Monthly Archives: December, 2011

Xmas, Poop Throwing Chimps, Ugandan Schools and Joseph Ratzinger

Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, a Festive Festivus (two days belated), a wonderful Winter Solstice (3 days belated) and, of course, a very Merry Christmas (or Xmas) to one and all!

Christmas vs Xmas

An interesting little tidbit to start with, if only because its something I didn’t know until recently: the X in “Xmas” is neither in reference to the cross on which poor old Jesus of Nazareth is said to have whistled his last tune, nor a recent attempt by militant secularists (sic) to “take Christ out of Christmas”, as has been reported and is commonly thought. “Xmas” has, in fact, been used by pious Christians for centuries. The “X” originates from the Greek letter Chi, the initial of the Ancient Greek word “Χριστός” (transliteration: (khristós), which translates as “Messiah”, “the anointed one” or…”Christ”![1]

A Deserving Cause: Poop Lobbing Welsh Apes

Suzi, a resident Chimpanzee at the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary

In the past couple of years it has become tradition within half of ConfusedApe’s family for Christmas presents to take the form of donations to a deserving charity. All of the obvious nicey-nicey altruistic mush aside, charitable donations also avoid the horror that is last minute Christmas shopping (take a trip to your local shopping centre on the 23rd of December next year for unequivocal proof that we really are nothing more than confused, no strike that, fucking clueless, apes). Another benefit is a post-Christmas absence of the otherwise inevitable hoard of useless tat bought by unimaginative relatives acting purely under the pressure of present giving convention.

This year donations on behalf of ConfusedApe’s relatives were made to two charities: the Wales Ape & Monkey Sanctuary and the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. The former seems to do some wonderful work and is well worth a visit if you have the time and means. During our last venture there we had the pleasure of one particular cheeky chimpanzee, Tubman, throwing handfuls of mud and, I suspect, excrement at us whilst manically screaming. Video footage is available and will be added at some point in the future. Having gone to such lengths to make a lasting impression, it seemed only right that Tubman be rewarded. Accordingly he has now been adopted (in the sponsored sense; no social services involvement) for a year by ConfusedApe’s family.

Ugandan Humanist Schools

Whilst relatively well administered from the top, the Ugandan education system is overstretched, underfunded and riddled with imaginable compromise. The introduction of fee-free Universal Primary Eduction at the end of the last century contributed significantly to an overwhelming increase in the number of children attending primary schools, from 2.2 million in 1986 to 6.6 million in 1999.[2] Whilst this is unquestionably a significant improvement versus the status quo ante, most children depart the education system upon graduation from primary school, their parents or other family (~2 million children are orphaned by HIV/AIDs) unable to afford the necessary fees for the continuation of their education. According to the most recent figures available from UNICEF, over 80% of primary school age Ugandan children now attend a primary school, but less than 20% of their secondary school-aged counterparts have made the transition.[3] The problem is particularly pronouced in poorer rural areas. For those few children who are ‘fortunate’ enough to attend secondary schools, they are often segregated on the basis of religious belief, potentially fuelling inter-religious tension and certainly doing nothing towards an integrated society.

Pupils at the Mustard Seed SchoolWith all of this in mind, we’ve funded a scholarship at one of three schools supported by the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. The schools make an enormous difference not only to the education and prospects of their pupils, but also to their health (previous donations have funded sources of clean water and facilities for the preparation of much needed wholesome meals) and the well-being and self-sustainability of the wider community, with locals offered employment in teaching, administrative and construction work. All administrative costs, including trips to visit the schools, are covered by the charity’s trustees, so 100% of any money donated gets to those who need it.

“The Pope”

At these times of year we come to expect old men wearing ridiculous clothing and holding even more ridiculous views to be inexplicably paid attention to by the news media. Sure enough, the Cardinal formally known as Joseph was given precious news programming time to spout the patently obvious, the wholly irrelevant, and the batshit insane, all whilst maintaining a level of condescension that’s difficult to attain without believing the guff you’re spouting is infallible by virtue of your party hat and costume.

Joseph Ratzinger, Covered in Gold, Tells Others to Pray for the Poor and NeedyAccording to the BBC (and thanks to Josh for sending this article over), Ratzinger requested that we all “see through the superficial glitter of this season and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem”. I just about managed not to giggle at a senior Catholic clergyman demanding that we ‘discover’ a small vulnerable child and then felt immediately guilty, not out of any respect for this charlatan or his empire but because its farcical catalogue of failure and demonstrable complicity with regards the cover-up of child rape is only a source of humour because the alternative is to cry. I digress.

The reason that this man and his organisation should be held in contempt (child abuse, homophobia, proliferation of HIV infection, etc. aside) is summed up quite well later in the article: “Wearing cream and gold vestments, the Pope…also prayed for those who would spend this Christmas in poverty and suffering.”[4] You could not make it up.

One day people will hopefully look back in bewilderment as to why anyone paid any attention to this cruel, callous hypocrite and his misogynistic, homophobic, death cult, the cause and maintainer of so much needless suffering and misery for the most vulnerable of our kin. In the meantime, a big fuck you to Joseph Ratzinger and a very happy Christmas (or Xmas, as you please) to everyone else.

