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mamaafrica

Mama Africa died. The voice of the people. The song of the people. She is no more. But her music lives on. And with it… Her love for Africa and its people.

This is from one of her first songs that the world got to see. Hum… She was hot! Mama Africa singing Pata Pata.

The one song every bloody Souf Efrikan whitie knows… (And she is still hot!) Miriam Makeba singing The Click Song. (With a bit of an intro into Xhosa and politics – sorry, I had to use a new link so the politics got lost. Someone removed the original from YouTube!)

And this one has a bit of a long intro but it hits you hard when she starts singing. Man… Did I mention that she is hot! Sinead O’Connor of Africa singing Amampondo.

But in the end Mama Africa was about so much more than her music. Miriam Makeba made music. Mama Africa spoke for her people. A glimpse of what she had to say to the UN back in 1963. Being Mama Africa…

Her citizenship was revoked shortly after this. She couldn’t go back to her country. To her people. But she always fought on. Always for justice. Always for her people. The people of Africa. And her people from South Africa. From fighting for justice when she married (and later separated from) Trinidadian civil rights activist and Black Panthers leader Stokely Carmichael to receiving the UN Dag Hammerskjöld Peace Prize. She always fought for justice. Always.

But she saw her country united at last. She came back in 1990. To her home. To her people. And this song was made for her to sing. (The intro is played by Hugh Masekela. Another legend and another ex-husband of Mama Africa.)

Mama Africa never forgot about the fight for justice. Never. She didn’t die at home. She died in Castel Volturno in Italy, in the evening of 9 November 2008, of a heart attack, shortly after taking part in a concert organized to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation. Camorra finances itself through drug trafficking, extortion, protection and racketeering. It is the oldest organized criminal organization in Italy. Mama Africa… Mama World… Mama Ubuntu… No matter where you were, she was with you in your fight for justice, freedom, liberty and equality for all.

She died just after singing Pata Pata. She died on stage.

In the words of Mama Africa, “I will sing until the last day of my life.”

So she is gone. But live on. Always.

Viva Mama Africa! Viva! Long Live Miriam Makeba! Long Live!

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I know, I haven’t done this for a while. It’s a combination of China and cocktails. Too long visiting one and too long just holding on to the other one. Hum, actually that goes for both of them… But let’s give it a shot.

1. Please sir, may I have some more?

Oh now we know we are in a recession baby. The land of true whiners, (Not-So) Great Britian, are feeling the pinch. And they are taking it out on the kids! Oh deary, deary me. You see, like all financial institutions, The Bank of Mom and Dad has been hit by the credit crunch. And they are just not that much into giving at the moment. Not enough cash to go around. So what did they do? Cut down on the pocket money. Those poor English roses just can’t buy the nice strawberry and cream at Wimbledon anymore. Shame poor little darlings. I don’t think I will spill too many tears on this one. It’s more like the yobs can’t afford the Burberry clothes anymore. Or the beers they drink in the park. Or, the latest craze, knives, anymore. Nah. Don’t feel too sorry for them. Britain has changed into a nanny state many years ago and I am sure the government will find a new way to pamper their little yobs darlings. There is no Great Britain anymore. The only “G” that goes with Britain is “Good god” Britain. And remember to role your eyes when you say it.

2. The law is going to the dogs

This woman called Leona Helmsley let her fortune go to the dogs. You know, she left about $8 billion to look after the poor mutts of this world. Stupid? Of course. Silly? Without a doubt. But now some wise ass Boston College professor claims that “we” are giving almost half of that money and not her. Why? Because the donation is not taxed and therefore indirectly comes from tax money – my money and your money. Really. It’s a stupid argument to make. Yes, there are better ways to spend the almost $4 billion that comes from “us”. But he makes one hell of an assumption to think that government will spend it on anything useful. I would rather let Skippy eat steak every night thanks to Crazy Auntie Leona than spend one single dollar more on a stupid war. Leona might be crazy (and she was as ugly as hell with that all that cosmetic surgery), but not as crazy as some of those people in DC. I have one specific guy in mind… And I really don’t want to give him anything more to play with.

