July 23rd, 2005

[ISL] The Reluctant Europeanization of Cape Verde

In the past generation, any number of regional propagandists have been enthusiastically discovering new geographical/historical/cultural regions stretching across national and geographical frontiers. The effort to forge new transnational regions seems to me to be part of a concerted effort to undermine the nation-state, at least enough to prevent neighbours from seeing each other as foreign. This works; or, at least, it should work. Take Macaronesia, a relatively shallow region of the North Atlantic Ocean west of the African coast that also includes the Portuguese Azores and Madeira, the Spanish Canaries and the independent archipelago and country of Cape Verde. Atlantean romantics insist that these four archipelagoes are the mountaintops of drowned Atlantis. Serious geologists and biologists know that these islands are of relatively recent volcanic origin and are home to unique ecologies. Regardless, the four Macaronesian archipelagos were discovered in the 14th and 15th centuries by Iberian seafarers.

In many ways, these islands served as prototypes for the colonial societies developed by Europeans following Columbus' discovery of the Americas in 1492. Felipe Fernández-Armesto's 1982 The Canary Islands after the Conquest is an excellent English-language study of Spain's efforts in the Canaries. Of the four archipelagoes, Cape Verde quickly turned out to be the most variant, since its tropical climate made it unsuitable for the replication of the temperate-zone Iberian societies developed elsewhere. Instead, Cape Verde's islands became the first to adopt slave-based sugar plantation models of society and economy, elaborating on the model pioneered in Iberia by both Christians and Muslims and drawing upon an inexhaustible supply of slaves from the nearby African continent.

Cape Verde suffered, neglected by Portugal when that country discovered Brazil and pioneered long-distance trade with Asia. The Cape Verdeans suffered even more, with multiple devastating famines killing huge numbers of Cape Verdeans from the mid-18th century on. Even after the abolition of slavery in 1876, Cape Verde continued to suffer, with racism preventing the relatively well-educated and highly assimilated Cape Verdeans from playing any role in apart from that of a mobile proletariat. In the island of Príncipe, part of the independent insular nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, for instance, descendants of Cape Verdean immigrants make up more than half of the population of Príncipe. Elsewhere in Portugal's vast and ill-governed African empire, educated Cape Verdeans played an important role as an educated working class supplementing the Portuguese, their role being most important in Portuguese Guinea, united with the adjacent Cape Verde islands by political and religious institutuions.

It is, unsurprisingly, a Cape Verdean, the intellectual Amilcar Cabral, who played a leading role in the anti-colonial wars that wracked Portuguese Africa from the 1960s on. Founding the Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (English: The African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), or PAIGC. This party led an effective guerrilla war against the Portuguese, controlling most of the country before Portugal's 1974 Carnation revolution led to Portugal's withdrawal. In the wake of this independence, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau became independent, united by the common rule of the PAIGC and by their rejection of Portugal and Europe. Anti-colonialist and to some degree anti-Western, both countries saw their future lying in a common African orientation.

They decoupled. Guinea-Bissau, densely populated and terribly poor, was always the more difficult of the two countries to manage, with a 1980 coup decisively separating the two countries. Cabral's pan-Africanism remains popular in Cape Verde; pan-African politics, however, couldn't sustain Cape Verde. Cabral himself wrote (Word format) that ordinary people were not fighting against Portugal for abstract ideas but "to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward [and] to guarantee the future of their children." In the 1980s, when West Africa was showing itself of being incapable of replacing Portugal and Europe as a metropole, Cape Verde had to back off from its utopian goals. Material factors predominated.

Right now, Cape Verde is doing reasonably well. The country remains democratic; the society remains pluralistic; the economy, most importantly, continues to experience strong growth thanks to growing foreign investment in tourism and infrastructure, and will shortly gain recognition from the IMF as a middle-income economy. Foreign investment is hardly alone, since remittances from the Cape Verdean diaspora play a crucial role in Cape Verdeans' domestic economies, as Norwegian social scientist Jørgen Carling notes in his 2001 thesis "Aspiration and ability in international migration: Cape Verdean experiences of mobility and immobility" (PDF format).

