Are Nigerians ‘Model Immigrants’: A Lotta Hellas

Politicians and the media constantly promote the idea that immigrants are harming their host country simply by being there and the only that immigrants can counterbalance this harm is by giving back in an extraordinary and noticeable way. 

I left Twitter for the calmer environs of Facebook so I could be less angry – less visibly angry anyway.  I know that Facebook content tends to be more conservative and less socially aware so I had one simple rule  – I’d  unfollow anyone who tempted me to respond angrily.  When I broke that rule, twice, on one topic, I decided that it was time for another blog post.  

The background to this piece is the news that President’s Trump travel restrictions, the so-called travel ban, will, in February 2020, extend to Myanmar, Eritrea, Krygzstan, Sudan, Tanzania and to the shock of my fellow Nigerians, Nigeria.  I can’t pretend I wasn’t a little surprised.  I haven’t fully kept up to speed with Trump’s antics (atrocities?) and the last I heard, the travel ban was known as the Muslim ban.  My first hastily drawn conclusion was that this had something to do with Nigeria’s large Muslim population, Boko Haram and Islamophobia.

The restriction will prevent citizens of  the above countries from obtaining visas which would allow them to immigrate to the United States permanently but would still allow them temporary visas to visit, study or work temporarily.    Despite it not being a literal ban on Nigerians entering the US, an American former class mate, in the context of choosing a location for  our class re-union, has opined that it would be difficult for alumni with Nigerian passports to obtain a visa to travel to the US.  This could be because there will be additional hurdles even for those seeking temporary visas to show that they have no intention of seeking permanent residency, have private means of support etc.

There are over 300,000 documented Nigerians in the US and probably many more American-born citizens with ties to Nigeria.  Travel from Nigeria to the US from Nigerian citizens is already strictly controlled  and full of stories about arbitrary decisions and disproportionate questioning.  These new restrictions will have a significant impact on Nigerians, or people with Nigerian ties, on both sides of the travel divide.

Not knowing much about the travel ban, I expected to see debates from Nigerians  about whether the concept of travel bans are just or a draconian limitation on freedom of movement and whether the US has grounds to do apply these restrictions to Nigeria.  I no doubt expected questions as to why Nigeria was on this list.  The White House’s official statements asserts that  Nigeria is not complying with:

“the established identity-management and information sharing criteria assessed by performance metrics. Nigeria does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, which is necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the United States.” Therefore, “The entry into the United States of nationals of Nigeria,” with some exceptions, “is hereby suspended.”

The extract seems to me vague, difficult for a lay person to understand and more importantly to know what Nigeria has to do to reverse the ban.  The full statement is here:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-improving-enhanced-vetting-capabilities-processes-detecting-attempted-entry/

Relevant questions have been asked of course but some people have chosen to lament Trump’s decision on the basis that Nigerians are ‘model immigrants’ – the kind that work hard, are disciplined and eat good (or something).  This is hella wrong in a number of ways – hella delusional, hella generalising, hella offensive, hella right wing rhetoric and hella pointless.  Let’s flesh these hellas out.

  1. Hella…not really true:  Nigerians are model immigrants, apparently.  First of all:

giphy hella 1

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things which are great about being Nigerian but I think if you conducted a survey among, say, a medium sized group of law enforcement professionals, only a minority would agree that Nigerians are ‘model immigrants’.

Or perhaps it’s a different Nigeria they are talking about – not the one which sits between Chad and Benin Republics (and Cameroon).  Because it can’t be the same Nigeria whose citizens  are constantly the  butt of jokes about fraud, even in outer space (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfwf9B0jUwM).  Not the same Nigerians in Peckham or any part of East London or London or any city in England or even Accra who other Africans complain are unbearably loud, rude, crass, pushy, arrogant (noooooo!) and dishonest.  Again, not the same Nigeria that one of my best friends was talking about when she confessed to me that she was nervous of making friends with me because her mother, like the parents of many Africans at our university, warned her to ‘stay away from Nigerians’.

During the induction course at my new firm, the Finance Director trained us on anti-money laundering regulations and told us about the official list of high risk countries maintained by the EU.  This Nigerian country, which produces ‘model immigrants’ can’t be the same country also named Nigeria which was not on the list of high risk countries but which my finance director felt compelled to mention.

“It may not be on the list now.” he said, in a tone that seemed to imply  that it had very recently, in his view, temporarily been removed.  “But you still have to be very careful of transactions involving Nigeria.” (causing me to take back my breath of relief when the list ended without Nigeria being on it.  I and other Nigerians do this a lot by the way.  When Kweku Adoboli was convicted in 2011 for  one of the biggest stock trading frauds in recent history, my first thought was “Well at least he isn’t Nigerian.”)

I don’t think you can just unilaterally declare yourself to be a country full of “model immigrants”.

2.    Hella generalising:  Let’s face it, despite the above, I’d be just as critical of  an article which suggested that Nigerians, as a whole are loud, uncouth criminals, perhaps even more so let’s analyse this claim a little further.

We all know that there are Nigerians and people of Nigerian origin, resident in the US and other parts of the world who have made extraordinary  achievements in science, medicine, literature, computing, sports and mathematics, to name a few areas. However, let’s hope, for the sake of sanity, that the  claims that Nigerians are model immigrants aren’t based on what can’t be more than a minute percentage of the Nigerian immigrant population.  To do the maths , if say, 5 million Nigerians live outside Nigeria (and the Nigerian Guardian estimates this figure to be more like 17 million) even 50,000 outstanding Nigerians would make up only 1% of the Nigerian diaspora.

They probably mean Nigerians who, because of their ambitions to become middle class, contribute through working, owning business, buying nice things (consumerism),  paying taxes, and perhaps the odd bit of mentoring as opposed to committing crimes, engaging in substance abuse, being unemployed and/or homeless and relying on state welfare.  Even if these are markers of being a good immigrant, is there any evidence that the Nigerians who do this are in the majority as compared with all the Nigerians in the diaspora?  And to put a slightly related  question, even if the ‘bad’ Nigerians are in the minority, are they are in such a small minority that the deeds of the model Nigerian immigrants cancel out their impact on society?

Nigerians have a reputation of being hard-working and ambitious.  Yet we hear overwhelmingly of Nigerians’ casual attitudes to integrity and dishonesty.  What really is the truth?

And what of the people from whom these model immigrants are drawn – the vast majority of Nigerians back home?  If their counter-parts in the diaspora are model immigrants, surely they should be model citizens.  Not if you ask these snooty, middle-class diasporans.  According to them, majority of Nigerians back home are a bunch of thieving, greedy, swindling, lazy, undisciplined  lot and part of the reason the model immigrants left the country in the first place.

However an alternative narrative  is that all a Nigerian needs to succeed and realise their true potential is to leave Nigeria.  It’s the leaders that are bad!  They are not Nigerian at all – they are from a planet called Planet Evil.

Nigeria is a difficult country and I am not denying that Nigerians are, by and large, used to working harder for the same or less gain.  However, what the average  middle class Nigerian is talking about when she calls Nigerians model immigrants are Nigerians from a relatively small and wealthy pool of  people, who have sometimes imbibed the values of the very unfair society that Nigeria is,  often with the means to pay for higher education, who are doing very well.

The fact that people like that are visible especially as black people in certain industries by no means prove that the rest of the Nigerian diaspora are model immigrants by even this standard.  What middle class Nigerians (myself included!) are insulated from are the struggles of poorer Nigerians with less auspicious backgrounds, the things they have to do to survive, sometimes the crimes they commit and more than anything else they are shielded from the horrendous reputation that Nigerians as a whole have in many parts of the world.

3.  Hella offensive: Before I go into what makes a good immigrant and how that fits into the right wing rhetoric, I have to say how offensive I find this statement to firstly to other African immigrants (and immigrants from other parts of the world in theory but I’m sure every region has that one country that fancies itself to produce ‘model immigrants’) and to black people, frequently non-Africans,  who have paved the way for Nigerian immigrants and African Americans in particular.

