Niranjan Chatterjee’s Weblog

August 2, 2014

Women Poverty in Canada – Issues, Arguments and Possible Solutions

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:45 pm

Introduction – Anatomy of Poverty among Women in Canada

The title of the paper might raise a few eyebrows as it apparently sounds somewhat surreal that poverty can at all be an issue in such a prosperous country as Canada with its elaborate social security measures and liberal policies towards life and society. The issue is further confusing when one intends to focus on a particular sector of the population, i.e. women who are fighting the curse of poverty in such a flourishing country as Canada is.

Some may simply wish to brush the issue out of sight assuming that it is being blown out of proportions by an interested group that is out to get a few fleeting moments of spotlight by raising a bogey that does not exist in reality.

Others, though not so radical, might introspect a few moments on the issue but would, sooner rather than later, get blinded by glare of riches of the economy as a whole and would conveniently forget the plight of these unfortunate group that fights with its nose perilously close to the unforgiving grinding wheels of abysmal poverty.

Monica Townson in her seminal work published in 2000, shakes us up, rather rudely, from our willful suspension of disbelief and makes us aware of the existence and extent of poverty among Canadian women. She exposes the harsh fact that as Canada stepped into 21st century, nearly 19% of Canadian women were languishing in poverty.

Perhaps one other information would put the issue in proper perspective. While there were 1.8 million poor adult women in Canada in 1980, their numbers had increased to 2.2 million in 2000 (Townson 2000). So, the issue is not only trivial but also needs serious attention as the numbers that are afflicted by this social malady are steadily increasing.

It might, however, be argued by some that Canadian government does not have an officially accepted poverty line. So, how could one declare with such assurance that a certain number of Canadian adult women are poor? The answer to such a query can be found in statistics published by Statistics Canada. It publishes data based on LICO which is nothing but a relative estimate of incomes of families of a certain area. This estimate effectively brings into focus the number of families that are relatively poorer than their neighbors and serves as a good measure of finding out the number of people that can be termed as poor.

Though such an estimate is not uniform throughout the country as it depends on the level of the prosperity of the area that is investigated, it surely brings out the extent of poverty in Canadian society. LICO estimates the percentage of income spent by a family on necessities as food, shelter and clothing and those families that spend a high percentage of their income on these necessities are termed as low-income or poor.

Statistics Canada also provides another measure termed as ‘average income deficiency’ which defines the amount of additional income that is necessary to bring families that are in low-income group above the poverty level. This measure actually helps one to estimate the extent of poverty in Canadian society.

The anatomy of poverty among women in Canada is thrown into sharp focus by this measure when we face the disturbing fact that in 1997 while 49% of the elderly women who were on their own had an income deficiency of nearly $3,000; 56% of single mother families faced an income deficiency of $9,000 (Townson 2000). This fact makes us aware that single mother families are the worst hit and what is more consternating is that more than half such families consist of single mothers tending to children.

Finnie and Sweetman add another interesting dimension to the concept of poverty. They are of the opinion that unless a dynamic perspective is brought into consideration, the genuine impact of poverty can never be estimated. In simple terms, the extent of poverty in terms income deficiency is not enough to study the malaise. It is also necessary to estimate the duration of such poverty to get a complete picture of the hardships faced by the Canadian poor.

The authors also raise a very serious issue. Policy decisions would be substantially different when dealing with short term poverty for a large number of individuals than a long term poverty suffered by a relatively lesser number of individuals. While a temporary income support to affected individuals would be enough to weather short term poverty, much longer and more focused policy measures as equipping the affected individuals with employable skills would be a remedy for tackling long term poverty. So, the duration of poverty is a very important aspect that needs to be given serious attention. An emperical study by Finnie and Sweetman indicates lone mothers have a greater propensity to remain poor over longer periods than other groups (Finnie and Sweetman 2003).

The most obvious question that arises after perusing these details is what could be the reason for such deterioration in the state of affairs in an otherwise affluent economy that prides itself on its liberal and egalitarian outlook – one that never interferes in an individual’s freedom to pursue personal prosperity.

Apathy of Canadian government

The Canadian scenario got worse with global recession that played havoc with most economies of the world. It had become imperative for any government that prides itself on its welfare agenda should take extra precaution to protect those that have already been languishing in poverty. Thus anti-poverty policies had become all the more important as wages got reduced, jobs became scarce, pensions became more and more insufficient and at times even scarce and the all pervading and ever so reassuring social security became riddled with gaping holes (Mackenzie and Murray 2007).

However, Canadian government was caught in a dilemma of whether to incorporate poverty removal in its stimulus packages or whether to push the programs of poverty reduction in the background while concentrating on overall priming of the economy. The other issue that bothered social scientists and economists was whether these stimulus packages would help poor people or whether these would further put them in even greater depths of poverty.

A case in point was the inability of Canadian government to suitably address the issue of Employment Insurance Program which at any point anyway excludes 60% of those that deserve to be included. Reluctance to provide assistance to a program that offers to succor to even a minority among the targeted group amply demonstrates governmental apathy towards the poor.

One must also remember in this regard the unpalatable fact that women in general are less likely to get that benefit as compared to men. Thus, poor women would, it is needless to state, would be even more hamstrung by recession than their male counterparts due to governmental lack of appropriate attention towards improving their lot (TD Economics 2009).

Thus, Harper government’s palliative measure of extending the period of time unemployed could avail of the benefits of this program did not at all help those that were unable to secure an employment in the first place. Ontario did not make any pretensions and clearly stated that its policy of reduction of child poverty by 25% within five years would be postponed due to changed economic scenario.

The annual spending of $63 million for the upkeep of 22,000 child care spaces would not be continued thus adversely affecting poor women in a major way. Provincial governments, however, would pool their resources to preserve around 9,000 of such child care spaces but that effort, though commendable, would not majorly improve the lot of poor women (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

Some provincial governments had announced minor raises in minimum wage rates but there had not been even a single announcement regarding increase of welfare rates. As it is they were minimal and now with rising prices, the real value of these cosmetic increases in minimum wage rate have been negligible (Lynch 2007)

Generally Canadian government has never approached the problem of women poverty with any degree of seriousness of purpose. A case in point is child benefits that are intended to ameliorate poverty and hardship of single mothers as they toil in bringing up their children. Though the policy monitors economic status of children under assistance, it never attempts to monitor the economic status of lone mothers that actually bear the brunt of grinding poverty as they struggle in the efforts to rear their children.

This glaring lacuna in implementation and monitoring of the policy indeed casts serious doubts about the honesty of purpose of Canadian government in this regard (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

Unemployment not the sole reason of poverty among women

In this connection, it may be mentioned that the roots of women poverty in Canada are not only in their unemployment or they being unemployable but can also be traced back to situations when they are in paid employment.

The refusal of Federal Government to implement pay equity in workplace among genders has also increased the discomfort of women in workplace with regard to pay and benefits parity.

The government had also excluded unemployed women from the benefits of Employment Insurance. Though it was based on irrefutable logic the fact remains that it did in no way help the economic deprivation of poor women, especially during the trying times of global economic recession. The government also did not take any measure to alleviate the hardships of lone senior women and instead shifted its attention to family based benefits. This move is surely appreciable but there is a serious flaw in this approach. It assumes equal access to family income by both men and women which is surely not the reality in most instances.

Though some provincial governments did announce increase in minimum wages the impact is yet to be perceived in a tangible manner in improving the lot of poor women especially as women constitute 60% of the minimum wage workers (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

The issue assumes added significance when we superimpose it on the statistical evidence that in 2008, 82% of women in the age bracket 25 – 44 were in the paid workforce but they earned only 65.7% of the average wage earned by men. Ten years ago, in 1998 they earned 62.7% of the average wage earned by men at that time. Thus, there has hardly been any relative improvement in the earning potential of women over the decade. So, even if employment level for women is increased, there is a big doubt whether it would effectively reduce poverty among women.

The data quoted above includes women that are not employed full time. If we consider only those women that are employed full time then though the picture improves but only slightly. The wage gap between genders still remains equally great. As on 2007 an average women who was employed full time earned only 71.4% of the average earnings of a man in full time employment. Thus, refusal of federal government to implement wage equity has gone a long way in making women financially less strong as compared to men (Townson, Women’s Poverty and the Recession 2009).

There is another aspect to the whole scenario. When a woman loses her job generally she does not have enough savings to sustain herself and her family and more often than not does not qualify for Employment Insurance or workplace pension plans. As a result women who head a family as a lone parent are usually part of the poorest group of people in Canada and the level of welfare assistance is so inadequate that National Council of Welfare reported that in 2005 it was as low as 48% of the poverty line level for a lone woman family in Alberta (National Council of Welfare 2006).

After its installation in 2006, Harper Conservatives have taken steps that seriously undermined improvement of economic status of poor Canadian women especially withdrawal of mandate for Status of Women Canada dealt a big blow to attempts of improving the lot of poor Canadian women.

Spillover effects of poverty among women

These days two terms – ‘feminization of poverty’ and ‘juvenization of poverty’ have gained much currency. The first term was coined by Pearce in 1978 and it connoted that out of the total number of poor in Canada progressively more and more women are finding themselves in the grips of this abysmal financial condition (Pearce 1978). Later, Peterson in 1987 and Pressman in 1989 offered slightly differing versions of the term. They defined the term as an increase in the number of families which are headed by lone females and are poor (Peterson 1987); (Pressman 1989).

Though it might appear that the change in definition was merely cosmetic, but deeper analysis threw up different results based on different definitions. Thus, policy decisions, if any, taken depended heavily on how feminization was defined.

Martin D. Dooley did an elaborate study on the topic of feminization and juvenization of poverty. While family data strongly indicated feminization of poverty, individual data did not. Individual data strongly indicated the dejuvenization poverty but family data did not. In simple terms it meant that while children improved their economic lot over time, their mothers; the ones that tended to them and helped in bringing them up, remained mired in the depths of poverty without any hope of any succor (Dooley 1994).

One reason forwarded by Dooley for reduction of juvenization of poverty was not due to children from poor families managing to get out of the clutches of poverty but due to lower rates of child birth. The number of children reduced, hence juvenization of poverty reduced. It was not due to any governmental initiative or conscious poverty reduction plan. Another rather startling revelation obtained from the studies of Dooley was that taxation rates and governmental assistance did not help in reduction of overall poverty.

All that those measures could do was a redistribution of poverty from the elderly women to younger women – those that were below 34 years of age. He forwarded several reasons for such an occurrence the most important among those was the income gap among the elderly were already lesser than those among the younger women and when this coupled with the extra benefits enjoyed by the elderly, the net result was a reduction in poverty rates among the senior women. So, it was more an effect of demography rather than any governmental measures.

Government’s approach towards poverty among women

With a drastic change in Canadian social welfare policy and steady reduction of safety net, the economic position of poor women in Canada has steadily deteriorated. Many citizens are of the opinion that such a drastic cutback of welfare measures has sown the seeds of insecurity in the minds of many Canadians and now not only the poor women but also others that are reasonably secure financially have started to feel the pinch of steadily disappearing social safety network (Pulkingham and Ternowetsky 1996).

It all started with the implementation of Canada Health and Social Transfer whereby federal Government started giving a lump sum amount to provincial governments to cover education, health care and social programs. Provincial governments were provided enough autonomy in deciding the standards of social programs they would provide to their people and provincial governments started delegating their responsibilities to municipalities which decided the standard of social programs they would offer to those living within their jurisdiction. The natural corollary of such widespread decentralization and delegation was a marked variation in the quality of social programs available throughout Canada and a steady erosion of Federal government’s hitherto leadership status with regard to such social welfare programs (McMullin, Davies and Cassidy 2002).

The Ontario government introduced in 1997 the Social Reform Act that focused on restructuring the welfare system with the laudable goal of lowering the ‘cycle of dependency’ on the system and encouraging the recipients of social assistance to become self sufficient. The Ontario Works Act (OWA) and the Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSPA) replaced the earlier federally administered General Welfare Assistance Act (GWA), the Family Benefits Act (FBA) and the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Act.

The Ontario Works Act provided pecuniary support for shelter and other basic needs to recipients together with dental and eye care. But this ultimately resulted in a 21.6% reduction in benefits for the recipients. The reduction of benefits was aimed at coaxing the recipients from the cozy comfort of social assistance to show some initiative and find an employment. However, the ground reality was entirely different.

Lone young mothers when faced with the 21% reduction took recourse to running up debts rather than compromise on the children’s nutrition and landed into greater financial difficulty with debt collectors hounding them. Thus, instead of encouraging them to become self sufficient, the new policy made them more financially insecure. The very aim of the policy was thus utterly frustrated (McMullin, Davies and Cassidy 2002).

Those that opted to join the labor force landed into greater trouble. Due to their lack of proper education and job related experience they could manage only the lowliest of jobs that did not have any social benefits and most of them ended up earning less than what they could get through social assistance which was promptly withdrawn the moment they got a job. Thus, the new policy effectively transformed them from unemployed poor to working poor without any real change in their economic condition (Little 1994). Such a situation induces a sense of helplessness and self pity among lone mothers and instead of empowering them, this law turned them into people that lacked self esteem who felt they were inherently worthless, useless and totally unfit to become contributive members of a society.

The reduction in welfare assistance in most provinces in Canada were drastic with British Columbia leading the onslaught as between 1995 and 2003 welfare assistance in this state was truncated by as much as 54%. It must be remembered that while poverty directly influences health and well being of poor women by inhibiting them from proper nutrition, shelter or health care, stigmatization and alienation from society scars their psyche beyond any redemption (Fuchs 1988).

They lead the rest of their lives bearing the albatross around their necks of being treated as unworthy, undeserving, reprehensible and more often than not as morally deviant. Such a tremendous burden is surely a very heavy penalty for being poor. Yet quite a few of those that reached such a pitiable situation did so for no fault of theirs. A divorce often shattered their earlier sheltered existence and, devoid of any previous work experience or even an educational degree, they faced the fury of modern urban life with no wherewithal to take shelter from the unexpected onslaught (Reid and Tom 2006).

Coulter analyzed the relative inaction, rather abdication of responsibility of the Federal Government through the prism of neoliberalism which measures an individual by the quantum of his or her consumption and propounds the supremacy of marketplace (Coulter 2009). Thus all policies enacted by neoliberals almost invariably shifted their focus from groups to individuals and tended to treat each individual as an independent entity unique in itself and not having anything in common to each other. Such an approach quite conveniently releases the government from its bounden duty of providing for welfare measures to disadvantaged sections of the society and concentrate on efficient and smooth functioning of the marketplace which neoliberals consider to be the final, impersonal and equitable arbiter of utilization of the resources of a society and capital accumulation (Harvey 2006).

When the Conservative Party came to power in 1995 elections in Ontario, neoliberals like Mike Harris came out in the open with all their guns blazing against tenets of welfare state and governmental responsibilities towards economically disadvantaged and consequent spending of governmental funds for their support. They also blamed governmental regulation for the tumultuous economic scenario that plagued Canada at that time. But the real reason for such a recessionary situation was not welfare policies of the government or security net but because of a global economic downturn, however, these neoliberals took advantage of public anxiety and scrapped or drastically reduced welfare schemes and worsened the economic conditions of lone mothers. Instead of helping those that needed such assistance the most, the government pushed them further to the brink of annihilation in its mad desire to establish supremacy of marketplace and a consumption oriented economy (Coulter 2009).

Policy Priorities for Women – through the prism of racial and class differences

Erin O’Brien observes that women never think as a single group bout the burning issue of poor women in Canada; rather they analyze the issue through the lens of their individual racial and economic standings. As an example, the author draws the analogy of a woman driving a SUV and another driving a Hyundai and yet another that is forced to take a bus and tries to examine whether all three women think alike on issues of poverty and deprivation among women in Canada (O’Brien 2004).

But O’Brien is not the only scholar who has come to this conclusion. Authors have earlier also recorded their experiences and analyzed trends and events and have come to the conclusion that women tend to have divergent opinions about any political or societal issue depending upon which strata of society they come from, their nationalities and races and of course their economic status (Gordon 1994).

As their economic status improves, women tend to consider poverty as an issue that should not merit as much as attention as it did when their economic status was not so sound. Thus advent of economic prosperity tended to make women impervious to the miseries of those that have still not been able to overcome that crucial economic barrier. This situation becomes even more acute if the fruits of economic prosperity do not permeate equitable through the society. If those that have been able to take advantage of various assistances and social benefits to break away from the shackles of poverty belong predominantly to a specific ethnic group, they would almost always become callous about the trials and tribulations of the other ethnic groups that have not been able to, or were not allowed to, take advantage of social benefits or a booming economy.

Thus organizing women to fight against poverty is a double-edged sword in the sense that while all of them face the same hardships, women would stick together and fight together but once there is a discrepancy in economic improvement among individual members of the group, those that have been able to clinch the benefits would most certainly stop struggling for their less fortunate fellow members. Hence any women’s movement that attempts to tackle women’s poverty in Canada by organizing affected women to fight the battle collectively must be extra cautious that such a movement does not end up creating divides and chasms among fellow members. If women become apathetic to problems of women it would indeed be an uphill task for those that are fighting the battle for survival.


Women in Canada are still suffering from unacceptable levels of poverty and the government seems all too happy to abdicate its responsibility to protect that are most distressed in the name of rationalization and empowerment of recipients of social security assistance. Global recession has given them a convenient excuse to shrink the social security net even further. But such an approach must be vehemently opposed and the government must be pressurized to bring back the issue of women’s equality at workplace back on the active agenda. Further, the issue of Employment Insurance must be ironed out so that women get the same benefits and access as men do.

The minimum wages should be brought up to $10 and a thorough review of social assistance is absolutely urgent and imperative so as to ensure that they come up to post-tax LICO for lone parents and elderly women so that they do not remain stuck in the depths of poverty while suffering the opprobrium of useless social parasites. Recent modes of evaluation of a woman’s economic status that is linked with her relationship with a man must be removed and social assistance and tax structures should be so modified that a woman’s economic autonomy is not only respected but also actively encouraged.


Coulter, Kendra. “Women, Poverty Policy, and the Production of Neoliberal Politics in Ontario, Canada.” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 30, 2009: 23-45.

Dooley, Martin D. “Women, Children and Poverty in Canada.” Canadian Public Policy, Vol. 20, No. 4, 1994: 430-443.

Finnie, Ross, and Arthur Sweetman. “Poverty dynamics: empirical evidence for Canada.” Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2003: 292-325.

Fuchs, V. Women’s Quest for Economic Equality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Gordon, Linda. Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Harvey, David. Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. London: Verso, 2006.

Little, M.H. “Manhunts and Bingo Blabs: The Moral Regulation of Ontario Single Mother.” Canadian Journal of Sociology, 19, 1994: 233-247.

Lynch, Robert G. Enriching Children, Enriching the Nation. Study, Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2007.

Mackenzie, Hugh, and Stuart Murray. Bringing Minimum Wages Above the Poverty Line. Report, Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2007.

McMullin, J. A., L. Davies, and G. Cassidy. “Welfare reform in Ontario: tough times in mothers’ lives.” Canadian Public Policy, 28 (2), 2002: 297-314.

National Council of Welfare. “Welfare Incomes: Patterns and Trends.” National Council of Welfare. 2006. (accessed March 29, 2011).

O’Brien, Erin. “The Double-Edged Sword of Women’s Organizing.” Women & Politics, 26: 3, 2004: 25-56.

Pearce, D. “The Feminization of Poverty: Women, Work and Welfare.” Urban and Social Change Review, 2, 1978: 1-2.

Peterson, J. “The Feminization of Poverty.” Journal of Economic Issues, 21, 1987: 329-337.

Pressman, S. “Comment on Peterson’s “The Feminization of Poverty”.” Journal of Economic Issues, 23, 1989: 231-238.

Pulkingham, J., and G. Ternowetsky. “The Changing Landscape of Social Policy and the Canadian Welfare State.” In Remaking Canadian Social Policy: Social Security in the Late 1990s, by J. Pulkingham and G. Ternowetsky (eds). Halifax: Fernwood Publishing Co., 1996.

Reid, Colleen, and Allison Tom. “Poor Women’s Discourses of Legitimacy, Poverty, and Health.” Gender and Society, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2006: 402-421.

TD Economics. Is Canada’s Employment Insurance Program Adequate? Special Report. April 30, 2009. (accessed March 28, 2011).

Townson, Monica. A Report Card on Women and Poverty. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2000.

Townson, Monica. Women’s Poverty and the Recession. Report, Ottawa: Canadian Center for Policy Alternaives, 2009.


The Primary Reasons Why African American Women Find it Difficult To Attract Compatible African American Men to Commit to Marriage

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:42 pm


The purpose of this project thesis was to determine the primary reasons why African American Women find it difficult to attract compatible African American Men to commit to marriage and ways to solve this problem. This issue has been around for years and it is not getting any better. The men in our society are afraid to commit to marriage for various reasons. Men not committing is causing women to feel unwanted, abused, lose trust and for some even low self-esteem, which lead to depression.

An article printed in Diverse Education African American women states that it is not only women who want marriage, family and stability. The realities take shape by gaps in labor market opportunities between men and women, and gaps in the training possibilities that men and women face.

Women stated in an extract posted by Dr. Michael Gurian, that men take longer to decide that this one bond of marital love would be the bond on which they formed their future life.  Men prove worth and base their lives on tests, challenges, and proofs of self.  They take a lot longer to commit themselves than women.  Many men would rather wait for engagement and marriage until they are sure that can keep their worth and status high enough for a sustained period to live up to their future family and social responsibilities.

Men are afraid to become responsible for woman’s happiness. Men are very smart:  They know from adolescence onward that women make men greatly responsible for their happiness.  Men, especially today, know that it can easily become a zero sum game to become responsible for not only a woman’s physical and financial safety once children come, but also her deep inner life, too.

Many men fear they will not be able to completely bond with children.  Men do not have oxytocin which women have by which they bond not only instinctually and socially to children, but also biochemically.  Men often have to work very hard to bond with mates and offspring in order to feel parallel in their bonding intensity with women.  Men biologically mature later than women, their brain development finishes later in adolescence than girls’ do and women’s.  Therefore, in some case, the woman seeking commitment might be more psychologically mature than the man she wants to marry. She may be ready.  He may not be.  Because men have no inherent biological path to worth, they often take longer than women do to feel they have proven themselves worthy of marriage. They may be just as focused on the personal journey of self-worth development as they are on marriage, whereas in case of a woman, the very fact that a man is courting may have the inherent advantage of self-worth, and she may be more focused on marriage.

Meanwhile, men have many reasons for not committing as quickly as women might like. Some men are simply so terrified of committing to one woman that they reflect quite well the cliché, “Men are afraid to commit.” Yet men are immensely courageous, too.  Especially in today’s social environment, in which many females are putting not only the responsibility for their financial and material needs in the hands of men (men are still required, in most households, to earn more than women when the children come), but also the responsibility for the emotional health of the marriage, men still marry at very high rates. Men are committing themselves to romantic partners and striving to adapt and adjust to those partners. Men fear women, but know they need them. The biological compulsion to marry is still very strong, as are the biological factors that drive a man’s mind and body as he passes the tests of commitment. (Gurian, 2005)


ABSTRACT                                                                                                                  3

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROBLEM                                                                       6

Purpose of the Action Research Project                                                                     6

Setting of the Problem                                                                                                6

History and Background of the Problem                                                                    7

Scope of the Action Research Project                                                                                    8

Importance of the Action Research Project                                                                9

Definition of Terms                                                                                                  10

LITERATURE REVIEW                                                                                          11

OPTION SELECTION                                                                                                          22

DESCRIPTION OF THE INTERVENTION                                                                      23

Statement of Objectives                                                                                           23

Description of the Intervention                                                                                24

       THE EVALUATION PLANS                                                                                               27

Evaluation Design                                                                                                     28

Interpretation                                                                                                            29

PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF INTERVIEWS                                                                     32

Design of Questions                                                                                                 33

CONCLUSION                                                                                                           35

       REFERENCE LIST                                                                                                   37





African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage due to fear of committing to a permanent, one on one, male/female relationship, lack of trust due to past hurts and fear of divorce. For years African American women have been getting involved in relationships with African American men to build a foundation for marriage and to have a family and as a result of various reasons, marriages have ended in divorce. This issue has been around for years and causes men and women to talk about relationships, think about them, read about them, ask about them, and even get in them, without a clue how to move forward in them. In Steve Harvey book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man he states what men really think about love, relationship, intimacy, and commitment. (Harvey, 2009)

Statement of Purpose 

The purpose of this project was to determine the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage and ways to solve this problem.  It is indeed surprising that after all these years women have yet to figure out why is it so difficult to get men to commit to marriage. It is high time that the pathetic excuses that our African American men give about not being ready, not being able to get along, or not having a good enough careers are discarded in the dustbin. (Mitchell, 2006)

Year after year, men have been abusing and disrespecting women. Year after year, men have been lording over women and in the process have taken away or crushed their rights and dignity.  There are women who are driven to mental penury after their encounter with these men. (Abidde, 2005)

The purpose of committing is putting all blame aside, believing you should focus on bridging the gaps in African American relationships by exploring solutions and engaging in dialogue that is more meaningful.  In other words, take a moment and shed some light on how we got to this point in the beginning.  Purpose of defining commitment could be define our relationship ideas, communicate our desires, and look for balances that sustain us for the long haul.  These traditional roles with new millennium personalities will help both African American women and men satisfy their relationship needs and expectations.

Setting of the Problem

This problem is affecting African American women and men worldwide, who have not found their sold mate; and it is not getting any better.  If it is not thought of and evaluated in a more respectful, and loving manner it could have a devastating effect on our African American women and men globally.

The problem is an internationally known problem that African American men and women are facing emotionally and physically.  The problem of women not being able to find a compatible man to commit and marriage is ongoing all over.

History of the Problem

According to research found on the website for National Health Marriage Resource Center, “Marriage is clearly linked to psychological, social and economic benefits.”  African American is significantly less likely to marry. Only 50 percent of African Americans born between 1960 and 1969 were married by the age of 30 (compared with 78 percent of whites).

African Americans have higher rates of divorce compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Well, because of the lower marriage rates and higher divorces rates, African-American women are about half as likely to be married at any time. Marriage is no longer a moral issue; it is an economic issue. (Mary Mitchell)

Research indicates that African American men lack the education and financial sources.  They are undependable, uncommitted to marriage, prone to engage in violence, physically absent due to abandonment or incarceration.

The absence of African American fathers at home might also be a primary factor of the insidious deterioration of African American families. These missing men are at the root of family disorganization and dysfunction. Accepting this notion without taking into account the rampant inequity, racial discrimination and legal difficulties that often create insurmountable barriers to marriage and fatherhood would give the observer a wrong impression about the whole scenario.(Fiske, 2003).

A recent study by Lane, Keefe, Rubinstein, Levandowski, Freedman, Rosenthal, Cibula and Czerwinski (2004) examines the current plight of African American Families and barriers to marriage and parenthood.  Research reveals that the declining marriage rate for African American women is most likely due to the scarcity of marriageable men and the disproportionate sex ratio within the African American population. The research also brings to light the fact that the high rise in single motherhood since 1965 through 2000 is not due to personal choice, but rather the effect of structural violence. Lack of educational and /or employment opportunities inhibit marriage ability.

The African American male-female sex ratio disparity is highest between the ages of 25-29, when for every two African American men there are nearly three African American women.  Lane, et al (2004) note, heterosexual, monogamous marriage is thus an arithmetical impossibility for one third of African American women in this age group, if they want marital partners of near age and same race.  Overwhelmingly, incarceration is the largest factor that accounts for this skewed male-female sex ratio among African American men and women.

Researchers have frequently theorized that sporadic employment leads to disengaged family involvement for low-income African American men.  Low-income women often do not consider men with unstable work histories to be worth a lifetime commitment.  Successful fatherhood has hinged on men’s stable and consistent participation in both work and family life (Roy, 2005).  With limited opportunities to fulfill the provider role for their families, African American men have had few opportunities to open the door to other forms of familiar involvement as parents or partners.  Failure as providers has harmed fulfillment of other roles in the lives of African American men, such as the regular involvement with their children (Roy, 2005).  Research suggests that African American men, as with men from all ethnicities, in fact, desire marriage. (James, Tucker, Mitchell-Kernan,(1996).  Married men derive a high level of well-being, more so than never married singles or divorced males.  However, among African American women, only about 70 percent born after 1980 will marry and those who do marry will face increased chances for divorce (Besharov and West, 2001).  Considering the shortage of marriageable African American men, marriage unions between African American men and women are in serious decline; with a reversal of this trend unlikely in the near future.  If they marry, the high rates of divorce among this population are indicative of the severe stressors (poverty, high unemployment, etc.) that interfere in the lives of these families, jeopardizing the health of the marriage.

Scope of the Project

The project will focus on fear of commitment, educational differences, financial compatibility, fear of divorce with or without children, and religious differences.  There are several reasons why African American women have difficulty attracting compatible African American men to commit to marriage.

1) The fear of commitment due to economic status and feelings of inadequacy in handling family life,

2) Women are unable to attract men because of educational differences; single motherhood has forced women to further their education in order to provide adequate life, health and safety for themselves and their children. This causes men to feel intimidated by the knowledge women have and they do not.

3) Financial compatibility because of advances educational levels, which allows or contributes to job promotion and an advance in salary, again cause men to be intimidated by a woman that makes more money than he does and he fears that he will not be in control as being the family “bread winner”.

4) Fear of divorcees with or without children listening and observing family member’s marriages, I’ve learned that in previous years, husband and wives communicated more and forgave and tolerated incidents that couples today will divorce over without seeking counseling or giving the other party “another chance”.  The marriage vows are quickly forgotten when situations are not happening to their satisfaction.

5) Religious differences under which African American women attend church believing in the Lord and living according to his word.  Locating an African American man who is committed to living according to the “Word” is difficult, as some of them believe that their indiscretions are acceptable and they do not have any problems in having an affair outside marriage as long as their wives do not find out. They are comfortable sitting in church singing praise to the Lord all the while knowing they have sinned. They are willing to be in church, but not to completely adopt the ways of the Lord.

Importance of the Project

The importance of this project was to educate and inform African American women that all is not in vain in attracting an African American man to commit to marriage and that they do not have to sacrifice themselves in order to marry within their race.  It is also important to educate and inform African American men that not all women are out to trap them into a life of misery, and that communication and understanding is one of the keys to having a healthy and happy marriage.


Definition of Terms


Oxytocin – is a pituitary hormone that stimulates uterine contractions during childbirth and triggers lactation.