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Cape Verdean migrants crossed the Atlantic to the United States, along with Southern Europeans. The frequent famines provided a strong motive, and whaling ships from New England provided the means of emigration. In the 1920s the introduction of immigration quotas in the United States led to a redirection of Cape Verdean migration flows to Portugal, West Africa and South America. During the colonial period, there was also an extensive migration of indentured labourers to São Tomé and Príncipe, a Portuguese island colony in the Gulf of Guinea (Carreira 1983, Ishemo 1995).

After Cape Verde had taken part in the transatlantic migration a generation earlier, Cape Verdeans joined the northbound flows of labour migrants to Western Europe in the 1960s. Portugal remained an important destination, primarily because Portuguese emigration to North-Western Europe created a demand for unskilled labour in Portugal. In the first half of the 1980s, almost two thirds of Cape Verdean emigrants were headed for Europe (SEDES 1989). After a century of emigration, ethnic Cape Verdeans in diaspora probably outnumber the 430,000 inhabitants on the islands (Table 2). The number of Cape Verdeans in the United States is very large due to the long history of immigration from Cape Verde, and the figure includes third and fourth generation migrants. Despite the difference in the overall figures, the number of Cape Verdean born migrants is probably smaller in the United States than in Portugal (Carling 1997) (6-7).

Despite significant obstacles set in their way, Cape Verdeans continue to migrate in large numbers to western Europe, forming particularly notable communities in France, the Netherlands, and Italy as well as in the Iberian peninsula, as well as to the United States. The old diaspora communities in Lusophone Africa have faded quickly, owing to the former Portuguese colonies' almost-existential economic crises. By turning to Europe, Carling suggests that the average Cape Verdean household is able to almost double its income. This massive influx of funds is one reason why, despite its poverty, Cape Verde consistently ranks highly on human-development indices like literacy and health care. Cape Verde's doing quite well off of its renewed European orientation.

The logical culmination of Cape Verde's new orientation would be its membership in the European Union. Had federation with metropolitan Portugal on the model of the Azores or Madeira been conceivable back in the 1970s, at present the Cape Verde islands like the rest of Macaronesia would have qualified for massive amounts of EU structural funds as underdeveloped regions, while foreign investment--and migration to "mainland" Europe--would have taken off. In our early 21st century, where Africa's future seems mixed at best, Cape Verde almost has no other choice. Interestingly, former Portuguese president Mário Soares proposed Cape Verde's accession in March.

Mr Soares and Mr Moreira, two of Portugal's main senator, in interviews with 'A Capital' strongly defended an EU membership for Cape Verde on the longer run "for political reasons, rather regarding identity than distance." Cape Verde, they said, was much closer to Europe than for example Turkey.

The two Portuguese senators said they hoped that Durão Barroso, the current President of the European Commission and also a Portuguese citizen, would give his support to this cause. Mr Soares and Mr Moreira assured they would remain "supports and spokesmen" of this project.

- Cape Verde is an excellent platform for relationship between Europe and Africa and also for the strengthening of the organisation of the CPLP [Portuguese speaking countries]," Mr Moreira, an old friend of Cape Verde said in the interview with 'A Capital'. Also Mr Soares - the first Portuguese politician to defend a European Union membership for Cape Verde - holds that there is nothing hindering such a project.

[. . .]

According to Mr Soares, Cape Verde has better conditions of becoming an effective member of the EU than Turkey. Turkey, he said, presented innumerable problems regarding democracy and human rights, besides being a Muslim country. Quite oppositely, the Christian nation Cape Verde today is seen as an example of democracy and a "last border" of Western society in this part of the globe.

- Cape Verde has one foot in Africa, or perhaps it has both, but the head in many ways is directed towards Europe, where also its roots seem to go in search of nutrition to develop, commented Lydian Balcony of 'A Capital'.

