Monthly Archives: November 2011

Krav Maga, Disaster Capitalism and Self Defence

Krav Maga

Krav maga is the deadliest self defence fighting method, simply put. Unlike other known self defence techniques, most of what is taught about krav maga is a recent invention. It is said that krav maga was developed by the Israeli Military, I was definitely popularized by the military. The innovative minds in Israel formalize the best way to deliver the most lethal attacks on opponents (or assailants). Israel is renowned for its finesse in the security business which now involves self defence.

Krav maga is efficient, in engineering terms. That means that a punch technique is designed to deliver the most lethal blow at the least strain to the puncher. It incorporates several techniques from some martial arts and sports and made them easier to do while maitaining or increasing its effect. Punches were borrowed from boxing, kicks from taekwondo & kick-boxing and throws from karate and judo. However throws are rare (inefficient for energy). Its more efficient to kick/punch an opponent until they throw themselves out of pain. Another efficient method is to lock an opponent in a painful position; inflicting pain with little muscle movement.

Disaster Capitalism

Disaster capitalism is the ideology that there is profit in destruction. Unlike the covert profit making during the second world war, disaster capitalism is in the open. From IMF to  the private companies and all that benefit from absence of “development, infrastructure and security”, disaster capitalism has been given legitimacy.

There have been three remarkable economic booms in the past two centuries; when sovreign economies grew as fast a race car on nitro. Three markets benefitted; Manufacture market from the industrial boom and E-commerce market from the dot.com boom. Disaster capitalism brought booms in security, weapons and construction markets among others. Security here refers to those products and services that make us FEEL safe.

As explained by Bruce Schneier, it is not security that matters but the feeling of security. The product of this market relies on fear for marketting. It used to be a few people that build bomb shelters in the USA but successful fear propanganda has made more demands for this after “Al qaeda” attacks and never ending broadcast on nuclear possessing countries like Iran and North Korea. While Bush was in power, a drug for bird flu went out of stock (due to demands) in pharmacies accross the USA as the bird flu epidemic was being predicted and marketed. The ever-certain prediction never came to be. Coincidentally, a major shareholder of the company was Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defence.

A more recent boom is the App boom in the mobile computer market. Companies have been formed that employs application developers to be creative and produce mobile apps that people will want to purchase. Sometimes it requires marketting because consumers need to feel they need (or want) the App before purchasing. Similarly, disaster capitalists come up with imaginative ways disasters can occur and then market their products along those lines. Israel is famous for its security expertise and its fear-profitable market. Israel also gave us Krav Maga.

A Fear Driven Market

Krav Maga is efficient, deadly and very convincing when shown a demonstration (check youtube if you doubt me). Its simplicity and effectiveness for self defence makes it the ideal product to subdue an opponent or do away with him/her for good. In Israel, where every able citizen is required to pass through the military, it seems it has the market. This is the same country where citizens are aprehensive and twitchy looking over their shoulders for the next suicide bomber from those Arabs that don’t seem to take oppression too well. What about Krav Maga’s popularity in other countries.

Krav Maga is a close contact self defence method. If someone has a bomb and is ready to die, I am not sure how much Krav Maga can do to stop them. However most of these countries where krav maga is popular, they have more assault situations that krav maga can handle. So krav maga is marketed for alley-attacks. Did I mention they are “dark alleys” (quite and hearing only your noisy footsteps echoing); a scene common in many movies. The rest is easy, the imagination will run free and that is how fear marketing works in disaster capitalism.

Another perk of Krav Maga is that it is easy. Unlike those stressful martial arts like Kung fu and Taekwondo, the practitioner doesn’t need to be gym-fit to inflict damage. It is to martial arts as fast food is to home cooked food. It has been made accessible to the everyday Joe (and Jane). It is easy to operate and energy efficient… I feel as if I am describing an everyday consumer product like a phone. Perhaps Krav Maga, as it is marketed is as much a well designed consumer product as it is a self defence technique.

My Krav Maga Class

Some months ago, I decided to join a Krav Maga class after being impressed by its efficiency. Those martial arts hardly stand a chance with krav maga because it takes one Krav Maga attack to put your opponents hopes in comatose. I can count how many fights I have had in my adult life and none of the situations seemed appropriate to use a terminal Krav Maga technique. I had been seduced by the self propagating marketting of Krav Maga which is planted in the mind and fear is fertilizer. Now every time I watch a movie scene in an alley (or find myself in a similar position) I say to myself “hmmm what if someone jumps out and I Krav their Maga”.

I attended the first class, which every new member is entitled to try by paying cash. Subsequent classes are paid by direct debit which means every month a certain amount will be paid from your bank account. I geared up and the session began.

