From Slavery to Racism: Unearthing Forgotten History of Black Experience.

By Thura Nira

1. Recalling the Ages of extremes for black experience

When you delve deeper into the historical context, you’ll discover that the distinction between “us” and “them”, between a white nation and their black counterparts, is illusory. Sadly, the Black people’s role in history of these nations is often overlooked or forgotten.

Yet, an identity dichotomy of the “us” versus “them” has recently been sweeping. The revisiting of narrative of identities often results into revisionism of historical contexts. The people of African descent have become deeply intertwined in the history of the western world, and it’s increasingly impossible to tell a credible version of that history without referencing the black experience.

This essay offers an analysis of the historical context of the black experience by reviewing a Book by David Olusoga: Black and British: A Forgotten History.

Cover of Olusugo book, which inspired this essay

2. The Agony at Garden of Bunce, the Mouth of Sierra Leone River

There’s an island at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River. It is called Bunce Island. This island contains the ruins of a fortress that, for over a century, was at the heart of the British slave trade in Africa.

From that fortress, tens of thousands of enslaved Africans were shipped to plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas. Between 1618, which marked the rise of the British slave trade, and 1807, when the country abolished it, Britain was the premier slave-trading nation in the Atlantic. Half of all the millions of Africans carried into slavery in the eighteenth century were transported on British ships.

Nonetheless, Britain’s role in the slave trade is often glossed over or ignored. This is evidenced by the fact that Bunce Island itself remained forgotten for generations. It wasn’t until the 1970s that archeologists rediscovered the site and identified it as a major British slave fortress in West Africa, a site that the historian Joseph Opala called the “Pompeii” of the Atlantic slave trade.

Even today, most British people have a far clearer picture of American slavery than they do of their own country’s involvement in it. This is compounded by the fact that historically, British plantations were located in the West Indies, in places like Jamaica and Barbados, far away from the British populace residing in Britain.

Bunce, the Island of no return. Photo: courtesy

3. The Victorious Company of Horatio Nelson

But black people were not just victims of the British slave trade. They were also important actors in British history. The explorer Francis Drake’s famous mission to circumnavigate the globe in 1577 included four Africans as part of his crew. And in another journey to Panama, Drake formed an alliance with mixed-race Africans known as the Cimaroons in order to outwit the Spanish in Central America.

 Black sailors accompanied Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, renowned for his defeat of Napoleon’s French navy in 1805, during his battle against the French at Cape Trafalgar. Among those who served under Nelson that day were 18 men who were born in Africa and another 123 who were born in the West Indies.

One African and six West Indians served directly under Nelson on his ship HMS Victory. In fact, Nelson’s Column, the landmark in central London that commemorates his achievements, includes a brass relief depicting a black sailor standing near Nelson at the moment of his death at Cape Trafalgar.

Both as victims and as actors, black people have been central to British history. It’s high time their story is heard. Tudor and Elizabethan England’s attitude toward black people was complex and contradictory.

Admiral Nelson and his solders in a battle.

4. Blacks in the age of Tudors

Historical records provide us with only the faintest glimpses into the lives of black people living in England between the years 1485 and 1603, when the Tudors – including the famous Queen Elizabeth I – ruled.

The glimpses are fleeting, but point to the fact that most black people in Tudor England were employed as domestic servants, occupying the lower social rungs.

Nonetheless, a tiny handful of black Britons reached the very top of Tudor society. Among them was John Blanke, who probably came to England as part of the entourage of Catherine of Aragon, who had arrived from Portugal in 1501 to marry Arthur, Prince of Wales.

Blanke became a trumpeter in the Tudor court. When, following the death of Arthur, Catherine married Henry VIII, Blanke performed at the celebrations marking the birth of Prince Henry, the second child born to Henry and Catherine.

During the period preceding the rise of the Atlantic slave trade, attitudes toward black people were complex and contradictory. This is reflected in the work of the most celebrated playwright of the Elizabethan age, William Shakespeare.

Before racism. John Blanke, a jester in Catherine of Arragon’s court.

