joeldurston

Posts Tagged ‘Dictatorship’

Freedom of Emission

In Opinion on April 12, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Browsing through my Facebook newsfeed the other day, as you do, I chanced upon a hilarious link sent by a friend to another titled: ‘Malawians outraged at the new farting bill’. I couldn’t not investigate….

It transpired that the article and news clip were about a new Local Courts Bill in the Malawi’s financial capital Blantyre, which legislated that: “Any person who vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the public, to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.” The bill will also attempt to deal with citizens who hinder the burial of dead bodies, as well as people who pretend to be fortune tellers.

The locals were rightly outraged at the new bill. They cited both the political reasons, such as the corrupt government wrongly focusing on trivial matters like public flatulence, rather than more pressing matters, such as child immortality, violence and illiteracy. And the practical reasons, such as the difficulty in tracing the culprit. College student Matthews Phiri claimed: “We all fart in public and it will be difficult to tell who has done it. Some do it silently. In some cases it is like teargas which goes like shhhh! Our legislators need to concentrate on discussing development projects. They should not waste our time and money on childish issues. It would make sense if they talked about defecating and urinating anyhow but not farting. This will not work. We will keep on farting.” Good for you, Matthews; keep up the gassy resistance, I say! It’s enough to make one think that ‘freedom of emission’ should join ‘freedom of expression’ in that hallmark of Western moral liberalism; the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

As funny as this new motion undoubtedly is, it highlights a more serious, age-old political trend…and a rather worrying one it is too. Namely, the penchant for governments to, if you will, sweep all their problems under the carpet, masked by various perfidious ploys; in this case, perverse legislation totally unrelated to other efforts. It happens all the time at the Olympics and other such sporting tournament. The spectacular ‘Bird’s nest’ arena that admittedly played such a wonderful host to the 2008 Beijing Olympics was the product of what was in aspects a very tough construction effort, with very poor working conditions and pay, forcible reinforcement and even related deaths (The Times reported ten, whilst Reuters, in a rather suspicious-sounding  ‘association’ with the Chinese government, claimed two).

But the prime example, of course, has to be the, quite frankly, madhouse that is North Korea. To quell concerns about (especially rural) poverty and political violence, to name but a few, Junior and Senior Kim Jong-Il have created the myths that North Korea is the best country in the world, fighting off the dominant evil forces of the rest of the world; that they are fittingly godly leaders with powers similar to that of the Judaeo-Christian God. My personal favourite myth is that Junior Kim was conceived and delivered immaculately by his mother from whose ‘birthing passage he strode out magnificently, already aware of his own brilliance.

During the last World Cup there was a hilarious blogger’s mock report of North Korea’s 50-0 victory over Brazil, just google ‘North Korea beat brazil 50-0’. It describes Kim Jong-Il’s incredible performance as he scored 49 goals almost single-handedly in the first half then, just to make matters fair, subbed everyone else off, put himself in goal and invited Brazil’s all time greats to come on. Needless to say, the great Kim kept a clean sheet for 45 minutes before scoring a heaven sent 50th goal. The game had to be stopped because no-one could stop the tears of admiration stemming from everyone in the stadium. On first reading of this, I laughed…a lot. Then, after a little research, I got the impression that this article was in fact probably pretty similar to the kind of shit that North Koreans are mercilessly fed on a daily basis and thus felt rather bad for using my freedom of expression to laugh at those who are tragically without this Western world luxury. Indeed, it is suspected that the North Korean government edited the footage of their team’s efforts in the World Cup such that they were presented as the winners of the thing!

This is far from the only time football has been used as a propaganda tool. During the 1978 World Cup, dictator of Argentina Jorge Rafael Videla is believed to have threatened violence, even death, to ‘his’ players had they not won the coveted Jules Rimet trophy in their own back yard. Thankfully for the players’ sakes, they did, but only after allegations of intimidation of opposition and suspicious results and decisions, including a very doubtful 6-0 win against Peru in their final group game which edged Argentina through by virtue of goal difference (Peru were decidedly under-par and several decisions went Argentina’s way which probably shouldn’t have).

