Thursday, January 31, 2008
1) I made my first ever political contribution last week--to the Obama campaign, thus apparently becoming one of the 170,000 new donors to his campaign this month.
2) I am an independent (morally so--disliking the partisanship of American politics I've seen my whole life), so I have never voted in a primary presidential election before. But next week, I'm going to go in and file my absentee vote for the primary (I don't live in one of the Super Tuesday states, and I don't have to register for a party--although I would if I had to).
I watched the debate tonight and thought it was a very pleasant conversation. (And isn't that a great photo...?)Hillary would probably do fine, as a president, and I actually enjoyed hearing her speak tonight. But Obama has a rare fire, and the charisma both (paradoxically) to unify and to shake up the status quo. This is not your everyday candidate...
I'm impressed and moved by how he has built up a grassroots support of independent voters and youth. I support his policy of not taking money from federal lobbysts and his committment to a "clean" and positive campaign. I also am impressed with his experience with grassroots level community activism, and I believe that he, more than Hillary Clinton, can actually rally young voters to continue their activism during his administration. While initially I had hoped that he might have more experience Washington before he ran, I find convincing his argument that being a Washington newcomer is an advantage. While Hillary Clinton has been moving in political circles for the past 20 years or so (and would be yet another dynastic succession should she win the nomination), he has recently been a community activist and had experience at a local level. (The other counter argument, of course, might be that GWB did not come into the White House with much experience...and we don't want a repeat of that. But then again, WHAT exactly was GWB doing before he was a governor? Managing a failing baseball team? Why did people vote for him--was it--perhaps because they looked nostalgically back to his father's time in office and thought that his father's advisors might do a good job helping him lead the country?) And finally (and perhaps this should not be the last reason), I also agree with Barack Obama's positions on the environment, on immigration (more than I agree with Hillary--ie. drivers liscences), his plans to make health care affordable, on his desire to bring a new international diplomacy to the White House.
So, my underlying idealism (always there, deep down) has burst my educated veneer of cynicism about politics and for the first time in my life, I am voting for someone I am excited about, rather than for someone I dislike less than the other guy/gal (and it IS good to have, for the first time, such a strong female candidate, though I'm not voting for her) running. He has made me hopeful about politics--has introduced the startling idea that politics can actually be practiced to bring about positive change, which is, believe me, a transformation from the way I've ever thought about politics before. And this perhaps is at the root of the youth movement behind him. The media has this truism about how youth don't come out to vote. Perhaps the REASON behind this is that for our whole lives (or at least the time we've had to vote) there has been nothing really to rally behind, other than, perhaps, trying to unseat Bush, which is not really a positive reason to vote. It's been the same old politics as usual--always nasty, always partisan, always predictable. Barack Obama represents something new and exciting.
I like him so much I fear to see what American politics will do to him and, of course, I dread the inevitable letdown that people who have claimed him as a kind of messiah will feel when he gets into office and they discover that he is a human being who makes mistakes, but I think the dream he offers is one worth following. Will he establish peace on earth and good will toward men? No. Let me not be blasphemous.
Will he be able to do what he's promised? Probably not altogether. Not by himself, but if enough youth continue the grassroots movement they've begun to elect him, we might be able to bring about some serious change. Maybe. It's worth hoping for, anyway--and it's worth my vote.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
on my cd player, Issa Bagayogo croons to a writable beat, followed by Brenda Fassie.
i attempt to induce my brain to begin labour of a dissertation proposal.
And I wonder about the mandatory charity tax imposed by shari'a in Bauchi....
last night i tried to listen to the state of union address while simultanously skimming a dissertation someone else finished in 2005. I could only make it about half way through the address before my annoyance superseded my desire to be an informed citizen. who were all those idiots applauding and cheering? and has there ever been a president of this country that sounds as absolutely unintelligent as GWB?
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I have just posted three of the reviews I wrote on films last year on my other blog.
Yeelen (Mali) directed by Souleymane Cissé
Keita: the Heritage of the Griot (Burkina Faso) directed by Dani Kouyate
Bye, Bye Africa (Chad) directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Monday, January 21, 2008
"Hope is not blind optimism. Hope is not ignorance of the barriers and hurdles and hazards that stand in the way.... [It's] imagining and then fighting and then struggling for and sometimes dying for what didn't seem possible before... Change doesn't happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up." (21:30, 24:48, etc).
