GUIDO SOHNE – R.I.P. – Rest In Peace!
I met Guido Sohne in Accra Ghana March 2007 and again at his apartment in Nairobi where he was working effectively on promoting Microsoft alternatives to Open Source Systems for Microsoft Kenya. Guido was a genius with an IQ of 155 or so. Also a great guy. He died tragically of a heart attack at his Nairobi apartment around May 2008. In respect for Guido I reprint an essay he wrote April 2007 I think. Anyone who has his resume, other stuff he wrote, photos – let’s make a collection as a tribute to Guido. By the way, I don’t see the rich and powerful Microsoft creating any award or prize for Black African software developers or other dynamic movers and shakers in the IT Industry.... This I think is a grave omission and maybe indicates Microsoft’s general attitude to the Third World and to Africa?...
Google Search on Guido Sohne - http://www.google.com/search?q=%22guido+sohne%22&
Do Africans Dream
of Electric Sheep?
We live in a Third World within The World, where hard labor is for life, struggling to eke out a better existence as do all our fellow human beings. Where at times one wonders, what is the point in continuing, in struggling given all the obstacles, seen or unseen, that we encounter, seeking to find what we can of happiness, a refuge from the realities of life. We sometimes ask ourselves, as Africans, what the problem is, where it comes from, what we must solve in order to secure for ourselves a new world in which there is no point in asking "what's the point in continuing?", where it instead becomes a straightforward matter of honest work and just rewards, not skullduggery or thievery.
To answer that question, of what Africa's problem is, strikes at the heart of identity. I find myself unable to answer the simple question of who I am, instead finding resolution, not in the answer, but in the questions consequent to the original question itself. I am not an answer. I am an endless series of questions.
I can't call myself a Ghanaian, though I believe myself to be one. "Ghana" is a post-colonial African state - an artificial and illogical construct based on borders not of our own choice or making. It has meaning in the geographical sense, and increasingly, in a de-facto adopted alternate sense, of alienated identity becoming accepted identity. I can't claim to belong to a particular tribe, since I speak no tribal language. I can't tell people I am Catholic because I don't practice and am deeply skeptical of the organized mainstream religions. I'm not sure that I can't call myself a cyborg, since I habitually wear clothes and spectacles, and prefer to use computing devices when possible.
However, at the least I can be sure that I am a male human of mixed race, culture and identity with an inclination towards being rebelliously eccentric and contrary, almost on the verge of being an aberration; in the astronomical sense of "apparent displacement of a celestial object from its true position, caused by the relative motion of the observer and the object" - I have seen my star and he is me.
Identity appears to be a series of facets to which the self attaches its own meaning. It is the mirror in which we would wish to see ourselves that dutifully reflects back our self ideals and dreams, our self adulation. Or it can be the chains in which we are bound by the conditioning we have undergone since birth, a life long shaping of the mind and the personality. And as humans, we all know how difficult habits can be to overcome. How people are attached to religions and nationalities by default, not by choice, although on the surface, it does appear to be by choice!
Societies, which sometimes identify themselves as nations, or as regional power blocs, or even as states within a federation act as kaleidoscopes on the already fragmented identities we have of ourselves, and the cohesiveness of a society is the extent to which these personal aspects of identity resonate with the others with whom we share the society, how the will of the individual can become the will of the nation, the will to power.
But why does this matter for Africa, this issue of identity? I think it has to do with ideas and creativity. The expressions of the mind are shaped by having thoughts and concepts that are synthesized continuously into new products, fads or fashions; human thought is to a large extent, the constant recycling and recombination of old words, sentences and ideas, almost always leading to incremental change with periodic breakthroughs and grand leaps forward.
You can't think of what you can't imagine - our creativity on the individual level is limited by the range of ideas we already have and understand, the scope of different experiences, the ability to draw on history to glean advice from dire times gone by. For societies such as those we have here in Africa, there is still much to be done to propagate knowledge and education, to fill the people's minds with dreams to fire their imaginations. Dreams of an end to hunger, for water and energy to be affordable and for the opportunity to live on an honest day's work. Dreams of a manifest destiny.