Firsly, who says that Ghana, Kenya or Sierra Leone are producing less than their fair share of people contributing in terms of working, running businesses and paying taxes?

hella 2
Kenyan man surprised and disappointed at his low ranking immigrant status.  “I thought we had a shot.”  he said mournfully

Why is the model immigrant assertion even an answer to the travel ban?  Isn’t it a way of saying, ‘what of all these scummy other immigrants? why not shut them out? why us????’

hella 3
Somali woman not at all surprised by her low ranking since she knows that us model immigrants have never forgiven her and her fellow  Somalians from fleeing a civil war and coming to the West in numbers.  Without their designer dregs.

Or is part of it  that Nigerians are trying to communicate to the world how different they are to those lazy, unambitious African Americans or in the UK, Caribbeans?

If so, it is hella offensive, isn’t it? It also completely fails to acknowledge that Nigerians have been able to succeed because of the grounds laid for them by these people and the welcome hands that have been stretched out to Nigerians who are able to jump back and forth between utlising laws intended to uplift African Americans from the traumatising impacts of slavery and Jim Crow laws  and claiming that they do not have the historic chip on their shoulders that African Americans carry and are therefore less problematic (not all Nigerians etc).   Attitudes like this contribute to the backlash against Nigerians in certain African American communities.

It’s also offensive in a less dramatic way.  People cannot help coming from poverty; from having to leave their country in circumstances here they have nothing; coming from a background where  there are other virtues apart from education and succeeding financially in a ruthlessly capitalistic world.  If Nigerians were naturally endowed with the hard work gene, I think it would have made itself evident in Nigeria as well.  What Nigerians have in abundance is a disproportionate respect for wealth and status that pushes them into certain professions.  A lot of their wealth and status in Nigeria is obtained at the expense of millions of other Nigerians.  A cleaner, a shop assistance, hairdresser  or a taxi driver is no less essential and no less ‘model’ than a bank manager or doctor .

4.  Hella right wing rhetoric:  So what makes a model immigrant and why do we care?  I don’t believe the concept of immigration laws and border control is in itself wrong.  However, immigration rhetoric, particularly those used in politics and in the media, is frequently flawed and bordering on fascist.  The basis of a lot of it is that an immigrant is taking something from the real citizens or the natives.   Therefore the reason why the topic of Nigerians being model immigrants in this context has even arisen is because of the belief that, every single immigrant is under a duty to show how they are personally giving back to their host countries.

In reality, inward migration brings with it new people to carry out jobs, form customer bases, pay taxes and open businesses.  Even on a hard line capitalist assessment and discounting things like new cultures, attitudes and food, all of these create employment and refresh the economy.   For example, if there were less people in the UK, housebuilders and retailers wouldn’t make as much money and various sectors wouldn’t have the skills they need.

Western governments know  this which is why they have several programs encouraging immigration yet politicians and the media consistently tell us, in so many ways, that  immigrants are harming their host  countries  simply by being there and some people have bought into the idea that the only way that immigrants can counterbalance this harm  is by giving back in an extraordinary and noticeable way.  In my view, justifying immigration of or  opposing immigration controls on a particular group of people on the basis that they are good immigrants encourages, not only prejudice and division, but the kind of unjust generalisations that crudely lumps people into categories and values or persecutes them accordingly.

Basing this qualification solely in terms of being ‘intelligent’ (better educated because they   had the means, however dodgily obtained,  to escape an economical and education that is failing the majority of Nigerians), hard working and ambitious which loosely translates into the fact that there are more rich Nigerians is unbelievably exclusionary.  It endorses an unequal system and doesn’t see the value in low paid jobs or people who are less able to perform traditional jobs and tasks, like disabled people.

By calling yourself or your group the good kind of  immigrants, you are not dismantling an incredibly dishonest rhetoric that has added another layer of suffering and misery  to immigrants struggling to cope even as they enable people from the host countries to be more prosperous.  You are enabling and facilitating a cruel system

5.  Hella pointless:  And it’s pointless.  The rage about immigration is not about good or bad immigrants, especially when it comes to people of colour (the only good immigrant is the white English speaking one, as the joke goes).  They don’t care how good you are at your job and you can cure cancer from your own damn country.  Your neighbourhood racist or xenophobic is not impressed by how many degrees you have.  They resent you for it and want you to go away.

This is difficult to explain and even more difficult to accept but the sight of your African looking face, especially if combined with an African language. agitates these kinds of people.  They have to take a breath, calm and rationalise with themselves  when they come face to face with the internal disruption from seeing you and people like you round the school gates.  They have been convinced, on some level,  that immigrants are spoiling their country by default.

It’s depressing enough to have to convince them that immigration is generally beneficial  (or that you are not, in fact, an immigrant but that is another blog post) but trying to distinguish yourselves from other groups of immigrants by telling them, don’t worry, we’re the good kind, the ‘model immigrants’ in fact?  They’ll decide that for themselves, mate.

So that’s it in a ranty nutshell.  I guess on a personal note, it is disappointing how quickly liberal Nigerians (and others ), without any apparent thought, revert to divisive right wing thinking as soon as they perceive any threat to their own interests.

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here By Iain Lovejoy

“I’m scared, Pastor Nick, and I wish you were here.”

A Short Story 
“I’m scared, Pastor Nick, and I wish you were here.
I am not sure what happened. I think there was an accident, I remember the bus, and a noise and a bang and everything rolling over and over and flames and pain, and now I’m here.
Judgement day over a city — Stock Photo
It’s cold, and it hurts and I don’t know what’s going on and I’m scared and there’s no-one to tell me what I am supposed to do.
There was noise, then darkness, then silence, then light. And people, lots of people, and they seemed to be going somewhere, and they were noisy and talking and playing and no-one seemed to be in charge. Except there was this scruffy looking little black girl who was talking to everyone and laughing and everyone seemed to be following her. And she knew my name, and she spoke to me and said “Come on, come with me to my daddy’s house and play with us: there’s a room ready, it’ll be fun!”
Image result for happy black girl
And I almost went; I almost fell for it: despite everything you taught me, Pastor Nick, I was almost fooled. You said the devil is a deceiver, and will try to trick me, and he nearly did. She seemed so friendly and nice, and everyone seemed so happy and getting on with each other and I nearly went.
You know what saved me, Pastor Nick? You know who I saw in the crowd? It was that gay kid, Jack, or John, or whatever his name was: you know, the one you tried to pray the devil out of, the one whose parents kicked him out when they found out about his boyfriend? I remember you telling us that he had never repented, that he had killed himself or something and had died in his sin. Well, there he was in the crowd, happy and smiling with the rest of them, and I knew right then where they were all really going, where that black little girl was really luring them to.
Then, the more I looked, the more I realised I was right. None of the saved were there: you weren’t there, the elders weren’t there, no-one. There were all sorts of people there I’d never seen in church, sinners and strangers, all the kind of people you always told me would lead me astray, and, if I hadn’t listened to you, Pastor Nick, they would have done.
So I said to the little girl “Get behind me, Satan!” like you said I should, and she looked kind of sad, and then I was falling and falling and falling…
I’ve got myself a room now. It’s sort of cold and hot and hurts all at the same time, and outside there’s what sounds like a huge storm trying to batter its way in, and I’m very scared, but at least it’s safe.
Image result for shadow of man sitting alone on floor"
Or it would be, except that scruffy little black girl is still here. I shout at her and tell her to leave me alone and call her all sorts of names but she won’t go. I can see the heat from the room blistering her skin, and that’s got to hurt, but still she sits there telling me over and over I don’t have to stay here, that I should come with her to see her father, who welcomes everyone, and who will make everything all right.
But my faith is strong, Pastor Nick. I know that, just like you told me, my father loves me and I am one of the chosen, and I’m not destined to go with that scruffy little girl and all those sinners to her father, who I bet just takes anyone: she can’t fool me.
But I’m scared, and it hurts, and there’s no-one to tell me what to do, and I’m afraid the little girl is never, ever going to leave me.

