In The Spotlight
‘Where are you from?’
I hear this more often than I hear my own name, and my response often depends on who’s asking; I can turn my ethnicity… heritage… into an icebreaker and ask the other person to have a guess, if they get the right answer I’ll give them £100. They never guess correctly, which I’m always relieved about – I can’t afford to keep giving away £100! Or I can weaponise it, pushing the other person into feeling self-conscious about whatever stereotype or bias they might be exposing in trying to guess. Finally, I can lie, which I often do when I feel uncomfortable, or unsafe, or just exhausted.
I’ll say, ‘London, mate’, and stick to that even when the response is, ‘Okay but where are you from from?’
And without fail, the response if I chose to reveal my half-Brazilian, half-Montenegrin heritage is always an impressed ‘woah!’, a moment I recognise, because I do it too, but a moment worth unpacking nonetheless. Call it what you want; biracial, mixed-ethnicity, mixed-race, ‘ethnic’, the idea that people who are a blend of races, ethnicities or nationalities are somehow more fascinating, or more ‘trendy’ is pretty problematic. Here’s a little break down of what is going through my mind when the entire conversation descends into a discussion about where I come from:
First of all, I am neither an imported fruit nor a mystical creature in a zoo, so comments about how rare or ‘exotic’ I am, and how new and exciting that is for everyone, implicitly suggests that I’m too different to belong. I understand that it is an unusual mixture to you, but to me it’s all I have ever known, it is natural and familiar and yet still something I have to condense into soundbites because here I am, explaining it to a stranger for the fifth time this week.
I may have foreign parents (is what I say when I mispronounce words like ‘radiator’ or reveal that I don’t know what Paddington Bear is), but I was born and educated in London and so bombarding me with questions about the political, socio-economic history of Brazil and Montenegro is going to make me feel like I don’t know enough about the political, socio-economic history of Brazil and Montenegro. Would you ask me this if I stuck to my ‘London’ answer? Probably not.
Loaded compliments that are solely based on my ethnicity make me feel uncomfortable, even if you don’t intend them to. Saying that I’m more interesting or more attractive based on something I have absolutely no control over is just an empty compliment – and if it wasn’t tinged with racism (and it usually is) – I probably wouldn’t care. But telling me that I must be an amazing dancer, or ‘fiery in the bedroom’, or must be used to wearing bikinis is bizarre and repulsive, and you should know better.
In all honesty, those comments are not that exhausting to deal with. There are plenty of people who are mixed, just like I am, but who have to deal with a lot more racism. I’m fortunate to pass as ‘white enough’, as I have been informed, so even though some casual racism might be thrown my way, my colour of my skin hasn’t often made me into a target the way it can for many others.
The hardest part of navigating my complex identity is that I myself, do not know exactly how to answer the ‘where are you from’ question. Truthfully, I am unsure. Debates about my ‘genuine’ identity, about the number of passports I have, or should have, about how many languages I can speak and about how much general knowledge I should have are not debates I agreed to when answering the question. Nor is my identity something you are entitled to ‘test’ me on. Here’s what I’d love to talk about, when I am asked about my background:
It is strange to be born in one country but have connections to two, very different countries. It is strange grow up in a household where all three languages are spoken, but English dominates out of practicality, so that the older I get the more I lose what once came to me so easily. And it is stranger still to grow up with a blend of three cultures that make the United Kingdom seem both so familiar yet so foreign at the same time, a feeling that is reinforced when someone insists on determining my origins even after I’ve already given them my answer. It is hard to grow up with family stretched between two different continents; I have missed birthdays, weddings and funerals. I go back often and still feel like an outsider, I read the news and listen to music in an effort to prove to other people (and myself) that I am authentically who I say I am.
These are things I’d much rather discuss with you, stranger or not, instead of struggling to answer what exact year Brazil’s military dictatorship ended, or explain that, yes, I do speak Montenegrin but I never learnt to read or write in it so I am nowhere near fluent. Please stop questioning me. Perhaps start listening instead?
