Monday 17 November 2014

The Race From The Bottom: Why Most Africans Must Learn To Do Romantic Love

Good at fraternal, bad at romantic relationships
Cast your mind back, as a habitual knife, spoon and fork user, to the time you first used chopsticks. Remember the hash you made of your noodles or stir fry then? Well that’s exactly the mess Africans or should I say West Africans, or even more specifically Ghanaians, make of romantic love after centuries of being experts at fraternal and sisterly love. They are as poor at managing romantic relationships as they're good in fraternal relationships, but why?

The extended family is based on a network of familial relationships which are very like fraternal and sisterly relationships. Such associations are tightly regulated with rules and usages established centuries ago, and given “constitutional” force by cultural endorsement. Everyone there knows how they treat a brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt, nieces and nephews, grandparents, family friends and the wider society. The rules are clear, well learnt and mostly believed in.  Note that none of these relationships involve sexual relations. What's right and what’s wrong is easy to uphold without the temptations provided by hormonal drives or impulses. In a romantic relationship however, the incendiary impact of sex renders most of the rules useless or unenforceable, and people seem lost as to how to proceed without these externally imposed rules. To provide a crutch to lean on, Ghanaian and many West African romantic relationships default to the style and manner of fraternal relationships and simply replicate them. This is much safer. The rules of engagement are already in place, order is restored, but the passion in the relationship is cooled or extinguished, losing that uniqueness of bond that intimacy opens to lovers. Utility, or just managing things, takes over. This has been my observation. It’s a kind of fraternal business relationship, and it could be had with virtually anyone else that follows the rules, not just your unique partner. This fraternal relationship just comes with the added bonus of mandated, legitimised sex! A notion of entitlement or ownership, based purely on the rights conferred by the association is easily fostered, without being anchored in a genuine, heartfelt, intimate one-on-one relationship.
Very few people say "I love you" in their native language

Very few people say “I love you” in native West African languages. The words exist, but are just rarely used in a passionate context. When West Africans do express such love, it’s usually in a foreign language like English. Perhaps this is because a mental adjustment needs to take place before such intimacy can “legitimately” be expressed. In the cultural context that their native language refers to, it is, if not taboo, almost in violation of the caveats of a brotherly relationship. As the relationship between lovers is being governed by the rules of a fraternal relationship, it surely feels weird to introduce passionate one-on-one-relationship intimacy.

Pair bonds if secure, lack passion
The traditional African cultural set-up is designed to promote the success of the group and extended family as a whole, not the survival of paired lovers as a unit. The extended family will thus always survive, but the paired couple may not, and any children from say a marriage or couple will usually be well cared for by the extended family. Thus in traditional West African culture, the survival of the extended family is paramount, a must have; while the survival of the romantic unit is relegated to just a “nice to have”. Nice to have because if you live with a partner it might as well be in some degree of peace and harmony, even if passionless.

The pressure on individuals to stay loyal to their respective extended families is thus often at the cost of the development of their private pair bond. These pressures often mitigate against husband and wife getting too close to each other emotionally, for fear they will tear themselves apart from their almost feudal fealty to the extended family. This makes the survival of romantic relationships more tenuous.

Parents having grown up in powerful extended families themselves know how extended family relationships work, and are able to pass their experience to their offspring. But being themselves innocents in the art of managing romantic love, they are unable to teach their children the life and attitudinal skills to create or maintain romantic relationships.  African kids just don’t see their parents in romantic mode and have to invent the wheel on this when it’s their turn to try a romantic relationship. There are no great love stories that I know of to set a standard in the culture, more a series of proverbs that explain the “rules” of relationships. The balance of power is thus firmly tipped against the marriage units’ survival in favour of the extended family’s ubiquitous onward march.

Africans must learn the art of romance
The world has however changed and won’t go back to how it was.  Individual freedom away from extended families is on the rise, backed by greater personal economic freedom, especially that of educated, middle class women.   The pair bonded state – whether enshrined in marriage or loosely entered into as cohabitation – is the most likely future building block of society. If Africans are to survive and thrive in the future, learning what romantic love is all about is already a “must do”, not just a “nice to have”. We are rather like the visitor to a Chinese restaurant trying chopsticks for the first time. We make a total hash of it, spread food everywhere and are only slowly nourished by the little we get into our bodies through our clumsy efforts. But in this restaurant there are no knives and forks available to fall back on! The race up from the bottom is on. People will have to learn to step up to romance.

