U.S.-Africa Civil Society Forum. Recommendations for Engagement on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

The upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, taking place from August 4–6, provides an important opportunity for the United States government and African heads of state to engage in discussions that will shape the future of U.S.-Africa relations. While topics of trade, security, and economic development will feature prominently on the agenda, it is critical that leaders attending the Summit also use the opportunity as a platform to address the human rights and democratic governance challenges that beset Africa. Given that these issues underpin longtime and broader development concerns in Africa, we believe that civil society must be given the opportunity to participate in the official Leaders Summit proceedings as equal stakeholders in Africa’s future.

In order to advocate for the inclusion of civil society voices in the Leaders Summit, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Front Line Defenders, Open Society Foundations, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights organized the U.S.-Africa Civil Society Forum, which convened leading African human rights defenders in Washington, D.C. from June 18–20. Forum participants focused on three broad themes: the rule of law, transparency and accountability, and discrimination against marginalized groups. Participants then formulated the following Plan of Action, which both highlights key concerns that should be integrated into the Leaders Summit and offers concrete policy recommendations that recognize the inherent links between respect for human rights and broader development objectives.

The Rule of Law
Establishing and defending the rule of law is a critical part of Africa’s social, political and economic development. Countries that foster the creation of just legal environments ensure predictability in the enforcement of laws and afford confidence that the rights of individuals and communities will be respected. This in turn encourages investment and spurs economic development. Independent judiciaries and legal systems also allow marginalized citizens to seek redress through legal means rather than through violence and unrest, thereby decreasing instability. Recognizing these factors, it is imperative that the United States and African governments work to promote, enforce, and comply with the principles and commitments they have made to promote a strong rule of law throughout Africa.

Priority Issue 1:
Compliance by African governments with local, sub-regional, continental, and international norms and obligations.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
As part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) reauthorization, include eligibility criteria regarding judicial and legislative independence, support for regional court bodies and acceptance of their decisions, and harmonization of local laws with international and regional human rights and good governance norms/treaties. These include the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

As part of counterterrorism assistance, ensure that assistance promotes the rule of law and condition all U.S. counterterrorism assistance on security forces’ adherence to rule of law. This includes ensuring recipients of assistance are not using counterterrorism laws to willfully impinge on the rights of citizens.

Be more transparent about where U.S. counterterrorism assistance is going, its intended purpose, and who the specific recipients are.

Include compliance with human rights and good governance norms/treaties as part of the Public Financial Management Risk Assessment Framework.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Domesticate and give full effect to local, regional, continental, and international human rights conventions, protocols and treaties to ensure enactment of laws that are just and further the collective interests of the people.

Demonstrate strong leadership at the regional level to ensure all regional and continental courts in Africa are empowered to uphold the rule of law and unencumbered by political interference. For instance, members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) should restore the SADC Tribunal to its former status as an operational court.

Comply with and enforce mutually agreed upon rulings from local, regional and continental courts, including the African Court and sub-regional courts of the Southern Africa Development Community, Economic Community of West African States, and the East African Community.

Ratify the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and submit the Article 34(6) declaration allowing access to the Court for individuals who are the victim of the human rights abuses.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Review gaps in legal frameworks in terms of state compliance with local, regional, continental, and international treaties/commitments and collaborate with legislatures and judicial bodies to help domesticate these treaties/commitments into national law.

Monitor state implementation of local, regional, continental, and international treaties/commitments in order to better advocate for state compliance.

Priority Issue 2:
Strengthen independence of African judiciaries.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Provide multi-year, sustained support for access to justice/judicial independence programs both for state bodies and civil society.

In conjunction with counterterrorism and military/police assistance, provide support for justice and accountability mechanisms, such as human rights commissions, parliamentary oversight committees, and ombudsmen.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Protect the administrative, budgetary, operational, and political autonomy guaranteed to judiciaries under constitutions and legal frameworks.

Empower judiciaries to develop and enforce ethical standards for judicial officers and candidates without executive interference or political pressure. These efforts will help reduce levels of corruption among judiciaries.

Establish and safeguard independent systems for vetting judicial candidates to ensure professional and ethical standards within the judiciary.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Engage in monitoring of judicial vetting processes and advocate for broader societal representation on bodies appointing judges.

Become more systematic and fact based when analyzing performance of the judiciary. This will enable civil society to advocate for the integrity of the judiciary, and, when needed, defend unpopular court decisions that demonstrate judicial independence.

