Finallly, the Finale

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. The day that I say “goodbye” to my thesis “hello” to “what’s next?” 

 

What a great feeling! As no man is an island, I could not have gotten to this point without the love, support & encouragement of my friends and family – some of whom read & comment on this blog! I want to wait for it to be marked before I publish the contents of it, but I will share my “gratitude” page.  There are many more people that I could have mentioned – who journeyed with me at various points of the process.  Please know that I appreciate you too!!:

 

Acknowledgments
The writing of this thesis is an extension of my personal journey. Thus everyone has contributed to my last few years of intense self-discovery has played a part in completion of my thesis. I think of the influence of my friends in Communitas, New Orleans and IJM Kenya. Their tireless work for the voiceless and the way they cared for the “least of these” is sheer beauty.

 

I am immensely grateful for the friends who have been part of my “cheer team” through this process. There are many, but I would like to make a special mention of Ken, Phil & Monika; my St Georges Dragonz family – Kelly, Mike, Deepa, Nick; the WWHFM ladies – Laura, Fi, Claire, Lisa, Joy, Sarah, CJ, Barbara & Honour. Your words of encouragement and prayers have been incredibly valuable to me.

 

My fieldwork in Nigeria would not have been successful if it were not for the hospitality shown to me by everyone at “The NGO”. I am so grateful for how you welcomed me and were generous with your time and resources. The work that you do is an inspiration. I am blessed to have met courageous women’s rights defenders who are also sons and daughters of the soil. I salute you heartily. I also want to thank friends and family who looked after me whilst I was in Nigeria and helped ensure that nothing stood in the way of my field work. Uncle JC, Obinna, Uncle To’o and Aunty Nkechi – thank you.

 

Without proper supervision, my foray into research would have come to nought. Thank you so much Carmel for your guidance and support. I am particularly grateful for how you helped me to see the bigger picture during the times when I almost felt despair. The interest you took in me as a person, as well as my study showed me that research happens in the context of real life, not the other way round.

 

Mum and Dad, there are honestly not enough words that I can write to show you my gratitude and appreciation for how you have stood by me through all my crazy adventures, believing in me when I could not. It is because of your love, legacy and generosity that I was able to press on. Hugh, thank you for always having my back and being my sounding-board. Jess, thank you for your prayers! Chim – it takes a special person to edit a thesis in their spare time. Last and most importantly – all thanks and praise to God, for You are my ultimate inspiration.

 

Thank you!!

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Stay this way

If I could stay this way, I would.
Misty dreams of entanglement
Soft enuciations, curling and searching
Floating along the rhythmic tide.

I would stay this way if I could.
Warm empty spaces 
And lingering sighs.
Comfortable swell of exploring in silence.

If this way could stay, I would.
And Press my fingers deeply
Through the pulsations of dreams
With velvety togetherness.

I could will this way to stay.
Lightly scented melodies
Audacious yet gentle yearnings.
Unpredictable in the calm.

A Pause for Easter

I’m at that point in my thesis where I am no longer interested in answering the “how is it going?” question.  Neither do I wish to engage in discussions on “what happens next?”   I would much rather take a pause – an extended pause… Perhaps even an indefinite pause.  So that I can fix my affections to more important things like debates on social media about feminism, post-colonialism, anti-capitalism and any other –ism that ultimately will not radically alter my life, or the lives of others around me. That’s stupid.  So I won’t do that… at least I won’t quit my degree to just do that…

 

But pausing is a good thing.

 

 

As sit I in the discomfort of Good Friday and wait for Easter, I have been encouraged.  I’ve been encouraged to desist from staring intently at my navel and to question my self-righteous soap-boxing which is more often than not, narcissistic.  I’m drawn to look to the complex beauty of Cross.

 

Last weekend, I attended an amazing hui (a conference similar to a pow-wow) with so many like-mindeds.  I was in heaven.  We listened, shared, wrestled, and even cried as we asked the question “what God actually want from us?”  As well as the collective dialogue, we heard two intense messages from the key-note speaker – a barefoot man with dreadlocks.  Ok, so he’s Justin Duckworth, the Bishop of Wellington.  But that’s beside the point.

