Friday, 24 October 2014

A Heart In The Darkness


'A Kiss is but a Kiss' so the song says ... well outside of the heart of darkness, where its apparently a sackable offense.

We have recently posted about cultural imperialism on this blog, where different examples, from the holiday Brits in the Mediterranean to the sexual holidays of some groups of western men, and this prompted comment that when discussing these issues in a comparative manner, we should be promoting promoting human values, and condemning those laws which discriminates against people for the way that they were born.e.g. anti-homosexuality laws.

Now I don't know about you, but I hadn't really thought about the African country of Tanzania much ... well not at all actually ... but certainly if I had thought of it, I wouldn't have  thought of it as one of the heart of darkness states, and certainly not in the same category as some states such as the 'Democratic Republic of Congo' ...

But in fact they exhibit many of  the problems that plague the rest of the continent, and recently they even had a spate of 'witch killings', with 23 people arrested and charged with murder, after seven villagers were burned alive on the suspicion of practicing witchcraft. This kinda propels them into the same league as the other socially and educationally backward states of the region - and into a special group, including Brazil and Saudi Arabia, where people still believe that witches are more than just old women with no family protection.

So the idea that they actually had a police code of conduct (apart from making bribe taking compulsory), seemed incongruous - certainly one that would cause the dismissals of three police officers for a harmless act, was a novel thought.

But recently three officers (two men and a woman), lost their jobs because a couple in uniform kissed in public (whether off duty or not, it seems was irrelevant), and another officer secretly photographed them, and then posted it on-line. Apparently both the kissing in uniform, and the posting it on-line, broken the Tanzanian police code of conduct.

A Kiss Is But A Kiss ..... Normally

So what are we to make of this .... most Tanzanians apparently would agree that on the one hand, rules are rules, while saying on the other, that it seems a draconian punishment, especially in view of the fact that the police in Tanzania have a massive public creditability problem, as they are notorious both for taking bribes and not catching criminals. So although technically its a series of sackable offenses, if there had been conduct warnings issued, most people would have thought that was enough punishment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Zimbabweans have also joined in the fun and games, as the University of Zimbabwe has also imposed a student kissing ban .... to a predictable storm of condemnation on social media.

However the interesting thing for me from this story, was that like most of Africa, the population has simply bypassed the old telephone land line system (which had never been rolled out in Africa), and skipped straight to mobile phones. This is possibly unique in our history, because in one bound, the Africans, whose communication infrastructure was still in the colonial era, jumped into the 21st century.

They already have 80% market penetration of mobile phones and this is expected to grow again ..... They are even driving the very low costs down further. So the fact that in the middle of nowhere, two police officers kissing could end up on the Internet and become a story in the world news, is solely down to the fact that African mobile phone usage has become a modern technology phenomena ....

... One which might finally drive the superstition that supports 'witch killing', into the darkness of history where it belongs.

Red Haired Prejudices

I have always been partial to redheads so have never understood why apparently some of them are subject to what could be called  'gingerism'. Being called 'carrot top' or 'ginger', 'copper-top', 'ginger-nut', 'ginger minger', etc doesn't seem too bad but is obviously distressing to the victims .... although being called 'a ginger tw*t' is possibly a different matter. But so ingrained is this casual abuse of redheaded people that a New Labour 'right on pc message' politician, Harriet Harman, felt it was OK to use such a term about another politico (she called him a a "Ginger Rodent " ....), and got only some minor rebukes.

However that led me to wonder about how long 'ginger abuse' has been around ... but it appears that the answer to this is related to which culture you look at ... certainly there have been many famous redheads: 

Queen Boudicca Was A Formidable Redhead ... and Not A Whinger.

  • Lilith, Adam's lover in the Bible was a redhead. 
  • King David of the Israelite's
  • Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe
  • Pharaoh Ramses II of Egypt
  • Henry VIII of England
  • Elizabeth I of England
  • Sir Winston Churchill, WWII leader

.... and I doubt anyone dared call them 'Ginger Whingers' ... well at least not more than once.

Now I am not really able to reference proper classical sources for this, but allegedly redheads were sacrificed in ancient Egypt, and were reputed to bleed more, and be more resistant to pain (possibly because of all those sacrifices!), as well as of course having fiery tempers.  There is a fragment of a poem by the Xenophanes which describes the 'Thracians' as blue-eyed and red-haired. Herodotus described the 'Budini tribe as being predominantly red-haired. The Roman historian Tacitus commented on the "red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia", which he connected with some red-haired Gaulish tribes of Germanic and Belgic areas.

There are other  references and associations in early medieval times, which sometimes associated red hair with witches and vampires.  However all of this may actually go back to the dawn of Europe under homo sapiens, as some academics have suggested that the redhead gene comes from the Neanderthals . ..  Red hair is caused by a mutated MC1R gene which is most prevalent in far northern and western Europe, and may have survived due to increased vitamin D production in pale-skinned people.

