Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Golden Globes' Bubble Feminism

There was something a little over the top about the so-called smug feminist speeches at the Golden Globes. Just because extremely wealthy entertainers wore black dresses and brought activists as their dates, they would have us believing that somehow indeed a tectonic shift has taken place. Sure, as far as the industry is concerned, that one of the biggest names has been taken down by women who came forth to disclose his sexual assaults, abuse, threats, and intimidation is indeed a big moment. But, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of levelling the playing field for actors and actresses of colour; equal pay (yes, which was talked about at the ceremony); and, making films which set the historical record straight. 

Dunkirk was honoured and will continue to be honoured even though it's another 'f-ing' World War 2 movie (SICK AND TIRED OF WORLD WAR 2 and this typical narrative that goes with this F-ING WAR) and it was another whitewashed film. That Gary Oldman (nice, Denzel gets passed over once again) was waxing lyrical about the racist pig that was Winston Churchil as he received the Best Actor award for playing Winston Churchill goes to show that films are still made which glorify extremely flawed historical figures placed on the highest pedestal, historical figures who are merely imperialists, colonialists, and racists.

Any word of solidarity with Palestinians? Of course, not. How could Hollywood ever dare to pontificate against Israeli injustice during one of its biggest nights? George Clooney would only repeat 'Je Suis Charlie' like a trained monkey because its a fashionable refrain to repeat it. No, Israel is off limits as a hot topic to rally around. After all, the biggest feminist film of 2017 featured no one else but an ex-Israeli soldier. 
Of course, it's admirable that more and more women are in the driving seat as producers and directors! It's great that women are celebrating this year past when so many women broke the silence and came forward to talk about criminal male actors and producers and directors. It coincided so well with the politics of 2017 and, how much liberal, polite America is suffering under its 45th Supreme Leader. 
Does this hail a great a leap forward for feminism? Hardly. 
Oprah's speech was indeed magnificent! Can anyone talk so well as her? Can anyone else captivate an audience like her. No, she's not a typical actress (and actors are really trained monkeys who until they don't have a script to deliver, reveal their ordinary, ignorant selves) but a woman of experience and wisdom. It was a thundering speech! That she pointedly mentioned Recy Taylor in this fervent 'Time is up' frenzy, was poignant and powerful. But still, it was a generous speech and not as scathing as it could have been. Some level of protocol has to be maintained after all. 
All in all, a great awards ceremony but let's keep the perspective. 
Disclaimer: I am still crazy about movies.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The only thing that comes out from the media houses of India and Pakistan 🇵🇰🇮🇳

The state of affairs between 2 neighbours. Every headline is ironic, bitter, and points to the loaded tactics/propaganda of politicians and state machinery. 🇵🇰

There is one conspiracy theory or the other. There is one charge levelled at the other or the other. 

Thursday, 28 December 2017

It's done!

A shot of Broad Street this evening. You can't see much traffic or celebrating folks but all one could hear was 'George Weah, George Weah.' Even Kavita said, everyone is singing 'George Weah.' Who is George Weah, she asked? I said the next President. Then on the way back, she kept asking if that poster's face was George Weah. I said, no. Then she asks, is George Weah a boy or a girl? The keke driver laughed. I said, he's a man.  #Liberia #Liberiahasdecided 


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Liberia's Run Off 🇱🇷

Anxiety and fears over Liberians and their propensity for trouble

That the run off to a historic election was coming up or even took place could almost be missed in Monrovia. It's really been quiet. In fact, today the streets seemed deserted or is it because it's only a day after Christmas? 

It's taken 7 weeks to organise the run off which should have originally been held on 7 November due to a legal bump - posed by the Liberty Party who hardly came 3rd in the 10 October elections - and, then, the case was flung between the Supreme Court and the National Elections Commission (NEC). 

The international community's response to the delays or impasse or pause in the process was anxious and impatient. An ex-US Ambassador wrote a column in a local paper which was at best a cautionary lecture about choosing the right choice (what did she mean? who is the right choice?) and that much progress has been made in maintaining peace. I read a rebuttal which was quite good. 

I also read a good piece by Liberian academic Robtel Pailey which asked the international observers and community to basically give the Liberian electoral process due credit and even applaud it for taking a legal route. 

There was a piece in the Bush Chicken analysing the Unity Party's (at best, a principled stand) case against the irregularities in the first round and, suggesting/posing the question whether Liberia's democracy was showing signs of maturity. 