3. A country of Wieners

So Gramm made a bit of a “misspoke”. Calling Americans a country of whiners. I would shut up if I was Gramm. His surname is way to silly to take seriously. I mean really, it sounds very similar to what we will call lightweight in the metric system… Anyway. I actually almost agree with him. But I think he got the wording wrong. It’s not “whiner” it’s “wieners”. For two reasons. Firstly, you guys really like hotdogs. And with baseball season in full swing it makes sense with the wiener sausages and all. But, more seriously, we also use the term “wiener” back home to talk about someone who gets scared easily. Or who falls for some weird scary story. Like in “Donner dude, you are such a wiener. That’s not a shark, it’s a dude with his wienersticking out.” (This is another meaning of wiener – meaning… hum… go check Wikipedia.) I mean really. Scared of Iran? You can’t rule through fear. Because you will end up fighting everyone and hating everyone and not trusting anyone. Get a grip people. You (we) need a new leader with some real leadership. Stop being a such wieners.

4. I don’t give a flying…

Airlines are being hit pretty hard by the high oil prices. So hard that they are now asking people to lobby government on their behalf. Hum. I don’t think so. You start NOT charging me $15 per bag. Or maybe you can start arriving on time – or leaving on time for that matter. And maybe you can serve me crap food instead of no food on these long haul flights. And a drink while I am stuck on the tarmac for a few hours after another “delay”. And just maybe you start upgrading your plane to a post-Nixon grade planes. Or include something more entertaining than barfbags to keep me entertained. And a little more legroom than than a Grade A classroom. And I haven’t even started with you yet American Airlines… You want to know why you can’t compete? Because you are incompetent and know nothing about customer service. We’ll pay more if you pay more attention. Go ask why some of the other airlines like BA, Virgin, Comair (in South Africa), China Air, Air Cameroon and many others can all look after us and still turn a profit. Come back when you have an answer. I won’t hold my breath. But you did give me an idea. Maybe I should start lobbying government to open up the air to some foreign competition. Yes, people might bitch for the loss of “sovereignty” but they’ll very quickly forget once they sit in comfy chairs and bite into a nice juicy BA sandwich. One they didn’t have to pay $5 dollars for.

5. The world got neutered… by President Bush

Sometimes the world is willing to show a bit of guts (or show they have balls) and take on a leader who is truly evil and (possibly) guilty of turning on his own people. Sudan in this case. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan might just be charged with war crimes committed in Darfur. Makes sense doesn’t it? We know what has been going on over there. Murder, rape and mayhem. And that was on a good day. So the world decided to take a stand. And charge the guy. Of course the guy will say “I am not guilty”. That’s what the court is there for, right? In this case the International Criminal Court. But we won’t see this guy being taken to court – all thanks to President Bush. WTF? You heard me right. Blame President Bush for the ICC not having the teeth to take this guy on. Why? Because the guy is using the same argument President Bush used against the ICC. They both claim that the ICC have no jurisdictionover anything. They don’t recognize the ICC. This was the only court that could tackle Serbian war criminals. But President Bush wants special treatment for US citizens. He argues that everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law – but some are more equal than others. He doesn’t want Americans to be held accountable to this court even if they have committeda crime against humanity or genocide for that matter. Yes, everyone else should be covered by the ICC. Just not Americans. Do you truly believe Americans should have a higher right in this world? Should Americans be above the law? I don’t think we will ever see the day an American will be charged at the ICC. It’s aimed at warmongers and despots. but we have to make sure everyone is covered by the same law. Shouldn’t we? Your argument is like me saying that me and my family should be immune from being charged for theft as we will never do anything like that. Is that okay with you? I promise not to steal… Come on Bush – you are either for us or against us… The Darfur blood is on your hands. What options did you leave us with? Invading as a first option? I guess you don’t like it when people first try to take the legal route? It’s easier to go in with guns blazing isn’t it? You set the precedent. Invade Sudan – even the rest of the world think he is evil and worse than Sadam used to be. Be proud – you and the President of Sudan have something in common… I hope you are proud of your legacy.

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That’s it folks. Have a splendid weekend! Hope that sounded English enough. I am especially sour with them at the moment because they are beating us in cricket. Unheard of, I know…

