A very good friend called me today. With genuine worry in his voice, he asked, Patrick are you ok? What happened to you? Is everything ok?. With laughter in my voice I respond, YES I’m fine I don’t have Ebola… “What happened to you Patrick? you used to be so calm and cool in school, we used to say if you were any more laid-back you would be flat, how did you become so radicalized?..
With a little shock in my voice, I said ‘a perfectly calm person can question the status-quo whilst being perfectly sane ’. I reminded him of the stand I took in Paris fourteen years ago during the vilification of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, for his stand on land ownership. My school at the time was serendipitously hosting the model United Nations. This was fitting because the student body was extremely diverse. I decided to represent Robert Mugabe. At the time that was not a cool thing to do and at that age people’s opinions of what was cool mattered. The vilification of Mugabe was all over the television. As an anglophile in Paris you can imagine all the biased reports coming out of the BBC. Despite all that, I was in Europe and i had a chance to offer a different narrative and so a stand had to be made.
It was a tense morning. It was emotional at some point but somehow I managed to get my motions passed while expanding the narrative to the general assembly. The satisfaction and pride I felt that day was like no other. It was extremely fulfilling because not only did I stand up for my people and my continent, I was also presented with an outstanding achievement award.
I said to my friend you knew me then, didn’t you? Had I gone cuckoo? Was I any less calm or cool? My friend said, as it was then i hope history is on your side Mr. Consistent”
Since that conversation, a question has nagged my mind .
How did society come to associate questioning the status-quo with being radical or “un-cool” or “troubled”? Why does the word activist in today’s world seem to carry a negative connotation? Why are people so quick to shout conspiracy theory?
& then it clicked.
Conspiracy theories become FACT without an intermission, without solemn recollection or a celebration of those labeled ‘conspiracy theorist’ at the time.
Throughout history, from the many people killed for saying the earth is round not flat, To the native American that told his chief not to collect the smallpox infected blankets from General Amherst.
People like Peter Buxton who between 1966 and 1972 filed several letters protesting the illegal and inhumane Syphilis experiments being carried out on African Americans. He did this consistently at the risk of his job to which his concerns were dismissed as irrelevant. Finally In 1972, Buxton leaked information on the Tuskegee Experiment making it front-page news in the New York Times. The following day, Senator Edward Kennedy called Congressional hearings, and the Experiment was terminated shortly thereafter.
To get an understanding of how people have created diseases and carried out inhumane test on disadvantaged people in recent history, this is an interview to watch. Part 1-3
Men like David Kelly, who went against the grain testifying IRAQ had no weapons of mass destruction only to be found dead 2 days later or Edward Snowden whose name will soon go to oblivion regardless of the personal sacrifice he made for the public good.
Today every tom, dick and harry can spout, “The world is round” – “Iraq had no WMDs” – “America is spying on the world” “Black people were experimented on”. Yet did we celebrate the people behind our access to this knowledge ? Have statues been built in honor of their bravery? Do our children learn about the many people who embody a contemporary Prometheus of sorts?
Society has created a system of sheep. A system that rewards all those that maintain the status quo despite the negative impact its actions have on its citizenry. Society has tied the persona of all those that question the status-quo to the word “RADICAL”which is also tied to the crazed dictators, terrorist and leaders you “should fight a war against”. Yet from leadership to business, it is always out of the box thinking, the challenge of the status-quo that moves the world forward. We immortalize these giants of history yet lack an understanding into the actions and thinking that make us classify them as great.
If one thinks about leaders that have been called radical, Presidents such as the charismatic JFK (challenged the financial system of the Federal Reserve) & Abraham Lincoln, arguably two of the most admired American leaders and sadly both assassinated.
“declared indifference, but as I must think, a covert real zeal for the spread of slavery. I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world .” -Abraham Lincoln- October 16, 1854
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
– Robert Kennedy
Several other inspirational personalities include Che guvera, who on the day he was to be killed asked to speak to the maestra (school teacher) of the village in charge of the school house he was being detained in. During their short conversation, Guevara pointed out to Cortez the poor condition of the schoolhouse, stating that it was “anti-pedagogical” to expect campesino students to be educated there, while “government officials drive Mercedes cars”, and declaring “that’s what we are fighting against. Personalities like Rachel carson (author of a silent spring) whose work challenged the orthodox view on pesticide use and helped end the use of DDT in the world.
Sometimes to understand how radical an action is, one must look at it through the lens of the people that controlled the establishment.