It was surprising to find that there wasn’t a single female in the class. I would think they are more the victims of “alley-assaults”, at least according to Hollywood movies. There guys, who like me, think themslves as lethal machines like Steven Segal. How did I know? I looked in to the mirror. Imam Ghazali (and others in different ways) advised that by observing your company and noticing their faults, one should reflect that fault on himself/herself and improve. My partner was a 40-year-old pot-bellied man whizzing noisily after less than five minutes of warm ups. Yet he was as pretentious as unaware of his reality. There was no doubt that his mind was nimble but his mind was unaware of his body. His gear were so complete that you can call him a Krav Maga Ninja. But the most revealing part is when we are given a task, he makes it so theatrical that I forget whether I am there for training or in rehearsals.

Warm up is done, heavy whizzing in the ambience and techniques about to begin. We started with classical setups like close proximity with single opponent whos strikes a scripted attack at the command of the instructor. But then things started becoming interesting; the attacks were now from the side, from behind and from two sides at once. Real-looking plastic guns and knives were brought out and given to the attackers. The feeling is good when you avoid a knife (or gun) and take possession of it. It is adviced that you throw the weapon away and hold down the attacker but you could stab (or shoot) your attacker if you feel it is safer. Many trainees prefered to attack with the confiscated weapon. When they shoot, they do it like Jack Bauer and when they stab, its like Rambo.

After an exhausting (and enriching) two hour session, I noticed the uncanny similarities in the attack methods used in different scenes. I also found out that most of the scenes we practised have been done by the trainees several times. So the sessions were mostly repititions of scenarios that could happen. The trainees role is to become used to such scenes so that when that day finally comes, it can be put in to practice. The trainee may have as much chance of using his skills in an actual hollywood movie. The Krav Maga market depends on creative imaginations of those who design its deadly techniques and the dependence that these scenes are fear inducing. I am beginning to doubt originality in the Krav Maga think-tanks, the scenes could have been thought up by movie directors and script writers and I’m sure you can find some in movies, I have.

Art or Sport?

It could be any of the two or both, as any other endeavour could. However it has more chance of being a sport than art. Art is characterized by Originality and subjective meanings (inner dimension) whereas sport is characterized by mastery.

I can’t find anything original about the techniques in Krav Maga, the only thing original may be the sythesis of different techniques from Martial Arts and perhaps the product’s (Martial Arts Techniques) accesibility to a wider consumer base. The latter is originality in marketting but not Martial Arts. The only inner dimension to Krav Maga is FEAR which is transmutated to mean security and confidence. I believe the inner dimensions of art should be an emotion that one is in control of not one that controls you.

As for being a sport, any thing that can be repeated and made more effective is sport. Repitition and effectiveness correctly describe Krav Maga as the demanded product it is. To rest my argument, Krav Maga is a registered sport. I wonder if royalties have to be paid to Krav Maga Associations (or whoever claims ownership) before legally teaching Krav Maga.

My Self Defence

Siding with common-sense-statistics, a person is more likely to get attacked by food (food poisoning) than by another person. So I’ll watch the hygiene of the food that I take like a germ vigilante. I am taking self defence to a new frontier, different from dark alleys. Although the two frontiers are not mutually exclusive, I prefer to put my resources in a frontier that is more practical.

Another important frontier is the mind. I prefer to defend myslef from fear; especially from the popular fear marketting. I prefer to defend myself from the action-movie syndrome that makes me want to feel like Jason Bourne. Ineluctably, I did not subscribe for the fear based Krav Maga class.

I still think Krav Maga is effective and I might someday decide to enroll for a month or so, or get a training dvd to learn the essentials for whenever (if ever) an opportunity presents itself. I refuse to be consumed by fear and vicarious enactment of an action movie.

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Imperialism: The Alternative to Shame

The Situation

The hot issue in Nigeria today is the government’s decision to import fuel from Niger Republic. It has summoned reactions. Many of the reactions are a repitition of each other. Listening to the radio this morning, there were basically two voices in the dialectic: the one wailing “shame!” and the other pushing for Nigerian Imperialism.

Shame Shame Shame

To the disappointment of Nigerians, it seems that prophecy of Nigeria being the Giant of Africa may never be fulfilled. It becomes more unclear whether it is a prophecy to be fulfilled or glorious past that is yet to be let go. It might be that it was a time anomaly in people’s minds where popular narratives skip from the “memories” of the past to aspirations of the future without being actualized in the present. Don’t get me started on the look-at-South-Africa Nigerian debate.

The radio show this morning. Majority of the callers echoed “Shame on Nigeria”. This is partly due to the high esteem they hold their country, partly the condescending sentiments they have for the “Backward” Niger and partly their sympathy for the unyielding “Giant of Africa”. One listener of the show sent an sms that said only “Shame! Shame! Shame!”.

Yes people may be frustrated about the issue, but can they go beyond their ego and romantic perception of their country? Ego has lost its progressive force. Such ego frowns at solutions because solutions might take part of its lime light. Shame has a powerful impact and hence its resonance with people, but this kind of shame is played out. Let go of ego and move further or do something else entirely.

Imperialism

The alternative argument in the show was that Nigeria can use this opportunity to extend her imperialist tentacles. The idea of Nigeria as imperialist stems from the doctrine of “Giant of Africa”. Nigeria has been playing big brother to many african (especially west africa) countries; helping out in military might, funds and (I hear) in stopping coups. From military expeditions in Liberia (early 1990s) to the 2011 education funds to three countries.

