Friday, 22 September 2017

How to think about the state in Liberia

Part 1 of my How to think about the state in Liberia got published in Bush Chicken: http://www.bushchicken.com/op-ed-the-challenges-of-the-liberian-state/. Check it out! I hope Part 2 will be published soon. 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Evening walk

These past couple of months, I've really returned to a regular and invigorating routine of evening walks with Haresh, Kavita and Bijli. It's a good feeling to be have a regular rhythm. 

I don't think I had such a stamina for a long walk at Kavita's age but she has kept pace with us and, walks as long and fast as we do. Moreover, she also runs laps up and down Snapper Hill. 

I love how familiar a walking route can be and, even if it is repetitive, it doesn't get boring. Opposite the new TM Mall, the security guard greets us enthusiastically. He has one of those very kind and sweet faces. 

The owners of the souvenir shops opposite the Mamba Point and Cape Hotels are all known to me and, always greet me and request me to stop to look at their shops. But I politely tell them, not now. In fact, I've made friends with a carver from Ghana who carves masks and tables himself and, even beads them. 

Past the shops, there is a lady who calls out to me, "Suzanna." She has known me since the days I used to live in the former Carter Center office in Mamba Point. We usually stop and chat. 

When we reach this point, Kavita says, "We are almost there." "Almost where, Kavita?" I say. "Almost to the hill, " says Kavita. 

We keep going and reach almost to the gates of the old American Embassy where there are 21 yellow short poles/barriers which Kavita and I count in Urdu: "Eik do teen char panch...." 

When we finally reach the top of the Hill, we feel so good! There we rest and then begin some exercise. 





Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Good evening




Monday, 21 August 2017

South Asian peace

I've really begun to grow fond of the popular art one can see on store fronts, gates, etc.

I went to the Back Art Studio on Randall Street to invite an artist to come and paint our entrance. I asked the artist to use some of the motifs commonly seen in Monrovia. The idea was to paint something along those lines, resulting in a mural at our entrance.

The artist made quite an impressive mural. The only things we asked for were flags of Pakistan and India and Liberia.

See photographs of the work in progress until it was finally done.





Thursday, 17 August 2017

Why didn't he?

After having invested so much time, energy, thought and emotions into the democratic process which brought Mr. Trump to the US Presidency, I am sure everyone is fed up and tired. It was all so entertaining the coverage of the elections and, all the shocking and embarrassing things Mr. Trump was accused of declaring. We eagerly followed and read about all the antics. 

But it seems the circus show will not end. For it has become a circus show. 

Since he's been elected, the mainstream news is covering the post-victory antics: the hirings, the dismissals, the evil plot to get rid of Obamacare, the righteous resistance, the banning of Muslim visitors, the cancelling of Paris, the Middle East visit, the shoving of European leaders in the Europe visit, and then the Russian conspiracy. Most of these developments are indeed news but it is the obsession with Mr. Trump's style that takes up most of the air waves. 

"What'd he say?"
"What'd he Tweet?" 

Of course, this is the unique style of Mr. Trump that he doesn't just rely on news conferences to speak but surely, every single Tweet cannot be Breaking News. 

The Russian conspiracy, too, never seems clear to me. Russia has apparently "interfered" with the American elections and is framed as the bad guy. The American democracy is a pure, perfect process and has been tampered with by Big Bad Russia. 

Even BBC presents Russia as the West's Enemy. So, what are we to make of it? 

In the end, I realised, BBC and CNN are really white news. It's white noise. It's this white noise which frames the so-called War on Terror, the Islamic State, the Assad regime, radicalisation of Muslim men, Islam, etc. 

I also realised I don't really understand how the Government machinery actually works. How does the US Government work? How does the Government work and organise itself in Liberia? In Pakistan? What do I know about it? 

Recently, an ex-colleague from my Mercy Corps Liberia days posted on Facebook that he is going to write an article about how Parliaments are so weak in poor countries. This a good reminder on how I need to make more of an effort of how the different arms of administrations work to have a deeper understanding before I start ranting. 

Well anyway, having said all that, I just watched the Vice documentary about the racial violence in the United States. If you were only listening/watching BBC or CNN, all one has been inundated with recently is whether or not American President has condemned the white supremacists strongly enough; why did he blame both sides; his 'whataboutisms,'; and so on. Even BBC has devoted hours and hours to the subtleties of Mr Trump's various speeches, Tweets, etc. BBC and CNN are obsessed with covering every unnecessary antic of Mr. Trump rather than focusing on news, analysis, and truth. 

Watching this documentary gives one more context, depth and severity of what actually happened - a chilling reminder of how violent the United States is, how deeply racist it is, and how it is just an ordinary country that is grappling with the legacy of its brutal founding and history. 

Following my Newsfeed and headlines, the ongoing debates focus more on denouncing Mr. Trump rather than confronting the reality of the United States which has, for example, the highest number of prisoners for a developed country. America is still a country that has has not achieved racial equality and eliminated institutional violence against black people. Why are white supremacist flourishing in the United States? Can we apportion this to Trump? 

I'm seeing random headlines of why more leaders don't denounce Trump or how Obama's loving Tweet proves he is cooler than Trump. If only everyone could just understand love conquers all! What unpolitical bullshit. What about rectifying historical injustice through reparations, economic and political reforms?

The United States allows white supremacists and Neo Nazis and KKK to exist and spread their messages. It is a country that allows civilians to buy and carry guns. So how is more superior to any other miserable country that has extremist fringes, too? 

Yet, the official United States rhetoric is full of self praise as the greatest, freest and most democratic country of all.

The United States is a brute military power that has been at war most of its existence. In recent history it invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on the pretense of liberating them. Don't forget American crimes against 2 entire sovereign states. Don't forget Abu Ghraib (classic American expertise of torture, racism and white supremacy). Don't forget Guantanamo Bay.  

And, let's not forget American support of the rogue state of Israel that daily commits crimes against humanity. 


The United States elected a candidate who freely traded in controversial rhetoric. One can't help but think whether this is the real face of America. Mr. George W Bush (same guy who invaded Afghanistan and Iraq) is denouncing Trump! Who is better? 

Let Americans denounce their history of terror and suffering on other sovereign nations before. Let liberal Americans hand over their Presidents to the International Criminal Court before we pity them for their President who doesn't condemn Nazis. But then again, how can neo-Nazis flourish in their great country? 

The quality of righteous anger against Mr. Trump rings so hollow. I heard Trevor Noah joke that in America, it is perfectly OK to have a racist society and uphold racism as long as one isn't called a racist. 

And, really, enough about the tweets. Sick and tired of wall-to-wall, minute-to-minute coverage of the tweets.