Back in 2017, SOAS was caught in something of a media storm when a Students’ Union commissioned report requested that academics decolonise the curriculum. According to some press outlets, SOAS students were sabotaging history and vandalising legitimate ideas. This perspective is being challenged by the creative directors behind the production ‘Decolonisation: Not Just a Buzzword’. They want to reveal that, in fact, ‘history is a troubling thing’, and perhaps it should be deconstructed.
The play uses the technique of Headphone Verbatim, where artists perform edited interviews whilst listening to them at the same time through headphones. Their performance relies on total honesty. Since it is only the actors who can hear the voices of the faculty members and students who were interviewed, they are required to keep every syllable, reflex, breath, divergence and accent completely intact throughout their performance. It is an effective technique. One of the actors explains that performing like this allows them to ‘reach for every detail without interruption’.
The honesty revealed on stage provides deeper introspection about the students reflections on positionality. For them, there is a clear link between their family histories and the way that race functions in this country. Decolonisation is a framework used to understand how the British ‘glorification of empire’ creates a hierarchy in ‘who counts as being British’. Growing up British and Asian, for instance, some students spoke about a feeling of dislocation, that in school the true impact of Empire was never discussed and this is ‘a form of neglect’. It means that children whose parents or grandparents were born in former colonies end up performing a ‘double consciousness’ where ‘you’re not just a subject of history’ but ‘you’re excluded from it’. In order to address this issue of erasure one student says that it would be ‘even more patriotic to really encounter empire and the past’ because Britain is so multicultural.
Despite Britain’s multiculturalism, with the rise of far right politics in recent years the perceived threat of the Other is all the more profound in Britain today. However, racism is far from a right wing problem; in fact, decolonisation reveals that racism is endemic in British society. Looking at academic syllabus history is a clear reflection of what is deemed to be important. In British schools there are not classes on Asian or African history. In fact, many of the students who were interviewed reveal that British school classes left them with the feeling that Asia and Africa were inferior. This form of ‘internalised racism’ is expressed by one student who recounts how her South Asian born father despairs that she spent her childhood and adolescence learning about Anne Boleyn when India has such a rich history of its own. I would agree that this is a form of neglect. It is problematic that the school system attempts to box people into one fantasy of British identity. In fact, the erasure of history is a neglect when it is an erasure of self knowledge for young people with divergent backgrounds.
In this way a conversation about decolonisation becomes a question about power. Who is allowed to remember and what will be remembered? The power to remember and create knowledge is restricted when it is controlled by one narrow perspective. As one interviewee states: decolonising is about making the views of diverse voices ‘heard’ but that ‘does not mean making the voices of middle aged white males illegitimate’ it is about representation. For this reason, decolonisation is expressed as taking positonality seriously – academics and students are interrogating ‘who am I and who am I talking to’ especially when these power dynamics reflect our wider society.
Perhaps this is the most robust point about decolonisation. As one academic says ‘you can reform the conversation about decolonisation to democratisation’. There is an ‘uneven’ world ‘system’ where ‘some people have power and wealth at the expense of others’. The perceived universality of the Global North is not just about Eurocentric thinking. Within this Eurocentric logic the Global South is made inferior resulting in the justification for colonial rule, exploitation of resources and unjust wars.
As such, for me, decolonisation is about asking who is it that benefits from history, and who is left out of history altogether? Troubling as these questions may be, we could all do well to ask ourselves them.
Question: "What is the difference between religion and spirituality?"
Answer: Before we explore the difference between religion and spirituality, we must first define the two terms. Religion can be defined as “belief in God or gods to be worshipped, usually expressed in conduct and ritual” or “any specific system of belief, worship, etc., often involving a code of ethics.” Spirituality can be defined as “the quality or fact of being spiritual, non-physical” or “predominantly spiritual character as shown in thought, life, etc.; spiritual tendency or tone.” To put it briefly, religion is a set of beliefs and rituals that claim to get a person in a right relationship with God, and spirituality is a focus on spiritual things and the spiritual world instead of physical/earthly things.
