Nigeria days on TNB

I've recently posted several Nigeria themed articles on The Nervous Breakdown.  I started writing up a series of scatter-shot observations, 50 in all, on the occasion of the country's golden jubilee.  The first part of "50 Observations on 50 years of Nigeria," items 1 - 16,  touches on our staple food, fufu, military coups, parenting, machetes, the national anthem, Niger delta pollution, malaria, rainy season, "Ghana must go," Fela, and much more.  The second part runs from items 17 - 32, touching on the principal languages, street hawkers, economics, religion, colonization, okada, Dele Giwa, clothing, ogogoro, and includes a brief La Divina Commedia parody aimed against the scum who light gas flares.  The third part runs from items 33 - 50 and touches on Pidgin, Nollywood, masquerades, jaas, football, literature, the civil war and the cold war, serious oyinbo grammar, and of course partying.

My own interactions with the land of my birth have been complex, with so much time spent abroad, but so many crucial, formative years spent in Nigeria.  I admit there is so much of me that reflects the time spent in America, and I do have a significant bent towards Britain, but the Igbo and overall Nigerian consciousness within me is mountainous.  It's my utter foundation.  I think I speak about Nigeria with an unflinching eye to my experiences of its glories, its tragedies, and its absurdities, but regardless of context and mood, my hope and faith in Nigeria is unquenchable, and I hope that's plain in my series.


As a sort of epilogue to the series, I posted an interview with award winning Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor, whose African themed fantasy and science fiction stories have always delighted me.  She was a good college friend of Chimezie, whom I met a few times while visiting my brother in University.  He brought my attention to Zahrah the Windseeker, and I was hooked, and I'm hardly alone in that.  Her work has been hoovering up prizes and acclaim, and she is incubating some very exciting projects in multiple media.  In the interview I ask her primarily about the "bubbling calabash of language stew" in her latest novel "Who Fears Death."

I also include a couple of gorgeous illustrations related to Nnedi's work, including the cover of Zahrah, and a pair of drawings by Ross Campbell, to whose work I was just introduced while preparing this interview.  I'm really struck by Campbell's skill and feeling drawing ethnically diverse characters.

It has been a busy period following the birth of my daughter, with many exciting developments at work, a scare for my father's health (to which Chimezie has alluded), a more hectic than expected holiday period, and much more.  I'm always grounded by my family, but it was very nice to be further grounded by so much contemplation of the past, present and future of that paragon of complexity, my native Nigeria.

"Bolder Barefoot" Audio

Uche's bolder bare FootI'm featured on the TNB podcast this week, reading my piece "Bolder Barefoot."  The production is by Aaron M. Snyder and Megan DiLullo, and I don't know what I did to deserve such awesomeness.  They've made me sound very nice, if I do say so myself, and they've also injected a lot of character into the proceedings.  It's also up on iTunes.  If you're not subscribed to TNB on iTunes, you should be.


To belong? What's it mean? Is it creature of tense? Is it active or passive?
Is it cold set in bone, magma oozing to plate ocean floor, or explosive
Crackling reaction, plume clearing to flesh jacked into the massive?


Hussein's family had fled Iran in retreat from the Ayatollah muhajideen
But became the yard's only-good-one-is-a-dead-one once the hostage crisis went down.
Hussein had seen worse than punk clique kids.  He was like: "Bring that shit on!"


When your eyes learn to look beyond state, to peers beyond infinity,
Okigbo, Villon, Pound, Plath, sometimes you forget that misfit can grow to vanity.
I've come to grow into readiness for company, the scent and crinkled space of shared humanity.

My recital of my poem, "Growing up Misfit", from the Spring, 2010 TNB Literary Experience in New York, is the lead piece in this week's TNB Podcast Feature on The Nervous breakdown.

"TNBLE - Episode 7, Part I.  The Nervous Breakdown's Literary Experience, recorded live in New York City at Happy Ending Lounge on 26 March 2010. Featuring Uche Ogbuji, Daniel Roberts, Tod Goldberg and Kristen Elde. Produced by Aaron M. Snyder and Megan DiLullo. Music by Goodbye Champion."

