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Shards of Solace

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Shards of solace
The aftermath of heartbreak
Putting it back together

The comfort of a touch
Lingering on what had been
The afterglow of the memories

A spell was broken
So many lessons were learned
And in their wake, regret

Welcome to changes
Gather yourself, my friend, caution now
Pride and vanity have no place here

It's long past tallying
the missed opportunities
There'll be time enough to pick up the pieces

masks of civility

Shards of Solace, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) File under: , , , , , , ,

Writing log. April 21, 2022

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2 days ago
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Gremlins Do Cry

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His was a belated conversion narrative,
   Adequate perhaps, and seemingly benign
But it rather belied the question,
   Was the structural adjustment genuine?
For the jury was still out
   Amidst this veritable parade of hand wringing
To the keen eye, the pose of faux humility appeared to be opportunism

Not so long ago he was so adept at using the bully pulpit
To tar many others with the broad brush of cowardice
The charge was, variously, weak wills and muddled thinking
War was justified, to oppose it was to be a quisling

With ivory tower bonafides, his credentials could not be questioned
He'd write odes to manifest destiny and similarly well-crafted paeans
Loud and obnoxious, spouting claptrap and cheerleading all the way
His world-historic, record breaking hubris prominently on display

Now he tells us, witness the tears of a gremlin
Finally recognizing the "unfolding catastrophe"
That others pointed out was bound to happen
And the concerns raised that he dismissed so easily

Now he tells us,
   And only after flirting with a debased reputation
Pray tell, which of his previous bromides does he now disclaim?
That he was gloriously wrong in every way,
   Witness the horrific death toll
Let alone the huge amount of money squandered
   In the wartime black hole

No one seeks a public flogging
   Or the penance of ashes and sackcloth
But it bears saying that his tribe
   Were the ones who got all the rewards
We should assign responsibility and blame accordingly
   - That is the path of honor
Instead it's manifest destiny revisited as farce.
   A savaging is still in order.

stamp china panther 1986

Apologies, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) ...

Like others I wasn't impressed by the immediate fit of buyer's remorse. If I recall correctly I was even moved to write letters to the editor. Somehow the muse has deemed that verse might be a more lasting contribution.

This note is part of the Shell Games suite.

Previous entries considered Shame Cultures, discussed The Skeptic's Credo, proposed A Taxonomy of Useful Idiots, and observed a Change of Tune.

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Writing log. Concept: August 5 2007; April 18, 2022

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16 days ago
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Talking Drums on Apartheid in South Africa

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Let's have a feature:
Talking Drums's coverage of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Head on over to read it from the source. As usual, I have some commentary.

Talking Drums may have been billed as the West African news magazine but it covered the entire continent. Indeed there was something about South Africa in almost every issue. And not merely talk of boycotts, sanctions, or ritual denunciations. It reflected African opinions on the matter.

The two issues on which all African states agreed in the eighties were the resistance to the apartheid regime in South Africa and the demand for independence in Namibia. While some states favored opening up dialog, all were in favor of sanctions, and many actively supported the liberation movements even with arms.

(Western Sahara caused rifts - Morocco would leave the OAU over the matter; and most other issues were contested, after all, this was the height of the cold war and great games were playing out. African countries were highly fraught terrain - grass, elephants, pick your metaphors)

On the ground, there was a quite visceral reaction to the continued support of the South African regime by the US, West Germany and the UK (and Israel to some extent). Throughout those years, there was continued and increasing pressure for boycott, sanctions and an end to the apartheid policies of Pretoria

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher's disgraceful legacies speak for themselves, standing as they did on the wrong side of history propping up institutionalised racial discrimination. Not for nothing would Fela immortalize them as Beasts of no Nation when he got out of jail.

True, the die had been cast earlier by Henry Kissinger, but the rebrand of US policy (courtesy of Chester Crocker) as constructive engagement fooled no one. The commentary in the magazine was uniformly scathing.

There were the daily atrocities of apartheid in everyday life and then the lowlights, say the Langa massacre at Uitenhage in 1985. The National Party would undertake cross border raids bombing of its neighbors ostensibly to harrass the African National Congress whose local leaders were mostly in jails.

Cubans would commit troops to the fight in Angola and Mozambique. Cuito Cuanavale (1987-1988) would be the eventual tipping point but the early 80s were a hard slog. Especially since the US was actively involved propping up South Africa.

