ajagunna

I discuss Nigeria and the world at large because I strongly believe MyOpinionCounts!

Tag: UK

World-Situation-Report Personal Perspectives (WoPP): Your Freedom is not My Freedom: A Cultural Problematic

Freedom is good. Undoubtedly, life is currently best lived in the West, i.e. in the United States (US), Central and Western Europe and many other countries that run on fully-adopted Western democratic values. Practical democracy is a cultural form of freedom. She is not without her limitations. Like every other form of freedom, it is good. A justifiable question to ask is this: Is this cultural product good for all, particularly in the Middle East/North Africa? I shall attend to this question in this piece.

As a quick preamble to thoughts on the practicability of democracy in the West and other parts of the world where democracy is largely unwelcome or only a pseudo-form accepted, here is a German saying (in English): The inside is just like the outside, only differently. Considering this wisdom, our ideals of freedom in the West is/can be very subjective.

Here is a fact: The world is divided still into blocs, albeit only thinly talked about and often (implicitly) allured to by world politicians (if they must remind us in their speeches). Else, this thick-wall of separation is invisible, but strongly visible to an astute observer. So also are the ideals of freedom; freedom is BLOC-ed à la your freedom is not necessarily my ideal freedom!

This confirms that we see this inevitable human commodity differently. (Cultural) Freedom to China is apparently not the measurement of (cultural) freedom in Russia and the Eurasian hemisphere. The Western ideals of freedom are certainly a strange phenomenon to/in Saudi Arabia. The African view of freedom is only one of the world’s many perceptions of freedom.

Residents in the West have oftentimes overlooked/brushed aside this salient truth, (un-)willingly. Thus, the forceful desire to force down the throat of all world inhabitants this mainly Western ideal of freedom. When zeroed-in on the Middle East/North Africa, this forceful imposition uncovers the ignorance of the West.

The media hardly helps to abate this ignorance. I have since observed the media consciously feed the desired imaginations of Western residents à la our-BLOC-is-humane-and-thus-the-ideal! This thinking is one-sided and an illusion.

Lets move to Russia. The Western political bigwigs and media finally achieved a goal. Once Mr. Putin is mentioned, a picture of the evil-that-troubles-our-world comes to mind. I doubt if Mr. Putin is the singular problem of today’s world. It is worth mentioning that even the credibility of Russia’s democracy is doubted in the West. Mr. Putin is garbed in the Tsarists robes.

The point is, in the thinking of the West, their cultural freedom, namely democracy, if accepted, must be practiced according to (Western) prescription. Otherwise, it is not valid.

Recently, Dr. Gregor, Member of the Bundestag and a leader of German Leftist Party made a strong statement in the parliament. To sum it up, he had constantly warned that isolating Russia in the name of sanctions and more sanctions is no reasonable approach to tackling anything Russia. Thus, Russia being successfully partly isolated, the West had practically hindered a possible UN resolution on the ISIL crisis even before it broke.

Of course, nobody wished ISIL into existence, but with so much proxy-conflicts partly caused by the West and weaponry supplied by same for the region, ISIL was foreseeable! Absolutely.

On the dynamism of world politics, any country is clearly wrong-advised to isolate Russia. The West partly did that in the series of sanctions imposed. Therefore, there is no gainsaying the fact that the West had conclusively ruled out the possibility of an all-inclusive intervention against the ISIL.

On the announcement of President Obama that an all-inclusive coalition to decimate and eventually defeat ISIL was finally in place, he was clearly talking about the US and their allied partners in NATO. Where is China and Russia? And even IRAN?! Yes, Iran is a strategic partner in this consideration.

Syria may be isolated because she is presently on the wrong course in handling of her internal conflict (external/sectarian-inspired war), but this does/must not rule out the inclusion of the government of the day in Syria, namely Bachar Al-Assad’s government to tackle ISIL! This is a fact. The ability to see (two) different matters dispassionately is a key in world politics. Otherwise, reactions is/can only be irresponsible.

Alongside the US and the United Kingdom, France has also begun airstrikes on ISIL targets. So, France must also shell Iraq to combat ISIL! One can safely conclude that in the opinion of the US-led coalition to battle ISIL, any capable country would do well to help in air-striking or otherwise the ISIL to achieve a defeat of the monster!

Allow me wonder aloud: Since when/how did ISIL come into possession of such powerful weaponry that Iraq must once again be invaded through the air? God help Syria because ISIL finally open a legal gateway for air-striking her territories!

They are doing all in order to help stabilize the region. Democracy is the ultimate goal.

The point is, NATO is not the world! And the world is not only NATO. No doubt, the Middle East is of strategic importance (political and economic) to the US and Europe, but geographically, it is neither Europe nor America! The ideals upon which NATO was founded, namely mutual protection of common interest, self-determination and (cultural) FREEDOM, are worth emulating. (Un-)fortunately, these NATO-ideals are not acceptable world-over.

By the way, one cannot currently respond very positively that NATO still live by her founding creeds. Beyond crude oil and imperial interests, US, UK and France seriously have next to nothing to protect in the Middle East! Sadly enough, Germany is gradually being drawn into these messy interests.

Think of Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Ghadaffi and Libya! These countries were invaded; Iraq was a full-blown war and the coalition air-struck Libya. Summed up, under (sometimes false) pretext by the West to bring about a cultural form of freedom, namely democracy in these countries, all necessary tools must not be spared to achieve this Western ideal in a region clearly cut-out for anything but practical democracy!

So far, Libya is definitely *a million light years* far from being democratic. She is also not peaceful. On uncovering that the Bush/Blair-war in Iraq was inspired by a hoax, the country plunged further and hopelessly into sectarian chaos. No doubt, failure had being pre-programmed. Democracy was/is further out of reach.