I've revised the poem a bit since that recording, but it's nice to hear the audio so crisp.  Major props to Kimberly and her peeps at the event, and Megan and her peeps for the post-event production.  I don't think I've ever heard myself so clearly.


I say people, people come on and check it now
You see the mic in my hand now watch me wreck it now
What is a party if the crew ain't there?
(What's your name, kid?) Call me Guru; that's my man Premier
Now many attempts have been made to hold us back,
Slander the name and withhold facts.
But I'm the type of brother with much more game
I got a sure aim and if I find you're to blame,
You can bet you'll be exterminated, taken out, done.
It doesn't matter how many they'll go as easy as just one.
Bust one round in the air for this here
'Cause this year suckers are going nowhere,
'Cause my street style and intelligence level
Makes me much more than just an angry rebel.
I'm Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal
MCs that ain't equipped get flipped in my circle.
I'm aiming on raining on the bitch ass chumps
Cuz their rhymes don't flow and their beats don't pump;
And niggaz better know I've paid my dues and shit.
I'm 'bout to blow the fuck up because I refuse to quit.
I'm out to get the props that are rightfullly mine,
Yeah me and the crew think its about that time.
But on the DL you know that Gangstarr will conquer.
That's why you stare and point, and others cling on to
My Nautica, asking for a hook-up;
Well sorry but my schedule is all booked up.
Nobody put me on; I made it up the hard way;
Look out for my people but the suckers should parlay.
'Cause it's business kid, this ain't no free for all
You have to wait your turn, you must await your call.
So now, now it is my duty to
Eliminate and subtract all of the booty crews,
And suckers should vacate, before I get irate
And I'll kick your can from here to Japan
With force you can't withstand
'Cause I'm the motherfucking man.

—Guru's verse, Gang Starr - "I'm the Man"


When I heard yesterday morning that Guru had died, a sequence ran through my mind of classics rendered in that inimitable monotone.  "Just to get a Rep" and "Words I Manifest" were my introduction to Gang Starr and the group's charismatic MC.  I'm not one to dwell much on celebrity life milestones (though I do remark the excellent NY Times obit), not even in the tragic case of a quietus descended at young age. But it is certainly occasion to remember the music that kept me, my brothers, and my peers well entertained for a good while.  As you can see from the above verse, Guru never pushed the bounds of complexity too far.  His rap was mostly classic B-Boy swagger.  But classic B-Boy swagger is what drew so many of us to Hip-Hop in the first place, the rump-of-cold-war kids born of the first generation able to take full advantage of the global village, finding our way as far-flung misfits.  We didn't really know of any advantage to our polycultural dexterity, but we definitely understood the message of uncompromising personal expression, no matter how awful your personal ghetto.  The braggadocio was the gateway to something that became richer and more abstract as we brought that polycultural dexterity to bear, and one of the last pushers of that pure, gateway drug hit was the Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.


"Dwyck" was the anthem around when I arrived in the US as my family immigrated.  Daily Operation is probably my favorite album, with killer tracks such as "Take it Personal" and "Ex to the Next."  I also enjoyed a lot of Guru's creative collabos in the Jazzmatazz series, and being a Soul junkie, I definitely dug the likes of "Keep your Worries" with Angie Stone and "Plenty" with Erykah Badu.

Guru always surrounded himself with talent that complemented his skill and curiosity, and in a later verse to this Quotīdiē's track, for a cameo that straight flipped my wig (and those of many others), Guru introduced a young bridge from that B-Boy classic style to the emerging abstract/black-power style, Jeru the Damaja.