I wish you were here, Pastor Nick.”

By Iain Lovejoy

 

 


Immigration As Trauma

But immigration is trauma. That may sound dramatic but it is very true in its own way

 

Immigration, it seems, is the new trauma, the new misery-art, featuring….Nigeria (lately). In the last couple of weeks I’ve watched Farmed, a harrowing tale of a Nigerian boy’s journey from relatively good-naturedly racist foster home to Nigeria back to foster home and then into the arms of the local skin-heads first as a pet then as a not quite fully fledged member (as he finds out) and The Last Tree, a less-but-still harrowing tale of a Nigerian boy’s journey from non-racist foster home to Inner City London to Nigeria.

immigration trauma image 1
Farmed

The context of both films is the practice of Nigerian parents of sending their children to foster homes while they continue their education, save money and/or look for jobs which will bring in enough money to take care of their families. Farmed, based on actor Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje’s experiences, takes place before parent-friendly education and work policies. In The Last Tree, I presume the mother just couldn’t afford to have a small child with her, regardless of any family friendly job opportunities which may have existed in the 1980s or 1990s when the film was set.

Agbaje
Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Immigration stories have always been popular. I’ve recently re-read CNA’s Americanah, a tale of two immigrants and their separate traumas.  In non-fiction or ‘real life’, we are not too far away from horror stories emanating from Theresa May’s hostile environment and Youtube clips of people telling us that they voted to leave the European Union to keep the Africans out.  Both of these are, in my view, the result of decades of demonisation and criminalisation of immigrants combined with under-investment in public services, including immigration control, and a reliance on scaring the public out of their wits of a UK brimming with immigrants singularly focused on stealing their jobs and stripping their public services to the bone.

immigration trauma 5
Former Prime Minister May – the ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants was formulated when she was Home Secretary

But immigration is trauma. That may sound dramatic but in its own way it is, even when that trauma is not anybody’s fault. Regardless of your race and colour, if you can see your parents whenever you want (in theory; they might be avoiding you) and grew up with your grandparents only a drive away in a house they have lived in for forty years and maybe even got a glimpse of your great-grandparents or just missed them because you were born 3 days too late, you will never completely understand the hopeful trauma that is immigration.

Immigration, in the time period in which Farmed was set, was entrusting your children to strangers while working hard to get them out of there as soon as possible. Yes, white was right but having experienced racism yourself, perhaps you knew that plonking black children in a world that was conditioned to believe that black was inferior and proximity to the West was always an improvement, might not be altogether a wholesome experience.

Immigration is being wrenched from the world you’ve always known to stressed-out parents who treat you like we all sometimes treat our kids – 15% treasure, 85% nuisance.  It is relatives who expect you to suddenly understand their strange customs and parents who scream at you for embarrassing them by  not greeting elders like you are supposed to.  It is grandparents who are openly contemptuous  because you don’t know to jump at their every command and you flinch at traditional customs and foods.

Immigration is not seeing your parents for decades and being unable to visit them when they are ill or even attend their funeral because of financial or immigration-related constraints. Immigration means being fearful, even when you are a citizen or have permanent leave to remain or whatever, of a journey that starts at border control on the way to your country of origin. A fear which has been justified by stories of British citizens of Caribbean origin being conned out of their status documentation and then barred from re-entry in the UK as a matter of government policy.

Immigration is 19-year old me attending a meeting with a head teacher because my 14-year old brother was acting up and my parents were not in this country. It is me carrying the guilt of my brother’s eventual criminality, breakdown and mental health issues because I didn’t know how to be selfless enough to be a proper parent to him.

Immigration may have a hand in why Priti Patel can’t just be a fascist in peace, she has to also be a ‘ third generation immigrant’ (as someone on Twitter put it – although she said she was a ‘daughter of immigrants’. Wouldn’t that make her a ‘second generation immigrant’ or, what’s the word for it again? Oh yes, British) It may be why British Asians have to loudly declare their love for Britain before being allowed to criticize anything about it. Or why Asian men still answer to names Bobby, Bob, Rob, Craig and Chuck, short for Azis, Awra, Raja, Amar and Razik.

Immigration is me in 2017 trying to understand why my blind mother was being threatened with deportation by one department of the Home Office and  sent her 1978 permanent leave to remain documents by another. Immigration is me dealing with this saga for 2 years and still feeling ashamed when I had to talk about it, even to my husband and mother in law.

For immigration is indeed about shame. Through a set of historical events and political and racial manipulation, Britain has drawn immigrants from all over the world, including the Commonwealth being the countries formerly colonised by Britain. In some of these countries, a lot of people are living in circumstances which most people would find intolerable, from wars and conflicts (contributed to by Britain’s meddling in some cases) to situations of such bleak economic outlook that there is very little hope of any meaningful future for them and their children.

The United Kingdom has a right to control her borders of course. But British people emigrate for far less (I don’t want to measure the weather). People who immigrate to the United Kingdom are doing what anyone else would do in their position. Allow them entry, let them stay or not but there is really no need to make them feel ashamed. So ashamed that some of the victims of the Windrush scandal were almost more nervous about publicising their newly uncertain immigration status than the precarious situation they had been placed in. Immigration is a practical, governance issue not a moral one.

The irony is that a lot of immigrants are still being invited here to fill in skills gap from the NHS to various skilled workers and migrants schemes. Farming Today recently reported that the agricultural industry needs 70,000 migrant workers to pick fruit which is rotting by the tonne in bushes, fields and trees. The current farm workers migrant worker scheme only allows for a fraction of the required numbers. In carefully managed ignorance of this kind of thing, a large number of the British public voted for Brexit.

Immigration is being relieved you are no longer in the ‘old country’ but feeling strangely defensive about any criticism of it, which pales in comparison to your previous criticisms but somehow  seems hollow and dehumanising, lacking in context and complexity.

Immigration is the lack of logic in feeling ashamed of your accent and trying to change it as soon as possible. Your accent is a product of where you grew up. You grew up where you grew up. It is a fact and neither good nor bad. Even if you have no secrets about your life and a spanking new British passport and it is very obvious from your appearance that you are not the Queen’s cousin, eight times removed , you find yourself subconsciously hiding this part of yourself and your heritage from others.

Immigration is stumbling over the question ‘where are you from?’. If you never stumbled over that question, you do not know diluted joy of being an immigrant. Your mind races, in about three seconds, through a series of questions wondering what they are asking, what they really want to know and how you can reassure them, even you are not sure what you are supposed to be reassuring them of. You stumble through your well-rehearsed, but never well-delivered story, of how you were born in this country, went back to Nigeria because of whatever and came back whenever because of ‘instabilities’ until they kindly let you know that they were just asking what city you lived in.

Incidentally, I’m not sure what I think is going to happen if I don’t launch into a long explanation which ends in me firmly asserting my British citizenship. Do I think friends and acquaintances are going to ‘report me to immigration’? And so what if they do? I am a British citizen, aren’t I? The answer to that is that there is something negative about being from another country and living in the UK. You feel you have to explain why you are taking up their ___________

Immigration is coming to terms with all of the above only to relive the trauma when your children become of school age and you wonder whether it’s your kids that no one wants in their school because the more colour a school has the less likely it is to be ‘a good school apparently1‘ (I’m talking about regional England now not the liberal London Islington elite daring to express an opinion to the daughter of immigrants or whatever nonsense Priti Patel was spouting).

Immigration can of course be much worse. I’ve watched friends unable to work, having no future back in Nigeria and unsure of how much time to invest in the hope that they will become legal citizens. It can be living stripped of status, stateless in a hostile environment. It can be a state of being forced into criminality simply because there is no other way to survive. It can mean existing as an abused person, a slave or a victim of trafficking at the ‘mercy’ of hardened criminals simply because there is no where to go and no one to report anything to.

Immigration can be good trauma. Something that benefits in the future or knocks some sense into your head like finally catching your flaky boyfriend snogging another girl. But seriously, immigration frequently is positive beyond the opportunities available to you in their new country of residence and despite the questions and the negatives, the acceptance and politeness, especially in the UK.

