Category Archives: super corruption

Poverty Contests

An article published in today’s New York Times reports on efforts in India to enshrine access to food as a constitutionally protected right, a law its proponents expect could enable the food-insecure to make their own market choices to purchase food with food coupons or cash, instead of waiting for monthly 77 pound bags of grain, sugar and kerosene under the current regime. The article also goes on to highlight statistics about how India’s poverty is more widespread and intense than Africa’s, despite the “Tiger” rebranding and annual economic growth rate. A report compiled in India Current Affairs in July also highlights these poverty rankings, comparing the one Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in the country’s center with the entire Democratic Republic of Congo, both of similar population (though the Congo’s size is more comparable to India in its entirety), and finding the same levels of deprivation, even with DRC’s wars (though Madhya Pradesh is not without Naxalites and other struggles for land and resources between communities and multi-national mining and other interests, not unlike DRC).

On the one hand, the expectation around the world seems to be of Africa as the world’s eternal poverty yardstick. This in spite of similar levels of conventionally measured economic growth in a number of Sub-Saharan countries that approach such activity as seen in India in recent years. By comparing favorably to Africa, a government should have license to claim progress in the war on poverty – that’s the ridiculous, racist assumption, an assumption of development stasis.

On the other more important hand, these rankings and contests, especially as presented in the links mentioned above, are patently absurd in themselves, ignoring the basic fact that most of the annual GDP growth measures the rise in income of mostly exclusive urban, male, elite high-end sectors which determine and direct mining, cash-crop, real estate (land displacement), and [cheapest] labor configurations which exclude vast rural populations, whether in India, Congo, or Colombia. Human beings are impoverishing other human beings – not continental geographies. And the story is similar in most geographies including those concerned in this essay – Adivasis in rural Chhattisgarh struggle to hold on to their land in the face of “Memoranda of Understanding” signed by illegitimate politicians to mining interests to violently displace the people from their land, similarly to how Niger Delta militants attack oil infrastructure and kidnap oil workers in response to land displacement and ecosystem destruction by a half century of oil exploitation by foreign corporations in happy concert with local state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Once you understand neo-colonialism and neoliberal market economics, these patterns can be easily understood as to how they determine poverty and struggle around the third world. Malnutrition and poverty propagate fastest and most consistently wherever governments fail to prioritize enabling peripheral population groups to exact their own capacity to cultivate, live and eat of the land. Changes in the environment, and dietary demands which may place undue stress on the ecosystem and reduce its carrying capacity, may further impede nutrition and food security, as predominates in Sahelian countries that currently suffer serious drought. But policy-makers in much of the third world more often than not do not care, since they do not share the same fate as those far beyond the capitals, the urban and privileged spaces where they bury their heads, forgetting what rural populations go through, forgetting they exist.

I think that in itself, that food security should become a constitutional and human right anywhere is excellent. But a shifting in societal priorities would be a more lasting solution, towards actually considering the plights of women, of agriculturalists, and enabling their self-determination while the wealth of the nation focuses first on human and ecological needs rather than profit for exploitative corporations and salaries for ministers and bureaucracies.

Why focus on these poverty contests, with Africa at level zero? These statistics only measure those who, already in positions of control over powerful economic interests, are getting richer as they exploit more underpaid, vulnerable workers, and the land those workers may have been displaced or evicted from. These statistics don’t measure women’s reproductive work, don’t measure broader levels of quality of life that get inflated by those at the very top, even while the masses at the bottom suffer more dispossession and malnutrition year after year.

Human solidarity is to be encouraged instead. The same problems in Nigeria or Congo are found in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Peru, the same exact identical types of fierce corruption, the same exact types of high-official sellouts, the same exact identical types of Western aspirationalism and mimicry, the same exact types of ideological and religious extremisms and hysterias which cripple the masses from thinking critically and boldly enough to challenge the regimes that cause their suffering, the same exact multinationals praying on their resources, human and natural, to be exploited to the lowest common denominator. The same exact types of ignorance forced upon the masses with the absence of schools and the tolerance of illiteracy, despite official claims to the contrary. The exact same types of oppression of labor activists and human-rights campaigners and journalists. The exact same types of classisms and casteisms that compel generations to accept their designated desperation. The same exact types of false democracies in which the people do not have choice or voice in the structural economic questions of society, only at best over the latest personality who says the prettiest things or just looks pretty, but in power does little to nothing of the good he or she promised.

