Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Weekly Sneak: Resolutions

Hello! The blog is still alive in case you have checked in and wondered about the scarcity of posts. It occurred to me sometime during a very busy last quarter that in fact blogging is a vacation-free committment. So I took some down time and have consistently deleted every blogpost drafted within the past week and a half. But it's time to get back in the saddle. It's been a while since I offered a peak of what's going to appear in The East African, so here goes:
... every time someone is interviewed on television or on radio for their opinion, they should be fined if they cite the government as being both the root cause of and the potential solution to any problem without providing alternatives. Double fines should apply if the person being interviewed is a civil servant. Immediate dismissal, egging and a public shaving of the head should apply to all elected politicians who blame the government for anything at all. However, perhaps prizes should be awarded for the greatest leaps of blind faith, such as believing that the Government of Tanzania has the capacity to predict let alone control the weather for the benefit of its people.
New Year's Resolutions are one of my favorite things, mostly for the entertainment factor that comes with knowing they are almost impossible to keep. Good luck with yours.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Complicated: What Does Good Governance Mean When It Comes To Sexuality?

Apparently, Tanzania recently rejected the UN's suggestion that polygamy should be banned within her borders. For all that we pretend we want to conform to similar standards of behavior, when it comes to sexuality that pretense falls apart completely. Tanzania is a consummate don't-ask-don't-tell society for many reasons. This is both a blessing and a curse, depending on the issue. One reaction I found interesting when giving David Cameron a little push-back on the idiotic notion that the legalization of same-sex marriages should be an aid conditionality was that this means I am Against The Gays. Time to revisit the topic of governance and sexuality, seeing as The American People are considering similar tactics.

First of all, I would like to state openly that using aid conditionality as a direct mechanism for influencing cultural/social change isn't something I support. It is a coercive tactic, and the attitude of cultural superiority that underpins such behavior is distasteful.

Sexual rights lobbying is an issue that requires information, cultural sensitivity, diplomacy and savoir-faire. Frankly it's quite enough to endure Traditional/Religious prescriptions of reproduction without adding the public sector into the mix. The Government of Tanzania cannot be left to its own devices in defining sexual deviance- the temptation to exceed it's authority would be irresistible. As it is, the incline on the uphill battle to decriminalize same-sex unions has probably increased due to the amount of attention this issue is getting. Given any more room to do so, the afrochauvinists will unite with the christianists and tip over the entire mango cart.

Here is one thing that The American People got completely right: the Fataki Campaign. Sexual rights lobbyists might want to pay attention. It has been at least two years now that we've been listening to the various skits and radio ads warning minors against sexual predation. "Sidanganyiki" has become a catchphrase and I heartily congratulate them on this achievement. Not only has it brought to light a real and very widespread sexual behavior that Tanzanian society suffers from- pedophilia- it has given minors some small glimmer of hope while shaming those adults who engage in it. Somewhat.

I work and live with people who state publicly that they find homosexuality disgusting. This is not an uncommon attitude, especially amongst christianists. However, because we take a rather liberal attitude towards these matters, it is also uncommon for this disgust to be translated into direct violence or even shunning. I am not saying that violence doesn't happen so much as we've found a way to "accommodate" the sexual continuum without stepping too hard on each others' toes. Don't ask, don't tell- it isn't ideal but it is further along the path to freedom and respect than one might think.

Cultural sensitivity is a hard principle to live, sometimes. I have had occasion to wonder at people who get very intense about their notions of sexual politics, like one lady who refused to Salsa because she felt that the male-leading-woman-following model was oppressive to the woman. Goes to show how much she knows about dancing, but I get that call-and-response is a cultural physical language that not everyone grows up with... so whatever warms her Northern European heart is fine by me. I think that the trick for everyone involved in these conversations is to remember that not everyone was weaned on Hans Christian Andersen bedtime stories.

There are only about three-ish ways in which I would support government regulation viz sexuality: the protection of legal minors and extreme punishment of those adults who prey on them, punishing non-consensual sex and sexual violence, and possibly controlling extreme behaviors that could result in public health threats*. Otherwise, frankly, the public sector should simply find a way to accommodate us. Which the GoT does: polygamous unions, de facto and de jure unions, dowry or bride-price, religious, civil or traditional...our practices are many and the mechanisms to regulate them exist. Using them well is up to us, and I think that with time we may work our way up to effective decriminalization...