5. From Othello, Moor of Venice to the Prince of Morocco, the Black ‘Devil’

Shakespeare’s play Othello, about the “moor of Venice” – a black man who becomes a high-ranking general in the Venetian army – points to the ambivalences in the Elizabethan view of people of African descent. 

On the one hand, the play’s fixation on Othello’s dark skin and his exotic origins reflects Elizabethan anxieties around blackness. Othello marries, then murders, his white wife, Desdemona. This violent and tragic end to the marriage between a black man and a white woman points to Elizabethan fears about interacial mixing.

On the other hand, Shakespeare depicts Othello with empathy and nuance. He is valiant, dignified, and honorable, in stark contrast to Iago, his evil subordinate, a white Venetian who harbors destructive hatred for Othello and who leads him to mistrust Desdemona. 

With the rise of the slave trade, however, any nuanced views of black people, along with any empathy, would disappear altogether. A burgeoning slave trade led to the hardening of racist ideologies.

Othello and Desdemona

6.The days before Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce

In 1637, out of a population of 6,000, there were only 200 enslaved Africans in Barbados. By 1680, there were 38,000 enslaved people on the island, vastly outnumbering the white slave-owning class. 

This drastic increase in the number of enslaved people points to the rapid expansion of the slave trade during the second half of the seventeenth century. This expansion had grave consequences for relations between white and black people. Prior to the rise of slavery, society was divided along class lines – white indentured servants, for instance, occupied the lower rungs of the social hierarchy along with black people.

In 1661, however, Barbados sugar planters passed the Barbados Slave Code. For the first time, this code drew a distinction between “white” servants and “negro” slaves. All white men of all classes were given rights that were denied to all black people.

“White and negro” became the new dominant categories, thus splitting society along racial lines. As such, the rise of the British slave trade was accompanied by the rise of a racial ideology that stratified society according to white and black.

While many black people were condemned to slavery in British colonies abroad, by the mid-1700s, there were also between 3,000 and 4,000 black people living in Britain.

Most of these black Britons lived extremely constrained lives as enslaved people or low-ranking servants. During the first half of the seventeenth century, black servants even became a status symbol favored by the privilege.

William Wilberforce

7. ‘Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me!’

Wealthy slave owners liked to pose with enslaved people for portraits. In George Stubbs’ 1759 painting Henry Fox and the Third Earl of Albemarle Shooting at Goodwood, for instance, a young black man holds the reins of his master’s horse. In Joshua Reynolds’ Portrait of the Prince of Wales, another young black man in elaborate livery adjusts the grand costume of the Prince of Wales himself.

In a cruel practice, some of the enslaved people who lived in England during this time were marked out as human property by brass or copper collars that were padlocked around their necks. The extent to which black people were dehumanized under slavery is reflected in an advertisement put up by the goldsmith Mathew Dyer. In the ad, Dyer offers his services to produce “silver padlocks for Blacks or Dogs.”

The rise of slavery and the racist ideology that accompanied it, therefore, drastically constrained the lives of black people both in the colonies outside of Britain and inside Britain itself. 

8. A bow to Lord Mansfield! The Mansfield Judgment of 1772

One day in London in 1772, James Somerset, an escaped slave, arrived at the doorstep of an abolitionist named Granville Sharp. For over 20 years, Somerset had been enslaved under Charles Stewart in the colony of Virginia.

In 1769, Stewart brought Somerset with him to London. Two years later, Somerset escaped but was recaptured by Stewart. Having managed a second escape in that same year, Somerset sought Sharpe’s aid in helping him maintain his freedom.

Sharp took Somerset’s cause to the British courts. While slave-dependent British colonies such as Virginia and Barbados had evolved clear laws designed to protect the slave system and to ensure the rights of slave owners over slaves, Britain had not.

This meant that when slave owners brought slaves on to British soil, their legal rights over their slaves were unclear. Could an enslaved person continue to be held in captivity on British soil, if Britain had no explicit law authorizing slavery? Did slave masters have a right to have escaped slaves in Britain forcibly returned to them?

Granville Sharp, along with a team of other advocates and lawyers that he assembled to defend Somerset, argued that Charles Stewart had no rights over Somerset now that Somerset had escaped from him on English soil. Stewart’s lawyers argued that Somerset was legally Stewart’s property, and as such, he should be forcibly returned to him. 