Immigration can mean opening up to new cultures and new ways of life and ridding yourself of classism and other prejudices which was your way of life. For example, before the internet and its unreliable wokeness, many Nigerians were die-hard homophobes who had never met anyone who would admit to being gay and who have shed that prejudice as a result of their new country. Many of them lived in gated communities where they were taught not to think of working class or poor Nigerians as full humans like themselves and have found themselves, reluctantly or otherwise, interacting with Nigerians and people from all walks of life.

As in ‘The Last Tree’, many Nigerians grew up thinking that beating and physically punishing a child was the hallmark of good parenting, one that set them apart from these lax white people and useless ‘West Indians’, who let their children run riot, instead of the parental abuse which we now know that it is. That strategy has come home to roost, like the fabled chickens, as the news reports now feature violent West African young men who were probably brought up in that way. Not only ‘JAH-my-cans’ then. I found Femi’s mother’s behaviour appalling in those scenes , but also familiar, both from my childhood and as a parent and I am distressed by this.

One last word about the films. Femi and especially Enitan embodied the kind of surly, young, seemingly impenetrable older black teenage boy or young man that some people would cross the road to avoid, if only they could figure out how to do it in a way in which the person they are trying to avoid doesn’t notice. Faces that seem angry, invariably darker skinned, expressionless, hooded eyes, hoods (if worn) up, their walk a concentrated, forward-leaning, focused gait, their fists partly clenched. People are scared to look at them for too long or to get in their way in any other manner. They fear that once those boys get angry with you, no amount of reasoning would stop them from carrying out whatever course of action they think is justified. Dehumanising and reductive for starters and I dread to think how many black boys just walking around, thinking about their Tesco shop, are subjected to this kind of stereotyping. In the case of the films, the person doing the stereotyping would have been partially right, particularly in the case of Enitan.

What saves both boys and turns them into smiling, relatable human beings again is their association with Nigeria. In the first film, Enitan’s parents, now barristers in Nigeria, stump up the cash to send him to a special school which turns him from semi-illiterate skin-head to the holder of a masters degree in law and in the second, Femi’s trip back to Nigeria completes his healing.

What happens to the black boys for whom there is no deus ex machina from the motherland? But I digress. The one thing these films do well is show that Immigration is a trauma. A necessary, unavoidable trauma, and not all bad, but it is something that, in your own small way, if you are immigrant, you are continually recovering from.

This essay contains parts of an essay which I have partially written called “The Windrush Scandal and A Very Big Problem Called Immigration” which I will hopefully complete and post some day.

1You can in theory spend your time looking for a good school or area before realising it is you, your child and others like is what some people think make a school or area ‘bad’.

Book review: Identity Crisis By Ben Elton

All this implies that the reason that #metoo has taken the spotlight is not because there was a problem with predatory sexual behaviour and crimes but because more and more women are either lying about or misconstruing sexual episodes.

 

First of all, warning: there are mild spoilers in this review!

I have read a lot of Ben Elton’s books (my favourite remains Two Brothers written in 2012 about the Holocaust) and I like to think I have some history with his writing. I obviously have this in common with a lot of people but he is one of four authors – including Marian Keyes, Chimamanda Adichie and Nick Hornby – who, when I see their new book already out in paperback, already on some sort of offer that I think “Oh! They have a new book out! How come I didn’t know about that, then?” It’s probably because Ben, Chimamanda and Nick are not on Twitter (and the latter two have obviously decided that they will never write a book again…..)

14021au

Unlike me when I write fiction, Ben mixes his stories with social and political commentary. One can’t assume what his views are from what his characters think (indeed, you don’t have to assume them since he airs them freely in his non-fictional work and in  interviews) but there is always one or more characters who you can tell represent what he considers to be reasonable and/or common sense views. I would call him a preachy writer and next to Christianity, his writing (or  teachings ha ha) has been the biggest influence on my moral views – certainly my liberal ones anyway. In my view, he has a way of reasoning that doesn’t isolate people with opposing views. I was quite right wing when I started reading his books.

The social commentary in Identity Crisis is on cancel and outrage culture. I don’t remember him using the words ‘cancel culture’ in the book which may the first clue that he is not completely conversant with the issues that he attempts to tackle. The book covers the #Metoo movement, rejecting the gender binary, the bitter conflict between transwomen and so-called terfs, feminism and the constantly outraged Twitter ‘community’. I have of course touched on these subjects and am also a sometimes-outraged social media commentator so perhaps I read this book from a different angle than my previous readings of his other books

The book is set against the backdrop of an impending Brexit-like referendum – this time named ‘England Out’ – for the people to decide whether England should break away from the rest of the United Kingdom. The protagonist is Inspector Matlock who is investigating a series of murders. There is some stuff about foreign influence in public opinion and outrage, as expressed on social media, and in the campaign for the referendum but that is the whoddunit bit  which I don’t want to say too much about.

In terms of critiquing cancel culture, I’m not sure Ben Elton achieved any of the possible aims or messages that he may have been going for. At first, I thought he was trying to demonstrate how, through the excesses of social media’s expressions of outrage and piling on, a somewhat harmless person, especially one who is not from one of the protected categories – i.e. one who is white, male and straight, could turn to right wing fanaticism. It almost seemed like that was where the story was heading with Inspector Matlock but that sort of petered out.

I think the book may have been trying to portray excessive outrage over prejudice (or perceived prejudice) and prejudice as two sides of the same coin or two competing societal problems. The main problem is that the book does nothing to counter the fact that, despite some of the over the top reactions and obvious virtue-signalling of some social media commentators, that kind of behaviour is no where near as problematic as the actual bigotry that it is purporting to address – be it racism, sexism, homophobia or whatever it is that people are being cancelled for.

I don’t know when the book was written but at the time of writing this essay, immigrants are still being kept in cages with no basic hygiene in the US, black people are still being shot disproportionally (to put it mildly) by members of the American police force, some white people, far from expressing the disbelief that Ben’s reasonable characters display at racism, are taking this as a cue to attempt to remove black people from their sights by calling the police, and incels are writing articulate articles explaining how men cannot possibly survive unless women are packaged up and doled out like care parcels to the least sexually successful of them. We haven’t reached the age of post-sexism at all. Men aren’t advising each other on how to be better dates and boyfriends – they have concluded that the problem is that women have too much free will.

Ben obviously uses fictional examples in the book but I find that they bear little resemblance to reality. In an example which I find particularly annoying, a young man, Kurt, and the reality show that he is in are hounded by the press and on social media because of an apparent non-consensual second kiss, which flowed directly from a(n apparently) consensual first kiss with another contestant named Jemima. Ok, it turns out that most of the hounding is being done by bots (which I discovered, but should really have known, aren’t computer programmes that tweet randomly but a deliberate spread of misinformation  by actual people ).

The producers of the show are  terrified. This is exactly the kind of thing that can bring an entire network down, can’t it !?! Can it fuck. In this same western world where rapists who keep under-aged girls in cages (yes, cages again) as sexual slaves for months manage to escape custodial sentences because the ‘essentially good men’ with ‘good upbringings’ from ‘Christian homes’  who have made ‘mistakes’ (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/man-holds-teen-girl-captive-dog-cage-no-prison_n_5cc9a10ae4b0e4d7572c4a58?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAADRzNEkUQdEc1byDz26SLuQFCqI2gIyReUN4JzVX6s0rPEwkXT2LeRA8Z9SIvwlv3cDlhpgW5ndQMgV52x17RwEZbKHG9QO2AjzqMJ4av-AAI0LvWeaWdMt0erY-mNlRsyAO5arI49NGgwthublp93ETy5Q8dh1sHWz9mEPeXyko and https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rape-teenager-court-case-judge-trial-new-jersey-family-a8985516.html)

The closest we have seen to anything justifying the hysteria that men will be rounded up and criminalised for nothing more than aggressive pursuing and dating, which was completely fine 20 short years ago, is the Azis Ansari affair (https://worldviewsandcurrentnews.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/the-aziz-ansari-story-me-too-or-not-right-now-grace/). And even that, while not being criminal, was very strange and creepy behaviour. It turns out porn is not liberating everybody; it is just making people (men, dare I say?), feel very entitled to some very funky sex from random strangers.