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Waiting for an Angel opens in a prison setting. The imprisoned journalist Lomba is engaged in a battle of wits with the prison superintendent who is extorting poetry from his prisoner in an attempt to impress a woman. If Lomba’s story were told in a straight line, the way it might appear in his prison file, it would be the story of a failure: a student who drops out of university, who loses friends to madness and military violence and the women he loves to other men, a writer who never finishes his novel and whose journalistic career is cut short by his arrest in the slums of Lagos. However, this is not the story that Habila tells. By breaking up and rearranging the linear story of Lomba’s life, he wrests control of the narrative away from an environment-determined fate. The novel starts at the end of the chronological sequence and then circles back to gather stories of other characters in Lomba’s Lagos: a young boy banished from his home in Jos for smoking Indian hemp, an abandoned out-of-wedlock mother, an intellectual in a tragic love affair with a former student turned prostitute, the daughter of a general whose mother is dying of cancer, a disillusioned woman who runs a neighborhood eatery, a man who defies the soldiers on the night of Abacha’s coup, an editor pursued by the police who refuses to go into exile, a legless tailor who dreams of bidding poverty goodbye.
This concern with multiple perspectives on history is behind what at first glance might seem to be an editorial flaw in Habila’s two novels. When reconstructed in both novels, time doesn’t quite add up. According to the chronology given in “Mamo’s notes toward a biography of the Mai,” the number of years between the installation of the first mai by the British and the current mai should be about thirty two or three years, yet the time period is stretched from 1918 up to the 1980s (MT 238-240). The year-long planning period for the celebration of the mai’s tenth anniversary seems to turn into three. Similarly in Waiting for an Angel, the time between Lomba’s stay at the university and his imprisonment seem much longer than the actual historical tenure of Abacha’s regime. He supposedly meets and falls back in love with an old girlfriend some time after he becomes a journalist. Yet, two weeks before he is arrested (after he has worked at the Dial for two years), another girlfriend, with whom he has lived for a year, leaves him. The times between the two love affairs don’t quite seem to add up.
Placing the novels side by side gives a hint to what Habila is doing here. In Waiting for an Angel, Habila gathers up historical events that happened along a spectrum of ten years and bundles them into the space of a week. Although Nigeria is kicked out of the Commonwealth in November 1995, in the novel, a week after this event, Dele Giwa, the editor of Newswatch Magazine, is assassinated by a parcel bomb on the same day that Kudirat Abiola is assassinated by gunmen. Of course, historically, the two activists were killed ten years apart: Dele Giwa during the Babangida regime in October 1986 and Kudirat Abiola during the Abacha regime in June 1996. The quickening rhythm of disaster in this chapter of Waiting for an Angel parallels the last quarter of the Measuring Time in which Mamo falls into the hard-partying lifestyle of corrupt politicians, religious riots break out, and the quiet town of Keti goes up in flames. Time here is not a mathematical iambic pentameter that can be measured with a clock, but a living fluctuating force that lags behind and loops around to find the stories of multiple characters. It reminds me of the way time acts in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude or in oral tales and epics. It cannot be diagramed into a dry progression of events such as those found in A Brief History of West Africa or A Brief History of the Peoples of Keti but instead can only be mediated through the memories of those who experienced it. In his afterward to Waiting for an Angel, Habila acknowledges the liberties he has taken with the chronological order of events, “[N]ot all of the above events are represented with strict regard to time and place—I did not feel obliged to do that; that would be mere historicity. My concern was for the story, that above everything else” (WfA 229).
Mamo’s story of Keti, like the story of Lomba in Waiting for an Angel, becomes in miniature the story of Nigeria—not that it can represent all the complex and multi-faceted stories of the nation, but that it offers an example of what can be written: the individual stories of ordinary people living in extraordinary times. Habila layers his work onto that of older writers such as Achebe and Ngugi who rewrote colonial history in their early works, and joins other contemporary Nigerian writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Teju Cole whose writing seems similarly concerned with providing entry points into historical events as lived by ordinary people. Measuring Time ends with the performance of a play by church women’s group, both celebrating and mocking the appearance of the missionary Reverend Drinkwater into Keti history. Mamo realizes that through their caricatured performance, they are telling the story on their own terms, invoking a way of life much older than the colonial encounter: “They were celebrating because they had had the good sense to take whatever was good from another culture and add it to whatever was good in theirs: they had done this before when they first met the Komda, and many times before that in their travels and migrations, in times earlier than even the oldest among them could remember. This was their wisdom, the secret of their survival. This was why they were still able to laugh… each generation would bring to this play its own interpretation” (MT 382). This at root is the power of Habila’s work—the ability of humanity to laugh in the face of tragedy—the ability to undermine stories that have been told for you by telling them yourself.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Here is an article written by Ngugi wa Thiong'o about the elections before the election. And here is an article about how PNU party members harassed and violently intimidated Njeeri wa Ngugi, Ngugi wa Thiong'o's wife, and Ngugi's children before Christmas.