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Here we go again…

1. The world growing bigger?

The only problem is that not everything else is expanding with it. I know it is disturbing. But don’t worry. We are. Humans. And other planets. And animals. At least until we slaughter them and turn them into burgers and steaks. Even our measurements are expanding. And no, I don’t mean our waistlines. Okay. Not only our waistlines. Also our waste-lines. No idea what that means, but it sounded good when I wrote it. Anyway… I thought the world must be growing while our food and drinks stay the same size. Why? Because everything is getting smaller. Bought a salad the other day and realized that it is smaller than what I remembered from the last time I bought a salad. But then I had a closer look. Damnit. Can you believe it. Even salads are being reduced in size. No – not because of obesity. Rather because of profits. With “raw” materials and overheads going up they had to cut cost somewhere. Why not start with the portions they sell? No problem. Right? Well, I don’t have a problem with it. But it would have been nice of them to tell me. I felt a bit cheated. Dirty. And looking at the smaller packet made me feel all grown up and bigger than what I feel really comfortable with. I felt a bit like Alice for a minute. But, as you might know, I am not a big salad eater. So it didn’t faze me. But I lost it when I realized that they are doing it to beer! Bloody hell people! That’s a line you should never, ever cross. Do what you want with us, but leave our beer alone. You thought President Bush got all pissed at Iraq trying to kill his daddy. Don’t mess with an African and his beer. But they did. Selling us 14 ounce beers but passing it off as a 16 ounce beer! Sacrilege! But the trend continues. Cars are getting smaller. Which is a good thing. My ego can fit into a Mini. But those guys with the big trucks and girls with the big SUV’s. Not sure if their ego can fit into a Ford Focus. I mean really, they only just manage to squeeze into a Hummer. Yeah. The world is shrinking. No, you aren’t getting fat. It’s the clothes shrinking… We’ll all look like Lance Armstrong soon. Tights everywhere. Okay, maybe with two… hum… you know. Oh, I was lying about the salad. It is shrinking, but I am African. We don’t do salad. A good salad is anything not meaty – like chicken.

2. Getting ready to be arrested

I am off to China this weekend. But I’ll tell you about that later. Once I am back. Still waiting for my visa, but hopefully that will be sorted today. There is a reason why I use the name Angry African you know… Anyway. I have been talking to my IT guy about staying connected while I am over there. Apparently it won’t be a good idea to blog from there. Not only do they sometimes “relieve” you of the burden carrying your laptop around, but don’t like bloggers speaking out that much. Not much at all. You see, China, Burma, Iran and Egypt heads the list of countries arresting people because they blog about their political views. I am safe then I guess. I don’t do political views… What I write is nothing but an impartial view of the world and what is happening around us. So I should be safe. But many bloggers are not. 334 got arrested in Burma alone. But thanks to their “somewhat” restrictive government, these could not be verified. When you drop of the face of the earth… 

3. No workers, no problem

Biofuels are held up as either the answer to all our problems or the next disaster to hit us. I don’t have much of a view on this one. I think biofuels could be part of the solution (not the solution), but the current approach sucks. Using corn and sugar just don’t make sense. it pushes food prices right up and we cut down forests meant to protect us from emissions. Sounds like stupid economics to me. And Brazil has a huge problem. They are cutting down the Amazon rainforest faster than you can say “Hummer”. I mean really. 1,123 square kilometers were cut down in April alone… So Unica, the Brazilian ethanol lobby decided to go on the charm offensive. They invited a few journalist around to show them all the good stuff they are doing. Apart from the cutting down of trees that they forgot to mention, most of their ideas are just fine. Like going all mechanical in the cutting of the cane. Less pollution because they don’t have to burn them anymore. But there was something else that caught my eye. The reporter only mentions it as a “by the way”. But it struck me that Unico might still need some more PR training. Unico said that companies are going all mechanical on us because it addresses two challenges. One, the pollution. Check. Secondly, it will get rid of the cane-cutters and therefore also get rid of any labor problems and labor critics. Hum. Maybe you shouldn’t have mentioned that one. Keep spinning the “we chop down trees to be green” line. It’s not only more believable, it also makes the “little people” go away.

4. The two stooges

Tweedledum and Tweedledee are meeting as we speak. I mean Mbeki and Mugabe are meeting. In Zimbabwe. Not sure why. Maybe to discuss the weather. Or the latest fashion. Or what curtains to pick for their new houses. Or fining new and more spouses. Bloody idiots. Look. I have supported Mbeki through thick and thin. Defended him wherever I could. I even defended his initial position on HIV/Aids in South Africa. And justified his initial approach to the Zimbabwean crisis. But it has gone too far. People are dying in South Africa because of his idiotic HIV/Aids policies and lack of action. And people are dying in Zimbabwe because of a tyrant that has gone bonkers. Mbeki and his “quiet diplomacy” just sounds like “staying quiet”. Sorry you two idiots. Time’s up. You are not welcome anymore. Just take your stuff and go sit in the corner. And be quiet. We have a name for people like you. It starts with an “m”. “Moer-something” in Afrikaans and “Mother-something” in English. Just go. Don’t hang your curtains. Hang your heads in shame. Or just hang your heads.