The most common misconception about religion is that Christianity is just another religion like Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. Sadly, many who claim to be adherents of Christianity do practice Christianity as if it were a religion. To many, Christianity is nothing more than a set of rules and rituals that a person has to observe in order to go to heaven after death. That is not true Christianity. True Christianity is not a religion; rather, it is having a right relationship with God by receiving Jesus Christ as the Savior-Messiah, by grace through faith. Yes, Christianity does have “rituals” to observe (e.g., baptism and communion). Yes, Christianity does have “rules” to follow (e.g., do not murder, love one another, etc.). However, these rituals and rules are not the essence of Christianity. The rituals and rules of Christianity are the result of salvation. When we receive salvation through Jesus Christ, we are baptized as a proclamation of that faith. We observe communion in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. We follow a list of do’s and don’ts out of love for God and gratitude for what He has done.
The most common misconception about spirituality is that there are many forms of spirituality, and all are equally valid. Meditating in unusual physical positions, communing with nature, seeking conversation with the spirit world, etc., may seem to be “spiritual,” but they are in fact false spirituality. True spirituality is possessing the Holy Spirit of God as a result of receiving salvation through Jesus Christ. True spirituality is the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in a person’s life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Spirituality is all about becoming more like God, who is spirit (John 4:24) and having our character conformed to His image (Romans 12:1-2).
What religion and spirituality have in common is that they both can be false methods of having a relationship with God. Religion tends to substitute the heartless observance of rituals for a genuine relationship with God. Spirituality tends to substitute connection with the spirit world for a genuine relationship with God. Both can be, and often are, false paths to God. At the same time, religion can be valuable in the sense that it points to the fact that there is a God and that we are somehow accountable to Him. The only true value of religion is its ability to point out that we have fallen short and are in need of a Savior. Spirituality can be valuable in that it points out that the physical world is not all there is. Human beings are not only material, but also possess a soul-spirit. There is a spiritual world around us of which we should be aware. The true value of spirituality is that it points to the fact that there is something and someone beyond this physical world to which we need to connect.
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of both religion and spirituality. Jesus is the One to whom we are accountable and to whom true religion points. Jesus is the One to whom we need to connect and the One to whom true spirituality points. Are you interested in discovering true religion and true spirituality? If the answer is yes, please begin your journey on our webpage that describes receiving Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior -
Chancellor Angela Merkel made a "catastrophic mistake" in letting immigrants flood into Germany, US President-elect Donald Trump said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.
He blamed the refugee crisis for being the "straw that broke the camel's back" and triggered Britain's vote last year to leave the European Union.
"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from," Trump said in an interview with The Times of London and Germany's Bild, adding he had "great respect" for the chancellor.
Some 890,000 migrants, many of them fleeing war in Syria, entered Germany in 2015 after Merkel opened her country's doors in response to massive pressure on countries along the so-called "Balkan route" into western Europe.
The mass arrivals prompted an initial mass outpouring of support, but fear about the consequences has also driven anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany to between 10 and 15 percent in polls.
One MP deserted Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union this weekend over her refugee policy, as the Chancellor tees up a re-election bid later this year.
Trump said that he would start out "trusting both" Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Let's see how long that lasts, may not last long at all," he went on.
While he allowed that Merkel was a "fantastic leader," the Republican said that Germany had "got a clear impression" of the consequences of her policy from a deadly December 19 terrorist attack in Berlin in which a hijacked truck was used to mow down Christmas market patrons, killing 12.
Berlin suspect Anis Amri, a Tunisian national, entered Europe via Italy in 2011 and served a four-year prison sentence there before allegedly carrying out the attack.
Trump also argued that the mass arrivals in 2015 were "the final straw that broke the camel's back" in convincing British voters to back leaving the European Union in a June 24th referendum.