Sadam Hussein was definitely not the only person who could unite Iraq. Hanging him via a Western provoked war was neither a credible means to uproot an unwanted dictator. Besides, before Sadam’s overthrow, it was clear that Iraq is not a country mapped-out for practical democracy à la Western thinking. Likewise Libya. In short, many countries of that region would thrive far better with far lesser conflicts or none without the West directly intervening.

Think of Pre- and Post-Mubarak Egypt to understand how the Middle East/North Africa works best. With the successful overthrow of the President Mubarak’s government in Egypt in the Arab Spring, the West seemed to notice their failure shortly upon helping to install President Morsi. Yes, he was popularly voted into office in a presumed free and fair election, but the aftermath of his election was predictable. Egypt threatened to become another crisis-ridden country in that part of the world. Eventually, President Morsi was practically putsch-ed from office and jailed!

I would bet my shirt President/General As-Sisi seized power and consequently imposed himself as winner of a mock-election with the implicit blessing of the West. I swear he would stay longer in power than Mubarak, saving that he offended the West. Egypt would be relatively peaceful. There would be grumblings among dissenting voices, but President As-Sisi would be quick to bribe generously or jail them over to his side. Not that the West would keep her nose out of Egypt, but it would only be implicit.

It boils down to this: Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait among many other (relatively) peaceful countries in the region, function differently. She must not forcefully adopt the cultural freedom of the West (democracy) to survive and stay conflict/war-free. A renewed understanding and different approach to matters of the Middle East is thus an urgent imperative.

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Advocacy for Nigerian English (Tiwantiwa)!

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

You cannot expunge your language from your culture and by extension your identity. Words possess the meaning we ascribe them and who we are helps us give meaning to words.

I bear no grudge against the English Language. However, I dislike the pretence the language assumes; for example the Queens English is never wrong. Only speakers in the post-colonial countries can be wrong! The language changes according to the culture of the Brits. Consequently, the Anglophone keeps adjusting all along like train-waggons attached to the locomotive engine. So we grapple with what they call pronunciation and grammar problems. I have however realized that pronunciation problems like languages are constructs too. A few examples will suffice.

My grandmother pronounces the number 7 as seh-bin; a pronunciation that will earn her the tag of a semi-literate. Interestingly, Germans pronounce the same number almost in the manner just that theirs begin with sie and not seh. No one dares call them semi-literates as a result of the non-alignment of their pronunciation to English pronunciation rules. They have their own rules and culture which are products of history, fantasy, culture and experiences.

Another example is the French way of pronouncing tomato. To the French, it is tomate. This pronunciation is close to the prononciation by Yoruba speakers of the English language. We call it: tomati. Some pronounce tomat depending on which part the Yoruba speaker comes from. So if the British and American speakers of the English language evolve and alter several pronunciations for their convenience, what stops the Yoruba speaker of the English language from doing same?

In trying to convince me to see reasons to speak the ‘proper’ English, a friend argued that for every invention, the manufacturer’s manual should be followed. To me, that argument is not valid on two grounds: Firstly, Inventions are made with the cultural atmosphere of its target society in mind. The car manufacturer Toyota does not send left-hand drive vehicles to the UK or South Africa. Secondly, inventions are products of inventions. My knowledge of the Sciences betrays me here but I am aware of the fact that inventions by Einstein, Editon, Newton and other scientists inspired other inventions. Here is an example: The invention of smartphones are not unconnected from the existence of electricity. The world started with Abacuss. now there are modern and faster computer products. Inventions need be altered to suit the times.

Some have also argued that it is easier to understand each other when there are universal rules of usage. I do not subscribe to this argument. If comprehensibility is the premise for this argument, then the argument may also be flawed. Homi Bhabha, Prof Soyinka, Gayatri Spivak are some of the best post-colonial users of the English language but they are not easily comprehensible to the ordinary man. In fact Spivak has been accused of using inaccessible euphemism and academic jargon to avoid comprehensibility.

Furthermore a constraint to this universal rule of language usage is the question of who cares for the minority in the vast sea of the major Englishes? I like food and it pains me that any time I have to write Fufu and Egusi (Yoruba/African food) etc, the words are signaled as incorrect. Thus, I have to italicize them.

And the simplest reason I have heard for keeping the Queens English is this: It is more intelligible than our languages. In protest, I point out severally that ‘the response you are welcome is the weirdest I have ever heard to thank you.

By the way, I have learnt not to trust a language that says a slim person is skinny. Skinny should refer to a person with (a lot of) skin: So skinny should mean fat or something close to that if the English language was so intelligible. In the same light, how can inflammable be synonymous to flammable? Does the prefix, in- not negate?

Also, we may have to interrogate why the middle of the ocean is called sea , as in high-sea. Take a look at this too: Why should the earliest part of the morning be called night as in –midnight– in an intelligible language?

Beyond this, there is a pertinent question: What happens to words in the English language that have assumed different meaning in usage in the commonwealth countries like Nigeria? Here are some examples: A word like tribe and a sentence like I am coming do not have the same meaning as they do in the English language of the UK.

In addition, concepts in our native languages are at the risk of extinction if we keep up with the Queens-English-only-mentality. This is my proposition: Words that can only be translated loosely into English such as Alakoba, Olofofo, Ekule, Eleda among others should all be incorporated into the suppositional Nigerian English.

On a final note, let me remind of my submission at the start of this piece of mind: A language is a construct; it is an invention and it is dynamic. Therefore, it can be dynamically de-constructed and re-invented. So let the discourse begin. I strongly believe, we can all find our voice and put it into even better use by the tool of the language speak.

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