5. McCain inspiring old white men in Europe

I don’t think so. Okay, maybe he does if you include the arms dealers. But other than that, McCain inspires people outside the US about as much as Osama Bin Laden inspires tolerance. yes, there might be one or two out there who would fall for them. But they are loonies and at the fringe. But Obama. Now that is another story. He isn’t even President (yet) and he is already inspiring people across the world. telling them to break out of their racial stereotype and that anything is possible. That you can do it – no matter where you come from. France is going through some tough times right now. Race is at the forefront of so many debates. And they have violence on the streets of Paris. Because people feel hopeless. That in the land of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Well educated blacks have to compete with 15-year old white kids for a job at McDonald’s. Nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s. But when the color of your skin stoops you from aiming higher, then you have a problem. But all of a sudden Obama is making people talk about race in France. And what it means. And how it can be overcome. And how it can inspire people to continue to fight the good fight for equality. Real equality. Not just a French word. That is inspiring. That is Obama. McSame? Well, apparently the old people in France likes his comb-over. It is so provincial.

See ya later.

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You know me. Pretty much a patriotic South African. Proud of our history. And deeply affected by Madiba – Nelson Mandela. I think the guy did an incredible job starting us off on the right track. Oh, we had a few other great leaders as well. But Madiba was our big daddy. Our Patriot. The John Adams of South Africa. The man who fought so hard to bring freedom to our little country down South. Just like John Adams and the other Patriots did over here in the US. (Oh yes, just like with the US, most of our subsequent leaders have been less “patriotic”, loved, reputable and effective as leaders than those original Founding Fathers.) So, I read with interest the recent flood of opinions regarding Nelson Mandela needing a special waiver to enter the US because he is still classified as a terrorist. As a South African I will refrain from commenting on whether he is a terrorist or not. That should be obvious. I will also refrain from blaming President Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney for this as that would be easy, but also opportunistic and a cheap shot. The fact is that President Mandela’s good friend President Bill Clinton had 8 years to undo this injustice. As did his partner Senator Clinton. I am more concerned with the policy behind this terror list and the message it sends to other “liberation” organizations and individuals across the world.

Nelson Mandela, and the African National Congress that he belonged to, were put on the list because the US government supported the Apartheid regime’s classification of the ANC as a terrorist organization. This indicated support of the Apartheid regime by the US government – both Republicans and Democrats. Again, I will refrain from discussing the Apartheid regime. I think we can all agree that it was a regime based on one of the most unjust and oppressive political systems in modern history. Really, take it from me and the people who suffered and died at the hands of that regime, they were not a nice bunch of guys to be associated with. Trust me, your mother will be most disappointed if you hung out with them.

On the other hand, the ANC was a peaceful organization for most of its history. It was established in 1912 in direct reaction to being excluded from having any political rights under the Union constitution of 1910. They remained an organization who believed in peaceful protest against the oppressive governments that gave no political rights to black South Africans. They did not even revert to violence when widows of black soldiers who died fighting in WWII received no pension whatsoever. It was only after 69 people were shot, mostly schoolchildren shot in the back, on 21 March 1960 in Sharpeville that the ANC got banned for calling a national stay-away campaign. Note, still no violence called for by the ANC – just a stay-away. It was only after more murdering by the Apartheid government and the arrest of more than 2,000 people that the ANC took up the armed struggle against the Apartheid government – while they were banned from South Africa. Their “military wing”, Umkhonto we Sizwe(Spear of the Nation), was only established in 1961. They officially took up arms when exiled. They took up arms when their people got murdered, arrested and taxed to death and they were banned from being in South Africa to represent the oppressed in even a peaceful way. Remember this bit – people being taxed, not represented in government, no ownership, murdered and arrested left, right and centre AND their “party” being banned even though they are promoting peaceful resistance.

In short, the ANC was a peaceful organization for 48 years before they took up arms. And only after they got banned and people were murdered in public did they take up arms. And they continued this armed struggle against the Apartheid regime for the next 30 years. So yes, they were peaceful for much longer than what they were in the armed struggle. But still the US and many other Western governments declared them a terrorist organization. And before you get on your high horse – they only started taking in money and support from the old USSR when all those Western governments refused to provide them with any support against the Apartheid regime. Many, many years after they got banned and classified as a terrorist organization. A case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”

Let me put this in language and context you might get. A bit closer to home. Imagine you live in the US. Peacefully. Oh, there is a colonial power in charge, but you don’t care much for them. But then they start shooting your people when they protest against the unjust laws and taxes these colonial powers instituted against your people. And, of course, you don’t have full representation – only token representation. So after many years of continued oppression you say “enough is enough” and you stand up and have a big old war for independence. And you take support from anyone – even those who also have oppressive systems in place in their own country. Let’s say like asking the French monarchy for support even though they did not give their own people the rights you were fighting for and who were an oppressiveregime to their own people. Oh, wait – that happened here right? Imagine that, those Patriots who stood up against the British rule would have been branded a terrorist group if the current US application of the term terrorist was used by the colonial master back then. See, the ANC was like the Patriots back when you fought for your independence… And I for one will defend John Adams and anyone else who dare call them terrorists. They were freedom fighters on the side of the good and the brave. On the side of the oppressed. They were the good guys. They were the brave guys. Full stop. Not terrorists.