Advocate for national support of regional and continental courts and their decisions.

Priority Issue 3:
Increase access to justice for all people.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Provide financial and technical support for regional courts to strengthen the rule of law and legal predictability. This will assist with financial and trade integration within sub-regions as well as afford additional protection against human rights abuses.

Provide financial and technical support for civil society to engage in monitoring and reporting on judicial independence and increasing access to justice for individuals.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Support functional regional courts with individual human rights mandates.

Repeal archaic and repressive laws and introduce and enforce positive legislation that protects non-state actors, including civil society, media, and human rights defenders.

Domesticate and implement the African Union’s guidelines on ‘The Right to Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa.’

Strengthen state provisions on legal aid and support complementary initiatives by civil society and independent watchdog institutions, such as human rights commissions and ombudsman’s offices, to provide legal assistance to people in need.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Provide legal assistance to expand existing state legal aid programs and encourage the provision of pro-bono legal aid and legal community service by lawyers.

Support alternative justice mechanisms, such as traditional courts, and help ensure that these mechanisms comply with human rights norms.

Corruption and Transparency
Effectively managing Africa’s public wealth requires transparent, inclusive, and well-performing institutions.  This is particularly true in natural resource sectors, where revenue streams are central to many of the continent’s economies and help to fund important poverty alleviation programs.  Many African governments have demonstrated their commitment to improving governance through the ratification of transparency and anti-corruption mechanisms, including the African Mining Vision (AMV), the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Peer Review Mechanism. Despite such commitments, there remains a need to move from rhetoric to effective implementation. Poor leadership and lack of political will to implement reforms hold a number of states and their populations back. Africa has registered tremendous growth, but it has at the same time recorded limited prosperity, due largely to opacity of public institutions, a lack of accountability, and poor governance.

Priority Issue 1:
Strengthen governance architecture through the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and other continentally driven initiatives.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Add indicators of APRM to Millennium Challenge Corporationcriteria and push for reviews of national implementation action plans of the APRM.

Provide financial and techncial support to local civil society groups to better enable them to engage in APRM review process.

Include African Mining Vision in trade policy relating to Africa including AGOA renegotiation, regional trade policy and bilateral investment treaties.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Revive the APRM process and resume country reviews.

Redesign the APRM questionnaire with explicit involvement for civil society organizations.

Commit to implementing and monitoring progress towards implementation of APRM national action plans.

Recommendations to Civil Society:
Commit to deeper involvement in, and monitoring of, the APRM process.

Break down barriers between sectors and promote linkages between social justice, human rights, development planning and economic development.

Priority Issue 2:
Combat corruption in trade and investment.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Require U.S. registered companies to disclose payments to governments on a project-by-project basis.

Create a public registry of beneficial ownership of U.S. registered corporations.

Provide increased finanical resources and assistance to support African governments on Anti-Corrpution Commissions and strategic planning on natural resource governance.

Support targeted sanctions for officials indicted for corruption.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Sign and ratify the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC) and implement through corresponding legislation.

Establish and support independent and effective Anti-Corruption Commissions as articulated in the AUCPCC.

Enact and implement access to information legislation in accordance with standards establsihed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Develop and implement legislation on asset disclosure for public officials.

Ensure the active and meaningful participation of civil society and affected communities in development planning.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Support the use of freedom of information laws where they exist and push for passage where they do not.

Commit to building capacity to implement and monitor the AUCPCC.

Transparently, effectively, and inclusively manage program resources.

Discrimination against Marginalized Groups
Human rights violations against marginalized groups in Africa often occur because of the failure of governments to act or prevent abuses, violating their duties of due diligence. In other instances, governments are directly involved in discrimination and incite the public to actively marginalize certain populations, often in violation of both their constitutions and regional and international human rights obligations. Discrimination in law and fact against people based on their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, migrant status, sexual orientation, and gender identity remains prevalent throughout Africa, leading to entrenched inequalities and continued violations of human rights. These abuses often lead to social and political instability and have led to rising economic inequity across Africa, as marginalized groups are frequently denied economic opportunities.

Priority Issue 1:
Promote diversity and secure the safety of the individual.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Allow U.S. ambassadors to play more of a leadership role and provide specific instructions for them to work publicly with human rights defenders and state institutions that are designed to protect human rights. Ambassadors should also encourage these institutions to engage with and work more constructively with domestic civil society.