I'll tap your...jaw; you probably heard it before
step to the Bedlamite I'll prove my word is law
Drugstore worth more, dope rhyme vendor,
Not partial to beef, the chief ambassador
Niggaz get mad 'cause they can't score
Like a wild west flick they wish to shoot up my door
But I incite to riot, don't even try it
Bust up chumps so crab kids keep quiet
Like I said before, I tap jaws, snatch whores
Kill suckers in wars, vic a style you said was yours.
Money grip want to flip, but you're fish;
House the mic like your hooker and did tricks on the bitch
Dirty Rotten Scoundrel and my name is Jeru
Utilizing my tools in '92
MCs step up in mobs to defeat us
When we rock knots and got props like Norm Peterson;
Lot's of friends, lot's of fun, lots of beers
Got the skills, kreeno, so I always get cheers.
Troop on like a trooper, no tears for fears.
I'm a get mines 'cause the crew will get theirs.
Cut you up like Edward Scissorhands
you know the program I'm the motherfucking man.

—Jeru the Damaja's verse, Gang Starr - "I'm the Man"

By the way, when a friend confirmed for me that Jeru had thrown in a word of New Testament Greek ("κρίνω" or "krino"), I thought it helped confirm him as the motherfucking man, but if so, that became the case under the mentoring of Guru, and the same can be said of a fair number who now make up hip-hop royalty.

Unfortunately, mad drama has started immediately in the wake of Guru's death.  All the reports are dominated by an unseemly spat between different factions from the man's life.  Despite that ugliness and indignity, no drama can take away the essence of Guru's legacy, which lives its part in my collection of three Gang Starr CDs and all four Jazzmataz joints.  The hard monotone in which the Words Manifest.

The Prestige-digitation

No spoilers. I watched The Prestige yesterday. Despite the hypesters flogging The Grudge 2 and Saw 3, I'll say that the best horror movie likely to come out this year is this tale of fevered magicians. I haven't had nightmares about a movie since my J-Horror month, but The Prestige made for a wigged out night. I'm pretty sure the filmmakers entirely knew what they were doing, too. Henry James has nothing like any of the "yet another turn of the screw" that's scattered through the story of these characters.

And out-doing The Turn of the Screw is exactly what the movie is about. It's a modern gothic. I used to have fun reading the Victorian macabre, largely to marvel at a completely alien category of horrors. Modern Hollywood ghosts are go about chopping random people into bits (off-hand example: 13 Ghosts) That's never really done much for me. My fun few weeks with the J-Horror classics were all about the menace of physical harm. I once mentioned the interesting contrast between J-Horror and traditional Japanese myth, in which most of the spectral plane was concerned with the menace of conscience rather than physical harm (I should mention that after writing that I did encounter a J-Horror piece: The Eye 2 that more closely followed the traditional Japanese role of ghosts). There's a large tradition of the same in the Western tradition as well, but especially in Victorian times, and in the fullness of Victorian mores, the greatest menace of the supernatural is in the moral corruption of the living (off-hand example: the succubus). Henry James's great "turn of the screw" was that evil enough specters could even corrupt the most innocent of creations. Right. I watch kids shoot up their classrooms on the news every now and then, so I suppose I'm not best conditioned to react to all that.

So if to some extent we moderns are jaded to traditional horrors, what's left to really perform the combination minatory and titillating task of horror? Nothing less than the fundamentals of story-telling. Plot, setting, character, combined with the fundamentals of drama: catalyzing performance. A good Lady MacBeth can give you the heebie jeebies, even though you know that all her result will be run-of-the-mill massacre. Shakespeare has the plot, setting and character on lock. All he needs for midwife of terror is a gifted actress. The terror is not in the ghosts and witches Shakespeare uses as agents and signals, but rather in how you can recognize in his people the extremities of your own tendencies.

