Stories from Afar & Up Close

Filtering by Category: Injustice


Sometime back in 2001 or 2002, I went to visit a friend who was working at a hospital near Kisumu, in the western part of Kenya. I hadn’t told him when I was coming, though, so when I arrived he had just left for a long weekend at the beach and since I had no way of reaching him, I had to change my plans. I called the guy I had been chatting with on the bus on the way there all those hours. He told me to stay put; he would pick me up in an hour and a half. And he did. Getting to his family’s compound somewhere in the hills around Kisumu was a small adventure in itself; it took almost two hours of walking, sitting on the back of a bicycle, crossing a river in a dug-out canoe, and more walking before we arrived. Once there, I was told to sit down with the men on the side of the house made of dried red mud. So I sat there in the shade talking with his father, some of his brothers, uncles, and probably some neighbors, talking about life in Africa and Europe, about work and jobs and salaries. After a while I asked my new friend if there were any women. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘but they don’t speak any English.’ His sister who served us drinks and food just smiled when I thanked her in English, so I took his word for it, but after I while I had enough of sitting with the men and their crackling transistor-radio, so I wandered over to the kitchen-hut and motioned if I could come in. Of course I could, the four women in the kitchen welcomed me in perfect English.

As it turned out, his oldest sister was the head nurse at one of the biggest hospitals in Nairobi, and had just come over to her parents’ village for the family gathering this weekend. We talked about life in Africa and Europe as well, and about their specific jobs and lives, their marriages and children. I was 20 at the time, and they were wondering why I didn’t have children. Suddenly my friend’s oldest sister looked me straight in the eye and said: ‘Can I ask you something?’ Of course she could. ‘What do you use for contraception?’ All eyes were on me. Two more women had arrived in the meantime, but no one made a sound. ‘Uh, well, condoms?’ I said, ‘and… the pill?’ ‘So white women take the pill as well!’ said the oldest sister, the nurse. ‘Yes, most of my friends do… why would we not?’ I asked, naïve enough. ‘Well,’ was her answer, ‘I thought the pill was meant to make us African women infertile.’

I am still glad I didn’t know back then what I know now, and that I was able to answer that question in full honesty. After that trip I went on to study anthropology, and I learned about the secret sterilization programs that have taken place in many countries in Asia, Africa and South America in the name of international health care and aid programs (and even in the USA itself, mainly on the black population). Still, I thought, that was in the past, and although it’s understandable that rumors about it are still going around, we can safely assume that health programs these days do just what they are supposed to do instead of carrying out a secret political agenda. And so from then on I would make a conscious effort when traveling of convincing people to trust international health care programs and use the medication against malaria and AIDS that they provide.

Unfortunately, I was naïve again: in its urge to kill Osama Bin Laden, the USA has set up a fake vaccination program to capture his children’s DNA. As the author of the piece writes; ‘People's faith in their doctors is critical to the ability to provide health care, and it's unconscionable that the United States would use the single most delicate health issue in the Muslim world as its cover. […] People believe in their medical care. They want to be healthy, and they want more than anything to have healthy children. Accordingly, they believe in their doctors and nurses. And it's the duty of health-care professionals -- and governments -- to return and protect this trust. It is not acceptable to weaponize health, to use Christopher Albon's brilliant turn of phrase. But it's clear -- and interesting -- that doing so is remarkably easy. In a world where social cohesion is eroding rapidly, people still trust their health-care providers.’ It may be clear from my story that this trust people have in their health-care providers is not blind, and may have taken a long time to grow. Stories like this can break that trust in a minute – especially if they cannot be dispelled as a myth by an honest 20-year old backpacker.

Black doll, white doll - not just an experiment

In the 1950s, in a racially segregated US, psychologist Kenneth Clark performed an experiment with black kids. He wanted to measure the impact of racism on their self-image. They had to choose between a black doll and a white doll. Now, 50 years later, someone repeated the experiment. The video below (in English) is of that experiment, with some footage from the original test. It’s an excerpt from a short documentary called ‘A Girl Like Me’ by Kiri Davis (which you can watch here).

