Tuesday, 30 June 2015

COMMENTARY: Putin and Social Morality

While it has been the case in legal history that the laws enacted by legislators and judgments rendered by senior courts have not always reflected changes in social attitudes, the recent decision of the American Supreme Court in legalising gay marriage does in one sense represent the culmination of a remarkable shift in public opinion on the matter.

In the United States, nationwide polls dating from the 1990s showed that only a minority of the population supported the idea of same-sex marriage. But the level of opposition has weakened to the extent that polls in 2015 show support running at about around 60%.

There is, of course, dissent.

Those identifying themselves as traditionally Christian in religious belief and conservative in social values only see this development as being anathema and evidence of further erosion of the key building blocks on which society has for long rested.

It is an issue which like those of abortion and homosexuality features high as a divisive area of contention in the culture wars which continually polarize American society.

The aforementioned, however, is merely background for another issue that interests me on a number of fronts; namely that of the place of post-Soviet Russia in the context of the contemporary circumstances of the West.

For instance, does Russia potentially present a major part of an alternative global economic framework as a counter balance to the Anglo-American domination of the international financial system? Again, does Russian military might provide a much needed counterweight to what is seen as the aggressive and malign  record of the United States-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation?  And does Russia provide an alternative to the secularized West in terms of the social mores that are promoted by the state? For it is the case that some see it as the defender of what is termed “traditional Christian values”; a irony given the many decades of criticism by American political and religious figures of the ‘godless’ system championed by the old Soviet Union.

It brings to mind comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech delivered in a state of the nation address back in December of 2013. “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” he asserted. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”

Russia and its leader have unquestionably been in the crosshairs of the mainstream Western media for considerable period of time now. One area of the criticism -some would argue demonization- has related to the Russian state’s handling of matters pertaining to the rights of gays and lesbians.

While the official Russian position is to view enactments in this area as merely promoting traditional notions of gender and the family unit, much of the Western media has viewed each development as retrogressive and inhumane.

On the matter of Putin and the Russian state’s promotion of what it terms Christian morality, one can offer the following sober assessment.

My feeling is that while a segment of the Russian population, particularly among the older generation, may be genuine in their embrace of traditional Christian faith, the re-institution and empowerment of the Russian Orthodox Church is really a self-conscious attempt aimed at fostering a post-Soviet Russian identity, promoting patriotism and encouraging pride in a Russian culture that is different but not 'subservient' to the global dominance of Western European culture.

Russia's population has for long been in steady decline. The abortion rate was very high during the Soviet era and men die early from the effects of alcoholism. What better way to boost the birth rate of the country than by encouraging procreation within the traditional trappings of marriage?

It would present a near impossible task to measure what may be perceived as a ‘moral index’ comparing Russia with the United States or Western Europe as a whole. But if one measurement pertains, say, to that of abortion as a social ‘evil’, then Russia lags behind the ‘decadent’ West. A 2010 report by the United Nations titled “World Abortion Policies” found the rate of abortion in Russia to be the highest of any country with recorded data on such operations.

Russia of course continues to be plagued by the pervasive influence of gangsters at all levels of society, and any assessment of its purported leadership of nations wishing to revert to a more virtuous stance on the range of ills facing modern society would be evidence of a Kremlin-led crusade against corruption.

Even Putin’s achievement in neutralising the power of a number of oligarchs who arose in the circumstances of the chaotic transition from the Soviet to laissez faire economic order must be approached with caution, for it is the case that he has not rid Russia of the bulk of oligarchs or seized their ill-gotten wealth since his conditions were that they could keep their wealth so long as they did not sponsor any political challenges against him.

It brings to mind another trade off Putin has made with the resurgent Christian Orthodox Church. The photographs of the grand living circumstances of higher echelon priests have received media attention. The argument may of course be that they deserve to be given some 'pomp' as a symbol of their status vis-a-vis the state and society.