There are no ghosts, witches or anything quite like that at all in The Prestige, but the writers got the plot, setting and character finely tuned. They found one perfunctory main performance in Jackman, one serviceable one in Bale, and happily a host of gob-smacking brilliant supporting performances across the board. Seriously, it's as if the casting folks said "OK we got Jackman and Bale, which shouldn't be awful, but whom are we going to plug in to truly electrify this spectacle?" (Electrify. Ha ha. Get it? electrify... oh, you haven't watched the film yet? Never mind, then...) The performance of the two leads prevents the film from being a masterpiece. True obsession carries with it a menace of its own, and the leads are not quite capable of marshaling that menace. They conduct themselves with the smirking attitude of schoolboys pranking each other. Maybe the director asked them to act cavalier. That's a legitimate way of intensifying malevolence, but it does not suit these characters, or at least the actors haven't pulled it off. The atmosphere is saved by those superb supporting actors, some of whom you know and some you probably don't. These created in their own reflection of the main characters, and in their own smaller crimes the Lady MacBeth effect that Jackman and Bale couldn't quite themselves manage.

The idea of the plot is to take turns shocking you with the perversity of each of the magicians, and worse yet to have you sometimes urging one of them on because you are so appalled at something the other had done, and then reversing that bias. In the end, I was not readily able to choose which set of consequenses turned out most intolerable. The film is clearly set up to inform you who is the worst villain, but I'm not sure I buy that part of the package. Part of my reasoning lies in three sentences of accusation Sarah directs at her magician husband (I doubt I have the wording just right).

You say you love me but some days you don't mean it. That makes it more precious the days that you do.
Today you really do love me. That makes it more unbearable the days that you don't.
I just want the truth from you. No tricks. No Lies. And no secrets.

The effect of these words at the times they are spoken, and the rebounded effect of the words as the plot twists unfold quite haunts me. The film sets this up to provide a mini-climax of a shock at the end, to warm you up for the supposedly greater shock to follow. Again I think in terms of their impact I might have had the revelations the other way round. I can readily see enough of myself as Sarah's accused even though her man's sins are far worse than the usual husband's portion of occasionally tuning his wife out or forgetting an anniversary date. The film weaves in the War of the Currents between Edison's invention and Tesla's as another backdrop of obsession and rivalry. It exaggerates that historical chapter in some ways and understates it in others, but the effect for anyone who can admire the genius of those two inventors is to underscore the accusation of the film. We all think we're just good people working our way through life, and the film gives you the inkling of the important question: "Are you really?" That's the sort of reflection that you don't often get from a film these days, which is why despite its flaws I highly recommend The Prestige.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Urlacher! Urlacher! Urlacher!

I usually talk the real football on Copia, because it's my favorite sport, but I also like the other football, and I just finished watching one of the most amazing NFL games I've ever seen. The much-hyped Chicago Bears versus the much-maligned Arizona Cardinals. I really like the Bears, even though I have more ties to Green Bay Packer country (I did spend a year working in Chicago and a couple in Peoria). I like them because of the character they show on defense even though they haven't had a useful offense since their SuperBowl glory days in the mid-80s. No one embodies that character like Brian Urlacher. I remember a few years ago seeing an interview with Ray Lewis, another great defender, preparing to play Chicago. Lewis probably knew his Baltimore Ravens would cream the Bears, who were really struggling then, but he still pointed at Urlacher on the scouting video and said "There goes a future hall-of-famer. Stay strong, baby".

That's the sort of respect Urlacher earns with plays such as his stripping, out of nowhere, of Edgerrin James, a pro-bowl running back, when it seemed his team had no hope of beating the Cardinals, up by two scores. His teammate picked up the fumble and ran it in for one score, and after the Chicago defense went right back on the field to force a three-and-out, their special teams made up the other score with an electrifying punt return by Devin Hester. I was jumping up and down as if Arsenal had scored on Man U. Arizona had gone into half-time ahead of the Bears 20-0, and their defense and offense both looked rampant. The Bears' defense seemed to wait until almost the fourth quarter before showing up for the game, and it's just astonishing that one quarter is all they needed to completely reverse the field on the Cardinals for the win. It's hard to say a team that's capable of doing that is not a SuperBowl favorite this year. It's a well-dusted analysts saying in World Football: the greatest teams are those who find ways to win when they're playing poorly. That applies to any sport, as the Bears proved again today.

I will say that one thing Dick Butkus has over his prodigious successors us that his name is a lot easier to chant than "Singletary" or "Urlacher".