But the problem they would face today is that there is no clear guidelines on what will constitute a terrorist organization in the eyes of the US government.

So, does the US classify organizations based on their opposition to legitimate governments? No. As the case in South Africa highlights, the US government supported an oppressive regime and not those seeking democracy. It did the same in Angola and in Mozambique. It supported the warlords in both those countries who fought the legitimate governments. Governments who continued to win the popular democratic votes in elections from before, during and after the wars that ravished these countries. And, of course, the US supported the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and many Latin American dictators who were as oppressive as these African and Middle Eastern dictators. Yes, it was during the Cold War, but it still… The US build their partnership in the same way the ANC did – not being picky, but just picking anyone who will fight against the injustice they believe their own people will or are facing. Both picked dirty friends. And neither of them can claim that the other one had “worse” friends than the other. You willing to make a call on whether you would prefer the Taliban or a Communist? Not an easy choice is it? A bit like a pan and a fire choice I think. Hello pot, cheers kettle.

But it still leaves the question open – does the US classify organizations as terrorist if they take up arms against any type of government then? No. The US government is not averse to supporting organizations who take up arms. As mentioned before, they supported violent groups in Mozambique and Angola. And they have continued to do so – who can forget the call to arms of Iraqi’s during the first Gulf War? And the direct or indirect support for those who take up arms against oppressive regimes.

So what is a terrorist in the eyes of the US government? Who knows? And that has been the problem with declassifying Nelson Mandela as terrorist. We have no clear guidelines. How can we declassify someone when we don’t know the classification in the first place? It’s a bit like just building a road and seeing where it takes us. Or a railroad. And remember the big railroad bubble of 1893? This road is just waiting to blow up in our face and create panic.

At the very least we need to know what a terrorist is. I don’t mean some global definition we can all agree on. I am not that naive. All I can ask is for the US to have a clear definition. But there isn’t. Do yourself a favour – try and find a clear definition anywhere in the US laws. Too vague and too many loopholes. How can we win a war against terrorism if we can’t even define who or what is a terrorist? So far we have been more or less lucky. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were relatively easy calls. Sadam not so easy. And the more we go into this “War Against Terrorism” the more fuzzy it will become. I would really like Nelson Mandela to not be classified as a terrorist. And I really don’t want us to start a war against the next John Adams and his group of Patriots. He was a Patriot. And so was Mandela. Let’s not shoot at anything that moves. Not every shadow is a threat. Let’s know who we fight. Because how else would we know when we have won?

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Just heard the great news that Oscar Pistorius – the fastest man on no legs – will be able to run at the Olympics! The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that he is eligible to race against able-bodied athletes, overturning a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Here is the story I wrote about him a few months ago. He is one amazing guy. An inspiration to us all. And a proud South African. Run Oscar! Run!

Run , baby, run

Get ready for the big race. This is the finals baby. An Olympic medal awaits. This is his chance. This is the Olympics. This is his Olympics. He is a racing machine. He is ready. This is what he has been working for. This is what he has been training for day in and day out. Come sun or rain, he was there. Training and training and training. Eating his pasta when he wanted a burger. Nibbling a salad when his body wanted sweets. And then some more training. Training and running until his lungs burnt and his legs hurt.

No wait. At least the part of the legs that he does have will hurt. You see, he doesn’t have legs that goes all the way down. He was born with a few key bones missing. And they had to chop off his legs just below his knees. But just a few years ago he decided he wanted to run. And boy could he run. Run like the wind. He broke every record for those without legs. He became the man amongst big men. He was the superstar amongst heroes.

He ran on blades made just for him – the Blade Runner. And he ran so fast they called these blades “cheetah” blades. He was as fast as a cheetah on the hunt. And, well, the blades looked a bit like cheetah back legs. But now they are saying that his “cheetah” blades make him run like a cheater.

Let’s stop there for a minute. He is too fast running on his sticks? Are they are worried that he might be too fast for those with only two working legs? Are you serious? Have you actually seen this guy running? Here, have a look. Notice how he is about 10 meters behind the other guys when they start off? His “legs” hold him back because there is no thrust to push back. No calf mussles to help him jump at the start. Did you also notice that he has to swing his legs out a bit because he does not have the natural swing of the other guys with their luxury knees and legs? Doesn’t look that comfortable does it? Doesn’t look like he has the smooth running style of the “leggies”, does it?

