Quotulatiousness

October 23, 2017

Today I learned a new word: Pigmentocracy

Filed under: Africa, Business, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch writes about the recent Nivea skin cream video to explain why the ad is so controversial:

“Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” declares the Nigerian actor Omowunmi Akinnifesi in an advert for a new face cream. The ad, for the global skincare brand Nivea, was only ever intended to reach a west African audience, but predictably – has Nivea heard of the internet? – it has been watched and shared millions of times around the world including in the UK, where most of us live in blissful ignorance of the fact that some of our most popular brands openly promote the idea in other markets that white is right.

Nivea says the ad was not intended to offend, but offence is not the point. The global market for skin lightening products, of which west Africa is a significant part, is worth $10bn (£7.6bn). Advertising has a long and unbroken history of promoting and normalising white beauty standards, and if Britain built its empire as a geopolitical and ideological project, the advertising industry commodified it. Soap brands such as Pears built a narrative that cast Africa as dark and its people as dirty, the solution to which – conveniently – was soap. Cleansing, lightening and civilising in one handy bar.

These days the marketing has become much more sophisticated. Ads speak of “toning” as code for whitening. Lancôme, which a few years ago got in trouble for using Emma Watson’s image to market its Blanc Expert line in Asia, emphasised that it does not lighten, but rather “evens skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion … an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines”.

[…]

Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture in which ads such as Nivea’s are only the obvious tip of an insidious iceberg. Celebrities with darker complexions, such as the Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech – nicknamed Queen of the Dark – and actors such as Lupita Nyong’o, are so often discussed in the context of having achieved the seemingly impossible by being both dark and beautiful, that they become the exceptions that prove the rule.

It is often observed that light-skinned black women are more likely to become global superstars, the Beyoncé-Rihanna effect. They are, however, still black women and therefore not immune from the pressure to lighten – most recently by fans following a new Photoshopping trend of posting pictures of whitened versions of their faces and remarking upon the improvement.

In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products – the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences.

February 7, 2016

Did Germany and Britain Trade Rubber And Optics in WW1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 6 Feb 2016

Check out War History Online and their excellent coverage: http://warhistoryonline.com

Indy sits in the Chair of Wisdom again and this week we talk about a strange story in which Germany and Britain actually traded goods during wartime.

August 26, 2015

ISIS doesn’t care if you object to their re-introduction of slavery

Filed under: Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Strategy Page on the use of slavery to provide tangible rewards to faithful Muslim warriors of the new Caliphate:

Although ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) publicized an auction for slaves (captured non-Moslem women and children) in June they have since replaced that with a printed price list. Young children are the most expensive going for up to $200 each. Adolescent girls cost about $125 and adult women go for under a hundred dollars. The catch here is the buyers are restricted to ISIL gunmen, as something of a fringe benefit. The sales are made with the understanding that the buyer can resell their slave for whatever they can get. It is also understood that ISIL slave owners can try to arrange for families to ransom the slaves for whatever the owner can get (usually several thousand dollars each). The June 2015 slave auction in eastern Syria sold 42 Yazidi women who were offered to ISIL men for between $500 and $2,000. So being allowed to buy a slave is quite a lucrative fringe benefit.

Since the slaves were not Moslem they could not be married so their owners would use them for sex, housekeeping or whatever. ISIL was depending on Moslem scripture to justify this. Actually, ISIL is not alone as there is still a lot of slavery in the Islamic world. There is also a lot of hatred for non-Moslems especially those considered pagans. ISIL considers the Yazidis pagans but will enslave Christians as well. It was with Yazidis that ISIL reintroduced slavery (of non-Moslems, especially “pagans” like Yazidis) into their new Islamic State. This may appall many in the West and to placate foreigners most Arab nations have outlawed slavery, despite the fact that it still exists and continues to exist with much local support.

For example in northeast Nigeria a local Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, revived slavery in 2014. Boko Haram, which considers themselves devout religious reformers, consider slaving justified by Islamic law. Yet the Boko Haram revival of slaving resonates deeply in northern and central Nigeria. Northeastern Nigeria was once the center of an empire that grew rich by enslaving other Africans and selling them to Arab traders who transported the slaves to Arabia. This trade continued until the British colonial government suppressed it in the 19th century. Bitter memories linger and the Boko Haram slaving opened an old wound.

February 21, 2015

“… could stand to read” some history

Filed under: Africa, History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Mark Steyn has read some history:

Before the civil war, Beirut was known as “the Paris of the east”. Then things got worse. As worse and worser as they got, however, it was not in-your-face genocidal, with regular global broadcasts of mass beheadings and live immolations. In that sense, the salient difference between Lebanon then and ISIS now is the mainstreaming of depravity. Which is why the analogies don’t apply. We are moving into a world of horrors beyond analogy.