Monday 10 November 2014

Do you "live" for real or are you just a "survivor"?

Quality Survival: Sea Food platter with Tagliatelle al Funghi
It seems that in real life, to whom little is given much is expected! That’s how the old saying should read. When life is reduced to a matter of survival we don’t really live in the true sense. We don’t really do anything, we just run on the survival treadmill like hamsters in a cage. What do I mean by a survival oriented life? A life that values above all else those things that you can: eat; drive in; live in (with some degree of luxury); have sex with (of either gender); holiday at (the more exotic the better); provide warmth or coolness (depending on your latitude), clean running water, energy to power life; bodily adornment (via clothing or accessories – preferably with some degree of style and glamour); fame; status; and power over others so you can gain a bigger share of all the survival fulfillers prior listed. You might just as well be a lion on the serengeti, or a wolf in the tundra when your'e in this mode.

Living and construction require deferred gratification
What is curious is that survival is an entirely selfish endeavor, animalistic even (in the anthropological not pejorative sense). However to live, we require to engage in a positive way with others, a way that enhances the welfare of more than number one. Love, creativity of any kind, construction of any kind is only really possible when one reaches out beyond number one. Love for example has to reach beyond just sex and brings complex human qualities into play, like negotiation, empathy and trust. Survivors don’t love, they lust. Survivors need instant gratification, but living requires a sense of purpose and deferred gratification.

Sunflowers (Van Gogh Gallery) Vincent Van Gogh 1888
The man who in 1888 created the iconic picture of sunflowers in a vase sold one painting in his lifetime and died in poverty. Was he a fool or did he live? A century later in 1988 this picture, Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" sold at auction in Christies for £25m. Art lovers everywhere consider it a masterpiece.

Whether you’re in Accra or Accrington, London or Lagos, Rome or Ramallah you have to ask the question: "are you surviving or actually living?"  The picture at the top was a tasty bit of “survival” I did the other day at my favourite restaurant in Ealing, West London. The gratification was instant!! Enjoyment, total, no question.  But in a hundred years who would offer a bent penny for my telling of it?

Monday 29 September 2014

Code May Drive Modern Life, But The Colour Code Does Not.

Colour is a limiting descriptor

October is  Black History Month throughout the UK, but we should mind our language, because we are all more than just a colour!

In the old days it was Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Now we call it Science. In the old days , it was civil, mechanical and electronic engineering, now we call it Tech! In the old days
everything was colour coded including people, now the only code we talk of are the strings of instructions that drive programmes. Language should change to suit the needs, perceptions and understanding of the times.
Its time for the language describing people to change too. The idea of people as  "black", "white" or "brown" is just too limiting; way too yesterday to be meaningful. Once we impose a colour label on people we actually help create a problem we then have to solve. Invoke colour, and you invoke stereotypes based on recent political and social histories. In the hierarchy of modern times, white folk self perceive as superior , followed by the brown folk and orientals (once called Yellow - how cringe making is that ?),with the dear old black folk bringing up the rear at the foot of the totem pole of social worth. These stereotypes  prescribe how people should be perceived, and quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy in social and global outputs.

Different levels of worth according to the colour code

The lives of the rainbow coalition of humanity assume different levels of worth, and this is often reflected in official policy and its impacts in everything from the judicial system, through to international policy initiatives. So called "white" people seem to  behave as white people are expected to behave at one end,while black people do the same at the other. Even when they want to change, the tag of colour becomes an albatross round their respective necks.White people usually enjoying greater wealth and privilege, don't even notice others, until something goes seriously awry, like a riot, or a war! And until the parties read an article like this, all these dynamics seem to run in the background without anyone's conscious awareness or guidance. Its a kind of autopilot that few have front of mind at any time. Put Black people at the head of the totem pole and there is no reason to expect them to behave differently.  Nevertheless, the driver of behaviour is not colour for any group. Economics and the resulting politics are far more powerful drivers of behaviour than colour.