The court case was presided over by Lord Mansfield, an esteemed judge who found himself at the center of a national drama. The court gallery was packed with spectators at each session, and the proceedings were reported in all the major newspapers.

When both sides rested their cases, Mansfield took a month to reach his verdict. He ruled that because, unlike the colonies, there was no “positive law” affirming slavery on British soil, “the black must be discharged.” That is, James Somerset was a free man; Charles Stewart could not force him back into slavery.

To those who heard it and read about it later, the judgment seemed to grant freedom not only to James Somerset but also to all enslaved black people in Britain. Although the exact scope of Mansfield’s ruling has always been subject to debate, at the time, the popular understanding of the judgment – particularly by enslaved people and their abolitionist supporters – was that all those in England were free. 

Whatever Lord Mansfield’s intentions, his ruling constituted one of the first and most important victories for enslaved black Britons against their masters. 

Inspiration of the Somerset v Steward case.

9. The massacre by the crew of Zong

In 1781, the Zong, a slave ship, sailed from Accra, in Ghana, with 442 enslaved people on board – twice the number a ship of that size was designed to carry. After a series of navigational errors by the crew, which led to the ship spending more time at sea, freshwater supplies began to run low, and disease spread among all those on board.

To preserve supplies and ensure that at least some enslaved people reached Jamaica alive, the crew of the Zong undertook a terrible action. They cast 133 of the most diseased and frail captives overboard, into the ocean.

The events aboard the ship only came to public attention in 1783, when the owners of the Zong filed an insurance claim for the loss of “cargo,” demanding 30 British Pounds for each captive the crew had thrown overboard. When the cold financial reasoning behind the massacre came to light, there was public outrage.

The Zong massacre, along with reports of other terrible aspects of the slave trade, were key to galvanizing the abolitionist movement in Britain. That movement, which began as a campaign by minority religious groups, was formally born in 1787.

That year, nine Quakers and Evangelical Christians, including the abolitionist campaigner Granville Sharp, formed themselves into the Society Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

An illustration of the Zong Massacre

10. Black Masters in the abolitionist campaign.

Former enslaved people, Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano, both wrote autobiographies that became bestsellers. Along with others, they formed the group the Sons of Africa, which was made up of people who had experienced slavery or were descended from slaves. Members of this group travelled the country, speaking about the horrors of the trade. 

The abolitionists waged a highly successful public campaign, pioneering, for instance, the use of the mass petition. Between 1787 and 1792, 1.5 million British people signed petitions against the slave trade, out of a population of 12 million. The abolitionists also deployed the boycott as a weapon, blacklisting rum and sugar produced by enslaved people.

It was through the tireless efforts of both black and white abolitionists that, in 1807, the Slave Trade Act was passed in parliament. This bill officially ended the nefarious trade. It took another 26 years of abolitionist campaigning for parliament to pass the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, though. This second bill went beyond the first by ending slavery all together. All enslaved people in British dominions were set free in 1838

Despite abolishing slavery, Britain continued to be economically complicit in American slavery.

11. Eli Whitney Invention and its impact on slave trade

In 1792, Eli Whitney, a school teacher in Savannah, Georgia, invented a simple machine that separated useless cotton seeds from the valuable cotton fiber in which they were trapped. This process had previously been done by hand in a laborious procedure that slowed down the cultivation and harvesting of cotton. Whitney’s cotton gin – “gin” being short for “engine” – reduced the time it took to separate seeds from fiber by a factor of eight.

Whitney’s invention transformed the economics of cotton production. The invention gave American cotton slavery – which many had assumed would slowly decline – a terrible second wind. In the wake of Whitney’s cotton gin, more and more planters turned to the lucrative business of cotton cultivation. As a result, in southern states such as Louisiana, Alabama, and the Carolinas, the demand for slave labor rose. 

This growth in the production of cotton led to a merging of interests between American slave owners and British manufacturers. Cotton from American plantations was shipped to northern British towns such as Manchester, Lancashire, and North Cheshire, which, during the Industrial Revolution, became the boom towns of cotton manufacturing. Between 1848 and 1858, the proportion of cotton that came from the United States into Britain never fell below 73 percent, and climbed as high as 97 percent.

