Democracy is alive and well in Kenya! Violence has already begun. Tear gas wafts through the city centers of Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, the three largest cities. The main opposition party has told supporters to clear off the streets because continued police brutality has so far killed 33 protestors.
All this portends serious death and destruction starting about a week from tomorrow and continuing as it did almost exactly a decade ago for several months before slowly and painfully settling into another chapter of nervous peace, the country then more scarred than ever. Why can’t this remarkably educated, progressively developed country get it right? Tribalism.
Western mores regarding sexuality unmask deep hypocrisy in conservatism. Facebook – buttressed by these mores and reflected by some state laws – this week told many South Africans that their ancient traditions were wrong and had to be suppressed.
Autonomy is the buzzword, now. The Navajo Nation, Catalonia, Maasai Ngorongoro, Yukon First Nations or Zanzibar, and they are all wrong. This is becoming clearer and clearer to me as I tour America’s southwest and listen to the same story lines and their dismal outcomes that I have heard in Tanzania for years.
Kathleen and I spent a half-day with T.J. in his pretty beat up jeep in Canyon de Chelly, a part of the greater Navajo nation. He showed us some amazing scenery and intrigued us with closeups of Anasazi, Hopi and other Pueblo indian pictograph and petroglyph. But I was belabored with his stilted view of history and saddened not just by his own personal story, but the story of his people.
We woke to a brilliant white sunrise over an absolutely still landscape of New Mexico’s first snow. By 10 a.m. it was gone from all but the highest mountain tops.
Two days in Santa Fe is not enough. The museums are brilliant, the ubiquitous art enthralling if a mite homogenous, and the history grand and often hilarious. From Judge Tobin who spent most of his time in a bar to Kit Carson who spent most of his time in dime novels, the wild west slowed down a bit here. The native Tiwa-speaking Pueblo Indians tradition of keeping secret their past seems to have prevailed: An extremely nice Santa Fean gentleman who struck up a warm conversation with me on the plane from Dallas told me to “enjoy yourself as you never have, just don’t stay.”
Nearby Taos is a different world. My personal impression is that this is the last of hippie-dom. More crafts than arts. Sotheby’s, on the other hand, has an awful lot of multi-multi-million dollar private desert retreats for sale up the countless little desert roads around here. There’s a lot less talk and a lot more sitar than in Santa Fe. Everybody goes by their first name, but nobody seems to know exactly where they’re going.
Tonight we go to Catholic vespers at the start of Geronimo celebrations at Taos Pueblo. The Spaniards catholicized the Pueblo Indians and made St. Jerome their patron saint. The annual saint-day tomorrow is the most important day of the year for the Taos Pueblo, and for god’s sakes don’t use TripAdvisor’s conservative admonitions about not bringing children! This is a perfect demonstration of what happens when you try to synthesize modern religion with ancient beliefs. Thank goodness Geronimo won over St. Jerome!
Tomorrow we head west of the Raton Pass that the old wagons had so much trouble navigating, over the high forests across today’s modern ski country into the heart of the Navajo Reservation.
Certain Africa tribes are marginalized by their modern African societies, and this often in spite of noble efforts to reduce allegiances individuals feel towards their tribes. The Maasai are one good example.
This push-pull within a growing, modernizing society is not dissimilar to the history of native Americans. The oppressor is noticeably different: with native Americans it was the colonial conquerors; with the Maasai it’s other African tribes holding power. But many of the dynamics are the same, and I believe both native Americans and many African societies can learn much from one another.
Jokes and derision poked at Americans limited understandings of far-away places like Africa seemed to diminish over the last few years. I guess not.
I couldn’t have told you who Louise Linton was until yesterday, when her juvenile, unethical behavior while accompanying our treasury secretary on an official event set off a firestorm.
If you can’t believe the Dalai Lama, who can you believe?
This past weekend the “chosen leader” of Tibet canceled a very important visit to Botswana, a country that is increasingly trying to become relevant on the world stage relative to its increasing wealth from diamonds and rare earths. He lied about why he canceled.
When Kathleen and I first went to Africa in the early 1970s we were warned about mosquito-born diseases like malaria, but there were few other dreaded diseases. AIDS wasn’t yet known. Cholera seemed to be confined to the slums of Asia and South America.
Cholera has broken out in Nairobi. The first 30 or so cases were not found where you would expect to find a hard-to-transmit but deadly disease: in the slums. More than 400 cases have been confirmed and many in two of the most upscale areas of the city, Karen and Westlands. What’s going on?
I’m in Kenya and you can’t walk out your door without feeling the buzz! Keep your eyes squarely here: It all happens on August 8. A national election that increasingly looks like it will be a major upset.
Kenyans have always been incredibly open people, and they are brimming over with optimism about this election! It’s not about their candidate. It’s what they think is about to happen:
The explorers of Africa provide us with an understanding of our turbulent and uncertain societies today in a way none other can.
Tomorrow at 3p at Dubuque’s Free School I’m giving a lecture about Stanley finding Livingstone. If you’re coming to the lecture you’re under a solemn oath to keep this blog to yourself until I finish. Because this is the punch line:
Attitudes towards hunting are changing in the same way that they’ve already changed with regards to the LGBT communities. In remarkably short order hunting of all kinds may be curtailed.
This is a very widespread and expansive cultural change. It applies almost equally to sports hunting as to native society subsistence hunting and even to scientific culling. It is, in fact, the scientific community evincing the most dramatic change. The driver is climate change.
Surrounded by security officials and police, two (later proved) innocent Kenyan immigrants to India are unfairly detained, then harassed by police in Greater Noida, India.
“India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s hypernationalistic “Hindutva” ideology has found common cause with Trumpism,” writes a Kenyan commentator today. “Ultranationalism and hatred of the ‘other’ are being associated with patriotism in both India and the US.”
Can a piece of art be hate speech? A year-long furor in South Africa blew up yesterday when a gang of white men calmly entered Cape Town’s prestigious National Art Museum and plastered a large sticker reading “Love Thy Neighbour” over a “F**k White People” pop-art canvas.
What’s illegal here? The vigilantes believed South Africa’s strict hate speech laws weren’t being enforced, but were they breaking laws protecting the artist’s freedom of speech?
Africa’s a bit unsettled. Europe’s more unsettled than ever.
The world is connected by a million strings. They’re best seen from afar, because up close they’re indistinguishable from the humdrum of everyday life. The ones I watch are in Africa:
Growing protests turn really violent in the DR-Congo. The Gambian president who conceded defeat in an election now says only God can tell him to step down. The Ugandan military is flexing its arms like it did under Amin.
What’s happening and is it coming to America?
Why was Anna Galland so happy last night? Who will put peerless pen to my personal petulance? I found him. In South Africa.
Trump is “Nazi sludge…trapped in a Twitter feedback loop as a gift for a riled-up white electorate who had seen the ass-end of globalisation.”