If you're not "black" or a council worker during October's "Black History Month", or an executive in an enterprise that's been approached for sponsorship of a "Black History Month" activity, it will likely fly blithely under your radar. The month has become an increasing non-event year on year and I'm sure the moniker we give it is in part to blame. I can see everyone shouting about Fashion Revolution, or Bringing Back our Girls or, Standing up for Cancer. I can't however, hear any but the die hard "community activists", long a dying breed, getting excited about Black History Month.

Geography is a far bigger driver of behaviour

 I'd be tagged as black , but the colour of my skin drives nothing in my life. Even the genes I carry and my physiology, are probably more the result of my geographical origins than my colour. Colour does not affect the way I think, the way I feel, or the way I behave. Those things are driven a lot more by where I've lived, the kind of upbringing I had, and a thousand formative experiences related more to time, place, geography, education and life philosophy. Thus I struggle with the value of the title "Black" History month. Its the wrong label. The label should have a lot more to do with the geography and history of the human ideas and histories recounted or reviewed in "Black History Month". 

The air war Britain is already involved in is abou
t economics and geo-politics. It is being framed as a religious war by those who need the PR mileage such framing confers. This would be analogous to say a hyper active thyroid being diagnosed as a nutritional problem because the victim presents with weight loss. Without the right language, we look for the wrong solutions and misdirect our efforts.

So forget the colour spectrum, I'm going for the human spectrum. Join me if you dare! Call it African Diaspora Month. Its far more descriptive, or can you suggest a better name?

Saturday 27 September 2014

It’s War... We’re Re-sitting That Exam

Parliament yesterday Voted 524 for, 43 against airstrikes on IS  (Islamic State) targets. Prime Minister (left) Cameron's motion was carried. This means War (by air strikes, without troops on the ground). There is not a nice way to put it, and the majority in Parliament in support, is overwhelming. Britain joins the Coalition of Nations including local Middle Eastern States that will commerce hostilities against IS. It’s as if we were re-sitting an exam we have failed several times before.

RAF Tornado GR

Tornados could be bombing their targets within 24 to 48 hours.

The Coalition

The debate in Parliament yesterday was robust and deeply thoughtful. It lacked the arrogance and haughtiness of earlier debates in Tony Blair's days, characterised as they were by the attitude that the civilised West was entitled to direct the destiny of the less "civilised" people in the Middle East. The economic motives of the key actors in those days seemed to calibrate their moral compass. Politicians this time considered the legality of the war, the ends sought, mission creep, and the wider impacts in the Muslim world and its reactions. If the economic motive has not entirely disappeared, it seemed from the debate to have been moderated by humanitarian and other considerations in the face of the undoubted brutality of IS actions in the occupied territories.

Syria will not be attacked, though there are significant IS assets there; another example of the allies caution round the boundaries of their military action.
Map of Region via Daily Mail, UK

IS Objectives
But, IS has achieved one objective. Despite the involvement of Muslim States in military action, it will no doubt cast the war in the mould of an attack on Islam by the West. There will be many takers for this argument based entirely on the regions historical experience of the West, and deeply held, sometimes irrational fears. 
How can the impacts of the actions that will follow be minimised? What lessons are we yet to learn about dealings with the region? These questions will not go away. Until they are answered we are in for a world of pain and destruction, mostly of entirely innocent victims of the war to come.

What must we learn? What must we do to pass this exam?

Saturday 20 September 2014

Plausible Deniability - The Meme That Drives Modern Exclusion

The sky should be the limit
 Ever try swimming without water, or playing tennis on your own? Both are zero sum games that go nowhere. It’s the water that provides the buoyancy and if you partner does not return your serves you run out of balls, the game has to stop.

