You have a voice. Be careful how you use it.

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We have tremendous power at our fingertips. With a simple click we can share our thoughts, feelings and opinions with thousands of people all over the world. There are days I revel in this simple power and others where it makes me shudder in horror.

Two months ago no one knew who Boko Haram was. If they had heard a whisper, it about a warlord in Northern Nigeria and then they flipped to read about Kim Kardashian and her tacky wedding dress.

Then Boko Haram kidnapped 200 school girls and everything changed. The traditional press went into survival mode. They know something the ordinary man on the street didn’t. They know that even more dangerous than giving into a terrorist’s demands, is giving them publicity. So, they self censored.

We didn’t. We jumped on the hashtag bandwagon with all the best intentions in the world. Of course we believed that the world should know, should DO something. We didn’t stop to think of the consequences of our actions.

Part of my job is to evaluate the social media publicity of the brands I work on and give it a monetary value. There is no monetary value on the publicity Boko Haram received, that’s how big it is.

A little known warlord and his extremism have been uplifted to world notoriety.

He didn’t want a million dollars or a hundred prisoners released. He got exactly what he wanted, exactly what he had planned for, exactly what we gave him. He couldn’t have bought the publicity we gave out for free.

The sad fact is that those girls are not going to be rescued. They have outlived their usefulness for both the terrorists and the fickle attention of social media.

If their government and world forces had acted in the first 48 hours, their story might be different. If the telecommunication networks instead of paying Boko Haram to erect base stations in his territory had cut all telecoms instead, we could have cut him off at the knees.

We didn’t. They didn’t. We just fed his grandiose self-importance by our naive reaction.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have been distraught, enraged and horrified by what happened. I am saying that we need to think who we are helping by using the power of social media to spread our reactions. We didn’t help those girls. We helped the men who kidnapped them at gunpoint. We are complicit in what has happened.

If there was not an environment of social media and the free dissemination of whatever we want, Boko Haram would never have bothered kidnapping them in the first place. It would not have served their interests. They did what they did precisely because they knew how we would react and what we would do. We gave them a stage, an international platform and it’s time we took responsibility.

Just because we have a mouth and a voice and the technology to reach into the homes and lives of millions, doesn’t mean we should. We are not privy to press briefings, military briefings or government machinations. We don’t know the whole story and grabbing onto one little part of it can be as dangerous as knowing nothing.

So, ask yourself, would ISIS be playing rugby with a severed head and mowing down civilians with machine guns if they couldn’t Twitter it as it happened? They are uploading on 15 seconds intervals the proof of their inhumanity and we gave them the stage to do it.

Even worse, we’re watching it, devouring it. It’s better than Honey BooBoo. It’s reality TV and the sick thing is we love it. Just look at how many times those images have been shared over the past week.

Next time you click share, think about whose interests you are serving and then think about whether or not it is responsible to do so.

RIP Chinua Achebe

Chinua

Today all of Africa mourns the passing of a truly great man, Chinua Achebe. This remarkable Nigerian author was a literary Nelson Mandela and his death leaves every one of us bereaved. I am comforted by the knowledge that his spirit and genius will live on in his poetry and writing, and deeply humbled that he shared them with us throughout his life.

Koni was here

Joseph Kony

Hold onto to your hats, the world just found about Joseph Kony!

Pity it comes about two decades too late.

He is a very bad man, there is no denying the atrocities he is responsible for. The world acknowledged that when issuing a warrant for his arrest, in wait for it… 2005! Yes, 2005!

Perhaps if Rhianna and that teenage singer whathisname had paid attention a few years ago it might have mattered. But oh wait, Uganda doesn’t have any oil to spare.

It’s not that I think they got it wrong, they just got it later than expected. Better that than never one supposes.

Island for sale on Lake VictoriaMy better half jetted in from Uganda on Saturday. After showing the viral video Kony 2012 around the Ugandan office (which I’m not even bothering to link to, because you’ve seen it already), he asked the Ugandans what they thought.

Most of them didn’t even know who the hell Kony was. The rest said bemused, “But he doesn’t even live here anymore, last anyone heard he was somewhere in the DRC.” That’s Zaire, in case you haven’t been keeping up with geography.

And my favourite, “Isn’t he dead?”After all, the last time anyone saw the man it was in the year 2000.

The fact is old Kony is old news here in the wilds of Africa. We’re busy dealing with the fall-out of Libya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Egypt. You know the millions of children actually starving to death and the HIV/Aids epidemic?

It’s all very well you know to send over troops and bomb the hell of a remote African country because you feel bad about bankrolling a dictator back in the day.

The thing is once you’ve done it you get to back to Ohio or wherever and leave a country in shambles with no form of government, but an over eager militia suffering a bad case of itchy trigger fingers.

Meanwhile there are no schools, no healthcare and no food.

Well done chaps! You’ve liberated a country into a state of starvation, rampant disease and the total dissolution of an economy.

Back to Kony 2012. The poor old Ugandan President is as confused as the rest of us Africans and issued a lovely Twitter invite for the Hollywood celebs to come visit.

Uganda is not a war zone. It is a beautiful country enjoying a peaceful decade (elections aside, African elections are always an excuse for a good set to).

Uganda Gorilla SafariI’ve been there and was impressed with the polite, friendly and incredibly patriotic people. You should give it a try.

Lake Victoria is beyond exquisite and gorillas really do live in the mist.

On his last trip to Nigeria, my husband came back totally unaware that in the week he was there the country was supposed to have been in full-out civil war with dead Christians lining the roads. Either their press censorship is world-class or the world’s media is desperate for a new headline.