A DNA study has concluded that some Neanderthals had red hair, although as the mutation responsible for this colour, apparently differs from that which causes red hair in modern humans, it doesn't preclude some sort of interbreeding introducing the original variant. Now if this was homo sapiens first interbreeding it may well have bred it's first prejudices. .. so being marked with red hair could been the subject of comments from then until now ... We have simply lost the ribald context for the jibes, and of course, there are the redhead jokes ...

Here's a few of the jokes:
  • "What's the difference between a terrorist and a redhead?"... "You can negotiate with a terrorist." 
  • "Whats the difference between a ginger and a brick?"  .... "At least a brick gets laid."
  • "What do you call a ginger at a party?" .... "Unwelcome."
  • "What do extinct dinosaurs and Gingers have in common?" ... "Not enough"
  • "What do you call a redhead with an attitude?" .... "Normal."

Well you get the picture .... none of them really moving from the theme of unattractive or bad tempered or both ..... and yet I have never found that either of these is true. Indeed to get back to the culture issue .... There is nothing like this level of abuse in the US where having red hair is not a precursor to having someone abuse you. Red hair is considered glamorous ....

Ginger Rogers anyone?

Stonehenge Revisited

I know from the number of hits these posts receive, that people are interested in how things looked in the past ..... although at least one commenter on an earlier post believed that contrary to all the evidence and skills of archaeology etc "the idea of "repairing" ancient structures like this is hilariously dumb, for the simple reason that we have no idea what they would have looked like originally and any attempt to rebuild them will only ever end up imposing the style and taste of the current era on it." ..... of course the idea that we don't know what ancient monuments looked like in their pomp is plain ignorant, but then the commenter was obviously none too hot on archaeology .... or much else really.

So purely for those of you who are more aware of the advances of archaeology, and theoretical structural archaeology, over the last fifty years .... the BBC ran a two part documentary called 'Operation Stonehenge' which detailed all the findings after the biggest survey of the site ever seen, which used ground radar, digs, aerial studies .... in fact the works. I would link to it but as its on BBC iPlayer it will be taken down sometime soon.

Here's a few stills to give you an idea of what it looked liked. 

Evidence Of the Missing Stones Being In Place Once Was Found

How Stonehenge Looked In Its Pomp

Close Up Of How Stonehenge Looked In Its Pomp

The study was fantastic in its depth, and included the fact that contrary to the belief that the site was never completed, it had been, but that some of the stones had later been taken away in antiquity. Of course they also gave CGI illustrations to show how the site looked and tied in with the other sites in the area (some of which were found for the first time in centuries or millennia). It was interesting to note that the stones had originally been white .... they have greyed through the millennium.

Stonehenge Aerial Shot

Stonehenge In Its Original Environment

If you get the chance to watch the two parter (its bound to be repeated), it was very interesting, and if you don't like the fact that people speculate about restorations, because we have 'no idea what they would have looked like originally' .... then write to the BBC, and all the archaeologists involved in the study from around the world, because they are obviously all frauds.

Working Benefits

Despite our similarities with Australia etc, we live in a very different culture. I remark on this because of the different treatment of prostitutes around the Anglo-Saxon world ..... supposedly the second oldest profession in the world, but in many places not accepted as being part of society even now.

For instance, despite its historical connections with the free love movement via the the early socialist groups such as the 'Fellowship of the New Life', and its more socialist offshoot, The Fabian Society, many of whose members were followers of the free love movement, the UK Labour Party has never embraced the idea of 'working girls', preferring to think of them as exploited women instead. The other political parties have to some degree or other taken a similar stance, with a set of polices to limit prostitution by making soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, pimping and pandering, crimes. But left the act itself legal .....

The Worlds Oldest and Most Honest Profession?

However in Australia, they have taken a different view and prostitution is legal in the most populated states in the country ....

Australian Prostitution

But what brought the difference in treatment of prostitutes to my mind, was the news reports coming out of Australia this year that hookers who lose their jobs ~ by which I have to assume those in organised brothels, and not the 'freelancer', although reports didn't specify ~ can now claim unemployment welfare benefits if their sex work dries up, welfare officials have decided.

Now. liberal though this may seem, for the life of me I don't see how the ladies concerned are going to prove that their sex work has dried up? I speak with some authority on this, as a long time ago, and in a different career, I worked as a visiting officer for the Department of Social Security (DHSS), and many of the ladies I visited turned a trick or two when they needed shoes for their kids etc. I couldn't prove anything, even if neighbours complained (anonymously), and simply advised the girls in question to either ply their trade away from home, or be discrete and not do many clients or I would be forced to cancel their benefits. Which of course would have simply forced the girls back into the sex trade full time, and put them at risk of harm.

The Australian welfare officers will face the same problem ..... proving a girls work is 'drying up' can be a very tricky business.

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A middle aged orange male ... So 'un' PC it's not true....