By Owei Lakemfa
THE anniversary of Bob Marley, the Social Prophet who preached freedom, redemption, liberation, human rights, equality and revolution, was marked yesterday. It was 36 years ago, the then 36-year old Marley passed on. He had predicted the troubles in today’s world and had tried to get humanity change course.
Marley had asked the conscientious world to ‘stir it up’ ‘Get up and stand’ for rights and basic freedom. He told those seeking to build a new world not to be distracted and “Have no fear for atomic energy, Cause none of them can stop the time.” In his record 75 million albums sold, he sang that the world leaders were like people living in the moon. In ‘So Much Trouble In The World’ he sang: “You see men sailing on their ego trip, Blast off on their spaceship, Million miles from reality: No care for you, no care for me.”
Marley cautioned that inequality is a time bomb warning: “Them belly full but we hungry A hungry mob is an angry mob”.
The Prophet advised the rich and powerful: “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold…” he also posited his basic philosophy: “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”
Paraphrasing Emperor Haile Sellasie, Marley said the world will not know peace “Until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned… until there’re no longer 1st class and 2nd class citizens of any nation… Until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes… until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, me say (there will be )war!”
Mr. Emmanuel Macron, the French President-Elect, was a three-year child when Bob Marley passed on. He is, to millions in France and across the world, a breath of fresh air. He is new, energetic and youthful. But youthfulness does not portend or bring change, at least not the fundamental change Bob Marley fought for. Yes, the old parties of the ‘right’ and ‘left’ who have ruled France for half century, lost. Yes, humanity which is still trying to comprehend the Trump Presidency in America, was lucky to have been missed by another asteroid called Marine Le Pen in a free fall from outer space, young Macron’s ideas and programmes are old and wrinkled. The French were tired of the old France.
They were sick of the old politicians and their parties, and logically, rejected them at the polls. But the choice they faced was between an eclectic Le Pen with her fascist ideas, or the old order with a youthful mask. Some saw no choice, so 12 million of them abstained, in addition, there were 4.2 million voided votes; totaling over half of the total votes for Macron and Le Pen. The former had 20.75 million votes and the latter, 10.64 million. The huge votes for the extreme right showed how far the French voter has swung since the revolutionary days of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
Macron is ‘new’ but in practical terms only superficial changes will be introduced. First, we should not forget that in 2016, he left the Hollande government as Finance Minister because he felt the tilt towards business, profit and market forces was not strong enough. So his emphasis is about deepening the market base for more profits, not reforms or social inclusion.
Unlike Le Pen, he did not run on the Islam phobia train. In October he had said “No religion is a problem in France today…If the state should be neutral, which is at the heart of secularism, we have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity.”
He also seems tolerant of migrants, even offering to teach them French quickly so that they can quicly integrate. But his foreign policy is to back the European Union, EU, to the hilt including strengthening its military, intelligence and security services. How does he then balance the EU anti-migration tendencies and his home policies? Of course, he has some positive programmes like making a promised move from coal towards renewable energy and reducing unemployment.
Understandably, the French establishment and EU leaders are ecstatic that the young Macron won; that he would maintain the status quo and continue the same militarist policies of the old French parties. There is so much fuss about the Parliamentary elections coming up in June. To me, the issue is not how many seats Macron and his En Marche! (On the Move) party can win, it is more the ideas of those that may be elected.
If the world is to look for flickers of change today, its gaze should not be France, but South Korea where a 64-year old man, Moon Jae-in swept to power on Tuesday May 9, promising change. The former human rights lawyer defeated Hong Joon-pyo, a conservative politician, and Ahn Cheol-soo, software entrepreneur. Moon campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and a promise to tackle rising youth unemployment and inequality. However his change policy is anchored on two fundamental issues; tackling the powerful family cartels, the chaebols, and more importantly for humanity, an offer to dialogue with his North Korean brothers and sisters, rather than continue on a war path which in recent weeks, has put the world on edge.
On peace with North Korea, he is walking in a mine field; for seven decades, the North has been portrayed as a demon. While North Korea has historically being pro-unification and evolved a ‘Korea is One’ policy, the South has been opposed. In South Korea, any remark considered pro-North Korea, is punishable with a seven-year jail term while any South Korean who visits the North on his free will is liable to a ten-year jail sentence.
The most famous case is that of Lim Su-kyung who at 21 in 1989 participated in the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students held in North Korea. She was sentenced to five years imprisonment for visiting the North. She became known as the “Flower of Reunification” Today, she is a parliamentarian still holding to views of reunification.
Moon is not planning to go as far as advocating reunification; he simply wants peace between the two Koreas. He rightly feels that if there is to be war between the two countries, it should be a decision taken by his country, and not by Washington. This might be a tall order in a country considered by America as a footstool.