ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Our contribution to this discourse is an essay on the hypocrisies of might. It is a critical rebellion against the manufactured opinions imposed as facts on an unsuspecting world, using the vehicles of the Western press; whose suffocating prejudice in relation to everything African is really convulsively ugly as it is repulsive.
Empires and Lynching
The Lynching of Robert Mugabe: Critique of Empire, History and Memory! (Part 2)
By Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh
Empires have always lynched dissidents. They have always murdered those who could not swallow their discontent, or let empire get away with the strangulating and toxic impact of its debaucheries. They have always bludgeoned those who refused to be intimidated by imperial impunities; and buried those who challenged their monumental indiscretions. They have forever banished and brazenly barbecued their opponents out of existence, with all the medieval cruelty, and inquisitorial wickedness in their arsenals.
Empire has always crucified those who offered any resistance to its impious excesses, or those who couldnt bear imperial jackboots patiently. Jesus, the opinionated, itinerant preacher from Galilee; who rattled a rotten and hypocritical establishment, was handed over to the apparatus of the Roman state; to be hung by Pontius Pilatea servant of empirewho allowed himself to be played into a cul de sac, where he must prove that he is a friend of the emperor by sanctioning the lynching of an innocent man, or risk losing his seat.
Equally, in empires unholy name, John the baptiser had to lose his head to the daughter of an adulteress. JFK was not murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald. Contrary to the cant hawked about; empire murdered him execution style, when he became a threat to entrenched imperial interests, politics of narrow insularity and corporate profit, represented by those who rule and run America for their gain. Martin Luther King, Jr., had to die, execution style when empire, like the pharaonic Egypt of yore, realised that it runs the risk of losing its bonded Black, slave labour. China crushed dissidents to its tyranny with an iron fist in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Any challenge to empire or imperial interests is construed as treasonable felony, and dealt with decisively. To that end, empire has, and will always pillory and rise to crush those who prick its conscience; attempt to expose its hypocrisy; ask for a moratorium on its rapacious plunder, solicit the lifting of imperial jackboots off their necks; or demands that empire gets its fangs off the bleeding flesh of its victims. This noble vocation of calling for an end to imperial injustice is construed by empire as a threat to its existence. It is a noble vocation because disobedience to tyranny is obedience to God. This is the nobility in the sacrifices of a Nelson Mandela. But it rattles empire into convoking the medieval brutality of its might in slaying and making all peaceful evolution impossible.
All empires are polite tyrannies. And since tyrannies are never philanthropies, empires are resolutely ruthless. Absolute power is its end. That explains why it is always a construct of greed driven by a culture of fear. Fear is the software which runs every empire. Empire generates fear as well as it ingests fear. Ask Americans what they are doing owning guns! Empire entertains this perennial fear that the victims of its injustice will one day rise and demand redress; fear that its prisoners will break the chains of their slavery; fear and the knowledge of the fact that whenever the victims are allowed to unite in their quest and demand for justice, that collapse remains the only logical alternative for a construct erected on injustice as its fundament.
To this end, empire will forever reinforce this culture of fear. It must create new monsters of fear to whip its domestic populace in line, crush any pocket of opposition with ruthless impunity, and gain their timid approval for its plunder of others. Whenever these fears threaten to expire, or is neutralized by whatever new realisation that critical thinking uncovers, it must be reinvented or repackaged, to keep its enterprise of exploitation and indentured slavery running. Where there are no raw materials for the creation of new vectors of fear, empire plumbs primitive reservoirs of angst harboured in the collective unconscious.
It goes on to mismanage these primeval illusions, like the congenital fear of the stranger, in order to hew out a new incarnation of fear. America posited these classical symptoms of every empire on the rise, in the course of her rise to empire. The first carrier of this fear was communism. Today, it is terrorism. The primeval illusion it has for centuries mismanaged is the fear of the Black man. Always, a face is created for this fear. During the Cold War, it wore a Russian face. Today, its face is Arab. Domestically, this face is Black, male! Watch any news report of a homicide scene in America TV. The suspect is always identified as a Black male.
Empire has always done these and worse!