Three decades after abolishing slavery and half a century after abolishing the slave trade itself, Britain was up to its neck in American cotton slavery.

Indeed, the extent to which Britain was embroiled in southern slavery became apparent with the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. The war dealt a massive blow to the British economy. By 1862, 70 percent of the cotton industry labor force in Britain was out of work because of disruptions in cotton cultivation in the southern United States.

It was for this reason that many large northern manufacturing towns, such as Liverpool, supported the southern Confederacy in the Civil War. The British government itself took a position of neutrality, refusing to support the Union forces of President Abraham Lincoln against the Confederacy – despite having outlawed slavery in its own dominions.

Slaves in a cotton field

12. The rise of colonialism and control of African territory

In 1884, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society held an “anti-slavery jubilee” in London to celebrate 50 years since the abolition of British slavery. Three months later, on the other side of Europe, the Berlin Conference of 1884 was convened.

It involved diplomats and politicians representing the “Great Powers” – European countries such as Britain, Germany, France, and Belgium, among other states. This conference – which did not include a single African representative – was aimed at dividing up the continent of Africa among the Great Powers.

It marked the beginning of the “Scramble for Africa” – the period in which European colonial rule over the continent spread exponentially. In 1870, 90 percent of the continent was under African rule, and only 10 percent under European control. By 1900, the opposite was true – Europeans controlled 90 percent of the continent.

During that period, nine million square miles of land were added to the European empires. No country was more successful in the scramble for Africa than Britain. By 1900, one in three Africans was a British subject. This added up to 45 million new subjects.

The rapid increase of Britain and other European powers in Africa was made possible by technological advances. Shallow-drafted, steam-powered riverboats turned Africa’s rivers into highways along which European powers could penetrate the continent’s interior.

Medical advances, and the development of quinine, in particular, allowed Europeans to survive in tropical regions without succumbing to diseases such as malaria, which had seen off their predecessors. The final element was the development of the Maxim machine gun, a piece of military technology that allowed small numbers of European soldiers to overwhelm enormous African armies.

Berlin conference of 1884

13. The nexus of the rise of colonialism and the rise of social Darwinism.

Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, which presented the theory of evolution by way of natural selection, was published in 1859. Colonizers, to affirm their own dominion over “lower” races used Darwin’s theory. The act of conquest itself was taken as proof of the superiority of Europeans.

As such, a harder, more biological view of race emerged. This was reflected in the popularity of “human zoos” during this period. In these colonial exhibitions, “natives” from the colonies were displayed for the entertainment of British and other European audiences.

Colonialism, therefore, marked a new chapter in the relationship between Britain and African peoples – one in which Britain nonetheless continued to exploit and dominate. 

However, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued on 1 January 1863, which emancipated all American enslaved people, changed everything. After that declaration, the American Civil War was explicitly understood as an armed struggle against slavery. Finally, Britain aligned itself behind the north, seeing the emancipation of southern enslaved people as the final realization of its abolitionist mission. 

The honorouble President Abe.

14. The abuse of black ‘clansmen’

During World War I, one million Africans were recruited as “carriers” – porters carrying supplies to British troops fighting the Germans in Africa. Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, has a region still named in honour of these carrier corps.  Of those, at least 100,000 died during the war.

In Europe itself, the British War Office refused to allow black men to fight against the Germans. While the War Office created a special regiment for black servicemen – the British West Indies Regiment, or BWIR – it was used as a labor battalion to support white troops.

British authorities believed that allowing black soldiers to fight white men, including the German enemy, would undermine racial prestige, which would, in turn, threaten British control over black subjects in the colonies.

Despite the War Office restrictions, some black people did manage to circumvent the military color barrier. The most famous black British soldier to serve in the war was William Tull, whose grandfather had been a slave in Barbados.

Tull achieved the rank of second lieutenant – a rank that technically should have been impossible for a black Briton to achieve, given that army regulations stipulated that all candidates for officer rank must be of “pure European descent.” On the Western Front, he led white soldiers into combat against the Germans. In March 1918, he was killed in combat in France. 

