Bright Ideas like Bright’s (GH) ::: #graphAfrica

Picking a theme to go with and challenging oneself to write on it every single day for a month is…challenging! What with said writing needing to happen between a demanding day job and the body and mind’s demand for rest.

I decided to start #graphAfrica on July 1st and today on the 9th, this is my 6th post :/ …. I really struggled on the long 4th of July weekend as I was hardly home. I’ll make up for it though. One simply does not call oneself a writer/blogger if they do not do it now do they?

In quick review look up the “afropolitaine” and “graphAfrica” and enjoy yourself. Thank you for reading and I’ll keep them coming. I haven’t been feeling well for the last 3 days and am basically functional because of an unrecommendable amount of Advil which brings me to what I’d like to briefly spotlight today.

Bright Simons is a Ghanaian (based there) social innovator who developed an sms based program/app called mpedigree to detect counterfeit drugs in circulation around the continent at the point of purchase. Many of you may have heard of him already as I have, but I’m finally getting to write about him. His invention/innovation was addressing the problem of fake/expired medication in circulation and the resulting drug resistance that strains of several conditions/diseases, especially malaria, were developing. In essence some of these pills, even according to conservative estimates, were killing 1000s of people.

From being a western educated astrophysicist who left that to study and work with refugees, at some point Simons decided to return home to do something PRACTICAL.

“I realized I needed to become an entrepreneur. And I had no money. So I needed to find an area where I could make an impact without a lot of money. And that is where technology came in.”

What I like and find highly motivating here is that money was not the motivation and the absence of it did not stop his practical and useful idea from coming to fruition. By sending a simple text message containing the code on medication/pills, one can find out if it’s real or not. In turn, manufactures protect themselves and their product by being able to determine if a shipment has been compromised.

His idea was adopted the first from the continent to demonstrate south south knowledge exchange. Not only is it used in 6 African countries (east and west), but also in India and Bangladesh. It’s so simple and easily transferable and requires very little to operate and be successful. You don’t even need a smart phone (don’t get me started on how smart phones are anything but) and it can be applied to so many other unregulated industries. In the absence of visible and active government agencies like FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), perhaps more low capital and cutting edge ideas like mpedigree can fill that gap.

Come to think of it, mpedigree would be a great idea even here in the US to simplify or completely replace antiquated institutions and the bureaucracy therein when it comes to authentication/classification/verification of goods and even services. That would be too easy now wouldn’t it?! This is a country that prefers inches and feet to centimeters and meters, calls football soccer and sells “real” orange juice with no pulp.

I digress.

The Irony of the Arab Spring

I’m sitting here watching Current and Countdown with Keith Olbermann is on. I used to love watching him on MSNBC leading up to Obama’s campaign and for a while after B.O. became POTUS I would rush home and get such a rush watching his show. He and Rachel Maddow.

So it’s interesting to see him on a different channel with possibly a little more liberty to express his frustrations especially in the sometimes uncontrolled way I came to love.

Anywhooo he’s talking to a reporter from Democracy Now! who was at an Occupy Wall Street (henceforth referred to as #occupywallstreet) protest. What I see in the footage featured of police turning on the crowd with batons, pepperspray and altogether unnecessary force given the mostly non-violent nature of the movement really had me wondering…..

—–>> has the “Arab” Spring reached America’s shores?

What stands out to me is the fact that labeling would have had us here in America thinking that only young disenfranchised Arab/Muslim youth living in countries with leaders labeled dictators/miscreants/violators would be the ones to get up and protest because they had had enough. No – it turns out that we as humans or humanity have a lot more in common than we think. To me #occupywallstreet and all the #occupy movements are reflective of a changing world order. One that is tired of capitalism, not in totality, and it’s ills. The unintended consequences you could say. It’s funny how the home, champion, crusader for capitalism, The United States of America, should be going through what it is NOW! Oppression is oppression. We might go and fight wars in the name of “Freedom”, but perhaps a definition or redefining to such an intangible concept should be found. Freedom is not an absolute! It is relative. Relative because it is subject to an individual’s desires and ambitions which are all also subject to culture, politics and so much more. —> INTERSECTIONALITY!

Letting other people or powers define what our oppression is allows for them to shape our experience and be blind to the freedoms we DO have. Outsiders who are not aware of the context within which the said oppression is happening and are oblivious to the interlocking systems of oppression [they themselves are a part of].

Funny how one power will tell another [sovereign] that it is oppressing its people and fight an entire war that drains its economy spending hundreds of millions of dollars for 10 straight years. That said power, in having drained it’s reserves, now borrows and is indebted to a “communist” super power (<—possible blog post for another day lest I digress). The “communist” super power has long been accused by the one power of oppressing its people. Recognizing the irony is mind blowing. A highly enlightening experience which ironically… Anywhoo…. The “Arab” spring was the beginning of what Karl Marx, inThe Communist Manifesto, referred to in saying:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

It really, to me and hopefully, eventually if not already, to you, marked the beginning of the/a Proletarian Revolution. Despite what the liberal and/or conservative media would have you believe, we as working class citizens of ANY country have a lot more to be worried about or in common than what is of actual consequence in our differences. Propagation of propaganda distracts us from the core of what we should be focused on and is right before our eyes.

For some reason the story of Jack and the Beanstalk keeps coming to mind. Of course I haven’t read the story in a long time and the connection or metaphor I am recognizing might be off, but bear with me for the sake of my point. Perhaps read the story or refer to a summary.

I shant make the connection for you, but perhaps as a mental exercise in becoming more aware of yourself and why the Arab Spring and #occupywallstreet matter for YOU today the connection will make itself.

The Arab Spring even gives credit to some of the more positive and unifying aspects of Capitalism technology and innovation (you see it’s not a zero sum opposition to Capitalism, but the parts that should be done away with). Technology like Apple products, other smartphones and social media made it possible the the movement to happen the way it did. In closing and in homage to the late great Mac-Daddy Steve Jobs, I leave you with his words:

“[Y]ou can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”