Bishop Desmond Tutu would receive the Nobel Prize, piling on the international pressure from the moral high ground albeit, some readers urged him to reject the prize. The apartheid regime, however, was long used to being a pariah.

talking drums 1984-11-05 Desmond Tutu Nobel Peace Prize - who is a Ghanaian - Amnesty report on west africa

(The Pope expressed "deep sadness" over South Africa, and who could blame him; the regime was unrepentant and bloody minded)

The efficacy of sanctions was debated at length - some called for military action in its stead. But inaction was intolerable. In the hundreds of references in the archive, I couldn't find any non-commital opinion.

Whenever there are sanctions, there are also attempts to evade them. Cue the Salem, the Liberian registered tanker affair: "scuttling the 214,000 ton Liberian tanker... after embezzling its oil cargo, owned by Shell, and selling it secretly to South Africa for $45 million." South Africa tried everything in this respect in its sanction-avoidance efforts.

But the pressure was felt and applied on many fronts. Campus activism urged divestment and boycotts. Sample headlines: President Abdou Diouf of Senegal was an eloquent advocate of sanctions and embargos, holding western governments to their stated values.
President Abdou Diouf for his part issued an appeal to Western countries to strengthen their economic sanctions against the Pretoria regime. He said, "with the system of apartheid one cannot even speak of violations of human rights, it is a question of their being purely and simply negated. This is the reason that African public opinion is less and less able to understand the passivity of certain Western governments, who are normally so sensitive to human rights' issues, in the face of what has become a real genocide of the black South African people today."
Beyond the grocery store boycotts of produce, there was real teeth to the resistance. The frontline states paid a price but persisted. It is easily to criticize the authoritarian tendencies and domestic policies of Kaunda and Nyerere but on South Africa they actively fought the good fight.

The boycotts of cultural exchange added to the isolation. It wasn't just music and arts, South Africa post-1994 would race to see what they were missing. Sports mattered a lot to the country's psyche. A few countries boycotted the 1984 Olympic games citing South Africa. Generally the boycotts hurt.

(Think of Israel currently facing worldwide opprobrium but proceeding without heed. Would Fifa, UEFA or similar organizations weigh in denying the Israelis their own creature comforts?)

When Thomas Sankara proclaimed Jamahiriyah(!) in Burkina Faso, following Gaddafi's lead, it also came with a pledge "to make 1986 a year of the final attack against apartheid, and of the proclamation of a democratic, free and independent state in South Africa."

Talking Drums would cover it all (even a bloodthirsty Mengistu of Ethiopia taking a break from killing at home to roundly denouce the South Africans when he assumed chairmanship of the OAU!!). The magazine would highlight the ironies and the twists and turns of the liberation struggle.

I compiled 70 or so pieces from the archive for this feature but there's much more. Read for yourself...

Apartheid years, a playlist

For good measures here's a soundtrack for this note.

Some Fela, Dudu Pukwana, Mahotella Queens, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Soweto street jive that was reviewed in the magazine. Five hours of listening. Enjoy...

See previously: Talking Drums

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Writing log: April 25, 2024

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23 days ago
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You can love Shakespeare

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Art of Shakespeare

I understand that one of the dead giveaways of being really old and out of it is to quote Shakespeare.

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29 days ago
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BBC - Elizabeth Ohene: 'permanently outraged'

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29 days ago
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Change of Tune

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First comes shame, that old friend, ever reminding of inadequacy
It's never enough, however, for it merely highlights the unspoken
Then comes fear, primal, with its forcing function
Fear prompts action, a movement to self preservation

The moral pivot requires fleetness of execution
The Friday night news dump is a long established tradition
To bury consequential events, bad news and policy shifts
Not everyone can erase history but you can attempt a face lift

For grifters are highly attuned to the attitudes of their marks
Their sixth sense is in identifying a losing play, a bad hand of cards
Almost as if on autopilot, they make course adjustments
The idea is to stay in the game, the shell game that is

Public relation consultants advise a short apology
The content doesn't matter as much as its visibility
After all, you never know, that's the thing about human beliefs
You might still be able to salvage some unearned cash from the deal

For sure, some appreciate a serious expression of contrition
But don't mistake buyer's remorse for actual misdirection
Self-criticism is a bridge too far in the rectification of errors
More preferable is the prompt application of the reverse ferret

chameleon at San Antonio zoo

Chameleon, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version)

After observing the NFL owners' Come to Jesus moment in light of the George Floyd protests, my long gestating series on Shell Games gained a very au courant hook. As an example of a course adjustment, it was a clarifying case study. Indeed, the headlines were revelatory

In the same vein, an older more classical take on the malleability of opinion and policy is The Vicar of Bray.


This fit of buyer's remorse is part of the Shell Games suite.

Previous notes considered Shame Cultures, The Skeptic's Credo, and posited A Taxonomy of Useful Idiots.

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Writing log. April 18, 2022

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30 days ago
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