Tidal wave of impacts
Modern discrimination is not about calling people nasty names or epithets. That is so yesterday. Use the “N” or “P” word and most modern fascists would go “tut tut” and all liberals would jump down your throat. Such blatant abuse is universally despised and indefensible. Modern discrimination is not like this at all, on the contrary it is plausibly deniable. It manifests as little actions which taken individually have little weight, and which if responded to make the actor look hyper sensitive or even paranoid. Examples, say in the context of a meeting would be; repeatedly forgetting a participant’s name; not making eye contact; not listening or paying attention to what they say, followed by not referring to anything they say; not inviting their views on the subject; not inviting the subject to participate in the group conversation; being distant from them or sometimes being over familiar in a way that violates their personal boundaries. None of these actions are on their own sufficiently weighty to merit a response without looking aggressive or defensive. Together however, they form a tidal wave of impacts that exclude the person from the meeting literally as if they had never been there.

Plausible Deniability
Because none of the individual actions are strong enough to merit a response they become plausibly deniable. Plausible deniability was a doctrine first devised by the CIA in the fifties as a tactic for protecting senior officials from the consequences of official malfeasance. If the senior officials knew nothing of what was being done they could publicly plausibly deny whatever they were accused of thus protecting themselves from any legal or political blow-back. In this world of smoke and mirrors no one knows what is going on or indeed if anything is going on at all. If there is no discriminatory behaviour then there is no problem to solve. The denial and deniability of modern discrimination is its very defence.

Exclusion always impacts performance (pic by Blogman)
The impacts of exclusion by tiny acts of non-acknowledgement, each plausibly deniable, for a business, an institution or a society is always catastrophic. The excluded party‘s performance declines as the motivation to participate drops following habitual exclusion.  Jane Elliot and her controversial Blue Eyes Brown Eyes experiment with third grade American schoolchildren dramatically shows what happens to performance when people are stereotyped and systematically excluded. I found it a powerful tool for teaching management skills to very adult senior executives of multinational corporations round the world, and the lessons are clear. This decline in output or performance by the excluded party provides an excuse or rationale for further exclusion, after all they’re just not pulling their weight. After a while the victim of exclusion is presented as the cause of their own downfall if not the perpetrator of their own “self” exclusion.

The Glass Ceiling - palpable but deniable
Just like the lottery, you've got to be in it to win it. Without  a paid ticket there is no chance of scooping the jackpot. Without participation in the meeting, the business, the society, the discussion, there is no way of constructively influencing it or maintaining your performance. Any more than you could swim without water. Now think about politics. How do disenfranchised groups feel and what forces are at play in their disenfranchisement? Think about why as many as 45% of Scots voted to become independent in the recent   referendum. Think about how women feel in the work place - are they really included, and how does this affect their output? Think about race and how minority ethnics are included or excluded in the work place. I became self-employed when I realised I’d reached a glass ceiling in the UK. The stereotype of an articulate, cultured, well-travelled, well-educated black male who was focused and determined just did not exist in the popular imagination. The presence of the very few prominent non-caucasian men in senior positions just feeds the plausible deniability of the possibility of discrimination. My work environments responded by just ignoring my existence and then very plausibly denied it. If this ever happens to those who are less thoughtful or life experienced, the consequences can be far more dire. Younger men with less life experience are infinitely more vulnerable to extreme, uber-radical ideas that give them a sense, however fantastical, of belonging and being worthy. It will of course always be their fault for falling prey to nihilism in the case of religious fanatics, but let’s not imagine that the environment played no part in this awful scenario.

The big issue is the plausible deniability of how exclusion works, for with denial comes the option to not take responsibility for the tiny acts which together create a tidal wave of impacts.

Friday 19 September 2014

The Scottish Referendum - No One Heard Their Screams

Referendum Day
Tonight Scotland will decide to continue or end its 307 year membership of the UK. With the latest polls suggesting a narrow win for the “No” Vote, it’s been a close run thing, far closer than anyone ever thought possible. (Ipsos Mori: Yes 47%, No 53%). I’ve gazed into my crystal ball, and writing 4 hours before the results, am inclined to call a narrow win for the “No” vote.
There will be no exit polls for TV pundits to support or refute, prompting James Ball of the Guardian Newspaper to speculate: “Why no exit poll for such a momentous and consequential vote? The first possibility is that no one thought the vote would be close, and so deemed it as not interesting enough to be worthy of the spend.”