Take care,

ConfusedApe x

Sources:

[1] http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/230945#eid14045485

[2] http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/subjindx/142educ4.htm

[3] http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/uganda_statistics.html

[4] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16328318

Surprising (Absence of) Response to the Nigerian Anti-Gay Bill

Background

Three weeks ago the Nigerian Senate passed, and broadened the scope of, the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2011. The motivations, contents and consequences of the bill are discussed elsewhere. In summary though, this legislation, which still requires approval by the lower house and President, will worsen an already bleak situation for gay Nigerians by prescribing imprisonment not only for those found guilty of entering into a same-sex marriage, but so too those accused of same-sex public displays of affection. Friends, families and associates of the accused are also liable to be imprisoned, whilst any groups suspected of having a gay rights agenda will be banned.

It is immediately obvious that oppressed gay Nigerians will not be the only victims of this legislation, but too political opponents from whom the government would prefer national and international audiences do not hear. It seems quite likely that an accusation, or even generated suspicion, of homosexuality would suffice in the swift removal and silencing of individuals and groups who fail to cooperate with those in power.

Action

In response to the Bill’s progression, I decided to write to the elected politicians for whom I am a constituent, asking that they take any diplomatic measures available to halt its ascension into law. Letters went sent to my local Member of Parliament, seven Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and twelve London Assembly Members (AMs). The letters sent varied only in the introduction paragraphs, in which reference was made to the commitments to sexuality equality made by their respective party leaders, where applicable. Below is an example sent to my MP, Theresa Villiers:

Dear Theresa Villiers,

I was dismayed and appalled to learn that Nigeria’s new anti-gay Bill
has just passed its First Reading in the House of Representatives after
being approved by the Senate a week ago. Considering the importance
that David Cameron has placed on tackling sexuality discrimination and
inequality, I hope that you too will take interest and action against
this alarming development in a Commonwealth member state.

Under the legislation same-sex marriage and civil unions are to be
banned, with 14 year prison sentences for participants and 10 years for
helpers and witnesses. Worse still, gay advocacy groups and even
same-sex public affection will banned. Any displays of affection
between members of the same sex could be punished with 10 year prison
sentences. This sweeping criminalisation contravenes both Article 42 of
the Nigerian constitution, which bans discrimination, and the African
Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Articles 2 and 3), which Nigeria
has signed and pledged to uphold.

Such discriminatory, repressive and inhumane legislation cannot be
allowed to enter the Nigerian statute books without unequivocal vocal
condemnation and challenge. I implore that you take whatever action
possible, at the very least by registering your opposition with the
Nigerian High Commissioner, to pressurise the Nigerian government to
halt their journey down this dreadful path. This is now an urgent
matter to which your prompt intervention is desperately needed.

Yours sincerely,

ConfusedApe {Name removed}

Response

It has been just over two weeks since those letters were sent and I would like to briefly share with you the responses I have received thus far. In terms of party allegiance, those contacted breakdown as follows: 8 x Conservative, 4 x Labour, 4 x Liberal Democrat, 3 x Green and 1 x Independent (formally BNP). Ignoring automatic receipt emails, eight politicians responded. Unsurprisingly, three were Green Party politicians who were “extremely concerned”, “fully shared [my] sense of outrage” and who have all now made representations to the Nigerian High Commissioner. One, the Green MEP Jean Lambert, has also written about the issue on her website. Also not too surprising was the lack of response from the formally BNP but now independent London AM, Richard Barnbrook. (That said, I do recall a scandal over a film directed by Mr Barnbrook, which was variously described as “Gay porn” and “Marxist”. Perhaps I should have been more expectant of his support.)

More surprising were the responses from members of the three largest parties. Of the five other respondents, four were Conservatives (although one simply suggested that I refer the matter elsewhere). My local Conservative MP expressed her concern and pledged to contact both the Nigerian High Commissioner and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whilst two Tory MEPs enacted procedures at the European Parliament on the issue. One of the Conservative MEPs also outlined her efforts in overturning the ban on homosexuality in northern Cyprus.

Only one of the four Liberal Democrats responded (although she did co-sign a letter from the European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and to the Heads of the European Commission delegations to Nigeria (and Cameroon), “asking that they put pressure on the relevant political authorities to stop the Nigerian bill from becoming law (and halt the number of arrests in Cameroon)).” The three LibDem London Assembly members, Mike Tuffrey AM, Dee Doocey AM and Caroline Pidgeon AM, all hid behind claimed limitations of remit, limitations which their Green Party counterparts seemed all too willing and able to ignore.

Most disappointing, as a party, however were Labour. Not a single one of their four politicians (two London Assembly Members and two MEPs) even bothered to acknowledge the letters, never mind pledge support or take any action.

It all seems rather topsy-turvy: the right coming out in support of human rights, liberals remaining rather muted and the (Labour) left struck decidedly dumb. Of course this ignores the commendable responses received from all contacted members of the undoubtedly Leftish Green Party and it is true that the sample size is far too small for us to draw any conclusions without resorting to unjustifiable extrapolation, but the results have been surprising nevertheless and will certainly contribute to my decisions at the ballet box next time around.