I could talk about the other sides to Ms Monroe that the media just somehow does not publicize or the inhumane way the media has belittled her entire existence to a ‘sex kitten’, but ill rather this, because actions speak louder than words: Ella Fitzgerald a first-class performer suffered from the same injustices so many minorities faced during the time period. The premiere nightclub in West Hollywood was Mocambo, and they refused to allow Ella to perform there because of her race. On hearing this, a furious marilyn strong armed the club to put an end to it.
“I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt…it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild,” .
“The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again.” -Ella Fitzgerald
At Lincoln, Einstein gave a speech in which he called racism
“a disease of white people,” and added, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.”
The reason Einstein’s visit to Lincoln university is not better known is that it was virtually ignored by the mainstream press, which regularly covered Einstein’s speeches and activities. In fact, many significant details are missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s opposition to racism and his relationships with African Americans. read more in the Harvard gazette
Dilma rousseff was tortured with electricity, and dumped in the water for 22 days on charges of incitement against the dictatorship in 1972 lbrazil Dilma rousseff is President of Brazil today
We know the contributions of Malcom x and Martin Luther king, we know their sacrifice.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – MLK
“If you are not ready to die for it, put the word ‘FREEDOM’ out of your vocabulary” – Malcom X
Personalities like Cassius Marcellus Clay who despite several assassination attempts made against him, became a prominent anti-slavery crusader. Born in to an affluent southern plantation owning family, he worked toward emancipation, both as a Kentucky state representative and as an early member of the Republican Party. Ten years after his death Cassius Marcellus Clay aka Muhammad Ali was named after him.
Muhammad Ali himself did not disappoint when fate presented him with a chance to take a stand. His stance against the Vietnam war was legendary costing him his boxing title, his freedom and income during the prime years of his career.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters over darker people in the world. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.” – 1967
Very little is seen today of Bob Marley’s activism just like Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley has been repackaged and painted with all colours of the rainbow.“All that remains of Bob Marley today is smiling benevolence, a shining sun, a waving palm tree, and a string of hits which tumble out of polite radio like candy from a gumball machine. Of course it has assured his immortality. But it has also demeaned him beyond recognition. Bob Marley was worth far more” – Dave Thompson in his book Reggae and Caribbean Music
Bob Marley was anything but rainbows aside from his political activism, his album entitled Survival, was a defiant and politically charged album, Tracks such as “Zimbabwe”, “Africa Unite”, “Wake Up and Live”, and “Survival” reflected Marley’s support for the struggles of Africans. His strong opposition to South African apartheid, which can be heard on his song “War”.
Two days after an assassination attempt on his life, he was asked why with his injury, he still performed as scheduled, Marley responded,
“The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?”
Nelson Mandela has to be the most repackaged of all “RADICALS”. Labeled a radical and a terrorist for taking a stand to liberate his people who till today are victims of stealing and inhuman treatment on their own land. He has been re-branded as an almost apolitical, controversy-free symbol of ‘hope’, ‘peace’ and ‘forgiveness’. Yet Mandela consistently stood up against imperialism and colonialism on the part of countries such as the United States and Israel.He blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism, Without mincing words he said in a speech, “Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly?” he continued. “All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil.” read more here
Here is a side to Mandela we do not see a lot of.
Lets bring it home ;
The Late great Fela Anikulapo Kuti born to an ‘activist mother’ , took a stand against oppression and the corruption perpetrated by the ruling elite against Nigerians. This stand came at a high price.
Quest love makes some good points –
E no finish , E no finish , E no finish,
“I want people to remember me as someone whose life has been helpful to humanity.”
- Thomas Sankara was labeled a radical yet he is unquestionably one of the best presidents Africa has ever produced. He was a pan- Africanist theorist and President of Burkina-Faso from 1983 to 1987 before he was assassinated by his good friend blaise compare with the help of the French government. As president, Sankara did some “radical things”;
- -He sold off the government fleet of Mercedes cars and made the Renault 5 (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of the ministers.
- He reduced the salaries of well-off public servants, including his own, and forbade the use of government chauffeurs and 1st class airline tickets.
- He redistributed land from the feudal landlords to the peasants. Wheat production increased from 1700 kg per hectare to 3800 kg per hectare, making the country food self-sufficent.
- He opposed foreign-aid, saying that “he who feeds you, controls you.”
- He spoke in forums like the Organization of African Unity against what he described as neo-colonist penetration of Africa through Western trade and finance.
- He called for a united front of African nations to repudiate their foreign debt. He argued that the poor and exploited did not have an obligation to repay money to the rich and exploiting.As President, he lowered his salary to $450 a month and limited his possessions to a car, four bikes, three guitars, a fridge and a broken freezer.
“Thomas knew how to show his people that they could become dignified and proud through will power, courage, honesty and work. What remains above all of my husband is his integrity.”