Pro-Leave campaigners warned in the wake of the crisis that refugees would flood into the UK, producing a poster showing a crowd of Middle Eastern men under the words "Breaking Point".
Britons were wise to choose to leave the 28-member union, Trump said, arguing that it was a "basically a vehicle for Germany."
"Other countries will leave" the European Union in future, Trump prophesied.
In comments set to cause further consternation among eastern European NATO countries nervous about Moscow following Russia's annexation of Crimea and involvement in Ukraine, Trump also said NATO was "obsolete".
"I said a long time ago that NATO had problems," Trump told The Times of London and Bild
"Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago," he said.
"Number two, the countries aren't paying what they're supposed to pay."
On the campaign trail, Trump said he would think twice about helping NATO allies if the United States were not "reasonably reimbursed" for the costs of defending them.
After Trump's victory, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had been a bedrock of transatlantic security for "almost 70 years" and was especially needed at a time of new challenges.
Spending has been a common source of friction within the 28-nation alliance over recent years.
The core military contributor to the alliance is the United States, which accounts for about 70 percent of spending.
In 2014, stung into action by Russia's intervention in Ukraine, upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, NATO leaders agreed to reverse years of defence cuts and devote the equivalent of two percent of economic output to defence.
"The countries aren't paying their fair share so we're supposed to protect countries," Trump said in Sunday's interview.
"There's five countries that are paying what they're supposed to. Five. It's not much."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday that Trump's NATO remarks have caused concern at the US-led military alliance and also appeared at odds with his own officials.
Steinmeier said he had met NATO head Stoltenberg earlier on Monday "where the statements of President-elect Trump... were received with concern."
"This is in contradiction with what the American defence minister said in his hearing in Washington only some days ago and we have to see what will be the consequences for American policy," he added.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party won the national election on Sunday by a clear margin. But they scored their worst result in almost 70 years, as the AfD had a night to remember.
We're packing it in for the evening. Just like the campaigning itself, German elections are over with much less fuss than those in the UK and US... except for the fact that coalition building could take months.
Exit Polling shows Angela Merkel is set to become German Chancellor for a fourth time, as her party won a double-digit victory over their nearest rival. She seems pleased with the result, describing it as a good result after "an incredibly difficult legislative period."
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) scored a better-than-expected result in the exit polls, set to win 13 percent or higher and thus become the third largest party in the Bundestag.
Polling stations closed at 6pm, and exit polls immediately showed the Social Democrats (SPD) had slumped to a historic low in support.
The SPD have already ruled out joining another coalition, something other parties have called irresponsible.
The only other possible coalition is Merkel's Union joining up with the Free Democrats and the Greens. But big ideological differences between the parties mean we might not have a new government until the new year.
9.20 - Merkel ‘optimistic’ she can build coalition before Christmas
There was no love lost between the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) during the ARD TV round table, with FDP man Christian Lindner accusing the Greens of being idealistic and not realistic. Green party head Katrin Göring-Eckardt replied that she would put the environment at the centre of any coalition agreement, adding that she saw little common ground with the FDP. If a coalition is to be built though, it will most likely involve these two parties.
But Merkel finished the show by saying that she was “optimistic” she could build a coalition by the end of the year.
“Power lies in calmness,” she said, repeating the idea she had put across through the evening i.e. that when all the parties had had a good night's sleep they would see everything differently.
If the biggest concerns of Mr.Trump`s victory last November were how to prevent him from rolling back the gains of the previous administration, destabilizing American democracy and the world order, addressing them has so far been most effectively done by president Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Trump's shocking defeat of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton put the future of a number of his predecessor`s legislative accomplishments and executive decisions including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and a host of regulations that protected the environment and labor on a shaky ground. But the biggest threat was to the Affordable Care Act - also known as Obamacare - which was passed in 2010 by the Democrats and signed into law by then President Barack Obama. The law, which sets new standards for health insurance plans, creates a minimum benefit level for each plan, and most significantly prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to persons with pre-existing conditions has provided healthcare coverage to more than 10 million Americans. But by March of 2014, Republicans had attempted to repeal Obamacare more than 50 times. With a Republican-controlled House, Senate and White House following the November 2016 general election, the undoing of Mr. Obama`s signature legislative achievement looked all but done.