Encourage countries that have poor human rights records at home, but which are supporting the U.S. in the fight against terrorism in their regions, to uphold basic human rights through both public and diplomatic channels.

Target perpetrators of serious human rights abuses by means of “smart sanctions” that are targeted and do not affect ordinary citizens; for example, recent U.S. sanctions on Ugandan officials and long-standing sanctions against Zimbabwe.

USAID should increase long-term support to access for justice initiatives. Funding must be increased in order to boost civil society capacity and thus strengthen the rule of law.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Pass and enforce laws that recognize diversity in society, which is particularly important in the case of transitional societies and emerging democracies involved in constitution-making processes. In addition, repeal all laws that encourage discrimination, for example, laws that target sexual minorities in the cases of Uganda, Nigeria and others.

Institute social programs that lead to the social recognition of marginalized groups and minorities, for example, by introducing relevant education measures in schools. 

Ensure defense against hate crimes; this issue needs to be interrogated and mechanisms need to be established so as to prevent these crimes in the future.

Ensure that governments and heads of state meet their regional and international legal obligations to protect the security of the individual, as guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a host of international legal conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Advocate on behalf of an individual’s right to choice and to be treated with dignity.

Collaborate to educate populations about the importance of protecting equality of the person. Civil society must demand that individual choice is respected and hold political leaders to account for deviating from this responsibility.

Priority Issue 2:
Ensure inclusion and equality in decision-making processes, including participation in security and peace, growth and development, anti-corruption and good governance initiatives.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Recognize that discrimination and marginalization of minorities is a symptom of a lack of good governance. Similarly, the U.S. must help ensure participation of marginalized groups in broader development and governance conversations, taking into account civic voices outside of capitals and those from under-resourced groups.

Ensure that the issue of marginalized groups is mainstreamed in all instruments of political, technical and financial cooperation with African governments; for example, by means of targeting projects that enhance gender equality during AGOA renewal.

Support initiatives that better protect economically disadvantaged populations and mitigate rising inequality, which often leads to social and political instability.

Increase USAID technical support and capacity building efforts to local civil society actors and the media to help these stakeholders unpack the budgeting process, so that authorities are held accountable and marginalized communities better protected.

Support and better publicize projects through local embassies and USAID Missions that ensure equality; for example, the annual International Woman of Courage Award

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Guarantee that human development initiatives fulfill social safeguard standards; for example, indicators used by the World Bank. Social safeguards must be fully enacted with the full and equal participation of impacted communities.

Enact specific policies and laws that are targeted at the inclusion of marginalized groups; for instance, ensuring the full participation of women in all governance and political processes, as well as appointments to leadership positions.

Improve transparency by holding one another accountable, on both the local and national level, so that state expenditures on development programs are transparent and measurable.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Engage more constructively and proactively with traditional leaders to assert the importance of “living law”; this conversation should inform traditional authorities about international human rights norms and how they might complement customary law at the local level.

Recognize fully and publicly the equality of the person within civil society and undertake efforts to promote the voices of typically marginalized groups, even within civil society, including women and LGBT rights activists.

Priority Issue 3:
Guarantee freedom of expression and association.
Recommendations to U.S. Government:
Increase funding for civil society organizations whose mandate is specifically to promote human rights, democracy and good governance.

Promote public solidarity with marginalized groups and the civil society organizations advocating on their behalf; for instance, including civil society as equal stakeholders in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, as well as all future official gatherings.

Encourage U.S. ambassadors and embassy staff to play more of a leadership role in promoting basic human rights. Ambassadors should have a public mandate to work with civil society, implement that mandate, and provide development support directly to civil society.

Recommendations to African Heads of State:
Protect the enabling environment and respect the legitimacy of civil society and marginalized groups by removing restrictive legislation that violates international legal standards.

Address manipulation by means of government organized non-governmental organizations (GONGOs), which serve to discredit the independence of civil society.

Increase access to information and create protection mechanisms for both lawyers and journalists; in other words, for those who defend human rights defenders.

Work with the African Union to publicly and consistently acknowledge the sanctity of diversity and explicitly recognize the equality of all citizens – regardless of gender, sexual identity, or otherwise – in its charter and public statements.

Recommendations for Civil Society:
Listen to people on the ground; for example, those working at community-based organizations in order to build awareness and better enable grassroots participation in decision-making processes.

Facilitate responsiveness to local voices, thereby cultivating better solidarity and cooperation across traditional civil society sectors. Civil society should be proactive, and not only convene when invited by donors or the international community.