But there is a difference between a living standard that is appropriate to an official office and one that is ostentatious, which of course Jesus Christ himself taught against. The austere lifestyle promoted by Christ is not reflected in the lifestyle of the head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill,  who has access to expensive dachas and an air jet; who enjoys luxury holidays in the Swiss Alps and who hosts visitors who have included characters with decidedly unsavoury reputations. The photograph of the Patriarch disembarking from his official jet surrounded by a retinue of near mini-skirted uniformed female bodyguards is quite striking.

Comparisons with the lifestyle of the modern day oligarch would be in order.

To press home this point, it would be remiss not to mention a picture of the Russian Patriarch attired with a seriously expensive watch. The resulting howls of protest from certain quarters in Russia led to an atonement of sorts. Harking back somewhat to its Stalinist past, the picture was photo-shopped in order to remove the 'offending' watch. The only problem was that the retouch failed to eliminate the reflection of the Patriarch's 'bling' from the polished table.

The Vladimir Putin-ruled new Russia is often used as a mirror in contra-distinction to the West in which critics and supporters alternately seek to criticise or affirm the values and policies of one over the other.

But any sincere and objective analysis of this cannot hold the one side to be consistently superior to the other. There is much evidence, for instance, to back up the Russian claim of the West’s deliberate fomenting of trouble within Russia as well as on its borders which is followed by the construction of Russian aggression when it has in fact reacted in legitimate defence of its national interests. 

Putin deftly wrong-footed  those in the United States who wished to use the 2013 chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as an excuse to enable direct action by NATO against the forces of President Bashar Assad. 

Furthermore, the creation of an international bank with the assistance of China provides the potential for a credible alternative to those non-aligned nations who weary of the present international financial system and its capacity for creating a lasting subservience to the West as well as perpetuating a cycle of indebtedness.

However, one cannot use this as the basis of an overarching claim of the moral supremacy of Russia over the West any more than objections to Russia’s failure in many instances to reflect the rule of law can be used as the basis for a blanket disavowal for any of its internal and external policies.

But on the specifically raised issue of the efficacy of Russia’s promoting moral values, an old and wisely formulated adage applies:

"Physician, heal thyself".

(c) Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer.



Sunday, 31 May 2015

Books to Read

SS Colonel Jochen Peiper’s life and career in the Nazi era, his trial for war crimes and violent death in a French village in the 1970s; FDR’s role in America’s transition from Isolationism to a war footing and the Geoffrey Morton-Avraham Stern battle of wills in the Holy Land all present an appetising brew of reading as summer approaches.

When has the corpus of what is known as history which grows incrementally from what for a period of time is considered the present and contemporary ever known of an era of political and social pacification?

War and terror continue to be used as instruments pursuant to the creation of new state borders and the engineering of social transformation.

As the subject matter of these books show, the creation of the League of Nations in the early 1920s failed in the ambitious aim of ‘abolishing war’ for all times. And as recent events in the Ukraine and the Middle East demonstrate, the Fukuyamian idea of the ‘End of History’ continues to elude human civilization.

In the Ukraine, Bandera worshipping groups of the far Right facilitated the overthrow of a democratically elected president, and in the subsequent civil strife between the Western and Eastern parts of the nation, militias modelled on the regiments that composed the Waffen-SS actively recruit Western Europeans to fight a ‘racial war’ in the East.

In the Middle East, Wahabbi extremists of the Sunni denomination under the banner of the Islamic State seek to create a puritan Muslim state at the expense of the secular modelled states of Syria and Iraq.

It is unlikely in the former case that the typically indoctrinated volunteer of the Ukrainian Azov Brigade would be unfamiliar with the life stories of Waffen-SS officers such as the Belgian Leon Degrelle and, of course, Joachim ‘Jochen’ Peiper who continues to be revered as a poster-boy for the brave and fanatically disposed SS-man.

Peiper has not only been the subject of biographers of the Second World War, his craft as a practitioner of tank warfare and abilities as a leader of men has been the subject for researchers in military colleges.