It's not over (yet)

The past few days have had me watch with awe, horror and hope the revolution in Egypt. A country I have never visited, and of whom I only know very few citizens personally, yet what's happening now evokes stronger feelings than whatever else is going on at the moment. I've been in awe at the strength of the demonstrators gathered in Tahrir square. I have been horrified by the international (political) reactions, which seem as ready as always to sacrifice the Egyptian people in the name of 'stability'. And time and again, watching the people come back to that square, giving me hope that something else is possible.

It's not time to look back yet, because it's not over. May the Egyptian people be strong enough to get their country back. TaHya Masr [long live Egypt]!

For a closer look, I recommend visiting Sarah Carr's blog Inanities.

Uit het partijprogramma van de PVV

(in hun eigen woorden) ‘Oplossingen’ in de categorie Veiligheid:

• Preventief fouilleren in het hele land • Heropvoedingskampen (Waar hebben we dat eerder gehoord?) • Etnische registratie van iedereen. Inclusief vermelding ‘Antilliaan’ (Oh ja, daar! Da’s toch ouderwets, dat deden ze in de jaren ’40 ook al.) • Falende leden van zittende en staande magistratuur weg (Geert neemt het niet zo nauw met de ‘trias politica’. Gek, want da’s toch een belangrijk onderdeel van ons aller geliefde Judeo-Christelijke democratie, nietwaar?) • Niet-Nederlanders die een misdrijf plegen direct uit Nederland verwijderen

‘Oplossingen’ in de categorie Islam (aka Buitenlanders):

• De islam is vooral een politieke ideologie en kan dus op geen enkele manier aanspraak maken op de voorrechten van een godsdienst (Interessante herdefiniëring, Geert. Is dat nou moeilijk, de Christen-fundies te vriend houden als alles wat je over de islam zegt ook op het Christendom van toepassing is, inclusief de passages over vrouwen-ongelijkheid enzo?) • Geen hoofddoekjes in de zorg, het onderwijs, het gemeentehuis of waar dan ook bij de overheid, en evenmin bij welke gesubsidieerde organisatie dan ook (Hoe zat dat ook alweer, Geert, met die mensen die vrouwen onderdrukken en voor hen bepalen wat ze wel en niet mogen dragen doen?) • Verbied de boerka en de koran, belast hoofddoekjes (Selectieve vrijheid van meningsuiting en drukpers! Typisch zo’n voorbeeld van de rijkdom van het Judeo-Christelijk gedachtegoed.) • Assimilatiecontracten. Niet tekenen of niet naleven = het land uit (Allemaal aan de waterstofperoxide, op straffe van deportatie!) • Voor vreemdelingen geldt: werken of wegwezen. Geen baan = geen plaats in Nederland (De ware betekenis van ‘arbeidsvoorwaarden’ wordt mij ineens duidelijk...) • Weg met procedurestapelen. Afgewezen = meteen weg (De IND is immers onfeilbaar, of niet dan?) • Inburgeringsexamen in het land van herkomst, tot het zover is: inburgeringscursus in Nederland niet gehaald, dan het land weer uit (Heb je het nou alweer over die waterstofperoxide, Geert? Oh, je gaat exporteren! Goed idee! Ongetwijfeld een lukratief handeltje.)En vooral: volledige immigratiestop voor mensen uit islamitische landen Definitie van een islamitisch land volgens de Nederlandse regering: een land waarin meer dan 50% van de bevolking als moslim geregistreerd staat. Dus: Dag lieve Walid! Het was leuk getrouwd met je te zijn, maar nu mag het niet meer van Ome Geert. Sorry.

Heel veel meer heb ik er niet over te zeggen, al gaat die waanzin nog 45 pagina’s door. Kijk zelf maar, als je het aankunt...