On the international front, the postwar world order and America's allies in Europe and elsewhere appeared destined for a bumpy ride following Mr. Trump`s victory last November. In an interview with the New York Times in July 2016, then-candidate Trump shocked the foreign policy establishment when he made U.S military support for its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies conditional on their ability to meet their financial obligations to the alliance.When asked by the Times` Sanger to elaborate on what would happen under a Trump presidency to NATO members who did not meet their defense spending obligations he stated:
If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich… We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”
To his credit, Mr. Trump was not the first to sound that alarm. At a news conference in Brussels in March 2014, then President Barack Obama stated:
I have had some concerns about a diminished level of defense spending among some of our partners in NATO; not all, but many. The trend lines have been going down… but the situation in Ukraine reminds us that our freedom isn’t free and we’ve got to be willing to pay for the assets, the personnel, the training that’s required to make sure that we have a credible NATO force and an effective deterrent force. And this can’t just be a U.S. exercise or a British exercise or one country’s efforts; everybody’s going to have to make sure that they are engaged and involved.
A goal set by NATO is for each member to spend at least 2% of its GDP on its own defense every year. That goal is currently being met by only 5 of the 28 members including the United States, Britain, Estonia, Greece, and Poland. But while Mr. Obama was talking about the importance of meeting the minimum 2% goal for the sake of the credibility and effectiveness of NATO, Mr. Trump made it a condition for US military defense of a NATO ally which is a clear violation of the collective defense clause or Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. And unlike the Republican nominee, his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton did not hold such position, thereby making his candidacy and election the more worrisome for America's NATO allies.
Also at stake following the election of Mr. Trump on the international front was the future of free trade. As a candidate for president, Mr. Trump was opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and it was one of the few topics on which he and Mrs. Clinton were in agreement. But unlike Mrs. Clinton who once called the agreement the gold standard of free trade agreements, Mr. Trump`s position was consistent with his long-held belief that free trade with other countries - especially China - was bad for America. If it was ever likely that one of them would change his or her mind once in office, it was not Mr. Trump. His election, therefore, signaled the end of free trade as it was known.
On other issues including climate change and the use of nuclear weapons, Mr. Trump's position frightened both America`s allies and adversaries. He once called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese in order to ``make US manufacturing non-competitive`` and as a candidate he promised to ``cancel`` the Paris climate accord. On nuclear weapons, then-candidate Trump reportedly asked a foreign policy expert ``if we have them, why can't we use them?``
But the threats to Obamacare, DACA, free trade, the environment, NATO and American democracy and global leadership that was signaled by Mr. Trump's election last November have so far been most effectively mitigated by... president Trump. Obamacare remains unrepealed after a third try this year and DACA is still in place and will likely be regardless of whether or not Congress do something about it over the next 5 months. Following Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, a coalition of 227 American cities and counties and about 1,650 businesses and investors known as America's pledge has since moved to uphold the United States commitment to the accord. The United States remains committed to NATO and its NATO allies despite president Trump`s tough talk. While TPP is dead, the much-touted trade war with China has not materialized. Mr. Trump's travel ban is currently being challenged in the courts. Last month, the president was openly rebuked by his own secretary of defense James Mattis in an impromptu speech to U.S troops stationed overseas and following Mr. Trump's comments on the white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated in an interview with Fox News that `` the president speaks for himself`` and presumably not for the country. His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has repeatedly and openly contradicted her boss on a number of foreign policy issues including Russia. The open rebukes and contradictions by the president's top officials have more than likely had the effect of reassuring America`s allies that Trump`s position is not necessarily the country`s position; shocking! And remember that wall that he was going to build with pesos?