Talking about perspectives, it tickles me that currently North America is growing a polyamorist lobby that is working its way up to pushing for the legalization of polygamy. I believe they might have to unite with the Mormons on this issue. Politics makes for the most wonderfully strange bed fellows. I would be most gratified to hear what Cameron and Clinton have to say about that particular sexual right. If they do not know where to begin, perhaps they can ask the offices of Jacob Zuma or King Mswati to advise their governments. What's that? Totally inappropriate? Oh, well. The offer stands.

*If you believe that same-sex sex is the worst thing out there, may I suggest you start with this here link and keep on trucking until you reach the limits of your tolerance. Ignorance is no defense. Happy trails.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tanzania at 50: Confessions of a Couch Sweet Potato

There was a call for the Dar es Salaam Bloggers' Circle and TZ blogosphere to put up a post on the celebrations of Tanganyika's 50th Independence day which I fully intended to answer. But I spent most of the weekend on the couch at home napping to recover from the first summer cold of the season, watching the independence celebration on TV or reading other people's work. It was glorious. For the rest of the year I plan on basking in the afterglow of the climactic long weekend. TZ50+ will be recurring as a theme often enough in the coming years.

Here's some of the good read I have gleaned off my Twitter stream, and the Circle:

1. Shurufu's piece on nationalism and identity at this point in our history is thoughtful, if ambivalent at the end. Which is not a bad reflection of the state in which many of us youthful Tanzanians find ourselves.

2. Less emotive perhaps, Ahmed offers this piece in VijanaFM which ends on more of a challenge for Tanzanians to think and act.

3. The Creatively Maladjusted's piece on social media in TZ was a very nice bit of of journalism indeed. Food for thought if you're a socmed practitioner in this market.

4. Swahili Street with his finger on the political pulse manages to ground a very serious topic in a lucid way: the growing frustration of the young majority. It might be brief, but it is the best bit of thinking I have read about this to date, and definitely worth more commentary from social scientists.

5. Some great fact-based perspective from Daraja about the water supply in Tanzania, and what 'development' actually means in this sector.

6. And finally this interview with Seko Tingitana who produced and directed the excellently executed Mkwawa documentary.

And for dessert, some nice pieces from outside TZ:

1. Although they hid it in the middle of their article on the growth of African prosperity, I did find the Economist's pseudo-apology: "Since The Economist regrettably labelled Africa “the hopeless continent” a decade ago, a profound change has taken hold." What was that? Sorry, I didn't quite catch it... could you PRINT THAT BIGGER? Okay, thanks.

2. Last but not least, I really enjoyed Charles' article about African gender roles and contemporary masculinity. It'll put a smile on your face.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Radio Tanzania Archives

Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam is sitting on a huge collection of really good old music and other archives, no doubt. The State was the only broadcaster for, like, ever and I know that all its media organs are sitting on archives of seriously valuable pictures, audio and film recordings that are probably rotting in storage as I type this. So here's a project I am excited about the Radio Tanzania Heritage Project.

They got in touch recently with this message: "the Tanzania Heritage Project is an organization attempting to revive the Radio Tanzania Dar-es-Salaam archives through digitization, film, photography, and social media. Please let your friends and networks know what we're trying to do. We don't want to do this project unless we have the support and excitement of Tanzanians."

They are Tweetable @RadioTanzania and if you want further networking holler at the addresses online or let me know to hook you up with the project team. Fade out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grassroots Movie Scene: C.P.U. Movie and Mkwawa

I was charmed by the movie C.P.U. last Thursday, which was the last reaction I expected to have. I'm going to have to get myself a copy of this for record-keeping purposes in case any of the cast or crew hit the big time and I can totally cadge bragging rights. It's not a perfect piece of work: the sound editing is verging on disastrous, and there were many lovely little mistakes in the filming that gave it that home-made feel. But the movie did manage to deliver that urban edge that I was hoping for.

There were a handful of truly well executed scenes in the movie, but the best has got to be the staring contest. It involves an investigator, a prison warden, a fan and a cigarette has instant Bongo film classic written all over it. Oh, the thing about movies making people appear bigger than they are in real life? Totally true. I saw the cast after the movie and they are about one eighth of the size they appear to be on screen. I'm hoping that this movie isn't the end of the story because the script left cliffhangers of epic proportions...

Counting down to Mkwawa the Movie which I understand is going to be playing after the evening news on ITV on Saturday 10th December. tick. tock. Our little independent movie scene is growing up :)

A little birdie told me...

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