Some years ago, I discovered a paper written by a Dutch military officer studying at the US Army Command and General Staff College. Entitled The Beginning of the End: The Leadership of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Jochen Peiper, the thesis sought to appraise the capabilities of Peiper as a military leader notwithstanding the notoriety garnered by the Waffen-SS during the Second World War and the designation of the SS as a whole as a criminal organisation.

Peiper is perhaps best known as one of the main defendants at a military commission which tried him for responsibility of the massacre of captured and unarmed US troops at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. Peiper claimed that he gave no orders to shoot the Americans and was unaware of any general orders not to take prisoners alive.

However, as the leader of the panzer group from which the killers were attached, he accepted ultimate responsibility and was condemned to death; a verdict which was later commuted to life imprisonment.

He was later released but would continue to be threatened by those who wished to deprive him of earning a livelihood and those who wished for him to be tried for war crimes.

His past caught up with him in a small French village when his identity was discovered and he was murdered by suspected French communists when his home was firebombed in the early hours.

With over 400 pages representing years of research, Danny S. Parker’s Hitler’s Warrior: The Life and Wars of SS Colonel Jochen Peiper promises new insights into Peiper’s time as Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s adjutant, his battles in ferocious encounters on the Eastern and Western fronts, his trial and his post-war life.

The subject of Patrick Bishop’s The Reckoning has as its backdrop, the dream of political Zionists to carve out a Jewish homeland in the United Nations mandate territory of Palestine which was governed by Britain.

Among the most virulent of opponents of British rule was Avraham Stern, a Jewish √©migr√© from Poland who was a poet, philosopher and exponent of political terrorism.  Stern was a militant disciple of Ze’ev Jabotinsky whose extremism made him break ranks with the Zionist leadership who suspended their collective agitation against British rule in order to support the pressing matter of defeating Hitler’s Germany.

While members of the Palmach, the Haganah and even the Irgun joined the war effort, Stern stubbornly held out for an alliance first with Mussolini’s Italy and then the German Reich in the quest for the creation of a Jewish state.

His efforts were rebuffed.

The book centres on the contest of wills between Stern and British policeman Geoffrey Morton who finally cornered Stern in an apartment in Tel Aviv. Stern’s subsequent shooting by the Englishman was and continues to be shrouded in controversy. Was it an act of self-defence? Or was it a cold blooded murder?

Today the killings continue in the Middle East with the focus being on the attempts to create an Islamic State by fanatics who are sustained by huge reserves of resources and an effectively managed propaganda arm which emphasises mercilessness toward captured enemies via means that have included high production value videos featuring staged beheadings.

For those who refute any analogy between the barbarity of the Islamic State and the tactics employed by the Zionist terror groups such as the Irgun and the Stern Gang, one only has to wonder what distinctions can be made between the beheading of captured Syrian soldiers defending their land from an invasion of largely foreign sponsored mercenaries and the hanging of British policemen by wire in booby-trapped orange groves?

For while there is approval –secret or publically expressed- of IS murders of Shias, Christians and recalcitrant Sunnis by some Muslim residents in the Western nations, the sentiments of some Zionists in the West at the time of violent anti-British agitation in Palestine such as that expressed by Hollywood playwright Ben Hecht,  bears reminding.

“Every time a British soldier dies”, Hecht proclaimed, “the Jews of America make a little holiday in their hearts.”

Terrorism as the historian Niall Ferguson has argued is the original sin of the Middle East.

And while Stern was condemned for criminal acts of robbery and gruesome murders, Bishop’s book appears to promote the view that his killing created a martyr who proved more influential in death than he did as a marginalised figure in life in achieving the creation of a Jewish state.

Nicholas Wapshott’s book, The Sphinx chronicles and analyses President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policy of persuading America to break with its isolationist position into one of intervening in a violent European conflict.

The subtitle of his effort, ‘Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists and the Road to World War II’ gives an indication of Roosevelt’s reputation as a wily political operator who was schemer par excellence.

A perusal of the jacket cover and the preface provides examples of some of the influential personalities he was up against.

