Collective Actions Are Incredibly Contagious
“Men perish but life is permanent … Things go in cycles, the only thing constant is change and that is nature’s law to which we must all abide, willingly or forcibly.”
Introduction by Adria Leeper-Sullivan
Interview by Theo Constantinou
Photo Credit – “Arezzo Wave Love 2012″
Few people today are willing to risk their reputation, or life in the spotlight since Fela Kuti and John Lennon who thought their art should have purpose even if controversial. Being a militant political performer as a musician has disappeared into the background. Luaty Beirão is Ikonoklasta, a driven and culturally significant hip-hop musician fighting against the abuse of power in Angola. Catching onto the trends of the Arab Spring, in 2011 Angolans were challenged by an anonymous internet post to try and overthrow Eduardo dos Santos and the MPLA. It became clear to the people of Angola after the Government’s reaction of fear to the post that their lives were being run under the guise of democracy, and they soon began to fight against the manipulative dictatorship. Getting arrested for his performances, lyrics, and being set up for the smuggling of drugs, Luaty continues to display the unjust acts hidden from the general eye. He feels it is his duty to demand the freedom to live; live without worrying about his securities or the safety of his friends, family, and country. He teaches us that bad things may happen, but nothing is worse than losing who you are at the cost of your freedom.
In Keirkegaard’s Either / Or I came across the follow passage: “It would be the greatest possible joke on the world if one who had expounded the most profound of truths were not a dreamer, but a doubter. And it is not unthinkable that no one should be able to expound ultimate truth so perfectly as a doubter … He would be expounding a doctrine which might resolve everything, in which mankind could have confidence; but that doctrine would not be capable of resolving anything at all for its own author.” Are you a doubter or dreamer and whichever you answer do you feel that nothing can ever be resolved for those who doubt? Moreso, with all the controversy surrounding you recently and the turmoil in Angola do you find yourself hopeful for change or again do you lean towards being doubtful?
First of all thank you kindly for taking interest in Angola’s current situation and giving us a nice, cozy place in your venerable website. Now, onto the question: I honestly believe that there is (at least) a little bit of both dreamer/doubter inside each and every one of us. Just like there are all other conflicting virtues/defects that we try learning how to master as we age, to make us feel as better human beings than we were the previous day. As far as the doubter is concerned, I think that in providing or highlighting possible solutions (I tend not to trust words such as “doctrine”, for they have caused too much suffering throughout mankind’s History) that are warmly welcomed by those looking to find them, has already “resolved” something for himself, spiritually speaking. He or She would be accomplishing the ultimate goal for those who lead an altruistic life, which is convey happiness to other people and, in turn, be inspired by it to keep it going. I chose to believe and I won’t give that up no matter how many kilograms of cocaine, cracked skulls, or years of imprisonment they fix for me. I’m not a religious person, but my faith in humanity remains unshaken, for I know that for every nasty, despicable human being, there are hundreds of thousands who are pure in their hearts and can effectively balance those conflicting virtues/defects and make the virtues stand out.
Eckhart Tolle said, “The past has no power over the present moment.” The uprising in Angola appears to be inspired by the Arab Spring, and every revolution now seems to stem from the same struggles being fought since the beginning of civilization. Why do you think this cycle continues, and when you look at it this way does the fight for representation appear to be almost pointless? Finally, what makes this Revolution different from others, describe the spirit of the people involved?
No revolution is different in its intentions from the very first revolution ever to take place in the History of mankind: power shifting. The “weak” majority standing up to the “strong” minority. The difference nowadays is that we’re in the age of technology and communication, and there are other variables to be taken into account before blindly unleashing violence on those who dissent. Every move is scrutinized and, in the blink of an eye, photos and videos are circulating the web, causing worldwide reaction that could also be translated as worldwide bashing and, most importantly, international arrest warrants. This cycle will perpetuate itself as long as we keep this model of society where economic growth is the main focus and a minority of self-righteous idiots are called upon to manage nations applying general formulae to often hugely complex and diverse realities. This handful of people get so aloof, so amped up about their leadership roles, that they start feeling high and mighty, ending up as authoritarian pricks who think their views are the only functioning ones, imposing them on everyone else. But they’re the ones watering the tree of revolt which, eventually, bears fruits, which, in turn, gets ripe and falls, splashing right onto their laps.
Noam Chomsky said, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” … What are your thoughts on this statement in general? Furthermore, what is the importance of respecting the enemy? Are humans inherently selfish?
Chomsky is awesome. There are other quotes, such as this one, that resonate profoundly in the hearts and minds of those who are fortunate enough to come across them. It’s amazing how powerful and effective the right words can be. I’m not sure whether it was Chomsky or Zinn that said something about how we should fiercely defend one’s right to have an opinion colluding with our own, however controversial, stomach-turning or imbecile it may seem, for that is the real meaning of “freedom of thought”. Sometimes is very hard to cultivate that magnanimity but that’s just a part of the eternal learning process I mentioned earlier. Enemy is another word I try to avoid as much as I can. I prefer the term opponent. Again, it is something we learn as we mature. I think most of us human beings have defaulted in this Sun Tzu-like wisdom before we were faced with defeat. Petulance has to be tamed and only time and experience can serve as masters. I acknowledge the need to respect my opponents and expect greatness from them, although I recognize I am still miles away from excelling in that particular area. Are humans inherently selfish? Definitely not, in my opinion. I think we all come out pure and innocent, it’s the environment in which we grow, the choices we are presented with that carve our personality. Selfishness became more evident with capitalism, the culture of self, the culture of singlehandedness. That culture is more engraved in urban environments. If one goes out to the countryside in most places in the world, one will find people that restore one’s faith in mankind: so kind, gentle, welcoming, and gracious they are.
