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On debt and austerity, let’s learn from global protests

By Odhiambo Otieno | November 12th 2019
By Odhiambo Otieno | November 12th 2019

Nuri McBride - a writer, researcher and expert in the relationship between death and scent - says we live in a culture that rejects scent the same way that it denies the reality of death

She says putrefaction, belief, and judgment are part of what we place on the smells created by the decomposing human body.

The question is: why do dead bodies release the repugnant smell and not rose-like smell?

McBride argues that the pre-modern nose’s time was marked with scent, noting that sacred space was delineated with scent. The foul and the divine, he says, are understood by how they smell.

The Europeans believe that there is an association between offensive smell, the body, and immorality, such that from the smell and body language, you can know whether your partner is cheating on you.

Why is there lemon and lavender in various European products? We can effectively use our senses to preempt disasters. As a nation, what can we smell from global demonstrations that might benefit us?

 If we do not learn to love and care for one another, then we will go the earthly way. But Susan Ashbrook Harvey tells us that earthly desires lead to nothing but the rot of the grave.

The protests in Hong Kong, Ecuador, Bolivia, Iraq and many other places should worry those who love peace.

Fair trial

The people of Hong Kong have been demonstrating for months. What started as the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill movement is now a fight about beliefs.

It is said that the majority are young people. The bill required that certain offenders be extradited to China to face trial.

 They do not want to go to China because they think there will be no fair trial. They believe that they are different from Chinese and that the Chinese should leave them alone.

However, even after the withdrawal of the controversial Bill, the demos that are destroying life and business are still going on.

Why would a tiny country like Hong Kong, with a population of 7.44 million want to take on China with a population of 1.4 billion people? China’s population makes up 18.59 per cent of the world population.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of China is over $13 trillion (Sh1,300 trillion), United States (over $20 trillion or Sh2,000 trillion) and Hong Kong is $360 billion (Sh36 trillion).

This is akin to the David and Goliath Bible story. The GDP of Kenya is Sh9 trillion ($89.59 million). It appears the protests are about the fear of China ruling Hong Kong and the nature and complexities of the relationship between China and Hong Kong.

The point is, for how long will China with its military might, allow Hong Kong to operate as a semi-autonomous region. 

After the Chinese war with Britain, Article 12 that created Hong Kong also created the current problem.

The article stated that “the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a local administrative region of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the central people’s government.”

The same Act hands Hong Kong to China in 2047. Is China’s patient to wait until then? The unrest in Hong Kong is largely political.

Enough income

In Iraq, the BBC reported that the protests were about corruption unemployment and economic hardships.

The Iraqis are aware that though they have oil to sell to generate enough income for her citizens, the revenue is not tricking down to them.

The present Iraqi government has only been in place for a year, and protesters know they benefit from them. Unfortunately, the protests have transformed into violence and loss of lives.

The central thread in all these protests is broken promises. Leaders should not promise goodies they can’t deliver.

In Ecuador, the Guardian newspaper reported that a violent demonstration was the response to new austerity measures, specifically the removal of fuel subsidies.

A protestant was quoted saying that “they take from us the poor, and they stick their hands in our pockets and raise gas and diesel prices; we need to work and it hurts us. They forgive the rich and take from the poor. That is why we are here. We are here to defend ours, nothing more.”

However, the country’s President is quoted as accusing the opponents of attempting a coup and is assertive that the austerity measures Are necessary to reduce debt.

Let’s hope our huge debt doesn’t force us to the austerity measure corner.

 -The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi  

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