Father Coughlin, the firebrand Roman Catholic priest who initially supported Roosevelt’s New Deal policies but who later turned against FDR was one who was famously neutralised by the machinations of the president who obtained the help of the Vatican to silence a priest who boasted of a large radio audience in the 1930s.

Another figure was Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of the Kennedy family, who as ambassador to the Court of St. James earned the reputation as a supporter of the ‘appeasement’ of Nazi Germany. Those familiar with some of the numerous biographies of his sons as well as personal biographies such as Ronald Kessler’s The Sins of the Father, will know of how FDR manipulated a manipulator into diffusing the threat Kennedy posed to his leadership of the Democratic Party with appointments in Wall Street and his role as an ambassador.

The other prominent figure from the isolationist camp covered by Wapshott is the famous aviator, Charles A. Lindburgh.

All three it should be noted garnered a reputation for anti-Semitism for publically, declaring that intervening in a European war served “Jewish interests” and not that of America.

They all shape up to be fascinating reads.

Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Hitler’s Warrior: The Life and Wars of SS Colonel Jochen Peiper by Danny S. Parker is published by Da Capo Press.

The Reckoning: How the Killing of One Man Changed the Fate of the Promised Land by Patrick Bishop is published by William Collins.

The Sphinx: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists, and the Road to World War II by Nicholas Wapshott is published by Norton Books.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Boxing Etching by Joseph W. Golinkin

At Chicago – Louis and Braddock” 1938 (LITHOGRAPH: Joseph W. Golinkin)

The moment when Joe Louis downs James J. Braddock, ‘The Cinderella Man’, in the seventh round to win the world’s heavyweight championship at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The date was June 272nd 1937. Louis, whose moniker was ‘The Brown Bomber’, became the first black world heavyweight champion since Jack Johnson. He would go on to rule the division for a period of almost 12 years and in the process make a record-setting amount of defences.

The artist, Joseph Golinkin was for want of a better term a ‘renaissance man” who excelled in art, sailoring –he rose to the rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy and- and environmental work.


TEXT: Adeyinka Makinde (2015)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Mea Culpa Demand


 
Back in July 2014, I sent the following to an Igbo-Biafran nationalist who made use of quotes mis-attributed to me in a self-published book.

The letter speaks for itself.

I really do not want to get ad hominem in the quintessentially bombastically chest-pumping and self-righteous manner that is typical of the discourse between those Nigerians who consider themselves as purveyors of intellectual knowledge and paragons of truth when in fact they are essentially ‘tribal men in suits’.

There really needs to be an elevation in the general level and quality of discourse which all too frequently degenerate into tribally motivated rancour.

This man Cajetan Iwunze should do the decent thing and correct his errors and issue a civilized apology.

July 2nd 2014

Dear Mr. Cajetan Iwunze,

Cease and Desist Request - Comments wrongly attributed to Adeyinka Makinde in your book

My attention was drawn to an excerpt of a book entitled ‘The Political Constraints on Nigerian Economic Development Since The (sic) Independence’.

You are identified as the author.

A view of the relevant section of the aforementioned book at ‘Google Books’ presents the following quotations attributed to ‘Adeyinka Makinde’ culled from an edition of the Nigerian Daily Sun newspaper published on 10th December of 2007 and other sources such as the Igbo Village Newsletter of 27th January 2011 and The Guardian of 19th July 2004:

-“Where did this (sic) people get off feeling superior to other people, when it is clear that they are not?”

-“The mental disorder where the individual has delusions but does not hallucinate. In delusional disorder, also known as paranoia, the individual believes what is not true as true … believes that he is superior to other people … Igbos have a delusional disorder ( a group can have paranoia, this is called follie adeu (sic))”

I would like to put it on the record that neither of the above words were written or spoken by me.

