Happy Birthday

Wole Soyinka, who turns 70 today. The BBC has more, including Soyinka’s response to President Obasanjo’s thinking that Nigeria is worth dying for. Soyinka is commendably constructivist: “I’m not setting out to die for any abstruse concept, especially an artificial concept like Nigeria.”

Democracy but no power

The following is from a comrade in South Africa, possibly printed in this weekend’s Mail and Guardian but nowhere online.

The following is from a letter I wrote to Phambili Nombane, the energy supplier to my community. I would like to share my suffering, and that of my community, which is even greater than mine. I wish to open a debate on the effectiveness of privatisation of social services and how much the community benefits or suffers from it.

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The Women of Wal-mart

The thought of winning $300million has clearly been running around my head. I was going to make a joke out of the single most siginificant reason that I’ve never won the lottery being that I never bought a ticket. But then I realised that the only time I ever won anything, I didn’t knowingly enter. Last year, I got a cheque for $13.25, together with a notice saying that I’d been awarded it because my address was in the database of a record chain that had been systematically overcharging its customers, which had subsequently been the subject of a class action law suit.

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In Defence of Imelda Marcos

I have made my most memorable purchases on trips, as a transient. Property and possission belong to the tactical sphere. Collectors are people with a tactical instinct; their experience teaches them that when they capture a strange city, the smallest anitque shop can be a fortress, the most remote stationery store a key position… You should know that in saying this I fully realize that my discussion of the mental climate of collecting will confirm many of you in your conviction that this passion is behind the times, in your distrust of the collector type. Nothing is further from my mind than to shake either your conviction or your distrust. But one thing should be noted: the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academcially than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter. I do know that time is running out for the type that I am discussing here and have been representing before you a bit ex officio. But, as Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehended.

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We’re All Going to Die #5

It seems as if trouble-makers are aiming to disrupt the US elections. Instead of chasing up the folk who fucked it up the last time (try clicking this peppery URL), the Department of Homeland Security have put the past behind them, choosing instead to look boldly, if vaguely, into the future. They claim to have received “credible intelligence” that Al Qaeda are going to “disrupt our democratic process”.

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Yesterday, Jeffrey Sachs, the man who engineered Russia’s economic meltdown, took a step closer to redemption by suggesting that Africa ought not to pay its debt. This is something that African groups have been saying for quite a while, but it seems that news organizations take you more seriously if you’ve been part of the problem first. (Being part of the problem is, of course, something with which I’m familiar, though I don’t seem to have reaped nearly as many benefits as Prof Sachs.)

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