Work together on the national stage to not allow a given country’s human rights and broader development agendas to be donor-driven, or otherwise manipulated.

What YOU can do:
1. Tweet #WeAreAfrica and promote the petition
2. Contact all other civil society organizations in your country/region and ask them to join
3. Promote on Facebook and any other social media you use
4. Contact your networks in the international community to sign the solidarity statement
5. Submit a video statement for use on the YouTube playlist – contact campaigns@frontlinedefenders.org for instructions
6. Let this community know about other actions you are taking by sending a message to: campaigns@frontlinedefenders.org
7. If your organization is endorsing this petition, please contact campaigns@frontlinedefenders.org so we can help promote this endorsement in the campaign

Original article published here

For a full list of Forum participants, see here: civilsocietyforum2014

Is this what Zimbabweans have become?

FreedomTrapped:

Lately There has been a lot videos and audios circulating on social media of Zimbabweans bragging about how they are living it up home and/or abroad. These have ranged from people showing off their latest Mercedes cars to some munching on their dinners cooked on ever present uninterrupted electricity etc. This writer captures my personal disgust with such lowly behaviour in a way I could never have expressed in my own words. Thus I repost the article here. Please share it further. Bellow are some touching quotes:

“Zimbos are generally a notch higher than many Africans with respect to intellectual capacity and its application. I am perplexed by their lowly expressions of joy, living it up and happiness.”
“Is this what we have come to be as a nation? Are we a nation of people who brag about having a bigger braai with more meat than our neighbours? Is it because we are not used to money that we are in a kind of euphoria at being exposed to a little?”
“A regime change will not be sufficient as the cancer in our Zimbabwean society within and without our boarders is far deeper than politics can solve.”

Originally posted on MathsGenius Leadership Institute (MGLI):

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Who is living it up Zimbos at Home or in the Diasporas?

Let us stand together and fight to take down the dictators that have stifled our progress as a nation. The greedy man and women that have stalled our progress as human beings.

Johannesburg | 18-06-2014 | MGLI

“We are in the water! We are in the Atlantic and we have a white captain therefore we are living it up”. These are the words blurted out by a burly, Rick Ross look-alike Zimbabwean national based in the USA. “We are on our way from Southerton to pick up a Range Rover, we have just purchased for US$113 000.00” alleged an equally flamboyant Harare based individual. “Here in the UK, we are eating sushi and not zimukonde resadza with two small pieces of meat cooked with untreated water like people in Zimbabwe do, we are having a good time in the…

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In The Land Of Nigeria’s Kidnapped Girls

In The Land Of Nigeria’s Kidnapped Girls

Originally posted on Afrocentric Confessions:

On Monday morning, May 12, I sat in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla, headed to Chibok. With a satin abaya draping my body in a sheath of black, and my hair curled underneath a black chiffon hijab, my careful effort to blend into northeastern Nigeria’s conservative, predominately Muslim society appeared to be working. The soldiers who peered into the backseat gave me casual glances, waving us past checkpoint after checkpoint.

“This is the heartland of Boko Haram,” said the governor of Borno State when I visited him in the state capital of Maiduguri along the way. A month earlier, militants from the radical Islamist group had seized a secondary school in Chibok and kidnapped almost 300 female students. The town had quickly become an emblem of a region in crisis, where insurgents attack churches and mosques and kill children in their sleep while shouting “Allahu akbar.”

Children along the road selling nuts and saying "Allah ya kikaye". Photo by Chika Oduah Children…

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How Barclays is Misbehaving in Africa

The biggest UK bank in Africa is encouraging its clients to use tax havens.

When companies don’t pay their fair share of tax, this can deny some of the world’s poorest people access to vital funds for schools and hospitals.

Join ActionAid and tell Barclays to clean up its act on tax havens.After recent scandals, Barclays Bank boss Antony Jenkins has got himself in a bit of a lather trying to polish the bank’s image.

Barclays wants to be seen as a responsible business as it expands its operations in Africa. But responsible businesses don’t promote tax havens.

Whether you bank with Barclays or not, we can all be a part of the Big Clean and help convince Barclays to smarten up on tax havens. Email Antony Jenkins and let him know you want him to clean up Barclays.

Developing countries lose three times more to tax havens than they receive in aid each year – vital funds that could be spent on essentials like healthcare and education.

Please take some time, as I’ve done, to email Barclays’ boss and tell him to clean up the bank’s act on tax havens. After all the recent banking scandals, Barclays want to be seen to be doing the right thing – now it’s time for real action.