But the most notorious hurdle challenging comprehension is why the oppressed have always raised traitors from within, who collaborate in their oppression and evisceration. Empire is smart! To effectively disembowel its victim, it conscripts collaborators from among those that it is decimating at each point in time. The Nazis raised some Sonderkommandos from among its Jewish victims; some of whom became even more efficient in disposing of the evidence of the crime, than the Nazis would have ever wished. The Vichy government collaborated with the Nazi occupation forces as it plundered Paris. These are some tiny part of an inexhaustible collection of historical instances in this regard. The reasons why in utter disregard of history, imperial victims have always abandoned themselves to be co-opted into helping empires officiate at the human sacrifice and inquisitorial barbecue of their brothers or fellow victims will forever remain a mystery.
That empires must simultaneously generate and quash discontent is a part of its blood-curdling ontology. But that the oppressed always allow themselves to be seduced into self-immolation, to appease imperial designs, is an engineered stupidity that must be challenged at all fronts. Empire has really fucked with the heads and minds of the oppressed. Frantz Fanon captured this rightly when he wrote that if suppressed fury fails to find an outlet, it goes in to devastate the oppressed themselves. Instead of the oppressed rising against their chains, and those who hold them in bondage, they scamper in timidity and feed on their fellow inmates of this vale of tears. They rise against those who share the same estates and scars of oppression alongside them. They collude and conspire in their exploitation.
That is the tragedy of timidity, which empire exploits to its advantage. That is the real chain holding the oppressed to the pillars of eternal slavery. Bob Marley was right. Whatever happens to a man happens to him in the mind. And for us to be really free, we must emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. Our critique of history and memory is in obedience to this charge of the reggae prophet. Every bondsman in his hands lies the keys to cancel his captivity writes Shakespeare some centuries ago. But how can a prisoner of Platos cave know that what he beholds as reality are illusions.
How can Africans liberate themselves from this kind of conceptual colonialism and mental slavery, when many of them are not even aware that they are peddling borrowed and manufactured stereotypes as the truths about themselves and goings on in their continent? How can they see clearly when many of them are wearing imperially designed goggles, which gives them no other visual ability except seeing and appraising reality from Eurocentric spectral prisms?
African self determination is non-negotiable, if we are to develop this continent. Africa must be able to drive her destiny. But Africans according to Chinweizu have been miseducated unto self-destruction. We have been diametrically miseducated unto mutilating a perfect right foot, because imperial brainwashing enterprise has succeeded in emblazoning on our minds like with red hot iron, that our right foot is evil. That is why what the hawks of an expired imperialism are propounding and peddling about Zimbabwe today cannot be accepted on the score of ethics and manners.
This is why Robert Mugabe will be our scaffold for critiquing history and memory of the relationship between what Chinweizu aptly phrased as the West, and the rest of us, in its contemporary manifestations in Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular. It is directed at those brainwashed Africans, who have bought into the imperial rhetoric of blaming the victim, and who are conveniently blind to the subterranean dynamics at work in Zimbabwe; and who are seduced by the western manufacture of opinion and consent into seeing a personality as the problem with Zimbabwe, instead of a whole construct of anomie, which has deep roots in the legacies of Africas imperial past; the leadership that came out of that toxic ambience, and the present global power matrix and configurations.
Ours is not, and will never be an exoneration of Mugabe as a part of the problem. Mugabe is only a PART of the problem. That is why the removal of Mugabe actively pursued by the West will never yield the result of lifting Zimbabwe out of the doldrums. Rather, it will pave the way for a further evisceration of that land in subservience to Western interests, which has never augured well for Africa, since history and memory could recall. That the western media is canvassing a collective amnesia about the central issues at stake in Zimbabwe and are ready to embezzle facts pursuant to that project, is not surprising. But that many Africans will prostitute themselves out as mouthpieces of suspect opinions with imperial ends irks reason and batters rationality. This attitude in honour of ignorance cannot but invite the indignation and resistance of all whose vocation is knowledge and freedom.
Essays of Oppressions and Narrative of Hypocrisy!
Our first essay titled The Real Trouble with Zimbabwe and the sequel to that titled The Lynching of Robert Mugabe (part 1), which informed this rejoinder, triggered off an unprecedented controversy that dwarfed our wildest imagination. The fallouts deluged our concern with their urgency and depth. The reactions to the said articles not only attracted a broad spectrum of theories, it created an essential arena for the ventilation of much closet rhetoric and undeodorized bigotry.
