2nd Day of #Kwanzaa: #Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)

KwanzaaDay2Habari Gani? Today’s principle is Kujichagulia. It is the principle which embodies the right to determine the destiny of the self – “To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.” This idea of the “self”, in human history, has applied just as much to the individual as it has to any collective of individuals, as has any act negating this right to determine any self’s destiny. In human society, especially in the history of the concept of individual human rights, the rights of the individual have expanded in number, ranging from the right to equal justice under law (and other expectations of treatment by the state or other prevailing collective) to the right to clean water and fair housing (and other rights to material access). But in respect to yesterday’s Umoja, collectives have often faced difficulties in their ability to collectively determine their own destiny as a group, usually facing opposition from other groups with rivalrous claims to legitimacy. Bids to form new nation-states have faced often-fatal opposition from other established nation-states or, when resorting to armed warfare to solidify their bid, have engaged in violent conflict or maintain standing militaries to protect their sovereignty. Labor unions have faced constant opposition to their existence from corporations and trade groups. (Ir)religious communities have faced physical, bloody opposition to their existences from other, more established religious groups (and single-party or single-ideology states). Demographic “suspect classes” are resented by previously-privileged classes for their demands of justice, freedom and unity. And so on… Yet, the idea that one should be able to choose one’s destiny (not negating the other principles) is an idea that is difficult, yet necessary in the name of justice, to extend to more demographics of people, both individual and collective. Kujichagulia – whether it manifests in choosing what to wear today or choosing what to create tomorrow – places responsibility for how to conduct or govern one’s life with the self, not with an unwilled, nonconsensual third party. Our ability to exercise kujichagulia, however, depends largely on the freedom and dignity which are expected in a society, or in our world at large. If we don’t take the initiative to guarantee the platforms for self-determination within a peaceable, amicable framework which respects our individual (and shared) identities and experiences, then we are not a free community. Let’s be a free, responsible, active, just people. Let’s observe kujichagulia – in our lives and in the world.


1st Day of #Kwanzaa: #Umoja (Unity)

KwanzaaDay1Habari Gani?

December 26th is the day of Umoja (Unity).

It is “E Pluribus, Unum”. It is being the sum of our parts. It is understanding that our individual experiences – by shades of skin color, by ethnonational origin, by historical accident, by circumstance of birth, by the state of our bodies, even by “mere” affinity – are shared by somebody, somewhere, and that they are points at which we can connect and change somebodies’ destinies.

Umoja is the state in which we embrace these shared experiences and understand how these experiences are treated by both ourselves and the larger society.

It is through Umoja that we understand that until all are at peace, none are at peace; until all are treated with justice, none are treated with justice; until all are free, none are free.

It can also imply symbosis and balance. Even one who is an island to oneself is surrounded by a body of water, and the behavior of that water impacts anyone who lives on that island. One who lives in the middle of a vast forest is impacted by whatever impacts the stability of that forest.

In other words, the balance, the state of play, the causality of things, how nothing takes place in a vacuum – all imply that everything in existence is, has been, and will be impacted by another action. In this, there is Umoja.

So whether we embrace or are indifferent to the world around us and the shared experiences which are similar to our own, we have Umoja. We can be united by accidental pain, we can be united by intentional pleasure, we can be united by experiences which impact us or by actions which we wish to carry out.

We are united in our individual bodies, just as we are united in our larger society. And whatever action we take, no matter how isolated it may be, will impact ourselves and likely someone else.

Let’s maximize the positive, ethical actions in our lives within the framework of this Umoja. Let’s recognize the Umoja of all things and all actions.


On Kwanzaa

Wish I could afford a #Kwanzaa #kinara

As Far Away As Possible

(Image Credit: Rochester City Newspaper)

Now that I’ve finished my exams and my Winter Break has officially begun, I can begin to actually celebrate the holidays!

There’s one holiday in particular that I’ve heard mentioned countless times during this season but that I really have no knowledge about: Kwanzaa. And I’m genuinely interested in, well, what it is, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to educate both myself and you about this holiday.