Any comments by me in relation to the Igbos and Jews were made in two sources:

1. A talk given by me at the Jewish Museum on October 22nd of 2007 entitled ‘Igbos: A Lost Tribe of Israel’
http://adeyinkamakinde.blogspot.co.uk/…/igbos-lost-tribe-of…

2. A reply to a rejoinder to my talk by Mr. Ozodi Osuji entitled ‘The Igbo and Jewry’
http://adeyinkamakinde.blogspot.co.uk/…/03/igbo-and-jewry.h…

Mr. Osuji’s responses to my talk, respectively entitled ‘Igbos are Africans not Jews’ and ‘Igbo and Jewry: Any Connection? – A response to Mr. Adeyinka Makinde’, were published at a website named ChatAfrik.com.

The original links of Mr. Osuji’s are no longer available but have been reproduced at various sites on the World Wide Web.

This appears to be a chronologically correct thread containing my original talk and the correspondence between Mr. Osuji and myself:
http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/…/the-igbo-a-lost-tribe-…/

At no point will you observe me using any of the quotations attributed to me in your book.

The second bulleted quote regarding delusional disorder are referenced to a Nigerian Guardian articled dated from July 2004. I had offered nothing on the subject of Igbos and Jews at this period in time.

So far as the other quote is concerned, I sent a letter to the editor of the Daily Sun stating that an article attributed to me was in fact written by Mr. Osuji and asked that this be corrected.

I received no reply.

I also issued a vigorous rebuttal to one Law Mefor who made a comment at ChatAfrik again attributing Mr. Osuji’s words to me.

This really is all down to rather sloppy research on the part of the Daily Sun, Law Mefor and now, as it turns out, you, Mr. Iwunze.

The expectation is that those who publish newspapers and those who term themselves writers ought to hold themselves to the highest standards of professional conduct including the exercising of due diligence during the research process as well as the correcting of published errors.

This, much to my regret, is a feature sadly lacking in this matter.

Therefore I would be grateful for you to do the following in future editions and/or print-on-demand batches of your book:

-Make the appropriate corrections to the relevant text and reference notes of your book which wrongly attribute certain quotations to me

-Provide a short note specifically indicating the misattribution of the quotations and a statement of apology.

If you have any queries about anything in this communication, I can be reached at adeyinkamakinde@aol.com

Yours sincerely,


Adeyinka Makinde

Monday, 5 January 2015

Adeyinka Makinde - Academic Profile Page


Biography

Adeyinka Makinde LL.B (Hons), of the Middle Temple, Barrister is the Module Leader for Criminal Law & Public Law on the Solicitors Exempting Degree. Prior to this, he delivered the Public Law option on the ILEX programme from 2002-2009.

He has authored two books on pugilists and has written numerous features on boxing and produced articles on international relations, history and culture. He has served as a programme consultant and provided expert commentary for BBC World Service Radio, China Radio International and the Voice of Russia.

He is among a group of scholars and journalists approached to contribute to the Cambridge Companion Series on the sport of boxing which is scheduled for publication in 2015.

His teaching specialism in constitutional law allied to long term interests respectively in international politics, political history, military history and the history of espionage has over the course of time germinated into a desire to develop a profile in the academic genre of ‘Intelligence and Security Studies.’ 

In May 2013 he was invited to present a paper at the biennial international conference on security issues held by the Centre for International Intelligence and Security Studies (CIISS) under the auspices of the University of Aberystwyth. 

Adeyinka’s writings, encompassing books, essays and commentaries, have been cited by a host of researchers ranging from scholars to established writers for trade published books. These include a memoir by the world renowned literary figure Chinua Achebe and an activist advocating constitutional reform in Australia. The citations span books, academic journals, an academic textbook, as well as miscellaneous reference books.

He has reviewed articles for journals including the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology.

He is an accomplished public speaker who has delivered talks before audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom. These have included GMB Trade Union-sponsored Black History Month workshops covering sports and the American Civil Rights Movement, a lecture given under the auspices of London's Jewish Museum concerning the alleged Hebraic origins of the Igbo people of Nigeria and a book launch at the Jersey City Main Library in which he presented the findings of his research into the officially unsolved 1970 murder of a Mafia-connected boxer.

