Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jieeng Council of Elders, the Erosion of Jieeng’s Values and the Jieengization of South Sudan

First off, let's remember that the elders I'm talking about are not the REAL ELDERS, but the dollar-intoxicated, Prado-Driving, educated political 'elders' in Juba. I'm not referencing the real elders in Jieeng Villages!

Elders, the world over, are supposed to be the voice of reason and wisdom. They should be the people to calm down a young and fiery generation, who’s always interested in solving everything through myopic physical means. However, this is not the case in South Sudan as the nation has had every order of things turned upside down. Elders have lost wisdom and reason as they are the first to beat the drum of war and division. Personal benefits are put above the health and long term well-being of all citizenry! It’s very sad but there seems to be no end in sight. We are free falling!
Undoubtedly, it's no secret that South Sudan is a tribalized nation and it will take a seasoned, self-sacrificing strategist to formulate a long-lasting and acceptable panacea for the chronic malady of tribalism. So far this strategist is either not given a chance to help save South Sudan, or she/he doesn’t’ exist.

Since 2005, after the death of late Dr. John Garang De Mabior, South Sudan continued a downward spiral toward failure, naïve tribalism and unbridle corruption. The saddest part of all this affair is that the perpetrators of the problems don’t seem to realize the danger they caused and continue to cause.
Since the days of Sudan African Nation Union (SANU) with the likes of Father Saturnino, Joseph Oduho, Agrey Jaden and Deng Nhial, tribalism has always been a problem. Tribalism also caused Oduho to form Azania Liberation Front (ALF) and Agrey forming Sudan African Liberation Front (SALF), all of which short-lived. Tribalism also dogged the Southern Sudan Provisional Government (SSPG) with Gordon Muortat and Agrey Jaden. The formation of Nile Provisional Government (NPG), the Anyidi Republic and the eventual takeover of the liberation struggle by Joseph Lagu resulted from both personal ambition and tribalism. After the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, the power-play between Joseph Lagu and Abel Alier was an epitome of instrumentalized tribalism. Energies and resources were focused on tribal rivalry as development was shamelessly ignored.

In a word, tribalism isn’t something new in the South. However, one always hopes that past historical mistakes be corrected in an attempt to create a helpful way forward. Unfortunately, in South Sudan, past mistakes are reimagined, reformulated, and instrumentalized for power and wealth. This brings me to the infamous Jieeng Council of Elders (JCE). Instead of making sure all tribal elders in South Sudan come together to not only help children understand tribal values, histories and historicity across tribal lines, but also make sure they institutionalize tribal wisdom in a helpful manner, JCE has become a divisive, boot-licking, dirty group bent on making South Sudan a Jieeng republic!
Jieeng are supposed to be peace-loving people, people who try to bring people together. It’s either I was wrong, or our elders have changed. JCE, headed by the likes of Martin Majut Yak and Ambrose Riiny Thiik, has become a great liability to South Sudan. Where on earth do you find young people advising elders not to be divisive and hawkish? Where have the Jieeng values gone that I can clearly see the danger they are causing South Sudan when they can’t see it? If these are the elders we have then South Sudan is doomed to fail beyond the current failure-pit level. Are these the elders young people should consult for wisdom?

Martin Majut recently told a Jieeng radio presenter [SBS Radio] that Jieeng liberated South Sudan so we [Jieeng] deserve to be the rulers. Are these the elders we should admire? Why do I know that such a statement is wrong when an elder can’t see it? Ambrose Riiny Thiik recently admitted that the idea of the unconstitutional 28 states was their idea. It’s no wonder the president accepted it without putting any thought into how dangerous the idea could be.

How did we, the Jieeng, become this callous, greedy, divisive and short-sighted? Have Jieeng values become completely eroded that elders are now behaving like children? A nation where younger people advise elders to be wise, conciliatory and inclusive, is a nation whose values have been eroded. How can Jieeng elders allow Nuer to be massacred in Juba? Where is the wisdom of Jieeng in making sure Nuer are safe in Juba and out of UNMISS camps?
It’s no surprise that President Kiir has no elders to give him wisdom to lead. His being advised by corrupt, myopic, blood-thirsty, greedy old man who’ve abdicated their duty as elders is taking us to the grave.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Color Identity and Self-Identification: The Case of Raven-Symone

Raven-Symone Pearman has angered many African-Americans regarding her identity utterances. Even her father wrote a letter in support of his daughter while acknowledging that she can say some dumb statements sometimes. However, looking at some of the responses to Raven-Symone, I realized that some  comments revealed some ignorance regarding the identity of Africans and people of African descent in Europe and in the Americas. Below are two of her quotes.

