Letters from TZ

Give me a third world problem any day of the week

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all – Noam Chomsky

I got into a brawl on Twitter. In retrospect, I could have stayed out of it. But looking back, the “first amendment” applies to me too, yes? No. The First Amendment of the American Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech to all Americans. My freedoms – speech included – are contained in the Kenyan constitution. Similar freedoms are also to be found in the Tanzanian constitution. And yet to hear some people argue about their rights, you would think they were not African but American. Especially when it comes to gay rights.

The pro-gay agenda that is at it’s most vocal in Hollywood has transitioned seamlessly into our African thought process. For all who subscribe to this 21st century notion of equality, if you don’t support gay rights, you’re a bigot and an oppressor, automatically and without question. There is no freedom to express yourself if you have an alternative view. The ‘other’ has become the ‘norm’ and woe unto you if you point out the irony. To be clear, it doesn’t bother me if you’re straight, gay or twisted. As ‘The Gay Emperor’ pointed out on Twitter, we should live and let live. I agree. Wholeheartedly. Just as long as our opinions can live too.

In retrospect, I should have stayed out of it. It’s not an argument I’ll ever win, not when ‘gay rights’ and ‘gay people’ are words people use interchangeably.

But back to the brawl. It started when Citizen TV reporter Willis Raburu made a comment about a candidate in the upcoming senatorial elections in Kiambu County, alleging that he was gay. In Raburu’s opinion, a gay man should not be elected to office. Within minutes, he found himself on the very angry side of a Twitter big stick, trying to defend himself against accusations of bigotry, idiocy and prejudice. I didn’t agree with his reasoning but I do believe that he had a right to say what he thought. As we all do. Even if we don’t have a gay chip on our shoulders.

First world problems

There are some things that Africans don’t need to be thinking about. We have bigger problems to solve. Maybe in 50-years when the road to development has taken us ever closer to the Western ideal of civilization, we’ll have the time to dissect, debate and decipher. In the here and now, we are pressed for time thanks to a conglomeration of immediate needs. Don’t agree with me? Sample this uniquely first world problem.

On Tuesday, a porn industry trade group in the US announced a moratorium on the production of adult sex films after several cases of syphilis were reported among adult film actors. A news report on a website run by the Los Angeles-based Free Speech Coalition, said that the actors would return to work in 10-days after taking antibiotics. Porn actors or “performers” as they are also known, have been under pressure for a while now to use condoms while performing, to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. That decision however, lies largely with their producers.

Existing workplace laws already mandate the use of condoms during ‘porn performances’, but critics say that the laws are not specifically aimed at the industry and are widely flouted by porn producers in the Los Angeles area, which is the heart of the U.S. adult film industry and home to an estimated 1,000 performers.

Stop! Is this rape legitimate?

It’s not too hard to spot a first-world problem when you go looking for one, especially if it happens to be an election year. All the loonies come out to bay at the moon in election year. And Todd Akin, the Representative for Missouri State in the US is no exception. He’s a super-conservative Republican whose moral sensibilities are rubbed raw by the mere mention of the word ‘abortion’. When questioned about it recently, he said that where women are victims of “legitimate rape…the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down” so that she doesn’t conceive. Yep. Go on and add ‘system-shutdown’ to your legitimate method of birth control. He went on to say that in cases of sexual violence, “the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not on attacking the child.” Obviously, the mother of the child doesn’t feature within this man’s frame of reference, legitimately or otherwise. African politicians are not the cleverest of the bunch, but this man? He takes the cake.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

So. If we’re going to spend our time having virtual debates on issues that we are unlikely to resolve, we really need to frame our arguments so that they are addressed within a local context. A blanket adoption of foreign ideology and rationale (as you can see, it’s not really working for them either) is just like prescribing antibiotics to porn performers who have syphilis. What you really need to do is get them to use condoms in the first place. We need to be looking at root causes and applying local solutions instead of taking our cue from the first world.