Thus I reject poverty contests. Instead, I move towards human collaboration and solidarity in the third world in pursuit of revolution! Towards the African revolution, the South Asian revolution, the Latin American revolution, the world revolution! Towards human-based economics! Towards the end of rapacious capitalism, the end of the rush to privatize water, seeds and land! Towards human and community-level self-governance and self-determination! Towards the humanization of labor such that people are not reduced to pack mules to produce Wal-Mart products at competitively lower and lower wages in ever more dangerous workplaces!

Towards human development work which is interested in human development, not numbers nudging and statistics masturbating.

Advertisements

An Interview

The good folks over at La Terre d’abord or Earth First in France requested an e-mail interview with me the other day and sent over some good questions. Here are my responses, in case you won’t be able to understand it by the time it’s translated into French on their side. Please let me know what you think of these ideas – I’d really like some discussion and building out of this one.

—————————-

Comment allez vous?

Here is a response for our interview:

1.What is your website about?

“Afrikan Raw Vegan Talk” basically seeks to demonstrate that black vegans, including black raw vegans in particular, exist, are becoming visible, and are having relevant experiences and success as vegans across the African world, whether on the continent or in the diaspora. It also seeks to actualize and document the notion that being African and vegan is a critical and progressive part of our liberation struggle and the desire to humanize our existence while cherishing our singular and delicate planet.

2.How did you come about it?

I’ve been a vegan for eleven years now, and when I started this website in early 2008 I wanted to see more black vegan presence and commentary on the Internet, especially from the perspective of experienced, long-term, confident and determined vegans of color, not only blog diaries of 30-day trial vegans trying to lose weight, even though that is important as well. This blog represents an anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-white supremacy, humanist, activist, radical environmentalist, Pan-Africanist, African-centered and third-world perspective that is hardcore, straight-edge and long on the scene. This is third-world veganism that is very engaged with society from the perspective that revolution is necessary and veganism is an empowering and liberating part of the human transformation necessary for the survival and progress of this primate species.

3.How do you see the culture that developped in Black Africa as connected to veganism?

I am not a practicing archaeologist or anthropologist in this matter, but much anecdotal and historical evidence presents some of the people of Kemet, also known as Ancient Egyptians, as vegetarians. In general, pre-colonial diets where of whole foods, whether or not meat was included, and pre-colonial lifestyles in many parts of black Africa were seen, by Western anthropologists of the time (mid-19th century), as among the healthiest in the world. Now our life-spans and quality of life are the shortest and most miserable, largely due to neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism and rule by criminal governments. We are aid-dependent, and land tenure in Africa is at a state of perpetual crisis, while cash-crops prioritize growing cacao, coffee, and flowers over food. We even sell immense hectares of land to foreign countries for them to grow food for their own populations! Animal pastoralism is another problem, destroying vegetation across vast swaths of land and accelerating desertification. If all that land grew fruits and vegetables, many of our dietary and food security problems could begin to find resolution. And all these tendencies greatly exacerbate gender inequality as women struggle to grow kitchen gardens to feed families and tend to the crucial but totally unpaid task of reproductive labor, while men tend to focus on cash-crops and preferentially receive implements and resources from governments, multinationals and some NGOs to grow them.

Overall, transitioning towards veganism in Africa will ease malnutrition, raise production levels, increase self-sufficiency and I think reduce tendencies towards conflict and needless aggression. In terms of food policy, we can grow so much of our own fresh fruits and vegetables, organically and sustainably, if we focus on that goal at the continental and grassroots levels. In terms of societal outcomes, I think veganism improves social tolerance, physical well-being, reduces stress, makes the brain work more efficiently, improves immunity and reduces illness, reduces cancer levels, and so on. People will be more cooperative and conscientious of proper land stewardship and societal responsibility and cohesion in a vegan society – at least. Veganism in Africa would probably be far more revolutionary than that.