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Buzzword bullying

I've lately noticed a tendency of technical folks to use "buzzword" as somewhat of a reflex epithet. We all love nudge-nudge jokes at business folks' expense, playing buzzword bingo at a particularly stultifying presentation, and the like, but I sometimes think that the practice drifts unnecessarily into serious discourse as a cheap way to shut down an opposing point.

A term is a buzzword when its use does not convey any meaning, but is meant to lend a false weight to some claim. People usually think of words and phrases such as "synergy" and "push the envelope" as buzzwords. I have almost never seen these two examples used other than as buzzwords, but certainly any regular word can become a buzzword in particular context. Words such as "value", "quality", "enterprise", "success", "architecture", "metrics" and "middleware" have their important uses, and are also sometimes used as buzzwords. I'd always thought this was simple common sense, but I've come across recent instances where I've seen anyone using these words, even in obviously meaningful ways, dismissed with the "b" word.

Certainly some suspect words are more suspicious than others, and some words have the misfortune of being popular components of buzzword phrases. "value", "success" and "business" are definitely in this category, becoming "value added", "success factors" and "business benefit", with "business value" coming off as a beacon of buzz. This does not condemn even such suspicious words to the dustbin. It's all about context. Here are a couple of words I've seen that are perfectly legitimate, but that some people seem bent on eliminating from the language (not that there is any chance in hell that they'll succeed).

  • Middleware. Used properly it stems from several computing disciplines such as model/value/controller and client/server that sought to articulate a separation of software into the part that stores and manages data, and the part that presents information to the user. Middleware is just a general term for software that is not really suited to either partition, but tends to sit in between these. It is a pretty neutral term, and you certainly don't end up notching up points for a piece of software just by calling it "middleware", so it would seem a rather poor buzzword. Then again, I have seen it used as a mumbo-jumbo term for software for which the speaker has trouble articulating a role. I think that's rare, but it would count in the buzz column.

  • Enterprise. The word simply describes a particular subset of organizations, in general ones that are closely bound by some fiduciary pressure, such as a corporation's responsibility to shareholders. The special needs of such environments does provide unique challenges to software, and thus I think "enterprise" is as often a useful distinguishing term as a mindless buzzword. A good example of a compound here is "enterprise architecture". This is a useful term that describes systems that are put together such that they work well across the departmental divisions of an enterprise, which is difficult because such divisions usually involve severe changes in focus, from research to operations to marketing to legal affairs, for example. Of course I've also seen "enterprise architecture" used by vendors as a way of saying "this is isn't your hippie open-source, Web jockey, script-and-glue technology, buddies". That definitely warrants a good scoring of the bingo card.

It's far more refreshing when debaters create and play on words rather than trying to stifle them. While I think it's silly to yell "bingo" every time someone says "enterprise", I quite approve of the snarky term "enterprisey". And anyway, I think that such tactics work a lot better than automatic buzzword bashing. I'm reading Nunberg's Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show and it strikes me that the right wing's success with setting the terms of linguistic discourse suggests that buzzword bashing is a losing tactic, anyway.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Copia comment conundrums

Earlier this year I posted an off-hand entry about a scam call I received. I guess it soon got a plum Google spot for the query "Government grants scam" and it's been getting almost one comment a day ever since. Today I came across a comment whose author was requesting permission to use the posting and sibling comments in a book.

I have written a book on Winning Grants, titled "The Grant Authority," which includes a chapter on "Avoiding Grant Scams." It is in final stages of being (self)- published. I want to include comments and complaints about government grant scams on this Copia blog. I think the book's readers will learn alot from them.

How can I get permission to include written comments on this blog site in this book?