Kwanzaa is a pan-African holiday, and there’s a good chance you knew that. So, being an African tradition, it must be thousands of years old, established after some great miracle occurred- kind of like Hannukah or Christmas, right?

Well, no. Kwanzaa was created in America. In the 1960s. But don’t let it loose any credibility because of that.

I guess you could say that Kwanzaa’s roots are old- the name comes from the phrase “matunda ya…

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Why are there so few submarine cables between Africa and South America?

Map of transatlantic submarine cable lines as of 2014, courtesy of SubmarineCableMap.com.

Map of transatlantic submarine cable lines as of 2014, courtesy of SubmarineCableMap.com.

I think looking at the map on the right shows how stratified the layout of communication technology is for the Atlantic Ocean region. So much up top and spilling vertically down (on both sides), but so little between the bottom.

Why are there so few submarine cables between Africa and South America? Between Nigeria/South Africa/Angola and Brazil/Argentina/Venezuela?

Surely there would be lots of historical links to share between the two continents, such as post-colonial, post-slavery histories? Or especially the large portion of slaves from West Africa heading to the Portuguese colony of Brazil? Or the histories of exploitation of labor and natural resources? Or musical and artistic commonalities?

I mean, Brazil literally faces several African countries along the same set of latitudinal lines (more so than a good portion of North America faces Europe), but yet there are maybe one or two submarine cable lines between these countries.

Why is that? Is it neglect? Is it money? Is it racial anxiety (which would be weird gives how many Europe-to-Africa lines there are)? Is it linguistics?

And what would be gained if this were changed with the building of new lines between the two regions?

I think that more equitable trade, cultural ties, freedom of expression, and all institutions which depend upon these developments would only gain in strength and viability – while shrinking only in cost barriers and administrative burdens. It would also reduce the cost of communication between other regions which go through these regions (especially South Asia, which has several cables running to East Africa).

So I’m glad to read that there are two lines currently being built between the two regions: SACS (South Atlantic Cable System) between Fortaleza/Fernando de Noronha (Brazil) and Sangano (Angola) in 2016, and SAEx (South Atlantic Express) between Fortaleza and Windhoek (Namibia)/Mtunzini/Yzerfontein (South Africa)/St. Helena in 2017.

These lines will be the first to connect the two continents directly. I hope that they will help bridge the gap between these two superactors in the Global South.

BullShnit: Egyptian homophobia’s Swiss defenders

In which a Swiss film festival bullshits its Twitter audience to defend a bigoted Egyptian hatemonger with a camera.

a paper bird

Mona Iraqi, in an Egyptian Internet meme Mona Iraqi, in an Egyptian Internet meme

ACTION: Please write to Shnit and Olivier van der Hoeven in protest at the film festival’s decision to support homophobic informer Mona Iraqi: 

The International Short Film Festival is based, along with its director, Olivier van der Hoeven, in the placid Swiss capital of Bern. The festival has branches or “playgrounds” in Argentina, El Salvador, Japan, Russia, South Africa, and Thailand. Oh, and Cairo, Egypt. The festival goes by “Shnit” for short, a semi-acronym ugly but calculated to grab attention. As director of its Cairo playground, Shnit chose someone also skilled at doing ugly things that grab attention. Shnit’s Egypt representative is the infamous TV presenter, gay hunter, homophobe, and police informer Mona Iraqi.

Pink in some places, not in others: Olivier de Hoeven, director of Shnit Pink in some places, not in others: Olivier de Hoeven, director of Shnit

A splendid French blogger discovered this four days ago. But let’s be fair: Shnit chose Mona Iraqi before her full penchant for depredations was known. She only…

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When Not All Lives Matter

#BlackLivesMatter and its crashers.

Mattias Lehman

Many well-meaning people, when confronted with ideas like feminism or “Black Lives Matter” will respond as though offended.

“Shouldn’t we,” they will say, a slight smirk on their lips, “instead of calling it feminism, call it humanism? After all, all people face issues in their life, and we shouldn’t ignore that.”

The sentiment is very easily articulable, and seems so simple that in has to be correct, right? And yet it couldn’t be more wrong. Let us take a step into Linguistics to understand just what these statements mean, and why they’re wrong.

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