This bordered not only on the cacophony of the submissions, but also the insistence of some of the issues raised; the reductive arguments marshalled by some brainwashed intellectuals, who like the prisoners in Platos cave refused to rise above the dim luminescence of their ideological caves, to confront reality on its own terms, without the aid of borrowed or prefabricated conceptual goggles; as well as the grey areas that needed to be ironed out to aid a fuller appreciation of what the true narrative is, in and about Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe, that signature tune of many a freedom fighter was under a violent assault. This was marshalled by an armada of concentrated hypocrisy; led by Britain and supported by her almighty ally in iniquityGeorge Bushs white Houseas well as the EU. Zimbabwe in whose memory, the great Bob Marley sang one of his most inspirational tributes to freedom was still in the chains of anomie, decades after the political independence granted it by the UK; which was only possible with an inbuilt economic emasculation of its black population, who are condemned to perpetually plead for justice.
Those essays not only gave us the podium to air our disgust at the lynching of the powerless by the powerful, or the enthronement of might into right; it equally allowed us a privileged admittance into the rotten core of the intellectual slavery and conceptual bondage, imprisoning so many African intellectuals in frozen fatalism and fossilized inferiority complex. We encountered and were jolted by the fact that the conceptual colonization and mis-education of the continent has been total and more far reaching than we ever thought. The African mind as made manifest in many of her elites and intellectuals has been etched with the worst form of self-loathing and inferiority complex that defies every canon of reason and decency. We equally met the enfeebled resistance of a few Africans who have escaped the dark grottos of this Platos cave of superlative illusion.
We witnessed first hand how unsuccessful and arduous their battle to reflect and show the majority, the exact colour of their chains. Years after The Stolen Legacy; years after The West and the Rest of Us; years after How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; and years of Noam Chomskys unveiling of the subtle face of imperialism; many educated Africans are still slaves to the manufactured illusions and conceptual schemes they carry about as truths. This means that Chinweizus efforts in calling for the decolonization of African literature, and life, has not even scratched the surface of the problem. The prisoners he essayed to liberate have been genetically re-engineered or irreversibly brainwashed into the belief that their prison cell is the only universe that there is. And they carry and transmit this as a dogma, which attracts inquisitorial cruelties whenever questioned or challenged.
Amongst those reactions were some well meaning, but ideologically compromised authorities, who applauded our vision but urged that we employ new narratives in our enterprise of locating the African predicament and proffering solutions to them. Years of battling the same attitudinal propensity that has taken root in the African intellectual, may have blunted their axes or may have wounded and scarred their resolve. Their scars now command circumspection. And they prescribe that emasculated attitude as the only way to go since the dogs they tried to liberate genetically mutated and configured themselves to see their liberators as fair game.
For these guys, we confess our inability to dance to these drums of fear. We were out to enter an opinion on an ultra controversial issue, not to create a narrative. It was an essay and not a system of thought. Essays, like Aldous Huxleythe virtuoso of letters rightly articulatedremain a device for saying almost everything about anything. But essays are short pieces and it is impossible to give all things full play within the limits of a single essay. This is because essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference.
There is the pole of the personal, and the autobiographical; there is the pole of the objective, the factual, and the concrete-particular and there is the pole of the abstract universal. According to Huxley, most essayists are at home and at their best in the neighbourhood of only one of the essays three poles, or at most only in the neighbourhood of two of them. This inheres in the fact that there are the predominantly personal essayists, who write fragments of reflective autobiography and who look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description. There are the predominantly objective essayists who do not speak directly of themselves but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists in setting forth, passing judgement upon, and drawing general conclusions from, the relevant data.[i]
Some other tenants and inmates of this chimerical cave accused our efforts of being a misrepresentation of the illusions they carry about as truth. These unconscious proselytes of a false epistemology showed themselves incapable of comprehending that truth is greater than the sum total of their diseased illusions and engineered perceptions. Truth remains what it is, quite oblivious of perceptions. Some of the prisoners in this gilded cage called for our heads and essayed to forbid us from airing our opinions. The sanctity of fundamental freedoms has never been a deterrence to fanatics and fundamentalists, who lay claims to a monopoly of wisdom. Anyone who proves impervious or allergic to their narrow insularity, or dares disagree with them is a ripe candidate for decapitation. They use their freedom of free speech to canvass the muzzling of other peoples right to free speech. Some others in the same club called us spastic, unbelievably stupid and so many other unprintable metaphors. We could shoulder that. This is because in spite of all their name-callings, they never called us liars. This is because the facts we tendered towered incontrovertibly above their perceptual inertia.