Next to that writes editor Osório Luis: "If Europe is going to open up to Turkey (...), and in that way open a window towards Asia, then Cape Verde will be an entrance door to the great African continent. Europe would then also start being a psychological space, where three continents meet; a multi-cultural territory, open to the world."

The government of Cape Verde, which had sent its Ambassador to the Lisbon gathering, at several stages has expressed its interest in a closer relation with the EU. In 2002, Cape Verdean Prime Minister José Maria Neves supported the idea of a "Special Status" within the EU, making it possible for the archipelago to obtain some structural funds in the same way as the neighbouring Spanish Canary Islands and the Portuguese Azores and Madeira Islands.

The Cape Verdean government has also expressed its interest in NATO membership.

Will Cape Verde end up inside the European Union? That remains to be seen. What is certain is that Cape Verde won't move any further from the EU than it already is if Cape Verdeans have anything to say about it.
  • Current Mood
    sympathetically insular

[LINK] Montenegro On Dubrovnik

Transitions Online has an interesting article on the reaction in Montenegro to compensate Croatia for the bombardment of the historic city of Dubrovnik in 1991. The conclusion seems worth quoting at length.

[D]espite all the ambiguities surrounding the Montenegrin decision to compensate its neighbor, the president of the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Slobodan Franovic, thinks the move is the first step toward Montenegro’s facing the past. "The question of war, the attack on Dubrovnik, is an essential issue in Montenegro," he said, adding this was "the most humiliating page in Montenegrin history."

Montenegro didn’t just agree to financial compensation but took another important step towards reconciliation when Interior Ministry officials from both countries agreed to bring to justice all those suspected of involvement in war crimes around Dubrovnik.

"The Montenegrin police are ready to fulfill this task a hundred percent," a senior Montenegrin official said. The Croatian daily Vjesnik reported that the Montenegrin authorities are about to start an investigation of 10 suspects.

A likely source of evidence in any war-crimes trial will come from footage by Montenegrin state television, which filmed individual soldiers, with their full names displayed, in front of burning buildings. Soldiers also bragged that they would reach Stradun, the main pedestrian street in Dubrovnik, on the same day. A soldier from Budva, Milovan Orlovic, said into the camera, "[the Croats] have to remember once and for all that they have made a mistake”, referring to their declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.

In a commentary for Radio Free Europe, journalist Drasko Djuranovic said the Montenegrin recognition of war crimes was to be welcomed but that there was also an element of historical injustice in the story.

"Djukanovic and Marovic created the ‘war for peace’ and it seems like they will gain political points by apologizing and paying damages. Or they’ll hide personal guilt behind collective responsibility," but "it’s up to those who started the fire to now take the hot stones of the past into their hands."

[MUSIC] Kate Bush, "Jig of Life"

When I first heard track #10 off of Kate Bush's brilliant 1985 album Hounds of Love, I jumped off of my bed and turned up the volume. Hounds of Love is a powerful album, but "Jig of Life" was unexpectedly intense, a catchy fusion of the sort of supple Irish fiddle music that I could imagine hearing on Prince Edward Island with Bush's own literate personal pop. "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" is the most famous and perhaps most likeable song off of Hounds of Love, but "Jig of Life" quickly became my favourite. The only problem with it was that I didn't know where she was coming from.

Hello old Lady
I know your face well
I know it well
She says - ooh-na-na-na-na
I'll be sitting in your mirror
Now is the place where the crossroads meet
Will you look into the future.
Never, never say goodbye
To my part of your life
No, no, no,
Oh, oh, oh
Let me live
She said c'mon let me live
She said c'mon let me live girl

This moment in time
It doesn't belong to you
It belongs to me
And to your little boy and to your little girl
And the one hand clapping
Where on your palm is my little line
When you're written in mine
As an old memory
Never never never say goodbye
To my part of your life
No, no, no, no,
Never, never, never, never
Let me go.
She said c'mon let me live
She said c'mon let me live girl

There was clearly some urgency there, and some risk of death, and what seemed to be some Star Trek-style temporal anomaly bringing a woman at risk of death into contact with her older self. What exactly was going on, though, was beyond me. I should have visited Gaffa.org, I admit, but I didn't.