But who are you going to believe? Your own eyes or science? Some mad German scientist (weird hair an all I assume) decided that our man Oscar Pistorius runs better than the “leggies”. That he has an advantage over them. The swing is the problem you see. According to the German punk professor our man has an advantage over “leggies” when he makes this swing as it gives him a bigger stride. And the problem is? The other athletes can swing their legs as well, can’t they? They know that it might save energy and give them a bigger stride. But they also know that it is as uncomfortable and unnatural as hell. And not the best way to achieve speed and rhythm. You can’t run like that if you want to be a world class athlete. (No, I wasn’t an athlete, but I have a friend who ran the Olympics and won a silver. That’s bragging if you didn’t catch it).

Or can you be a world class athlete without legs? Maybe, maybe not. We might never know. The Olympics held up their much loved values (like with China) and decided that this is not in line with the spirit of the Olympics. (But China is). Scared an umlungu from Africa might beat your steroid enhanced, human growth hormone injected druggies that call themselves athletes? Scared we might beat their sorry arses? Scared the “leggies” might be leggless by the time we are done with them? Yes, I am calling you chicken.

You will let guys who were caught cheating with drugs run, but you won’t let our boy run. Shame on you. You and your rules will let Dwain Chambers run, but the Brits had to bring in their own rules to stop him from running at the Olympics. Your history is littered with cheats who won in a blaze of glory only to go down in the fire years later because of drugs. Johnson and Gatlin and Jones – when do you want me to stop? You held them up as champs and the epitome of the “Olympic Dream”. A nightmare now, hey?

Let our boy run. He is the real deal. He is the Olympic Dream. He is the fastest man on no legs.

Oscar – run, baby, run.

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Or should I say – chubby. No, still not politically correct. Hum, help me out here people. Maybe something like challenged by gravity. Nah. Let’s go for some French style – food seduce youngster. I really don’t mind what you call it. The fact is that kids are getting fatter by the day. And we wonder why?

The UK just reported that “despite millions of pounds of government money and a stream of media messages, children are more unfit than ever“. I lived in the UK for 4 years and can tell you why they have an obesity problem in the UK (and I bet the same goes for the US). An obesity problem that will kill their children at a faster rate each year. And the problem is pretty obvious. And the solution not that difficult either. Just get out of your nanny-state mindset and look at the problem – and how you are part of it.

For starters – you spend millions of pounds on a stream of media messages. Jeez, really guys. The kids are doing what when you send these messages out? They are sitting on their backsides watching Spongebob Squarepants or Back at the Barnyard (clue – I have kids). And they use the ad break (when you send THAT message of don’t eat to much crap) to quickly run and get a bite to eat. Thanks for giving them a break in between programs to go and fill up. And they don’t sit and read The Guardian or watch BBC News. No. Not rocket science guys. But it happens when a bunch of politicians tries to come up with good ideas – it never ends in good ideas. Same thing happens when Spongebob’s best friend Patrick tries to think. But at least it is funny when he does it. No. You have to get the message into those programs they watch and not in the break in between. Spongebob – guess what he does for a living? He makes hamburgers… What do the kids want for dinner? Krabby-patties the way Spongebob makes it. Just run down to the local McDonald’s to get some then… You have to get Spongebob to make good food fun. Don’t you try it. You will come up with another boring program telling kids what to do. And that doesn’t work. You are not the role model and neither will the character that you invent. Get the cool people who created Spongebob come up with the idea. That’s what they do best. Make eating fruit fun. Not the dreary faces telling people how bad that burger is. That ain’t gonna work. Get with it baby. Be cool and be hip (that is so 80s saying that). Sorry, be hot and be bad. But just don’t put your messages in the wrong place or in the wrong mouth.

But don’t jump on the “blame junk-food” bandwagon. That’s the easy way out. Yes, ban them where you want – I don’t care. Think that will stop kids? It will be like banning porn – the challenge for kids to get it will be just more pronounced. “I dare you to go and buy a hamburger”. Sell bad food like cigarettes or beer and see if that works. Those kids who drink and smoke will now have another thing to try and get – a nice fatty hamburger. And they can try to sell as many salads and apple slices as they want. That is not what the kids want. It is just a way to get the kids there at a young age. They’ll switch to the Big Mac sooner or later. No. Banning them or forcing them to be more responsible won’t work. The best way is to get kids not to want to go there in the first place. Make them the Evil Empire Zurg. Give people a Spiderman toy when they don’t go there. Not when they go there. Get kids to go and play in the park instead.

