Thursday, March 15, 2018

Identity v Context

There is a big difference between being something, and feeling something. The things we are, are permanent. I am angry, is different from, I am feeling angry. Similarly, I am very wary of Identity Politics. People are natural essentialists. Believing there is something at our core that makes us who we are. That makes us different. In part, that is true. The thing that makes us different from each other is our unique story. That story evolves. Our story is context dependent. Understanding someone's story helps us to see them. But we aren't our story. Our story can change. Our stories overlap. Context can change. Context learns. I can work with Context Politics. Seeing people. Identity Politics can pass on by. If we breathe.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


The Lapita were seafarers who lived around 3,000 years ago, exploring islands hundreds of miles apart. Tonga is made up of 169 islands, with 36 of them inhabited. Tongan is a Polynesian language closely connected to that spoken in Hawaii (an 18-hour flight away). The first Europeans visited in 1616 with a brief trading visit from a Dutch vessel. Sovereignty was never given to a foreign power, but it did have 'protected state' status from the United Kingdom from 1900 till 1970. It was only united as a Kingdom in 1845, and (with the help of a missionary) declared a Constitutional Monarchy in 1875 adopting the western royal style. It is the only Pacific nation to maintain its Monarchical government.

Lapita Pottery

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Togo, France and Germany

Even in France, French only became the 'national language' in the C19th. Through a combination of standardised, industrialised, education and conscious attempts to root out 'Patois' or non-standard, undereducated Rural class vs. the dominant prestige languages of the upper class and upwardly mobile. In Togo, the official language is also French although many other languages are spoken, despite being one of the smallest countries in Africa (with a population of less than 8 million). Little attention was paid to who was there when countries were 'designed'. The Gbe language family is a cluster of about twenty related languages stretching from Ghana to Nigeria. The coastal region was a big part of the European slave trade on the "The Slave Coast". At the Berlin Conference of 1884, Germany declared Togoland a German protectorate. After World War I, power was transferred to the French, and independence came in 1960.

Gbe Languages

Monday, March 12, 2018


Ethiopia was the only African country never colonised by the Europeans. It is the reason so many flags in the world bear the Ethiopian colours once they gained independence. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation which did the same. Modern Nations only became a real thing after French Revolution and when Napoleon decided to dissolve the Holy Roman Empire (in 1806) and crown himself, shifting power from the Church to 'The People'. Like the Muslim Ummah (a supra-national community), the Catholic (universal) Church aimed to include everyone. France and England aimed to rule, and 'civilize'. They continued their European rival in the attached colonial arms race of Nation building. Able Thai rulers were able to exploit those tensions, and Thailand became a buffer state between British and French interests. From the mid-C19th century Thailand began its own industrialization process, which included nation-building along western lines. As war industrialised, it was difficult/impossible not to. By the time of World War I, nations needed soldiers prepared to die in production line like trenches. In 1917, then known as Siam, Thailand joined its colonial neighbours as part of the Allies.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Little Lasting Longer

A large income can be a sign of less, rather than more, Financial Security. One way to think of how big your Buffer is, is to divide the Capital you have working for you by how much you spent last year. This gives a very rough idea of your breathing room. Too many people connect what they earn, to what they spend, too closely. Adjusting to salary increases by spending more. Someone earning a lot may have lots of fixed expense they have to meet. They may have committed to a large mortgage, maybe even a 30-year mortgage in some countries. Financial Security can be achieved more easily with those who gain comfort with very little. By gaining control over your ins and outs.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018


The Gini coefficient is a statistical attempt to measure the income or wealth inequality of a nation's residents. Zero suggests perfect equality, and zero incentive for anyone to 'do better'. 100% suggests one person owns and accumulates everything, and no one else has, or can get, anything. Zero incentive for anyone to do anything. In a world with only Alexander the Great and the Buddha, both would likely be happy with 100% Gini. In a world with 0% Gini, Lex would be grumpy. Global Inequality is now falling. Over the decade from 2003 to 2013 it went from 68.7% to 64.7%. That is the good news. The bad news is we tend to compare ourselves locally even though we live globally. South Africa leads the global charts for National inequality at 63.4%, roughly the same as Global Inequality. It isn't falling. SA takes Global Inequality and shoves it in your face.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018


Civil war has often followed independence from foreign conquerors. Tajikistan became an independent nation following the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. Its Civil War lasted from 1992 to 1997. This was not because of ethnic diversity. The vast majority are Tajiks, an Iranian group of people speaking a variety of Persian. Like the Germanic Migration Period (375-568) and the Bantu Expansion (from 1,000 BCE reaching South Africa by maybe 300 AD), distinct 'Nations' of people are often connected by hints at the past in their word choices. Their primary language has Persian roots. The second language is mainly Russian. The religion is mainly Islam. Lingering reminders of the various powers that have come and gone. The majority of ethnic Russians left when the Soviet era ended. The Civil War was fought between regional groups with opposition parties seeing reduced Russian influence as an opportunity for their brand of ideology.

Monday, March 05, 2018


Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. A few others claiming this mantle are Beirut & Byblos (Lebanon), Jericho (Palestine), and Luxor (Egypt). The modern state of Syria is made up of several ancient Empires and Kingdoms. Damascus was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate, before it was moved to Baghdad at the start of the Islamic Golden Age Like the shift of the Islamic capital, Constantine moved the capital from Rome to modern Istanbul (Byzantium/Constantinople) in 330AD. Before the Islamic expansion to Syria, Greek and Aramaic had been the dominant languages of the area under the Byzantine era. Aramaic was the language Jesus spoke. It was also the area from where the Patron Saint of England, St. George, came. The modern state was carved out of the Ottoman Empire as a French Mandate after World War I. Mandate's were supposed to differ from colonialism with 'the governing country acting as a trustee until the inhabitants would be able to stand on their own'. Self-determination. Syria's 'self' is pretty complicated.

Umayyad Caliphate - 750 AD