No doubt his own appointees, the courts and the public which stood up against his agenda in town hall meetings across the country have assisted in stalling the Make America Great Again agenda. But it is becoming increasingly more difficult to deny that the main reason why president Trump has so far been unable to get anything done legislatively is primarily because of... president Trump.
Since he became president, many have attempted to clinically diagnose his mental stability or lack thereof. I resist from doing that since I am but a psychiatrist. However, I think it appropriate to judge Mr. Trump based on his public records from which two things are apparent: Mr. Trump cares mostly about Mr. Trump and he is shameless.
From the allegation that Barack Obama wiretapped him and the FBI covered up for Hillary Clinton to George W. Bush knowingly lied about weapons of mass destruction and the attacks on the so-called enemy of the American people - i.e. the media - and the judiciary , Mr. Trump has placed himself above the presidency and appears prepared to settle personal scores even at the cost of delegitimizing the most vital institutions of democratic governance.
In his defense, president Trump is not the first president or presidential candidate to criticize the press, past presidents or even the judiciary. A politician who is fully content with the press is no politician at all. Mr. Obama was critical of President George W. Bush both as a presidential candidate and as president. Mrs. Clinton was also critical of the FBI`s handling of her email investigation. But Mr. Trump's attacks are demonstrably different. His repeated attacks on the security agencies, the judiciary, and the press, for example, are intended not to merely point out specific flaws in individual actions or decisions but to destroy the very credibility of those institutions.
Mr. Trump's attacks are also different in another regard; they are largely founded in untruths. For instance, the allegation that Mr. Obama wiretapped him was found by his own justice department to be untrue. The allegation that the press falsely misrepresented the size of his inauguration crowd or the character of the white supremacists in the Charlottesville rally is not corroborated by any evidence. According to the New York Times, Mr. Trump told public lies or falsehoods every day for his first 40 days in office. If his frequent attacks on the credibility of government institutions are characteristic of an individual who either does not understand the importance of trust in public institutions to the health of a democracy or simply does not care, his untruths and the frequency and ease with with he tells them are characteristic of an individual who has no shame; why else would his press secretary on his first full day in office lie about something as trivial in the grand scheme of things as the size of his inauguration crowd, something that can be easily proven as false by anyone with a smartphone or a computer?
The president has been unable repeal Obamacare likely because he was too busyattacking the same Republicans in Congress with the votes to do so: He could not pull all of the United States out of the Paris agreement because his track record proves he has no credibility on the issue and cannot be trusted to come up with an alternative measure that is better for both the environment and for American workers; his travel ban has faced serious resistance in the courts because he cannot avoid contradicting himself on the internet and likely because of his attacks on the judiciary; he cannot abandon NATO and America`s commitment to the bloc when his top officials do not even consider his views as representative of the views of the United States; his administration has been a theater of leakslikely because of his attacks on the security agencies and his own top officials continue to rebuke and depart from his position because they do not take him seriously.
Other presidents have also encountered serious difficulties getting things done, but not when they controlled both the House and the Senate. At this stage eight years ago, President Obama and the Democratic-controlled House and Senate were well on their way to passing the Affordable Care Act. Outside of the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the Trump administration has no other major legislative accomplishment to boast of and the road ahead looks all but promising.
Furthermore, the fear that Trump`s rise would energize right-wing movements and parties across Europe has not fully materialized. In France, Marine Le Pen of the Far Right National Front party was strongly rejected by French voters earlier this year. In Germany however, the far right Alternative for Deutschland (AFD) did quite well with 12.6% of the total votes in last weekend's election, making it the third largest political party in Germany. Yet it is my belief that the right-wing movements in Europe would have been much more energized and both Le Pen and the AFD would have done far better had the Trump presidency been effective.
But so far, it has not been the Geniuses of Madison and Jefferson or the unstoppable force of the resistance movement that has mostly stalled Trumpism across Europe and the Make America Great Again agenda at home; it has mostly been Mr. Trump himself, a strange ally to his own resisters.
By: Mohammed Adawulai
TopAfric Media Network