Teaching

LL.B Solicitors Exempting Degree Criminal Law
LL.B Solicitors Exempting Degree Public Law
LL.B Criminal Law
LL.B Public Law
GDL Public Law
ILEX Public Law

Research

Intelligence & Security
The History and Culture of the sport of Boxing

Publications

Books:


JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula (iUniverse) 2010
ISBN: 978-1-45020-637-2, 274pp including b/w photographs

DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal (Word Association) 2005
ISBN: 978-1-59571-042-0, 312pp including b/w photographs

Journal Articles:

"Boxing: Rousing the Nigerian Giant.” African Renaissance, Vol 2, No 2 March/April (2005) 68-73.

Book Reviews:

"Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire.”  Covert Policing, Terrorism and Intelligence Law Review, Vol 2, Issue 2 (2014)159-161.

Textbook Contributions:

"Pug of Ages: Weep for Me.” Essay reproduced in Writing the Synthesis Essay, edited by John Brassil et al. New Jersey: Peoples Education, 2008 13-15.

Encyclopaedia Articles:

"The Africans: Boxing and Africa" in The Cambridge Companion to Boxing, edited by Gerald Early, New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2015.

"Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer” in The Cambridge Companion to Boxing, edited by Gerald Early, New York: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2015.

Conference Papers:

"Intelligence and Accountability: From the Cold War to the War on Terror.” Presented at ‘The Past, Present and Future of Intelligence’ on 25th May 2013 at Aberystwyth University under the auspices of the Centre for Intelligence and International Security Studies (CIISS).

Citations

Books

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka. DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal. Word Association, May 2005.

Cited in the following books:

Oliver, Brian. The Commonwealth Games: Extraordinary Stories Behind the Medals. Bloomsbury Sport, May 2014.

Torromeo, Dario; Esposito, Franco. I Pugni Degli Eroi .Absolutely Free Editore, Dec 2013.

Achebe, Chinua. There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra. Allen Lane, Sept. 2012.

Hall, Karen L. Game Plan: A Social History of Sport in Alberta. University of Alberta Press, Jun 2012.

Hudson, David L. Boxing in America: An Autopsy. Praeger Publishers, Jun 2012.

Redner, Charles. Down But Never Out. Open Books Press, Feb. 2010.

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka.  Democracy, Terrorism and the Secret State: From the Era of Gladio to the War on Terror. GlobalResearch.ca, Jan. 2013.

Cited in the following book:

Paterson, Graham L. A Constitutional Journey. Xlibris, Feb. 2013.

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka. The Politics of Anthony Mundine. Eastsideboxing.com, Oct.  2001.

Cited in the following book:

Sarra, Chris. Strong and Smart – Towards a Pedagogy for Emancipation: Education for First Peoples (Part of New Studies in Critical Realism and Education Series). Routledge, Aug. 2012.

Academic Journals

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka. DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal. Word Association, May 2005.

Cited in the following journal:

Gennaro, Michael. “The Whole Place is in Pandemonium: Dick Tiger versus Gene Fullmer III and the Consumption of Boxing in Nigeria.” The International Journal of the History of Sport, Volume 30, Issue 16 2013.

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka.  Retreading Hagler Versus Hearns. Eastsideboxing.com, Apr. 2002.

Cited in the following journal:

Ehrlichman, Brad. “In This Corner: An Analysis of Federal Boxing Legislation.” Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts. May 2011.

Academic Textbooks

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka. Pug of Ages: Weep For Me. Cyberboxingzone.com, Oct. 2002.

Reproduced in the following textbook:

Brassil, John et al. Writing the Synthesis Essay. Peoples Education, 2007.

Reference Books

Work cited:

Makinde, Adeyinka. DICK TIGER: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal. Word Association, May  2005.

Cited in the following books:

The Editors of Salem Press. Great Athletes – Boxing & Soccer (Volume 1 of a 12-Volume set). Salem Press, Sept. 2014.