Use: sometimes given to assist labor


Instinctually – is a powerful motivation or impulse


Biochemically – is the study of the chemical substances and vital processes in living organisms


Immensely – is extremely large, huge, excellent


Penury – extreme poverty; destitution


Insidious – is working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner.  Intended to entrap, treacherous


Rampant – Growing or spreading unchecked.


Insurmountable – is impossible to surmount; insuperable


Monogamous – is marriage to only one person at a time


Sporadic – is occurring at irregular intervals; having no pattern in time


Indicative – is serving to indicate




An exploration of family origin and contextual influences; African American women’s perception of men and their experience of romantic relationships have been examined in detail. African American men also face impacts and effects that relate to educational differences, commitment, financial compatibility, divorcees with or without children and religious differences.  These are the topics that will be discussed in my paper.

Educational Differences

Nationally, a mere quarter of the 1.9-million black men between 18 and 24 attended college in 2000, the last year the American Council on Education reported such statistics.  By contrast, 35 percent of black women in the same age group and 36 percent of all 18 to 24 year olds were attending college.

According to the American Council on Education, is that the graduation rate of African American men is the lowest of any population.  Only 35 percent of the African American men who enrolled in NCAA Division I schools in 1996 graduated within six years.  Caucasian men, on the other hand, graduated at a rate of 59 percent; Hispanic men, 46 percent; American Indian men, 41 percent; and African American women, 45 percent.

According to the autumn 2003 issue of the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, “In 1999 there were 757,000 African American men in federal, state and local prison”.  In the United States, in 1999 there were 604,200 African American men enrolled in advanced education.  Meanwhile, there were 25 percent more African American men in prison in the United States than were enrolled in institutions for advanced education.  In today’s society, black men make up 41 percent of the inmates in federal state, and local prison, but African American men are only 4 percent of all students in American institutions of advanced education.

Many African American and Caucasian educators at major colleges and universities, including Amherst, historically black Howard, Swarthmore and Wesleyan, are trying to help end this crisis.  Several years ago, the University of Georgia established the African-American Male Initiative, a research program with the purpose of removing the hurdles to college enrollment and graduation for black men.

The obstacles to African American males earning college degrees are several, various apparently inflexible.  They include central public education before college, the absence of black men as role models, low opportunity from teachers and other adults, low self-worth; black men’s hold low aspirations and their propensity to drop out of high school in inconsistent numbers.

Yes, these are serious obstacles to college enrollment and graduation for African-American men, but, taken together, they symbolize the least significant part of the problem.  A role model, for example, means nothing or next to nothing to a child who is ill prepared to emotionally and academically apprehend the significance of the role model’s accomplishments.

Ronald Mincy is a professor of social work and editor of “Black Males Left Behind”.  The African American population in Prince George’s County, Maryland and DeKalb County, Georgia are some of the nation’s most satisfied.  The poverty rate for African Americans has decreased from 26.5 percent in 1998 to 24.3 percent in 2006.  In addition, a study by the National Association of Realtors’ for 2006 discovered that single female homebuyers were up from 14 percent to 22.  Additionally, in the midst of single females, 46 percent are time buyers.

A staggering number of African American household continue to be headed by women; and shortage has a common way of life inherited from one generation to another.  Some seven out of every ten African American children are raised in single households.  Additional data reveals that African American households are at an economic drawback compared to white households.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2005 employed African Americans earned only 65 percent of the earnings of whites in comparables jobs.  Moreover, John Macionis, a sociologist, suggests that a soaring risk of unemployment and poverty makes maintain a constant marriage difficult.  In addition, that 27 percent of African American women in their forties have never married compare to about 9 percent of white women the same age.

Many African American women are losing faith in a man’s ability to be responsible.  Twenty of the twenty-seven (74%) women interviewed for this article agree that some African American men look forward to a woman to take care of them.  While this view is disturbing, the truth of the matter is that a growing number of African American men are out of work.  According the Erik Eckholm’s article titled “Plight of Black Men dire, Studies Says”, the share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late1990s.  In 2000, 65 percent of the black male high school dropouts in their 20’s were jobless-that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated.  By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white dropouts and 19percent of Hispanic dropouts.

Financial Capabilities

General Statistics

  • The number of working women has risen from 5, 1 million in 1990, to 18.4 million in 1950, to 65.7 million in 2005. The number of working women is projected to reach nearly 76 million by 2014.
  • Women accounted for 18% of the labor force in 1900, and 46.4% in 2005. In 2014, women will account for 46.8% of the labor force.
  • The number of women in the labor force is expected to increase by almost 10.9% between 2004 and 2014, while a smaller 9.1% increase is projected for men. This means men’s share of the labor force will decrease, from 53.6% to 53.2% between 2004 and 2014.
  • While in 1900 only 20.4% of all women worked, in 2005, almost 60% worked. The same percentage of women is expected to be in the paid labor force in 2014.
  • Almost 73% of working women had white-collar occupations in 2005, a percentage that should to increase. Women employed in professional and related occupations accounted for 24.7% of all working-women in 2005.
  • Women are the majority (56.3%) of workers in the occupational category expected to grow most rapidly: the professional and related occupations, which should increase by more than 21.2% from 2004-2014.
  • Labor force participation has increased most dramatically among married women.
  • Today most mothers-even those with the youngest children participate in the labor force.
  • Nearly half of all multiple jobholders in 2004 were women, up from 22% in 1974. Women are the majority of temporary and part-time workers.

Occupational Distribution

  • Women being the main source of professional employees, their profession distribution remains different from men:
  • In 2005, 92% of registered nurses, 82% of all elementary and middle schoolteachers, and 98% of all preschool and kindergarten teachers were women.
  • In comparison, only 13% of all civil engineers, 7% of electrical and electronics engineers, and 3% of all aircraft pilots and flight engineers were female.
  • The different distribution of men and women among specific professional occupations was less pronounced in 2005 than in 1985.
  • The percentage of technical writers who were female increased from 36% to 52% between 1985 and 2005
  • Women pharmacists increased from 30% in 1983 in 1985 to 48% in 2005
  • The percentage of female chemists increased from 11% in 1985 to 35% in 200
  • In 2005, women accounted for 30% of all lawyers, 32% of all physicians and surgeons, and 67% of all psychologists

The Wage Gap Persists

  • In 2004, women earned 80.4% as much as men when comparing median weekly earnings. Another way to measure earnings disparities is by comparing median annual earnings for full-time year-round workers; this figure includes self-employed workers and other sources of pay differences such as annual bonuses.  When measured in this manner, the wage gap appeared even more pronounced; women earned just 76.5% as much as men.
  • For most women of color, the earnings gap is even larger.
  • African American women earned just 70.8% as much as all men in 2004.
  • Hispanic and Latina women earned just 58.8% as much as all men.
  • Only Asian American women’s earnings were closer to parity with men’s: in 2004, they earned 86% that of all men. However, they earned 76.4% as much as Asian American men.
  • The wage gap is more pronounced for older women: in 2004, women over 35 earned 75% that of men in the same age group, while women aged 16-24 earned 95% as much as their peers.
  • Out of 19 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States has the largest gender earnings gap, save for Austria and Switzerland.

Work, Family, and Women’s Economic Responsibilities

  • In 2004, 49% of women were not married, 58% of them were in the labor force
  • The proportion of families in which the husband, but not the wife, worked outside the home declined from 66% in the 1940’s and ‘50s to only 18% in 2003.
  • The overall labor force participation rate of mothers with children under 18 was 70.7% in 2004.
  • Whereas in 1970, 12% of all children lived in one-parent families, in 2004 almost 28% lived with only one parent. Over 83% of these children lived with their mothers.
  • In 2004, single mother almost 30% of all working families headed over seven million families with children under 18. The labor-force-participation rate of single mothers was over 77% in 2004.
  • Almost 36% of families where children under 18 lived with their mother (with no father present) were below the poverty level in 2004. Among Black single mothers, over 43% were below the poverty line.

Other important critical economic realities shape the status of African American women.  While more likely to be employed than African-American men, African-American women earn lower wages than African men and White women do, with White women earning a median $663 per week in 2007, compared to $629 for African-American men and $566 for African-American women.  All three groups earn less than White men, whose 2007 weekly median earnings were $850.  Moreover, while African-American women represent two-thirds of all African –American undergraduates, and the mass of graduate students, African –American women are less likely than African-American men to reach the high point of their occupations, especially in corporate America.  Indeed, while a handful of African-American men lead Fortune 500 corporations, as do a dozen or so White women, not a single African-American woman has ever led such a corporation.


Elina Furman, author of Kiss and Run: The Single, Picky, and Indecisive Girl’s Guide to Overcoming Her Fear of Commitment, calls her commitment phobic.  The world is altering and so as society, which is giving women more options for work, family and relationships.  In result, this has made women to become more independent than ever.  At 47 million strong, in according to the U.S. Census, single women are the fastest growing segment of the American population. Moreover, with society more accepting of their single status, women are free to follow whatever choices they desire to make.  However, conflicts can arise from all this newfound freedom:  More women are living life on their own terms but discovery it harder to compromise.

This trend is especially unsettling for men, the author says, “Men don’t understand why women are roaring so much.  A lot of men are much more relationship-and family-oriented than women.”  She says women often feel that men have more to gain in a marriage and many feel as if men always win and women always lose in a relationship.  In addition, when men play the nice guy, they may not get the girl.  The author says, often it’s not his issues but hers that interfere in a relationship. She says many women are saying to men, “It’s your fault,” rather than declare that they are scared of commitment.

Married African American men are more likely to be employed than never-married or divorced men, and they work longer hours and earn superior wages than unmarried men with comparable characteristics.  These specifics have been confirmed in the vase mass of economic studies why individuals with comparable and distinctive characteristics have different earnings.  Studies focusing on black men estimate that married men work two and a half more on average and earn wages between 14 percent and 18 percent higher than never-married black men earn while controlling for other differences between individuals.

Why do men earn more when they marry?  It may be that married men change their behavior to conform to social expectations of what it takes to be good husband-expectations such as maturity, loyalty, and the ability to provide economically for a family.  On the other hand, perhaps men delay marriage until they expect to be able to conform to these expectations. To explore this question, economists Sanders Korenman and David Neumark follow the employment patterns of men from two different types of surveys:  a nationwide representative sample studied over time and a smaller group of men working in a single firm.  They find that men’s wages enlarge during each year of marriage, and that, in the long-term study, unmarried men with advanced wage growth is actually less likely subsequently to marry.  The authors also find married men in the firm-level sample have higher performance evaluations than unmarried men with comparable company experience and other characteristics, which leads the married men to be employed in higher job grades and to earn more money.  This study provides verification that married men’s behavior, rather than preferential treatment or selection into marriage, causes them to earn more.

African American men also modify their behavior after marriage in ways that are valuable to their health.  The social and emotional support that married black men obtain from their wives is influential in encouraging healthy activities and protecting men’s emotional health.

How do wives have a direct positive impact on African American husbands’ health?

Married black men gain from the social and emotional support of their wives and from their wives’ support towards healthy behavior.  Married men are more likely than single men to report that someone monitors their health and reminds them to do healthy things, such as exercising or seeing a doctor regularly.  The everyday interaction provided by marriage also protects men against solitude and social isolation, which can negatively affect physical and mental health.  Marriage can also bolster men’s belief that their lives have meaning and purpose because someone relies on them and cares for them.

Married African American men accept more sustain from their extended families and religious communities, and in return supply to the social performance of their neighborhoods and communities.  In this way, married black men are more socially incorporated into their communities than unmarried peers are.

Encouraging marriage among African Americans should be essential to anyone-including policymakers, community activists, and individuals-who are concerned in improving the well-being of African American men.  With this goal in mind, researcher Linda Malone-Colon has outlined a plan to lecture to the crisis of low marriage rates among African Americans.

Divorcees with or without children

The most important cause of rise in divorce is considered cases worldwide of individualism among people.  Everyone worldwide is giving too much significance to his or her own self.  People are more career-oriented and want to rise high in life status-wise and financially.  No one has much time o think about the other person. “I before anyone else” is the attitude.

Such individualism is very conflicting of the concept of marriage, which is a bond of two people who vow to care for each other and put the other’s importance before their own.  This is the only way a marriage can function because it demands togetherness and collectiveness thinking, not individualism.  To make a marriage work, both the partners need to be equipped for a lot of self-sacrifice and ready to show an understanding and caring attitude towards the other.

Other most important causes of divorce are financial arising out of a lack of family resources.  The constant scarcity of money soon gives to such behavior as bickering, sarcastic comments, insulting each other and lack of respect for each other. This downhill slide finally ends in divorce.

Other reasons for divorce include factors like physical and emotional abuse, sexual dissatisfaction, and unrest in relationship due to a huge disparity in educational background and life goals between the partners as well as lack of shared chemistry between them due to ego problems.

Divorce leads to numerous serious repercussions in a person’s life.  One starts to blame oneself for the completely messy situation and failure in personal affairs.  Guiltiness complex saps your energy and erodes you from within.  To get out of this unsafe rut, you have to remember the good times you have exhausted together with your partner.  “It was good while it lasted” is the correct approach to capture.

Divorce often leads to depression.  You feel lonely and discover it difficult to accept the new situation.  Divorce creates a feeling of anger and self-pity because you question yourself “why this has happened to me? Why was I so unlucky?”  Your health begins to suffer.  Divorce not only affects you but your children too.  They get a feeling of insecurity and grow to be uncertain about their future.  If not handled properly, this can cause permanent damage to the personality of the growing-up children.

After divorce, you have to start thinking of reframing your life and getting it back on track.  You should also be patient.  It will take a lot of time and effort before you can fully overcome the unconstructive effects of divorce.  To hasten up the process, try to take up a new hobby and make it a point to meet new people and start fresh relationships.  Joining Yoga and meditation is another way of dealing with stress and anxiety.  Talking about your problems with your friends is also helpful in getting the pent-up feelings out of your system.

Religious Differences

According to a latest research released today, there is a very high level of interest and involvement in spirituality and religion, there are significant differences among student subgroups, most extensively between African American and Whites, and between men and women.

A survey of 112,232 students at 236 colleges and universities found that the major differences between African American and White students was in their rank of Religious Commitment, Ethic of Caring, Religious Engagement, and Spiritual Quest. African Americans are also far more prone than White Americans to believe in God, pray, and attend religious services frequently.

While gender differences are not always outsized, women score higher on 11 of 12 “scales” that measure various aspects of students’ spirituality and religiousness.  The most marked differences are in women’s higher levels of Charitable Involvement and Religious Commitment.

These results are base on the most recent investigation of statistics from a major national study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at UCLA.  The study was administered last fall to entering college freshmen who attend a representative sample of colleges and universities.  HERI researchers reported earlier that four in five students have an interest in spirituality, three-fourths say are “searching for meaning or reason in life,” and more than three-quarters believe in God.

“African Americans are far busier with religion and spirituality than other students,” said Alexander W. Astin, the Co-Principal Investigator for the project.  “And while women’s advanced levels of spirituality and religiousness might be expected, we were astonished that some of these differences aren’t more pronounced.

Racial Differences

African Americans registered as the maximum scorers on seven of the 12 overall measures of spirituality and religiousness studied – Religious Commitment, Compassionate Self-Concept, Spiritual Quest, Equanimity, Religious Engagement, Ethic of Caring, and Religious/Social Conservatism – compared to Whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders.  Whites had the lowest scores on five of the 12 scales:  Ethic of Caring, Ecumenical Worldview, Charitable Involvement, Spiritual Quest, and Compassionate Self-Concept.

Latinos were the least likely overall to display elevated levels of Religious Engagement and, along with Asian Americans, Religious/Social Conservatism.  Asian Americans were the maximum scorers on Religious Skepticism and the lowest on Spirituality, Equanimity, and Religious Commitment.  Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders were the uppermost scorers on Charitable Involvement, Spirituality, Ecumenical Worldview, and Religious Struggle.

Of the 112,232 students that did surveys, 76% are White, 8% African American, 7% Asian American, 5% Latino, 2% American Indian/Alaska Native, and 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

Additional findings include:

  • 95% of African Americans believe in God, compared to 84% of Latinos,

78% of Whites and 65% of Asian Americans.

  • 91% of African American pray, compared to 75% of Latinos and 67% of
  • 53% of African Americans attend religious services frequently, compared to 42% of Whites, 39% of Latinos, and 35% of Asian Americans.
  • 47% of African Americans have a high level of Religious Commitment, compared to 25% of Whites and 22% of Asian Americans.
  • 32% of African Americans have high levels of Religious Engagement, compared to 16% of Latinos and 19% of Whites.

About one-third of African Americans think it important to seek opportunities to grow spiritually and say that it is critical for them to follow religious teachings in their everyday life, while less than one-fifth of Whites and Asian Americans say the same.

Gender Differences

Men score higher than women do on only one of 12 major dimensions:  Religious Skepticism (21% of men versus 14% of women are high scorers). On each of the other 11 scales, women score higher than men do.

The largest gender differences are on Charitable Involvement-a 10-point difference in high scorers (20% of women and 10% of men), Religious Commitment-a 9-point spread (30% of women and 21% of men), and Religious Engagement-a 6-point gap (22% of women and 16% of men).  Six-point gender differences are also evident on Equanimity (25% of women versus 19% of men) and Ecumenical Worldview (16% of women and 10% of men).

Women are also more likely to pray than men (75% versus 62%) and to score high on Religious/Social Conservatism (18% versus 13%) and being on a Spiritual Quest (27% versus 22%).

When it comes to gender differences in high scorers within racial groups, the largest gap is evident for African Americans on Religious Commitment-an 18-point difference (53% of women vs. 35% of men).  The 13-point gender difference in the percentage of African Americans who are high scorers on Religious Engagement (36% of women vs. 23% of men) is also nearly double that found in any other racial/ethnic group.

The Study

These result on racial and gender differences are part of HERI’s multi-year study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which examines how college students reflect of spirituality and its function in their lives, as well as how postsecondary institutions can better facilitate students’ spiritual improvement.




This thesis needs a selected option to determine the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage.  You could choose from three options. One can choose only one option for this thesis.  However, the three options are Applied Design Intervention, a Grant Proposal Submission, and Alternative Policy Decision. Applied Design Intervention, was the only option that best fitted this thesis, because of the intervention and evaluations in the process and procedures.

In this process option, one expresses the interventions and evaluations without the suggestions of a grant or proposals.  Meanwhile, Option One can best help African American men and women understand and to help them communicate with ways to try to face this problem.  It may also, help them come together and discuss ways to make changes.

Option two, Grant Proposal Submission was not an option for this project thesis, because it was not in search for a grant proposal, and it would not alleviate the problem.  This is the reason why option two was not the selection for this project.

Option three, Alternative Policy Decision, was not the appropriate choice, because this topic does not call for an Alternative Policy Decision.  The topic is based on the primary reasons why African American women find it difficult to attract compatible African American men to commit to marriage.  There are many alternatives already in progress, today.

Option one appeared to be the best possible solution for this thesis project resolution.  Interventions and evaluations are necessary to correct some of the past decisions that inadvertently affected African American men and women decisions, can be discussed and improvised.  This would release some of the burdens placed on African American women and would help in future decision that they face in relationships.








It has been observed through the second half of twentieth century that African American women are finding it increasingly hard to find men from their own race whom they could marry. The situation is gradually worsening, and some observers feel that unless some positive intervention is not initiated on an urgent basis, the entire race might be staring at a genuine demographic catastrophe.

But before any intervention is selected it would be better to recall in brief the salient features of this unusual situation in the African American society. The primary difference in status between African American men and women lie in their levels of education. There are 10% more college graduates among women than men and this imbalance gives rise to both, an inferiority complex and a sense of subordination in the minds of the African American men, and, a situation where women get better jobs and earn more than men. This also leads to a scenario where higher qualified women find lesser qualified men having lesser earning capacity unattractive and unworthy of getting into a lifelong commitment with.

Lack of college education and inability of finding a proper and stable job has the domino effect of many marriages ending in divorces and national statistics has some really disturbing set of data in this regard. In 2004, almost half (49% to be precise) of the African American women were unmarried and within a span of 15 years (1990 to 2005), the number of working women has increased 13 times. By 2003 there were only 18% households where only the husband worked outside and the wife did not. But that did not substantially improve the financial lot of the African American families as they have traditionally been paid only 60% of the wages their White American counterparts earned. So, we are faced with downward spiral where poor education leads to unstable jobs which in turn lead to divorces and lesser marriages.


Objective One

From the above it is apparent that the best way to try and ease the situation is to attack the problem at its root. That is, an intervention that aims at providing quality school education (which is a prerequisite for college education) might be the best way to tackle the crisis. It might take a little more time for the results to be seen, but the achievement will not only be permanent but will be self sustaining too. A child with good school education will be self motivated and might even get financial assistance in the form of scholarships to pursue college education. Once a young African American male is armed with a good college degree the first step of rectifying the current imbalance in the society is taken; the rest of the problems will start dissolving on their own.

Objective Two

Some would prefer to call this an extension of Objective One, but I would prefer to consider it as a separate objective.

It would not be enough to provide good school education to African American males; it is equally essential to prevent dropouts to a minimum because a study mentioned earlier in this project report has found that out of the African American males unable to find a job in 2004, 72% were school dropouts. So, it will be in the fitness of things to ensure that dropouts are kept at a minimum to ensure that the African American society gets the full benefit of proper and high quality school education.

As is the case with the previous objective, these interventions are of a social nature and try to tackle imbalances that have grown roots over decades. So, the results will take at least ten years to show initial indications (when the first batch of children complete their school education and prepare to enter college) and it would not be before fifteen years (when this batch leaves college and get decent employment) that one can say with a fair degree of certainty that these social interventions have indeed borne fruit.

It might seem like an eternity for some, but any far reaching and intervention that attempts to drastically alter the existing social structure cannot be expected to yield results any earlier.


Education of African American males has always been a hot topic for national discussion and irrespective of the quantum of energy and enthusiasm spent towards making the syllabus of public schools more interesting and attractive to the students, the general feeling that is gaining ground is the African American children are severely shortchanged. In fact it has been observed that as they progress from first to fourth grades, the African American children gradually become more and more disinterested about the school curriculum as they perceive a great disconnect between what they are taught and what they need to learn to survive in later life. So, there is an alarming negative correlation between the time these children stay in school and their educational progress and achievement. (Kunjufu, 2002)

It has also been found in certain studies that in every seven seconds of a school working day, an African American student is suspended and in every forty nine seconds of a school working day an African American student drops out of school. (Obiakor, Ford, & Patton, 1995)

So the situation is rather critical and something drastic and immediate needs to be done to attempt to restrict the downslide and the remedial action should start from sensitizing the teachers about the specialties of African American culture and their impact on learning process of children coming from this particular ethnic group.

The first step towards the proper direction that the teacher must take is to be free from any sort of bias against this ethnic class and be receptive and respectful towards the vast wealth of experience and cultural diversity that each African American child bring along while coming to school and try to find out how best the child can be taught without agitating his cultural sensibilities. The teacher should also be wide awake to the possibility of disparaging comments or behavior by fellow students and should immediately intervene should the colored student be subjected to any sort of denigrating behavior. In fact, the teacher should actively try to prevent any sort of segregation either real or perceived on ethnic lines in the classroom. The other issue that the teacher must always bear in mind is that the dialect used by African American children is mostly Ebonics and it should be considered as simply another dialect and not an inherent drawback or a sign of inferior upbringing. (Rodgers, 2009)

As far as classroom strategies are concerned, a teacher must make it a point to answer to queries and comments of all the students while being extra enthusiastic about any questions asked by the colored students and also make conscious efforts to engage these African American students in all discussions that take place in class. It has been observed that colored students are generally not that enthusiastic about science as a subject of study. So, the teacher should make sustained well measured attempts to stoke interest in these students about science. Initially there might be no positive response, but even a removal of negativity should be considered as a positive sign and a step forward. Special courses on computers and special discussions about how science helps in solving our everyday problems and how it makes our daily life that much smoother must be discussed in class and contributions by minority scientists towards the cause of science must be highlighted on a regular basis so as to make the minority students interested in science and technical subjects. (Rutherford, 2002)

It has another interesting side benefit too. Generally people who are technically qualified get jobs easily, so if the minority students can become technically qualified, it would very much be possible for them to make a jump start in life. The faster these students get established, more would be the enthusiasm among others that are skeptical about the benefits of school and college education. (Steele, 1992)

Should there be some minority students in the class that are not that much adept at picking up the details of what is being taught in class, the teacher must put in place alternative testing techniques and schemes so that the minority students never start feeling inferior or begin to lose interest in what is being done in school. (Sanchez, 2009)

It would perhaps be an unnecessary repetition to state that the teacher must be especially proactive to create a sense of fellow feeling among all the students so that the minority students never feel the urge to drop out of school. This would perhaps be the most important part of the entire intervention and it should steadfastly aim at reducing dropout rates as dropouts not only fail to lift the minority youngsters up from the social and psychological mess that they normally are in but also such cases discourage others to enroll and pursue good school education as a means of uplifting their social status. (Barbarin & McCandies, 2003)

Thus, with more and more African American males getting interested in technical subjects and getting technically qualified and successfully completing school level education it would be an automatic corollary that colleges will very soon more colored students thronging the classrooms. Once this trend sets in, it will just be a matter of time before African American women start finding more and more eligible men from their society who could be depended upon and who could be married to start a family. It is, however, a time consuming process but a sure way of rectifying the social malady that has infested the African American society.



One needs to have a proper evaluation plan to assess the effectiveness or otherwise of the intervention that is being described in this report. The choice of the evaluation plan also has a considerable impact on the analysis of the available data and information and can actually dictate to a large extent the result and conclusions that are drawn from the entire exercise. But irrespective of the approach taken by a researcher, it must above all be a scientific approach.


There are two basic approaches in knowledge creation, and they are hermeneutic approach and the positivist approach. The positivist approach is generally related to that school of thought that believes that truth is always evident and can be accurately measure through the use of proper methods. This approach also believes that truth is pristine and purely objective in nature and is unaffected by the point of view of the observer. (Bryman, 2002) The other basic approach to knowledge creation is hermeneutic approach that bears very close reflection of the idea of Verstehen as propounded by Webers. This approach in its most rudimentary form deals with interpretation of the text where the researcher gets to the underlying subtext of an existing text to unravel the context and the interplay of various forces that has given rise to the text and the final form in which it has been presented to the researcher. Philips and Brown (Phillips & Brown, 1993) feels that the researcher should interpret the available text from the point of view of the author’s and while analyzing the underlying subtext must surely take into consideration the socio-cultural context and the interplay of various related vectors while the text was actually written. Once such a perspective is obtained, a close examination of the structure of the text is undertaken and, if necessary, in the light of intensive examination of the structure of the text, the earlier interpretation of the text and the conclusions drawn from it are altered. This approach very closely approximates the qualitative approach adopted while adopting the interview and questionnaire method of data collection and interpretation because in this method the researcher needs to evaluate and analyze the responses against the backdrop of prevailing socio-cultural context and interpret them accordingly keeping these socio-cultural parameters in mind and place them in proper categories. Any error in properly evaluating the impact of the all pervasive socio-cultural backdrop will most surely throw up wrong conclusions from the research.

In the research undertaken in the present instance, the results, as has been repeatedly emphasized, will only be visible after a long period of at least a decade. So, there is no scope of adopting the positivist approach as there is no truth as such that needs to be uncovered and dispassionately observed and analyzed; all that is available is a series of impressions and expectations from interested groups and experts in this field of human endeavor. The approach would be to collect these impressions and expectations in as unbiased manner as possible and attempt to analyze the responses from various respondents keeping in mind the socio-cultural milieu to which the particular respondent belongs. Thus, hermeneutic approach would be the most suitable approach in the present context where available responses will be critically analyzed to arrive at concrete logical conclusions.


  1. William Emory had laid down certain basic prerequisites for an effective research design and it would be worthwhile to recall those details at this juncture. (Emory, 1985) Design is basically a three tier structure and at the very lowest (or, first stage) tier a clear description should be available regarding the nature of information that is relevant to the research question and the desirable sources from where such information can be obtained. The second tier should mention the strategies and techniques that need to be adopted and applied for collecting the relevant information and in the final tier an approximation should be provided regarding the time required and the cost that has to be borne in conducting the research.

The design of the research is, in my opinion, very important as it is in this stage that a crucial decision is being taken to determine the appropriate method of collecting data and, though all methods have their respective advantages and disadvantages; it is the choice of the data collecting method that gives a research either sufficient depth or gives it a generalized and superficial nature. If the data collection method is inappropriate, the reliability and validity of the entire research work might be open to questioning from various quarters.

It is quite obvious that the design of the research has to be scientific to ensure credibility and relevance of the entire research work and there a five well established criteria that must be fulfilled for a research to be called a genuinely scientific study. (Denzin & Yvonna, 1994) They are:

  • The researcher should be in a position to assess what is the truth and must always be in a position to assess and reassess both the data and the methods by which the said data has been collected.
  • The person who has asked the questions must be identified so as to identify whether there can be a possibility of a latent bias while the questions are being asked by that particular person. This is a double check to ensure there is no personal bias while collecting data as this happens to be one of the biggest drawbacks of any qualitative research study.
  • The conclusions arrived from the available data must be presented in a way that it can be cross checked and reworked, if necessary or desired by any other person.
  • All hypothesis and conclusions must be falsifiable.
  • There must be total transparency in the entire process with the methods adopted in conducting the research, the available data and the conclusions drawn from them laid open and threadbare to all those that are interested in the entire exercise.

There is an inherent problem with these five demands. Replication of a specific set of responses is usually very difficult, practically impossible, even if the questioner and the respondent remain identical if the set of questions are repeated at two different time intervals. This surely does not put the validity of the questionnaire in doubt as a lot of parameters keep changing in volatile scenarios and responses also vary in tune with the altering backdrop. Thus the practical approach would be to slightly alter the questions keeping in tune with parameters that might have changed over time but being very particular that the basic nature, tone and tenor of the questionnaire remains intact.


While collection of data is surely a very daunting task, analysis and interpretation of collected data is no less an important activity since the final outcome and conclusion of the research process completely depends upon how the available data is interpreted. There is an inherent risk in interpretation in that there may be multiple interpretations that might be equally valid (at least from the point of view of dry logic if not from the practicable or feasible angle) since there is always the danger semantic confusion arising in questions asked and answers provided as same words indeed carry different connotations and denotations when used by different social groups, especially a group which has intrinsically remained in the minority and been subjected to severe social strictures and discrimination. This problem of semantic confusion is very hard, almost impossible, to solve and one has to try and remain as unaffected as possible while carrying out the research project. (Reichardt, Ghauri, Gronhanug, & Kristianslund, 1995)

However, there is one way out of this problem and that is by being completely transparent throughout this research process and allowing the respondent to know how the response is being interpreted and allowing the respondent to alter the response if, in the opinion of the respondent, the responses have not been properly interpreted. Such a confirmatory detour before the responses are officially published has been found to remove a majority of so-called misinterpretations.