"Jig of Life" only made sense at the end of last April, when I met up with talktooloose who told me that Kate Bush was thinking of the LP when she made her album. Side A was Hounds of Love, the more commercial side, containing the international hit "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" and following by the commercial and entertaining tracks "Hounds Of Love," "The Big Sky," "Mother Stands For Comfort," and the Wilhelm Reich-inspired "Cloudbusting." Side B was The Ninth Wave, a cycle of seven songs ("And Dream Of Sheep," "Under Ice," "Waking The Witch," "Watching You Without Me," "Jig Of Life," "Hello Earth," and "The Morning Fog") describing the experiences of a woman drowning at sea.

"Jig of Life" is the hinge of The Ninth Wave. Does Bush's subject choose to struggle and stay alive? Or, does she choose to surrender to the cool waters and perish, comfortably and quietly. I've always wanted to believe that she lived, that "The Morning Fog" describes her grateful half-dazed reaction to her rescuers, that she returned renewed to the shores. talktooloose thinks otherwise. It distresses me, and impresses me, that I'm so concerned about the fate of a character I didn't know existed for years after I first met her. If nothing else, there's the music.
  • Current Music
    Kate Bush, "Jig of Life"

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] The Wider Problem With Muslim Homophobia

I was saddened, though not altogether surprised, when Ikram Saeed recently commented that criticizing those Muslims who believed that their religion requires the ritualized torture-killings of non-heterosexuals is an act of racism. I say "not altogether surprised," since Ikram had earlier commented that people victimized under shari'a law were "wimpy" if they lacked the capital--social, economic, political--that they needed to escape. This sort of morally blind privatization of public goods that ends with the privatization of human rights, the kind of process that reduces rights from universal goods to things that you can have only if you were lucky, serves bigots' ends quite nicely.

Infinitely more politely, in the same thread skooshje asked why, exactly, the statements of New Zealand parliamentarian Ashraf Choudhary that he favoured the ritual torture-killing of non-heterosexuals by stoning in countries under shari'a law were newsworthy. One very good reason is that these religious prejudices are being enthusiastically enacted as criminal law in the Muslim world, right now.

The recent execution by hanging of two gay teenagers in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad on what seemed to be trumped-up criminal charges is, sadly, not atypical in Iran, where up to four thousand people have been executed since 1979 on grounds of their sexual orientation. As Johann Hari wrote a while back, the Muslim world is characterized by pervasive and violent homophobia.

All of the seven countries that treat homosexuality as a crime punishable by death are Muslim. Of the 82 countries where being gay is a crime, 36 are predominantly Muslim.

Even in democratic societies, Islam remains overwhelmingly anti-gay. Dr Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of North America, says "homosexuality is a moral disease, a sin, a corruption. No person is born homosexual, just as nobody is born a thief, a liar or a murderer. People acquire these evil habits due to a lack of proper guidance and education."

Sheikh Sharkhawy, a cleric at the prestigious London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, compares homosexuality to a "cancer tumour." He argues "we must burn all gays to prevent paedophilia and the spread of AIDS," and says gay people "have no hope of a spiritual life." The Muslim Educational Trust hands out educational material to Muslim teachers--intended for children!--advocating the death penalty for gay people, and advising Muslim pupils to stay away from gay classmates and teachers.

Christianity certainly has its issues, and leaders of certain Christian sects are certainly unwilling to take their right responsibility for epiphenomena like gaybashing. It's worth noting, though, that Christian Reconstructionism is a theology decidedly in the minority. Take the story of the unfortunate teenager Zack, unfortunate enough to be born to conservative Christian parents. He wasn't afraid that he'd be murdered; rather, he was afraid of being dispatched to a reeducation camp by his father. This isn't good. It would also be churlish to deny that this isn't murder.