Mariam Sankara, Thomas’ widow
Other members of this all star cast include, JJ Rawlings and Ojukwu both labeled radicals and both stood up for their countries against persecution and impoverishment of their people.
Ojukwu graduated from Eton and Oxford,sacrificed a life of privilege to serve his country despite fierce resistance from his family. He was both a thinker and a D o’er. He took a stand for his people when they were being massacred left and right … even putting his own inheritance in to the war effort.His mind and thinking was exceptionally sound. Especially When you consider the 30 yr olds Nigeria is currently producing.
“I regret the disabilities of the war. It was a choice: it was either to become a slave of the Hausa’s in that time, or to do what we did. And up till tomorrow, whenever I’m given the opportunity to choose, I’ll reject slavery.
Ojukwu could have done what all the onlookers were doing,he could have looked the other way, taken his millions and bought an island or a nice beach house and chilled with Bianca sipping on margaritas… Nigeria failed the Igbo people…Win or lose, he stood for his people.
Nnamdi Azikiwe , In 1936 was sentenced to six months in prison on charges of sedition. These charges were due to his role as the editor of the African Morning Post. In this capacity, he published articles that challenged the status-quo attacking the existing colonial order and racial discrimination. In 1937, he founded the West African Pilot, which he used as a vehicle to foster Nigerian nationalism before he became active in the Nigerian Youth Movement.
Icons such as Wole Soyinka have been stamped with all sorts of labels, radical, revolutionary etc.
Detained several times by reactionary regimes in Nigeria, he has always been on the side of the long suffering masses.
During the first republic, the Nigerian police had taken firm positions to cut Professor Wole Soyinka to size after his famous disruption of the broadcast to the people of Western Nigeria.
Professor Wole Soyinka had entered very smoothly the premises of the then Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service and had in the end taken away the tape meant to contain the broadcast of S.L. Akintola. Professor Wole Soyinka did not leave the radio station until he had passed very serious comments on what he believed the Akintola regime was in the national life of Nigeria of that time.
Can we question the “cool” Of Sir Herbert Macaulay? A grandson of Bishop Ajayi Crowther, Macaulay was one of the first Nigerian nationalists and for most of his life a strong opponent of British rule in Nigeria. As a reaction to claims by the British that they were governing with “the true interests of the natives at heart”, Macaulay wrote:
“The dimensions of “the true interests of the natives at heart” are algebraically equal to the length, breadth and depth of the whiteman’s pocket.”
In 1908 he exposed European corruption in the handling of railway finances and in 1919 he argued successfully for the Chiefs whose land had been taken by the British in front of the Privy Council in London. As a result, the colonial government was forced to pay compensation to the chiefs. In retaliation for this and other activities of his, Macaulay got jailed twice by the British.
My personal Heroes, Bankole Vivour who 70 years ago gave his life so Hitler wont win World War2. The thinking was the ramifications of the war would eventually come to our shores and Africans wont fare too well if Hitler came to power.
SB Rhodes the first, Advocate and ‘Activist’ for Jaja Of Opobo during his kidnapping by the British despite the risk and consequences on his Business and personal life .
The Roster is almost complete, my favorite Radical of all, the most influential radical, most admired and most honored radical … you guessed it ….Jesus Christ.
Put aside the miracle working, put aside his divine nature, reduce him down to just a man or even just a story and even at that he was one exceptional man. He went against the status-quo, boldly challenging and pointing out the hypocrisy of the establishment.
The revolutionary nature of the parable of the good Samaritan when taken in relation to the political climate of the time and the audience he was speaking to.
His political wisdom was evident in the way he avoided traps e.g “ Those without sin cast the first stone”, “ Give on to Caesar that which is Caesar”.
The examples he set on leadership. (Washing his disciple’s feet) made it clear to lead you must serve and put everyone else’s needs first. His bold disdain for the corruption and monetizing of the church (toppled the tables of the money changers)
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
6 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
So here is the dilemma. What does one do in a society that has gone from Sankara’s to Blaise Compaoré ( for 27 years the international world never called him a dictator or a radical yet they have very colorful names for Mugabe) from Patrice Lumumba to Mobutu’s,self serving leaders who thrive on the impoverishment of the populace. A social class of sheep that produces a political class that is all about power and its benefits in the furthering of their self interest. Without the responsibility, service or sacrifice that should come with such an office.
As Plato said
Does one give up?
In the wise words of the Great Thomas Sankara
“I would like to leave behind me the conviction that if we maintain a certain amount of caution and organization we deserve victory. You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness…. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”
| Thomas Sankara
So this is for the crazy ones the rebels the radicals and whatever other labels society throws at us today….:)