Identity Crisis admits that yes, there’s patriarchy and yes, there’s entitlement and even appears to acknowledge the existence of rape culture but still manages to imply that if Weinstein can get in trouble (after all these years), how about the rest of ‘us’ normal, nice guys who may have inadvertently overstepped the boundaries once or twice? An example of this is a character in the book, Narsti, who is a normal nice single young guy living a bachelor’s life. The fact that sexual predators are being called to task doesn’t make him think about consent. Instead he is worried that women, after a night of booze, sex, and drugs, will make accusations against him.  He receives reassuring text messages from some of his lady friends that this will not happen. He in turn has an affair with his older employer and is similarly decent about it , i.e. doesn’t take the opportunity to accuse her of sexual misconduct with a much younger, much more junior employee.

All this implies that the reason that #metoo has taken the spotlight is not because there was a problem with predatory sexual behaviour and crimes but because more and more women are either lying about or misconstruing sexual episodes. Again, this is not borne out by the facts. Men like Weinstein and Epstein were pursued and eventually arrested for criminal and horrendous behaviour not miserable but consensual one-night stands and almost consensual second kisses.

I can only imagine (hope?) that part of the reason why Weinstein’s comeuppance is producing such fear (“Women have all the power now!”) and hysteria about what will happen to normal men is because it took place in the entertainment industry which is rotten to the core (sexually) and that normal men don’t behave like sex-crazed animals. Or am I trying to maintain two incompatible positions – that everyone, deep down, knows the difference between abusing power for sex and dating and also that there is rape culture that encourages men to objectify women and ignore their free will in a sexual context?

I don’t have any simple answers and if I was forced to give one, I’d say that men (people) have a moral compass when it comes to sex. They also have an instinct to be extremely selfish. Patriarchal standards (or lack of) make it easy for men to ignore this compass especially when everyone else is doing it like in the entertainment industry or an overtly sexist society like Nigeria. Instead, rules and demands are made of women to excuse men from accountability. Change the standards. Punish the bad guys. That’s what I say.

Back to the book, I think most people understand the difference in culpability between a reluctant kiss, where it is very possible that the enthusiastic kisser didn’t know anything about the reluctance, and a man who verbally or physically harasses women about sex when all they want to do is their job. I was disappointed that the book conflated the two and even contemplated that a Kurt and Jemima situation could rattle a TV network to its very bones or that public money would be given to prosecute men, who have been dead for centuries for sexual crimes or that you would need to carry out a prosecution to condemn these crimes

At the end of the book, the very reasonable Matlock resigns from the police force, because the culture of outrage is driving him, a good white man away from service. Ben’s reasonable protagonists are always white, and almost always men. There may be secondary or tertiary reasonable woman or person of colour – this book showed promise in a scene with an older Asian woman  but, alas, she disappeared after one appearance.

In more than one book, Ben’s reasonable white male characters are driven to distraction by the excesses of liberal expression. But if Ben and the industry are so tired of accusations and attacks based so called white and male privilege, why not diversify things a little bit? There’s nothing Ben can do about having a few more black and brown authors but he could have the occasional non-white protagonist. If panic ensues, is this because literature’s favourite hero is giving in to this nonsense about diversity (“WHAT IS WRONG WITH WHITE MAIN CHARACTERS FOGGODSAKE, WE DON’T EVEN SEE COLOUR?!?”) or a sign that certain people are always going to get pissed off when an ethnic minority character is in the forefront (“WHAT IS WRONG WITH A WHITE 007?” “Well…what is wrong with a black one?”).

Having said the above the book is very entertaining and, almost needless to say, well-written. I may be overreaching on the feminist part of this essay because I am one of those angry feminists tweeps, as I said above. In full and fair disclosure, I have felt that some of the trans-speak is a bit overdone (because it doesn’t affect me directly) although it doesn’t change the fact that most people, despite woke social media’s efforts, still think of transpeople as sad, mental, sometimes dangerous, acts and that the excessive wokeness is nowhere as big a problem as actual transphobia. I would recommend the book for a good thriller.

Incidentally, I am also almost at the end of another book, ‘An American Marriage’ by Tayari Jones. It is very very good and I shall be adding Ms Jones to my list of essential writers at this rate. It is about betrayal. You know when you hear that a wife snogs her colleague and you think ‘What a cow!’? Well, the level of betrayal in this book is so beyond this  that I find myself flipping through the book and thinking “She must have had her reasons. She must have had her reasons.” (She did. He was a cad.). Trigger warning: a lot of patriarchal stuff about how a man can’t survive without a woman’s down home cooking, endless labour and such other nonsense.

9781786075192

World Views Round-Up: February 2019

The Litany of Horrors that is the Shamima Begum Case

Is there anything about this case that isn’t a stinking, scary horror?  To start off, ISIS is the stuff of really good apocalyptic films.  To think that there is an group, one of many,  actively fighting to bring the world under an ‘Islamic Caliphate’, where women are subjugated by rule of  law, gay people are beheaded and flung off buildings, anyone who doesn’t follow a strict, psychopathic version of Islam is hunted down and centuries of human rights, progression and civilisation are blown away by the chatter of machine guns.   Add to this the other murders, adults and children starving to death and the complete destruction of properties, communities and countries.   It makes me wonder why human kind feels the need to take a great big dump on any kind of progress with such depressing regularity?

So people are actually fighting to achieve the above nightmare on a global scale, fighters are being lured in from the West and teenage girls are being targeted as they are apparently malleable enough to be convinced by ISIS’ extreme form of patriarchal authority.    A “fifteen year old makes a good wife”, according to this group (It’s not just ISIS to be fair.  For a lot of people, the solution to the evils of feminism is to ‘catch em young’ or target younger and younger girls who can be moulded into whatever patriarchal fantasy is currently playing out in their minds).   We all watched with horror as  three teenage girls, including Shamima Begum,  left  their families and walked into a non-fictional version  of the Handsmaid Tale without a backward glance, illustrating  the inexplicable lure of ISIS to young people across the world.

Then, three years later,  Shamima Begum decides she wants to come back.   It’s not that she was totally wrong to go there, she tells us, but it’s no use, the Caliphate isn’t going to win.  She’s had enough now.   She wants to come back to NHS Britain and take care of her baby.  She’s already lost two.  Oh great.  The next challenge was obviously going to be how to manage the public’s justifiable fury and the risk of her radicalising other young people in a country where technically her right to her views and her expressions of faith is protected.  But what else can we do?  As a British citizen, she has every right to to come back, if only to face prosecution for joining a proscribed organisation and any other crimes, right? Right?

Her bid to return brought another realisation.    The government – one man in fact , the  Home Secretary – can decide that one is enough of a threat to national security to remove their citizenship, without any kind of discernible, much less transparent, process.  This isn’t a citizenship that was given to you when you became a naturalised Brit – it’s one that you have had since birth.  And the little problem with an international law that prevents the country from leaving you stateless?  No problem, as long as at least one of your parents looks like you could claim to be a national of another country.  In fact, you do look like and your surname sounds like you could have one of those parents.  Off you go, Shamima. On your bike.  Or stay there, we don’t really care (“Quite right!” shouted a million voices on social media “My faith in Britain has been restored!  I thought Britain was looking a little weak for a moment there…”).

Apart from Begum herself, there are three main players in this drama.  There’s the UK, where she was born, bred and radicalised.  Young British Asians are not the only group  who succumb to the beckoning of ISIS.  In 2015, a 17 year old Austrian girl of Bosnian origin was apparently beaten to death  as she tried to escape the ISIS in Raqqa, Iraq, to where she had deflected two years earlier.