A lot of things have gotten worse. If Beirut is no longer the Paris of the east, Paris is looking a lot like the Beirut of the west — with regular, violent, murderous sectarian attacks accepted as a feature of daily life. In such a world, we could all “stand to read” a little more history. But in Nigeria, when you’re in the middle of history class, Boko Haram kick the door down, seize you and your fellow schoolgirls and sell you into sex slavery. Boko Haram “could stand to read” a little history, but their very name comes from a corruption of the word “book” — as in “books are forbidden”, reading is forbidden, learning is forbidden, history is forbidden.

Well, Nigeria… Wild and crazy country, right? Oh, I don’t know. A half-century ago, it lived under English Common Law, more or less. In 1960 Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, second Governor-General of an independent Nigeria, was the first Nigerian to be appointed to the Queen’s Privy Counsel. It wasn’t Surrey, but it wasn’t savagery.

Like Lebanon, Nigeria got worse, and it’s getting worser. That’s true of a lot of places. In the Middle East, once functioning states — whether dictatorial or reasonably benign — are imploding. In Yemen, the US has just abandoned its third embassy in the region. According to the President of Tunisia, one third of the population of Libya has fled to Tunisia. That’s two million people. According to the UN, just shy of four million Syrians have fled to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and beyond. In Iraq, Christians and other minorities are forming militias because they don’t have anywhere to flee (Syria? Saudia Arabia?) and their menfolk are facing extermination and their women gang-rapes and slavery.

These people “could stand to read” a little history, too. But they don’t have time to read history because they’re too busy living it: the disintegration of post-World War Two Libya; the erasure of the Anglo-French Arabian carve-up; the extinction of some of the oldest Christian communities on earth; the metastasizing of a new, very 21st-century evil combining some of the oldest barbarisms with a cutting-edge social-media search-engine optimization strategy.

June 26, 2014

In Nigeria, atheism is a form of mental disease

Filed under: Africa, Liberty, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:09

In Vice News, Jordan Larson reports on the plight of a self-declared atheist who has been confined to a mental institute in northern Nigeria because denying belief in God is a mental illness:

A young Nigerian man is being forcibly held in a mental institution for identifying as an atheist, according to charity organization International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

Mubarak Bala, 29, who holds a degree in chemical engineering and is a resident of the primarily Muslim Kano state in northern Nigeria, has been held and medicated against his will at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital since June 13.

According to IHEU, Bala was committed to a mental institution after he told his Muslim family that he did not believe in God.

His family then sought the advice of two doctors; the first gave him a clean bill of health, while the second chalked up his atheism to a “personality change.”

[…]

In one of his emails, Bala wrote, “And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of ‘history’ of Adam, and apostacy [sic], to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God. And my brother added that all the atheists I see have had mental illness at some point in their life,” according to a statement on IHEU’s website.

“Kano is a Sharia state and there are many similar cases occurring, where people are forcefully oppressed just because of their beliefs or for conservative religious reasons, or for the ‘honour’ of their family,” Bamidele Adeneye, secretary of IHEU member organization Lagos Humanists, told IHEU. “Often though you only hear about it afterwards, if at all. This is a rare chance to intervene while someone is in dire need and is still alive.”

May 26, 2014

Confusion over extent of Canadian involvement in Nigeria’s hunt for the kidnapped schoolgirls

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:12

In the Ottawa Citizen, David Pugliese outlines what we know (or at least, what we’ve been told) about the extent of Canadian participation in the search for the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls:

Geoff York at the Globe and Mail had an interesting article a couple of days ago about what Canada may or may not be doing in Nigeria to help in the hunt for school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

The Canadian government has claimed that it has sent personnel, both in a liaison and advisory capacity. The government has said it has sent surveillance equipment but has offered no other details for security reasons. Government officials privately claim that Canadian special forces have been sent.

York interviewed a number of Nigerian military and government officials who question whether Canada is involved or say they don’t have any information about the involvement because they have yet to see any presence of Canadians.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan expressed his gratitude to the countries helping search for more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls. As York writes he specifically singled out four countries for special praise — France, Britain, the United States and Israel — but made no mention of Canada.

The two most likely explanations seem to be a) we’re doing nothing particularly useful but our politicians want to be seen to be doing something or b) we’ve got special forces troops in Nigeria, but for operational security reasons, don’t want it advertised even by the host country. Or possibly a little from column A and a little from column B: JTF2/CSOR or CSEC have a small number of operatives in Nigeria, but they’re not considered a major contribution by the Nigerian government (or, more charitably, Nigeria is keeping mum about it by Canadian request).

May 18, 2014

When #hashtags don’t deter modern-day barbarians

Filed under: Africa, Asia, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:53

Victor Davis Hanson on the limitations of #hashtag activism to combat real-world evil:

Nigeria’s homegrown, al-Qaeda linked militant group, Boko Haram, brags openly that it recently kidnapped about 300 young Nigerian girls. It boasts that it will sell them into sexual slavery.

