wi5dom of the crowd

Couldn’t really give a fig about the ‘Stop Kony’ flap.

But just noticed this:

I dont know, im nothing even close to a philanthropist, politician or nothing even NEAR an activist or even fucking EDUCATED for that matter. I just want to encourage more people to think for themselves more often… we’re all very apt at “spreading awareness” as a nation, a culture, WE HAVE THAT SHIT DOWN.

Let’s focus a little more on what kinds of peaceful resolve and positive action… can be taken to resolve a global issue. By asking the people claiming to be the “frontmen of the cause”  (which is no doubt, usually a noble cause) who are asking for money or attention, WHERE is this going, HOW is it getting there, WHERE is the data, WHO is doing the footwork, and most importantly what are the predicted results.

Attention, [b]advocacy practitioners. You have just been schooled by deadmau5, a man who travels the world wearing a giant mouse head, performing his music which is popular with huge crowds of people, many of whom have taken random pharmaceuticals with the express aim of diminishing their cognitive capacity for the evening.

If you’ve got less of a handle on it than this bloke, maybe consider a new career.


“Development.” Discuss.


He took a pull on his beer.

I wonder, could you help explain to me something.

Sure, I said.

You have been living in the UK.

I have.

What is the difference with the words, English and the British?


They seem to be the same. But they are not the same.


I took a pull on my beer.

Okay. Britain is like the whole island. Technically, everyone from there is British.


But only some of them are English. The ones who are English, you can call them British or English, and they don’t really care. But there are people who are from Britain, but are not English. And if you call them English, you will make them very upset.


He was thinking pretty hard about this.

So, this is sensitive then. But why?

I’m really not sure. I think they used to fight a lot. And the ones from Scotland still want to break away, to have their independence from the English.

They had a war?

Yeah, I guess so.

It must have been a bad war. But I have not heard about this. When did it happen?

Umm. I’m not really sure… but about three hundred years ago I think.

Three HUNDRED years?

My Congolese colleague sucked his teeth.

Must have been a bad war.

On the epistemology of Christmas

Do they know it’s Christmas? Isn’t that such a presumptuous question? And I don’t mean for all the usual boring oh-they’re-so-ignorant-about-Africa ranty reasons it would be pathetically easy to recycle. I think it’s presumptuous because it assumes that the speaker, the implicit we, know ourselves when it is Christmas. But how do we know that it is Christmas? What is the foundation of this knowledge?

Traditionalists will point to dates on calendars, births of saviours, or even notices on the church noticeboard of scheduled “Christmas” church services and the like. But philosophically speaking, these are all a bunch of pretty dodgy empirical manifestations. Dates on calendars are subject to the whims of tyrants and bureaucrats; alleged birthdays of saviours are notoriously unreliable; and as for church services, well… which tradition of church? Catholic? Orthodox? Maybe neither?

I’m afraid no certainty lies with any of these. Fortunately over the last week, I have discovered that the true path to a profound and indelible determination of whether or not it is Christmas is both constructivist and yet uncomplicated, and requires merely the following.

  • 250g unsalted butter.
  • 350g muscavado sugar.
  • 4 cinnamon sticks.
  • 1 tsp ground cardamon.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 litres water.
  • 1L Myers dark rum at the bargain price of USD $14 from Jomo Kenyatta Airport.

Bring together these ontological devices in a large pot, and simmer on a very low heat for a couple of hours. Then, merrily consume in the company of friends and/or family.

Perhaps after the first cup, perhaps after the fourth, you will find within you the sure and certain knowledge that, regardless of what any priest, president or printed notice says, it is undoubtedly Christmas. Mmmm…. Christmas… in my mouth.

And then you will need a nice nap.


WordPress sent me a nice report saying there had been 10,155 readers of this blog over the course of 2011. Thank you all for stopping by, linking here, and chatting on twitter.

With a mammoth body of work of 14 posts over 12 months, the most popular posts were The asterisk is everything, The circle(s) of life, and Once I gave a man my shoes. I promise to continue providing some absurdly intermittent blogging in 2012; indeed blogging so infrequent that averaged over the next 365 days, it might be more accurately be categorized as not-blogging.

Such is my respect for the mores of the readership indicated above, I also commit to an increased focus upon punctuation, Elton John, and fashion-crime footwear.

aid works

Aid works? Really?

Well, what’s aid?

Come to think of it, what’s work?

What is aid work?

Read the rest of this entry »

florence and the (aid) machine

We raise it up. We raise it up:

This is a gift, it comes at a price.

Who is the lamb, and who is the knife?

Midas is king, and he holds me so tight

And turns me to gold in the sunlight

Hello from Juba. Bit tired for profound thoughts but thought sharing this tune would do for a Friday night blog post. There in four short lines are the conundrums of what we do, the chains of donor/INGO/partner, the HQ/country/field, the power imbalances, the accountability, the getting played, and the… belief? Misplaced belief? Transmutation of leaden money into golden change and personal redemption of those who think they bring it?

I take no issue with the disappointment and disavowal by @giantpandinha of ‘big aid’. But like I said when kicking off this blog, colour me incrementalist. Aid exists. It grows. (At least from my primary back donor it does.) It grows and grows and with that comes risk and with that comes scrutiny. With scrutiny comes systems and layers and compliance and bureaucracy…. much of which sucks.

Deal with it. We campaigned for it. We got what we wanted. Ergo: do it better, or else. Do it better, or the imbecile million-shirts myNGOs will fill the attention vacuum. (While eschewing the desperate needs in the more challenging corners of the world, obviously. Hello, Abyei!) Do it better or @giantpandinha will show you up. Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad at all.

I had someone say to me today: we don’t do engineering, we don’t import blueprints. What we do has to be context, it has to be relationships, it has to be political moments. Normally, so what? But the person saying it was a very senior manager in my HRI affiliate. Now maybe there’s people who’d say he’s objectively wrong. Maybe the cynics will say I’m deluded for taking a moment of hope from that, in spite of the fact that much of what I do is down in the guts of the aid machine, greasing the cogs. But there it is. Be conscious of your limitations. Be clear eyed about institutional faults. But raise it up.