The radio-show’s advocate of imperialism sees the pattern and believes this is an oppotunity to get a tighter grip on Niger. His plan is that by importing fuel from Niger, Nigeria becomes a stakeholder in Niger’s economy and can gradually hold a stronger influence. His inspiration is (of course) the USA; how USA imports from its neighbors even though it has its reserves so that it can control economies of the neighbors.  His citation of the USA situation was attacked by subsequent callers to the point that mentioning it here is like re-opening a grave.

Interesting Questions

Amidst the dichotomy of Shame VS Imperialism, a commentator on the show asked for answers that would shed light on the situation. Who owns (or is a shareholder in) the Niger refineries that will supply the Nigeria? If it is owned by the government, then we may look in to the usually ignored places for corruption. If, on the other hand, it is a private company then we may ask if there are Nigerians among the owners.

We can investigate whether the importation is truely a better alternative to the existing system; as it affects the nation’s economy. Let us expand the discussions to go beyond weeping at shame and pointing at the country. The country is ashamed enough, Oya lets move on and do something productive. Imperialism, at least, is something.


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Shock Therapy: Fuel Subsidy Removal

Understanding and Assumption

There has been much discussions and threats of revolution around the removal of fuel subsidy; in Nigeria. There has been claim that governors are advocating it to compensate for the reduction in state funds due to the recent pressure to increase minimum wage. I am neither qualified nor have sufficient information to speculate on the legitmacy of this matter. I also don’t want to repeat what so many critics have been saying. But I criticize based on simple maths of the situation; by estimating how much cost of living will increase in a country without safety nets.

The cartoon below is my un-artistic attempt to portray my understanding of the Fuel Subsidy Removal Issue.

The starting point is that the Fuel Subsidy Removal is a “shock therapy” or at least a bad attempt at “shock therapy”.

Shock Therapy

Shock therapy is the treatment administered after a shock. Who administers it? policy makers. What is the shock? shock can be a disturbance that disorients the senses and mental faculties of its victims. Who are the victims? a governed people. Shock therapy, as put by Naomi Klein, is a sinister ideology that lurks for a shock and takes advantage of the resulting disorientaion in order to change government policies that could not have been possible before the shock; without much resistance. This is different from non self profiting policy changes or planned (in case of shocks) policy changes which are decided and reserved as contingency plan for when a shock occurs. Unfortunately there are too many forms shock can manifest that it is impossible to anticipate each one.

Shock could be in form of “terrorist” attacks, epidemic, natural disasters, political instability or plain old brutal dictator regimes. The precursor for shock therapy is a shock. The rise of shock therapy in the past century is inseparable from an economic school of thought that holds privatisation of the public sphere as sacred. Examples of countries where shock therapy was administered are Chile under Pinochet, Polland after recessing from the Soviet , Iraq under US invasion, England during Margareth Thatcher’s easily-avoidable war and the Argentinian counterpart. New Orleans of the USA also fell victim to shock therapy after the epic privatisation campaigns after Hurricane Katrina.

The main function of the shock is to give the leader (policy makers) the license to make changes to policy without rejection through public debates. Therefore, a dictator doesn’t really need a shock since no one will oppose him (and succeed to tell about it).
In summary, the requirement for a successful shock therapy is a shock. Shock can come as a dictatorship or physical disaster.

In Nigeria

Shock therapy has left its signatures in Nigeria; need I say more? During Obasanjo’s regime, there was hardly any effective opposition to his whims. The corruption is widely acknowledge even by Obasanjo’s partners that fell off with him. Obasanjo enjoyed atleast a quasi dictatorship through his far reaching money-generous tentacles and also having the the judiciary and much of the legislature in his pocket. Functionally, Obasanjo was a dictator because policies went his way even if official stakeholders put forward more reasonable solutions.Being a quasi-dictator, Obasanjo fulfilled the requirement for administering shock therapy. His quasi status limits the drastic changes he had power to effect but it nonetheless allowed him to do things his way.

The second signature during Obasanjo’s regime is that of privatisation. I am not aware of much opposition to the privitisation of public enteprises, the significance of privatisation is a telling sign of the narrow-minded privatisation-driven nature of the econmic model that goes with shock therapy. The brazen corruption that accompanied the privatisation confirms that the regime had a dictator-type free rein to do as it wanted. The most telling clue is when public-owned basic amenities companies like water and security are privatised. Water companies were proposed for privatisation. Although the police was not privatised, there was a boom in the private security industry even though some of them are mere “gate-men” with uniforms who deceptively project an air of security. You need to ask, who owns these security companies and what is their relationship to the government?

The ultimate aim (especially in the Nigerian version) is to make as much pocket-money for the policy makers. It is a known truth in Nigeria that as long as money exists as accessible to the government, then government officials will make the most of out it (or more correctly: the least out of it). In regards to the recent fuel subsidy removal, removing the subsidy leaves all that money (in Trillions of Naira) formerly used for subsidy at the mercy of the government. Nigerians have little faith trusting the government officials to handle such a juicy trust. Why give a alcoholic an opened bottle of alcohol to keep for you.

If subsidy removal is the shock therapy, then what is the shock you ask? It is acknowledged that the president (Goodluck) hardly has the character of a dictator as he himself admitted in a church speech likening himself to David not Goliath (Nigeria has a sling but I dont think he knows how to use it). I continue… the shocks are three:

  1. MEND attacks,
  2. Boko Haram attacks
  3. and the 2011 post election carnage.

Will the Shock Therapy be Successful?

While refraining from speculation about the future, the present state of affairs is not promising for supporters of the removal. May be there is truth in the accusations that this government is incompetent, if it can’t administer shock therapy as successful as other unfortunate countries given opportunities of three major shocks. But why hasn’t the shock therapy succeeded? Iraq provides us with the answer.

After 9/11, America saw the window of opportunity to invade a middle eastern country for infiltration and genesis of privatisation crusades. After deliberation, Iraq was selected for three reasons; Iraqis didn’t like Saddam, Saddam wasn’t suppressing any “terrorist” group for the USA and Iraq is familiar territory for the USA. Since desert storm was a documented war, the Americans knew what mistakes to avoid. The invasion was quick and easy. But not in the long run, as a US official said “Our invasion of Iraq was successful but our occupation of it is a disaster”. The main reason, Naomi Klein points out, is that the quick victory didn’t allow for enough shock to shake the people. Iraqis were in a sound psychological state to be militant against the invadors. Iraq shock was not like Chile’s; where Pinochet attacked the presidential building with heavy weaponry even though those inside were not armed, and also ; his purpose was to create shock in the country and he succeeded.

Nigerians, as it turns out, have a stubborn psychological state that has been trained to stay sane after so many ethnic crisis and carnages. It is like someone who thinks they had drugged you walks in to your room casually as you lay in the dark, then tries to steal your wrist watch. When you catch them, they insist on saying that it is better for you to be asleep as if repeating it will hipnotize you to sleep. I think it would ve been more successful if the policy change was to do with security (which is at the fore of the three Nigerian shocks), then it will be relevant. In the analogy, it will be like the theif trying to take your helmet off; even if you catch the theif you may be persuaded by his argument that it is better for your head with the helmet off.

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A day at the PTA: Insight into Nigeria part2

Read A day at the PTA: Insight in to Nigeria part1 here

Security Cards

To control visits of parents and reduce unsupervised external influences, the school management proposed a security identity card. The card will be kept with the security at the gate and only parents and guardians whose pictures are on the card will be given permission to proceed further. There will be three photo’s on every student’s card.

It seems like a good plan and the parents agreed to it. I chuckled because I have seen many similar ventures in Nigeria fail, just a day before the meeting I saw a similar ID for my other sibling’s day school lying somewhere in the house and I was told that the ID system has been cancelled. I remember when it was enforced during the first wave of kidnapping in Nigeria, people were scared then. But now we hear of kidnappings as much as road accidents and may be the fear has subsided or parents can’t be bothered. The popular failed ID systems are National ID project and Driver’s license which are to be renewed (at huge sums of course). Other probable failures awaiting their turn are Voters Registration and sim card registration.

I doubt the school is corrupt nor will it benefit financially from contracting IDs of cardboard paper IDs with three photos. There was no recent kidnap of boarding school students. It can be used to control trafficking contraband but it is the parents that bring half the contraband anyway. Its purpose may not be for security but I think it has to do with parents washing their hands of the contraband cartel by publicly voting for a way to discontinue it. Doesn’t this resemble well known corrupt politicians denouncing corruption in the media?

Bringing food to students on that day was specifically prohibited and reiterated many times in the meeting but the feast after the meeting was almost as if to symbolize the last. I am being optimistic here. The food was brought by the same parents that agreed not to do so during the PTA.

Impunity

For the second time, the issue of stealing was brought up. The principal warned that most of the “stealing” cases were actually carelessness on the part of the students. And that the students would complain that it had been stolen to avoid getting scolded at home. Parents jumped at this explanation and embraced it so hard that it felt loved. Having been in boarding school myself I acknowledge that “many” cases of stealing could be due to carelessness but not all. Secondly, carelessness only explains lack of secured keeping but it doesn’t explain why another student (the thief) goes ahead to steal.

When Aisha leaves her shirt lying around the common room; that is carelessness. But when Amina takes it away without returning it; that is stealing.

Also, in my days, there were genuine thieveries. Students (thieves) that unlock a locker (or bag), take what they want and leave unnoticed. Some were caught and some even made it as a habit. Santa Clause and Madame Kwas-Kwas are not real but stealing student are.

The parents were so eager to accept anything does not implicate their kids as potential thieves. I can understand why: first is that the parents don’t have to worry that their child (who does not steal at home) may be a thief; secondly if a parent agree there are thieves then the other parent sitting with you may be the parent of a thief. This social awkwardness was deflected by the explanation that the students are just careless. Now parents look at each other smiling as if telling themselves “How clumsy our kids are!”. Everyone is happy. Stealing is not acknowledged. The issue was explained away.

Finances

A parent made a case that there is a huge sum of money in the school’s bank account but it has been keep dormant for over two years. Her case was so convincing that I was surprised to find out that she was not a banker but a medical doctor. A discussion followed on which banks had the best interest rates, which had the least savings-cost and which were profitable yet safe. It was surprising that the supporters of the different banks seemed like mere customers but not staffs of the banks they advocate. If there were bankers among them, they knew how to act like they weren’t. This took some time going on…

Until another parent came up with one of the best ideas that day. She asked “why didn’t we use this money in two years when there are things that need to be done?”. This should have been the logical question to ask when we found out that the money has been virtually untouched for two years. At this point the idea hit everyone like “Ooooo so we can use this money”.

To be fair to the parents, many of them there have successful careers and are bosses in their organizations. The problem was not in identifying the next logical step. I think it was in getting consumed by the discussion on how to maximize the profit from the school account. Lack of focus? its possible. And how lack-of-focus festers Nigeria’s political environment. When Angolan (I think) president made a statement that his country will not repeat Nigeria’s mistake, there was uproar and rapid responses from politicians for the “insult”. But did any of them asked what the Nigerian mistake really was?

Inauguration

As we approached the closing remarks, the chair discovered that there was one program that was not included in the program list. Subcommittees on the executives had not been inaugurated. This called for another string on formalities only second to first few seconds of a Parliamentary sitting.

Second Amendment of Constitution

The subcommittees were welfare, academics and others (can’t remember). The PTA constitution was amended for the second time that day. The ratio of parents to teachers to executives which formed a subcommittee was revised and all agreed. It took at least forty minutes to inaugurate them. I wondered why use such big words like “inaugurate” and why make it more formal. It dawned on me that it works and (perhaps) being that we like ceremonies, this was the most active PTA I have participated (I had been to one at same school but it was a different executive council). I don’t mind the formalities, especially the Victorian Aye and Nay.

A Doctor’s Oath

A sick student was treated by the school’s sickbay before transferred home or to a hospital. The parent requested for information about the medication given to the child and it turned out the sickbay doesn’t document drug administration. That was appalling to me, but only for a second because I don’t remember having my situation documented even when I went to sickbay. I couldn’t have been too occupied by the pain because I would fake it just to get some rest or getaway from a boring class.

The PTA decided that they would do a reshuffling of the sickbay staff, check for their credentials and possibly replace them with better qualified practitioners. There was even the talk of getting a full time General Practitioner for the school with all the money that it has been piling. Medical documentation was a powerful point. If you have kids or siblings in boarding schools, go and push for them to document medical treatments if they don’t. A parent who is a doctor took responsibility of seeing this process of rectifying the sickbay; the declaration of responsibility sounded like an oath. Powerful.

In the End

The meeting started with about sixty participants and there were about two hundred in the end. This lateness actually made the PTA more interesting because some parents that came late usually get up and raise an issue passionately only to be boooooooed by the sitting parents. Their expressions were always priceless because at first it seems to them the booers disagree with them. Then they find out that that booing was for coming late since the issue they are raising had been discussed, and apparently they were not there. The meeting started after 12:00pm and finished after 3:00pm. Pheewwww!

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A day at the PTA: Insight into Nigeria part1

Significance of the PTA

Two weekends ago, I was at a PTA (Parents Teachers Association) meeting in a secondary school. No, I don’t have a child in secondary school, I was a representative. It is a school for the middle class of Nigeria. The school has a culture of attracting parents who want to be involved in shaping the future of their children as indicated by the decision power of the PTA and expressed in the hip fashion of the parents. Most came in with iphones, ipads and tablets video conferencing and tweeting (I didn’t have to peek). This is an opportunity to observe the workings of Nigeria because I am in the midst of the brains of the country. It is a miniature of the working (active) Nigeria.

Disclaimer

In the interest of anonymity and respect, names of the school and people will not be mentioned. Hopefully the reader will not be able identify the school; so this is neither marketing nor slandering. The purpose of the post is to understand Nigeria’s political and work cultures by sitting through a PTA meeting.

Late Coming

The meeting was set to start at 10:00am as always but because the new state administration has prescribed monthly sanitation on this Saturday, the meeting was postponed to 11:30 (although most parents were not informed). I was there at 11:00am and there were just over twenty parents (and teachers). The chair of the PTA was there but the six executive seats were only half filled (the chair of the meeting was present).

Amendment of Constitution

11:30am and barely thirty parents so the chair requested that we start at 12:00noon and all concurred. 12:00pm, less than forty and like any reasonable person the chair called for a different interpretation of the PTA constitution which was the only thing holding from starting the meeting this late.

According to the PTA constitution, a quarter of the PTA members had to be present to get the meeting started. There are over six hundred parents. The chair first proposed that “PTA members” in the constitution should be interpreted as “registered PTA members” who have paid the levy. There was a resonant “Aye” and a silent “Nay” That reduced the number from 600+ to 500+. Therefore we need about 130 parents to start. The number was still insufficient.

The smart chair then proposed a second creative amendment (or interpretation) which is that since some parents have more kids (students) than others, that should be weighted in the quantitative significance of the parents i.e. parents with 4 children should count as 4 while parents of 1 child should count as 1. But there was no such record that could tell us that; at this point it started feeling like the Nigeria I have come to identify with.

In the absence of solutions, the chair added a few jargons and all parents agreed to start. It felt like the parliament when parents shouted “Aye!”. The conscesion was not for the valid arguments but for the smart effort of the chair and the discontent felt by parents for coming “too early” (as some lamented). The PTA was called to session.

Prayers

Like any Nigerian event, we start with prayers. I admired the prayer session because it was relevant, unlike many beautiful prayers that people memorize but have nothing to do with the event. The Opening Surah (Muslim) and the Father’s Prayer (Christian) may be agreed to be universally relevant at any occasion but its the additions that come after them that address the situation. The prayer aimed at the PTA, its successful conduction and sound decisions to come of it. Now that is relevant.

 The Ice Breaker

The next item was the consideration and adoption of previous PTA minutes. The hall was now silent and with more than sixty almost-shy parents. I assumed the minutes would be checked for unrecorded points made; maybe they did. A parent announced a spelling mistake in the four-page minutes. Then a second, third, fourth… one grammar mistake, two, three… then a second parent joined the criticism. This exercise in proof-reading became the ice breaker because even those whose minds were away at the beginning joined the lively corrections. That became clear because some were correcting what had been corrected earlier in session.

Basically the typist never bothered to proof read, OR it was given to some primary school business-center typist, OR the recorder’s handwriting was just that bad to be typed well, or the recorder was a first year student in the school. Ooh but the parents enjoyed making the corrections like solving puzzles. There was not a mention of a missing content or misrepresented decision; it was a proof reading ice breaker. I suggest you get a badly typed passage (or minutes) when next you need an ice breaker at a meeting.

Faulty Logic

The principal’s address was full of praises and promises of the school. On discipline the principal said: “I am disciplined. People around me know I am disciplined. Therefore your (our) children are disciplined”. Some parents nodded at this but this is a logical fallacy. If you don’t see it yet let me put it in another way “I am an A student. People around me know that I am an A student. Therefore your kids are students”. I don’t think she meant to say it as it came out, because with just one or two minor alterations, It will not be a fallacy. But I thought it was an interesting point.

In Nigeria’s (like others’) political sphere, politicians get away with similar fallacies all the time. Here are some examples.

Security to Aesthetics

An issue was raised on students’ uniforms mysteriously disappearing. It was identified as security issue and a carelessness issue. As a security issue, it was decided that a form of student identification should be put on the uniforms. This was the departure from Security as an issue. The longer time was used in making decisions (and debates) as to whether to used embroidery, detachable tags, permanent markers, use student names, use student ID numbers, where to put in on the shirt, should it be on the skirt and pants? There was a discussion on how to make a shirt fitted using a few tricks, which I learned.

Towards the end of the discussion, I remembered that the issue was actually of security. It reminded me of Nigerian subjects that were similarly detracted: the credibility of the last presidential election which turned to attack on persons and religion, Viability and appropriateness of Islamic (non-interest) Banking which became a security and religious-identity issue etc

Continue with part2 of this post here.

 

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Sallah in Abuja

Who says Sallah (Eid) celebration in Abuja is dry? I disagree. The main reason I go to a northern state for Sallah celebration was to watch the Sallah parade (hawan sallah). The Sallah parade is an array of extravagant traditional title holders in designer leather shoes and most expensive shades; in addition to their peacock-like expensive traditional attire. I was never fascinated by this part of the parade. My main attraction has always been the foot paraders that have the most flamboyant and corny outfits… and it is in no way satirical for them.

At Abuja’s Millieneum Park (MPark), a revolution is happening. When MPark was opened to the public (some five or so years ago), it used to be the hot spot for the cool kids of abuja. Then when residents from the satellite settlements of Abuja started frequenting MPark, the inner city kids (refering to the cool upper class type) felt it wasn’t their kind of place. MPark lost it coolness and became hot for anyone wanting to host a cheap party without paying for a venue.

I was at MPark today (8th Nov) and Sallah (Eid) was alive, not in the way we expect it but as a mutated celebration conceived by nomadism and urbanism. You’ll soon get it. I took pictures too, so the written story will be short. I didnt pose with (or asked any to pose) because I will start feeling like a tourist with colonialist sentiments. Unlike many people I overheard there, I will not call the  people I saw as backwards. I reserve that label for others that are less identified as so.

… Before Getting There

While driving, I saw a number of Fulani natives walking by the sidewalks, they are one of my favorite tribes. They are normally spotted on inter-city roads but this time it was opposite the Hilton Towers within Abuja City. It is not difficult to decipher that they are going for Sallah Celebration in the public MPark. I immediately trafficated and went through the security check I dread; went in and mingled. Luckily I had a camera phone with me. These are some of the things I saw that made an impression.

(It was not only Fulani tribes that were there but they were the most flamboyant.)

Weapons Check

Cars go through a thorough weapons check but pedestrians pass unfettered. There was no metal detector for pedestrians and this particular tribe is more deadly with their wooden staffs. They were so many that only a few were made to be security-checked at the entrance while others were able to sneak through with theirs (hover mouse over picture below). I found a broken staff within the park, it could mean there was a fight or that they played the fulani dance requires hitting their sticks (see slide show at end of post for a picture of broken staff).

Masculinity

The guys had permed (and blown out) hairs and some with afro picks in the hair. Guys had tight under-fitted shirts and skinny three-quater pants, which are actually undersized pants. They had colorful wears, baseball hats, hair ribbons (those things like tiaras) and finally Sony (no kidding) headphones (like T-pain) to give the gear its up-to-date-ness. some had airphones instead but it wasn’t really for the music because they had phones on speakers. The teenagers have fake side burns that appear to have been drawn by eye pencil or charcoal. Many of the guys actually wore undersized tight female blouse (I think they are called spaghettis). There was justice in the air because many guys had their home-made capes (like arm-less mexican jacket) like the justice league of super-heroes or a comic fest; very colorful as well. One cool guy had his girl beside him while rocking his timberlands and a kufiyya arabiy… cool.

Another thing that stayed with me was the arab-type “over-familiarity” between the guys. Arabs cheek-kissing (a casual greeting) each other is seen as repulsive by the average mtv zombie. The Fulani guys were holding hands most of the time, so that only a few fingers lock sometimes… while walking with their girl friends. It was seen as normal and nothing homo-phobic about their attitudes because they are some secure people (in their masculinity). And these are one of the most masculine (testostorone pumping) tribes you can meet out there. Its like mistaking the kilt-wearing scottsman as feminine; William Wallace will have you belly dancing for him.

Girl Power

The girls were cheeky and they controlled the crowd. Many smaller crowds were formed with the people dancing in a circle to the same music. If the crowd was more than five people, It was a girl leading it. And she was not dancing for the guys there, no, she was commanding the crowd on what to do.

The cheeky girls were good at getting the guys to behave. There was always a guy trying to break in to a clique of girls (that didnt come with their guys). When guys try to do something rude the girls give them a look that says amma smack the fulani out of you! and like kids that have been scolded it was amazing to see the once rude guys behave. I saw that happened three times so here is one. Two girls bought a balloon (beach ball) and while playing with it, three guys tried to get acquainted by intercepting the ball. I figured that was what they wanted to do and I think the smaller girl figured that too so she went ahead to pick up the ball before the guy (who is further) ran towards it. She waited for him to get closer then warned him with a daring and waving index finger. He didn’t seem to have apologized but he learnt not to mess with this girl from his embarassed face and his friends mockery of him (hover mouse over picture below).

Despite their sense of masculinity, it didnt seem the culture allowed much for interactive opression of girls, as opposed to statutory inferiority.

Urbanization

I advice the Fulani’s there not to pursue urbanization, as it is defined by the Nigerian music industries. It was the most bizarre scene when Fulani tribesmen are dancing in circles to Timaya rocking from their loud (china made) phones. I couldn’t believe the scene. Only one crowd was rocking a Hausa-movie track. All the rest were Timaya, D’banj and similar party musicians.

Hiphop

The scene had hiphop improvisation at its engine. There would be one person in a crowd (like a cipher) playing music from his mobile phone and controlling the cowd (MCing). The biggest crowd was one with a girl in the middle holding small stool-size radio player which had higher volume than the mobile phones. She was the sole-controller and she definitely had mass appeal.

Miscellaneous

A Fulani girl in a christian wedding gown, fully geared with the transparent veil… no kidding. When someone made fun of her, she swore she looked like an Indian (Bollywood). The fulani’s are known for their natural long hair. I think I saw the first with fake hair attachment. Many Fulani’s there took photos without resistance to the insisting photographers but they refused to pay even after extravagant poses. MPark being the decadence-infested area it has come to be, I saw weed (marijuana) retailers with rolled-sticks thicker than candles. Openly offering me to buy, no effort in hiding.

Finally

Enjoy the slide show below. See if you can identify some of the characters mentioned. One thing is for sure, Sallah is not dry in Abuja. It is two days after Eid and it’s still popping

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Polygamy and Cheating: A Thin Line?

Background

This post relates to the apparent rise in relationship cheating among Hausa men of Nigeria. The Hausa are predominantly Muslims and Islam allows for Polygamy. I explore the relationship between Polygamy and cheating (if there is any).

We hear about (and see) married Hausa men cheating. Even though some are of the ages of our parents, cheating became popular within the last twenty years (according to people I talked with). What could be the cause? Is it decadence of both sexes, is it men liking more women, is it women liking more married men?… These may have a part to play but I want to argue that the answer lies in Polygamy and Boyfriend-GirlFriend-Paradigm. However the cause of it is Moral Corruption.

