I used to read Garfield a lot when I was a kid, but as I grew older realised the obvious: it became terribly bland after a while, recycling jokes and never straying from its basic plot. Turns out there’s a great fan/conspiracy theory explaining this: check out this amazing post which proposes that Garfield died in 1989, and every strip since is just a hallucination in the last moments of his life.

the fourth of six strips in this story

Check out the blog for the whole series of strips; it’s astounding

The conspiracy part of this is that a ghostwriter took over at this juncture. Jim Davis, the creator, denies it, and someone in the comments offers what is perhaps a more plausible explanation:

I think in a ham-fisted way, Jim Davis was saying in that closing panel that you can imagine a pretty vivid and screwed up future, so the “alone in the house” scenes were Garfield doing just that, then he snaps out of it.

 

Anyway, it reminded me of this xkcd strip, which dared Jim Davis to “go out in a blaze of dadaist glory.”

credit: xkcd.com

 

Maybe he already did.

Once the elections are over, the educated elites retreat into state institutions where they proceed to govern through a system the vast majority of their people do not understand. The proceedings in parliaments are in a colonial language, the laws are framed in the same foreign language and the various organs of state conduct their affairs in a language understood by a minority that was fortunate to receive colonially designed education. This means that for the most part the masses do not understand what is being said and done in their name.

While the principles of democracy are universal, it appears African societies are hugely disadvantaged in their application, to the extent that they are rendered meaningless. For instance, if democratic governance refers to “the capacity of a society to define and establish legal order — which requires institutions based on the principles of equity, freedom, participation in decision making, accountability, and promoting the inclusion of the most vulnerable sectors of society”, how would we see this happening if the majority of the people have no idea of what is going on in the governance of their country?

Mosibundi Mangena, “Introduction.” In: Political Parties in Africa, edited by Ebrahim Fakir and Tom Lodge. 2015. More info.

  • This is definitely a problem in Namibia. It’s arguably becomingd less of a problem, because English-first education means an increasing number of people do speak the language of government. (Though education is not nearly doing as well as it should, and too many folks come through the system with an inadequate ability to write and read english)
  • I still think SWAPO made the right decision when they opted to go for English as the official language. I don’t think the state could cope with the translation and interpretation required to translate in a truly multilingual society. Instead, what would have likely happened is that people who speak minority languages would be marginalised in the name of saving resources.
  • In other words, I think one language represents a better shot at giving everyone access than several languages.

 

  • More Broadly we have to wonder what the current state of affairs means for democracy. Can we claim that Namibia is a democracy when most people arguably can’t follow what politicians are doing?
  • Or is it enough that people vote based on whatever incomplete information they do have? (and let’s face it, in no country do voters have all the information — government is complicated, that’s partly why we outsource it to politicians in the first place!)
  • For now, government has to do a lot better at communicating what’s going on. Bills debated in parliament should be summarised in easy-to read language. State-owned media should talk about policy in a neutral manner rather than simply parroting what government is saying. Opposition parties need to work to explain policies to voters, and give details on what they would do differently.

update: an example from yesterday

Edit: Some links for backing up your email are at the bottom

If you are like me, there are many readings you did during college that you want to hang on to, or at least the syllabi of your classes. I’ve been meaning to make a nice and tidy backup of my readings for a while but never got around to it. Now seems like a good time to do it. Our email access ends tomorrow. And while there’s a chance we get to keep our Moodle access, I don’t want to place any bets. Unfortunately, Moodle doesn’t have a “download all” button. I tried various approaches, and the one that worked best for me is the following.It still requires you to repeat the step for each class, but then at least it downloads all the files for a course at once. Click on an image if you need a bigger version.

Walkthrough below the fold.

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