Then we have Syria.  Syria, like a number of other countries in the Middle East, is in the midst of a civil war preceded by the 2011 Arab Spring uprising against oppressive, corrupt governments.  We all thought it was fabulous that these poor people were finally taking a stand against their awful governments.  So fabulous, in fact, that Western government including the United States and the United Kingdom under Obama’s and Cameron’s leadership decided to  do their bit to help the cause.   Unfortunately, instead of the  utopia that is Western style democracy,  the uprisings led to disjointed states encompassing rebel factors  in various regions  and, devastatingly the Islamic State, the latest incarnation  in a long line of Islamic fundamentalist nutters that seemed to flourish following the war on terrorism/Iraq/9/11, wreaking havoc all over the place.  Predictably, Western powers are not willing to sink resource after resource into resolving the problem, despite their initial involvement.  You can barely get them to connect the dots when they see the refugees streaming in from these regions.

The people of Syria are being hit from every direction – their own governments, ISIS, Western sponsored weaponry and whatever other aspiring despot in the area.  Sullen faced Begum, speaking like a particularly idiotic and vulnerable teenager from Twitter (which is essentially what she is) sounds like exactly what they need right now (NOT! for those of you who need me to break down my 1990s-style wit).

Bangladesh, the third player,  woke up one morning to find itself being fingered by the Home Secretary, and not in a good way (if there ever is a good way; I imagine a bedside table signed, written, reviewable and revocable (verbally and in writing)  consent would be necessary).  I wonder if they were completely surprised that the Home Secretary announced  to the world, apparently without consultation with them, that ‘don’t worry, it’s all alright.  She is a Bangladeshi citizen after all.’ or whether officials were sitting around in various state offices, watching the situation very closely,  ‘wishing they would’ as they say in the US reality TV shows.   As several people have pointed out, Begum has never even attempted to claim her alleged citizenship from Bangledesh or even visited the country.  Quite apart from legal issues, many people have wondered why on earth Bangladesh should be obliged to take any responsibility for her.

It was reprehensible for Begum to join ISIS – to have any understanding of what they have done and what they stand for and decide ‘Yup! That’s the life for me!’.  If you can sense a ‘but’ coming, you are right  but I don’t say this lightly.  It is not a token precursor to some up-my-own-arse liberal posturing.  What was it that convinced her  – a dedication to what she thought was Islamic fundamentalism or some warped version of identity politics where murder and mayhem is perfectly okay with her as long she and people like her get to win in the end?

I am no expert on radicalisation but I’m willing to place a small bet (let’s face it, that’s easier than doing the actual research) that disenfranchisement and Islamophobia has something to do with it.  I know there’s a difference between imperfect foreign policy gone wrong and murderous terrorists but no one has ever explained to me the why UK victims of terrorist attack are somehow more innocent than Middle Eastern civilians who are constantly under attack.   Because I am British and live in Britain, I know who I’d want the state to protect  in a choice between the two but is that kind  inherent favouring of your own and protecting your own interests really what patriotism is about?

We live in a Britain where Muslims, despite never knowing any other home but Britain, are supposed to live in a constant state of gratitude because they don’t live in a ‘Muslim country’, including countries to which they have absolutely no connection to.   “You lot take the piss!!!!” people rage behind the safety of their computer keyboards and screens “We/you would never have these freedoms in Saudi Arabia or some other godforsaken country in the Middle East!”.  Well…..take it up with Saudi Arabia then.

Matters are  complicated and far beyond the scope of this article but ever since 9/11 there has been a rise of Islamophobia and a revival of visible and Orthodox variations of Islam that seems to make some non-Muslims uncomfortable  (not that I’m comparing the two) as well as terrorist attacks and Western intervention gone wrong, by way of understatement.   As a result, I think, a  lot of people are now completely uninterested in the fact that Begum was radicalised and, some say, groomed  as a minor. I’m not sure how I  feel about it myself.    Is it relevant or is this one of those things that is so bad  (happy to join a crowd of slave-taking, kidnapping, acid dousing murderers) that her  level of minority at the time she left doesn’t matter?  What about the fact that she has not been convicted of anything, whether joining a terrorist organisation or any other crime?

Also, there are the risks, which I honestly thought the government would be more focused on managing in the event that she does end up in the UK.  There is the remote possibility that she is a double agent and the less remote possibility that she will radicalise other young people to, if not escape to ISIS, commit and incite acts of local terrorism.

But, for me, perhaps the scariest thing about this case is  the potential for a two-tier system of British citizenship, as coined by Shiraz Maher, an expert on radicalisation.  I’ll be brief with this part of the essay because so many people articulated this worry before my mind had a chance to settle on what was bothering me.  Essentially, as I’ve alluded to above, this seems to solidify a type of discrimination in that if Begum did not have immigrant parents or other traceable ancestry which was not  (white) English, nobody would be scrambling around trying to make an argument, which Bangladesh now disputes, that she has a second citizenship and is not being made stateless.   As one article put it, what happened to her could happen to some of us, but not all.

“Well, don’t join a death-cult then!” the jubilating masses countered.  But who’s to decide what the government will say is unacceptable in the future? And even more worryingly, in light of the Windrush scandal, can you trust the government not to abuse this power?  People love to conflate issues and bring up their immigration stories at any chance but I believe the position is that people who are not British citizens can be deported from this country  for serious crimes, as defined by legislation.  Naturalised citizenship is apparently conditional and can potentially  be revoked.  In the Windrush scandal, the people affected were, in many cases citizens but  lacking documentation.  In a cynical bid to increase deportation figures, they were targeted when officials knew or should have known that they had a right to be in this country.

The next logical step of the hostile immigration policy, headed under ‘We Don’t Want You Here So We’ll Find Any Excuse to Get You Out’ or even ‘Getting You Out May-No-Pun-Honest win us more votes’ may be to strip people of their citizenship on the strength of being accused (admittedly in this case with pretty strong evidence) of a crime that is considered to be detrimental to national interests.  Dancing around like an idiot, painted red, in front of the American embassy, in a protest gone wrong which has now been reduced to four people  and enthusiastically shouting “Death to Trump!” – could that be deemed unacceptable enough to put someone’s citizenship in jeopardy?

But even if my mad conspiracy theories are just that, the recent exercise of power by the Home Secretary is still discriminatory.  What astounds me is the number of people of colour hailing this decision as if they have not thought of these ramifications.  In the middle of a discussion with a friend  about this matter, she announced that she was definitely going to make sure her children had dual citizenship.

I was baffled, dear readers, baffled.

Thin on the Inside

Image result for overweight and miserable

On to the more mundane.  I desperately want to lose weight.  Any loss between half a stone to a stone and a half would be gratefully accepted.

I don’t have the self-esteem issues that comes or  may come with always being fat in a society that thinks of itself as thin, but in the majority is really quite overweight.  In a way, I still think of myself as a thin person and am frequently and unpleasantly surprised at my own unprepared reflection (or photograph).  By that I mean that I often prepare myself before looking in the mirror – by strategically sucking in  my mid-section, bending my knees, swinging my hips in the opposite direction, placing my hands on my waist and slightly turning sideways, all in an effort to convince myself that ‘it’s not that bad.’  I get a bad shock when I catch myself in the mirror slumped over,  tummy rolling over crotch.  Or when I’m lying in the bath and said tummy is still a dome because there’s no doubt that I feel like a failure.

This is probably because my fat is due to failure.  I lost the ‘baby fat’ and then put it back on again.  This was all due to overeating, by the way.  There are no glandular issues, unhelpful husband or lack of opportunity to exercise – just greed and emotional eating.

There is also a race and age issue.  I am now black, nappy, middle-aged and overweight.  No one admonishes me for announcing that I’m going on a diet.  No one marvels at my figure, especially when considering my erratic eating habits.  No one argues with me about what a real black figure should look like and whether I am trying too hard to emulate Western beauty standards.  In terms of looks, I am completely unremarkable and I now realise how much of my ‘specialness’ was wrapped up in being tall, thin and constantly being told I should “consider modelling”.