I've understood that Liberians are resisting the hasty conclusions or predictions for trouble. These elections have not been tainted by any electoral violence (except of course the reports of ritual killings which have a long history in Liberia) and it not necessary to assume violence would follow now. Just because Kenya has experience electoral violence, doesn't mean Liberia's current situation is same to Kenya or even to history. 

That this confidence and pride in this moment permeates Liberian consciousness is to be enjoyed! 

I visited one rather empty polling station today

I was only able to visit one polling station today because of logistical issues. Haresh is away in India for 2 weeks and, unfortunately I don't drive! (Yes, even though I took those lessons in Islamabad) I asked my Pakistani friends to pick me up so I could visit a few polling stations. But Kavita didn't let us go far and we went to the Royal for coffee after we saw one. 

See photographs below of the polling station at St Peter's Lutheran High School in Sinkor, opposite the Royal Hotel. 

All morning, I saw from my Facebook and Twitter feeds that the turn out was low. 

I imagine that the long wait, uncertainty, exhaustion and timing has a role to play in the low turn out? The run off was only announced on 12 December : planned for a day after Christmas. Was this the best date? Right after the holiday? Who knows. The results and analysis will yield some conclusions and theories. 

Who will win? 

I think Mr. Weah is going to succeed Ellen John Sirleaf. 

If you think about it, George Weah is the only real contender all along. Because of Liberia's 51% rule and the high number of political parties vying for power, it's inevitable that a second round will follow.

In 2005, in the second round, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defeated George Weah with a 59%-41% margin (according to Wikipedia. See here.) However in the first round George Weah came out higher, at 28.3% and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf only clinched 19.8%. I suppose this is when the mothers took away the voting cards of their sons and buried them, to ensure a more 'proper and qualified' candidate would win, in whom the women and men had placed so much hope after a devastating war. This is what has been chronicled in Helene Cooper's book Madame President.

So, in 2011, in the first round, incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led with 43.9% of the vote, followed by CDC's Tubman with 32.7%. (George Weah had changed strategy and chose to go for Vice Presidency and partnered with a seemingly credible running mate) This election was marred in controversy and violence and, CDC decided to boycott the run off.

George Weah has been criticised and ridiculed for :
  • his lack of education
  • having squandered the wealth he earned as an international footballer
  • no oratorial skills
  • running away from the debates in the 2017 elections
  • followers which are the wayward youth, druggies, problem makers
  • not being able to control his crowd
  • crying foul every time
  • threatening violence
These are impressions/criticisms aimed at George Weah over the years which I have been privy to. Nevertheless, he does command the public's loyalty and, the common person associates with him. Those disillusioned by the post war era and broken promises by the Sirleaf regime have switched sides, too.

Has George Weah matured? Will he cry fowl again in case he doesn't win in today's run off? Can we expect good things in case he does make it?

But how much do we know about George Weah beyond the caricatures that have come to be associated with him?

I have the feeling there is enough public frustration and they will vote out the ruling party.

Who to choose? 

Our company driver told me that he is simply staying away from elections because he doesn't trust anyone. Although extremely young, he is cynical. I completely appreciate his sentiments but doesn't he still have the responsibility to participate in the process? So many in history were denied the vote, even in Liberia. So, why not use one's right when it is given to us? And, importantly, politicians are mostly crooks yet we are bound as citizens? What about everyone else who considers it their duty, standing in long lines patiently to cast their vote and support a crucial part of the democratic process which has given some semblance of stability?

We are often so apathetic and cynical ourselves that seeing its reflection in others is disturbing, especially in those so young.

The day before I spent at friend and mother, Rebecca's home in Duport Road. She had another international UNDP colleague there for lunch. Other family members, including her twins, joined us all in a robust discussion about the elections. The lesser evil had to be chosen and, my friends told me, it was better to stick to Joseph Boakai instead of someone like George Weah who has offered no agenda.

I played a little devil's advocate and said but perhaps George Weah has matured and, even in Pakistan, we have ex-cricketer Imran Khan, who was first ridiculed for joining politics. After so many years, he stayed in the game, learned politics and, secured a province (KP) and may even become the next Prime Minister. He also has used some thuggish tactics to discredit the government and crippled the capital with his dharnas. When I mentioned his social work in building cancer hospitals, my friends jumped and said, but what service has Weah done for Liberia? They talked about Drogba who is serving his home country better.

So, in the post war era, it's always been a contest between the ruling party and George Weah. George Weah has been the only contender.

It will be quite the moment if in case George Weah finally succeeds Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. We shall know very soon! 

Thursday, 21 December 2017

And speaking of rage: fermenting rage

"At eighteen she was already expert at the older woman's art of fermenting rage, conserving it, for later use." Swing Time, Zadie Smith