Things will never be the same again.
Whatever the result, things have changed and will never be the same again. If the Yes vote polls more than 40%, then we have a nation deeply divided and not a happy member of the United Kingdom.
Ever hear the one about the married woman who cheated on her husband and had an affair? Everyone called her a traitorous adulteress, ungrateful, irresponsible, selfish. Then she told her story of the lack of attention from her husband for years, focussed as he was on career and maintaining their family lifestyle. His wife’s pleas for him to listen went unheard, or was responded to with the occasional perfunctory gesture of a night out, half of which he spent checking his messages on the smartphone.

Understanding Scottish Feelings
Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, "Yes" Campaign
Those who have most passionately pleaded for this nation to stay together among my friends have been English. I don’t think they know how the Scots feel. I don’t think they understand that economic analysis won’t change a feeling though it may frighten a person to do what he does not wish to do. That is not free will, that is coercion by circumstances. This election will be won or lost on the basis of people’s feelings and I don’t believe any of the nation’s leaders have understood what the Scots feel about their situation. If they had, they would have made the broad and still unclear offers of greater autonomy by the leaders of the political parties about week ago, several years back. Those gestures sound a lot like the husband who offers dinner out with a wife whose affections have slowly withered possibly beyond the point of resurrection, after years of neglect.
The Start Of The Federation
Even if Scotland stays in the Union, nothing will ever be the same again, and the consequences will indeed be enormous. I can see the UK heading towards a federation of regional states. When that happens the groups within it will have to re adjust their identities and loyalties to fit. Most Asian and Afro-Caribbean Brits are happy to call themselves Brits, but few see themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Their presence in the UK was a function of the British Colonial phenomenon with a strong Imperial British identity. I don’t expect the non-colonial populations to understand this. It’s an irrelevance to them, but it sure as hell defines many key facts of life for those of colonial origin. If the notion of “Britain” as such declines in importance, with the regional states assuming greater identities, what happens to those new members of the old UK’s population?
The Union Jack would probably change with a "Yes" win

One thing is for certain, the days of listening and not hearing are over. It will be a difficult transition, for the English as a people are notoriously shy of expressing what they really think. The English fear coming across as bullies, or too strident. People talk of Orientals as being inscrutable, but in many ways the English reserve reflects a similar social shyness. I believe those days are over. England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, but most especially England must find its voice and have the courage to speak it. Perhaps then it will also be able to listen to others as they speak what is true for them.
Pic via the Guardian Newspaper. & Lib Dem Party

Monday 14 July 2014

Meet a #Westy; Now you know what to call me!!

In London with US #Westy,  Irene Kofi, owner of Mitra's Bathand Body Co.*
So dear reader, meet a fully paid up #Westy and adjust your stereotypes. He’s not your regular Brit, though he might sound like one, but he’s not your trad African either, though he might look like one. He loves the UK and would fight for its security, but he won’t in any way put down or reject his #Westy origins to prove his loyalty. In his attitude lies the future of the world and it should hold no terrors for any save those who wish to create all others in their own image.

He loves the land in which he lives
A #Westy is a statement of cultural identity and is simply a person of West African origin who, for reasons particular to each individual, no longer fits the traditional West African mould. #Westys have attitudes and behaviours that give them a different edge, a subtly different persona to that naturally conferred by their cultural origins. Hashtag discipline, now  please! Don’t confuse the human #Westy for the canine #westy which refers to the West highland terrier!

You’re bound to know some human #Westys, and till now when pushed to put a label on them have called them a Black Brit, an African, or an “insert name of West African Country” person. There are less kind monikers too like “Uncle Tom”, “Bounty” (white coconut on the inside – brown chocolate on the outside), and still some I'd not like to write.  Do excuse me taking the credit for inventing the term #Westy, but let me know if you've come across it before so I can drop that claim. 

He won't put down his origins to prove his loyalty
Most people have been raised to live a mono-cultural life with a surface dressing of cultural diversity. They eat foreign foods; buy foreign brands, holiday for a fortnight or so abroad a year, and some make frequent business trips overseas. The difference for the #Westy is that he does not travel as a political, economic or individual person of dominance. Those from (mostly) Western cultures who travel abroad often carry the unconscious attitude that their way is the anointed path of the world. They are less inclined to learn from others and usually want to “teach”.  If they come from a nation with a colonial history they would be less inclined to learn foreign languages. I speak 5 languages 3 of them like a native, yet only 1 is native to me! You can’t do that without it deeply affecting your values and attitudes regarding diversity.