Since we will base our research process entirely on qualitative approach, it is perhaps necessary that we clarify what exactly a qualitative approach signifies. Though it is difficult to give a technically accurate meaning of qualitative approach, all that can be said about this approach is that it concentrates on processes and meanings that cannot be concretely quantified in terms of amount, quantity or frequency. However, such an approach provides a deeper understanding of the researched variable in the larger context of interrelated social forces that combine together to continually influence the researched phenomenon. (Hamel, 1993)

There are a sizeable number of experts that believe although qualitative approach might not be that sound statistically or mathematically, it indeed provides a far greater understanding of a phenomenon in its socio-cultural milieu which helps the researchers to formulate logical theories about why and how a phenomenon occurs under certain specific circumstances. (Markus & Robey, 1988)


According to historians, primary sources involve written records left by people who have actually lived in an era or have personally witnessed an incident. Primary sources, with respect to research process refer to the basic and original material that formed the evidence that the researcher examines analyses and interprets. (Finnegan, 1996)

Researchers can, as Cooper and Schindler state, (Cooper & Schindler, 1998) collect primary data either through direct or indirect (i.e. over telephone or email or by sending a questionnaire) interviews. The primary data used in this research process was obtained through four face-to-face interviews, four telephonic interviews and two responses received against questionnaires sent.


Secondary sources are data that have already been collected, analyzed and results presented by some earlier research process conducted in the related field and for the purposes of the current research process secondary data consists essentially of relevant information published in journals, magazines and websites. (Zikmund, 2000)

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of basing a research on secondary sources. The main advantage of secondary data is its ready availability in huge quantity and at negligible cost whereas collection of primary data is a very costly and time consuming exercise which is not always possible for every researcher to undertake on a large scale. Simultaneously, the inherent disadvantages of secondary data can also not be denied as the data available in the websites have been compiled by someone other than the researcher and the credibility and relevance of the data can very well be questioned. So, in the current research process, the researcher has exercised considerable precaution and judgment before incorporating any secondary data in the research material and can claim with a reasonable degree of confidence that the secondary data is authentic and entirely credible.



There are basically two types of interviews – structured and unstructured. While the structured interview runs along a predetermined script and is mainly controlled by the interviewer, the unstructured type generally begins with the interviewer having some loose structure in mind and letting the interview proceed along as the interviewee responds and modifying, skipping or even creating new questions along the way. The researcher might adopt both the methods and is the best judge in the given situation as to which method is best suited for the purpose of the research process.

The other issue that needs to be settled is whether the interview is to be recorded or a transcript of it would be prepared or whether the interviewer will simply rely on memory while incorporating the data in the main database. While recordings and transcripts have their obvious advantages, the time and cost involved in these options and the usual reluctance observed in most interviewees of being recorded during an interview had forced the current researcher to rely on memory but sufficient care has been taken to ensure that the collected data faithfully reflected what the interviewees had to convey. (Kvale, 1996)

The following seven criteria were strictly followed while conducting the interviews to make them as unbiased as possible:

  • Consideration – The interviewer showed enough consideration and refrained from occupying a high ground while conducting the interview
  • Empathy – The interviewer expressed sufficient empathy with the interviewee
  • Transparency and flexibility – The interviewer never shied away from expressing opinions when the situation demanded so and was always willing to rephrase questions for better comprehension of the interviewees
  • Critical – The interviewer, however, never hesitated to point out inconsistencies or prima facie contradictions in responses of the interviewees
  • Attentiveness – The interviewer was sufficiently attentive throughout every interview session so that inconsistencies and self contradictions could be pointed out the moment they occurred
  • Interpret – The interviewer was always ready to help in interpreting a question or properly framing a response so that the interviewee felt satisfied that the final response actually conveyed what the respondent meant it to be
  • Ethical – The interviewer always remained within ethical limits while conducting the interview

The interviews that have been conducted during the research process were unstructured with some guiding questions and broad topics that ensured the interview progressed more like an informed free flowing interaction rather than a question answer session that happens in most structured interviews. However, being unstructured in nature, the questions and their answers were obviously not identical in every instance but the guiding questions ensured that the interviews progressed along broadly the same line in each occasion. The unstructured nature of the interviews also helped the respondents feel relaxed and they were more forthcoming with information and suggestions than they would have probably been had the interview been strictly structured.

The interviews were conducted with persons that are directly involved and affected by the researched phenomenon and they included African American parents and students and teachers who are working in schools that have African American students. Attempts were made to interview some university professors who have specialization in this area, but the interviews turned out to be more of a pedagogic monologue without throwing up any personal opinions or sharing any personal experiences. Since such theoretical discussions are freely available in websites and magazines, the current researcher failed to discover any specific merit in those and decided against incorporating them in the final database.

The interviews were done without any electronic recording but copious notes were taken and these were elaborated into properly formed sentences and paragraphs and transferred to laptop. The interviewees were given printouts of such notes and their responses were incorporated in the main research data only after they agreed about the content.

The interviewees were informed at least three days in advance about the nature and purpose of the interview and this was repeated at the beginning of the interview so that respondents understood why and how they could be most helpful in the entire process. The issue of anonymity and publication of names was also discussed threadbare as it involved an important ethical factor and in all the instances it was resolved to the full satisfaction of all the parties involved in the process. (Calder, 1977)

The choice of appropriate language was also an issue that needed some attention and the researcher upheld the principle of transparency by not hesitating to use Ebonics when it was felt that its use will add to the transparency and comprehensibility of the ongoing interview process. The response was very positive and the researcher was invited in more than one instance to return with further queries if any. At times, direct and pointed questions were asked when routine questions failed to elicit desired response.


Though there were no predetermined questions as such, all questions that were asked observed the basic six criteria (Payne, 1980) of a properly worded interview question:

  • Is the question asked in a language known to both the interviewer and respondent?
  • Is the question unambiguous?
  • Are there any unstated assumptions in mind of the interviewer?
  • Is the wording neutral or tries to indirectly influence the respondent?
  • Is the question too impersonal to elicit a proper response, or, has the question the right amount of personal touch to make the respondent involved?
  • Are there sufficient alternatives available to make the answer meaningful?



The current research project tried to find out remedies that would make it easier for African American women to locate marriageable men from their society. A detailed analysis of the reasons for such an imbalance between marriageable men and women in this society revealed substantial discrepancy in levels of education and earning capacity between women and men with women being in the lead in both these counts. Thus, men in this society suffer from an inferiority complex and are also not sufficiently secure financially to opt for marriage. Women also do not feel sufficiently enthusiastic to enter into wedlock with men whom they consider not only qualitatively inferior but also undependable and this has led to an unnatural imbalance in the society where almost half of the women in marriageable age remaining either unmarried or divorced.

The current researcher felt that the only way to solve the problem would be to attack it at its root and try to increase the level of education among African American boys by making going to school an enjoyable experience where not only will these boys take an interest in learning and getting educated (especially in science and technical subjects) but also act as role models to those that had either dropped out earlier or are making plans to drop out from school. The current researcher also believes that if the African American boys get a sound schooling, they would automatically opt for higher college education and some of them might even get scholarships for their college education. Thus, by improving the attendance of African American boys in classes and by decreasing their dropout rate from school, the first and surest steps in creating a society where future African American women would not find it difficult to find a desirable husband from their society would be taken.

The researcher admits that it is indeed a very elaborate and long drawn out intervention but in the studied opinion of the current researcher this happens to be the only surest way to rid the society of this malady. Other options of providing subsidized training opportunities to African American men or providing them loans on easy terms so that they can start some form of business are but one-off solutions without any lasting or self sustaining impact.

The current researcher has laid down certain instructions that all teachers teaching in such schools should scrupulously follow and the researcher has also conducted elaborate interviews among African American parents and children and also teachers teaching in schools where there are a substantial percentage of minority students, and have observed a renewed sense of enthusiasm towards education and a faith that this is the only route to economic prosperity and social success.

Education, most African American parents and single mothers admitted, is the only sure shot remedy that can improve their lot and raise their economic status to a much higher level. This renewed hope and vigor has been injected in this society as they saw how one of their fellow members climbed to the highest office of the land through sheer diligence, honesty and, of course, rock solid university education.




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Legalizing Polygamy in Canada – Would it do more harm than good?

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:32 pm


Canada is home to people belonging to diverse cultures and religion. The country is not embarrassed by the fact that it does not have a monolithic culture or religion; rather it is proud that it can shelter in its folds multiple strains of thought and ways of life. It considers itself to be liberal and broad minded enough to rank as a multicultural nation where all groups, sects and factions can co-exist together without any friction or tension among each other. There is of course nothing wrong in such a situation but an accompanying legal problem almost invariably crops up in such multihued scenarios.

To appreciate the inherent problem in such scenarios there is a need to appreciate and admit that there are two legal aspects to any situation in a society.

The first is the civil constituent of a specific scenario. It deals with specific rights and privileges of a specific minority group. It is concerned with whether or not rights, privileges and customs consistent with those adhered to by a specific cultural minority are being honored by the legal system of a country.

One need not have to worry much about these civil aspects as relevant legal provisions about religious freedom can very easily be weaved into the civil jurisprudence of a particular country whereby every religious and cultural minority would have the freedom to practice their cultural and religious customs without any legal or societal interference. Canada does have in place such provisions of allowing cultural or religious minorities to freely practice their religious and social customs as long such practice does not cause any discord in the society as a whole.

The second aspect of a specific social scenario is however rather disconcerting. It deals with the criminal jurisprudence prevailing in a country. It is a commonly held notion that nobody should be above law and a criminal is a criminal irrespective of what religion, sect or community that criminal hails from. The problem arises precisely here as customs that are considered quite common in a particular society might be considered abhorrent in another.

So, if, for example, a person steals and claims immunity from consequent legal penalties since it happens to be the prevalent custom in their society, that person cannot be allowed to go unpunished as the commonly held concept in the society is stealing is a crime. Here we face a situation where the commonly held or majority sentiments must be honored to maintain order in a civil society. This, quite obviously, curtails the religious or cultural freedom the affected minority but criminal jurisprudence cannot and should not be modified for each different sections or subsections of a society.

While stealing is a rather extreme example as no religious or ethnic minority would ever condone or promote such a criminal act (though Gypsies were blamed by Nazis as being a society of thieves), there are issues that indeed cause concern in the minds of social leaders as to whether such customs be incorporated in criminal jurisprudence to honor the religious and ethnic customs of minorities.

Polygamy is such a thorny issue. While it is considered illegal in Canada, there are ethnic and religious minorities that consider practice of polygamy as an integral part of their religious custom. Practice of polygamy also runs counter to Canada’s many international commitments and grossly violates the notion of gender equality that is an integral and fundamental tenet of Canadian society.  Thus it becomes a delicate balancing of religious freedom and individual rights, especially rights of women to obtain immunity and protection from abusive relationships that come into existence from following some religious practice that is not commonly followed by other sections of the society.

There is another contrarian stream of thought that gives more weight to the aspect of religious freedom and espouses legalization of polygamy. Reprehensible and totally abhorrent at first sight such stream of thought also have certain inherent merits.

The proponents of this stream of thought base their argument on the premise that polygamy as such has been completely abolished from civilized society and this practice, if it still exists, is followed by miniscule and very often secretive religious societies that are almost fanatical in their belief that what they are doing is not only right but also the only available path to salvation. They practice such a system not to fulfill their lust but as a method of reaching the next higher stage of human existence.

It is well known fact that fanatics, by definition, are extremely zealous of protecting their religious beliefs and would go to any extent to protect those from any outside interference which in their opinion is aimed at decimating the religious purity and divinity of their beliefs. It is thus natural that no amount of legal enactments would be able to prevent them from doing what they feel is their bounden religious duty.

One also must remember that women of these fundamental sects have been brought up in this atmosphere where they have been taught and indoctrinated to accept polygamy as the only way for salvation and reaching God. Hence, they have been conditioned to accept polygamy as the holy and religious way to lead life however much other members of the civilized society might abhor it.

Therefore the whole perception of equality, dignity and freedom of women takes on a wholly new hue in their minds as they ready themselves to lead a life of remaining as a co-wife of a polygamous man. Hence, any attempt to make them aware of their rights and making them alert about the plights they might have to face if the entered into a polygamous wedlock would have little or no effect on these women.

Would it not then be a case of trying to save women from a calamity which they consider as perfectly normal, indeed pious way of leading life? It would hardly have any impact on these women; rather they would scrupulously avoid any attempt by state machinery to release them from oppressive polygamous wedlock and would flock more determinedly to the comforting arms of the fundamentalists who would only be too eager to brainwash these hapless women into believing what they are doing would actually make them dearer to God.

Thus, instead of trying to stamp out polygamy, the authorities should instead legalize this custom that is followed in any case by only a miniscule minority. By legalizing this custom, all those that follow it would no longer be obliged to lead secretive lives and become a part of the mainstream. In such a way, women of these secretive fundamental religious groups could gradually be made aware of the ill effects of polygamy and might have a change of attitude after freely interacting with other members of the society over a long period of time.

Moreover, by bringing these fringe groups in the mainstream, wives and children born out of polygamous wedlock would be able to avail of social benefits and security net that is available in Canada. In such a manner, these persons can actually be helped to lead a better and more productive life.

This line of argument indeed has its merits but it also admits abject defeat of progressive Western thoughts and philosophy at the hands of obscurantism and medieval tyranny.  By accepting within the folds of civil society these fundamentalists with all their warts and moles the authorities would be opening a Pandora’s Box, or should we call it a can of worms, when all hues of religious fringe elements would want to share a part of the social pie without bothering to adhere to the norms of a civilized society.

Hence, the issue of polygamy becomes more of a debate between two fundamental freedoms – religious and gender equality.

Polygamy in Canada

In Colorado, a desert city straddling Arizona-Utah border, reside a small band of Mormon Fundamentalists. This ultra-conservative religious group was founded by Joseph Smith. Mormon Fundamentalists firmly believe that saints have a divine right, rather obligation, to take multiple wives and practice polygamy as a matter religious duty. Polygamy is illegal not only Canada but also In United States and in almost all the countries in the world except perhaps a few obscure and remote countries in the heartland of African continent.

Here lies the fundamental question that has been referred to in the previous section. What should get precedence; criminal jurisprudence or, religious faiths and beliefs?

 The modern and mainstream brethren of Mormon Fundamentalists, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) quite rightly feels very embarrassed by the proud proclamation of this quaint custom by a handful of ultra-conservatives and has gone to great lengths to declare this as an ancient and quirky custom that was followed by a handful eons ago and is no longer followed or espoused by LDS. Handouts and promotional literature published by LDS generally glosses out this issue and keeps stoically silent about the fact that the founding father of Mormon movement had married anywhere between thirty three and forty eight women and was the biological father of numerous children. He also espoused that taking at least three wives was absolutely essential for a man to attain religious glory and eternal peace in afterlife (Berkowitz, 2007).

Despite vehement protests and denials by LDS protagonists, actual events suggested this criminal practice of polygamy is still being practiced by some members of this minority group and they consider it to be an integral part of their religious obligation. This ritualistic custom is still thriving and rigorously practiced in remote locations in United States and Canada by an estimated 30,000 to 100,000 Fundamentalists within the Church of Latter-day Saints (FLDS).

However, in spite of such a comparatively significant presence in United States and Canada, maybe because of their secretive nature, practice of polygamy by this religious sect was largely undetected by law enforcing agencies till the arrest of Warren Jeffs, a prominent religious leader of this community, from Colorado City on 28th August, 2006 (Johnson, 2006).

Jeffs was suspected of committing rape, of being an accessory to rape and being accused of having sex with minors and engaging in unlawful flight to avoid legal prosecution by law enforcing agencies of the state. This stunning arrest blew the lid off an unpleasant reality of continuance of a criminal and highly reprehensible practice that grossly undermines female dignity and freedom from persecution and oppression by members of the civil society that otherwise have all the credentials of becoming genuinely productive and valued members of the social fabric.

Had this practice being followed or espoused by some obscure non-Christian religious group that had its origins in some remote and dark corner of an unexplored continent, it would not have created that much consternation. But the fact that it is being practiced by members of progressive societies of the Western world, creates a genuine sense of alarm as one realizes that the ancient mindset that should have been abandoned long time ago is throbbing hideously and very incongruously in the midst of all the development and progress that modern societies are so very proud of.

It was not unknown to the authorities in Utah that some of its citizens do practice polygamy as a part of religious ritual but as the legislature has been dominated by Mormons, the authorities were somewhat reluctant to initiate legal proceedings against fellow practitioners. Moreover, there was always a lurking fear that any attempt to crackdown on this reprehensible custom would immediately be misrepresented as a wholly unwelcome interference by the authorities in matters of religious freedom that have been enshrined in the constitution. The authorities, it seemed, were caught in two minds and preferred to turn a blind eye on the happenings within the society (Brooke, 1998).

After sensing trouble in Colorado, Fundamentalist Mormons have shifted northwards to the more ‘peaceful’ climes of Canada. They have founded a new colony called Bountiful a few miles out of Creston in British Columbia.

Though there are only seven hundred to one thousand members of this sect in this newly established colony, which has Prophet Rulon Jeffs as its leader, it simply can neither be denied nor wished away that the scourge of polygamy has firmly struck roots  in Canadian soil and unless something drastic is done to check this menace, sooner rather than later, Canadian society will have to face embarrassment in front of the world community as being the protector and fosterer of such a shame as polygamy (The Economist, 2004).

Problems of women in a polygamous wedlock

The first and foremost problem with the reprehensible custom of polygamy is that it severely affects women’s status as individual citizens in a civil society. Their rights to freedom and equality are totally compromised by this practice. And, it is perhaps needless to add that such a restrictive practice has serious adverse affects on the economic position and health and well being of women. No civilized society should and could accept a practice that denigrates nearly half of its population.

Authors that have investigated in detail about the status of women living in polygamous societies have viewed the issue from several perspectives. They have a general opinion that it would be improper to brand polygamy as grossly ‘bad’ or ‘good’ as there are several layers of interaction that permeate a polygamous relationship.

The women that stay together as co-wives often tend to develop some sort of sisterhood and a support system among themselves as they have the common cause of staying together as wives of the same man.

However, there might also be an extreme sense of competition (perhaps much more than the cutthroat competition that we so often refer to while describing happenings in the commercial world) between co-wives in their attempts to attract more attention and also material benefits from the husband. Research reveals that jealousy can reach such extreme levels that it might lead physical confrontation between women resulting in grievous bodily injury and harm to combating wives (Al-Krenawi, Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family, 1998).

A case in point is the state of affairs in polygamous families that have shifted to France. As cost of living is decidedly higher than what they are in their country of origin, it is often impossible for the head of the family to maintain separate households for each of his wives. Hence, the entire family lives cramped together I restrictive conditions and this often leads to bitter confrontations between co-wives. There have been damning reports of women being treated in Paris hospitals with serious injuries that have resulted from fights between family members and co-wives (Al-Krenawi, Women from Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages in an Out-Patient Psychiatric Clinic, 2001).

There is also the issue of insecurity among co-wives in a polygamous family. It is no wonder that all these women compete with each other for attention from their common husband and it is also no surprise that the man favors company of his younger wives. Hence, senior wives tend to have access to lesser economic resources and lesser conjugal support and generally lead a comparatively more miserable life than their younger ‘sisters’.

This differential treatment meted out to senior wives does not result merely from the fact that younger women quite naturally are more sexually attractive than their senior counterparts, and men, if given opportunity and social sanction, would quite obviously tend to share their time and resources with younger wives than senior ones. A case study of Palestinian polygamous families reveals that while the men initially got married through socially arranged match making that rested on a host of delicate social, economic, ethnic and tribal equations, subsequent marriages were mostly result of love matches. Thus, men preferred to spend more time with wives they love rather than with those they were married to as a result of social dynamics (Wing, 2001).

There is also a contrarian view to the position of senior wives in polygamous families. In some cultures, a senior wife enjoys a more exalted position among all the wives. In the absence of the husband, the senior wife manages the household and has near complete control over the junior wives. She also at times plays a vital part in the act of choosing another wife if that becomes necessary to deal with child care and other domestic responsibilities. However, if another wife is independently chosen by the husband because of love or attraction towards the new woman, it sure causes a great amount of strain, tension and strife within a polygamous marriage (Bissuel, 2002).

While women felt insecure and were jealous of new entrant in the family, these harsh feelings generally tended to dissipate as family and societal environment encouraged women to accept the new entrant as an integral part of the family and as a new member of their ‘sisterhood’. Such a feeling is often promoted by equitable treatment of wives by the husband and often prompts existing wives to encourage the husband to take on more wives (Forbes, 2003).

It surely does not need further elaboration that when a group of women share domestic and child care responsibilities the burden on each member gets substantially reduced irrespective of the size of the family. Thus, co-wives in a polygamous household indeed enjoy some of the benefits that a wife in a monogamous can only dream of. Moreover, these co-wives form a closed and private society of their own where they share their personal issues and get help and assistance as long as such help and assistance does not jeopardize the assistants’ relation vis-à-vis the husband (Al-Krenawi, Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family, 1998).

There is one other benefit that arises from this ‘sisterhood’ among co-wives in a polygamous family. If there are instances of abuse or harassment within the family by the male members, the co-wives usually get together to protest such ill treatment and abuse and, faced with such a concerted protest, the perpetrators of such domestic abuse and violence usually desist from precipitating further such incidents (Levine & Silk, 1997).

Sometimes the social environment in which a polygamous family resides plays a decisive role in the importance accorded to the senior wife. As for example, in polygamous Muslim families residing in United Kingdom, the senior wife is always accorded the highest importance and social status. As domestic polygamy is illegal in that country, a second or subsequent wife is not considered legal and hence cannot be openly held out as a legal spouse in social get-togethers. Hence, second and subsequent wives generally live in inferior housings and have lesser interactions with their husbands and enjoyed lesser economic amenities. The irony of the whole situation is while second wives bitterly resented their pitiable economic and social status and did not get any legal recognition of their marital status, they still felt that they are leading the life of a genuine and dutiful wife (Yanca & Low, 2003).

This issue is highlighted by those that support the cause that polygamy should be legalized in Canada. Though married under religious norms, these subsequent wives are denied of societal benefits and recognition and are destined to permanently live their lives in the shadows of social periphery. If polygamous wedlock is legalized, these subsequent wives would not be forced to lead such ignominious lives.

So, it is indeed a very complex relationship between women in a polygamous household. While they stick to each other as comrades in arms when confronted by a common enemy, mostly an outsider, they bitterly squabble with each other between themselves.

There is also that obvious inequality between a man and woman in this type of wedlock. While a man has the choice of deciding who would share his bed on a particular night the women have to contend with sharing a single man between themselves. So, it can be said without any sense of ambiguity that one of the basic tenets of civilized society that of equality of status between men and women in wedlock is definitely not maintained in a polygamous marriage.

This, quite naturally, tends to be one of the most serious hindrances in legalizing polygamous wedlock and seriously scuttle claims by a section of thinkers of legalizing this system. But, it must also be remembered that any legislation that is forced down the throat of a community and acts against their perceived religious tenets has seldom ever succeeded anywhere in the world. All that such legislations have managed to achieve was increased levels of isolation of affected communities and their near total rejection of mainstream social norms. Almost as a reaction to state policies these fundamentalist groups have gone deeper into their shells and become even more fanatically associated with their cause and world views (Berkowitz, 2007).

Problem of children in polygamous families

The other aspect that needs attention is the impact of polygamous relationship has on children born out of it. In this regard an observation about the Mormon community at Bountiful deserves special attention. Bountiful has been chosen simply because all other polygamous communities are so secretive about it that it becomes near impossible to get any worthwhile data in this regard. A mutual sense of distrust between researchers and subjects has made the situation even more complex.

There are clear indications that boys and girls are treated separately in this community. While the boys are encouraged to go out in the open society, the girls are encouraged, or, should we say brainwashed, to remain within the community and enter into polygamous wedlock as soon as they step into their adolescence. They are made to believe that is the only way to lead a pious and honorable life. The boys are, in fact, not only encouraged to go out but those that refuse to do so are actually hounded out of the precincts of the community. This practice has reached such a stage that in 2005 a survey found that nearly 400 had been banished from the community rendering them genuinely homeless and making them easy victims of substance abuse or male prostitution (Tresniowski, 2005).

Treading on into more generalized domain, one should also inspect the other serious problems related to academic and intellectual development of children in polygamous families. There are, of course, some factors that would affect the academic and intellectual development of a child irrespective of whether they brought up in a polygamous or a monogamous household but here we would try and concentrate on only those factors which are peculiar to a polygamous household.

An empirical study of Israeli Bedouin-Arab communities revealed that polygamous families engendered lower levels of intelligence and scholastic achievement among their children. The most obvious reason for such a conclusion lies more in the social and economic status of these families rather than in the institution of polygamy itself. Reduced per capita resources for each child automatically reduced their access to books and education and limited their chances of scholastic and intellectual success (Gage-Brandon, 1992).

The other more serious impact of polygamous households on intellectual and academic development of children arose from rivalry between co-wives where children of one wife were not always treated equally as own children. Being bred in such an intensely hostile environment since childhood often tended to lead the children astray from sedate and constructive endeavors as academic and scholastic pursuits. Moreover, being subject to latent and often apparent hostility from mother like figures tended to skew the attitudes of these children who grew up to believe that the only way to survive in this world is to deny others from their rightful dues by any means available. The moral fabric of these children got horribly distorted and prevented them from developing their intellectual abilities as their entire efforts were concentrated since childhood in a perpetual struggle to beat others by hook or by crook to achieve what is desired (Ward, 2004).

The other more mundane reason for lack of academic and scholastic development among children from polygamous families is more children meant lesser attention from parents, especially fathers, and as these children grew up in a relative environment of unsupervised independence their interests were more diverted towards gross sources of enjoyment rather than more disciplined spheres of academic and scholastic activities.

The other equally harmful effect of polygamous wedlock in countries where it is illegal is the near complete isolation of such families from the social mainstream. This prevents children from these families to develop their own network of support and sustenance they so very desperately need to overcome the ill effects of tension and strife at home. Trapped with nowhere to go, these children get engulfed by the abnormalities of relationships at home and get drawn deeper and deeper into the vortex of ignorance and scholastic incompetence.


From what has been discussed above, one seems to remain undecided as to whether it would be proper to legalize polygamous marriages in Canada. While one passionately feels for the women who are often bound by their societal pressures to enter into a polygamous wedlock, they and their families are permanently barred from any form of social recognition and legal rights as legally married spouses in countries where polygamy is forbidden.

But at the same time one also argues with oneself as to what would be the benefits if such marriages are legalized. Would they finally lead to a situation where these women would one day realize that the institution is harmful to not only them and their children but also to the society as a whole? The chances of such a realization, if it at all happens, appear extremely slim at the current juncture. Rather, their community and spiritual heads would jump up in glee and convince their followers that they were right all along; it only took the degenerated Western authorities so long to realize the benefits and religious requirement of polygamous wedlock. Hence, instead of educating the womenfolk and their children about the pernicious impact of polygamy it would reinforce their faith and trust in their community leaders and might lead to spreading of this malaise in other hitherto unaffected areas of the society. This would undoubtedly lead to complete disaster and cause irreparable damage to the social fabric and long held widely respected perceptions of good and evil.


Al-Krenawi, A. (1998). Family Therapy with a Multiparental/Multispousal Family. Family Process 37 , 65-81.

Al-Krenawi, A. (2001). Women from Polygamous and Monogamous Marriages in an Out-Patient Psychiatric Clinic. Transcultural Psychiatry. 38(2) , 187-199.

Berkowitz, J. D. (2007). Beneath the Veil of Mormonism: Uncovering the Truth about Polygamy in the United States in Canada. The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 38, No. 3 , 615-640.

Bissuel, B. (2002, February 11). Divorce, or Else…. Le Monde .

Brooke, J. (1998, August 23). Utah Struggles With a Revival of Polygamy. New York Times , p. A1.

Forbes, S. (2003). Why Just Have One?’ An Evaluation of the Anti-Polygamy Laws Under the Establishment Clause. Houston Law Review. 39 , 1517-1547.

Gage-Brandon, A. (1992). The Polygyny-Divorce Relationship: A Case Study of Nigeria. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 54(2) , 285-292.

Johnson, K. (2006, August 30). Leader of Polygamist Mormon Sect is Arrested in Nevada. New York Times , p. A12.

Levine, N. E., & Silk, J. B. (1997). Why Polyandry Fails. Current Anthropology. 38(3) , 375-398.

The Economist. (2004). Hunting Bountiful; Polygamy in Canada. The Economist .

Tresniowski, A. (2005, July 25). Castaways: In Utah and Arizona Hundreds of Teenage Boys Are Being Torn from Their Families and Expelled from an Extreme Mormon Sect. Is It Because They Compete for Teen Girls that the Sect’s Grown Men Want to Marry? People Weekly .

Ward, C. M. (2004). I Now Pronounce You Husband and Wives: Lawrence v. Texas and the Practice of Polygamy in Modern America. William and Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 11 , 131-151.

Wing, A. K. (2001). Polygamy from Southern Africa to Black Britannia to Black America: Global Critical Race Feminism as Legal Reform for the Twenty-First Century. Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues. 11 , 811-880.

Yanca, C., & Low, B. S. (2003). Female Allies and Female Power: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Evolution and Human Behavior. 25 , 9-23.

August 1, 2014

Periodization of History Diverse perspectives

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:19 pm


It has been a consistent issue with historians on how they would identify various stages of history. Eviatar Zerubavel feels that by delineating two periods as if they are situated in two discreet compartments, the elite tend to, perhaps intentionally; negate the importance of all achievements that have taken place before they assumed power.[1] As a proof of his thesis, Zerubavel cites the incident of Columbus’ “discovery” of America. By relegating everything that was there before Columbus had set foot on Bahamas in 1492 to the monolithic darkness of pre-Columbian era, Europeans have tried to propagate an idea that everything worthwhile started happening in America only after they came on to the scene.[2] The other issue is the subtle use of language by these historians by labeling periods in such a way as to automatically make them sound less important or not worth a serious study. Use of words as “dark” or “exile” or for that matter “pre-Columbian” tends to render these periods, irrespective how eventful they were, unimportant and hence eminently forgettable. Zerubavel sees politics of the powerful in such periodizations of history which in his opinion is nothing but a chronicle of uninterrupted flow of time without any fissures or cracks. Jerry H. Bentley, however, feels periodization is indeed necessary as it provides appropriate frames of reference while analyzing various eras and epochs.[3] He has categorized history in six clearly identifiable eras based on the degree and intensity of cross-cultural interactions among communities across the world. The nature of such cross-cultural interactions according to him took the form of mass migrations, imperial expansions and foreign trade.[4] Such mingling of diverse cultures inevitably led to two-way exchanges that facilitated spreading of technological innovations (related to war as well as peace time activities as agriculture) and caused repeated cultural and religious diffusions that not only shaped world history but also vastly affected individual communities. Such interactions had their downsides as well as epidemics traversed continents to wipe out millions across the globe. The six broad stages identified by Bentley bear considerable intra-period similarity among participating civilizations while exhibiting broad inter-period contrasts and do serve as convenient mileposts in story of world civilization.