Grasso, John. Historical Dictionary of Boxing. Scarecrow Press, Jan. 2014.

Akyeampong, Emmanuel K.; Gates, Henry Louis (Editors). Dictionary of African Biography. Oxford University Press, Dec. 2011.

Gates, Henry Louis; Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks (Editors). The African-American National Biography. Oxford University Press. Mar. 2008.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Adeyinka Makinde - My Top Five Blogs for 2014

PHOTO: John Frederick Peto

 

1. A World War in the Offing: Why US-NATO Geo-Political Policy May Lead to a Third World War (Sept. 2014)


2. The Ukraine Crisis: The Case for Russia (March 2014)


3. The Crisis of ISIS – A Debacle of a Great Game in Iraq and Syria (August 2014)


4. Citations of the Writings of Adeyinka Makinde (November 2014)


5. Neighborhood Bully: Deconstructing the Lyrics of Bob Dylan in the light of the Gaza Crisis (July 2014)


(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2014)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Elvis: Ruminations on Elvis Presley and Black America

Elvis

The thing about Elvis is that any misgivings about him as a man who 'copied' or 'stole' Afro-American music is that it has to be understood that he came from the dominant culture who would only accept one who was of them as number one.

There was an aesthetic aspect as well because there were talented white artists who could not be promoted in the manner that he was because they did not have the 'looks'.

He definitely adapted a great degree of his overall style and packaging: singing, moving (apart from the later karate stuff) and clothing from observing and imbibing the cultural impulse of black America.

One huge strike against him was his Southern roots and the whole negativity of the black experience in that part of the United States under the respective regimes of slave society and later, ‘Jim Crow’ Apartheid.

There were always all sorts of rumours about his racial attitudes. “I could never kiss a Mexican (or black) woman”, “Niggers are only good for shining my shoes” and so on. I don’t think they were definitively corroborated.

He was however constricted by the racial mores of the time. His friend Sammy Davis Jr said Elvis told him that he wished they could both make a movie together but that his audience base (meaning whites and particularly those from below the ‘Mason-Dixon Line’) would not accept it.

Did this demonstrate a certain spinelessness and lack of moral courage on his part? Or was he just being pragmatic?

There are those who feel that he could and should have done more to break down racial barriers. Others feel that just the way he expressed his music and his giving credit to those blacks who had influenced him was enough.

He fell in to self parody and despite his amazing ‘comeback’ show on TV and a revival of sorts in Las Vegas, the case can be forcefully made that his best and most essential work was in the two or three year period that followed the inception of his career.

He stands accused of wasting his talent on terrible Hollywood movies, wearing tacky stage attires, and not attempting to write his own songs and push the boundaries of his creativity in the age of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and later of the introspective singer-songwriters.

Many of his fans are just content that he was what he was regardless. A guy who could sing a many styles with great aplomb and who paved the way for countless black and white musicians.

That may be cold comfort for the militant black school of thought that postulates him as a "straight-up racist" who was “simple and plain”. His pelvic gyrations; a pale imitation of more ‘robustly’ physical and sensual movements by a multitude of earlier R & B performers mark him down for ridicule and even disdain:

“If Elvis is King, who is James Brown; God?” wrote Amiri Baraka.

But it should not be forgotten that Elvis took risks by being a pioneer in his adaptation of black culture. He received huge stick for perpetuating what some of his Southern brethren were referring to as “degenerate nigger music” and the threat it posed to the social order by the fact that blacks and whites were digging his music whether listening to it on the radio or live at (segregated) venues.

He was odd in many ways. Much has been made of the way in which he conducted his private life. But this had a lot to do with his living within a kind of fame that few humans could comprehend. So many people often remember how well mannered and humble he appeared to be in his interactions.

He may not be ‘The King’ to all, and the devotion shown to him by many of his fans may appear over the top and devoid of rationality, but his impact on the course of music history cannot be denied and should not be denigrated.

(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2014)


Adeyinka Makinde is a London-based writer.