 

There were many things in his messages that resonated with me.  However, one point that he kept going back to was the transformational power of redemptive suffering.  This tied in well with a sermon I heard the next day.  My vicar emphasised that Jesus horrific, violent death was the divine way, as opposed to in spite of His divinity.  This was a light-bulb moment for me in two main ways.  First, that Jesus death was not only an act to “save me from my sins” – the personal private, not-in-the-public-sphere sins; incredibly important as that is.  Rather it is also the way in which Christ-followers should model our lives as we seek to show the world a new way.  The better way.  The way that brings the Kingdom to bear on the here and now.

Secondly, it was the call to shun the temptation to live a life that is self-serving, showy and lauding power over others.  Instead it’s the call to live a life where we don’t play the victim and seek with reckless abandon, that which is unseen today, but will be tomorrow.  The type of life that is willing to be repeatedly caught on the back-roads and along the margins, because that is where the true transformational power will be exhibited in our lives and in the life of others.

 

It’s scary.  And difficult.  But so was the Cross.

 

“He must increase, but I must decrease” – John 3:30

 

Have a blessed Easter everyone!

 

Bootstraps & Assets: Three (Post) Evangelical Views on the Poverty of the Poor

Tough reading, but a great reminder of how we should be working towards the upside-down Kingdom.

Left Cheek: The Blog

In my experience with (Post) Evangelicalism, there are three basic models for dealing with poverty and poor people (though most experience some overlap).

The loudest-  though probably not the most widespread – we can refer to as the Dave Ramsey School of Thought: People in the US are in poverty because they choose to be. They are lazy, bereft of character, are without industry and resourcefulness. Poor people basically deserve to be poor. I mean, they can’t even bother to take one of Dave Ramsey’s $200 Seminars on Saving Money and Becoming a Success by the age of 60™!

The above view is deplorable, despicable and ultimately has no redeemable value whatsoever. It’s a Ponzi Scheme for greedy would-be condo developers – the sorts of people who run around twirling their mustaches while tying up their tenants to the train tracks just because.

But its real deviousness lies with…

View original post 1,642 more words

Postcolonialism, Neoliberalism & Patriarchy

I’ve been meaning to write a post summarising the key themes that stood out to me during my first year of development studies.  Since this post is coming rather late (and that I’m now more than 18 months into my course), I will attempt to amalgamate what should be two posts into one.  I’ll try and keep it brief…

Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts and reflections on my study thus far. This was not intended to be an academic exercise with APA referencing.  I’ll try and reference where I can!

I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from the interdisciplinary nature of development studies. It draws on wide variety of disciplines within the social sciences and humanities such as anthropology, sociology, politics, economics and even a bit of history.  As a person who is constantly finding dubious linkages across disparate topics, this has been like semi-heaven.

 Furthermore, despite my first degree being in finance & economics, I can unequivocally say that the development studies department feels like “home”.  It has stoked the fire of my social justice heart, whilst tempering my wild improbable dreaming with some more robust theoretical frameworks.  Or in other words – it has helped shape my thinking about human rights and poverty issues.

An over-arching theme that has encapsulated this for me is the notion of power-inequality.
There are a number of concepts and theories in the social sciences which address different symptoms or aspects of power-inequality.  I will address three that spoke to me the loudest.

 

Post-colonialism:  As a person hailing from a colonised nation, this is a theory I understood intuitively at the outset.  However it is more complex than “colonialism is bad”.  It attempts to uncover the wide-reaching effects of the colonial past on cultures and nations.  In addition looks at how colonial history plays out today in development work and in the modern “international community”.  An eye-opener for me was learning that development studies came about as a way of employing ex-colonial administrators when they returned home. With such “interesting roots” – it’s understandable that some critics of foreign aid label it as neo-colonialism / neo-imperialistic.  Post-colonial scholars will also often point out that today’s international trade regime somewhat resembles the colonial period.  Whereas in the past imperial governments controlled the colonies, today the new imperial masters are the multinational corporations that wield a considerable amount of power over developing country governments.

 

Neoliberalism: This could basically be interpreted as “the market will decide… EVERYTHING”.  Well, not quite everything, but a lot of things.  In a perfect world, where everyone has equal access to life’s necessities and people had “healthy” levels of greed – just enough to inspire innovation, free markets are the best option.  Unfortunately, this is not the case, as we see time and time again.  Markets fail either because they do or because greed simply runs amok.  With the brief study I have done on microfinance, Nigeria’s economic situation and through conversations about New Zealand’s economic history, I have gleaned that the 1980s was a bad time economically for many nations.  During this period, the World Bank advised many developing country governments to down-size and give the market (namely financial market) more free reign[1].  The result was skyrocketing unemployment and poverty levels, as well as decreased government spending to off-set the hardship.  Needless to say, neoliberalism is a dirty word in the development studies department. 