Zerubavel’s contention that history is a chronicle of uninterrupted flow of time surely cannot be contested and his thesis that history is nothing but the story of the conquerors where the vanquished are consigned to the dustbin of oblivion is also partially correct, but if one has to concentrate on a specific part of history one needs to isolate it from the flow. This is somewhat analogous to the ceteris paribus concept in microeconomics which though unrealistic is absolutely necessary for academic enquiry. Bentley, on the other hand, tends to provide too sweeping an account of world history where specifics and local issues are ignored almost to the point of making the whole endeavor somewhat irrelevant when one attempts to trace the history of a particular community or region.


In a sense, neither Zerubavel nor Bentley provides a composite approach to history. A student of history being a member of society is irrefutably bound to chronological, cultural and geographic parameters and there is nothing wrong in it par se. So, there is bound to be different perspectives and consequently different interpretations of a particular incident and a historian’s job would be to acknowledge and document all such diversities as faithfully and honestly as possible. Bentley, by dwelling excessively on cross-cultural interactions, seems to have missed the finer interplay of indigenous forces that so often determined the fate of dynasties and kingdoms and affected the lives of numerous people.



[1] Zerubavel, Eviatar. “Language and memory: ‘pre-Columbian’ America and the sound logic of periodization.” Social Research 65(2), 1998: 315-330.


[2] Elliot, West. “A Longer, Grimmer, but More Interesting Story.” In Trails Toward a New Western History, by Patricia Nelson Limerick, 103-111. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.


[3] Bentley, Jerry H. “Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History.” The American Historical Review, Volume 101, no. 3, June 1996: 749-770.


[4] Casson, Lionel. The Ancient Mariners: Seafarers and Sea Fighters of the Mediterranean in Ancient Times. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1991.



Filed under: International Economics,Political Musings,social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:17 pm


Table of Contents

Abstract 3

History and Origin of the Crisis. 5

Overview of geography of Nigeria and its social set-up. 5

The Civil War of 1967-1970. 7

Communal Violence. 8

  1. Economy. 9

Nigeria and Poverty. 10

The impact Oil Industry in Niger Delta. 14

Brief recount of the history of oil exploration in Nigeria. 14

Environmental hazards related to oil exploration.. 16

Bonny – a fishing community in Niger Delta. 18

Geographic and Demographic Overview of Bonny Island. 18

History of Bonny. 19

Discovery of Oil: Revival of Bonny. 21

Adverse impact of oil industry on Bonny. 22

Damage by Sea Trucks. 23

Spillage of oil and resultant pollution.. 24

Gas Flaring and Pollution.. 28

Land Filling. 29

  1. Erosion.. 30
  2. Dredging. 31

Oloma and Social Change. 31

Unrest in Niger Delta. 32

Is Federal Government a party to the nexus?. 33

Non-recognition of Minorities and Indigenous People. 34

Militancy in Niger Delta. 35

Legal resistance against environmental pollution.. 48

How unsafe it is to reside in Niger Delta. 52

Oil and Health.. 57

Key aspects of the right to health.. 57

Misconceptions about right to health.. 59

Link between right to health and other human rights. 60

Right to health as enshrined in International Human Rights Law and Constitutions of several countries. 61

Right to health: how far it is honoured in Niger Delta. 64

Is there a way forward?. 65

  1. References. 68
  2. Glossary. 73






The crisis at Niger Delta has been analysed and evaluated from the perspective of health and human rights and while doing do, the responsibility of multinational oil corporations that operate in this region extracting crude petroleum from the oil rich delta have been minutely examined to evaluate whether they promote and protect public health and bolster human rights through robust social and corporate responsibility and governance strategy.[1] The paper also examines the relevance of international law in the realms of public health and whether the current laws have enough teeth to actually bolster and ensure genuine implementation of the right to health by multinational companies that often tend to disrupt fragile ecological balances of areas where they operate. While admitting there is a need to promote debates also regarding the relevance or otherwise of national and supranational institutions as United Nations and World Health Organisation in promoting public health and forcing multinational corporations to take adequate steps in protecting environment and promoting public health especially in their operational zones, this project takes a comprehensive view of the pronouncement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health as a fundamental right. This project also attempts to promote the right to health as a fundamental human right, to clarify the contours and content of the right to health, and to identify good corporate practices for implementation of the right to health at community, national, and international levels.

Niger Delta is an especially delicate case where in addition to international and supranational leadership and governance, there is a need for political leadership and political will at the national and local level for the crisis to be stemmed. The paper adopts the stance that human rights based approach to public health issues might be the most suitable option for improving levels of public health and lowering the alarming levels of environmental pollution that has gripped this region through years of systematic neglect.[2]

Although this region is endowed with an abundance of natural riches, the people of this region live in the midst of abject poverty, disease and hunger. Malnutrition, illiteracy and unemployment characterize the region and the local population remain marginalised and isolated from the riches that lie under the ground. There have been efforts at community mobilization against this marginalisation and these efforts have often taken the form of mass protests that have frequently turned violent. The reactions of government and oil multinationals to such violence have frequently been disproportionately severe and have queered the pitch of the entire scenario even further.[3] So, any solution to such a complicated issue where the lives and livelihoods of numerous people, not only those who are directly affected by the pollution and consequent degradation of public health in Niger Delta but also those who are thousands of miles away from the point of crude oil extraction, working in various related activities, can only be possible through a delicately nuanced policy that views the whole issue through a humanitarian angle and the legal compulsion associated with right to health.

History and Origin of the Crisis

Overview of geography of Nigeria and its social set-up

Nigeria is a densely populated country in Western Africa that borders the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, Niger in the north, and the Gulf of Guinea in the south. The name “Nigeria” is derived from a combination of the words “Niger” (the country’s longest river) and “Area.” Nigeria boasts of rich ethnic diversity, it has about 374 ethnic sub-groups, but these are largely consolidated under three umbrella ethnic groups of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.[4] (Peterside 2004)

Though Nigeria has a history that dates back hundreds of years, it was not until October 1, 1960 that it became an independent Nation within the Commonwealth of Nations under a constitution that provided for a Parliamentary system of government and a substantial measure of self-government for the country’s three regions. It became a Federal Republic in October, 1963 and the former Governor-General, Nnamdi Azikwe, became the country’s first President. Right from the beginning, Nigeria’s ethnic and religious tensions were exacerbated by disparities in economic and educational development between the south and the north. This was possibly a harbinger of things that were to come in subsequent years. (Olusakin 2006)

Nigeria is considered the fifth largest world exporter of crude oil to the United States based on the oil which is concentrated in the Niger Delta. The nine oil-producing states that made up the Niger Delta (Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers) account for over 90 percent of oil and gas export earnings and up to 70 percent of revenues accruing to the Federation Accounts. The Niger Delta is one of the largest wetlands in the world. It covers an area of about 70,000 square kilometres. The Niger Delta terrain is made up of dry land, seasonal flooded land, swamp, shallow waters, and offshore. The coastline receives the tides of the Atlantic Ocean throughout the year, while the mainland is subjected to a series of floods by the various rivers, particularly the Niger. (Gambo 2005)

The Civil War of 1967-1970

A civil war broke out in 1967 when the Eastern part of the country tried to establish an independent country (Biafra), in which over 300,000 Nigerians lost their lives. (Trend 1996) After three years of bloody conflict, Lieutenant General Yakubu Gowon became the Nigerian Head of State in 1970 and focussed his attention on the oil sector which resulted in a period of reasonable economic growth that was due to an increase in the revenues from crude oil and the nationalization of the various oil companies.[5] Military rule continued for a period of twenty nine years (except for a brief four year period of the short-lived second republic between 1979 to 1983) and was marked by recurring coups and ethnic conflicts till the adoption of a new constitution and a relatively peaceful transition in 1999 to civilian rule of which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as the President. (Cooper 2003)

President Obasanjo was re-elected in 2003 to continue with the daunting task of rebuilding a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement. Most of the times there have been one problem or the other in the Niger Delta over the environmental destruction caused by oil drilling and the ongoing poverty in the oil-rich region. (Benhabib 1996)

Communal Violence

There has also been a spate of communal violence ever since Obasanjo took office in 1999.[6] In May 1999 violence erupted in Kaduna State over the succession of an Emir resulting in more than 100 deaths. In November 1999, the army destroyed the town of Odi in Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang. In 2000, right from February through to May, over 1,000 people died in Kaduna in rioting over the introduction of criminal Sharia[7] law in the State. Hundreds of ethnic Hausa were killed in reprisal attacks in south-eastern Nigeria. In September 2001, over 2,000 people were killed in inter-religious rioting in Jos. In October 2001, hundreds were killed and thousands displaced in communal violence that spread across the states of Benue, Taraba, and Nasarawa. On October 1, 2001, President Obasanjo announced the formation of a National Security Commission to address the issue of communal violence to make a last ditch attempt to adhere to the official motto of Nigerian Government which is “Unity, and Faith, Peace and Progress.” (Sachs 2005)

It might perhaps be something of a redundancy to mention that the two major religions in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam, and, they engage in religious clashes especially in the northern part of the country, while some people practice the traditional African religions.[8]


Nigerian economy is heavily dependent on natural oil and gas right from the time vast deposits of this extremely valuable natural resource was discovered in Niger delta. However, prior to this discovery almost 70 percent of the population was employed in the agricultural sector producing cocoa, maize, rice, yams, peanuts, bananas, sugar cane, cotton, rubber, and dairy products. But with the advent of oil sector, agriculture was given a short shrift and as a result of this a country that was once self sufficient became an importer of food. Agriculture and other non-oil sector, which at 1962 contributed 78.2 percent of the nation’s revenue, dropped drastically to 1.1 percent in 1977, while crude oil contribution rose from 13.3 percent to 98.9 percent over the same period. Currently, Nigeria’s economy predominantly depends on the production of crude oil which accounts for about 95 percent of the nation’s export earnings while agricultural products and other non-oil commodities shared the remaining five percent among them. (Africa Report N°113 2006)[9]

Nigeria and Poverty

There is no doubt Nigeria earns huge amounts of foreign exchange through export of oil but the state of a majority of Nigerians suffering from poverty is particularly ironic as its rich oil resources do not warrant such a situation. The situation is made more complicated as there is no universal definition of poverty. It is a complex and multi-dimensional concept, and has various perceptions. It is experienced differently by men and by women and can differ according to geographical area, social group, and political or economic context. [10]

Poverty is experienced not only in economic deprivation but also in terms of an individual’s inability to have adequate daily nutritional intake, safe drinking water, basic sanitation, a livelihood that can support survival, that can give a chance for a child to make his or her way through school, access to essential health services in a health emergency, and also have access to basic social amenities like good roads, stable electricity and water supply. Poverty is also linked to a shortage of vital resources and the endurance of harsh and inhospitable environments, including the breakdown of economic, demographic, ecological, cultural, and social systems, and bad governance, which sustains systemic poverty in developing countries. (Onibokun and Kumuyi 1996)

The time has not yet gone; Nigeria can still learn from Asia and China. Much of the coastal Asia that is enjoying the fruits of economic development now wallowed in dire poverty in the not too distant past. China has doubled its living standards in less than ten years. India is now on the same course. If a country like India that was viewed as a hopeless case of suffering and extreme poverty is now a competitive threat in the IT sector, then Nigeria has a lot to learn from it.[11]

Poverty in Nigeria becomes more evident when the distortion becomes so pronounced that people, groups and countries lose their capacity to adapt, change and survive peacefully. This is evident in case of many Nigerians who risk their lives to tap gas pipelines that pass through their communities and steal fuel for money.[12] Not only do they risk arrest, but many have died in explosions they caused while trying to puncture pipelines transporting volatile gas. A list of such pathetic incidents might bring the issue to sharper focus:

  • In October 1998, more than 1,000 people died and hundreds were injured at Jesse, in south-eastern state of Delta;
  • In June 1999, at least 15 people were burnt to death in a pipeline explosion at Akute-Odo in southern Ogun state;
  • In February 2000, at least 17 people died in a fire started at a pipeline near Ogwe in the eastern part of Abia state;
  • In March 2000, at least 50 people were burnt alive when a pipeline caught fire near Isioma in Abia south-western state;
  • In June 2000, at least 28 people died in a fire caused by a pipeline explosion at Okuedjeba, near the southern Warri oilfield;
  • In July 2000, about 300 people died at Warri, Delta state, in a fire caused by a pipeline explosion;
  • Again in the same month of July, 2000, at least 40 people were killed when a pipeline burst and caught fire in Afrokpe in the Warri area and about 15 more were killed the next day in a second blast in the same area;
  • In November 2000, about 60 people lost their lives when a damaged pipeline exploded near the port of Lagos;
  • In November of 2001, another 15 people died and several others and seriously burned in a pipeline blow-up at Umudike in the south-eastern state of Imo;
  • In September 2002, several people died and many were injured at Akute-Odo in southern Ogun state as a pipeline caught fire after they had vandalized it;
  • In June 2003, about 125 people were killed in a pipeline explosion in the village of Ovim in Abia state;
  • In September 2004, at least 60 people burnt to death as a result of pipeline busting in Lagos;[13]
  • In December 2004, at least 20 other people died in Lagos from the same cause;
  • In May 2006, about 200 people lost their lives at Ilado near Lagos when gasoline from a ruptured pipeline caught fire. (BBC News 2006)

The impact Oil Industry in Niger Delta

Brief recount of the history of oil exploration in Nigeria

The earliest known incidence of search for hydrocarbons was more than a hundred years ago in 1906 when Nigerian Bitumen Company had drilled, though unsuccessfully for bitumen northeast of Lagos. Nothing much happened during the next thirty odd years till Shell D’Arcy Company was given exclusive rights in 1937 for oil exploration throughout the length and breadth of the country. It took another twenty years for Shell-BO to discover commercially exploitable oil deposits in Niger Delta and with the first oil shipment in 1958 (at a rate of 6,000 barrels per day); the oil sector began to assume an increasing importance in the nation’s economic life.[14] In 1961, the first export terminal was constructed by Shell-BP at Bonny, Rivers State. This was followed by the commissioning of the Trans-Niger pipeline in 1965 that increased manifold the evacuation of crude oil from the oilfields situated in what was known at that time as the Bendel State. However, these rapid strides in the field of oil exploration were drastically cut short by the Civil War that halted all efforts till 1970 when the flames of the war finally subsided. The end of the civil war saw massive investment in oil extraction related activities that saw a huge surge in oil production that reached a level of 1.5 million barrels per day in that year and by 1971 Shell’s second Export Terminal at Forcados was commissioned to further enhance crude export. It might be of academic interest to note that the price of crude oil at this time was about $2.00 per barrel.

Though initial forays were made by made by Shell, other oil companies as Mobil, Gulf (now Chevron) Texaco, Elf and Agip entered the scene from 1956 onwards with Gulf bringing its first field on stream in 1965. The production levels continued to increase unabated and in 1974, immediately after the first world oil price increase, and with intensified drilling and production activities, Nigeria reached its peak oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day, of which Shell produced 1.4 million barrels.[15] This high level of production was more or less sustained until 1980 when the world oil price reached $35 per barrel, though the number of barrels sold was much reduced.

Nigerian oil and gas industry has now reached a stage where it can play a key role in the world energy supply for several decades to come as the country has an abundance of both proven and undiscovered reserves of high quality oil which can be exploited at relatively low cost compared with other major oil producing countries. (Omene 2002)

Environmental hazards related to oil exploration

There are certain some hazards and risks to the people and the environment that are intimately associated with oil and gas exploration and production activities.[16] Such risks to the environment usually take the form of:

  • Seismic Operations: It is claimed that seismic activities generate vibrations that can adversely affect buildings. The seismic waves generated and the chemicals used can also deplete aquatic life in the rivers and streams.
  • Well Blow-outs: Sometimes due to overpressure of the reservoir or due to human error, a blowout can occur despite wellhead pressure control systems. During such incidents, soil and water can be contaminated.
  • Fire: The emission of flammable hydrocarbon during production can result in fire outbreaks.
  • Flaring: The flare scorches the surrounding lands and this can render them infertile, while light from flares retard photosynthesis with the resultant reduction in farm crop productivity. Increase in temperature of the surrounding river waters can impact the aquatic life and ecosystem. Global warming from gas flaring can result in saltwater incursion into fresh waters. Also, the health implications of gas flaring for human beings include sleeplessness, and breathing problems.
  • Pollution: Pollution can occur due to human error, sudden rupture of pipelines, or instrumentation failures.
  • Sabotage: Spillages due to sabotage sometimes occur. Apart from compensation expectation, the resultant spills create a lot of environmental problems and pollution.
  • Noise: Noise effects even during drilling can scare and displace wildlife. Most of the oil industry plants and operations can be noisy.[17]

Bonny – a fishing community in Niger Delta

The havoc environmental pollution has been wrecking in the entire Niger Delta can be properly understood if attention is turned on the rural fishing community on the Island of Bonny in the Eastern Niger Delta.[18] The author feels that a detailed descriptive study of one community would help to put the basic problems that affect almost all the local inhabitants of the Niger Delta in proper perspective and draws heavily from the seminal work done in this regard by Alicia Fentiman. (Fentiman 1996)

Geographic and Demographic Overview of Bonny Island

Bonny island is situated within the within the tidal mangrove swamps of the Eastern Niger Delta. Tributaries of the Bonny River dissect the flat surface of the island, creating swamps and creeks that are bordered by mangrove trees. Much of the land is uninhabitable; fresh water resources are scarce.[19] The population is clustered mainly in Bonny town and a number of adjoining villages and several fishing ports that are safely nestled in numerous meandering creeks and waterways that crisscross this region. Oloma is one such village around Bonny town. This town is approximately 50 kilometres southeast of the industrial and commercial centre of Port Harcourt.

Oloma is populated almost entirely by Ibani-Ijo community while there is a settlement of Elem Kalabari to the west, the Okrikans to the north, and the Andoni, Opobo, and Ogoni to the east. (Jewett 1988)

History of Bonny

Fishing has traditionally been the main source of livelihood of the Ibani community that lives in the village of Oloma. Over and above the fish that was abundantly available in the numerous creeks salt was evaporated from the sea water trapped in the roots of the mangrove tree. Ibani community traded their merchandise of fish and salt with the hinterland agriculturists and this internal trade network was well established and fully functional decades before European contact and provided the mercantile infrastructure on which the success of Bonny’s European trade was founded. Being crucially located[20] surely helped Bonny to gradually develop into a fulcrum of a two-way trade between the Ibo hinterland and the Ibani, on the one hand, and the Ibani and European traders on the other. Food, livestock, and, most importantly, slaves that came from the hinterland markets were brought to Bonny to be traded. The growing European demand for slaves assured the role of Bonny traders as middlemen in the West African-European trade. This lasted until the 19th century. (Alagoa, Long Distance Trade and States in the Niger Delta 1970)

With the abolition of slave trade in the 19th century merchants turned their attention to palm oil which found a huge market in Europe due to Industrial Revolution that was taking place there. Palm oil was a very effective and convenient lubricant for machinery as well as for making soap and candles. Bonny did not let this opportunity go by and prospered as one of the main centres of palm oil trade and such was its success that Bonny and Kalabari areas became known as the “Oil Rivers.”

20th century however saw a gradual decline of Bonny as coal was discovered in commercially viable quantities further inland and a new mainland port was constructed by the British colonialists to exploit better the new coal fields. Port Harcourt, a new industrial city 50 kilometres up Bonny River, was founded in 1913. In 1916 there was great exodus from Bonny and by 1930 the town was said to be in a state of decay and utter stagnation (Webber 1931) and by 1938 moves were made to abolish the third-class township that was accorded to Bonny.[21]

Discovery of Oil: Revival of Bonny

Initially the oil companies had built a temporary export terminal at Port Harcourt[22] but only small tankers could visit that terminal and even then they could load only half their capacity because of the low draft that was available at the port. Bonny thus became the ideal alternative because of its strategic location[23] and its unique capability of being able to cater to both inshore and offshore loading facilities. Shell Petroleum Development Company realised the unique geographical advantage of Bonny and by 1961 had completed the first phase of the Bonny Terminal and kept on adding more terminals throughout the sixties.

The establishment of the oil terminal had a tremendous impact on the infrastructure of Bonny Town.[24] New buildings were constructed and Bonny had a new post office, a divisional office, a branch of the Pan African Bank, a police station, and maritime clearing and forwarding houses. A new hospital was also built and communication between Bonny town and Port Harcourt improved dramatically. Though intermittent, Shell also started supplying electricity to the town. But the most unexpected sector to gain from the new found prosperity on account of oil was education and in 1966, Shell helped to fund new departments in Bonny secondary school. In 1977, the Finima Girl’s Secondary School was opened, which provided further education for females. In addition, a teacher training college was re-established, and it at once became an important educational centre. (Green 1982) Though Bonny remained indebted to oil industry for its phenomenal improvement, the lives of average inhabitants of Bonny, especially those who resided in the coastal fishing villages, deteriorated sharply due to extraction of crude oil. (Prins [ed.] 2001)

Adverse impact of oil industry on Bonny

Oil has an overwhelming presence in and around Oloma; the canalization and dredging of creeks by oil companies have significantly altered the landscape and pipes meander throughout the swamps, with signboards scattered throughout the area alerting villagers of “danger.” [25] To add to the already all pervading presence of oil, sea trucks pass daily to and from the flow station located at the end of the creek; and gas flares emit light 24 hours every day. But it was not so, at least not before Shell started dredging the creek. Rampant soil erosion swallowed the beautiful sandy beach and now houses and playgrounds are also gradually becoming prey to this silent killer. But the most important issue is fishing as a way of life is becoming more and more difficult for this predominantly fishing community as it is very fast becoming an uneconomic activity with each passing day. Some of the problems these fishermen encounter are:

Damage by Sea Trucks

Sea trucks continuously ply along the creek to and from the flow station located at the end of this waterway. The pilots of these sea trucks, it seems, have no concern about the fishermen or the oil multinationals have not paid sufficient attention in sensitising these pilots towards the needs and requirements of the poor fishing folk for whom this creek and its fishes are the only source of livelihood. Rapidly plying sea trucks do not bother to adhere to the speed restrictions and very often tear fishing lines, nets, and traps laid by the fishermen and the wake left behind by these trucks often cause the light and flimsy canoes of these fishermen to capsize.[26] In addition to these irritants, noise created by these sea trucks scare away whatever little quantities of fish that still might have remained in these creeks. (Wilcox and Powell 1985)

Spillage of oil and resultant pollution

Oil multinationals have consistently tried to make everybody believe that the main reason for low fish yields are over-fishing and overpopulation but the fishing community strongly believes that oil pollution has damaged their fishing economy beyond redemption. Fewer people reside in the community than in the past and fewer people take to fishing as the only means of livelihood. These oil companies dump all their waste products into the rivers thus polluting the waters and killing the fish and making lives of fishermen even bleaker and forcing them out of their traditional dwellings to urban centres in search of livelihood. (Alagoa and Tamuno, Land and People of Nigeria: Rivers State 1989) This has created another rather unusual problem. A greater burden has been placed upon the women because of the massive outward migration of men and each day, women spend hours in the mangrove swamps gathering shellfish such as winkles and mangrove oysters and other forms of shellfish to quench their hunger.[27]

It must however be admitted that there is not much scientific data examining the impact of oil pollution on the aquatic life. At the same time one should not lose sight of the symposium, “The Mangrove Ecosystem of the Niger Delta”, held in Port Harcourt in 1980, where several scholars researching in different disciplines discussed and shared information on the changes in the environment on account of oil exploration and broadly agreed that oil was a major factor contributing to the destruction of marine life. It was demonstrated by several scholars that crude oil contains compounds that are toxic to marine organisms and contribute to extensive mortality in finfish, shellfish, oysters, and birds. This was observed in the Apoi and Ojobo areas. (Odu and Imevbore 1985)

A study in Bonny River examined oil pollution and the brackish environment.[28] An experiment that examined the effect of crude petroleum oil and refined oils on aquatic organisms confirmed that crude oil and refined petroleum products in high concentrations were toxic to marine life. By comparing different types of fish and shellfish, it showed that some species were more resilient than others. Data revealed that shrimps were more susceptible to pollutants, followed by oysters and fish. Periwinkles were the most tolerant. Tainting of the flesh confirmed that the effect of oil spillage was lingering. Even small, though continual, spills affected the productivity of the water. It also showed that pollutants had a pronounced effect on the growth and reproductive capacity of organisms. (Onuoba 1985)

An oil spillage in Nembe in 1995 illustrates the problems with which oil producing communities must contend when there is a spillage. It was reported that an oil spill had occurred from an Agip oil pipeline. For several days, the oil flowed freely into the creeks and mangrove forest. The area went up in flames one night when a woman on a late-night fishing trip mistakenly set off the fire with her lantern. The fire destroyed much of the aquatic life in the area. In addition, farm crops were destroyed. (Agbese 1995)

A problem that many communities face during oil spillages is that many of the oil companies are unwilling to pay compensation during spillages because they believe that they are caused by sabotage. The communities, however, stress that many of the spillages are “legitimate” – not caused by sabotage, but instead by poorly maintained and faulty equipment. It is therefore necessary to monitor the areas regularly and to act immediately during spillages.[29]

It might be of interest to recollect that Shell Oil Company was compelled to shut down its operations in Ogoni in 1996 as a result of a high-profile protest campaign against it. The Nigerian government again ordered Shell in mid-2006 to resume oil production in Ogoni within one year or lose its concession. This necessitated a visit by a team of oil spill experts from the United Nations Environment Program to assess the impact of oil pollution on the region. A report compiled by World Wildlife Fund-UK (WWF UK), the World Conservation Union and the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, concluded that pollution is destroying the livelihood of 20 million people in the region and about 1.5 million tons of oil has been spilt in the Niger Delta over the past 50 years. The report says oil spills have done colossal damage to the fragile mangrove forests and wiped out rare species, including primates, fish, turtles and birds. The delta is now considered one of the five most polluted spots in the world.[30] The report concluded that the damage done by oil and gas production was one of the factors responsible for the instability and violence in the region, including the sabotage of oil facilities. (Costa 2006)

Gas Flaring and Pollution

Large quantities of methane gas are associated with oil. During oil production, this gas is burned off at flow stations above the oil wells. This introduces sulphur dioxide and oxides of carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere. The impact of this on the environment has not yet been substantiated. However, it is said that this could contribute to global warming. (Waribor 1976)

Nigerian authorities also admit that the country loses about $2.5 billion annually to gas flaring, while thousands of people in and around the oil-rich Delta region live in grinding poverty. The authorities have promised to set a deadline for oil firms operating in the area to stop the practice. Environmental watchdog groups say the flaring of gas has further polluted the region’s water, air and farmlands. They also report a significant increase in birth defects. Mike Karikpo, programs manager with the group Environmental Rights Action, however is rather sceptical about promises made by Nigerian authorities.

He recalls several instances of setting deadlines for gas flare-out in Nigeria right since 1965 and none of them had been met and he feels that the government and the oil companies are busy playing the blame game, pointing at each other for not doing what they are supposed to be doing.[31]

He is rather scathing in his remarks about the government and the oil companies and suspects both the parties benefit from flaring and it is basically a symbiotic relationship that benefits the government and oil companies. (Offor 2008)

Land Filling

Quite a few creeks and waterways have been filled up by the oil companies for laying pipelines and this has severely disturbed accessibility of numerous hutments and small villages and most of these villagers have been denied an alternative route to reach Bonny Town. The alternative route provided a safer option to reach Bonny town during monsoon when Bonny River becomes very rough and dangerous.[32]

Canalization also damages the environment. Oil companies create canals to either drain out an area for drilling and lying of pipes or create channels to transport drilling and other oil production equipment to the site. The channels alter the ecology of the area; they can also alter the flood pattern of the delta by resulting in perennial flooding of the otherwise well-drained plains as was observed in many areas in the Niger Delta. (Ekoriko 1996)


The local inhabitants are of the firm opinion that the continual to and from movement of sea trucks along the creek and dredging of the land and waterways have significantly contributed to the erosion of the land. In Oloma, several households lost their fertile farmlands due to erosion and the sandy beach that used to be in front of the village has eroded away even after a sand-bank was designed to prevent further erosion. The embankment was promised for several years and finally in 1984 it was indeed built by a contractor who bagged the government contract. But like many other public constructions in corruption infested Nigeria, this embankment also did not last.[33] It got washed away during the rainy season and instead of benefiting the community and improving the situation, it worsened the scenario. Gaps in the embankment became dangerous for children and adults walking on the sandbags and several of them ended with broken legs or twisted ankles. (Fentiman 1996)


Local fishermen of this area drag a net along the creek bottom as the most effective Indigenous fishing method. But after oil companies have emerged on the scene it is difficult, rather impossible for fishermen to catch fish in such a manner because the creeks have been dredged as a part of oil exploration and the water is now too deep to stand in, making this form of fishing obsolete. Dredging also destroys valuable freshwater and mangrove vegetation, which can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem because aquatic organisms depend on them for food and shelter during part or all of their life cycles (Wilcox and Powell 1985). Also, during the dredging process, oil is spilled into the water and burning of fuel releases carbon, sulphur, and nitrogen oxides into the aquatic environment thus causing severe water and air pollution. (Odu and Imevbore 1985)

Oloma and Social Change

The Land Decree Act of 1978 caused many communities throughout the Niger Delta to lose their valuable farmland. On top of that, oil production contributed to the contamination of whatever land that still remained with them. Though there is no doubting the fact that inhabitants of Oloma suffered in many ways when parts of their land were taken away, they have suffered more by losing the access and rights of way to their creeks and waterways. Further, the destruction and contamination of their productive resources have contributed to vast changes within the economic, political, and social structure of the community. As members of the community are forced to migrate because their resources are destroyed, various changes are taking place within these institutions.[34]

Unrest in Niger Delta

Many analysts feel that ownership of land is the main reason for the continuing political unrest in this region.  The Land Decree Act of 1978 automatically transfers title to any land where oil is found to the federal government without adequate compensation to the landowners. This gives the federal government the right to enter into an unholy alliance with multinational oil companies in the name of joint venture operations at the exclusion of the people.