#Westys having left their countries of origin and adapted to new challenges and new environments become citizens of the world. Their perspective goes beyond that of where they live and that of where they have come from. They feel a natural love for their origins because those origins inform the Westy’s sense of self and worth. Communal living, a generalized respect for older folk (regardless of their social station), respect for family connections and the value of the extended family, are all hardwired in their outlook due to the Westy’s cultural heritage. But the #Westy also values his individuality, his own beliefs, and is less likely to be deeply religious, though he understands the value of his and other’s spirituality. Westys though sometimes unwelcomed, and often unfairly discriminated against, display that extraordinary human tendency to love the land in which they live, no matter how that land treats them.

#Westys are citizens of the world
#Westys are likely to be in interracial or inter cultural relationships. The truth is, being physically expatriated, they won’t meet many like themselves, and are far more likely to be in the company of other races, and other cultures. It is highly likely their children will not speak the languages of their parents' origins even when the #Westy is able to speak those languages himself.

Most #Westys naturally understand the need for diversity in corporate social and political life; simply because they are living a life which would not be possible without a fundamental respect for the humanity that connects them to the foreign lands in which they live. The customs, traditions and history they meet are often in conflict with those of the #Westy’s ancestors. Without the knowledge and belief that despite these differences all are simply human beings just of a  different mould, the Westy could not progress. All immigrants understand this. A #Westy is a particular type of Immigrant, a real citizen of the world.

*Mitras Body & Bath is an all natural Body and Bath products company in Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Meet Ms.Typical...

© Wiz Kudowor

There’s nothing like the threat of visiting family to throw you into a frenzy of cleaning and tidying. Old childhood admonitions die hard and you find yourself acting out the much derided but clearly deep held suspicion that cleanliness, or at least tidiness is next to godliness. This despite all protestations that you’re way past such scripty responses. The hob was the beneficiary of this particular frenzy, triggered by the visit from afar of a sister. Where I come from kitchens have to be spotless, a testament to your demographic, nay even your quality as a human being. I must unpack all that sometime, it sounds a tad obsessive. But here is the thing, while testing the brand claims on the pack of hob cleaner, a totally mind numbing activity need I add, random thoughts surfaced as I reviewed the day.

©Wiz Kudowor

I realized I'd been working that day with an archetype ... Ms Typical!! You will know her, and the male version of her.  

Ms Typical clings to the herd and has little personality of her own. Lacking personality she lacks courage also, and has no conviction in her beliefs. Everything she says and does is calculated to fit the social zeitgeist of "normality". Thus she could never really champion change though she is happy to go with the wind of change. She is extremely successful, and for all the wrong reasons. She stays bang in the middle of the herd, safe in the wider strength of the herd but is terrified in herself. She always seems phoney because she's never found traction with herself. Her status and trappings of success are totally at odds with the profound sense of low self-worth she carries, hidden behind her social platitudes. 

I should feel sorry for her really. Stephen Sutton  a 19 year old died a few months ago, having mined the depths of his life for its true meaning and raised a small fortune for charity. Miss Typical will make a small fortune for herself, live long (no doubt with private health care), retire on an index linked pension, and be totally forgettable because she never lived her life or moved anybody. She was rather moved by everybody. 

Ms. Typical is the archetype that would have shopped Anne Frank, then said how awful the Nazis were, left Mandela in jail, but been first in line to clamour for his release when it became fashionable. 

Ms. Typical and Mr. Typical, need to try being “abnormal" for a moment, and find out what it means to be themselves, and thus unique.  Till then she and he will be about as dependable as a leaf in a gale, as predictable as a cornered animal. 