I'd never really thought about such a matter before. I e-mailed the correspondent permission, based on Copia's Creative Commons Attribution licensing, but considering he seemed especially interested in the comments, I started wondering. I don't have some warning on the comment form that submitted comments become copyright Copia's owners and all that, as I've seen on some sites. If I really start to think about things I also realize that our moderating comments (strictly to eliminate spam) might leave us liable for what others say. It all makes me wonder whether someone has come up with a helpful (and concise) guide to IP and tort concerns for Webloggers. Of course, I imagine such a read might leave my hair standing on end so starkly that I'd never venture near the 21st century diarist's pen again.

BTW, for a fun battle scene viewed in the cold, claret light of pedantry, inquire as to the correct plural of "conundrum".

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Coup de Boule (or summer 2006: pwned by Zizou)

Work's bee a bit heavy this week, but I've had instant stress relief every evening thanks to the new summer craze. F'real, Janet was just dreaming of a response like this when she told Justin Timbo to pop her bra. The Zizou is everywhere. First of all (coz you know j'aime d'la musique tout de temps, ooh), there's the song "Coup de Boule" that's become an overnight phenom in France. Then there are the anis. I swear many of the gems I've seen make the ones I posted seem positively pedestrian. Thank goddess for under-employed people. My French/American friend Noah tipped me to this Register article with a few choice selections. That article led me to this "Zidane's headbutt photoshop-thread" forum, which has pages of good stuff, including:

There's even more madness on YTMND. My fave is The Death Star.

Question: Does the Zizou count as the best header in World Cup history that was not saved by Gordon Banks? Think about it.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

"Whaddayamean 'racist'"? What indeed?

I figured my sour note on Aragonés would bring along some line-fudging, and I was right. A commenter said:

Hell, Spain and Europe are full of racist people, sure, but Aragonés is not one of them. Ask Samuel Etoo or any of the black players he had under his orders.
Calling someone "black" is being racist as much as calling someone "blonde" is being racist, and Aragonés said just that to Henry, black.

I understand where he's coming from, but unfortunately I think that like a lot of discussion of racism, whether by alleged victims or alleged perpetrators of the practice, it looks for unequivocal boundaries at the expense of common sense.

First of all my "lazy, thick nigger" bit came from Ron Atkinson, not Aragonés (remember I admitted I had no idea what the latter was saying during the sideline blow-up). In that celebrated case (I couldn't find the whole brouhaha all well explained in one place, but here's Wikipedia FWIW), the TV analyst abused Desailly with the unfortunate phrase when he thought he was off-air. My whole sour bit of dialogue was just one of those "eternal braids of football intrigue" I mentioned. Aragonés had popped off in similar fashion on Henry, probably when he thought no one else would hear him, and here he was playing France, their eternal nemesis, and land of Desailly-the-national-football hero. But do you know one of the things Atkinson said to claim his indiscretion didn't make him a racist? He pointed out that he as a manager (of West Bromwich Albion) was one of the first to employ black players, and that he'd always treated those players well. That rather puts ironic paid to the first defense of Aragonés in the above quote.

It brings me to mind of my cousin, now about to graduate from Med school in London. He was a brilliant footballer in high school. His team went so far in a national youth tournament as to play their finals at Wembley stadium. By his account, his coaches were quite kind to him, as far as football went, but had no patience for his academic ambitions. In effect they told him that a black kid like he was much better off pursuing his football talent than giving himself airs about becoming a doctor. Even his teachers exhorted him towards professional football. I'd readily admit those coaches and teachers were just offering kindly advice, but I expect it doesn't take a lot of pondering to realize that their attitudes were also racist. From what I hear, such cases are very common in England. Luckily for my cousin, his parents, typical immigrants, raised him to think better of exclusively pursuing anything that didn't come with a double-or-triple-barrel degree.

So back to Atkinson and Aragonés. They've probably in practice helped more black players than they've abused. Are they racists? That's a ridiculous question. You can't do a 10-billion person line-up and file into neat boxes who is or who is not a racist. We've all done and said racist things because discrimination is written into our very nature as a defense mechanism. It's actually a miracle of civilization (not only European civilization, BTW) that we are able to mingle together as much as we do with so little incident, relatively.