Is Federal Government a party to the nexus?

The result is that the federal government and the multinational oil corporations share the resulting revenue on a ratio of 60:40 percent with nothing left for the original landowners.[35] This fraudulent and complex economic arrangement is based on much deeper and extremely sinister issues of ethnicity and tribalism. There are 250 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, with the Yorubas, Igbos and the Hausa/Fulani of the west, southeast and the north comprising the majority tribes. The minorities of the Ijaws, Itsekiris and other nationalities inhabit the oil rich Niger Delta region. However, most members of the government are from majority tribes that do not populate the Niger Delta and these people have created a formula for sharing the revenues from oil production that favours other regions, further increasing the poverty in the delta and creating anger and conflict between the delta tribes themselves. Trust amongst the tribes has been eroded, while hatred and suspicion have grown, as they are made to believe that they are enemies to one and another by the divide and rule and the divide and exploit attitude of an insincere national government and its dubious multinational collaborators. (Bisina 2005)

Non-recognition of Minorities and Indigenous People

The situation is made more volatile since Nigerian constitution does not recognise minority and indigenous rights though Chapter 2 of the constitution purports to confer equality on all citizens of the country irrespective of ethnic origin, sex, religion, and political opinion. The Nigerian constitution only deals with general question of non-discrimination but does not deal with the problem of vulnerable group like the nation’s minorities. There is no mention of minority and indigenous peoples’ rights in the constitution.[36]

A direct result of this lack of protection is Nigeria’s human rights crisis   that has arisen from the treatment meted to the mosaic of distinct minority and indigenous nationalities that straddle the length and breadth of the Niger Delta River where the nation’s exploration and exploitation of crude oil takes place.

Right from its onset, the oil industry in Nigeria had operated under the protection of certain security arrangements requiring the Nigeria Police to send officers to the oil companies as supernumerary police or spy police. These security officers had been implicated in abuses against local community members where they operate involving crimes like torture, arbitrary arrests and detention and rape.[37]

However, the response of the government took a new dimension in the wake of the decade long upsurge in agitations by the Niger Delta peoples. The standard response of the government had been the militarization of the area in order to crush community protests so as to ensure the protection of oil facilities and the continued flow of crude oil. This militarization has resulted in indiscriminate arrests, torture, rape and the extrajudicial execution of peoples in the Niger Delta. This is contrary to the principles of increasing the wellbeing of the people of Niger Delta and avoidance of adverse impacts. (The Niger Delta Civil Society Forum 2008)

Militancy in Niger Delta

Such a backdrop of corruption, nepotism, forgery and blatant show of force by governmental agencies had made Niger Delta into a lawless zone where militant youths disrupted oil production activities at will and communities frequently engaged, with little provocation, in destructive inter and intra community clashes[38]. Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other activists called for the Nigerian federal government to regulate the oil exploration, drilling, and processing activities of Shell Oil and other oil manufacturers in the oil-producing regions of Nigeria. This included enforcing standards on the location of oil drills, proper disposal of oil wastes, and appropriate clean-up procedures in the event of spills. The activists also asked that a larger share of the profits from the oil industry be directed to the oil-producing regions of the country. They also wanted local government leaders to be included to a larger extent in the planning and decision-making of future oil explorations and expanded activities related to current oil drilling and processing. They usually threaten oil companies and their employees to leave their region. At times, they hold foreign oil workers hostage and have sabotaged major oilfields. These militants also provide security for the oil-smugglers who are believed to exchange oil for weapons from Eastern Europe. They claim that they have had enough of the exploitation of their resources and wanted to take total control of the area to get their fair share of the wealth. (M. Olusakin 2005)

The Niger Delta crisis is a serious matter that requires serious policy and committed and courageous leadership to resolve. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta threatened some rocket attacks. (The Guardian 2006) But there was no tangible, realistic and genuine efforts made by the government of the country to untangle that crisis.[39]

As mentioned earlier, the people of Niger Delta have been suffering from environmental degradation and pollution through oil spillage and gas flaring. The Commissions established by the government (Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) in 1992, replaced by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2000) have not made any noticeable socioeconomic impacts in the region. (ANEEJ 2004)


However, before passing a blanket judgement on governmental efforts, it would be fair to quickly browse through the details of the brief of NDDC and what it could achieve. This of course is not an attempt to whitewash the role played by Nigerian Government in tackling the crisis in the Delta region. Rather it is an attempt to remain fair and not be swayed by the high voltage rhetoric employed by all the concerned parties.[40]

Niger Delta Development Commission was charged with the responsibility of promoting sustainable development of the Niger Delta. Specifically, the functions of the NDDC included the following:

  • Formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Niger Delta area;
  • Conceive, plan and implement in accordance with set rules and regulations, projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area, in the fields of transportation, including roads, jetties and waterways, health, education, employment, industrialization, agriculture and fisheries, housing and urban development, water supply, electricity and telecommunications;
  • Cause the Niger Delta area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures which are necessary to promote its physical and socioeconomic development;
  • Prepare master plans and schemes designed to promote the physical development of the Niger Delta area.[41]
  • Implement all the measures approved for the development of the Niger Delta area by the Federal Government and the member States of the Commission;
  • Identify factors inhibiting the Development of the Niger Delta area and assist the member states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta area;
  • Assess and report on any project being funded or carried out in the Niger Delta area by oil and gas producing companies and any other company including non-governmental organizations, and ensure that funds released for such projects are properly utilized;
  • Tackle ecological and environmental problems that arise from the exploration of oil mineral in the Niger Delta area and advise the Federal Government and the member States on the prevention and control of oil spillages, gas flaring and environmental pollution;
  • Liaise with the various oil mineral and gas prospecting and producing companies on all matters of pollution, prevention and control; and
  • Execute such other works and perform such other functions which, in the opinion of the Commission, are required for the sustainable development of the Niger Delta area and its people.(Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc.) Act: 2000 Act No. 6: Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2000)

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) placed great emphasis on human development based on the conviction that any development must begin with the human being who otherwise could become opposed to the development process[42]. It had developed various programs to facilitate this. Some of the achievements of NDDC are: Over 100,000 treated for various illnesses; 5,000 enrolled in computer training classes; 417 classrooms built; desks and tables provided for those classrooms; science equipment provided for local schools; 50 health centres constructed and many similar projects. Though these were mere drops in the ocean when compared to the yawning requirements of the area and NDDC was superseded by Consolidated Council on Social and Economic Development of Coastal States of the Niger Delta (COSEND) — a new development institution recently established by the Government of Nigeria to drive the development of the Niger Delta region — one has to admit that NDDC was not a mere spectator in the ongoing happenings in the Delta region. (Ebeku 2008)

It might seem a misnomer if it is said that the crisis in the Niger Delta is not complex by itself. But the actual fact is the approach to resolving it has made it complex and dangerous. The people are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. The region that is home to Nigeria’s oil wealth remains the most impoverished community in the nation. Reports note that they lack basic infrastructure – good network of roads, health care facilities, good schools and portable water. The spate of sad images of the poor quality of life in the creeks that are periodically shown to the world on CNN (and in the newspapers) highlight that the oil wealth is not being used to develop the area.[43] The successive governments have collected billions of dollars from the land over the decades, but little (if any) has been invested in the area to improve the people’s living conditions. Is there anything wrong in investing some money that is realized from the oil extracted from the region to improve the people’s living conditions? [44]

The main causes of Niger Delta crisis include greed and selfishness, deprivation and poverty and social injustice. (Oyadongha 2006) The simple meaning of social justice, according to experts, is that the same contribution equals the same benefit. A person’s “benefit” equals his or her “contribution” and no community should be given more when it contributes less or be given less when it contributes more. The Niger Delta, however, is contributing a lot to the economic well being of Nigeria and it is getting nothing, but destruction, in return. Without social justice there will be no peace in the Niger Delta and socioeconomic development will continue to elude the region. Social justice, as experts say, is an important ingredient for “socioeconomic development.” It creates a healthy, harmonious, and reliable social psychological atmosphere that stimulates economic development. And because of social injustice the entire nation is slowly becoming politically and economically very unstable. (Boothroyd and Nam 2000)

But this crisis has not shown any signs over the years that it would be resolved. Some thought it would end with the executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow Ogonis on November 10, 1995. But what followed was a worldwide condemnation of the Nigerian authorities and a genuine concern for human rights abuses in that country.

The condemnations notwithstanding ground reality has changed very little over the years and as the situation stands, the country is, losing several billions of dollars to the massive destruction being credited to the activities of saboteurs, or militants (depending on which side of the divide you are) in the region, by blowing up oil installations belonging to major multinational oil companies.[45] As a result, Nigeria is having a daily shortfall of almost a million barrels crude oil production from its quota to OPEC. This will have a massive implication on the annual budget of the country as the government will be forced to undertake a huge amount of deficit financing in order to keep up to the budgeted expenditure.

The situation is compounded by the fact that Labour Unions, under the aegis of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), led Nigerian workers to draw the attention of the federal government to the deplorable plights of workers in the face of the current global economic meltdown and made several demands on the government, some of which are, an increase in workers’ salaries, a reversal of the deregulation of the downstream sector and the adoption of the Justice Uwais’ recommendations on electoral reforms. But as long as the crisis in Niger Delta continues the demands and expectations of Nigerian workers and the rest of the populace can hardly be met. Nigerian economy has become too lopsided with over 95% of foreign exchange earnings coming from the crude oil produce of Niger Delta.[46]

But in all probabilities it has not been a correct (at least economically) decision to order a military invasion of the creeks in Niger-Delta by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), in the quest to flush out militants operating within the bowels of the oil rich region of the country. It is true that military officers were massacred, and those responsible for it must not be allowed to go free, but the process of apprehending the criminal elements responsible for this wicked act should follow an intelligent, systematic and calculated procedure. Had this been an American issue, on US soil, the FBI and CIA would surely have played predominant roles in thwarting the efforts of these militants, while ensuring that minimum “collateral damages” are incurred. Nigerian lives, whether they are of Niger-Deltan’s, Fulani or Yoruba are just too sacred and valuable to be lost and neglected in a struggle that truly centres on them. (Eseku 2009)

Pat Utomi in his article has clearly demonstrated there is a fair amount of consensus that the crisis in the Niger Delta is a cumulative consequence of six major factors. These are: the challenge of minority rights in a multi-ethnic country; a history of poor or bad governance; the allure of crude oil stealing; the challenge of principles-based nation-building with regard to fiscal federalism; and the ‘criminalization’ of politics. Then there is the enclave nature of the oil economy, which limits the trickle-down of benefits to the community.[47]

It will surely sound sweet music to multinational oil companies that Niger Delta crisis predates the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in the Delta.  Long before Shell Oil made commercial finds in Oloibiri in 1956, many of the minority peoples who dominate the Niger Delta had petitioned the British Colonial administration with concerns that they were being marginalized by the ethnic majority groups.  The petitions resulted in a commission of inquiry.  One outcome of the work of the Willinks Commission was the setting up of a Niger Delta Basin Authority to drive economic development. This initiative quickly fell into neglect and deprivation became the symbol of the region. The extraction of wealth from the earth beneath the Delta benefited the Nigerian government and the oil producing companies. At the same time, it despoiled the region’s environment and took away traditional means of livelihood from the region’s young people who were offered no employment alternatives. Their plight became a cause celebre in the quest for civil liberties and fundamental human rights.[48]

As if that was not enough of a burden, bad governance at the state and federal levels meant the region lacked the most basic infrastructure, while communities needed only look across the fence to the ultramodern facilities enjoyed by mainly foreign employees of the oil companies.  Widespread corruption in the institutions established in response to agitation for justice and fairness in the region rendered these efforts utterly ineffective. A central question has been determining who should be held accountable. The people of the region have usually held the operating companies to account, while the oil firms insist that they are victims and that the governments to whom they have paid taxes should be responsible for development.  While the debate went on, the people of the oil-rich Delta remained among the poorest people in the world. (Afiesiama 1985)

The anger of the region is further inflamed by the fact that the federal structure agreed upon at independence was an entrenchment of the principle of being a subsidiary, with an understanding that resources belong to the federating states who then contribute 50 percent of revenues from mineral resources for maintenance of the central government. Under military rule this basic understanding of the essence of the Nigerian Federation was systematically turned on its head without consultation or debate.  At one point, less than one percent of oil revenues, in real terms, accrued to the sub-national oil-producing units by the derivation principle. With greater freedoms and the advent of civilian, democratic rule, these inflamed passions and resentments were predictable and more forcefully expressed.[49]

Large scale stealing of crude oil, in which powerful politicians and senior military officials were known to be implicated, further aggravated the sense of injury felt by the people in the Niger Delta. The dominant feeling was that while they dealt with the pains of poverty, actors from outside the region engaged in rapacious conspicuous consumption from resources of the Niger Delta.

The introduction of violence as an instrument of securing legitimate political power has complicated the scenario even more. Thugs and gangs of political enforcers have proliferated in the region.[50]  This phenomenon, which has been dubbed the “criminalization of the political process,” is currently on ‘exhibition’ at the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It has led to proliferation of arms in the region and the emergence of warlords supported, at least initially, by the actions of politicians and government officials. Many of these actors, with no strong political convictions, add to the criminal elements compounding the activities of the political militants. (Utomi 2008)

It is no small wonder that passions run pretty high on the highly emotive issue of the crisis in Niger Delta. Very often racially loaded comments are made by people in responsible positions and those comments have far reaching implications on the political careers of these highly placed individuals. A recent case involved Van Jones, Environmental Adviser to United States President Barack Obama. He had commented that oil companies are killing “blacks” in Nigeria. His remark about Nigeria was in reference to environmental degradation in the Niger Delta caused by multinational oil companies. [51]

The Washington Times reported that Jones had also in the past made comments claiming an ecological apartheid in which white polluters; white environmentalists were steering poison to minority communities. Such a racially loaded statement is bound to raise a lot of political storm especially when United States has an African-American as President in the White House. (Ohia 2009)

Jones had to resign his post in the face of rising tide of criticism and many observers feel that he was forced to relinquish his post by the President himself as he did not want to provide additional ammunition to all those that were opposing tooth and nail his policies of Health Care reforms. The present project does not deal with the intricacies of Washington politics but the incident involving Van Jones indeed brought in sharp focus the deep lines that divide the stakeholders in this problem.

Legal resistance against environmental pollution

Apart from militant outbursts, legal resistance has also been another channel through which Nigerians have expressed their anguish over the systematic environmental destruction of their territories that multinational oil companies have been indulging in for decades.[52] A Nigerian High Court had upheld on 19th May 2006 an order asking Royal Dutch Shell to pay $1.5 billion in damages for pollution in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. The oil giant was directed to pay the money to ethnic Ijaw communities in the state of Bayelsa. A group of Ijaws had earlier approached the court of law seeking compensation for what they called the devastation of their area’s environment because of oil drilling. (US Fed News Service 2006)

In a report filed on 30th July 2001, Xinhua News Agency had stated Sola Ebiseni, commissioner of the Ondo State for environment and natural resources, had claimed in state’s capital Akure that Seven out of every ten persons living in the oil rich coastal area of Nigeria’s southern state of Ondo have fled due to the pollution of the environment and the source of livelihood of the remaining people was under severe threat.[53] Faced with an acute environmental crisis Nigerian government ordered the oil companies operating in Nigeria and to take full responsibility of clearing the mess they caused during the operations. The Nigerian Government also called for an elaborate conference of stakeholders on the Nigerian environment from September 18 to 20, 2001 in the capital Abuja. According to a statement issued by National Coordinator of the summit Bolu Jonh Folayan, the summit, a private/government sector coalition to make the Nigerian environment safer, was supported by the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Power and Steel, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other major stakeholders. However, in spite of such high power presence, the summit ended in a bout of finger pointing and passing of pious resolutions without any clear cut fixation of responsibility. (Xinhua News Desk 2001)

Former chairman of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, on a temporary exile in the United States, has urged the United States government to expand its crime law to enable it nail high level Nigerian recipients of bribe, who usually enjoy a safe haven within the country. During a testimony before the House Financial Services Committee of the US Congress in Washington DC, he argued that while the responsibility to solve this problem ultimately lies with Nigeria, the US could help to narrow the operating space for what he described as “high-stakes elite bribery”, with an expanded law that would rein them in, irrespective of their country of origin.[54] In an effort to put the issue in sharper perspective, Ribadu reminded the Congress that the culprits of the infamous Halliburton/KBR corruption scandal had faced severe consequences including the payment of killer fines up to the tune of $600 million. However, their Nigerian counterparts are still walking free because of poor law enforcement and the fact that the US lacks jurisdiction to rein in those individuals. Same is the case with the Siemens scandal that is yet to produce any conviction or sanction from the Nigerian side. But if and when the perpetrators of this sort of crimes are nabbed across borders, he argued that the lack of hiding place will stop them in their tracks. Ribadu further claimed that Nigeria has lost some $440 billion between 1960 and 1999 to corruption; a figure, he said, is six times higher than the Marshall Plan amount needed to rebuild devastated Europe after World War II. Putting forward some telling statistics,[55] Ribadu claimed that former Governor of Plateau State Joshua Dariye was found to have 25 bank accounts in London alone, acquiring some 10 million pounds in benefits through criminal conduct. Also former Governor of Bayelsa State D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha had banks traced to Cyrpus, Denmark, US and Bahamas. He had property valued about 10 million pounds in London and another valued at 10 million rand in Cape Town, South Africa. (Ikokwu 2009)

How unsafe it is to reside in Niger Delta

Shell, which produces more than half of Nigeria’s oil, and hence one of the prime polluters of environment in the Niger Delta region, has countered condemnation of pollution by pointing out that the Delta has many other environmental problems as overpopulation and land degradation. (Alagoa, The Development of Institutions in the States of the Eastern Niger Delta 1996)

But a report by World Bank environment specialist David Moffat and Professor Olof Linden of Stockholm University, published in Ambio, the magazine of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, claims that even official statistics suggest that every year the delta is polluted by 2.3 billion cubic metres of oil from some 300 separate spills, almost one a day, but that the true figure may be 10 times higher. The report also exploded the oft repeated claim by oil companies – much trumpeted by Shell in the row that had followed the killing of writer and environmentalist Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow Ogoni activists in November 1995 – that they have improved the lives of the people by investing in local communities.[56]

The report concluded that the impact of these initiatives had been “minimal”. The report confirms that that gas flaring from oil production in the area emitted some 35 million tons of carbon dioxide and 12 million tons of methane a year, making it the world’s largest single contributor to global warming. This report goes on to describe how by building canals and roads, largely to service the industry, the oil industry has precipitated some of the most extensive environmental degradation in the region.

The report describes in vivid detail how the oil companies and government construct roads that block streams, creating stagnant ponds of water, killing forests and flooding fields and fertile plains. These roads also give loggers better access to the area’s fast-diminishing forests. This report also goes on to admit that though oil provides more than 80 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange, nearly three-quarters of the people of the Delta live in rural communities characterised by a lack of development, stagnant agricultural productivity, negligible opportunities in urban areas, rapid population growth and tenuous property rights.[57]

And, one must make a special mention of the fact that this is one of the first few reports that stated that while income in the area is below the national average, health is “substantially worse” than in the rest of south-east Nigeria. Tests have found 85 per cent of drinking water samples polluted by sewage, and water-related diseases account for four-fifths of all the illness. It might be of some solace to those who feel disturbed by the environmental pollution unleashed by Shell and other multinational oil corporations upon the hapless inhabitants of Niger Delta that The Royal Geographical Society had voted way back in 1996 to dump Shell as one of its sponsors because of its activities in Nigeria. At its annual conference on 5th January 1996, members of the 160-year-old society voted by 157 to 10 to remove Shell as one of its four corporate patrons because of disquiet over the company’s environmental and political record. (Lean 1996)

According to a report by Xinhua News Agency, researchers at Lagos University had conducted several studies and had come to the stunning conclusion that more than 25 percent of Nigerians are at an increased risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic chemicals from crude oil pollution, Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). [58] They are also at the risk that PAHs can be genotoxic, that is, the damage caused can be inherited. Previous studies have already indicated that PAHs caused a decrease in sperm count and fertility in crude oil polluted environment of the Niger Delta. PAHs are known to be acutely lethal in low concentrations and chronically lethal in sub-lethal concentration. Toxic effects observed due to PAHs include decreased body weight, enlarged liver with cell oedema and congestion of liver parenchyma and inflammation of kidney cells. Several related studies have also confirmed that exposure to Benzo(a) Pyrene (BaP) increases the risk of cancer. BaP is a five-ring PAH, belonging to the alternant class of PAHs. It is known to be a ubiquitous environmental carcinogen.

Chimezie Anyakora, Ugochukwu Obiakor, Funke Babalogbon and Herbert Coker of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Lagos had carried out an extensive investigation on auto mechanics and found that 25 percent of exposed subjects (auto mechanics) were found to contain one PAH or the other while one out of eleven unexposed subjects (students) had PAH in their blood sample. A second study published in American Journal of Environmental Sciences by Chimezie Anyakora, and Herbert Coker of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Lagos, concluded that people of the Niger Delta are at a higher risk of cancer because high concentrations of this toxic chemical were found in the fishes they eat.[59]

Oil spills have become a regular feature in the deltaic region with the then Texaco Overseas Nigeria Unlimited Funiwa blow-out and Mobil Nigeria crude oil spill in the late 1990.  Since then, most oil spills which run into millions of barrels are concentrated around oil floating stations, oil wells and crude oil pipelines which crisscross the entire offshore region of the Niger Delta region.[60]

Mid 2007 sabotage of Warri-Kaduan crude oil pipeline that is the main channel (having a capacity of 110,000 barrels per day) for transporting crude from the Niger Delta region to Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited caused massive oil spill and pollution in Chanomi Creeks in Delta State. (Xinhua News Desk 2007)

Oil and Health

There is absolutely no doubt that oil has spelt doom in the lives of the original inhabitants of the delta region. These victims of environmental degradation are denied the basic right to health as envisaged in “The Right to Health”, Fact Sheet No. 31 published by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva.

Key aspects of the right to health

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights had mentioned health as part of the right to an adequate standard of living (art. 25). The right to health was again recognized as a human right in the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[61] In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the right to the highest attainable standard of health by WHO and by the Commission on Human Rights (now replaced by the Human Rights Council), which in 2002 created the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. These initiatives have helped clarify the nature of the right to health and how it can be achieved. (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2008)

The right to health is an inclusive right and goes beyond access to health care and the building of hospitals. It includes a wide range of factors that can help us lead a healthy life. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the body responsible for monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, calls these the “underlying determinants of health”.[62] They include:

  • Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation;
  • Safe food;
  • Adequate nutrition and housing;
  • Healthy working and environmental conditions;
  • Health-related education and information;
  • Gender equality.

(The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966)

Misconceptions about right to health

One should also steer clear about certain common misconceptions about the right to health while discussing this vital component of human rights. The right to health surely does not mean the same as the right to be healthy. Rather, the right to health refers to the right to the enjoyment of a variety of goods, facilities, services and conditions necessary for its realization. So, a state is morally and ethically respoinsible to provide its citizens all the facilties and provisions that are necessary for them to enjoy unfetterd right to health.

The fact that the programme to ensure right to health has certain tangible deadlines to be met does, however, never means that State is under an immediate obligation to ensure that such deadlines are met.[63] The State must make every possible effort, within available resources, to realise the right to health and to take steps in that direction without any delay. Here, of course, comes another stipulation that prevents all those States that are not that much enthusiastic about implementing this right from escaping the responsibility. A country’s difficult financial situation does not absolve it from having to take action to realize the right to health.

Link between right to health and other human rights

Member States of United Nations feel human rights are interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. This means that violating the right to health may often impair the enjoyment of other human rights, such as the rights to education or work, and vice versa. (World Conference on Human Rights 1993) On the other hand, right to health is also dependent upon many other human rights as rights to food, to water, to an adequate standard of living, to adequate housing, to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, to access to information, to participation, and the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications. It is common knowledge that ill health is associated with the ingestion of or contact with unsafe water which in turn is linked to lack of adequate hygiene, lack of sanitation and poor management of water resources and systems. Just in case a small bit of statistics helps the case, it may be recounted that most diarrhoeal disease in the world is attributable to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. In 2002, diarrhoea attributable to these three factors caused approximately 2.7 per cent of deaths (1.5 million) worldwide. (Environmental Burden of Disease Series, No. 15 2007)

Right to health as enshrined in International Human Rights Law and Constitutions of several countries

There are several international human rights treaties that recognise the right to health.[64] They are:

  • The 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: art. 5 (e) (iv);
  • The 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: art. 12;
  • The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: arts. 11 (1) (f), 12 and 14 (2) (b);
  • The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: art. 24;
  • The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families: arts. 28, 43 (e) and 45 (c);
  • The 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: art. 25.

The right to health is also recognized in several regional instruments, such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981), the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, known as the Protocol of San Salvador (1988), and the European Social Charter (1961, revised in 1996). The American Convention on Human Rights (1969) and the European Convention for the Promotion of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) contain provisions related to health, such as the right to life, the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the right to family and private life.[65]

The right to health is also enshrined in constitutions of some countries[66]:

Constitution of South Africa (1996):

Chapter II, Section 27: Health care, food, water and social security:

“(1) Everyone has the right to have access to health-care services, including reproductive health care; sufficient food and water; […]

(2) The State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realization of each of these rights.

(3) No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.”

Constitution of India (1950):

Part IV, art. 47, articulates a duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health: “The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties…”

Constitution of Ecuador (1998):

Chapter IV: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, art. 42:

“The State guarantees the right to health, its promotion and protection, through the development of food security, the provision of drinking water and basic sanitation, the promotion of a healthy family, work and community environment, and the possibility of permanent and uninterrupted access to health services, in conformity with the principles of equity, universality, solidarity, quality and efficiency.”

Right to health: how far it is honoured in Niger Delta

In spite of so many legal provisions it is unfortunate that hardly anything is being honoured in Niger Delta.[67] We have already discussed how oil spillage has not only polluted water in creeks and made them unfit for human consumption but also killed or infected the fish in those creeks. The pollution from spillages have also rendered fertile agricultural lands completely barren and forced large scale exodus from this region. The air pollution through flaring has also increased chances of contacting cancer and this region has become a virtual death trap for all those who are forced to reside in this condemned zone. (Charlick 2001)

In a news report in TendersInfo Edwin Clarke, an undisputed Ijaw leader claimed that there would no lasting peace in the Niger Delta region unless oil companies pay to the indigenous communities a sum of $100 million as compensation for almost 14,000 cases of environmental degradation that these companies are guilty of.[68] He further accused the Nigerian Government of not being serious about ending gas flaring as is evident from the fact that while all other governments have cut off date for gas flaring to come to an end, Nigerian Government has no such strictly enforceable cut off date and the earliest date by which one hopes it would finally end in Nigeria would be 2020. (manish03 2008)

Is there a way forward?

Though it is practically impossible to untangle the mess in Niger Delta unless environmental pollution perpetrated by oil companies is brought to a near complete halt, the government should make every effort to encourage private investment in agriculture and agro-industries by providing incentives, including tax breaks, finance credit and extension services. Also, inclusion of women would help in the process of negotiating and inculcating a positive peace agenda as that would introduce gender sensitivity.

Apart from the oil industry, there are numerous practices that impact on the Nigerian environment. Apart from the oil companies’ activities having a great impact on the environment, the following also impact the environment:

Bush burning, extermination of wildlife by hunters, rain, drought and desertification, deforestation, flooding and erosion, industrial pollution and contamination of water bodies, vehicular emission and noise pollution, toxic wastes and dumping of hazardous chemicals, emissions from mechanic workshops, sewage and municipal solid wastes disposal problems, winds and other natural disasters.[69]

A desirable outcome for the Nigerian people and the current government is a strong diversified economy able to generate employment and sustain livelihood for its citizens. The focus should be on increasing the productivity of agriculture, diversifying export earnings, increasing the utilization of industrial capacity, and providing gainful employment for its population. (Horton 2001)

According to Dr. Pat Utomi an administrative solution would be the construction of a major East-West highway through the region that will not only open economic opportunity to the community but will also improve access to prospecting areas for oil companies who have shown an interest in co-funding such a project in the past but have seen the federal government renege on its part of the proposal.[70] It is part of what will provide the thawing of the frost to allow meaningful dialogue to begin. This along with adequate funding and educated civil society monitoring of Niger Delta Development Commission, and an agreement in Abuja to return to the founding principles of the Nigerian federation will ensure that energy security and peace and development in the region is achieved. Local economic advancement and energy security are twins that should travel together for sustainable success. (Utomi 2008)




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  1. Rapporteur – somebody who is appointed to investigate a subject and deliver a report on it
  2. Hausa/Fulani – a term used to refer collectively to the Hausa and Fulani people of West Africa. The two are grouped together because their histories have been largely intertwined since the Fulani War. For example, when the Fulani took over Hausa city-state of Kano during the Fulani War, the new emirs ended up speaking the Hausa language instead of Fulfulde.
  3. Yoruba – They are one of the largest ethno-linguistic or ethnic groups in West Africa having around 120 million individuals. Most of these people speak Yoruba language and constitute approximately 21% of the total population of Nigeria.
  4. Igbo – They are also referred as Ibo(e), Ebo(e), Eboans or Heebo and are an ethnic group living chiefly in south-eastern and south Nigeria. They speak Igbo but quite a substantial number of members of this ethnic group can speak fluent English too. They are among the largest and most influential ethnic groups in Nigeria.
  5. Sharia – It is the body of Islamic religious law. The term means “way” or “path to the water source”. It is the legal framework within which the public and private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islamic principles of jurisprudence and for Muslims living outside the domain.
  6. Ijaw – They are a collection of people (also known by the subgroups “Ijo” or “Izon”) who reside mostly in the forest regions of the Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States within the Niger Delta in Nigeria. Some are also natives of Akwa-Ibom, Edo and Ondo states of Nigeria. Many are found as migrant fishermen in camps as far west as Sierra Leone and as far east as Gabon along the Western Africa coastline. They are believed to be some of the earliest inhabitants of southern Nigeria.
  7. Ogoni – They are one of the many indigenous peoples in the Niger Delta region of southeast Nigeria. They number about a half million people and live in a 404-square-mile homeland which they also refer to as Ogoni, or Ogoniland. The world came to know of these people after a massive public protest campaign against Shell Oil, led by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).
  8. Itsekiri – They are also known as Jekri, Isekiri or Ishekiri) and are an ethnic group of Nigeria’s Niger Delta area, Delta State. They number roughly 450,000 people. Though small in numbers they are considered to be a highly educated ethnic group and endowed with a rich cultural heritage.
  9. Ken Saro-Wiwa – He was a was a Nigerian author, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people. He was initially a spokesperson and then President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He led a non-violent campaign against Shell and was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian Government. At the peak of his non-violent campaign, Saro-Wiwa was arrested, hastily tried by a special military tribunal, and hanged in 1995 by the Nigerian military government of General Sani Abacha, all on charges widely viewed as entirely politically motivated and completely unfounded. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations.

[1] The multinational companies do have a responsibility towards the inhabitants of Niger Delta and cannot engage in mindless destruction of environment simply to pump up their bottom-line.

[2] The situation has become an intractable mesh of conflicting economic interests mostly of those that do not inhabit the delta and thus the only sensible option of clearing this mess is to adopt a human rights approach that would attempt to uplift the lot of the local inhabitants without attempting to do the impossible, i.e. balancing the conflicting economic claims of concerned stakeholders.

[3] Violence begets violence and world history has ample examples of the futility of trying to suppress legitimate demands of ethnic people through governmental or administrative terror or violence. Such attempts only steel the resolve of the local people and incite them to adopt means they would have abhorred under normal circumstances.

[4] It is these ethnic groups that formed the three basic power centres in modern Nigeria that resulted in a consequent perpetual tug of war between them for national supremacy.

[5] An over-dependence on oil began in right earnest from this point of time.

[6] Economic disparity, a lack of proper education, and a religious divide fanned by rabid fanaticism, combined together to form a deadly potion for instigating fratricidal violence.

[7] It is the body of Islamic religious law dealing with many aspects of day-to-day life, including politics, economics, banking, business, contracts, family, sexuality, hygiene, and social issues.

[8] This religious dichotomy has also contributed to the sharp north-south divide that has been the bane of the country ever since the modern state of Nigeria came into existence.

[9] These figures only show how skewed Nigerian economy has become. A near complete dependence on oil has made this country completely subservient to the whims and fancies of oil multinationals irrespective of the growls and whimpers occasionally heard from their leaders.

[10] Poverty becomes really ironical when viewed in the Nigerian context. Here is a country that has natural resources that would put similar countries to shame, but it has simply squandered those resources by allowing oil multinationals to conduct “on rent” production and has remained satisfied with the meagre amount of royalty that these oil giants throw at it.

[11] It is highly improbable though that the present leadership in Nigeria would actually walk down the difficult path of industrialisation as both China and India did.

[12] Acute financial distress coupled with loss of traditional means of livelihood has forced many local inhabitants of the Delta region to stoop to stealing in order to survive.

[13] At times, the human aspect of the tragedy gets lost in the barrage of figures.

[14] Though it took a pretty long time for the oil companies to strike oil, once they could do so, it was a pretty smooth and increasingly rewarding journey for the multinational oil giants.

[15] Nigeria was gradually making its presence felt among petroleum producers of the world.

[16] Oil exploration has long been one of the worst enemies of environment and extraction of this non-renewable source of energy has created an unimaginable mess in Niger Delta.

[17] Every single variety of pollution mentioned here has the potential of damaging beyond recovery the fragile eco-system that is generally prevalent in deltaic regions of the world.

[18] The author feels that the best way to focus on and highlight a problem is to concentrate on a case study. This gives more genuineness and immediacy to the problem and readers can also associate themselves with the problem at hand more easily. Oloma is simply a representative of the malaise that has spread wide and deep in oil rich Niger Delta and has heaped untold misery on hapless inhabitants.

[19] This obviously makes it one of the most difficult places to stay.

[20] Bonny proved beyond all doubts the age old wisdom that cities grew not because of their citizens but because of their geographical location.

[21] It was indeed a sad day that Bonny had to see after experiencing so much importance during its heyday. But this decline was only temporary as it revived its glory, thanks once again to its unique geographical location when oil was struck in Niger Delta.

[22] Commercially viable export of crude oil required smooth access by massive oil tankers. Port Harcourt was too far inland to make this feasible. Technically perhaps it was not impossible but the enormous expenditure that the oil companies would have had to incur by dredging round the clock to maintain sufficient draft made it a completely uneconomic proposition.

[23] Bonny extracted every bit of advantage that it possibly could from its unique location and in spite of temporary setbacks it regained its position of preeminence as soon as oil was struck in Niger Delta.

[24] It would surely be unfair if no mention is made of the benefits that have accrued to Bonny town as the oil companies increased their presence.

[25] It has indeed become really dangerous for indigenous inhabitants of Bonny to continue surviving purely through their traditional occupation of fishing.

[26] The fishermen have no option but to accept their bad luck and remain mute spectators to such destruction of their hard earned property.

[27] The impact of oil is not restricted to environmental pollution only; it causes disruptions in family and social lives too.

[28] This path breaking study has nailed the excuse very often spouted by multinational oil companies that irrespective of how dirty it might look to a casual observer, oil spillages do not actually harm aquatic life to that extent the anti-oil lobbies want the world to believe and accept.

[29] The most virulent problem in Niger Delta is possibly the mutual distrust that persists between multinational oil giants and local inhabitants of this region. While the oil majors consider the local inhabitants as a perpetually whimpering and complaining nuisance that occasionally turn violent and disrupt smooth extraction of crude, the locals consider these multinational giants as usurpers who had bribed the powers that are in control in Lagos to plunder the natural wealth of this region. This plunder becomes all the more pathetic as the local populace faces all the negative effects of oil extraction without getting a chance to enjoy the benefits.

[30] Though it was apparent to all those who bothered to be worried about the pitiable condition in Niger Delta, perhaps a report by internationally acclaimed experts was needed to put the final seal of condemnation of Nigerian authorities.

[31] These environmentalists have enough reason to be indignant and sceptical about any attempts made by Nigerian government towards cleaning up the environmental mess in Niger Delta.

[32] As it is the region is extremely inhospitable and if the available communication routes are snatched away, it becomes even more difficult for the local inhabitants to survive.

[33] Corruption at various levels of administration has become one of the worst malaises to have hit these impoverished people.

[34] This happens to be “unseen” impact of oil exploration in Niger Delta. The age old social structures are gradually breaking down and slipping away from sight. These original inhabitants of the Delta region are being silently coerced to leave their habitat of numerous generations not by any foreign occupation army but (and that is most painful) by their own government. The devious government is suitably assisted by a thoroughly corrupt police force that is more eager to fill its pockets through undue gratification rather than apprehend true criminals who cause untold hardships to thousands of helpless and powerless tribes who are numerically in a minority in their own country.  

[35] Such an inherently flawed sharing system automatically creates misgivings and a sense of being wrongly cheated and hoodwinked in the minds of large number of people. This vast army of disgruntled people would initially suffer all such devious machinations and forgeries in silence. But, once their limits of tolerance are crossed, a violent backlash becomes the only plausible outcome.

[36] Such a statement on equality and non-discrimination does not carry any worthwhile meaning.

[37] Oil multinationals have spawned a culture of subterfuge, corruption and violence in Niger Delta that have destroyed the simplicity that was the hallmark of these uncomplicated fishing tribes that inhabited the numerous villages dotting the shoreline.

[38] Violence seems to be the only alternative to the hot headed local youth who feel discrimination can only be ended with the help of a gun.

[39] The Nigerian Government must take some positive steps towards solving the crisis instead of spending money in killing its own people.

[40] This happens to be one of the greatest problems faced by any independent researcher. There are so many interested parties and they are so vociferous about what they feel should be the right course of action that very often truth takes a backseat amidst the prevailing high decibel diatribe.

[41] Numerous Master Plans and Schemes had been devised for the last half a century but all these plans (before this commission was instituted, that is) failed to pay adequate attention to the human factor of the crisis in Niger Delta.

[42] This happened to be perhaps the first governmental acknowledgement of the seriousness of the human factor and a concerned attempt towards viewing the entire issue through a humanitarian prism.

[43] Though there are quite a few observers that are of the opinion that media has actually sensationalised the issue instead of directing world opinion towards practical options of solving the Delta imbroglio, it cannot be denied that concerted exposure of the issue has not allowed it to fade from Western consciousness.

[44] This has been the cry of inhabitants of the Delta region for the last half a century.

[45] It has become a free for all situation in the Niger Delta.

[46] This has been one of the gravest mistakes of all the rulers that have ruled this country irrespective of whether they got power through democratic means or through military coups.

[47] This makes crude oil extraction one of the most vilified industries in the world.

[48] Many a drawing room in plush homes of Europe and United States reverberated with “sympathies” for Delta people and numerous remedies were put forward, often in an inebriated state.

[49] That surely does not mean military dictatorship is a better option than democracy.

[50] Musclemen and corrupt politicians have one thing in common – both want to fish in troubled waters.

[51] Such a provocative statement spewing that much vitriol was surely not expected from a man occupying such an important position no matter how strongly he might have felt about the issue.

[52] All Nigerians are not militants; quite a large number among them would genuinely love to follow the rule of law.

[53] This was not something that the world did not know; it was only that the high and the mighty had started taking note of the abominable environmental conditions in coastal Nigeria.

[54] If this can actually be implemented, the criminals will not have a single place to hide anywhere on the earth. They would then, quite obviously, think several times before getting involved in criminal activities.

[55] These statistics are genuinely telling. Anyone would be scandalised on coming to know of corruption of such an abominable scale.

[56] The multinational oil companies had been playing this nasty game ever since they started exploring for oil in the Niger Delta region. Armed with enormous financial muscle, they have hired best lobbyists and spin wizards and also have won over quite a few media houses. All these three different types of publicists have worked overtime to convince the rest of the world that these multinational oil companies have in fact already done and are in the continuing process of uplifting the standards of living of all those who inhabit the Niger Delta. These publicists never let go a single opportunity to rub in the additional information that had there been no oil companies, these hapless inhabitants of the Delta region would have been forced to lead lives utter poverty and degradation. Thankfully however, due to the efforts of a handful of environmentalists and human rights activists, the nefarious designs of these multinationals have repeatedly been brought to light. 

[57] Such reports truly nail the lie that is being peddled by the oil companies and their cohorts. In fact such reports have been instrumental in making the world aware of the rape of environment that is being systematically done in the Niger Delta for decades on end.

[58] It is rather difficult to imagine that one fourth population of a country are exposed to such a fatal disease as cancer simply because of one reason – oil exploration. This also brings in genuinely sharp focus the abysmal realisation that the human cost of exploring oil is really too massive to allow such mindless destruction of Delta environment irrespective of how vital it is for the Nigerian economy to survive.

[59] The water these Delta inhabitants drink and the food they consume have all been polluted to such an extent that they actually harm themselves as they consume items that are supposed to provide them nourishment. But these people hardly have an alternative other than consuming whatever is available in that region.

[60] No matter what these oil companies would like us to believe, they simply cannot deny that oil spill is a normal working hazard in any area where oil exploration is conducted. This becomes even more acute if such a spill takes place in water since the possibilities of the hazardous spilt material spreading far and wide increase as oil gets carried long distances with river tides and sea currents. The situation in Niger Delta has become so acute partly because large tracts of this area consist of marshy land and mangrove clusters.

[61] The inclusion of right to health in basic human rights is truly a momentous step as it firmly confirms that every human being has a right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health without distinction of race, religion, political belief and economic or social condition. Health has been described as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

[62] It entered into force in 1976 and by 1 December 2007 had been ratified by 157 States.


[63] This must not be either misinterpreted or misread to mean a state can escape its responsibility by citing the excuse of lack of adequate funds.

[64] It must however be clearly understood that these treaties and covenants will be valid in any country’s court of law only if these covenants are incorporated in the legal framework of these countries.

[65] These regional instruments, once again, will be valid in all the stakeholder countries only if these provisions are incorporated in their legal jurisprudence. Else, they will be mere pious utterances without any legal teeth. It has been observed that many stake holding nations do not hesitate in putting their stamp of approval in similar multinational declarations, but hardly ever incorporate them in their legal framework, thus rendering them completely ineffective.

[66] These countries have indeed taken the right to health seriously and genuinely intend to implement it in their respective countries. This is evident from the fact that they have incorporated these rights, not in the legal jurisprudence, but directly in their constitutions. It is quite obvious that anything which is enshrined in the constitution of a country has much more legal teeth than something that is enacted as a law by passing a resolution in the House of Representatives. This is so because, it is much easier to amend a law passed by the House of Representatives, but it is very difficult to amend a constitution.  

[67] Niger Delta is a place where right to health is given the shabbiest possible treatment. The worst part of the whole issue is; right to health is violated with absolute impunity and total disregard for the human beings who suffer because of such a gross transgression of one of the basic rights of every human being.

[68] Honestly speaking, this also appears to be one of those political leaders who are busy fishing in troubled waters of Niger Delta taking advantage of the enormous faith and support they enjoy from their followers.

[69] While discussing pollution in Nigeria one should not lose sight of some of the other contributors that cause substantial pollution in the country. Though there is no denying the fact that oil is by far the single most ubiquitous pollutant, it allows an independent observer to be more impartial if additional information about several other sources of pollution is available.

[70] Construction of highway through the Niger Delta region might actually become a two-way sword as oil companies will then be able to venture right up to the deep interiors of the region quite easily. This might very well result in an even more unbridled and rampant pollution of the entire zone.

Some psychological interventions for young people with complex emotional and behavioral disorders

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:08 pm

Literature Review

Adolescence is generally a period of uncertainty and tumult for most young people going through this stage. According to Bruce and Borg (Bruce & Borg, 1993) it is a confluence of childhood and youth where fair shares of both are present but what is disturbing is the society often expects certain norms of behavior which might but mostly might not tally with what adolescents feel they should or should not do. The basic confusion in the minds of adolescents, according to Haiman et al (Haiman, Lambert, & Rodrigues, 2005), is an inability to correctly anticipate when they are expected to behave like children and when they are supposed to behave like adults. Though most adolescents do pick up their behavioral responses from the adults they are with most of the time (Bogin, 1999), still there are occasions when the gap between expected behavior and actual behavior becomes too wide and invites severe censure. Such harsh response from adults result in confusion and often a rebellious attitude in the adolescents’ minds that can, in certain cases, become so acute as to invite intervention of some kind to instill a sense of stability.

The interventions should basically aim at making this transition from childhood to adulthood as smooth as possible and one very popular approach is to try and help the troubled child to gain a clear perception about what he or she wanted to be as an adult, and once a clear target is established, conscious efforts on the part of the young adult and the assistant would be to try and develop skills that are imperative to successfully carry on the targeted activities when the child reaches adulthood. A constant and unwavering focus on acquiring these skills goes a long way in stabilizing their mental equilibrium thus making the transition to adulthood that much smoother. (Asakawa & Csikszentmihalyi, 1998)

But many researchers (Masi, Mucci, & Millepiedi, 2001) have realized that most of these troubled adolescents face a lot of difficulty in properly creating a target and focus on their expected future life and sorely need active assistance to firm up a personal philosophy that is necessary to act as bulwark during these troubled times. There is an obvious qualitative difference between childhood and adolescence and personal philosophy helps to bridge this hiatus without any hiccup but Farnworth (Farnworth, 2003) discovered that most of the adolescents with complex emotional and behavioral disorders lack a personal philosophy and come from homes that have not fostered sound emotional attachments with parents and other adult relatives leading to an incomplete acquisition of proper social and economic skills necessary to become a contributive and responsible member of the society.

Occupational Therapy

There are several types of interventions that attempt to help these young adults to bridge over the turbulence of adolescence. Occupational therapy is considered to be one such highly effective intervention for those with emotional and behavioral difficulties. This therapy tries to inculcate a logical interconnection between thoughts, feelings and actions of these disturbed adolescents and attempts to unobtrusively introduce some sort of meaning and hope in their lives in times of acute uncertainty. Actions targeted towards developing specific skills for becoming responsible adults also automatically lead to personal improvement in these adolescents thus making them more cooperative and open to subsequent interventions. (Blair, 2000) Studies have revealed that young adults in need of interventions to tide over crisis of adolescence usually engage in passive leisure time activities as watching television or, in most cases, do nothing at all. (Farnworth, 2003) This is in stark contrast to those that do not require any assistance as they generally engage themselves in vigorous outdoor engagements as sports or some other school related activities or in some part time occupation gaining valuable training for becoming productive adults. Thus, it is clear that one very obvious difference in attitudes of disturbed and normal adolescents is in their approach towards leisure time occupations and occupational therapy essentially starts by attempting to rectify this divergence.

Most occupational therapy programs and available literature tend to focus on development of vocational skills (Nochajski, Schweitzer, & Chelluri, 2003) while other equally important ‘skills’ as ability to choose and retain good friends, ability to be an affectionate spouse and a caring parent, to name just a few skills absolutely necessary to lead a total life, are usually ignored.

Almost all literature on this topic exhorts that occupational therapy should assist in overcoming maladjustments among troubled adolescents and help them in developing healthy personalities that contribute positively to the society (Ge & Conger, 1999), but little research has been done on the reasons as to why these maladjustments cropped up while these children were gradually growing up and ways and means to stop these being manifested in other children that are not yet chronic patients of complex emotional and behavioral disorders. (Ellickson, Saner, & McGuigan, 1997)

Instrumentalism in Occupational Therapy

Instrumentalism in Occupational Therapy (IOT) has been the most popular methodology adopted in literature that has been reviewed as IOT is considered to be the most pragmatic approach. (Breines, 1986) John Dewey’s perceptions about instrumentalism have been considered as the base on which any practicable intervention based on occupational therapy can be reasonably constructed. This line of thinking considers human mind to be an extension of other natural bodily functions so, human beings use mind to adapt to outside environs much like it utilizes other bodily functions to get acclimatized with outer atmosphere. (Dewey, 1996) This school of thinkers believes intelligence also to be an instrument that a human being uses to adapt to social environment and be comfortable within it. Thus, behavior in this logical framework gets slotted as merely an instrumental action.

IOT model considers human being as a complicated, dynamic and constantly adaptive system that is continually reacting and pro-acting with environment to fit into it without causing the minimum of resistance. Occupational activity is the biggest and the most prominent interface between a human being and the society. (Schkade & Schultz, 1992) The therapist is assumed to assist in making an individual human system adaptive to external environment and in situations where the capability of becoming adaptive was there earlier but has been lost for some time, the therapist will attempt to resurrect that lost capability by encouraging the patients to use their minds beneficially so that they can seamlessly fit in to the prevailing environment once again. (Ikiugu, 2004)

Basing on the theoretical framework discussed above, three main steps in IOT were devised:

  • Establishment of Belief in clients
  • Action
  • Appraisal and evaluation of consequences (Ikiugu, Instrumentalism in occupational therapy: Guidelines for practice, 2004)

In the first phase, all beliefs that prevent a patient from adjusting properly and effortlessly with the society are identified and examined in detail and a new set of beliefs are created and established through a mission statement that seeks to impart a new direction and a sense of purpose in life. This mission statement primarily attempts to infuse self belief in the patient that they can also become genuinely contributive members of the society. The next stage within this step is to identify activities regular performance of which would automatically help the patient in fulfilling the mission statement.

With the activities being determined, goals are set in the ‘action’ stage with relation to these activities and metrics of self evaluation of performance of those activities and consequent self satisfaction are also put in place. The patient then starts regular performance of these activities and seriously attempts to attain the predetermined goals all the while gaining in confidence and self esteem as the level of performance improves through continuous and assiduous application of body and mind.

In the appraisal and evaluation phase, the patient and the therapist get together to scientifically evaluate the levels up to which the activities could be accomplished by the patient and either alteration of benchmarks or alteration of effort is mutually decided upon as the best alternative to achieve better results. (Ikiugu, Instrumentalism in occupational therapy: A theoretical core for the pragmatic conceptual model of practice, 2004)

Details of an IOT Intervention

A typical IOT intervention starts with participants filling out activity inventory sheets from 6.00 am to 12 midnight everyday for the past seven days. The inventory design is based on Ikiugu’s and Rosso’s (Ikiugu & Rosso, Understanding the occupational human being as a complex, dynamical, adaptive system: A heuristic for understanding human occuaptional behavior, 2005) seminal work in this regard but has marked similarity with diaries proposed by Robinson. (Robinson, 2003)

The next stage in a typical intervention deals with classification of activities into active, passive and neutral. Activities that are associated with health and well-being are considered to be active, activities that are not associated with health and well-being are considered to be passive and activities that can affect health and well-being either way depending upon their adoption and implementation are considered to be neutral. (Kuh, Hu, & Vesper, 1999)

Generally all activities that relate to academics, mutually beneficial peer interactions on immediate environment and extended neighborhood and locating and maintaining a steady job are considered to be active activities. Whereas all activities that do not challenge the participant, encourage peer interaction or rouse interest in issues related to the well-being of individuals as well as the society and do not improve health, such as watching soaps on television, can be considered as passive activities. Neutral activities can work either way and the best example of a neutral activity will be any activity related to the family. Whether it would be considered as active or passive will depend on how the family as a unit spends time. (Larson, 2001)

The most important issue to be noted in this regard is that activities are not to be categorized as active, passive or neutral, based on the quantum of physical exertion involved in each of those, but on the extent to which each activity draws out the participant and forces him or her to work towards his or her desired adult life and become involved in social interactions.

The main feature of IOT is it tries to encourage active participation from the affected individuals and the first step towards it is to motivate them to imagine how they would like their desired adult life to be. Once a target in the form of desired adult life is decided upon, the participants will have to further think and figure out the activities that would lead them to the desired goal. Thus, this specific form of intervention expects that the participants are capable of a high degree of logical reasoning and cognitive functioning and higher the level of cognitive functioning of a participant the better would he or she be able to take advantage of this cutting edge intervention. Allen Cognitive Level Screen (ACLS) attempts to evaluate and grade participants in accordance with their cognitive capability. (Allen, 2000)

The whole therapy depends upon the extent and clarity of interaction between the participant and the therapist and the density of faith the participant and the therapist have towards each other. The success or otherwise of this therapy is mainly a matter of perception and one instrument other than ACLS that attempts to measure this complex phenomenon is Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) (Law, Baptiste, Carswell, McColl, Polatajko, & Pollock, 2000) that has been in use by researchers for quite a long time and has gained acceptance and recognition among this community across the world.

One of the main pillars of this therapy is the participant’s perception of desired adult life and the therapist can get an idea of what is going on in the participant’s mind only through interview. Generally five open ended questions are asked to each participant where the questions mainly revolved around how the participant wishes to see himself or herself say, a decade from now and what, according to the participant, would be the activities that would ensure that the participant indeed reaches the destination that is now only a target. It is obvious that initial questions would be more in the nature of leads intended to elicit as much information as possible for the therapist to be in a position to properly guide the participant through the entire gamut of desired activities. The biggest hurdle in this entire process is more often than not; the participant has at best a vague idea about the future and his or her aggressive behavior results partly from the uncertainty about future arising from such vagueness. Thus interview is a very important tool to find out the extent of vagueness that might be present in the mind of the participant and the therapist should go about his task of recovering focus in such a participant.

The responses in an interview are essentially qualitative in nature but any form of statistical manipulation of data that is essential to reach to an empirical conclusion from the collected data cannot be done on qualitative information. Debats, Drost, and Hansen did path breaking work in this regard and set up a procedure of converting qualitative responses to quantitative data. (Debats, Drost, & Hansen, 1995) The method laid down by these scientists goes a long way in making this intervention meaningful.

The IOT workshops conducted by researchers could instill and resurrect some of the dormant value systems of each participant and by and large could retrieve the focus that was lost in a majority of participants. However, this being essentially a psychological intervention more detailed and several applications of this therapy is necessary before accepting it as a scientifically proved effective form of intervention.

Application of hip-hop music to reduce aggressiveness among young black males

There has been extensive research about aggressiveness among young black males as a special social group as this group has been continually falling behind the national average and an increasing number of unqualified black men are becoming disconnected from the national mainstream.

Reasonable volume of research has been done in this regard and some researchers have been able to decipher an interconnection between aggressiveness among young black males and a possible antidote in the form of hip-hop music. Thus this intervention might not be acceptable to some students of this discipline as purely psychological in nature, but that is psycho-educational in nature is beyond any reasonable doubt. It has been well established through elaborate researches by several scientists working in this field that most cases of aggression arose from a problem in the ability of communicating properly where the subject resorted to use of violence on being unable to properly put forward individual views on a particular topic or issue. A link between communicative malfunctioning and masculine identity in the sense that, the subject felt unsure about masculine identity as and when faced with communications difficulty and tried to convince self and reinforce the obvious fact among immediate neighborhood through violence. (Masfield, 2006) Thus a whole body of research tends to point out to what seems to be pretty obvious at this stage; ease their problems in communication and the violent and aggressive behavior among black males will automatically start to subside. Stephens, Braithwaite, and Taylor did extensive research (Stephens, Braithwaite, & Taylor, 1998) in this regard and tried to establish that hip-hop music not only eases the problem of communication among black males but also convinces them about their masculinity thereby stunting the main two causes of adolescent aggression.

There are several psychologists that prefer to tackle the problem of adolescent aggression through imparting skills to those teenagers that would help them to earn a decent livelihood and get transformed into contributive members of the society. While there is enough merit in such an intervention a different school of equally avid researchers (Suh, 2004) strongly believe that an intervention must essentially be culturally competent in order to be genuinely effective.

This issue assumes additional significance in communities that are racially and culturally diverse and nursing most often depends on the ability of the therapist to not only understand the problems and symptoms of the malady but also to be able to communicate with the affected person in a manner and language that is culturally sensitive and responsive and surely not offensive in any manner. (Vega, 2005) Psychological imbalances are in essence problems of communication and an inability of an individual to effectively and freely interact with his surroundings and the resultant aggressive behavior is more often than not, an attempt to establish a basic identity by the individual in an atmosphere perceived to be inherently hostile due to the almost unassailable communication barrier.

The most successful therapist is one who has an open mind and is respectful of the inherent diversities among cultures and what is most important, is willing to look at a situation from other people’s perspective. This sort of inherent flexibility and adaptability is absolutely essential for a therapist to work effectively across cultural diversities. A therapist who is sensitive to cultural idiosyncrasies never tries a one-size-fits-all approach and suitably modifies the interventions to suit different situations. (Wen-Shing, Matthews, & Welwyn, 2004)

Researchers are all of the opinion that a culturally competent intervention is much more effective than one that does not waste much time to tweak details to suit a specific cultural requirement. (Foulks & Pena, 1995) It would perhaps be better if the connotation of the word ‘culture’ is properly clarified in this instance. Culture is a vast body of human behavior that is the final outcome of the churning and vigorous interactions that continuously take place between language, actions, customs, beliefs, values – both ethnic and religious, of a particular community. ‘Competence’ obviously implies the ability of an individual or an organization to perform effectively within the given axes of culture of a community. An individual or an organization that is culturally competent will obviously be in a far more advantageous position than others to get to the core of a communicational problem and search out an acceptable solution. (Cross, 1991)

Hip-hop music was used as a psychological intervention to treat behavioral imbalances among small groups of predominantly African American males as this form of music seemed to overcome the intrinsic communication barriers between mainstream society and these stragglers as these affected adolescents could find an excellent means of communicating not only among themselves but also with the larger world lying beyond their immediate neighborhood. The basic impact of music as has been unquestionably demonstrated by Stephens, Braithwaite, and Taylor (Stephens, Braithwaite, & Taylor, 1998) is to induce relaxation in the minds of the subjects and consequently reduce aggressive tendencies. This most obviously helps psychotic subjects to pause a bit and attempt to restructure interpersonal relationships as well as organize relationships between the individual and society.

While any form of music has the powers to soothe frayed nerves, hip-hop music was chosen as this genre of music was considered to be the most culturally relevant in the given situation as it helps African American youths to help in resolution of many personal problems while giving a voice to the concerns, tensions and burning issues that confront this social subgroup. Hip-hop music also seems to echo the core values of this community and is perhaps one of the most effective means of self expression by African American adolescents. Songs such as Raekwon’s ―Ice Cream and Outkast’s ―Jazzybelle seem to eloquently express the anxiety and concerns for a better life that keeps smoldering in the hearts of these socially shunned young adults.

Most of the participants of these programs were asked to pen songs that let out their anxieties of facing the real world as a contributive male and one of the basic reasons of aggressiveness among males – an overwhelming desire to stamp the impact of masculinity on an increasingly hostile and unreasonable environment, found a safe exit through these songs. The best part of the whole exercise was that once these emotions found a safe exit, these young adults started to cool down and view the world from a less turbulent perspective. The interactive nature of this therapy where hip-hop songs were used as toll for interaction also found more eager and enthusiastic takers among the subject group as it did not have the trappings of an education or training schedule. It must be mentioned in this regard that as most of the participants in these programs came from troubled backgrounds with some of them having done time in prisons and corrective institutions, they were by and large not very responsive to any form of education and generally tried to avoid or shun any sort of teaching or training that might be foisted on them. Hip-hop music, on the other hand, was viewed as a means of enjoyment and was readily accepted. With the constant encouragement of the therapist, these participants produced songs that were remarkably representative of their angst and tension and as they became more and more expressive, their internal anxieties also got resolved and their external delinquencies also became less frequent and less violent.

As a direct result of this type of intervention, the participants became more confident and self assured about themselves and became more patient and cooperative in approach. As one researcher noted that one perceptible impact of this type of intervention was more use of a higher level psychological defense such as sublimation which was evidenced in more vigorous participation in class room activities including homework and less use of the most rudimentary psychological defense of denial as was evidenced in more free and frank discussions with peer group and course instructors.

The basic reason for destructive behavior among adolescents is anger and hip-hop music, by providing a non-violent safety valve through which this anger can be dissipated, has proved one of the most potent psychological interventions in treating this malady.

Juvenile sexual offenders

There is a surfeit of literature on juvenile sexual offenders and it has been identified by Awad et al. that over 80% of the sexual offenders had some form of learning or comprehending difficulty at some of time in their lives and 71% among them had to be subjected to correctional education. (Awad, Saunders, & Levene, 1984) Also, most of them had problems in smooth transition through adolescence and had to, in majority of the cases, be put through some form of rectifying method.