©Wiz Kudowor

Housewives must be amazingly thoughtful as they run through the daily chores that keep their families living in pristine comfort. I’m a part timer and I got all this from just 45 minutes in surgical gloves and a man-pinny, tarting up the hob. Imagine the streams of insight a real, professional “home management executive” could enlighten you with.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Giving Gays and Lesbians Nothing More Than I Demand For Myself

So the first gay nuptials have taken place, and the world waits with bated breath to see if Armageddon will be triggered in the next few days as punishment for man ( and woman)  committing this awful "crime". The departure on April 3rd of Brendan Eich, CEO of Firefox owner Mozilla, following his public opposition to Gay marriage won't qualify for Armageddon status but does cause raised eyebrows over the way the wind is blowing now.
I'm originally from Ghana, and the opinion forming, opinion leading middle classes there like many other West African countries in post-colonial times are quietly homophobic. Forget the fact that many prominent families have had un-outed but very well-known gay members over the years. Of course those were often  the families that sent their kids to English public schools including Eton and the likes. Some went to prestigious Uni's like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and MIT. Back in Ghana it's convenient to blame the perceived "affliction" of being gay on extended exposure to decadent white European and Western ways. 

The double standard in this is horrendous.  In traditional African society, people who were gay were viewed more as eccentrics, something outside the norm but in no way toxic to society. It was the Christian missionaries who imposed western originated homophobia on the colonised through their influence on the educated upper classes of the colonised people. The incredible irony lies in the fact that an imported religion, imposed an imported set of foreign values, which having taken root, the exporters (western politicians) are now trying to expunge from African society. This is causing deep resentment in the latter, for much like the organised practice of Christianity, it seems many Africans are more into homophobia today  than the Western colonisers who first introduced it to them. Just take a look at  the draconian anti-gay legislation recently passed in Nigeria and Uganda, with long jail terms for homosexual activity, and you will see what I mean.
I like girls!  Wild horses would not cause me to pursue men in the same way as I pursue women. My sexuality is too fundamental to my life to be parleyed or mortgaged for social convenience or approval. This is just like my desire for dignity or respect among my peers for example, or the need for fair play in all affairs. Nothing on earth would make me give up these aspirations, so why on earth would I expect a gay or lesbian individual to give up their legitimate yearnings? And no matter how gay another is, that in itself won’t change my feelings about girls! So long as they don't try to force me to change my orientation, interfering with my sense of myself, others can be as gay, lesbian or indeed straight as they like. To each their own. Live and let live. I ask for gay and lesbian folk nothing more than I demand for myself as a straight person.

So I wish them all good luck in their marriages and long term relationships. The real challenge there is not to cause heartache for their special, chosen ones. Now that is another issue, altogether.

Friday 28 March 2014

Meet Me On The Planet...You Know, Earth!!

Meet me on the Planet! And why, you ask, choose this title for my blog? I know its not enough to say that my young colleague Abi, (a photographer ever growing in stature) thinks its cool, despite his unerring feel for what flies.
Londoners one and all by way of Italy, Japan and the Caribbean

Diversity is what makes our modern times interesting. Diversity is right in our faces and not just on our TV screens and web browsers. Step out into the streets of an urban metropolis like London and you will see attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, dress styles, languages, cultures all playing before your eyes like a finely edited movie montage. In this mix you find everything from the beautiful to the bizarre, from the dreadful to the divine, from the insane to the humane.

The earth is a cypher for all that is human in all of us. It is the home we all share and cannot escape. It has many rooms, as it has many environments.  The locks we try to put on each room have a  way of failing, spilling their contents into adjacent rooms with consequences we're never quite able to correctly predict. Our humanity derives from our collective connection and respect for this earth, and its varied citizens. So when,in exasperation, I said to a friend who saw nothing but the differences among us "meet me on the planet"
From the beautiful to the bizarre,  the insane to the humane
I meant "see you when you come to your senses and feel your own humanity." Sure, it was a smidgen arrogant, even patronising, but the idea is a wonderful guide to he who coined it and others. We should meet back on the planet, back on the earth of our shared humanity, and on that basis create the economics, politics, policies, international relations, attitudes to sexual orientation, attitudes to race and gender and everything else we need to enjoy doing!

We don't have to agree. Hell no! We just have to respect each others lives. Yes , I know, its a big ask and we are prone to failure on many occasions. Oscar Wilde said "Only the mediocre are at their best at all times," but that does not mean we don't know what "good" looks like.

So... I will meet you, dear reader, on the planet! Your comments are more than welcome.