Single Marriages: Then and Now

Tales of how our parents met each other has the innocense of a primary school kid, even the most adventurous of them. There was as much formalities as there is today around weddings; probably more. The reigning conservative mind-set made it easier for couples to have minimal (or supervised) interactions. Today, a few years later and thousands of romantic movies (novels and songs) later, we prefer to have boyfriends and girlfriends before becoming husband and wife. Basically, the methods of pursuing marriage has changed.

Scenario: Conservative First Marriage

– Boy sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her parents’ house
– Boy likes girl, boy tells daddy or mummy
– Daddy talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

Scenario: Adventurous First Marriage

– Boy sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her house (or parents’)
– Boy takes girl out privately or Girl comes to meet boy. They meet in fun spots and apartments; Girl’s parents know not
– Depending on the what is considered romantic, they do some of it or all of it
– Boy likes girl, boy tells daddy or mummy (it is official now)
– Daddy talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

Cheating: Then and Now

Cheating is an area that has been greyed by several definitions and many people’s tolerance as to what they consider cheating and what is innocent socializing. In all of this the fundamental feeling of guilt and inappropriateness of cheating has remained the same. Moreover, cheating methods have hardly changed from the old skool days to today. Whereas methods of pursing marriage has changed drastically, methods of cheating has changed trivially. Most of what was considered cheating will still be considered cheating today.

Polygamy

What constitutes pursuing marriage has been stretched so wide now that it has overlapped (or engulfed) what can be considered cheating. Polygamy gives the husband the right to add a wife (the legimacy of this is not the purpose of this post). It is important enough that this is what most Muslims in West Africa accept. The question is how do the men go about it? Do they approach it using methods on the conservative end of marriage methods or do they wander in to the adventurous end (which overlaps with cheating)?

Scenario: Conservative Second (or third or fourth) Marriage

– Man sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her house
– Man likes girl, Man makes it known through his Father, Uncle or Friend
– Man’s representative talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

                – Scenario: Adventurous Second (or third or fourth) Marriage

– Man sees girl or meets her briefly or visits her at her house (or parents’)
– Man takes girl out privately or Girl comes to meet Man. They meet in fun spots and apartments; Girl’s parents know not
– Depending on the what is considered romantic, they do some of it or all of it
– Man likes girl, Man tells his representative (it is official now)
– Man’s representative talks to girl’s daddy
– Girl’s Daddy asks girl and (hopefully) girl agrees
– Marriage is arranged

Moral Corruption

The dynamics of Moral Corruption in atmosphere of Religious Approval is the cause of cheating. The religious approval of polygamy gives the husband license to pursue additional marriage. Based on the scenarios on polygamy, it seems the Conservative Polygamy Approach does not fall in to a cheating phase. However steps (second and third) of the Adventurous Polygamy Approach can be considered cheating. Therefore an adventurous polygamy-approach passes through a cheating phase.

This is the interesting bit; where moral corruption (or the devil) comes in. A married man becomes a habitual cheat but he convinces himself that it is his right to pursue another marriage if he wills. He decides he likes the Adventurous Polygamy Approach. However he enjoys steps (second and third from the scenario) so much that after that steps are done, he pulls out from his endevour. Then moves to the next prospect for another adventurous endeavour. He doesn’t really intend to marry again but he tells himself that it is his prerogative. He conveniently forgets to asses his adventurous approach on its own right as if the religious approval of seeking marriage has compensated for any wrong done in the process. As if the end justifies the means.

If we agree that Cheating is wrong, then even if a marriage is resulted from an Adventurous Polygamy approach, the cheating phase remains as wrong as farting loud in front of your in-laws.

Who is Polygamy for?

I prefer to answer the negative equivalent of the question. Clearly Polygamy is not the issue here, the issue is cheating which is concealed in seeking of polygamy. Based on the scenarios, Polygamy is not for the Adventurous; not because of problems with Polygamy but the method of reaching it.

It is interesting that only the cheat seems amnesic to the wrongness of his actions. The mistress (girl involved) may be fully aware of her part.

Final Note

I’m sure people who don’t endorse Polygamy are very clear with themselves when they are cheating, whereas those who endorse it don’t display as much guilt. When there is high number of reported cheatings, it is probably exactly what it is; reported. The same amount of cheating may be going on at two different times but some are concealed and others are reported. Those that don’t hide it may not just be brazen but may be convincing themselves that they are not cheating, just exercising their rights. Hence the ubiquituous reports of guilt-free pro-polygamy cheats. The anti-polygamy cheats don’t get the luxury of flaunting it and so must conceal it.

I have failed to explore the girl involved in the adventurous polygamy approach, her situation may be more complicated as far as cheating is concerened. The complication depends on how much she knows and her intentions (not her actions). She is not the subject of this post.

The polygamy-oriented should be cautious of what justifications they use for being adventurous when adding wives. I am sure the right to polygamy did not include that license. Look in to your hearts… and better don’t be thinking of the red valentines-day heart, I mean your conscience!

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