I now understand that people with more than a little extra fat aren’t enviably free from worries about their weight, as I thought.  They haven’t just ‘given up’ and decided to eat what they want.  They probably start a new diet every week , just like me, and spend the entire day strategising, refusing treats, only to lose the battle at 9:52 pm with half a packet of inferior biscuits hiding behind the kids’ Haribos.  Clothes shopping is now an exercise in caution and managing expectations, instead of a naughty pleasure, as I now know that almost everything I try on will be unsatisfactory and I’ll have to settle for being able to button it up and not looking horrific.  Sadly, I’ve realised that leggings and flowing, chiffon tops are not as comfortable as they previously looked on other people and that as sizing goes up, proper fitting seems to go down.

An objectionable man who I once knew complained about the ‘real women’ Dove advert a few years ago.  Why aren’t women who work hard at their figures real, he asked, missing the point, as usual?.  I told him that women shouldn’t have to slave away their precious hours obsessively working out and dieting in order to be considered valuable and that was the purpose of the ad (I didn’t.  I muttered something significantly less coherent but I’m sure my heart was in the right place), smug in the assumption that I wasn’t one of those ‘real women’.  I chose to work out and maintain a slim figure but I was damned if I wasn’t going to fight for my larger sisters.  God, I was such an arsehole.

Ps  I still want to lose weight.  I promise to be quietly and humbly thin this time.  Any loss between half a stone to a stone and a half would be gratefully received……

7 Types of Ninjas That I Hate

Image result for evil ninja

I hate….

  1. A “what was she wearing” ninja
  2. A “it’s funny but there were actual real economic reasons for slavery” headass no-shit-Sherlock ninja
  3. A “what happened was horrible, of course,but don’t you think the Nazis were brilliant at X, Y  and Z” ninja
  4. A “Catholics aren’t real Christians anyway but the KORAN instructs Muslims to carry out jihad” ninja who couldn’t pick  a Koran out from a pile of Peter Rabbit books ninja
  5. A “Boys may have a lot of energy but little girls are just AWFUL” demonising demon ninja
  6. A “men aren’t trash but if you step into a man’s apartment (I don’t care which man) without a samurai sword, you only have yourself to blame if you are attacked” know-your-responsibilities ninja
  7. A “Oh, I’ll never remember that” ninja in relation to any non-English name regardless of how few syllables or letters the name actually has

Bonus

“Women are the worst bosses” – a ninja who has been self-employed for the last 15 years.

Runs Girls and the Sliding Scale of Nigerian Morality

Just to add to this, what *would* happen if a serious ‘socially conscious’ song was written about Nigerian politicians cavorting with runs girls? I think in light of what they are accused of including  looting and mismanaging public funds, corruption and gross dereliction of duties, many people, including me, would question the need to address their private lives. This suggests to me the true importance of the runs girls/prostitution ‘epidemic’. People are quite content to turn a blind eye to it.  The real reason for their outcry is that they are appalled that women would ‘debase’ themselves this way  and that possibly a larger and larger group of women think that this is an acceptable pastime and way to make some cash.

They are worried that girls are getting ‘spoiled’ while boys will be boys, whether its younger men sowing their seeds or older men who pay girls for sex (or they just want to gleefully slut-shame).

I don’t think the runs is great  ( although I can’t see how it’s any worse than casual sex, especially between strangers) or a complete solution  to objectification of women especially in the era of so-called sexual liberation which men interpret as an aggressive right to casual sex (if you refuse, you are apparently trying to manipulate them into a relationship) or older, richer men feeling the need to check whether a young woman is available for sexual services before resuming the normal order of business.

However in Nigeria, casual sex often reduces the social capital of a woman. She’s called a prostitute or a slut anyway and too much promiscuity means that she is not a serious candidate for a serious relationship and a target for very aggressive overtures if not assault. In that case, it stands to reason she would want to gain something other than the sex. It’s not just ‘sex that we both enjoyed’ as men get away with their social capital unaffected while the woman has to sit there trying to find a way to reconfigure her body count….

9jafeminista

Editor’s Note: Twitter outrage has become commonplace (while Facebook has become some form of family friendly place to air achievements, family portraits and unpopular opinions with relative safety). On the upside these ‘outrages’ have effected changes, as more and more people are using this platform as an avenue to hold governments to account and share histories that would have otherwise been lost in obscurity (particularly Black History).

Nigerian feminists have been using social media to educate Nigerians at large about social inequalities and highlight how cis-heterosexual men are at the top of the foodchain, how they use their privilege to keep women and sexual minorities oppressed.

The latest topic being discussed with a lot of passion is the rights of sex-workers/runs girls/side-chics (or the lack thereof). The trigger for this discussion is Falz, a Nigerian musician who embraces social consciousness, (wokeness) served with a side of misogyny.

Tracy in this…

View original post 1,585 more words

World Views 2018 End of Year Round Up

When I say I’m becoming transphobic, it’s not because I don’t buy into any specific trans  ideology , it’s because I’ve started to enjoy being horrified at the fringe elements of TRA nutters so much that I find the normal and helpful trans people and their allies boring.

Is Sexuality a Personal Matter?

I saw a strange message on the internet the other day (okay, I’ll admit it was a tweet; I saw it because I was on Twitter, like I said I wasn’t going to be anymore) which said that it is homophobic to say that a person’s sexuality, or to be specific homosexuality, is between that person and ‘their’ God.  At first the criticism struck me as a petulant extension of the definition of homophobia that seemed to insist  “Celebrate every part of my life at all times or you are a bigot!”.   Then I thought about it some more.  At worst, the criticised statement (about being gay and God) suggests that  it is patently wrong to have gay relationships or be gay, but far be it for anyone to say this aloud in these politically correct times.  It could even be seen as a sinister warning that the gay person will eventually find out whether their ‘lifestyle’ is wrong or right when they come face to face with their creator or at least leaving the gay person to battle the whole thing out with their conscience.

The most benevolent translation is that it is acknowledging that certain religious texts, including the Bible, appear to condemn homosexual relationships which of course seems massively unjust since people can’t help being attracted to members of their own sex any more than other people can help being attracted to members of the opposite sex.  The person saying it isn’t sure what the right answer is and is leaving it to the person that has the ‘problem’ – being both gay and a member of a faith which appears to condemn homosexual sex – and God.   It is also an indication that the person saying it is bored of the issue since they are probably never going to feel the urge to have gay sex and  do not intend to discriminate against or take a stand against (or for) gay people in general  – the live, let live and leave me alone in peace ‘lifestyle’.

Image result for gay couples

The obvious problem is that, like other minority groups, (some) gay people don’t just want to be tolerated in the strict sense, they want acceptance and after the persecution they have been and are still going through, some celebration would be nice, thank you very much.  Knowing that someone secretly thinks that their personal lives and a part of their identity may be wrong tends to make them grumpy, regardless of  how friendly that person is and how willing they are to spend time with gay people.

I don’t think it is completely analogous but I compare it to my interracial marriage.  It is rarely expressed to me but there are people who are not very keen on mixed marriages for a number of reasons. Apart from die-hard racists and hoteps (and idiots on Twitter who say they would rather ingest bleach than have a white boyfriend – except they put it more starkly than that), people worry for my husband, and other white men, that he is going to end up with ‘black children’ who presumably they feel that he will be unable to completely identify with on some level.  Image result for mixed race marriages

 

There are people who worry that the children will grow up to be culturally confused.  I’ve heard of  older black people who have had traumatic experiences with racism and aren’t therefore comfortable with interracial relationships and people who doubt both partners’ motives (e.g. the white partner has a fetish and feels he is doing the other partner a favour and the black person is trying forget her roots) .  The bottom line seems to be that, in a world where race is very much an issue, people think we are adding unnecessary complications to the already difficult tasks of marriage or long term partnership and raising children.

