Monday, July 23, 2012

The Chinese claim a new approach for Africa...and other problems

The Chinese President, Hu Jintao, made an announcement at a conference of African leaders that China is embarking on a new approach to its loans to and investments in African nations with resources needed by the Chinese.  An article in the New York Times on 19 July 2012 outlined the new approach as one that will " focus on grass-roots projects" rather than on "projects — roads, pipelines and ports — (which have) have focused on benefiting China’s extractive industries, not African people, critics say. The infrastructure is generally built with Chinese labor." Between the Chinese and the Islamists, wounds will fester in a number of countries.

Most people are aware of the militant Islamists in Mali who have been in the news recently. Also about the Islamists in Nigeria, Sudan, and elsewhere. What many may not be aware of is the quiet expansion of Islam in South Africa.  Muslim communities have a long, interesting history in South Africa arriving with imported labour, slave, indentured, and otherwise from India, Malaysia, Indonesia. Muslim communities have been concentrated primarily in Cape Town and Durban.

Three incidents, one in 1996 and two in 2005, brought home to me some interesting trends. In 1996, I was party to the video taping of an imam in Durban lecturing us on the "black dogs" he was converting to Islam: these people were sitting right there in the mosque with us! He continued to rant on the corruption and depravity of the West, warning that the West was in the grip of Satan.

Then, in 2005, we were driving from Durban to Port St. John via Transkei. We observed few small churches out in the rural areas, but plenty of small mosques. We were told that the 'new' missionaries were no longer Christians, but rather Muslims who built mosques and madrases. The latter was particularly interesting and disturbing given the mess the education system still is in so many years after the end of Apartheid. In Port St. John, we were told that the Muslims controlled all the local businesses and would only employ people who had converted to Islam. These are small incidents with large implications.
Beach at Port St. John

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Big Wood=Big Oil=Big Wall Street

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved AmericaThe Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is as good as Norman Maclean's book on the fire of 1949: Young Men and Fire.  Riveting in its build up, clear in descriptions of the people, politics, and place.  What resonated as much as anything was Teddy Roosevelt and his excoriating harangues on the big money and tycoons of the day:  sounds like Bush era all over again:  complete disregard for common social decency.