And at the previous World Cup in ‘74, the dictator of Zaire (as it was then), worried of national embarrassment and consequent unrest and upheaval, threatened the national team with execution should they concede more than ten goals.  This is the team infamous for the hilarious scenes of players continually running out of the wall prematurely to disrupt the Brazilians taking of a free-kick (do yourself a favour and Youtube it). These are scenes that caused me to mock and look down at the Zaire players as disobedient, even stupid, until I learnt of their horrific plight (this was the 70-somethingth minute and they had conceded 9 goals in the tournament), thereafter seeing them as heroic members of the political resistance, running out of that wall to hoof the ball up the pitch as if, well, because, their lives depended upon it. You will be pleased to know they survived. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a film adaptation including Denzel as the inspirational talisman, Cuba Gooding Junior as the willing debutante and Morgan Freeman; the wise, world-weary manager. The Oscars would practically be in the bag.

Anyway, back to my original point; in whatever combination of sheer ignorance, or blatant indifference, of ‘their’ citizens’ conditions, governments have done and continue to do shocking things to cover domestic problems. That’s hardly a revelatory piece of political analysis I realise, but hear me out if you will. What worries me about this is that it means that all the respective Western government’s admirable statements of intent, be they genuine or not, to increase aid to developing countries could prove ultimately pretty futile. Comic Relief and other such charities present a ‘Disney-fied’ account of the developing world, whereby it is nigh-on guaranteed that x amount of pence will pay for Mary’s education for a month and x amount of pounds will pay for Lulu to drink clean water for at least a year. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a huge amount of admiration for such charities, I try to give and think they are right to portray charity and the developing world in such a way; I’m just not entirely sure it’s a particularly accurate representation.

Obviously it is in neither the respective LEDCs governments’ nor the charities’ interests to say so, but it is always alleged (quietly) that developing countries’ governments cream off so much of the aid money in spurious taxes that that charities (or MEDCs’ governments’) efforts are rendered unproductive. The same could be said of the money for or from sporting events. Such financial aid is arguably counter-productive if the money is used to prop up corrupt officials and businessmen, whilst maintaining the image of the poor country, that just needs to be ‘helped to help itself’.

While I don’t deny this is a noble mantra for helping countless specific communities, I do wonder how easy it is to get into such communities due to government interference. For example, I remember watching a show maybe a year ago where the presenter, as far as possible, travelled across the world along the titular line. He very bravely ventured into Burma, whereupon just over the border he encountered a tiny destitute community, many of whom were in very poor health. Not only were the government and the militia doing nothing to help this community, they were actively preventing a small group of Christian health workers from getting to this community, and no doubt countless similar ones too, when the only possible agenda they had was to gently preach the message of a 2,000-year-old Jew. The presenter and cameramen soon got the hell outta there!

In many countries, I get the impression that senior politicians who want to keep hold of their leadership are in cahoots with the police or militia, who want a subordinate populace, who in turn are in league with heads of business who want to retain a huge sub-strata of society, willing to work for next to nothing. And these businessmen conspire with the politicians in the whole murky network where ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

So, in addition to rueing the injustices of imperialism (especially throughout history) and Western apathy, I feel a lot of the blame for wealth differences lies with those at the top of the hierarchy, too self-interested to see or do anything about the strife on their doorstep.  In his new book The Chosen One, Sam Bourne writes: ‘politics would always rise up and strangle hope, like a weed choking a flower’….

So as I draw to a close, and seek to unite my many digressions, for which I am sorry, I start to hope that the above is the misguided ramblings of a cynic; that the world isn’t rife with unremitting corruption and pain. Or that this state of affairs doesn’t harness its power to entrench and self-perpetuate itself. Otherwise it may well be an accurate and depressing reflection of the world’s geo-political state; as we fail to disinfect the stagnant injustice that continues well into the 21st century.

Joel Durston

http://thisaffectedyouth.com/2011/03/29/freedom-of-emission/#more-739

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12363852

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