Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I Went To a Dictatorship, And Got a Sun Tan

When you spend as much time thinking about glamorous careers in journalism as I do, you start to see countries that are ruled by dictatorships or in times of war or seeing revolutions, and think - man, I could be there before long, writing a column on how bloody miserable everyone is getting and maybe even poking a dictaphone in the faces of armed men and asking them how they feel about 'all this then'.

Then I remembered two things - firstly, that no news service in their right minds (Apart from Vice maybe, but that's a given) would send me out into a warzone in the fear that my daring witticisms might spark a new and even more violent conflict - and secondly, that I've actually already been to one of these ravaged dictatorships. Two, in fact.

When you think of dictators - and I'm going to totally read your mind here - you tend to think of beatings, unhappiness, guns, and men who give otherwise epic moustaches bad names. But the thing about dictatorships is that, along with rules of the Geneva convention, they tend to break expectations.

When I was five (Admittedly bright eyed and searching for danger) I went on a package holiday to a little African country known as Tunisia. I swam in a big swimming pool, got a decent amount of sunburn, and have fading memories of stealing the hat of a confused concierge who was delivering a carpet. But never, did I a) Know that it was a dictatorship b) Expect a violent revolution a few years later (Then again, when I was five I was probably too busy plotting world destruction and abusing concierges to worry about current affairs).

But the more poignant of my dictatorship visits was the second one, when (If you recall) I visited the AIDS ravaged Kingdom of Swaziland to 'build schools n sh*t'.

Yeah. That place.

I wasn't actually aware of it at the time, but it turns out that Swaziland is in fact a dictatorship. This comes with news that activists are boycotting the presence of a Coca-Cola factory in Swaziland, due to the fact that through tax the sugary brown water company are in fact contributing 40% of King Mswati III's £64 million treasury.

£64 million treasury. This is in the only country in the world in which more people are dying than being born.

But despite the huge injustice, I can't help but think that maybe the activists have got it wrong somewhere along the line - indeed Mswati is a bit of a greedy bugger in the worst of circumstances, but is getting rid of the basis of a failing countries economy really going to help much? Indeed it's a good way of inciting a revolution, but you're forgetting that a hell of a lot of people probably have (Admittedly low paid) jobs in that factory.

But in a startling return to point, whilst I was in Swaziland I didn't see much of the corruption and violence that dictatorships are ever so stigmatised with. Instead I met amazing people, in an amazing town - which I think is a lot better way of helping Swaziland than destroying jobs and deposing rich dictators.

That place was called Bulembu, and with a devilishly cunning wink I can yet again inform you that my new project The Thought Report Project is selling a book, written by amazing bloggers from around the world, to raise money for the Bulembu foundation. Buy a copy, it's only a fiver!

Yeah, that was the end. But I got twitter now, so I can afford to have blunt endings. @Luciano_Shaw

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