Christopher Hitchens was an English American author and journalist who wrote, Prepared for the Worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports … He said, “Call no man lucky until he is dead, but there have been moment of rare satisfaction in the often random and fragmented life of the radical freelance scribbler. I have lived to see Ronald Reagan called “a useful idiot for Kremlin propaganda” by his former idolators; to see the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union regarded with fear and suspicion by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (which blacked out an interview with Miloš Forman broadcast live on Moscow TV); to see Mao Zedong relegated like a despot of antiquity. I have also had the extraordinary pleasure of revisiting countries—Greece, Spain, Zimbabwe, and others—that were dictatorships or colonies when first I saw them. Other mini-Reichs have melted like dew, often bringing exiled and imprisoned friends blinking modestly and honorably into the glare. E pur si muove—it still moves, all right.” Do you agree with this final statement of everything still moving regardless and what is your overall interpretation of what he said specifically related to what is happening in Angola currently?
Men perish but life is permanent. I totally agree with Hitchens’ idea subjacent in that statement and there’s not a logical, nor historical reason, for Angola’s case to be exceptional compared to those of the Roman Empire, colonial rule all over the world, the USSR, Apartheid and, more recently, Iceland and the Arab World. One day, eventually America’s badly disguised imperialism will also retreat, making way to, who knows, perhaps Chinese “invasion”? Things go in cycles, the only thing constant is change and that is nature’s law to which we must all abide, willingly or forcibly.
This was in a recent issue of the Economist that I would like to you read and then speak on …
“Generally deemed wretched after a 14-year war for independence from Portugal followed by 27 years of civil war that only ended in 2002, Angola is now one of Africa’s economic successes—thanks almost entirely to oil. With a population of 20m, it has Africa’s fifth-biggest and fastest-growing economy. Between 2004 and 2008 its GDP surged by an average of 17% a year, topping 22% in 2007. It is the continent’s second-biggest oil producer after Nigeria. Foreign investment is pouring in at a rate of more than $10 billion a year. In the past decade GDP per person is said to have tripled.
Yet most of its people are still very poor. Two-fifths are undernourished. One in three adults is illiterate. Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world, life-expectancy among the lowest. Corruption is rampant. Angola’s human-rights record is poor, the police brutal, the courts and the press both still hobbled. In an array of league tables, Angola comes near the bottom.
The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has run the show for 37 years. Small wonder that Angola’s young, especially in the emerging middle class, have begun to take to the streets. They have described José Eduardo Dos Santos, who has been president for 33 years, as a “plundering monster” who cares nothing for his people. In the past year, Luanda has been the scene of unprecedented demonstrations calling for more freedom, a fairer distribution of wealth, and Mr. Dos Santos’s removal. But though this has shocked the government out of its complacency, the largely leaderless movement has failed to build up a head of steam. After four decades of strife, many Angolans prefer stability to freedom.”
Is this true that Angolans prefer stability to freedom, and do you prefer stability to freedom? And further what comments do you have to say about what is being told to Westerners by media outlets as to what is really happening on the ground in Angola?
To put it bluntly, there’s no such thing as stability without freedom, in fact, there’s not much of anything without a certain degree of freedom. We are sitting on top of an illusionary cloud that disguises a powder keg, an accident waiting to happen. Yes Angolans in general capitulate to fear but, by no means, is that synonymous with happiness or stability. Most people are fully aware of the anger brewing from the depths of that thin-coated “stability” and we can predict what to expect. The volcano is already awake, it’s only a matter of time before it erupts and, like everywhere else, once that happens, the frightful Angolan will join the brave few by the herds. Collective actions are incredibly contagious.
Western media is not doing such a bad job if we stop being romantic about the image they all sell of being impartial, reporting everything from Mars to Pluto; rather, we should think of the supply/demand logic from which major media outlets are not immune. Thus, it’s already remarkable that we can score a couple of articles here and there. Imagine how hard it is for a well-intentioned journalist to convince his/her editor about running a piece on a country they hardly have any emotional bond to, with a mere 500 people protesting, being chased and beaten by the police? How is that of any interest comparing to hundreds of other newsworthy (and faster-selling) events all around the world? It takes an abnegated journalist to dig into the particular idiosyncrasies of the country they are reporting on to add enough interest to the piece as to convince a not so interested editor. So, yeah, more could be done, but I won’t complain and give them my thumbs up.
What is your definition of the word freedom?
Freedom: to start off with, just the sound of the very word when it flies out of one’s mouth, with meaning and emotion, gives me a sweet, soothing feeling. It’s truly inspirational. Words can have the meanings we are willing to give them and to me, “freedom” is the most beautiful amongst all utopias, and definitely one worth fighting for. We were raised being permanently reminded that “our freedom ends where the next person’s begins” which we gladly accept once we go past the “rebel-without-a-cause” age, understanding that there are rules which are inherent to life in a community. It all entangles in a very confusing web of concepts that counteract and contradict each other. Thus, my concept of the word keeps evolving by the day, especially when I’m confronted with the daunting threat of being physically deprived of it. How would my concept of it develop were I to be thrown in jail even with a clear conscience? Is my mind as strong as it takes to endure such a predicament and not cave in? I won’t dare to play the brave guy and I don’t wish to find out; only one thing is for sure: I won’t stop pursuing that utopia, regardless of the evils that men do.