inherently predatory, even psychopathic, entity. We noted that business managers are legally obliged to subordinate human and environmental welfare to profit.

Inevitably, then, corporations do not restrict themselves merely to the arena of economics. Rather, as John Dewey observed, “politics is the shadow cast on society by big business”. Over decades, corporations have worked together to ensure that the choices offered by ‘representative democracy’ all represent their greed for maximised profits.

This is a sensitive task. We do not live in a totalitarian society – the public potentially has enormous power to interfere. The goal, then, is to persuade the public that corporate-sponsored political choice is meaningful, that it makes a difference. The task of politicians at all points of the supposed ’spectrum’ is to appear passionately principled while participating in what is essentially a charade.

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The Crooks Get Cash While the Poor Get Screwed

Justice for all in Freedom’s Land? Probably not if you are poor or black, certainly not if you are both. Read this heartbreaking story by Chris Hedges:

Children leave a Chicago homeless shelter on their way to school. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, more than half of children in low-income families have at least one parent who works full-time. (AP photo / Amy Sancetta)

Tearyan Brown became a father when he was 16. He did what a lot of inner-city kids desperate to make money do. He sold drugs. He was arrested and sent to jail three years later for dealing marijuana and PCP on the streets of Trenton, N.J., mostly to white kids driving in from the suburbs. It was a job which saw him robbed at gunpoint and stabbed in the chest. But it made him about $1,400 a week.

Brown, when he got out after three and a half years, was done with street life. He got a job as a security guard and then as a fork lift operator. He eventually made about $30,000 a year. He shepherded his son through high school, then college and a master’s degree. His boy, now 24, is a high school teacher in Texas. Brown would not leave the streets of Trenton but his son would. It made him proud. It gave him hope.

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Zionist thugs vandalize bookstore in Paris

Diana Johnstone, the great leftist writer living in Paris, describes a zionist thug (either Betar or LDJ) attack on Librairie Resistances. Books and computer equipment were destroyed. It is not the first time this happens.

The nazis used to burn books…

See also attached video.

Librairie Resistances - scene of the damage; books doused with oil

Zionist Fanatics Practice Serial Vandalism in Paris
Thousands of books drenched in cooking oil – that is the latest exploit of the Zionist fanatics who regularly attack property and people in Paris and get away with it.

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Mousavi and the Masses

I find the use of someone’s alleged hard line past to dismiss their significance to a present political movement unpersuasive. Nevertheless, amidst all the hype it is always useful to get a different perspective.

Following the results of a disputed presidential election Iranians poured onto the streets in their tens of thousands to protest the re-election of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The demonstrations were unprecedented both in their scale and nature and the largest of their kind since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

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Preventing ‘illegal Arab expansion’

Jonathan Cook reports about the latest phase of Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign:

Israel’s housing minister called for strict segregation between the country’s Jewish and Arab populations last week as he unveiled plans to move large numbers of fundamentalist religious Jews to Israel’s north to prevent what he described as an “Arab takeover” of the region.

Ariel Atias said he considered it a “national mission” to bring ultra-Orthodox Jews — or Haredim, distinctive for their formal black and white clothing — into Arab areas, and announced that he would also create the north’s first exclusively Haredi town.

The new settlement drive, according to Atias, is intended to revive previous failed efforts by the state to “Judaize,” or create a Jewish majority in, the country’s heavily Arab north.

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