When respected and supposedly respectable Muslim clerics like Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi feel free to publically advocate the murder of homosexuals in order to restore an antique purity to society, along with the limited domestic abuse of women, female genital mutilation, committing genocide against Israelis, and murdering apostates, it seems safe to conclude that a disturbingly large chunk of the world's Muslim population have very serious issues with pluralism. I don't think that it's a coincidence that Turkey, run by an aggressively secular regime for the past three-quarters of a centruy, that has the best human-rights record--on homosexuality, on human rights in general--of any large Middle Eastern state.

It all comes down to the question of whether I have as much of a right to exist as anyone else, even if in moral error. I wanted to believe that I did; I didn't think that I was naïve at the time. Forgive me for believing in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What about people who don't believe I've such a right? Imagine that I said that I had no problem with Muslims living in Canada, even--like Choudhary with New Zealand's non-heterosexuals--happily cooperating with them when needed, but continued by saying that if Canada became my ideal polity we should send a research team over to investigate Oswiecim so as to apply that camp's principles domestically. It would be very hard indeed to pretend that I wasn't a vile bigot. Would my abhorrent views would suddenly become legitimate if I announced that they stemmed from religion? I doubt it. The "God says so" excuse is terribly weak. ("The Führer says that we should deport the Jews of Strasbourg to the camps" is wrong, but "God says we should burn all the Jews in Strasbourg" is strong?) By this standard, Choudhary and the Muslim women interviewed by Janet Rankin are terrible bigots. It would be unreasonable for me to ask for their approval, but it isn't at all too much to demand that they recognize that I have just as much a right to life as they. Bad things happen when people decide that others are useless eaters, or evil abominations. People who proudly proclaim themselves bigots and then say people shouldn't be allowed to criticize them confuse me: Why aren't they willing to take responsibility for their proudly-confessed beliefs? Surely they don't want people to pass over them in silence and pretend they're like everyone else.

There is a personal threat to me in this bigotry, though fortunately it's a distant one. By far the biggest problem with bigots in the Muslim community is that these are the very same people who want to be given power over Muslims, and in so doing, try to forge a community in their own image. Last October, I referred to Andrew Duffy's Toronto Star article, written before the Fortuyn imbroglio, about the ongoing collapse of interethnic relations in the Netherlands. Dutch hostility to the immigrants was certainly a factor. An equally important factor was bigotry in the Dutch Muslim community, for instance, pervasive homophobia, nested in a set of repellent bigotries--on gender roles, on religion, on public culture--deeply rooted in a particular interpretation of Islam. The homophobia is only one face of this. If we--and by "we," I mean anyone interested in avoiding a clash of civilizations--agree to let Islam be represented by power-hungry idiots making repellent threats, then the 21st century will be bloody indeed. Passing over a history of Islamic tolerance at least comparable to that found in the lands of Christendom and often superior does no one good.

What can we do to stop this? Over at A Fistful of Euros, Edward Hugh explores Amin Maalouf's In The Name of Identity, quoting the conclusion at length.

Within a given society, the moral contract would take the form of an agreement between members of the majority culture and those of minority cultures to treat each other as equals, and to take seriously the constitutive nature of the other’s culture. To this end, each must be prepared to give up his claim to cultural purity. Majority members must not predicate full-fledged membership on a complete abandonment by minority members of their cultural heritage; rather, they must be prepared to accept them as full members in light of--indeed, in celebration of--their cultural (or ethnic or religious) difference. For their part, members of minority cultures must be prepared to adapt, at least minimally, to the basic rules and values of the majority culture, even if this means abandoning some of their cultural practices.

The purs et durs won't like this. They never do like this sort of thing. But, the last time that the purs et durs were left to run unchecked in Europe, they reduced the population of Germany by a third. They shouldn't have the entire world as a playing field.

What should we do first? Getting everyone to agree on such basic precepts of human rights as the sancity of human life is a good place to start. It's telling that anti-Muslim bigots and Muslim fundamentalists both define Islam and Muslims as inherently bigoted and violent. Setting forth to disprove the bigots, whether in the blogosphere or in the real world, is an excellent first project.
  • Current Mood
    lucky, and angry