Find out more and email Barclays boss Antony Jenkins at http://po.st/BarclaysBehave

Thanks

I Must Have Justice Or I’ll Destroy Myself

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Fyodor Dostoevsky (as Ivan) on Justice and Forgiveness
Except from THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV,
CONSTANCE BLACK GARNETT, TRANSLATION.
(MODERN LIBRARY: 1977), P. 254.

“To be shot,” murmured Alyosha, lifting his eyes to Ivan with a pale, twisted smile. … Ivan for a minute was silent, his face became all at once very sad.

“Listen! I took the case of children only to make my case clearer. Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose. I am a bug, and I recognise in all humility that I cannot understand why the world is arranged as it is. Men are themselves to blame, I suppose; they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, though they knew they would become unhappy, so there is no need to pity them. With my pitiful, earthly, Euclidian understanding, all I know is that there is suffering and that there are none guilty; that cause follows effect, simply and directly; that everything flows and finds its level — but that’s only Euclidian nonsense, I know that, and I can’t consent to live by it! What comfort is it to me that there are none guilty and that cause follows effect simply and directly, and that I know it?

I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven’t suffered simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else. I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer.

But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so unanswerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution, too; but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their fathers’ crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension. Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn’t grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old.

Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.’ When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear. But what pulls me up here is that I can’t accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child’s torturer, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ but I don’t want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself, and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to ‘dear, kind God’! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for.

They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.

I don’t want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother’s heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.”

Russia Today (RT) American Presenter Quits ‘Live’ on Air over Ukraine Crisis

Liz Wahl
The video below was published on 5 Mar 2014. Did Liz spell out her reasons in a convincing manner or was it nothing more than a personal publicity stunt? Watch this clip and decide for yourself. WASHINGTON (AFP)

Liz Wahl, an American anchor for the Moscow-funded Russia Today (RT) television network resigned “live” on air on Wednesday in protest at the deployment of Russia-backed forces in Ukraine.

Ms Liz Wahl said during a broadcast that she could no longer work for the network, which she accused of “whitewashing” moves by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“My grandparents came here as refugees during the Hungarian revolution, ironically to escape the Soviet forces,” she said. “Personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.

“I’m proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning.”

Abby Martin
In a related incident Russia Today anchor Abby Martin speaks out against Russian invasion of Crimea and Ukaraine

The Struggle

by Christian Mahai
In an essay about Kafka, David Foster Wallace wrote the following words, “the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. [...] our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.”

Now, he was talking about Kafka’s works, but I think that phrase pretty much sums up what life is all about.

As a writer, as an artist, I’m interested in people. It’s not only about empathy, but also about understanding how things work. That’s something you can’t really learn. Or read about in a book. You either have it or you don’t.

Now, about this phrase. The journey, not the destination.

Yes, I believe it’s true, and I believe that the main theme in art could be the question, “who am I becoming?” We never become someone, we’re always in the process of becoming someone, and there’s always something deeply embedded in your souls that remembers us where we came from.

It’s all about the struggle: to establish a human self, to figure out who you are, to figure out who you want to be. To find a place in this world.

There are no trivial pursuits in life. Or art for that matter. They may seems trivial to us, at one point or another, but they’re not.

You know, a lot of people think all these popular novels about vampires are just commercial fiction. Light literature, some of you might call them. But I guess that to a great deal of those who actually wrote them, it’s about some important aspect of their personalities: someone wanting to be immortal, and strong, and fast, and beautiful. That’s a dream. Impossible? Maybe. But a dream nonetheless.

I believe we all write a great deal about ourselves. About our own struggles, about the parts that are missing, or the parts that we think are missing. About what we want or what we need, all that stuff.

In the end, what we write about tells others a great deal about who we are. Maybe more than we could ever be able to tell them directly.

Perhaps it’s all about the struggle. That impossible journey towards a home we dream about, and we can picture it in our heads so clearly, even though we’ve never seen it. Consciously, we don’t know how it looks like. In the day to day world of petty frustrations and stupid arguments, and countless bills and troubles, we don’t have time to see these sort of things. We don’t have time to figure out who we want to be.

But when we make art, that’s when we can see the dark and twisted road that is our home. Never-ending and cruel, but we’re so certain that we’re headed the right direction that we can’t help ourselves and smile.
Read original post at

The Struggle.