It is for this reason that it is disturbing to note the current trend, in the information age, to secure and limit information, to control its flow and to manipulate or intercept it for partisan gain, because this trend is an attack on thought itself, where certain kinds of thought become crime. It is very interesting to think of how some aspects of the seemingly unique facets of the collective self appear to be unchanged through human history. How we are as a world, convulsed in the throes of enmity between mutually incompatible and increasingly obsolete religious traditions going back roughly two thousand years.
Have we really changed? Yes and no. We are immensely more advanced, yet at the same time equally primitive in many aspects of behavior and morality but we still move and walk to the same heart beat. Certain kinds of societal changes are very slow, extremely slow and they shape the very heart of contemporary human identity where we now have a discord and clash between the need to be agile, to embrace change, shifting to Internet time, where global human thought is vastly augmented and communications accelerated and the opposing human need to maintain an unwieldy but comforting status quo, hanging on to our obsolete ideas and religions for dear life, so as not to disturb the anchors and foundations upon which our mirrors lie.
Perhaps we are on the threshold of fundamental change, maybe even mandated by possible coming energy and economic crises of global environmental change, natural resource depletion and escalating human conflict over sharing ever dwindling resources in this century. In such an age, where the change is fundamental and not incremental, we would need to foster the ability, the mentality to cope with, to embrace rapid change and to be able to accelerate the rate of change in areas that are critical to our development.
Ultimately, innovation and creativity, whether on a national or individual level stems from the ability to incorporate environmental change into planning or activities that would improve one's current position, from being able to learn in realtime. Innovation also provides the human race with the tools needed to shift the odds in life towards a better life experience. Human traditions provide a stable base on which each society programs and conditions its individuals for success in life, setting the stage for more innovation to occur.
Thus societies in which ideals and dreams are alive and achievable will be inherently more vital in the sense that when these ideals and dreams resonate within each individual, collectively, great works are achieved. I believe that this is the key to national competitiveness; where the rubber meets the road on which we each drive our personas, in pursuit of and shaping our own identities and destinies.
I believe that Africa's problems lie within a shattered identity, mended into a schizophrenic post-colonial state of depression. Yet we still have our dreams, even more fiercely so, but the world is truly real for us, the obstacles actual and not imagined. I feel that I am watching a world gone mad, bereft of purpose and logic, consumed in a myopic daily grind of survival to the next day that has lost sight of these very human, very common dreams of liberty, prosperity and security. Where in our schizophrenia, we are surrounded by bipolar disorder, neurosis and mass confusion.
We have far more urgent problems than we seem to realize and I can't help but wonder if collectively, the human race is setting itself up for a murderously demagogic game of chicken against a reinforced concrete wall. We can't seem to understand that we are all in this together, instead preferring to fight with ourselves; these are also manifestations of identity, but instead of resonance, we have discord because we are operating within limited realizations of the simple fact that the world is better shared in mutual cooperation than divided along opposed factions.
If Africa's problem lies within fractured identity, then we can begin to wonder about the fractured identity of the world itself, divided between the Third World, which we are portrayed as, and The World, where we actually have to live and share. I had a dream, said Martin Luther King. I think I know what dream was too, a dream that I believe many share within this world. A dream where we can wake up to a sane, comfortable reality, out of the illusions and the hall of mirrors that house our current, collective, human identity - out of the rut in which many of our kind are needlessly suffering through unjust and unfair negligence of the common, basic needs of the human race.
Accra, Ghana, 2006
I do not know exactly why it was that Guido Sohne decided he had had enough (note-Alex Weir – Guido pulled his account from the interest group Newsvine). I however got this email from him;
I've deleted my account on Newsvine. I'm not a rich man. The only
things that I truly have are my principles and my reputation. The
constant allegations of a certain group of people more intent on
defending Israel than seeing the horrors that have resulted from such
blind, staunch support have led to well known risks to my reputation,
that I cannot afford.
I'm taking this stand, striking a blow for free speech and justice all
over the world, by drawing attention to the chilling effects of a
concerted smear campaign operation. If at any time, you see these
people plying their trade, bringing down honest people who are
interested in justice, peace and freedom for *all* people, please feel
free to show this note, to remind people that there are the fallen,
the collateral damage who also live, who also have rights, who also
have desires for a better life, not one in which our fellow man should
be killed, or brought down, so that powerful nations and peoples.
Tell them, when they assault good people, when they defend the war on
Iraq, or the attack on Iran, tell them that they won and there was
only a hollow shell left ...