Those terrorists have a long and unapologetic history of murdering kids who dare to enroll in school, and Christians in general. For years, Western aid groups have pleaded with the State Department to at least put Boko Haram on the official list of terrorist groups. But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team was reluctant to come down so harshly, in apparent worry that some might interpret such condemnation as potentially offensive to Islamic sensitivities.

Instead, Western elites now flood Facebook and Twitter with angry postings about Boko Haram — either in vain hopes that public outrage might deter the terrorists, or simply to feel better by loudly condemning the perpetrators.

[…]

But if we are postmodern and sensitive, what do we say or do about premodern racists with nuclear weapons, like the North Koreans?

A recent article from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency suggested that President Obama “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being … It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo and lick the bread crumbs thrown by spectators.”

How does the West deal with a mentality like that, originating from a country armed with nuclear weapons? Pyongyang owns no television show that we can boycott, no sports team that we can root against.

What do we do in the face of 19th-century evil that is unapologetic, has lethal weapons at its disposal, and uses savage rhetoric to goad us? Tweet it to death?

What about the sultan of Brunei, who just enacted sharia law that orders stoning for women found “guilty” of adultery or for homosexuals engaged in sex acts? That is a different sort of war on women than that invoked by Sandra Fluke, who lamented that she did not have free birth control from the government.

May 4, 2014

This is why the 220 girls in Nigeria are not big news in the West

Filed under: Africa, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:03

In the Guardian, Nick Cohen says that the girls have not been “abducted” — they’ve been enslaved:

Terrorists from a religious cult so reactionary you don’t have to stretch the language too far to describe it as fascistic attack a school. The assault on a civilian target, filled with non-combatant children, has a grotesque logic behind it. They call themselves “Boko Haram”, which translates as “western education is forbidden”. The sect regards learning as oppression. They will stop all teaching that conflicts with a holy book from the 7th century and accounts of doubtful provenance on the life and sayings of their prophet written hundreds of years after he died.

A desire for sexual supremacy accompanies their loathing of knowledge. They take 220 schoolgirls as slaves and force them to convert to their version of Islam. They either rape them or sell them on for £10 or so to new masters. The girls are the victims of slavery, child abuse and forced marriage. Their captors are by extension slavers and rapists.

As you can see, English does not lack plain words to describe the foulness of the crimes in Nigeria, and no doubt they would be used in the highly improbable event of western soldiers seizing and selling women.

Yet read parts of the press and you enter a world of euphemism. They have not been enslaved but “abducted” or “kidnapped”, as if they will be released unharmed when the parties have negotiated a mutually acceptable ransom. Writers are typing with one eye over their shoulder: watching their backs to make sure that no one can accuse them of “demonising the other”.

Turn from today’s papers to the theoretical pages of leftwing journals and you find that the grounds for understanding Boko Haram more and condemning it less were prepared last year.

Without fully endorsing Boko Haram, of course, socialists explained that it finds “resonance in the hearts of many poor and dispossessed” people, who are revolted by “the corruption and flamboyant lifestyle of the elites”. Islamism is recast as a rational reaction to local corruption and the global oppression of “neoliberalism”, one of those conveniently vague labels that can mean just about anything.

August 30, 2012

Piracy’s latest hotspot

Filed under: Africa, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:23

We’re all aware of the piracy problems along the east coast of Africa, but the west coast is also experiencing a resurgence of pirates:

Piracy has been making a comeback in the last decade. This was initially because Somalia, a state without a government, provided small ports on the coast of East Africa where pirates could bring the merchant ships they had captured, and keep them there, safe from rescue attempts, until a ransom could be negotiated. Now, off West Africa, pirates have come up with another angle. These pirates, believed to be only one well-organized gang at the moment, target small oil tankers operating in the Gulf of Guinea (where Nigeria and its neighbors have oil fields). The pirates quickly board and seize control of a tanker at night. The crew is locked up in an internal space and the tracking devices are disabled. Then the tanker is taken to rendezvous with another tanker, which takes the oil from the hijacked tanker, along with the pirates and their other loot and makes for a port where oil brokers willing to buy stolen oil (at a steep discount) take the pirated cargo, pay the pirates and perhaps tip the pirates off on another small tanker that could be hit.

The hijacked tanker was stripped of portable items of value and then set adrift, where it would soon be found and the crew released. Normally, pirates attack merchant ships anchored near the coast grab all the valuable portables and take off. This is considered armed robbery, although some pirates will kidnap a few of the ships officers and hold them for ransom. But this requires a good hideout and more resources. The pirates who steal oil cargoes require even more technical organization and connections. But because the payoff is so high (millions of dollars for a stolen oil tanker cargo), a growing number of skilled gangsters are being attracted to the business.

All this is something of a piracy revival. Piracy hit a trough from the late nineteenth century into the later twentieth. That was because the Great Powers had pretty much divided up the whole planet, and then policed it. Piracy began to revive in a modest way beginning in the 1970s, with the collapse of many post-colonial regimes.

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