Saturday, 7 December 2013

Madiba 'Mourned'

The world was caught completely off guard by news of Nelson Mandela's passing. The fact that he was living out his ninth decade may have softened the blow for some, myself included, but my initial reaction scarcely extended beyond the acceptance of what's inevitable, and the hope that humanity would, for once, learn a thing or two from this great man's life.

Within a matter of minutes, though, any hopes I had momentarily and naively harboured were quickly dashed as I, along with almost everyone in the Western world, was treated to a spectacle of amateurish play-acting. The fervent fawning was perhaps a last-gasp attempt to make us forget that Mandela had been, until 2008, labelled a "terrorist" by some of the statesmen now queuing up to heap posthumous praise. What further ground my guts was the media's transforming of a man of solid, radical principles (countless examples of which were compiled by my namesake's latest Huff Puff) into a saintly celebrity of global, era-defining proportions. The blanket coverage was choke-full of gushing tributes that deftly blanked out the slightly crucial detail of what he really spent his entire life opposing. In doing so, major media outlets had produced a series of obituaries with a narrative that would not have pleased Madiba unless he'd undergone a lobotomy on the sly. Admittedly, he was only fighting minor remnants of centuries of colonial arrogance, as Musa Okwonga eloquently put it, so choosing not include this in an obituary is understandable given the restrictions of time/space that journalists must adhere to these days.

Our grim world is full of hypocrites who will try, and fail, to morph the late South African president into a poster boy. He may have become so in the eyes of the historically amnesic; for the rest of us, however, he is lesson upon lesson in humility, perseverance and unequivocal rejection of oppression no matter who this oppression is meted out against.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Seven Years

In April 2006, I started this blog with a wild, faint hope of being spotted by a web-savvy journalist who would have stumbled here as he/she trawled through the dozens of Iraqi blogs that were sprouting at the time. The idea was that said journalist would write a feature on me, and then his/her editor would have been so impressed by my talent and ambition that I would be contacted soon afterwards by a number of reputable publications vying for my byline. None of that happened, of course. In fact, this far-fetched dream, whilst sounding like a Hollywood PG script, was not as big a deal to me as the above paragraph may suggest.

I began writing here as a way of communicating the mix the angst and awe that most eighteen year-olds feel. The months that followed were pivotal in my life, and this serene place proved an invaluable retreat that allowed me to make sense of it all: it became my sanctuary, my safe place. In it, I was able to express myself freely and without fear of being interrupted, as I so often am, or judged. The vastness of the world wide web offered a buffer from life's single and most potent threat; people. Weirdly, those whose judgement and criticism I had braced myself for were, more or less, the ones who encouraged me to keep writing. And so I did.

That said, I must confess a great deal of guilt towards this blog. The past couple of years have seen its level of new material plummet till it almost became defunct. In my meek defence, I've been very preoccupied by the endless chores and challenges -for want of a better word- my strange life keeps throwing at me. Chief amongst these is my degree whose commencement was announced with measured but heartfelt jubilation just over seven years ago. It is with mixed feelings that I am finally able to inform my few but oh so dear readers that the degree is -at long, long last- finished, and I am days away from donning the bizarre mortar board to signal the completion of an immeasurably fruitful stage of my life. The turning points that have taken place during these seven years are too many to list in one post. I suppose sifting through the archive may give you a few clues as to what I'm alluding to; but, whilst it was all happening at mystifying speed, I had never stopped wanting to come back here to jot down a few hundred words about what I was saw and how I felt.

Here's to the next seven years of living, loving and writing all about it here.

Incidentally, seven is my favourite number. It sounds pensive, unassuming and keeps itself to itself. I'm the seventh child in my family and one of my favourite Norah Jones songs is called Seven Years, hence the title.