4.In France, we have people of african origin, and they are in a way or another culturally connected to Africa. But if the elders have often a very wise point of view, a very critical one, which stress that justice will necessary prevail even if it will take time, young people are quite far away from veganism and from a cultural critical stance of what we may call Babylone. What do you think about that?

I have faith in the youth. I’m 26 years old. I’m still considered a youth. I would almost say I have more faith in youth than in the old generation, which in many ways have failed us, failing to realize the promises of Pan-Africanism or Civil Rights. It’s young people who are becoming vegans, who are becoming critical thinkers, who are questioning the old ways and rightfully disposing with useless traditions that have no value and make no sense. I don’t have an innate respect for tradition, personally. I say, choose reason over custom. Babylon includes not only white-supremacist and capitalist society, but also anti-human, divisive, anti-intellectual, reactionary, authoritarian, homophobic, misogynistic and stupid traditions and tendencies in Africa and the black world. Many black youth are lost, many youth are hopeless, due to the failings of society which lead them to go after what they need at the expense of each other. The self-hate, ignorance and poverty at the root of the lives of the youth lead to many poor outcomes, which are all too visible. Less visible are the visionary youth, the revolutionary youth, the organized youth building art, building armies of wisdom and change. But I think the visionary youth hold the reigns of the future and will courageously confront the immense challenges of the present and near future, mostly given us by our often greedy, stubborn and foolish parents and grandparents.

5.In France, when we think about revolutionary afrikan position in North America, we think about Move or Dead Prez. Nevertheless, we would have a criticism: it seems that a poisonless perspective was the central aspect, not really nature, the animals, the Earth. What would you say to that?

For Africans, there is little time to focus on animal liberation alone. It makes no sense, when humans are in so much misery. Someone like me could never get behind the white animal liberation scene, because they act like it is the central problem of injustice in the world, which from my perspective is absurd and laughable. Oppressed people start at the perspective of their own oppression. Of course, everything else is included when we consider the foul human trends that lead to all kinds of exploitation. Aggression, greed, ignorance, violence, dominion – these are applied to create hierarchies and exploitation amongst humans and between humans and animals. But someone like me and I think Dead Prez or the MOVE Organization sees an urgent need to focus on human problems, and cannot in good conscience focus on animal liberation alone. Only a very privileged person can afford to only focus on animal liberation, so for a lot of people of the revolutionary African position in North America, that sort of thing is very alien, and rightfully so in my opinion. We don’t have the luxury to focus on one single issue, especially one that is tangential to our own suffering and oppression as black human beings. It all must be included – human liberation, Earth liberation, non-human liberation.

6.You stress the importance of raw food. Can you tell us about it?

Raw vegan food to me is so healthy. It liberates a person from dealing with disease and worrying about health, in large part. I haven’t been even slightly sick in many many years. In the US, especially among African peoples, disease is practically the central concern of life, whether it be obesity, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, impotence, stress, and so on. Raw veganism, particularly low-fat raw veganism that mainly consists of fresh fruits and greens, is practical, affordable and creative. And it requires discipline and consistency, tendencies that we need as peoples who consider ourselves revolutionary. Raw veganism is both extremely healthy, and also builds people to be more hardcore and serious about life and work. Raw veganism is about vigorous health and uncompromising mentality.

7.Africa is a continent waiting for revolution. Do you think veganism is the key for that?

Yes. Veganism is a potentially important part of revolution everywhere, and we need revolution all over the world. We need vegan warrior spirits that consider the whole picture in terms of how humans coexist in the world with all other beings, while correcting the social contradictions in human society. A more humane society will emerge with veganism in the picture, during and after the revolution. And also a much healthier, just and sustainable one.

ONA MOVE!

-The Precision Afrikan