Raven-Symone - Courtesy:
  "I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.” - Raven-Symone

I never said I wasn’t Black. I said I wasn’t African American. To me, that’s a difference. Thank you to, actually, for sending me my DNA test. I am from every continent in Africa, except for one. And I am from every continent in Europe, except for one. And for the last 400 years, my family has been living in Virginia. How long do you have to be in one country before you’re that?”   - Raven-symone

There has always been, and continue to be, a huge identity crisis that’s never been solved or fixed into a given humane paradigm. Paul Gilroy’s 1993 book,  The Black Atlantic, confused the identity crisis issue even more. Gilroy detaches the descendants of African slaves from Africa and argues for a ‘hybrid’ form of identity that makes use of cultural elements from Africa and the 'west.' Despite his call for his hybridized view of identity, Gilroy however, played down any rootedness or a strong sense of Africanness.
People of African descent in the US, especially descendants of African slaves, have never had a fixed, univocal identity. Even worse, their identity has always been something decided for them by others, especially European-American scholars. Even renowned ‘Black’ scholars like Louis Gates, Cornell West, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, W. E. B Du Bois, Paul Gilroy, among others, struggled and continue to struggle with the issue of identity. To single out Raven-Symone without critically looking at the general context that informs her ‘ignorant’ utterances is actually ignorant in itself.

The descendants of African slaves in the Americas were not only commoditized but also dehumanized and anything that gave them a sense of humanity taken away. Slave traders and slave masters knew the importance of culture, religion and organic identity so they made sure anything that connected slaves to Africa was removed. Sociologists call that ‘cultural or social death.’  All people of African descent in the Americas  were killed socially and some of them are now trying to rise from that death.

This social death continues to dog these people to the present. Touré in his book , Who's Afriad of Post-Blackness and Gates in Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackman, exemplify this identity crisis. Some of the people they interviewed in their books had this sense of confused identity regarding who they are. Gates, interviewed by Touré, argued that there are as many ways of being black as there are African-Americans. In other words, there are 30 million ways of being black. Some people interviewed by Gates saw being called ‘Black’ as limiting them. I am a human being who happen to be black, some would say.
This underscores one thing. Raven-Symone isn't alone! While some people would see their response as a rejection of self, we have to remember that what they are rejecting isn’t themselves but a sense of identity, rooted in superficiality of color: Black. They are rejecting what Europeans and EuropeansAmericans said they are and should be. You can’t have intellectual and social power if who you are is someone else’s fancy. Black, Nigger, Negro, Colored weren’t term meant to praise the African Personhood. They were all meant to devalue and denigrate her. She had to accept them because she had no power to self-determine, to be self-determinant as sociologists say.

This is where I have to remind Ms. Pearman about saying she's 'Black' and not 'African-American.'  She's called 'Black' because of her connection with 'Africa' not her connection with Europe!

When, I, who has a very dark skin pigmentation is classified in the same color identity as Colin Powell (Who looks more European), then you know something is wrong. Colin Powell is closer to George Clooney color-wise than to me, however, Colin and I are described and classified as ‘Black men.” And Colin, lacking the capacity both personally and racially to define himself, simply accept that he is a ‘Black man.”

Sudanese president, Omar el Beshir, who’s darker than Colin Powell, is called an 'Arab' and Powell is 'Black'. What connects me with Colin isn’t ‘Blackness’ but Africa. The only commonality I have with Colin is  Africanness not blackness. It is really Stupid or Childish to think that Colin is ‘Black.’ He’s 'black' only because of his inability to define himself and by what Europeans and Europe-Americans want him to be. He has some Africanness in him and that piece of Africanness makes him unsuitable in the greatness of Europeanness, supposedly. And we still think the 18th/19th 'Racial Purity' is gone!
So if people like Raven-Symone try to define themselves, what we need to do is ask them to put their dissent into context in order not to be misunderstood. Ms. Pearman isn’t rejecting herself nor does she think it’s bad to be someone of African descent. What she’s rejecting is a condition she’s been placed in: Being called 'African-American.'  She’s rejecting what she feels is an imposed identity; something educated African-Americans have not been able to do sufficiently.

