Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Weekly Sneak: Pro-Government Conservatism

This week, I am being exceedingly conservative in The East African... please prepare for some very dry musings. I need a little time to make sense of what's actually going on under the nose and daily assault of information. Also, recent activities that placed me on the outer peripheries of several movement/activist type initiatives have got me recoiling into my staunch pacifist corner again:

"The reason it is worth raising these concerns now is that hand in hand with an escalation in violent conflict between Tanzanians and their government there there is a worrying trend in the forums of free expression that live online. Empty and not-so empty threats are not uncommon as more and more young men- why is it always the young men- are threatening to 'do anything' to liberate themselves from the state's oppression. Hate speech is creeping up on us. Trouble is, we are standing on the brink of deepening our democracy significantly in the next three years. The question is whether we will take our inspiration from the Obama school of social change, or have we already bred a generation of Julius Malemas?"

Beware the populist leader, I say.

Worse yet, I am actually heaping some praise on the Kikwete administration for its commitment to democracy. My Celebrident might frustrate the living daylights out of me from time to time but at the end of the day he hasn't given me reason to fear that he has gone rogue. The trickle-down effects of his Tanzania-first attitude have been beneficial and I believe in giving credit where credit is due. While I can never join the party, I have no trouble with appreciating it's utility and competencies:

"It is worth repeating here that the current President has remained staunch in his avoidance of straight autocracy. With a Party chairman willing to exercise a bit of authority in order to retain as much of the spirit of 'public good' as he can manage, CCM has proved itself to be the chameleonic, learning organization that is smart enough to follow the winds of change. And as long as it is willing to flex and adapt to the times, however small the adjustments may be, then Tanzania retains a fighting chance, which is entirely different from the chance to fight. There is something to be said for that, and it is a lesson that I hope opposition parties are paying attention to."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Weekly Sneak: Bare Naked Lady, Almost.

Using the benefit of experience, cashing in on our cultural practice of revering mother-figures and employing the Tanzanian gift of the gab, Ananilea Nkya managed to tongue-tie some big tough policemen by threatening to bare her breasts at them. Well, she didn't put it quite like that but she did say that if they were going to search her she would strip down and get nekkid right there in public to make their job easier. Since this was a good-cop-bad-cop routine, her colleague Helen Kijo-Bisimba "cajoled" her out of it, telling her to be reasonable. Listening to the recording of the encounter on radio, I couldn't stop laughing.

Weapons of the weak can be so terribly effective. The Righteous African Boob-Flash is one of the most feared weapons in a Bantu woman's arsenal, one against which there is no known defense. To be the cause of a mother-figure baring herself at you is to implicitly insult your own mother and all mothers by gazing upon her nakedness and despair. It calls into question your manhood, your Utu, your ability to function in polite society. Basically, it makes you a creep of the creepiest order. The policemen could hardly contain the panic in their voices as Ms. Nyka verbally routed them, escalating to drive home the humiliation of their actions in trying to arrest her. I wasn't the only one who found this amusing, clearly, seeing as the radio stations have been playing the recorded arguments over, and over, and over again... :)

And so ended the doctors' strike and the mini-protest that could. Yes, activists were arrested. They knew what they were doing. They were released on bail. We're all happy that Mizengo Pinda did his Pinda thing and talked the doctors off the ledge. With all these developments, perhaps the article coming to an East African near you is no longer as fresh as it was on the day I sent it. I am glad.

"Anyone watching that evening's news could pick up on the complicity of the policemen and women who were supposedly breaking up what was clearly an illegal gathering. It took all of one hour and involved handwritten signs, a few chants and the obligatory screaming into journalists' microphones, and that was it. Those watching that night's news broadcasts would also have picked up the strong whiff of desperation with which Prime Minister Pinda was “inviting” all doctors and medical staff for a meeting at Muhimbili National Hospital for a sit-down at 9:00 am sharp the following morning."

While we celebrate this small victory, I want to keep in mind those who lost loved ones and those who suffered untold pain due to the doctor's strike. Someone always pays the price.

A little birdie told me...

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