A Longer View

To A.

This wouldn’t fit on Facebook so hopefully you followed the link here.

I don’t disagree with you about Nigeria and the situation there is worth looking at in the long term. It is a country built on imperial/colonial contingency, cobbling together enormously diverse ethnic and cultural groupings for the sake of administrative smoothness, a Sykes-Picot in Africa if you will.

The mainly Islamic north is at odds with the Christian and Animist south and the predominant ethnic groups- Hausa Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo have their own diverse cultures.

Within a few years of independence it became a military dictatorship, ostensibly to oust corrupt politicians. I remember reading Wole Soyinka’s “Season of Anomie,” a novel set in this period, and being staggered by the description of the swiftness and brutality of this movement into chaos.

It was torn apart by civil war when the Igbo people founded Biafra and attempted to break away from the state following what would now be labelled as a genocidal campaign against the Igbo people in the predominantly Islamic northern states. The images of the famine caused by this war were truly awful and yet the country did not break apart. The elites, civil and military — they periodically swapped places with each other- had access to the immense oil-wealth of the country and they starved the rebel state out of existence. It is estimated that two million people died in the conflict, mainly the consequences of famine. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/596712.stm This link is a fair summary of the events and does a decent job of holding power to account with regard to the reasons behind Britain’s tacit support of the blockade of Biafra.

It could be argued that the Boko-Haram actions are the latest iteration of the conflict that has been on-going along the post-colonial fracture lines of Nigerian society.

So why no Western intervention? Because the oil keeps flowing. Fairly recent stories about a reluctance on the part of the Nigerian administration to accept western military assistance in the hunt for the school-girls kidnapped by Boko Haram  http://www.informationng.com/2017/03/never-refused-help-british-military-rescue-chibok-girls-goodluck-jonathan.html point to a certain canniness on the part of the Nigerian administration. “Boots on the ground” could be the thin end of the wedge-the thick end being a full scale invasion- and the loss of prestige that inviting the old colonial power back in would bring. However, the oil keeps flowing and the elite are pliable enough to do business with.

Nigeria’s story is hardly covered up, the sorry tale has been used a case study in political science for years: this is a good introduction https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Dudley

Is it just another tale of politics operating in a moral vacuum? Pragmatism, realpolitik, Machiavellianism, take your pick of the labels you want. So long view or short term, bleak cynicism seems to rule the day.

Looking at Africa in general this book is tremendous https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005ISPV5I/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 You start to see the casualty figures run into millions and western culpability, through sins of both commission and omission, over the last fifty years.

As for Trump, oh, “Had we world enough and time”. I almost feel like setting myself an essay task — “Is Donald Trump the end of the idea of American Exceptionalism?”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism

Although, I think that when I watched US soldiers in their new, German styled helmets, roll over Kuwait in the early nineties and thought how oddly like Imperial Storm Troopers they were and thought, “Hmm, it looks like the ‘we’ are the bad guys in this film” was when the above idea took a fatal blow for me.

Overall, here’s a conundrum for us, politics without a moral purpose leads to cynical short term opportunism. However moral purpose will quickly become an “ism” and ideology has been the greatest machine of mass murder in the modern age. How can a balance be struck between the two ? Especially when the world, to use the words of WB Yeats in “The Second Coming,” is like this:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity”

Yeats wrote this during the Irish Civil War, The Russian Revolution, The First World War and the pandemic of the Spanish Flu-  so it is a product of enormously uncertain times. Throw in global financial meltdown and the rise of fascism across Europe and he was absolutely correct; the centre did not hold. It was broken and remade in the second world war.

The parallels are clear today, we have widespread financial instability, right wing populist politics, a rise in nationalist/ethnic division and impotent international institutions as the UN is increasingly marginalised. In our generation the centre needs to be remade, can this be done without “The blood-dimmed tide” rising even more than it already has? Cynicism and morality may need to become better acquainted to achieve this.





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