Of course it doesn’t help that you sold off the school sport grounds for development. More and more acres of sporting facilities are lost each year. Why? Because school funding has gone down the drain. And schools must come up with their own money. And since you gave them power over the assets – what did you expect them to do? Plant a money tree? Easy choice – fire more teachers and give even worse education to the kids or sell some assets? Sell the assets. Who’ll notice? Oh, the fat kid in the corner? He’s just to lazy to do anything. Comes home from school and lives in the high-rise block of flats with no playground. Can’t play in the streets anymore. This isn’t the 50s you know. There are cars in the streets now. Let’s get out the house for a bit and meet up with our friends at the mall for a shake and a burger. Rocket science? I think not. Just stupid government policies and lack of vision.

Instead of playing outside we have to give the kids new distractions to keep them off the streets. Sky, iPod and Wii (at least some action). Nothing else to do but sit in front of the idiot-box and watch a bit of Charlie and Lola I guess. And Lola likes what? Pink shakes. Ever wondered why the young yobs outside are all so thin? No, it’s not because of the cigarettes they smoke. And for sure not the beers they drink. It’s because they are outside. Yes, they might be trowing bricks at windows and spraying graffiti on walls. But they are outside and active – nice and fit from the running away from the coppers. We can learn more from the yobs than from the government messages. Get outside and run, baby, run.

But it is not just the stupid government ideas that should be blamed. No. Parents are just as guilty – if not more. I saw them while in the UK. Sitting and watching Neighbours instead of cooking or doing something with the kids. You sit there and eat your fatty fish and chips from the chippy. And drink your five beers in the pub at night. And what do you think your kids are doing? Huh, I don’t know. I gave them a fiver to go and buy some food. Or, at best, I cooked them some pizza and/or mechanically recovered chicken pieces – all deep-fried. Get off your lazy butts and go and do something with your kids. They are your kids. Not government kids. Take responsibility and act like you care. Eat together and talk together. You live under the same roof and should wake up and smell the burning fat. Go outside and kick a ball or take a walk in the many parks you have. Hell, you can even drive them there if you really have to. But don’t expect government to do everything for you. Be proud man. Are you the same nation who fought two wars? I doubt it. Just grow up and do what is right for you kids. Or else they will turn out just like you. And before you ask – yes, that is a bad option for them. And for your country.

You want to know how to deal with obesity in kids? Just let them play. Just let them play outside. Just let them play outside and have fun. Just let them play outside and have fun and live a full life. Not a full body.

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I like a good smoke. Just sitting down and reflecting while having my cigarette to myself. Have a drag on my smoke while drinking my Starbucks and staring into nothing. Or sipping my beer with a fag in my hand. Of course, that’s just a story. I don’t smoke. Hum, really I don’t.

I used to smoke. And I enjoyed it so much. Especially with a cuppa Joe. Thinking of my horse and the land before me. Ready to explore and take on the wild west. I smoked Marlboro – when I could get hold of it. And I loved the Marlboro man. He reminded me of the land before it got so busy. I fell for their advertising 100%. But it was stupid. Come on. I am South African. We couldn’t get Marlboro for over 20 years. But still, I remember the images of this cool guy on his horse. I wanted to be a cowboy like him. And that meant I had to smoke his brand. But I was stuck being Egyptian – smoking away on my Camels. Those were the days. The days before my kid looked at me and asked me to quit. She would like to have her dad around for a few more years.

Even if I did smoke it would be even more difficult to have a smoke over here in the US. You can’t smoke anywhere. At least not here in Boston. They stopped that from happening anywhere. I never smoked in my home (I have kids) but still, nowhere to go for a man and his “little vice”. And the same when I was over in England. We used to huddle together us smokers. The new underclass. Frowned upon by the reborn crowd and laughed at by the clean ones. But come rain or snow – we used to huddle together outside for our communal habits. I made some good contacts at the outside ashtrays. Now you can’t even have it in pubs anymore. The poor English. They never have much to smile about – living on their little island where it is always rains as if it’s god’s urinal and you can’t afford anything because it is so bloody expensive and your teams is always losing. (Hint: who won the Rugby World Cup and who didn’t make it to Euro ’08?)

They even clamped down on smoking in South Africa. As if we don’t have enough to worry about. But now you can’t smoke anywhere. Of course, the problem is trying to police that when you have so many other things to police – one of the highest rape and hijacking ratios in the world. Policing smokers isn’t much of an issue then.