Zimbabwe has now assumed the role of a mountain of decision. African renaissance must either start after this battle, or will be once more postponed to our eternal discomfiture. Every renaissance starts with a saturation of the intellectual landscape with the awareness of the need to convoke an exodus from a dysfunctional history of regress. The internet is helping propel this discourse and awareness in our day because the establishment media would not. All that is needed is the sustenance of the momentum and tempo of this awareness; and constructively channelling it to irrigate our perceptual universe, and possibly lead to positive action.
Our contribution to this discourse is an essay on the hypocrisies of might. It is a critical rebellion against the manufactured opinions imposed as facts on an unsuspecting world, using the vehicles of the Western press; whose suffocating prejudice in relation to everything African is really convulsively ugly as it is repulsive. The first part of our contribution examined an insistent dialectic of hypocrisy, which has bedevilled every attempt to sift through, or wade across the fundamental issues raised by Zimbabwe. As a narrative fashioned in the fiery furnaces of oppression, we can understand the fusillade of reactions trailing this topic, most especially from the neo-liberal feudal establishment in whose interest it is to maintain this citadel and rhetoric of oppression, aimed at re-enthroning it in Zimbabwe. Although we welcome their dissatisfaction with out stand, we fear that we are going to fall victim to the avaricious anger of those whose lives depend on injustice, and the pain of others to thrive. Martyrdom is the destination of those who confront imperial arrogance with the shields of justice and conviction. But truth remains its own recompense. That is the only inspiration for bearing witness even in perilous times.
Our essay argues that for Africa to defeat colonial and imperial incursions into her body-politic, and be able to drive her destiny to the advantage of her peoples, foreign intervention in African affairs must be at our invitation and terms. The local collaborators to the imperial machine must be recognized and neutralized. This is the only way to gain that kind of true independence which respects the will of the people and never the will of the local collaborators of outside powers. This is to say that many Africans need a conceptual decolonization for them to see both imperial perfidy and domestic kleptocracy for what they are; namely two sides of the same coin.
Mugabe may have tyrannical persuasions. Which politician doesnt? He may be a political crook. That is an allegation. But these can never be a justification for Britain to attempt to re-colonize Zimbabwe through the backdoor. Mugabes fate must be decided by the people of Zimbabwe, and not by Britain or her allies. We are fighting for the principle and right of a nation to take care of its destiny and internal affairs without let and intimidation from an imperial ogre. No African country has ever intervened in the political process of any European country. Why would European countries keep on intervening in the political process in Africa? Our critique of western hypocrisy is not because Mugabe is a saint, but because of the necessity of standing with justice and defending a principle, even using if a man accused as a useless tyrant happens by as the vehicle for our convictions. Justice should not be at the whims of the powerful.
Ours is designed to generate a debate on the way forward for Africa. We have many Mugabes scattered across Africa. We equally have many other imperial puppets that value their greed and subservient puppetry roles, more than they care for the welfare and the posterity of their people. But the West does not target these, simply because they are implementing a western designed blueprint. Were they to err in doing that, Mugabes fate will befall them. To this end, my argument cannot be misconstrued as an exoneration of African leadership of blame in the crises manacling the continent. I have done that to a very great extent. My work, “African Poverty as a failure of leadership” took care of that. The point at stake here is African self determination; the need for Africans to chase away the hawk, before settling down to ask the chick, why it frolicked at the playgrounds of predators. And that is a duty we must discharge. Our charity must begin here at home.
