Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not A Poem

Maybe it's the season -- but I'm still thinking about things that are missing. I'm still missing ...

Yesterday there was a "huge" explosion and fire at an oil jetty in Nigeria. I read about it on Peak Oil, which lead to an un-bilined article in Afriquenligne which reported:

Lagos, Nigeria - A huge explosion triggered by a dawn fire Wednesday rocked a jetty operated by the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) at Okrika in South-eastern Rivers state, partially destroying the facility and some vessels that were being loaded with crude oil , and leaving several people injured, the police said.

Rivers state Police Commissioner Felix Ogbaudu told journalists the cause of the fire had not been ascertained.

The story wasn't covered in the Times -- or the London Times, the BBC, The Guardian or NPR.

The Associated Press also didn't have the story -- but there was a really disturbing article (if taken in this context) on Monday, two days before the fire:

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) -- Nigeria's main militant group Monday urged all armed factions in the restive southern oil heartland to unite and cripple Africa's biggest petroleum industry.

Now, I have no idea if these stories are related. Again, from silence comes lack of grounding. Is Nigeria on the brink of civil war? Does this matter to me? Should it? Does it matter to the global landscape of oil? According to numbers on the Energy Information Administration site, Nigeria is the 5th largest oil importer to the US. In October we imported 1,184,000 barrels of oil a day from the country. The issue in Nigeria seems to be, again, that oil money is not making its way anywhere near the people of the land it is drilled from.

Almost exactly a year ago a pipeline explosion in Lagos killed 250 people and was widely reported.

Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

That is one of the most beautiful/moving/all telling news photographs I have ever seen. Akintunde Akinleye, thank you.

Information and communication are proven, over and over, to be the only real source of change -- of responsibility, relationship, understanding. How news judgments are made effects the overall story -- effects history.

So, again, what are we missing? If we don't follow the daily, if we are in touch only with disasters and events, are we really connected at all?
If no one died in Nigeria yesterday, and therefore it is not a story, yet a civil war is brewing and no one hears -- is information conveyance served? If every day, everyone in America heard about the daily lives of the people in the lands where the oil came from would it make any difference?

One problem with the news is that often history and flow become lost to the moment. A series of things may happen over time, and if we experience them as singular, it becomes impossible to put them into context or explore their meaning. Not unlike a photograph -- a singular image. But the difference between the singular image and the singular news story is that the image strives to capture a whole. A small news story makes no such attempt. Necessarily it must not -- singular facts have to be its only purpose.

This is why we need art. The real communication is not transmitted in the news -- and while we need to know the news in order to understand the contexts in which we live, real communication is felt deeper, understood in the moment of connection like a touch. Maybe it is touch I am missing...

Last summer, NPR ran a story on a poet from Lagos, Aj Dagga Tolar.

He writes, in an excerpt from the title poem of his book, "This Country is Not a Poem:"

Who cares
For the poetry of our existence
The way they care for poetry
Leaving us every moment with metaphors
To feel not at all the failing of poetry

This country
Dare you to ask
"Have you seen dead bodies before?"
Answer with another ask
"Are there not dead bodies everywhere?"

Stuff enough to make more poems
Who cares to hear
Lagos is a poem, not a place
Ajegunle is a poem, not a place
Cannot sit to hear this poem

SUNG in Yoruba:
Kile ni wa gbo
Kile ni wa wo
Ara mo ri ri
Kilo oju ori leko ri
Kile ni wa gbo
Kile ni wa wo

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