Researchers claim to have identified low self esteem and confused masculine identity as the two main reasons that prompt adolescents to perform sexual abuse. (Davis & Leitenberg, 1987) Some other researchers have also tried to pinpoint the reason for juvenile criminal attempts to sexually abuse others and they have gone on record saying that cognitive distortions and so-called thinking errors represented by hostile attitude towards women are at the base of such disruptive behavior by adolescents. (Malamuth, 1986)

Alcohol and drug have been frequently referred to in this regard and has been considered one of the main causes of such delinquent behavior by young adults. In fact several researchers found significant correlations between sexual offence and use of drugs and alcohol as compared to other types of offence and use of drugs and alcohol. (Humphrey & White, 1992) However, no matter how much drug or alcohol has been ingested by the perpetrator, intoxication at the time of perpetrating the crime has been a rare occurrence. (Fehrenbach, Smith, Monastersky, & Deisher, 1986)

There could be some specific reasons for abuse of drug or alcohol before committing a sexual offence and the first and foremost among them would be that these two substances usually act as disinhibitors and also act as sufficient excuse in case called upon by law enforcing authorities at some future date to explain such a criminal activity and, the general belief that victims feel more traumatized when faced by a drunk attacker than one who talks or behaves normally without showing any signs of being under the influence of any substance.

Many juvenile sexual offenders feel there is no crime in raping a ‘stoned’ or drunk target. (Johnson, 1988) It has been generally agreed, by those who are supposed to initiate interventions aimed at reducing occurrences of such crimes in a society, that prevention of drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents will go a long way towards reduction of sexual offences by juvenile offenders. (Lightfoot & Barbaree, 1993)

There is a popular notion about adolescent sexual offenders that they are lonely and are socially dysfunctional individuals – somewhat different from other juvenile offenders. While this is surely correct in some cases, it would be unwise to go for such broad and loose generalizations. Such a view might have gained popularity because other types of delinquents generally commit crimes in groups and have deep and wide peer relationships in the form of gangs that have their tentacles spread far and wide. (West & Farrington, 1977) Some other researchers have found that there is a general tendency to isolate sexual offenders as abnormal perverts and in some extreme cases even as monsters. (Cohen & Boucher, 1972)

However, in reality there are a large number of adolescent delinquents (and even non-delinquents) who are perfectly ‘normal’ in every other sense and commit sexual offence against women and girls almost on a regular basis. (Sanday, 1990) Some researchers have found that sexual coercion against women is considered to be perfectly normal in certain social groupings and similar coercive attitude towards children is at times actively encouraged and these thoroughly abominable attitudes have been found to be already embedded in most of the delinquent adults even before they have reached adolescence. (Katchadourian, 1990) Though weak family bonding and almost non-existent participation in school activities almost invariably leading to being dropped out of school are surely some of the most important reasons for an adolescent becoming delinquent, quite a few researchers feel that association with delinquent peer group is the single greatest reasons for an adolescent to start trudging the wrong path. Endorsement by the peer group of forced sexual intercourse as some sort of an initiation process into the group acts as a huge motivator for adolescent to commit sexual crimes. (Ageton, 1983) There are research literature that suggest that such coercive sexual attitude towards women and female peers has been observed among non-delinquent adolescents too who force their girl friends to have sexual intercourse or perform other sexual acts against their free will. (Carlson, 1987)

A few researchers have trained their focus on North American college campuses and have been dismayed to discover the presence of numerous undergraduate rapists who sincerely believe that unless they have forced sex with their female friends they cannot graduate into the realms of real manhood. (Koss & Dinero, 1988) Though there is such a dominant atmosphere of coercion in sexual relations between male and female students with a rape occurring almost every day, neither the sufferer nor the college administration have any intention of making it an issue, with the sufferer becoming doubly cautious before entering into a relationship or going out for a date, and, the administrators preferring to turn a blind eye and pretend nothing untoward has ever happened. (Bernstein, 1996)

Usually very few sexually abusive adolescents come up on their own for therapeutic treatment for their abusive behavior. Legal compulsions often act as a great motivator in the initial stages as non-conformity with legal mandate often lead to serious strictures and severe punishment which prove to be very costly for the erring adolescent. But it requires a genuinely high degree of motivation on the part of the participant to really get some benefit out of the entire intervention since the main focus of such an intervention is to attempt a complete modification of abuse prone behaviors, and, what is really relevant is the removal of thoughts and cognitions that lead to such absolutely detestable behaviors. This part is really difficult where the participant has to undergo a complete clean-up of mental attitudes and biases against women, and, this cannot happen in any real and effective manner unless there is complete compliance on the part of the participant. Cooperation from the young participants on the other hand depends on the extent of support they get from the families. (McKeown, 2000) The social support goes a very long way in bolstering the participant’s self belief and confidence in him and is absolutely essential for this type of intervention to have any lasting and positive impact. It is not always necessary that support has to come from parents; such support might also come in the form of alternative career options where the participant can earn a decent living without being forced to carry the burden of a disturbed past. (Ross, Fabiano, & Ewles, 1988)

Research has also revealed that interventions that targeted families of sexually abusive juvenile delinquents by bringing them within the process of healing of the abusive adolescent have been considerably successful since the parents also became aware of the impact of harsh behavior and the harm it might cause to the already delicate and fragile psyche of the wayward adolescent by precipitating potentially explosive situations of serious conflict. The best interventions are those that simultaneously impart training to parents on how to handle such ‘special’ children while providing skills of solving problems related to communicative disorders to children. By attacking both ends of the spectrum simultaneously, such interventions intend to create a firm backup of familial support that so often is either negligible or completely non-existent in most of these cases which leads to weak family bonds and complete identification and dependence peer groups that very often take the form of criminal gangs. (Lloyd, 1999)

There are however two serious problems in attempting to train families of affected children. It needs some basic level of education for parents to be able to participate totally in such programs and in majority of families having delinquent adolescents; the parents have extremely low levels of education. (Taoiseach, 1998) Thus, this is a serious obstacle to extract full benefit from such an intervention. The other equally serious issue is in most cases only mothers turn up to receive instructions from therapists while fathers remain mostly invisible. But unless the entire family subjects itself to the training, it is not possible for the adolescent to recover fully from his murky past. (MacDonald & Roberts, 1995)


It has been progressively felt by prominent researchers in this domain that proper treatment of a delinquent can only be possible if it is administered simultaneously to the subject and his family. Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is one such method of intervention where family is considered as an extremely valuable resource to tackle the menace at hand. MST obviously does not stop at family as it tries to wean away the subject from the evil influence of peer groups too. Henggeler is of the opinion that MST attempts to reorient the frames of reference of an adolescent’s functioning world (i.e. home, school and neighborhood) in such a manner that antisocial tendencies get reduced while pro-social urges get a boost. (Henggeler, 1999)

This new form of intervention first surfaced in the United States in late 1970s when there was a general feeling that conventional therapies that mainly consisted of counseling had lost their effectiveness in dealing with juvenile delinquents as those counseling programs had too narrow a focus (i.e. only the subject and not his immediate surroundings) and were completely insensitive to the environment populated by the target.

MST basically consists of intervention at nine well sequenced and orchestrated phases (Schoenwald, Brown, & Henggeler, 2000) that take into consideration the functioning environment of a delinquent adolescent:

  1. Therapist gathers as much data as possible to identify the most compelling contributors to the delinquency and tailors the intervention accordingly. Thus, this therapy has an inherent flexibility and is suited to fit the requirements of each individual. The chances of this therapy being a super success are also proportionately increased in comparison to a fit-all type of intervention.
  2. Constant interactions between the subject, the family and the therapist reveal the interplay of mutual social forces that are in action and the therapist identifies and gradually emphasizes the positive aspects in these forces while continually degrading the negative forces so that the subject starts constructing a value system conducive to more responsible social behavior while avoiding all those influences that tend to drag him into the pit of criminal tendencies.
  3. The intervention also targets family members and systematically tries to weed out all negative behavioral patterns from among the family members so that subject is always surrounded by positively contributing family members.
  4. MST being a time bound process requires a clear goal and an equally clear timetable to achieve it. The therapist along with subject and his family members sets out a target and the time necessary to achieve it. This not only serves as a benchmark but also a motivator that always eggs on all concerned to push themselves that much harder to achieve the goal comfortably.
  5. The therapist goes into the details of each group and subgroup of interrelated social forces of family, school, peer group and immediate surroundings and micro manages the forces that might be working at cross purposes or even in reverse direction to ensure there is no confusion or uncertainty in the mind of the subject and his family about the targets that are to be achieved.
  6. This intervention, as has been already mentioned on a couple of instances, is inherently flexible and takes into account the level of maturity of the adolescent and depending upon it, importance given to the family is determined.
  7. The frequency of interactions between the concerned stakeholders depends entirely upon the severity of the specific case that is being considered and is usually twice or thrice during a week. However, daily interactions might also be possible if the case warrants so.
  8. This intervention requires constant evaluation to enable the therapist to fine tune the therapy if necessary. The therapist usually examines whether the intervention perfectly suits the requirements of the subject or not, the response and efforts of the family towards making this process a success and the viability or otherwise of the envisaged changes in the backdrop of immediate surroundings of the subject.
  9. The purpose of this intervention is to ensure there is no relapse of negative behavioral symptoms in the subject and keeping that objective in mind the therapy tries to equip the family with enough expertise to tackle any such eventuality in future and also include them in the loop of community support network.  

The salient features of this type intervention are:

  • Families having juvenile delinquents are identified and treated as a single unit while therapy is administered
  • Therapy is time-bound; never exceeding six months
  • Therapy has enough in-built flexibility to cater to the needs and requirements of every family from almost every cultural and ethical background and services are always, without a fail, delivered at homes to reduce the botheration of the travel that that would have been otherwise endured by the family
  • Social workers administering this sort of intervention always have lesser number of cases to handle so that they can devote complete attention and care to each of the instances that have been entrusted to them

Enough research has been done on the effectiveness or otherwise of MST and there is a large body of scientific evaluation that suggests that this indeed is a very effective form of intervention that has been able to reduce anything from 30% to 75% of the delinquent tendencies shown by subjects exposed to this therapy. (Dowden & Andrews, 2000) But the success rate of this form of intervention depended heavily on the extent to which the therapist strictly followed the nine well defined and clearly demarcated phases during the course of treatment. Any laxity or deviation in adhering to these steps returns poor to indifferent results.

Though not very much relevant if compared with the benefit it supposedly delivers to the society as a whole and the affected family in particular, but it is worth mentioning that MST is also extremely cost effective with average cost being worked out by Henggeler to be only $4,500 per month in 1998. Even if we mark up this expenditure by a compounded interest rate of 5% to account for year-on-year inflation of 5%, it still remains one of the cheapest forms of intervention.

Evaluation of MST as a form of intervention

MST is based upon years of serious empirical research and is now a well established therapeutic model with easily available manuals and training facilities for those desirous to be trained up as therapists in this discipline. The added advantage that a therapist enjoys is the backup of years of scientifically collated data that can be utilized as a reference point if there is some confusion regarding the suitability or otherwise of a specific therapeutic measure.

The other most important characteristic that determines to a large extent the chances of success or otherwise of any form of intervention is cultural compatibility and MST scores handsomely in this regard. The very fact that families are made an integral part of the whole process automatically ensures a large degree of cultural compatibility without any bias from the dominant form of culture in the society.

MST is also perhaps the only form of intervention that actually has enough in-built flexibility to tailor make the intervention to suit each different situation thus making it equally effective in any social milieu.


A literature review of the subject of psychological interventions tends to throw out one overriding idea that seems to dominate every school of thought and that is the importance of family and peer group in formulating and shaping the attitudes, beliefs and value systems of delinquent adolescents. Therefore, most of these interventions tend to focus not only on the subject but also tries to examine the forces that continually exert their influence on these teenagers. The extent of involvement of family however depends to a large extent on the type of therapy one opts for, with occupational therapy standing possibly at one end of the scale with multisystemic therapy standing at the opposite end.

The other dominating thought that runs through all the interventions is the removal of existing belief structure by replacing it with another more positive set of beliefs that help the adolescent to become a more contributive member of the society. However, there are no clear cut guidelines in any of these interventions as to what the new belief structure should be. This is what is necessary, especially in the context of multiethnic communities that every country has now become. Any straitjacketing of structures would have automatically reduced the efficacy of a specific intervention across cultures and made it suitable for only a particular community or class.

All interventions are, however, very clear and unambiguous about one issue. Each one attempts to imbue the delinquents with positive thoughts to make them contributive members of the society – whichever corner of the world it might be, and tries to ensure prevention of any relapse to the earlier undesirable situation.


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Female Toplessness – Can it really cause social harm?

Filed under: social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 11:04 pm

Critique of Jochelson’s scholarly article

Richard Jochelson’s scholarly article on the legal perspectives of obscenity (Jochelson, 2009) analyses the issue in great detail both from the perspective of social mores and also how Canadian law has reacted to it. The court of law has yet to come out with a clear articulation of whether an act of so-called obscenity as female toplessness constitutes an act of social harm or not. Though Supreme Court in R. v. Labaye (R. v. Labaye, 2005) finally did away with community standards of tolerance, the Criminal Code of Canada still incorporates that any act would be obscene if it ‘unduly’ exploits sex, cruelty, horror, crime or violence. The entire debate now rests on what would be ‘undue’ and hence cross the line of obscenity and what would be considered ‘due’ and would not violate the tenets of obscenity. Moreover, the community standards as they have evolved over time are also subject to equally intense debate as some view sexuality as essentially a source of danger and exploitation of women while some view it as a forum intended to usher in freedom and enjoyment. In such a contentious situation the issue of female toplessness indeed requires a more thorough and dispassionate evaluation and Jochelson attempts to reach a conclusion whether the so-called Labaye test supported those who contested the community standards of tolerance or those that were satisfied with community standards test as they were.

The author begins the discussion with a brief history of evolution of community standards test in Canada. It all started with Lord Cockburn’s definition of what would surely cause ‘harm’ to the society as he pronounced his judgment in R. vs Hicklin case (R. v. Hicklin, 1868). Therein, Lord Cockburn’s concern was more about the so-called corruptible sections of the society who could be easily influenced by the so-called pornographic publications and laid down that if any publication did have the potential to do such harm it would be deemed to be obscene. Supreme Court however, modified the original Hicklin test and introduced the new concept of community standards that would be applied to examine whether a publication ‘unduly’ exploited sex. However, debate and dissension even among judges has continued ever since as was evident when Freedman dissented in R. v. Dominion News and Gifts (1962) Ltd. (R. v. Dominion News and Gifts (1962) Ltd., 1964) putting forward his view that community standard should be an average of puritan and basest extremes prevalent in any society. This approach of considering what would be acceptable or tolerable to an average member of the society and not imposing one’s own sense of test and propriety while passing a judgment was more evident in Butler case where the Supreme Court substituted the concept community standards of tolerance with a new concept of social harm. According to Supreme Court, any sexually explicit depiction that did not degrade or dehumanize women was not harmful to the society and such should not be termed as obscene. However, any publication or depiction where women are dehumanized, humiliated or degraded should definitely be termed obscene.

Jochelson then proceeds to dissect four different perspectives of community standards of obscenity.

The first perspective is what Jochelson describes as ‘Disguised Conservatism’ where the moralist agenda of feminists seems to be bolstered by the Supreme Court’s observations in Butler case where any matter that degrades or dehumanizes women should be considered as obscene. Brenda Cossman takes this issue even further as she argues that this imposition of morality is strengthened in Little Sisters case (Busby, 2006) where the court exhibits anxiety over the effects a supposedly obscene publication would have on the voyeur. Thus the ambit of obscenity is no longer restricted to those that are willingly exposing themselves to such issues but also to the casual viewer who would under ordinary circumstances not voluntarily expose them to viewing such acts (Cossman, 2003). Other observers also feel that while in Butler case Supreme Court was mainly concerned with the aspect of harm, in Little Sister case the Supreme Court also includes the effect such purportedly obscene materials would have on casual onlookers. Hence, the basic concern for degradation of womenfolk gets somewhat diluted in this case and in some way or the other reintroduces the earlier concept of social limits of tolerance and acceptability.

The second perspective relies on the evidence that would conclusively prove that the purportedly obscene material indeed causes harm to the society. L. W. Sumner quite rightly queries whether it is possible to have a uniform social tolerance level in a heterogeneous country as Canada, and, even it is possible to have so would it possible for judges to entirely eliminate their personal perspectives while delivering a judgment (Sumner, 2004)? He further states that the focus of legislation should more be on the hate a particular publication spreads rather than on explicit depiction of sexuality. Bruce Ryder echoes this sentiment and makes it sharper as he states that all those sexually obscene or hateful material that hinders or obstructs production should be termed obscene everything else, however explicit or hateful it might be, not (Ryder, 2003).

The third perspective believes that community standards of tolerance are evolving and these standards should not be etched in stone as it were and proper importance must be given to prevailing standards instead of relying on earlier judgments while delivering verdicts on such contentious issues. In some sense this approach has some similarities with evidentiary approach in it that it lays emphasis on the ‘harm’ aspect of this approach instead of banking on a majoritarian concept of social tolerance.

The fourth perspective is that the court judgment delivered in the Butler case actually restrains dissemination of sexually explicit material that degrades, dehumanizes or violates heterosexual women, lesbians and homosexual men. Thus, the touchstone should not be whether the sexual act is done by men and women or men and men or women and women but whether one party to such sexual act is shown as oppressed or victimized. If such be the situation then the related material is surely harmful for the society and should therefore be censured (Longino, 1980).

Jochelson concludes that the Labaye test of the degree of harm is not unambiguous, especially where it postulates that any act that predisposes others to commit antisocial acts is surely harmful to the society. As it is nearly impossible to always establish beyond doubt the stringent nexus between harm and obscenity, Jochelson feels that Labaye test is nothing but social tolerance test of earlier days without any explicit reference to majoritarian perspective of limits of social tolerance. One feels that the author is quite right in drawing this conclusion as the tests proposed by Supreme Court of Canada surely depend not so much on hard evidence of actual harm inflicted as it depends on the majoritarian perspectives of morality that might be presented in some form or the other.

Use of these arguments in my thesis

The third perspective that social tolerance is an evolving issue will be used in my thesis in support of my central argument that female toplessness par se does not cause social harm and Canada being a heterogeneous country can never have a uniform code of morality that can be imposed on all her citizens. Moreover, I will also use in support of my central argument the contention that obscene acts on the part of an individual can provoke others to commit antisocial acts and is therefore harmful to the society has no sound rational base as there would always be a doubt that such an antisocial act would have been committed in any case irrespective of the presence of a topless female in the vicinity.

Critique of Craig’s scholarly article

Elaine Craig in her scholarly article begins with a rather deriding attitude towards the Supreme Court judgment in Labaye case (Craig, 2009). She highlights in graphic detail the bawdy acts that are committed by patrons of certain nightclubs. The author’s contention is delinking obscenity from the socially tolerable norms and linking it to harm such obscenity might do to society in effect legitimizes the baser instinct associated with lewd and bawdy behavior some individuals might resort to when given the opportunity to do so or when exposed to sexually explicit material. The author feels that obscenity should be viewed against the backdrop of social tolerance levels and any material that crosses the threshold of social tolerance should automatically be branded as obscene.

The author then goes on to describe what would be considered as common good and what would constitute public interest as there would quite obviously be divergent opinions in this regard. Though she admits that concepts of common good do not necessarily transform them into legal rights but she suggests that such concepts of common good should be inducted into the legal jurisprudence as it would serve the interests of majority in the society. In this regard the author distinguishes between common good and shared good and highlights the instance of orgies where participants may sure share and enjoy pleasure but the public in general can never be construed to derive any benefit from the orgies enacted by interested and related individuals (Raz, 1995).

This article further tries to identify how law perceives human sexuality. Over the ages law has viewed sexuality through the prisms of morality, religion, identity, privacy and class and never has the law viewed sexuality from the perspective of pleasure or desire. Thus, according to the author the judgment delivered in Labaye case marks a radical departure from conventions held dear till then. Though such a judgment basks in the glory of being iconoclastic, that by itself does not render the act under consideration to be something that enhances common good. The author is of the opinion that legal acceptance of an element of pleasure in sexual activity is not something that is within the ambit of law. However, legal identification of “good acceptable” sex automatically ensures that law would also be able to identify sex that is neither good nor acceptable by standards of morality and value that prevail in the society.

Craig has been rather indifferent to the concerns of how one would be able to identify what exactly constitutes acceptable standards or morality and acceptability in a heterogeneous society as Canada. Rather, she oftentimes in a loud pitched and confrontationist manner has tried to establish the supremacy of standards of morality and propriety that a majority of Canadians hold close to their heart, without of course giving any cogent and valid proof what those standards are and the methodology of arriving at those standards. She has on several occasions not been able to hold on to academic stoicism and indifference and has degenerated into a propagandist shrilly espousing her favorite cause.

Use of these arguments in my essay

I will use arguments and references put forward by Craig to lend objectivity and neutrality to my thesis. Her position is in complete divergence from my thesis and I would use her concerns to highlight the contrarian views.

Thesis outline

The research question would be “Female toplessness does not constitute a social harm.”

Though whether an act constitutes social harm or not can be the subject of intense public debate that often has political overtones, the final decision rests with the court of law. Thus the legal theories of Durkhiem and Feminist schools will be elaborately discussed as a theoretical framework against which the entire argument will be based.

One of the most relevant ideas in this regard is Durkhiem’s concept that law is nothing but an extension of social mores. He categorizes solidarity in societies into mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. While mechanical solidarity is observed in simplest of societies where there is uniformity in habits, ideas and attitudes, organic solidarity is more observed in heterogeneous societies that are bound more by interdependence through a complex division of labor rather than any similarity in attitudes, ideas and habits. Thus laws are also of two types. While it more common to observe in mechanically solid societies the existence of repressive and penal laws that mete out punishment to all those that offend the collective mores of the society; restitutive law is a common phenomenon in organically solid heterogeneous societies. Under a regime of restitutive law, the victim who has suffered harm is compensated by the offender. An act is considered to be criminal not if it harms so-called collective sensibilities but if it victimizes an individual or individuals. Punishment is generally commensurate with the harm suffered by the victims of such criminal acts. Durkheim’s concept of law as a sociological process forms the base of modern jurisprudence as societies tend to become more and more heterogeneous with the passage of time and increased levels of interaction take place between communities and societies across the world (Vago & Adie, 2010).

The other relevant school of legal thought in this context is Feminist legal theories. The most dominant refrain in such theories is patriarchal society is the root cause of all evil and degradation of women. Scholars of this school also are of the opinion that as jurisprudence is dominated by males, there is a general tendency of legal framework to view women as objects rather than as fellow human beings. One of the prominent themes in Feminist legal theories is that there are enough strictures and structures present in societies that obliquely and often imperceptibly deny women their rights of equality and legal precedents that are often referred to in support of judgments delivered by courts are invariably tilted in favor of men. The second theme that pervades Feminist legal theories is that law invariably views things from a male perspective. The masculine way of looking at things often minimizes the gravity of sexual harassment at workplace or date rape and thus is inherently biased against female sensibilities or concerns. The third and most radical theme challenges the very neutrality of law and cites the definition of a legal person as held in law where the term ‘he’ is used to define such a rational person. Scholars subscribing to this school argue if female perceptions are not understood and given their legitimate place law can never be gender neutral. They feel the concept of ‘woman question’ that is often invoked in cases of sexual assault by the defendant in claiming what he ‘reasonably thought’ what the woman wanted to convey is a glaring example of inherent deep seated bias against women. Law has failed to incorporate feminine experiences and values in its codes (Vago & Adie, 2010).

The relevant judgments of Supreme Court in Hicklin, Dominion News and Gifts (1962) Ltd. and Labaye cases would be elaborately discussed and attention would be drawn to how the Supreme Court changed its perspective over time. Drawing extensively from the scholarly article of Jochelson it would be emphasized how difficult it is to establish norms or propriety in sexual behavior in a heterogeneous society as Canada. Moreover, the irrationality of the concept that an act of so-called obscenity triggers antisocial behavior in others would also be effectively established.

Based on these observations and conclusions it would be stated that an act of female toplesseness in specific locations as, bars and clubs that clearly declare that they would have topless female waiters and enquire from their patrons whether they have any objections to such exhibitionism prior to their entry and have enough preventive force at their disposal to stop any form of unruly behavior from patrons, would not be construed as an act that would cause social harm. The concept of social tolerance would be invoked while describing toplessness in sea beaches where being topless has been the well accepted norm for decades in western societies.

However, being topless to cause consternation or simply to attract attention through notoriety as might happen if a woman becomes topless at a busy traffic intersection would be criticized and arguments put forward by Craig regarding the social norms and mores cherished by Canadians through ages would be used not only to decry such harmful acts but also to highlight how deliberate mischief by a few tend to harm a larger cause as the prudent and puritan sections of the society tend to project this stray act as an indication of general degeneration of social and ethical levels of the society.



Busby, K. (2006). Little Sister’s v. Canada: What Did the Queer-Sensitive Interveners Argue about Equality Rights and Free Expression? In B. Burtch, & N. Larsen (eds.), Law in Society: Canadian Readings (pp. 4-5). Toronto: Thompson Canada.

Cossman, B. (2003). Disciplining the Unruly: Sexual Outlaws, Little Sisters and the Legacy of Butler. 36 U.B.C. L. Rev. , 77-92.

Craig, E. (2009). Laws of Desire: The Political Morality of Public Sex. 54 McGill LawJournal , 355-388.

Jochelson, R. (2009). After Lababye: The Harm Test of Obscenity, The New Judicial Vacuum, and the Relevance of familiar voices. 46 Alta. L. Rev. , 741-754.

Longino, H. E. (1980). Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look. In L. Lederer (ed), Take Back the Night: Women on Pornography (pp. 40-46). New York: William Morrow.

R. v. Dominion News and Gifts (1962) Ltd., S.C.R. 251 (1964).

R. v. Hicklin, L.R. 3 Q.B. 360 (1868).

R. v. Labaye, 3 S.C.R. 728 (SCC 80 2005).

Raz, J. (1995). Rights and Politics. 71 Ind. L.J. , 27-35.

Ryder, B. (2003). The Harms of Child Pornography Law. 36 U.B.C. L. Rev. , 101-121.

Sumner, L. W. (2004). The Hateful and the Obscene: Studies in the Limits of Free Expression. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Vago, S., & Adie, N. (2010). Law and Society, Third Canadian Edition. Pearson Education Canada.

Biblical Films

Filed under: Personal Thoughts,Political Musings,social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:56 pm

Biblical films are more related to pomp rather than any serious spirituality

The decade of fifties saw a flurry of Biblical films that captivated audience imagination in a vice like grip while running to packed houses for months together and filling in the coffers of the producers like never before. Right from 1949 that saw the release of ‘Samson and Delilah’, the spectacle continued in ‘Quo Vadis’ and ‘David and Bathsheba’ each following the other in quick succession in the year 1951 which witnessed the release of both these films. ‘The Robe’ came two years later in 1953 and all time favorite ‘The Ten Commandments’ set the auditoriums in ruptures in 1956 with another film of epical proportions, ‘Ben-Hur’ almost repeating the feat of its immediate predecessor in 1959. This decade saw some of the most breathtaking spectacles enacted on silver screen and have left an indelible impression on our collective imagination and psyche. Easter weekends almost seemed incomplete without a mandatory viewing of at least one of these Biblical spectaculars. But a nagging doubt still remains: do these films really give a fillip to our latent spirituality or do they simply remain at the levels of audiovisual extravaganza that they were possibly meant to be. 

There is no doubt that Hollywood surely had business in mind when these films were made (though there could be other reasons too, but they were way secondary to the profit motive of producers) and producers might have thought that a mix of ancient fables of pomp and glory of Rome and Egypt might be made all the more attractive if wrapped up in a superficial package of Biblical tales. The promise of extravaganza would certainly attract average cine goers who throng the theaters in search of entertainment and the hint of Bible would also ensnare the religious and spiritual minded who would have otherwise given the film a go by. Such a unique opportunity of captivating almost entire population was perhaps too lucrative a proposition for the Hollywood mandarins to ignore.

This thesis will most certainly be debated by those that feel that these films indeed resurrected our interest in the Biblical period and rekindled the dying embers of spirituality that were threatened first by the economic hardships of Great Depression and then by the orgy of destruction of World War II. But an analysis of the most representative film of this period – ‘The Ten Commandments’ –  encourages one take a contrarian view.

Cecil B. DeMille, the soul behind this epic film, was no doubt a religious person as he felt that every individual was “entrusted at birth with a precious fragment of the Divine Mind to develop for good or evil” (Hollywood Citizen News 1958) . But he felt that in order to assist a person in choosing the good over evil, the evil should be painted in its most tempting colors as was evident in the scene of almost a group orgy at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses is alone at the top of the mount collecting the Ten Commandments. We see voluptuous semi-clad women sensuously cavorting while their lustrous manes swayed from side to side and fountains of wine being sprinkled from overflowing carafes, all set in a riotous flood of bright colors made all the more enticing by the beats of thumping pulsating music. Evil never appeared so tempting, did it? With the audience leering at semi-exposed female forms and cheering lustily at each audacious and raunchy dance moves, the producers sure laughed all the way to their banks and in the midst of this din and bustle one completely forgot the Biblical dictum ‘Meek shall inherit the earth’! (Harvey 1966)

When Moses descends from the mount and castigates the frolicking masses in a stentorian tone he sounds almost as hollow as a modern day evangelists who come on television suggesting us to leave our sinful materialistic ways and return to the inviting arms of Christ. Indeed, Charlton Heston sounded almost comical, especially in the midst of so much gaiety, and was almost an unavoidable impediment as audiences would surely not have complained had the dancing and drinking continued for another hour.

We might look at another example of how tempting evil could be if we focus on the lascivious mannerisms of Nefertiti. She is the temptress who tries to weave her magic of lust and physical pleasures around Moses in a bid to hold him back. She cannot think of anything beyond lust and carnal pleasures and as Moses spurns her, the only explanation for Moses’ behavior that comes to her mind is the presence of another woman in his life. However much does DeMille try to paint her in shades of grey, her physical charm and raw innuendoes of carnal invitations always engross the audience feel really letdown as she gradually disappears from the centre stage of action. A question that almost inevitably crops up in the mind of every rational viewer is the necessity of introducing a vamp in the screenplay in the guise of Nefertiti. Following the age old time proven grammar of commercial cinema where the hero remains impervious and unaffected by the guiles and seductions of the eternally devilish vamp, Moses also renders the popular dialogue “there is a beauty beyond the senses,” almost in cue with what another hero in another romantic film would have done. The spirituality of Bible remains an orphan lost in this unabashed display of pleasure and pomp!