I know that these views exist and that some of them come from a more complicated place than pure unadulterated racism and I can sense that some people have unasked questions when I tell them my husband is white.  However, even knowing this, I would completely livid if someone actually voiced their doubts about our relationship now that we are already married – for instance, if they said “Hmmm.  That’s interesting.  Well I would have thought there would be obvious issues but I’ll leave it to you and Iain (and God) to sort out”.  I think this may be how  a gay person, who has come to terms with their personal life and their identity, feels like when someone announces to them that their sexuality is between them and God.

British Asians and the New Gatekeepers of Interracial Relationships

Speaking of interracial relationships, I am beginning to really dislike a common response to news that an Asian person  has started or is in a relationship with someone of a different race, which is immediately wondering  whether there can be any future in the relationship and whether the Asian person can prove they are not just messing the other person about until their suitably Asian spouse pops up from the ether. This wondering always seems to be by people  who themselves are not in and have never contemplated being in a relationship with someone of another race.

The stereotype is that there is some expectation and pressure on people from certain Asian groups to marry someone of their own race, religion, sometimes caste and sometimes from the region of the country that their predecessors came from.  The received wisdom is that if you are dating an Asian person, you need to take this into account and you may want to check their position on this before assuming that the relationship has the potential to lead something serious or permanent.

There may be some truth in this stereotype (leaving aside the grim stories of women who marry someone against their family’s wishes) and, although I don’t think Asians are more likely to lead anyone down a garden path than any other group of people, it is a conversation you may have to have provided that you are in the actual relationship.  Just like the conversations I have had with white guys who suddenly announced before our first date that they “don’t want cafe au lait kids, just-so-you-know” (it was the nineties; they can’t try it now) or who  jokingly asked about my immigration status, the implication being that a good looking woman of African origin, like I was, I couldn’t possibly be interested in them as anything other than a visa mule or African guys who wanted to ensure my women’s lib thing didn’t extend to not cooking on command if the relationship became serious.  Apparently, you’ve got to check these things sometimes.

However I am not sure how this has evolved into strangers or people who are not actually in the relationship – and as I’ve said, who have shown no inclination towards dating someone of another race  – having the gall to ask Asian people what the future holds for their relationship with someone of a different race.  A work colleague was recently harangued so at an office party.  “That’s interesting.” Woman she had only met that evening said ” So what’s the future for your relationship, then, what with you being Asian and that?”  It sounds like something out of seventies sitcom.  Come to think of it, this gumption hasn’t evolved at all.  It has been festering in the background waiting for Tony Blair’s New Labour and its stupid political correctness to go away.  It has been waiting for Trump and Brexit!

Also, say an Asian person does come from a family which has certain expectations in terms of who they partner up with and how.  Are they really an evil manipulator  for taking this into account when looking for a potential life partner?  Other members of society are permitted to consider race, class, and whether their new partner will get along with their family, friends and work colleagues.  Should an Asian person be obliged to, at the first whiff of good loving, rudely shun anything their family, culture or religion has to say about their future marriage to prove that “they are not the real racists after all”?  As long as they are honest about their intentions and the situation (like every other member of every other race always is at every time, as we all know), are they not allowed to take a balanced assessment of all relevant factors when deciding to who they want to settle down with?

I think I’m Becoming Transphobic….

I watched a disturbing video the other day.  It was of a trans woman, who did not even particularly look like a man in drag much less a woman, ranting and raving in a scary manner because she had been misgendered at a shop.  I am ashamed to say that the funniest part of the video was when she screamed about being referred to as ‘Sir’ when in her words “she was a woman” at this point she gesticulated to herself “obviously!!!“.  As someone in the comments section pointed out, what I and all the other transphobic shits found funny was the contrast between her very manly or male presentation and her shrill desire to be recognised as a woman.  We almost felt like she should have been nowhere near that surprised that someone (a) called her ‘sir’ and (b) under the extremely loud verbal assault that followed, continue d to nervously stutter ‘sir’.  It was in America.  If I was ignorant and prone to stereotyping, I would guess that it was a part of America where if you heard a loud, angry, deep voice, your instinct would be to respond with a ‘Sir!’.

That was the funny part.  The rest of the video was tragic and terrifying in equal parts.  It was guaranteed to bring out (and I guess this is why a fair number of people shared it) all the hidden fears about the ‘trans agenda’ including wondering, as one tweep did, if this is what a slightly built teenage girl would be faced with if she misgendered this woman, accidentally or not, in a women’s changing room before being beaten into a pulp and  whether this trans woman, and by extension many more who could be let loose in ‘women’s spaces’, was in fact a raging lunatic, therefore allowing for the conflation of violent manifestations of mental illnesses with the mental health based dysphoria that some claim causes people to be trans.

I personally thought it was the most magnificent display of male privilege that Chimamanda was villified for talking about.  At some point the trans woman talked about ‘taking it outside’ (Hollywood for inviting someone to a fight) to show the salesman just how much of a ‘sir’ she was.   Now there are cis women who are mad enough to invite a man to a physical fight but I think we can all agree that  men tend to feel more confident taking this course of action.  Not all trans women would be evenly matched in a fight against a man, not least because some of then have physically transitioned and not all males are as strong as each other, but this is one bit of male privilege that lingers in society.  It’s not just feeling that you don’t have to avoid provoking violence from men or initiating it, it’s having the confidence to know that if things continue not to go your way, you can beat anyone and everyone who is making life difficult for you (or at least have a good go).  One wonders whether the (trans) woman in the video was angry about something completely unrelated that had happened before she was filmed or had been misgendered several times and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back or had been on the internet practising and performing her ragey reaction to any future misgendering.

I avoided this watching this video for all of, mmm, let’s see, 20 minutes because I knew I would feel this way.  I started out on commenting on trans-issues when I was ignorant but fairly benevolent towards the movement.  I was for instance outraged that people suggested that trans women shouldn’t use women’s bathroom.  I went from curious but supportive to curious to confused to irritated to now seeking out the detail about the worst excesses of TRA actions for the sole purpose of delighting in how terrible it all is.

When I say I’m becoming transphobic, it’s not because I don’t buy into any specific trans  ideology , it’s because I’ve started to enjoy being horrified at the fringe elements of TRA nutters so much that I find the normal and helpful trans people and their allies boring.  Once in a while I’ll do a purge of the gender critical and radfem people I follow just to limit my exposure to debates about trans horror stories.  Like people who identify as gender critical, I claim not to  wish any trans person any harm and to want them to be happy and flourish (I still believe the rule should be they use the bathroom of the gender they identify with and that they are women with more fundamental differences with cis women than some are prepared to admit but women all the same) but the compassion is gone which is where I think that sustainable and true tolerance comes from.  There is no attempt to see things from their point of view.  And I find their writing annoying, from words they use  like “literally deny the basis of our right to exist” to other words like “are”.

I must fix that even though it is more fun to gasp and tut at the outrageous thing that the next TRA did or blame them for eroding my sympathy towards much more deserving trans people .  Regardless of what I end up accepting as biological fact, I want it to come from reason and not from irrational hatred.

Another thing about that video is the issue of overt  displays of male or, in this case, male presenting anger and the feelings it provokes in me.  The trans woman in the video kicked a couple of things and looked like she was going to attack someone for a short while.  However she didn’t.  And as far as I could see there was nothing stopping her but herself.

Now I can completely understand the fear of overt displays of male rage, especially the fear that it will turn into a physical attack and  and no salesperson or customer should have to put up with the kind of behaviour displayed in the video.  I think videos showing cis women screaming and ranting are shocking but a well built man bellowing is terrifying to watch and there is a good chance that witnessing it would send me scurrying into instant submission.  Women have been known to cease resisting assault on the basis of nothing more than a shouting man.

I think it is a real problem, displays of male rage, how intimidating it can be, what it can lead to, what is intended by the rager and how we react to them.   I just don’t have any clue of what the answer is.  People get angry – is it fair to assume that a man can’t control himself from physically attacking someone because he is visibly angry?  But what if he can’t, why should women or society take that risk?  Should a man always censor himself, having at the back of his mind that if he shouts someone is going to assume he will attack them?  Hmmm….investigations pending.