Kony 2012 DirectorWhat really made me have a good giggle was not the sad state of Children of War’s finances, but the naked wanking madman in the streets of San Diego.

I don’t doubt his good intentions, but I am unsure of why he was suffering from malnutrition?

And surely he expected some attention after that piece of glorious self-promotion? I appreciated, along with many Ugandans I am sure, the many who have called it “The video for the misinformed”.

I think he should stay home with his lovely wife and breed the 9 more children he plans to add an already overpopulated world.

 

 

A stitch in time…

Things not to do when in post-op recovery: Watch Pauly Shore and laugh until your sides split literally. I broke through my stitches. Who knew?

 

In the wonderful morphine haze that accompanied my post-operative state I neglected to clear up a few salient points with my esteemed surgeon. For example the 6 weeks referred to. Is Week 1 the week of hospital or the first week out? My mother maintains the latter and I am holding out for the former. Then again, she was sober and took notes. According to her schedule this week I can walk around my garden for 10 minutes. According to mine, I can go out for lunch. I know in my head she is right, but in my heart I wish it were me. I have paid the price for pushing too far over the last week. I overdid the exercises, I’ve been outside and I’ve suffered the excruciating pain associated with your guts trying to escape your body. So this week I will try harder.

 

The father of my offspring was finally released from hospital last Friday. I think they became afraid he was harbouring Prison Break fantasies and would upset the other inmates. They still have no clue what alien lifeform lives within him, but sent him home with much relief. He does not fit the profile of The Good Patient. He reads his file (who does that?) and then Googles from his hospital bed. He admonishes the nurses when they don’t give him his meds (quite rightly) and can wield a drip stand like a warrior with a lance. So, when he could eat jelly they sent him home. Much thinner if none the wiser as to what caused him to become so ill in the first place. Like many men who do not quite understand the silent and deadly fear women have of being fat, he has happily pointed out to my mother, my friends and some women who fight daily with eating disorders that now he weighs less than them. Don’t gloat. It is unbecoming. What you do is when commented upon, say breezily, “Oh yes, it was horrible! I lost so much weight when I was ill and was horrified by gaunt I looked.”

 

As for me? During that week my sainted mother looked after me making up for a childhood of leaving me with the maid every time I got ill. I adore her. She cooked for me. You know, those wonderful childhood meals only your mum can ever make right? She fluffed my blankets, she arrived at 6am to ferry the kids to school and brought them back in one piece later on. I don’t know how to thank her properly, but without her I think I may have gone mad.

 

On his release from the white walls of Morningside Clinic Marc packed a tent and took the boys camping as part of the Dads and Lads Camp Out. How twee is that name? Nonetheless, off they went in Bella, the 1976 VW Kombi, comfortably ensconced in a mountain if duvets. After yelling at the boys to pack their pillows and duvets, Daddy left his behind. Good thing Mummy pressed an extra blanket on him before they left. I don’t know why I packed so many clothes for them, or soap for that matter. They arrived back on Sunday in the same clothes they left in, just a little soggier.

 

Apparently at these events there are three groups of fathers:

Group 1: The avid outdoorsman

Group 2: The man child

Group 3: The (How to put this nicely?) organic metrosexual aka pussy whipped husband

 

Group 1 has every outdoor gadget known to man. They are the Camel Man, the Marlboro plan and the boer that maaks a plan. They expect the same of their children. During the week they are doctors, lawyers and CPAs, but in the bush… they are the hunter. Their kids are rough, tough and ready. They take turns on guard duty through the night and eat freeze dried army food.

 

Group 2 form the largest grouping. These are guys who remember going camping with a six pack of beer and a tape mix of Tones on Tail and David Bowie. They know how to light a fire and stare into its flames. They like to give the truth scope and share stories and tall tales of back when. Their kids run around unfettered on bikes with glow sticks and a boerie roll. If they go to bed at all they tumble into it fully dressed and emerge only at the smell of bacon frying in the morning before they disappear off again.

 

Group 3 are the ones I feel for. Even far from the watchful eye of their wives they desperately try and force organic celery sticks down their sons (who just pop over to Group 2 for a quick bite of meat anyway). Bath time is at 6pm sharp, dinner consisting of soya and a nice organic salad served at 7pm and in bed by 8pm. Not a chance. These guys battle it out for 48 hours and instead of coming home energized with masculinity, crawl home to their wives and whimper.

 

Now you also have the outliers. These are those who provide entertainment on a nouveau riche scale. The dad who arrives with a rented motorhome and toilet. Not a porta-pottie. A whole bathroom in marble and gold. I should just explain that the camping ground they go to in on the banks of the Vaal. There are bathrooms and mowed grass and no-one has to kill an impala for supper. It is very civilized. After all these boys go to a very civilized school.

 

Nonetheless my boys arrived home on Sunday morning, sunburnt, grubby and exhausted. They had a marvelous time. Small boy aged 8 (almost 9) dragged himself through the door, flopped on the couch and tuned into MTV. Small boy aged 6 joined him. Man dragged himself to bed and watched Grosse Point Blank. Conversation was held in grunts until the return to civilization kicked in with mother threatening to physically throw small grubby people into a bath. Not that I could have done it, but the threat was real enough. I could have called ADT as it was a family emergency.

 

The best thing was getting them up and dressed and off this morning and then falling back into bed for another hour. Blissful and decadent. Now if only I can get the cats to stop kneading my stomach…