Movies such as Monsters Ball and Crash like to try stirring us up with the deep insight: "look: that terrible racist is really just human after all". I just roll my eyes every time. Is anyone under any deluded impression that persistent racists are some species apart? On the other extreme a movie like A Time to Kill sets up a scene where an audience is supposed to cheer that a KKK kook has been set on fire. The (mostly white) movie audience with whom I saw the movie happily obliged. I'll never forget that moment. I was astonished. I guess it's quotidian to assume that membership in the KKK warrants summary immolation? That's supposed to be better than the idea that interracial sex warrants lynching? In that movie theater it was obvious to me that those same unthinking passions (typically of a manipulated mob) is the instrument of genocide as surely as of comic book social justice.

Anyway, my point is that Aragonés may be a perfectly fine fellow, but that the Henry episode showed him in a very foul light, and his better nature should have prompted more contrition than he's ever shown. And never mind Aragonés. What of the Spanish FA? They know they are facing a deluge of football-related racism (a lot of it of the truly violent and terrifying sort, not just salty language from old men), and so how could their response be such a ludicrous slap on Aragonés' wrist? Aragonés' comment was be deeply offensive to some, and probably constituted incitement of some others, and the official response was far worse than the original offense. Speaking of incitement, I like many others believe that the Aragonés incident helped fuel the despicable treatment of black English players by the host Spanish crowd in a "friendly" a little while later (of course that's why I brought up Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was subjected to particular abuse). This shows how the wrong words in the wrong mouth can incite far worse than casual insult. Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe has atrocious racist incidents every week, such that it has become a commonplace. And the respective official associations have made it a routine to fine clubs $1000 here and there in supposed punishment. This is the real problem, not that Aragonés had a moment of poor judgment.

There is plenty of racism in England, but after some particular horrors in the 80s, I give the English FA, under--Oh the irony--huge pressure from Thatcher's government, much credit for cracking down with ruthless efficiency on the problem. For this reason, football is one of the areas where the English can be more confident of not encountering serious racism. There is precious little will to tackle the problem as thoroughly in too many other European countries. The problem goes all the way up to FIFA (have I mentioned how much I hate FIFA?). Just before the World Cup Sepp Blatter led a grandiose resolution that FIFA must use the power of football to "help make the world a better place". Of course taking action in some of the worse places is a bit too much of a reach beyond mere proclamation. In 2004 Blatter's response to the abuse of the English players in Spain was that he wouldn't have thought ill of the English team had they abandoned the game. Gee thanks sir. You're such a help. What of actually putting pressure on the Spanish FA to clean up its act? FIFA likes to argue in such instances that they're helpless to interfere in the internal concerns of a national FA. Right. But Blatter now has the bit in his teeth to prevail upon the FA to reduce the Premiership from 20 to 18 teams. Oh that's not interference in an national FA's matters. Whatever makes me think that?

And so I'll move to maybe the most interesting point in my correspondent's argument--that Aragonés just called Henry a "black shit". I think the implication meant is that so abusing a person is not racist. I've heard reasoning like this before, and again I wonder what's happened to common sense. The fact that calling someone "black" and calling someone a "shit" separately could possibly not be considered racist does not suddenly put a halo on the epithet "black shit". When Aragonés says "don't let that black shit beat you" it is precisely as racist as if he'd said "don't let that nigger beat you". Context is more important than precise words will ever be. Even if you've only seen what Aragonés says in print, the impact of the words should be obvious. If you actually see the tape, it's even more chilling. Sure, Aragonés is just trying to do what he can to get into Reyes' head. After all Reyes is Henry's club team-mate, and the coach has to make it clear to him that with the national strip on Henry is now the enemy. I get that. But in using the words he did, Aragonés was obviously trying to trigger a visceral response in Reyes to Henry's color. If Henry had been white he wouldn't have said "don't let that white shit beat you", because he wouldn't have expected the fact that Henry was white to have meant anything to Reyes. Explanations that Aragonés was just using salty language to motivate are so self-servingly simplistic that I think they're disingenuous.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia