Monday, October 18, 2004

Weekend's activities

The weekend was diversely spent. I came to work on Saturday morning only to find there was no electricity. I sat in my office in the heat until the laptop battery had nearly ran down. Then there was a power cut at home for 3 hours. With a temperature of around 37 degrees it was too hot to think about doing anything. But then the power came back on and I set to work fixing up my digital music system. I'm going to be making music sampling fuji - a king of yoruba/islamic drum and bass. Then Bibi came back fluffed up and excited about the Nigeria social forum event taking place next month she'd just found out about. I was knee-deep in cabling at the time so it took me a while to share her excitement (a case of male trainspotter time delay syndrome).

Later, a former colleague from my last job came up from Lagos. Paul is a real character - a black british guy who's lived and worked as a consultant in Jamaica, Miami and a few other places and got a mixed up accent, segueing from london street to Kingston to Miami within a paragraph of speech. He also has 25% more energy than the rest of us and can spend hours and hours talking without tiring and looks 35 but is in fact 47 (he puts that down to spending a lot of his life being vegan and not drinking). He's also deeply Christian (Seventh Day Adventist). The interesting thing is that his christianity is not oppressive or hypocritical in the African evangelical self-righteous showy way. It makes him extremely humble. There's an openness about him which commands respect and attention. This combination of a powerful personality and humility is rare. A lovely guy. We gossiped about the company ('gisting' as its known here) - a place which produces volumes of gist per month it seems.

Highlight of Sunday was putting new flat wounds on my precious antique Gibson ES-175 jazz guitar (Joe our ham-fisted cook/steward busted my e-string when moving it) then watching a few more episodes of series II of Six Feet Under which gets better and better, with a few glasses of wine as accompaniment. I cant remember enjoying tv as much - that ancient kiddy feeling of not wanting something to stop.

Lowlight of Sunday was watching some more news about Darfur - the Rwanda of 2004. The West is just sitting and watching while genocide takes place. And Blair is deeply complicit in the process (why on earth did he launch the Commission for Africa preliminary findings in Sudan a couple of weeks ago - implicitly endorsing the murderous Sudanese govt?) Of course, everyone knows that Darfur is yet another resource war: clearing the wretched of the earth from the oil rich terrain.

Question: will technology ever change the way we engage with distant attrocities? Up till now, media technology has for the most part anaesthetised us, rather than re-awaken our ethical apperceptions. What if we could fly audio-visual bot-like gadgets into the bush where the Darfurian women are gang-raped and the men's throats are cut? Would this footage just end up on all those ghastly snuff-sites full of Al-Qaeda beheadings, or could it leak elsewhere? Or do we really hit an epistemic wall of insensitivity: the less you look like me and share my values, the less I care about the fate of your people?

Before watching 6fu, we watched A Thousand Georges - a film by Mario Van Peebles about the real-life story of the unionisation of Pullman workers in the 1930s - the first black union in the US. It makes you realise how many untold stories there are in America - the land of stories. More specifically, it demonstrated how the Hollywood myth machine represses any story that shows either white people or corporate power in a bad light - the ongoing unfolding of an ontological white corporate supremacy. Given the money and resources of America, the level of repression against anti-corporate counter culture is massive and all-pervasive. A Thousand Georges (all black Pullman workers were named as George) was similar in many respects to Matewan - John Sayles' epic union-struggle film from the late '80s. Why is it that in the age of the Internet and a time when making movies has never been so cheap and easy, more of these stories dont come out?

One book to recommend here (although I dont have my own copy yet) is Gone To Croatan an anthology of stories about revolutionary/hybrid social movements and events in a forgotten America.


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