I disagree with Raven-Symone as she needs to understand that being called African-American is more respectful than being called 'Black.' If you don't want to judged by the color of your skin then don't make the color of your skin your identity.

Gates, in his interview with Touré and in ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man’ sounds really defeated an incapable of defining anything about identity as a scholar. He just fits himself into the  presented Eurocentric status quo availed by his European-American scholars.

The only difference between Raven-Symone and the rest of us is that she’s been able to naively say that out loud on national TV. The rest feel this sense of resentment towards European-originated color-codification of people or even against being called African-American. Educated folks go with 'African-American' but less educated folks go with 'Black.'

However, to reduce the richness of people's culture, tradition and values to a mere color is not only to devalue their humanity, but to also see them as of less significance. This is a problem that has always dogged African-Americans. Jesse Jackon's first public use of the term African-American is an example of an identity that originates from the people and also presents them not as mere color  but as people with cultural origin. Raven-Symone needs to remember this.

What Raven-Symone wanted to do is to detach herself from anything 'African.' She believes she's been in America long enough to be an 'American.' What she needs to remember is 'what kind of African?"  Italian-American, British-American, German-America...? Even people like Ms. Golberg of 'The View' once said she doesn't want to be hypernated.  But who's not hypernated in America?

Identity crisis is not Raven-Symone's fault. it's America's fault! Ms. Golberg and Ms. Pearman need to remember that they are 'black' because of their connection with 'Africa.'


Monday, September 28, 2015

Is Hillary Clinton Robotic and Amoral ?

Hillary Clinton recently said something that’s morally and politically unfortunate. For a world-class politician like Clinton to utter something so robotic, so dispassionate, is very disconcerting; and pundits and average Americans should be concerned.
Many people in the world are more concerned about American presidency and elections than we realize. And this might come as a shock and questionable to many Americans because non-Americans can't vote in US elections.

However, America meddles in the affairs of many countries; and the decisions taken by American governments affect the citizens of these countries more than Americans realize. The cult of expertism has made Americans ignorant of world's socio-political and geopolitical affairs; and also, too dependent on 'Experts.'
Beside the fact that America is the only super-power (in a vague sense) and that any vile American economic decision sends shockwaves throughout all economies in the world, it's prudent that we, as non-Americans, question the moral standing of aspirants for American presidency.

About a month ago, Democratic Presidential hopeful, Hillary R. Clinton, was asked by a group of 'Black Lives Matter' about what she could do to help their cause. Beside the fact that her response was cold, dispassionate and dismissive, she proved what pundits and analysts say about her: that she's not relatable on a human level.  Clinton talks to voters like a human-like robot!
With a straight, robotic face, Mrs. Clinton told the activists she doesn't believe in changing hearts but in changing laws. She later on acknowledged the fact that you can change some hearts but not others. Of course, the latter is the core of human social reality. No matter how good something is, some people will oppose it!

What bothered me as a moralist and humanist was the moral dryness and dispassionate manner  Clinton talked to the activists. A leader who’d possibly make very intricate and life-changing decisions needs to have humane ways of looking at things.
For Clinton to say she doesn’t believe in changing hearts but in changing laws, she betrays the a-moral nature of the would-be president of the most powerful nation in the world. In the scariest sense of the word, Clinton is saying she’s not obligated to regard African-Americans in a humane, passionate manner unless the law says so. She’ll only respect them and treat them well because the law tells her to. This is terrible!

Good people-to-people inclusive attitude is the only way to create inclusive societies where discriminatory practices are not systemically pervasive. Civil Rights leaders (both African-Americans and European-Americans) didn’t wait for laws to be changed.  Conscientious European-Americans didn’t wait for laws (Civil Rights Act, 1964) to make them respect African-Americans. Anti-Slavery activists and Abolitionists didn't wait for laws outlawing Slavery. They saw the inhumanity of segregation and acted because they felt the human-ness of African-Americans. Without the action of these humane hearts, there would have been no inspiration to changes in discriminatory legislations.
To change hearts is to make people understand the rationale behind any social campaign. Once people see the point of such social demands and understand why they should be met, their change of hearts becomes long-lasting and impacting.

Once you depend on laws to make people respect each other, you’re basically making people bottle-up their feelings. You have to address people’s feelings (bad or good, informed or ill-informed) instead of forcing them.
No matter how good something is, people will naturally resist it if you force it on them.