8 March 2011

Shades of Grey

In the aftermath of the Million Man March which took place in October 1995, Minister Farrakhan of Nation of Islam went to several countries in Africa and Arabic West Asia as part of what he referred to as the World’s Friendship Tour. During this tour he met, amongst many other leaders, with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi who promised Nation of Islam one billion dollars for the empowerment of Black people in United States. The money was planned to strengthen, amongst other things, the Black economic opportunities by supporting the business sector. Besides being banned from the United Kingdom, Minister Farrakhan has been heavily demonised in the western press; his opinions on certain things have made it very easy, but the simplification doesn’t erase the achievements of this organisation on grass roots level in everyday peoples’ everyday life. I don’t have to agree with his faith – since I disagree with all faiths – or other views to acknowledge that.

Clinton administration, unsurprisingly, went on to block this donation which from their point of view was understandable – a foreign leader doing something they had failed to do – or even chosen not to do for generations. It would have made them look very bad and given too much financial power for someone else within their society. So it was easy for them to discount Farrakhan as militant and in other, a lot less polite ways, but they forgot to take a step back and ask, well, why is he so militant. The answer would have been centuries deep systemic oppression and disempowerment of his people, so I guess that didn’t sound like something they would want to look too carefully into.

But I am not writing about Farrakhan here. Like said I don’t share his views on many things – perhaps most things, but life isn’t always only about opinions. As much as I disagree with religion in general, the way it has been organised within the Nation of Islam has undoubtedly played a positive role in the poor areas of United States and should similar idea find its way to South Africa, the status quo would be filled with fear quicker than they could say reverse racism or counter-revolutionary polemic. In my opinion, none of that makes the religion any more sensible or truthful; science agrees (or rather I agree with science), but I guess religious people don’t believe in their religions because they think that science is on their side. Perhaps the creationists are one exception here and they, truth to be told, at least actually believe in what they claim to believe in. But I have digressed. I was writing about Gaddafi. Gaddafi promised this much – one billion dollars, which sounds like it’s from Austin Powers film – for the empowerment of Black America. On top of that, he also has a history as a strong supporter of Southern African liberation armies such as ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe to which Libya provided weapons during the atrocious decades of apartheid. At the time, inconveniently and embarrassingly the whole west, apart from few leaders were convinced that Mandela and his lot were all out terrorists with no justification to their cause. They were thinking along those lines until very recently. Mandela actually was only taken off of the United States terrorist watch list in 2008.  Whether such late correction of mistake was an accident is not very important; the fact that he was there to begin with is the point. During struggle, the friends of liberation movements tend to be selected by their enemies.

But forget all this – Gaddafi has never done anything but evil. That’s the official version. That’s the mantra. Yesterday you knew very little, but today, point finger; forget that even now you don’t know much, and just hate him. Just hate. He’s evil.

The truth is, even without this spin he doesn’t come across very likable; like a tyrant he has ruled his people with iron fist and refuses to let go off power, in African Union he has effortfully tried to become the leader of the continent and he, or at least his family, likes BeyoncĂ©.

So what I am not saying here is that he is not trouble or that I support him, but rather that we don’t have to forget the good just because there’s a lot of bad to be said. And I am no expert; I know very little, barely anything, about him or Libya, but we seem to have such a slender grasp on the critical thinking that we can only understand things in their extremes. Is he good or is he bad? Much like with Mugabe – who was crucial in the liberation of Zimbabwe – who thinks that wasn’t a good thing? – and under whose control many things went well initially. Of course many things went pear shaped as well, but we don’t have to forget the Zimbabwean education system just because, in general, Uncle Bob’s thinking cap fell off some time ago.

Like I said, I am not writing here because I am some specialist on the topic. My knowledge is based on the media hype. I only hope that the future of Libya looks good and Gaddafi is not actively involved in it and that the people get peace. Average Libyans didn’t benefit from Gaddafi’s aid outside their borders, and, if not peace, they have very little to gain from a conflict.This is not time for the so called west to prove that they have been right all along. Especially when they - or rather we - haven't. 

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