It could be worse for the police. You should try France. How the hell did that law pass? The French were born with a baguette in their one hand, a glass of wine in the others and a smoke hanging from their lips. It’s impossible to get them to stop smoking. It will be like asking an Englishman to cook a decent meal, a German to tell a funny joke and an Italian to win a war. It just doesn’t work that way. What response do you think you will get if you ask them to stop smoking at the cafe? A shrug of the shoulders, a wave of the hand and a “C’est la vie“. The resistance movement could have learned a few things from their addiction. All they had to do was tell the French that the Nazi’s will take away their baguettes, wine and smokes. Those Krauts wouldn’t have survived a day in France if that happened.

But a few years back the world got together and decided that they have had enough. Time to call it quits on smoking worldwide. And the solution? Make all smoking laws the same worldwide. It doesn’t matter if you are in Boston or Bamako, London or Lusaka, Paris or Port Harcourt – everyone will have the same rules. No problem. Global rules to get rid of a global problem.

And it is a global problem. According to the World Health Organisation more people die from smoking than TB, malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Okay, most of those deaths happen in the West with malaria, TB and HIV/Aids still being the big killers in Africa. But the idea was a good one. Get rid of a killer before it gets completely out of hand in Africa. We have enough other problems to worry about.

But it didn’t work out now did it? Nope. Africans governments have largely ignored this agreement. We still don’t have a standard global set of rules for the tobacco industry. And tobacco companies have used this opportunity to target African countries and other developing nations to advertise and market like its the 50’s in America. But why haven’t they introduced these rules? Let’s have a look at some of the ‘practical’ proposals that made up the guidelines.

1. Very high taxes on tobacco companies.

Easier said than done. Many African don’t have the luxury of a solid taxman. So bringing in new taxes on fags won’t make it any easier to collect taxes. But the biggest problem will be the backlash by the people. See, there are very few pleasures left in life in a continent where so many people fight diseases, natural disasters and conflicts every day. One of the few things people can still ‘enjoy’ is a quiet smoke at the end of the day. Share it with their friends and just relax. Yes, I know, it isn’t really relaxing, but try and tell that to someone who is hiding from the local warlord or who just saw their crops fail. Or in crazy cities like Port Harcourt where it is one of few things you can enjoy at the end of the day. A smoke, a beer and some friends. Day complete.

2. Total ban on all advertising and promotion.

Yeah, this will help rake in the extra cash. Advertising and promotion brings in extra cash for the government and other industries. Small business start by selling smokes – one guy next to the road or at a traffic light. Advertising agencies develop. And government make some cash as well. Oh, don’t forget the health services also benefit… Of course the biggest plus is sport events. Tobacco and alcohol companies (don’t dare touch my beer) sponsor major sport events all over the place. Pulling them off the shelf would mean no money for sport events and sponsorships. That’s right, say goodbye to those Kenyan athletes, Nigerian soccer players and Angolan basketball players (okay the last one was a stretch).

3. A ban on smoking in all public places and workplaces.

Ha. Don’t make me laugh! The police have more than enough other things to worry about. You think they can go and try and police smoking in public places? I am not even going to go there. And when you get paid so little for the back breaking work you do, the last thing you want is someone to tell you where you can and cannot smoke. And I don’t want to be the employer that tries to bring in that rule either.

4. Large, scary warning pictures on packs.

How scary do you want it to be? Maybe some dead bodies? Been there, done that. Seen it. In real life. What’s a picture going to do? We watch Fight Club and think it is a romantic comedy. Those scary pictures won’t work. Hey, wait. Maybe you should put a picture of Brown or Bush on there and tell us we will look like that if we don’t stop. That should do it. No way we want to look like that. Or go for Paris or Britney if you want the women to stop. That will make them stop in no time. Now those are scary pictures.

5. Strong programs to help people quit.

Again. We got this money problem. Programs paid by who? We can’t even pay our teachers and doctors decent salaries, how are we going to run programs to educate people? We have leaky borders, how are we going to run efficient programs? We have to spend our money on more important things. Borders, education, health, infrastructure… tell me when you want me to stop. And don’t you dare take that aid and put it anywhere near smoking programs.  We struggle enough getting the money and already have our hands tied by your tied aid. So don’t spend it on something we really don’t need right now. I’ll put that smoke where the sun don’t shine.

That’s why smoking bans will never work in Africa. Not now. Maybe in 20 years or a 100 when we can look back and only remember these dark days. Bloody hell. I think I need a smoke.

Note: Fag – what the English call cigarettes.

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