We also must not forget the Global Financial Crisis of 5 years ago, the devastating effects of climate change and the widening gap between the rich and poor between and within countries.  Thus, whilst markets themselves are not innately bad, it has made me more appreciative of the need for balance. 

Patriarchy: Another reviled concept within development circles.  The Oxford Dictionary of English defines it as a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.  

Obviously it is more pronounced in some societies than others.  It manifests in subtle ways such as men being paid more than women who are equally qualified, performing the same job.  Or it could be exploitation of the female body in advertising.  Alternatively it can be more extreme such wife-beating being enshrined in law[2] or severely restricting the movement of women.  Either way, patriarchal systems effectively say “female perspective is less important and she is subordinate”.  Some people reading this blog will probably be thinking “I don’t see a problem here…?”  However as someone who believes that all people are equally deserving of dignity, respect and a life free of discrimination, I see a big problem.  A problem that I could talk about for a few more thousand words (but not on this post).

 

It is no surprise then that such a concept led given me the confidence to wear the badge of feminism with pride.  Not a man-hating, bra-burning lesbian feminist.  Rather a feminist in the theme of Chimamanda Adichie’s “Happy African Feminist”.  One that believes domestic violence is never ok; one that believes women have the right to say “no” to unwanted sexual advances whether or not it is from a stranger, boss or spouse; one that believes girls should be allowed to finish school and not be pulled out early to marry an old man she did not choose; one that believes a baby girl has just as much right to life as a baby boy….  And most relevant to my thesis topic – one that believes that widows have the right to remain in their matrimonial property (and inherit their husband’s estate) irrespective of whether or not they have sons or if they have children at all.

These three major themes of Post-colonialism, Neoliberalism and Patriarchy have helped me interpret the world around me – from international political upheavals, to poverty issues I see prevalent within my local community.  I can especially see how they interrelate and interact within my thesis topic.  However, that will be for another post! 

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This will be my last “promised” post of 2013, unless I have a sudden burst of enthusiasm to convert my internal rants into text.  However, I advise you not to hold your breath.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas and blessed New Year!  May you be blessed by the only gift worth having – the promise of the resurrection and perfect reconciliation with our King Yahweh through his Son Jesus.  

Thanks for reading my sporadic posts over the past year and being so supportive and encouraging. 🙂

 


[1] Affectionately known as the SAPs or the Structural Adjustment Programs.

[2] Nigerian Penal Code, Chapter 89, Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963.  Section 55.

Present but not here

The whole tortured musings of a “third culture kid” ought to be old news by now.  I should have knocked this on the head and moved on to bigger and better things like making poverty history or championing the cause of the African woman.  However a recent trip to Nigeria sent me hurtling back to confusion, shaking the confidence I had in where I’m heading (or where I wouldn’t be heading!).

image

I have to be honest.  The last time I came to Nigeria, I was spoiling for a fight.  I had just spent a year on the continent and wasn’t interested in what Mama Naija had to say.  I scoffed at her acquiescence to NEPA’s silly game playing  (Sure, Kenya is a “small, poor country” in comparison to our dear Nigeria; but at least they have constant electricity!).  I rolled my eyes at the obvious cultural hypocrisy that excused (even glorified) male infidelity whilst being overly moralisic on homosexuality.  I burned with self-righteous anger when my beer was delivered to my uncle at a restaurant without a question – an indicator that gender equality is still pure rhetoric.  I suppose in some circles my attitude could be described as arrogant?  Loose canon perhaps?

However this time round I was more prepared to be less judgmental.  More accepting of Mama Naija, whilst remaining discontent with the way things are.

Nevertheless, whilst I enjoy her embrace from time to time – I’m still non-commital.  Not yet ready to give her all of me.

So for the next year we will dialogue.  We will wrestle through issues of patriarchy, imperialism, human rights and African feminism.  Maybe Mama Naija will embrace me a little longer.  Maybe she won’t.