Any film requires a villain too; a person who would be almost an equal to the hero with the only difference being in the latter’s obeisance to evil while the hero remains steadfast in his pursuit of the good. The film enlivens up at the continuing duel between the hero and the villain. ‘The Ten Commandments’ too has a fabulous villain in the form of Ramses who is equal in every respect to Moses except his lack of belief in the ‘real’ God.  The pomp and splendor of Pharaoh’s palaces and swagger and flourish of Ramses surely makes an engaging spectacle and when Moses wins his battle over the latter purely on the strength of his virtue and nothing else, it becomes another example of wish fulfillment of ordinary people that throng the theaters to see on silver screen what they always dream about but are never ever able to taste in real life. Such tales of wish fulfillment have been a staple diet of commercial cinema since its very inception. ‘The Ten Commandments’ was no exception to this category and had its fair share of various ingredients to lure audiences to the cavernous darkness of cinema halls. Religion was simply a convenient label that DeMille wrapped on his product to make it look even glossier and force some members of the audience to become misty eyed.

Any discussion of ‘The Ten Commandments’ will remain incomplete if a reference to the famous scene of crossing the Red Sea is not made. Parting of the Red Sea was made out to be the focal point of the entire film; a final proof that the will and power of God is beyond the comprehension of ordinary mortals. But the scene gets reduced to some not at all convincing special effects and almost childish attempts to raise the tension through overwhelming and exceedingly loud music. God surely is nowhere to be found in the entire sequence and while some part of the audience sits wide eyed in wonder, the other more discerning part guffaws silently at the commercial clumsiness of the whole scene. (Bergman 1971)

Thus, it can be conclusively stated that Biblical films and especially ‘The Ten Commandments’ has very little spirituality in it and is nothing better than a visual and musical feast with religion used only as a convenient prop.


Bergman, Andrew. We’re in the Money. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Harvey, Cox. “How to Kill God.” Look 30, October 18, 1966: 104.

Hollywood Citizen News.March 24, 1958: 14.

Bauman, modernity and holocaust

Filed under: Personal Thoughts,Political Musings,social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:54 pm

Bauman – his life and times

Bauman, a Polish Jew has had a very colourful life that covered a wide assortment of jobs that included active military service in Soviet Army. He was a communist right through his youth and rose steadily through the ranks in military intelligence service till his father (he was also a non-practising Jew) approached Israeli embassy for emigration to Israel. Though Bauman never shared his father’s Zionist ideology he had to face the brunt of official apathy towards Jews and was all of a sudden dishonourably discharged from service. This quite obviously caused a severe strain in the relationship father and son.

Out of job, Bauman had enough spare time in his hands and completed his masters in philosophy from Warsaw University where he remained as a lecturer till 1968. With the outbreak of public protests in Poland against the ruling communist government and subsequent fanning of anti-Semitic sentiments by the government to deflect public criticism, Bauman shifted to Leeds University after briefly teaching in Tel Aviv University.

Bauman faced anti-Semitic sentiments twice in his life and both were from non-Nazi state machinery. This experience led him to form an opinion that modernity, bureaucracy and social exclusion creates a situation where an extreme phobia against those social groups that cannot be neatly categorised and slotted into predetermined and well established hierarchical superstructure prevalent in the society. This in essence is the beginning of a potential holocaust that will inevitably result if this xenophobic attitude towards those social sub-groups that cannot be effectively analysed according to existing social norms is not brought under control. Such social mores can be brought under control only if the authority is aware of the potential dangers and initiates strong measures to counter such a mass phobia against so-called outsiders. History, however, has witnessed several instances of cynical exploitation of the deep seated distrust among Europeans against so-called killers of Christ by governments of several European nations, Poland and Soviet Russia being the main culprits, to further their narrow and selfish class interests. Bauman has worked extensively on these issues where he has clearly laid bare the intrinsic interconnection between modern society where people wilfully forego several facets of personal freedom (both in the realm of actions and in thoughts) and the inherent distrust of the ‘outsider’ who does not conform to the established mores of the society. His contention is that mass extermination of ‘outsiders’ is an inbuilt mental precondition of modern man. Jews have always been the classic example of ‘outsiders’ in Europe and have been subjected to government sponsored persecution through ages with such mindless cruelty reaching a nadir with holocaust during Second World War.

The connotations of the term Holocaust

At this stage perhaps one needs to get a clear notion of what exactly a holocaust is. When in the later stage of Second World War it came to light that Nazi Germany has embarked on a systematic annihilation of Jews with a view to ethnically cleanse the society of Semitic population, the use of this biblical term was thought to be appropriate as there did not exist any term that would succinctly describe this mass murder of an entire tribe. It was no wonder that there did not exist any term as never before in the history of mankind was such a well planned genocide ever executed by any authority in any corner of the world.

Nazi rulers contended that the lives of the Jews, much like lives of Gypsies, homosexuals and those who were mentally ill or retarded, were devoid of any positive value and were leading a life that was unwertes Leben (a life unworthy of living). All these categories did not qualify to be members of the Neue Ordnung and thus did not deserve to live.

Bauman contends that holocaust and anti-Semitism has not died down with the fall of Nazi Germany. The phobia of interacting with anyone who cannot be categorised with consummate ease and the all consuming desire to instil an absolute and preordained sense of order and harmony in social structure is so overwhelming in modern societies that another holocaust can happen anytime in any part of the modern world.

The world has indeed witnessed many well planned genocides after the one perpetrated by Nazi Germany. The Kurds in Iraq, southerners in the Sudan, Tutsi in Rwanda, Hutus in Burundi, Hindus and other Bengalis in East Pakistan, the Ache in Paraguay were victims of genocide during the second half of twentieth century. The overwhelming cruelty in genocide is reflected in classifying a group as evil and mere membership of that group becomes a sufficient cause for getting earmarked for capital punishment with neither any scope of putting forward arguments in self defence nor any chance of judging the merits and demerits of each case individually. The denial of the victim a right to respond or appeal against the punishment being meted out makes a genocide or holocaust so odious, reprehensible and utterly abominable.

Modernity and Holocaust

The difference between mass murders and holocaust is apparent to any student of holocaust.

The sheer number of people that were exterminated by the Nazis implied a well planned state involvement. Nearly six million Jews were annihilated by the Nazis. If a hundred Jews were killed per day it would have taken at least 200 years to kill such a large number of people. But it took less than two years to conduct this pogrom of unimaginable proportions. This simply was not the result of mob fury or massive backlash but was the handiwork of modern technological inventions, meticulous division of work, subordination of individual ethics and morality to societal definition of moral and immoral (much akin to subordination of individual goals in favour of group goals that always happens in a corporate setting), strictly overlooked and managed by an efficient and goal driven ambitious bureaucracy. The holocaust was thus made possible by the efficiency of a modern state that had all the trappings of enormous regimented power and the focus to achieve a well defined target. (Goldhagen, 1996)

There is popular notion among many historians that there was a complete breakdown of all norms of civilisation in Nazi Germany that allowed such a monstrosity as holocaust to happen. But Bauman analysed the whole scenario and concluded civilisation was never temporarily suspended in Germany through sustained anti-Semitic propaganda.

Civilisation, according to Bauman does not necessarily impose the pacifying shackles of morality on us without which, many would love to believe, all humans would be raving ranting beasts ready to pounce one another and tear each other into shreds. Morality, according to Bauman, has a biological origin whereby we feel “animal pity” towards a fellow sufferer; civilisation actually tries to overcome this sense of morality instead of instilling it and lays down its own set of rules that suit the convenience of those in power and authority. These rules might be extensions of existing norms of “animal pity” but, more often than not, rules formulated by civilisation run at right angles to the biological manifestations of morality. If this was not the case, so many organised mass slaughters of human beings could never have taken place in an otherwise civilised world many years after the embers of Second World War had died down and remnants of Nazism buried deep down under a resurgent and unified modern Germany. (Bauman Z. , Modernity and the Holocaust, 1989)

Actually ordinary Germans were kept in dark about both Kristallnacht and the infamous Final Solution. Himmler had reportedly complained that though more than eighty million Germans agreed on the basic premise of exterminating Jews for the overall benefit of German race, each one of them thought that the better elements among the otherwise damned clan of Jews should be saved and every German had a personal plan of saving those Jews that were supposedly better than the average Jews. (Bauman Z. , 2000)

Civilisation attempts to do things on a grand scale and the bureaucracy involved in Final Solution successfully managed to distance the actual act of mass murder from those that perpetrated it by distributing the blame across so many persons that each one of them never felt the “animal pity” they should have felt had they personally slaughtered even a single Jew. The moral vacuum created beneath a verbose technical and bureaucratic vocabulary to enable normal human beings to murder fellow human beings was possible because of a civilisation that ensured each member did what the authority thought proper. (Bauman Z. , Modernity and Ambivalence, 1991)

Bauman thus contends that holocaust can take place anywhere anytime as long as civilisation exists. Indeed Bauman and his fellow travellers believe that morality precedes civilisation and has an existence independent of all forms of civilisation and continues to survive in spite of best efforts of all forms of civilisation to completely crush it. (Bauman Z. , The Holocaust: Fifty Years Later, 1993)



Bauman, Z. (2000). Ethics of Individuals. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 25(1) , pp. 83-96.

Bauman, Z. (1991). Modernity and Ambivalence. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bauman, Z. (1989). Modernity and the Holocaust. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bauman, Z. (1993). The Holocaust: Fifty Years Later. In D. Grinberg (ed.), The Holocaust Fifty Years After. Warsaw: Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw.

Goldhagen, D. (1996). Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Boston: Little Brown.

American Fifth Column – A Study of Fifth Columnists in America

Filed under: Personal Thoughts,Political Musings,social awareness — niranjanchatterjee @ 10:50 pm

American Fifth Column

Fifth Column – A Definition

This word had its origin in Spanish Civil War when an army general said that he had a fifth column working inside Madrid as he led four columns of troops towards that city. This expression is generally ascribed to those groups of people who collude with external enemies to bring about a downfall of their country of residence. When we talk of American fifth column we generally refer to those groups or people who work towards undermining the very basic foundations on which the entire American society is based. Thus, any person or group of persons residing in America and wanting to harm the tenets of personal liberty, democracy, free market and entrepreneurship – the vital pillars of American society, can be termed as fifth column.

Setting out the perimeter of discussion

United States has been involved in a global war on terror since the demolition of twin towers of WTC and the term fifth column has of late acquired a more pointed and specific accent to refer to all those that have sympathies for or support by providing propagandist assistance, logistics or financial help to the jihadists and all other so-called liberals and ultra leftists that have a common professed aim of destroying United States of America.

Though the jihadists and the ultra leftists have practically nothing in common, they are united in their shared hatred towards America whom they view as a greedy superpower that is determined to establish its hegemony across the globe and lay sole claim to the world’s stock of petroleum – the crucial source of energy in modern day world.

A point that needs to be highlighted and emphasized at this juncture is that a fifth columnist must essentially reside in America and be a US citizen. So, in our subsequent discussion we will restrict ourselves to only those persons that satisfy this basic criterion.

But before we focus on specific individuals and groups, we should get a clear idea about the activities that these fifth columnists resort to on furthering their agenda and the platforms they use for this nefarious objective.

Iraq War – A convenient platform used by American fifth columnists

A distinction must be made right in the beginning between an individual’s right to freedom of speech and the freedom to air one’s opinion about the Iraq war and the diatribe and innuendos that are being systematically and viciously aired by these despicable fifth columnists.

As an independent American, a person has every right to feel that the country simply waded into the Iraq conflict without showing enough patience or without properly exploring other peaceful alternatives. Or, a person has every right to subscribe to the opinion that the entire military adventure was a very big mistake that distracted both, focus and resources from the more important and urgent task of hunting out bin Laden and destroying the international terror network of Al Qaida.

As a result of this undue haste and gross mistake in taking foreign policy decisions, America is now precariously poised with twin wars one of which it could have very well avoided.

If an American holds this view, it can never be construed that this person is anti-American or does not have the best interests of the country in mind. On the contrary, this person might be a true patriot who never thinks of even the slightest harm of homeland and genuinely feels that the Iraq imbroglio has been an unwelcome strain on America. Such a person can never be labeled a fifth columnist. (Perazzo, Platforms of the Enemy, 2007)

How can we identify a fifth columnist?

Those that detest Iraq war have full freedom to publicly air their opposition but if they liken United States with Nazi Germany and try to paint both countries with the same brush, then surely there is a genuine problem with such persons as they are attempting to denigrate the very country that has provided all the facilities and infrastructure for their progress and development. Some of these people even go to the extent of sympathizing with the opponents of United States and try to describe them as oppressed and wronged against rather than evil people that are actively planning for the downfall of the homeland.

By cunningly trying to garner sympathy for those being punished by America for their wayward and potentially harmful activities, these Americans actually try to create an impression in the minds of the general public that as America is the illegitimate aggressor, it deserves to be defeated and truth and rectitude will prevail if indeed it happens. Sustained anti-American publicity of this nature is bound to have some effect on the public psyche and sooner rather than later some people will actually start believing in such type of insidious propaganda.

People that are involved in such type of anti-American activities are members of the fifth column and keep on acting surreptitiously but continuously towards defeating the very country where they live.

These people usually try to paint themselves in pristine white color and attempt to position themselves as champions of human rights. You will always find them championing the cause of the so-called downtrodden irrespective of whether the downtrodden have broken the law of the land or not. And , there is one other trait that is common to all these fifth columnists, that is, all of them have hugely “loud” voices and have enough contacts in the media to make themselves heard all over the place. These people assiduously cultivate these contacts and make full use of them to mislead and confuse the general public.

You will always find these fifth columnists right in the first row of any meeting in support of illegal immigrants waxing eloquent on their plight and urging the government to step forward and save them from imminent extinction. You may even find these chatterboxes breathing fire and brimstone in an anti-gun rally and you would most surely find them in all rallies convened to protest against the Iraq war.

Psychology of Fifth Columnists

But you may wonder why these people, otherwise perfectly normal, should engage in such illogical and patently dangerous activities. The answer to that pertinent question of yours is these people have been indoctrinated in the principles of socialism and communism and they feel that the entire capitalist structure of the United States is an evil system that is based in oppression and denial of rightful dues of the toiling masses by those handful that own the means of production.

Jaundiced as these people are owing to their indoctrination in the perverted philosophy of socialists and communists, they simply do not acknowledge the simple and well established fact that the prosperity and abundance in the United States have come from the honest labor and unwavering entrepreneurial spirit of its founding fathers. The sincere toil and perspiration of the earliest settlers was carried on through generations of honest Americans and that has resulted in this country becoming the strongest and most prosperous in the whole world. Its foundations were built on enterprise and not on deceit and theft as these leftists would want us to believe.

The most disconcerting fact is that these fifth columnists have spread their evil network far and deep and happen to dominate the education system of the entire country and are busy indoctrinating impressionable minds in the senseless logic of socialism and communism. They are very stealthily and on the sly systematically altering the history of our nation to deliberately stymie the genuine story of how free spirit and enterprise built the America as it is today and are peddling their pet and highly convoluted theories of “cultural diversity” and “social awareness”. These fifth columnists are very difficult and hence are the most dangerous of the lot. It becomes almost impossible to identify a Ward Churchill or a Jay Bennish and even if identified it becomes extremely difficult to take punitive steps as they are almost immediately enveloped by their fellow fifth columnists in an artificial halo of a martyr being persecuted by an all powerful, insensitive and remorseless system. So, the basic issue that these fifth columnists are working against the country and should be severely punished gets buried under the rubbles of propaganda hyperbole.

Things have become even more dangerous as these days these leftists have found an unlikely ally in rabidly fundamental Islamic jihadists that consider America as the epitome of evil and blame it for all the problems that plague the world. These jihadists hiding in their caves in remote areas in Afghanistan-Pakistan border are continually plotting the downfall of this great nation in cohort with the fifth columnists that are safely cocooned within the free democratic environment of American society all the while pretending to be champions of human rights and flag bearers of cutting edge progressive philosophy.

The reality on the ground and immediate Steps that need to be taken

So, with external enemies going from strength to strength (some say that these jihadists have already acquired the “dirty bomb” and are simply waiting for an opportune moment to set it off to create a holocaust that would mightily dwarf the death toll during demolition of twin towers in 2001) and fifth columnists sitting pretty, America indeed has very little time to wake up to this imminent danger and act proactively and decisively.

In a newspaper report a few days ago one came to know that CIA has warned President Obama about the danger that can emanate from British born Muslims that enjoy a visa less entry in United States. Though one has got nothing against this system of visa less entry in United States which is also mutually provided by Britain and, more importantly, Muslims per se are in no way disruptive and have criminal intentions (in fact, a huge majority among them are highly contributive citizens to all communities they reside in) still some of the fringe elements have very deep ties with jihadists and they may freely enter United States to let loose the fury of hell as they had done about a decade ago. What exactly should be done to avert this tinder box situation is surely the job of state leaders and central administration but one thing is absolutely sure – America is no longer safe and all efforts must be done to save the homeland. The danger is no longer the hallucinations of a few xenophobic minds; it is very real and imminent if a lid is not put on it right away.

It is a well documented fact that Imam Umar Abdul Jalil, a chaplain in Gotham jail tried to incite and mislead a meeting of Muslim students in Tucson by wrongly informing them that Muslims were being subjected to physical torture in New York City prisons. In his speech he also tried to equate White House with Nazi Germany’s headquarters and spewed venom against the state of America.

Even if the diatribe against White House is allowed and tolerated under the pretext of freedom of speech, can the willful incitement of young American Muslims against the state be excused? Surely not, most right thinking and patriotic Americans would say, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg after suspending (with pay, could you believe it!) Jalil briefly for a fortnight reinstated the rogue chaplain saying that we should not become xenophobic in our war on terror and must never trample upon multiculturalism which happens to be one of the foundation stones of the throbbing and vibrant American society.

While nobody has anything against multiculturalism, one must draw a line if someone tries to take undue advantage of the inherent openness of American society and tolerant American attitude and tries to drive in wedges and create fissures in this multihued kaleidoscope that is famously described as the ‘melting pot’. The likes of Imam Umar Abdul Jalil must be stiffly penalized to prevent this type of subversive activities else America will have to deal with repetitions of catastrophes as the destruction of WTC.

Al Qaida has long considered American prisons as fertile grounds for fresh recruitment and a recent discovery of a prison-based terrorist cell in Torrance, California proved to be true what many people had feared so long. A homegrown jihadist would be able to slip through dragnets meant to spot and isolate foreign jihadists and it would be that much easier for Al Qaida or Lashkar e Taiba to materialize their heinous plans on American soil.

These American jihadists have formed an organization called Jamiyyat Ul Islam is Saheeh that has the professed objective of destroying military bases, churches and government offices in and around Los Angeles. The leader of this organization is Kevin James who had converted to Islam in 2004 while in jail. His close associate Haney Washington got freed in parole in later part of 2004 and committed no less than eleven robberies in southern part of California to raise the funds necessary to carry on their nefarious activities.

While doing a thorough investigation about the roots of this jihadist cell, federal agents found that Kevin James and his associates were influenced in jail by government employed Muslim chaplains professing allegiance to the radical strain of Islam patronized by Saudi Arabia. Without going into any sort of discussion about the merits and demerits of this particular school of Islam, one can come to at least one conclusion and that is, prison inmates should be shielded from the influence of Muslim chaplains to prevent growth of any more homegrown jihadists and government should do a really thorough background check of these chaplains before employing them. These people are a danger to the American society and should be dealt with accordingly.

Instead of trying to adopt a holier than thou approach and waving the flag of First Amendment in an attempt to don the cloak of the greatest liberal of them all, administrators and lawmakers should burn midnight oil to chalk out the exact details of how to tackle the external enemy, ordinary citizens should from now on be extra vigilant about the nefarious designs of the pernicious fifth columnists, resisting them and exposing them whenever possible. It might lead to a lot of hue and cry, especially given the enormous clout these traitors have in the media, but honest and sincere American citizens should not be deterred by it and carry on their rightful fight to save the homeland.

This is no way is an incitement to unlawful violence or an attempt to forcibly silence these traitors as that would go against the tenets of a free society that we are so proud of. This wakeup call is actually for all of us so that we can face the divisive propaganda of these groups and not only be not swayed by it but also frame suitable responses wherever possible.

The Muslim chaplains and the newly converted Muslims can be identified and suitable steps might be taken to tackle them but the fifth columnists that remain firmly ensconced in American society enjoying all the benefits this great country has to offer while working assiduously against it need further alacrity to be unmasked. These are the people that are at the forefront of all so-called liberal forums and always the first to uphold the rights of the downtrodden. These people are held in high regard by the society, or should I say, media and any word spoken against them is treated with a chorus of disdain by fellow travelers of these peddlers of hatred. So, it is necessary for all right thinking Americans to have a clear idea about who these fifth columnists are. There are of course scores of others that are equally pernicious, but an effort has been made to highlight those that stand out by their acts of anti-Americanism. (Howard, 2005)

Profiles of American Fifth Columnists

There are quite a few high profile fifth columnists holding forth in American society and it would do no harm if the general public also gets to know the real face behind the façade that they so carefully put on during interface with public.

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, an elite professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, is possibly the most cited academic on this planet and is one of the leading lights of American intelligentsia. While no one can cast the slightest aspersion on his erudition, the fact remains that by his words and pen he happens to steadfastly denigrate the open and capitalist nature of American society.

He is treated as a demigod by his followers and rock bands as “Rage Against Machine” and “Pearl Jam” venerate him in the same way as Beatles used to revere Maharshi Mahesh Yogi during their interaction with this god man. Radio producer David Barsamian leads the group of blind followers in elevating the professor to the level of supreme preacher, ultimate philosopher and the final arbiter and fountainhead of all knowledge available under the sun.

Many people are at a loss to bridge the almost unfathomable gap between Chomsky’s academic excellence in charting new territories in his chosen field of linguistics and the equally pathological hatred embedded in his anti-American socio-political ideas. Chomsky very cleverly made use of his legendary academic status to cross over from hallowed portals of academia to cast his spell over the unsuspecting public.

He first bared his fangs of anti-Americanism with his near pathological aversion of American policies and created a niche for himself with ferocity he showed against the Vietnam War. Gifted as he is with sharp intellect and loaded with unquestionable erudition, his sharp pseudo logic held the public in thrall as his pen proceeded with spewing anti-American venom behind the façade of a lover of peace and a confirmed anti-war (wherever it may be, not Vietnam War in particular) personality.

A series of articles in some of the most revered and influential dailies and periodicals during this period cemented his place as the foremost fifth columnist that had perfected the art of putting an intellectual veneer on his ulterior motives.

His true colors came to the fore when he unabashedly supported the perverted and oppressive regime of Pol Pot that perpetrated genocide in Cambodia in the seventies as United States withdrew its forces from Indochina. Though ground realities and other details indisputably point to the fact that almost 25% of the population of Cambodia had perished in hands of the communists, Chomsky steadfastly denied that a holocaust had taken place and had the temerity to trivialize the entire catastrophe by claiming that only “a few thousand” had been killed. Using his phenomenal intellectual acumen, he even tried to provide respectability to Pol Pot regime by equating this genocide with the executions that were done by resistance movements in Europe during Nazi domination.

One feels appalled by the level a demented intellect, hell-bent on furthering his pet agenda – however farfetched and divorced from reality it may be, can stoop to when one witnesses Chomsky’s futile and shameless attempts at exonerating one of the most hated criminals of this century. In fact Chomsky did what none else would have dared to even think of doing. Revisiting the issue in 1988 he claimed that whatever happened in Cambodia was the handiwork of United States and gave Pol Pot and his regime a clean chit. His formidable intellect was again on show as he misused it to string up one skewed piece of logic after another to present an apparent water tight case in his support. This apparent show of intellectual honesty and impersonal detachment makes him the most formidable fifth columnist ever to have walked the domain of United States.

The duplicity prevalent in Chomsky’s character came out in the open in 1980 when he openly supported Robert Faurisson who was terminated from his service at University of Lyon because of open anti-Semitic views and denial of the existence of holocaust during Nazi domination of Europe. He went to the extent of labeling Faurisson as an apolitical liberal who based his work on solid facts and impersonal analysis and cannot be termed anti-Semitic by any stretch of imagination.

Such blatant violations of the very basics of truth had lowered Chomsky’s position to a great extent but after the horrific incidents of 9/11, leftists took the opportunity of putting Chomsky back on the evil pedestal that he once occupied and his recent work “Hegemony or Survival” that saw the light of day in 2003 trumpets his favorite theme that America in its blind desire of dominating the world is causing the oppressed of the world to rise in protest and acts like 9/11 are manifestation of the frustration and pent up anger against America.

Any person has a right to his opinion, but what one wonders at is the chorus of support such demeaning ideas get from so-called educated American intellectuals. Pulitzer prize winning author Samantha Power while writing in The New York Times praised Chomsky’s work as thoroughly instructive and eminently sobering as if Chomsky happens to be the ultimate oracle of truth.

Chomsky had once earlier misused his intellect to support Pol Pot, he did it again while supporting the perpetrators of 9/11 when he said that the devastation they brought on was nothing compared to what Bill Clinton did when he bombed a factory in Sudan in 1998 as a response to Al Qaida bombings of US embassies in that region. One marveled at the ingenuity of an intellect hell-bent on misrepresenting facts and giving them a spin when one realized how two completely disparate incidents were compared and one of the most heinous crimes ever to be perpetrated against US was given an aura of legitimacy.

Carrying on his crusade against America (while ironically enjoying all the benefits and freedom of a democratic society) Chomsky went on to describe American response in Afghanistan as a well calculated step to cause genocide of more than 4 million Afghans and also predicted that there would be widespread famine in that region on account of faulty US policies. Now that all his forecasts were proved wrong he did not even have the basic honesty to come forward and accept that his prognosis was wrong.

Chomsky has traveled widely in Muslim world and has even been to the capitals of Pakistan and India and wherever he went he never stopped his anti-American diatribe. According to him the events of 9/11 are not the handiwork of fundamentalist jihadists committed to the destruction of America and its tenets of freedom but the first step taken by the Third World in its protest against imperialist tendencies of United States. Chomsky actually considers it as the first ray of light and views it positively as the beginning of the end of the so called American hegemony over all other powers of the world.

Chomsky has quite obviously endeared himself to the arch enemy of United States – bin Laden who had gone on record praising the professor as “one of the most capable citizens” of United States.

Chomsky must have gone over the moon after receiving this accolade. At least now he can be sure that his role as a fifth columnist has indeed touched a peak that none else before him could have dared to touch. (Salvato, 2007)

Michael Moore

The other most high profile fifth columnist is film maker and author Michael Moore. He is a pathological American hater who never lets go an opportunity to bash America and its principles. While on a tour in Cambridge to promote his book he openly told the august audience that he feels ashamed to have come from a country that has brought untold misery and suffering to rest of the world. While in Germany he penned an article in renowned periodical Die Zeit where he openly exhorted the Germans to rebel against American hegemony and said it would be a shame to the entire German race if they allow themselves to be led by such an ignorant bunch of people as the Americans are. (Perazzo, 2005)

As the brave American forces were fighting insurgents in Iraq, Moore refused to label them as insurgents; instead he described them as truly patriotic Iraqis that have risen in revolt against the occupation army led by the United States. Moore in his feverish fervor of anti-Americanism sees in these rabid insurgents, the foot soldiers of an impending revolution against the tyrannical hegemony of United States and is confident that their numbers will steadily increase till United States is forced to beat a hasty retreat. At times it becomes really difficult to fathom the hatred this person has against his homeland.

Moore tries to ignore a very harsh reality that stares in the eyes of every American day in and day out since the pogrom of 9/11 and that is we are living out our life while being in the crosshairs of Islamic jihadists’ guns trained against this country. He denies the existence of terrorists and in an interview given to Michigan Daily in October 2003 very bluntly said, there simply is no terrorist threat against the country and this bogey of jihadist threat happened to be the biggest lie invented by the administration.

Moore should consider himself to be infinitely lucky that he is a citizen of United States. Had he been a citizen of any totalitarian country like China or a fundamentalist regime like Saudi Arabia, he would have been in his grave long time ago, either hanged or shot dead by a firing squad on charges of high treason.

Moore has benefitted immensely from the fruits of capitalism – his net worth according to most conservative estimates exceeds $50 million, yet he never balks at denouncing capitalism as a sin and never ever shudders at the enormity of the hypocrisy that is highlighted in the contradiction of his words and his extravagant lifestyle. Shame is possibly a word which does not exist in his dictionary.

We have so long heard Moore and more often than not preferred to ignore his raves and rants as that of a deranged personality but when the defense attorney of the Bali bomber who had killed more than 200 people read out from Moore’s book “Stupid White Men” in order to justify the hatred that criminal had against all things American, we are forced to sit up and take notice of the harm this person is doing to America and its citizens.

It is no big wonder that Moore and his likes will strongly oppose the Patriot Act which every right thinking American thought to be the only proper response to the situation prevailing immediately after the 9/11 incidents. In his book “Dude, Where’s My Country”, Moore gives full vent to his anger against Patriot Act and goes to the extent of denigrating it as a completely unwarranted attack on civil liberties of American citizens. He reiterated his claim that there is no terrorist threat to America and Patriot Act is just a neo Nazi ploy to subjugate the ordinary American citizen.

Other Miscellaneous Fifth Columnists in United States

But Moore is not alone in his diatribe against the United States of America. There are quite a few similar voices that seem to echo his sentiments.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the founder of International Action Center which acts as an umbrella organization for a host of sundry anti-war groups. Clark has constantly condemned all wars that America has fought right from Vietnam War to the Iraq War and his organization has consistently backed anti-American organizations and individuals the most prominent among them being Libya’s Moammar Qadaffi, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, one of the prime conspirators in WTC bombing of 1993. Clark also offered voluntary legal counsel to Saddam Hussein after his capture in the hands of American led forces.

Another American fifth columnist is Alexander Cockburn, a regular contributor in the leftist mouthpiece Counter Punch. He has stooped to the level of terming American operations in Afghanistan as the “Tenth Crusade” slyly implying that the entire operation is in fact an act of aggression rather than in self defense.

Our list will remain incomplete if mention is not made of the radical attorney of the National Lawyers Guild, Lynne Stewart who thinks that the incident on 9/11 was a case of directed violence (as opposed to anarchist violence) against World Trade Centre, the most visual symbol of capitalism by those that have been oppressed and exploited by the capitalist and imperialist aspirations of United States. She exonerates the jihadists that have declared war against United States as not terrorists but forces of national liberation. She was arrested in 2002 on charges of providing material support to an Egyptian terrorist group having close links with Al Qaida. After long legal wrangling she was finally convicted in 2005 and as expected she has no remorse for what she had done.


Howard, P. (2005). A Fifth Column in the Prisons? Retrieved 2009, from City Journal:

Perazzo, J. (2007, May 21). Platforms of the Enemy. Retrieved February 11, 2009, from

Perazzo, J. (2005, March). Who is the Fifth Column? Retrieved February 11, 2009, from Discover the Network:

Salvato, F. (2007, May 4). The “Fifth Columnization” of America. Retrieved February 11, 2009, from The Fifth Column:

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