This piece comes with a Caveat! It is written with those, who approach the temple of facts with an open mind; who love the intercourse with ideas without the condoms of bigotry intruding, clouding and frustrating the fructification of their minds, consequent on that intimate conjugation. It is not meant for those who confuse and deceive themselves into supposing that thinking consists only in rearranging their prejudices, or advertising their bigotries; and invoking every contrivance in bending facts to suit their opinions. It is equally not meant for those in whom facts are not sacred; and who would never listen and understand other view points other than the solipsistic insularities echoing from the Black holes they harbour as minds. Whatever goes into these minds, like in black holes is forever lost. It is also not for those who are narcissistic in their love of their own voices and echoes of same. For every other seeker after the truth, it is a dialogue. Let it begin!
1See: Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays, New York, Bantam Books, 1960, p. v.
The Lynching of Robert Mugabe (Part 1) (Ogbunwezeh)
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Launching the Pedagogical History of Africa Project in Harare yesterday [5 September 2011] , President Mugabe said . . . “The history that must be written by our African scholars and academics here is the history that focuses on African people in struggle as creators of their own destiny rather than mere consumers of stories written about them by passive on-lookers who oftentimes happen to be non-African outsiders . . . . Real history belongs to a people in struggle and not to the interpreters of history. The people themselves are the makers of history and therefore the real historians. The interpreters are mere raconteurs of history and not the actual history-makers as is often wrongly implied . . . Only this way can we avoid history written by colonialists as ‘winners’. Our real winners are the people, whose real history or struggle the so-called winners would like to distort and suppress . . . You cannot be a historian of African people if you do not share their cry or their laughter. No. The African sensibility, reflected in African culture and worldview, is the only accurate compass to guide a historian who is genuine about writing African history. . . . Slavery and colonisation do not themselves constitute African history. They disrupt and falsify the trajectory of African history. They dehumanise Africans to fit into the scheme of European capital. The ideology of racism is created as a parallel process to rationalise the oppression of Africans. . . . I need not stress that it is imperative to edify educational systems, which embody the African and universal values so as to ensure the rooting of youth in African culture in the context of a sustainable and participatory development. This way we continue to foster the spirit of unity in Africa as embodied in the African Unity CharterAllAfrica
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Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial GuineaAmong the worst of these brutal dictators has been President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. The oil-rich West African nation is just one example of many repressive regimes in Africa, including Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland and Uganda that receive U.S. militarised aid. According to Ken Silverstein of Harper’s magazine, Zimbabwe looks like Sweden by comparison with Equatorial Guinea. Yet, Zimbabwe is demonised and considered an enemy of the West. In May 2008’s rigged elections, when Obiang’s party won 99 per cent of the vote, not a single Western media outlet had the honesty and courage to report the fraudulent results and were accepted as democratic. Obiang came to power in 1979 after he toppled and executed his uncle in a military coup d’état. Francisco Macias Nguema was a monster who murdered as many as 50,000 Equatorial Guineans (10 % of the population) during his long rule.
Obiang is not very different from his uncle. He was his uncle defence minister. In Silverstein’s words, Obiang is “a killer. He is a murderer. He is a torturer and a crook. And he is a thief”, who siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from the people of Equatorial Guinea into his family U.S. bank account.
Obiang is the “worst dictator in Africa”, added Silverstein. (For more on EG see: Ken Silverstein, U.S. Oil Politics in the “Kuwait of Africa”, The Nation, April 22, 2002). And because he doesn’t trust his own people, Obiang reliess on Moroccan mercenaries to provide for his internal security.
As President Robert Mugabe is deliberately demonised in the West, particularly in Britain and the U.S., Obiang is welcomed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a “good friend” of the U.S. And the abysmal human rights record in Equatorial Guinea and the crimes committed by the dictator and his cronies have received little media attention in the West. Despite the wealth generated by oil, nearly half of all Equatorial Guinea children under five are malnourished and live in miserable condition without potable water or electricity. According to the CIA World Factbook, Equatorial Guinea is “ruled by ruthless leaders which have badly mismanaged the economy”. But because of oil, the “poster child of undemocratic practices” is considered one of America’s most valuable allies in Africa today. Countercurrents
Horace Campbell. Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation (2003)
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Slogan of Imperial Atrocity (part 5)
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple. We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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By Bart D. Ehrman
The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else’s name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptablehence, a forgery. While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman’s introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book’s main point, is especially valuable.Publishers Weekly / Forged Bart Ehrmans New Salvo (Witherington)
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 20 July 2008