In spite of their support and contribution to the war effort, black troops were treated with disdain in the aftermath of the conflict. For instance, no black troops were allowed to march in the victory parade that was held in London in 1919 to mark the defeat of the Germans.

In fact, the end of the war led to a massive backlash against black people. Returning white soldiers were resentful toward black servicemen, particularly because peace brought with it major competition for jobs. As such, black people who had found work during the war because of labor shortages were systematically dismissed after the war to make way for demobilized white men.

African carrier corps

15. The Murder of Charles Wootton and the birth of racism

In a case similar to the murder of George Floyd, killed by racist police in Minneapolis by kneeling on his neck, so was Charles Wootton killed. In 1919, racial tensions escalated to such a degree that black people were routinely attacked by white mobs in cities such as Glasgow, London, and Liverpool. This culminated in the lynching of Charles Wootton, a black sailor from Bermuda, who had served in the Royal Navy during the war.

In 1919, he was set upon by a white mob in Liverpool, which drove him to jump into the water to save himself. As he was floundering, the mob threw stones at him, one of which struck him on the head, causing him to sink and drown.

Racism became much less acceptable in the aftermath of Hitler’s defeat, especially given the atrocities committed in Germany in the name of racial ideology. Nonetheless, in Britain, racism continued to persist in subtle ways. For instance, while there was a massive postwar shortage of workers in the country, the British government was reluctant to allow black workers from the colonies into Britain. 

Still, black workers found their way there. The arrival of the Empire Windrush – a ship carrying Jamaican immigrants – in London in 1948 marked the beginning of a boom in migration from the West Indies over the next decade.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 West Indians entered Britain in 1948, but by 1956 this number would peak at 56,000. This migration was partly driven by a hurricane that devastated Jamaica in 1951 and destroyed the livelihoods of many of its citizens, thus forcing them to look for better prospects abroad. 

These new migrants faced a great deal of discrimination in Britain. In 1958, for example, violence erupted in the city of Nottingham when white men in a bar objected to a black man and a white woman sitting together.

Clashes in the Notting Hill neighbourhood of London also followed, with white mobs attacking black people and their homes. And yet, while black people were, by and large, the victims in these disturbances, politicians dubbed the violence “riots” and blamed black migrants.

Politicians capitalized on the violence to appeal for immigration controls. In 1962, Parliament passed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, which curtailed immigration. Further restrictions followed in 1968 and 1971.

In the media, politicians affirmed the need for these controls. In a 1978 interview, Margaret Thatcher, not yet prime minister, insisted that the British populace was “swamped” by immigrants. Given that, at the time, immigrants made up only 4 percent of the population, such a characterization was an exaggeration. 

In reality, black people’s long relationship to Britain – forged largely through the oppression of slavery and colonialism – meant that they were far from some politically imagined “alien horde.” Their fates, and their lives, have always been deeply tied to Britain. 

People of African descent are entirely central to the history of the British Isles. While Britain’s story is shaped deeply by those Africans it enslaved during the transatlantic slave trade, as well as the African and Caribbean peoples it colonized, their influence is often set at the margins of British history.

Black Britons were not only victims of British dominance; they were also actors who fought to end the horrors of the slave trade as well as defend Britain against its enemies. Ultimately, the story of British history cannot be told without them. 

16. My Dear People, Be wary of biases in mainstream telling of black history. 

When you read a history book. Or watch a historical documentary. You probably take what you read or hear to be the full story. However, mainstream historical accounts often sideline the stories of marginalized peoples and populations.

When you dig deeper, you will often discover that the groups that seem to be in the margins of history are, in fact, at its very heart. So always pay attention to who is telling history and be vigilant for hidden stories. 

Primary Reference:

           David Olusoga:Black and British: A Forgotten History.

The author is a Senior Writer with the Gatuyuriana. His interests include blasting fake revisionism of history

Towards Sexuality Education for Children.


With Covid-19 onslaught, children are spending more time at home and roaming free. With online learning, children are likely be exposed to adult content. Nowadays, children being exposed to adult content, online and in real life, is not an fleeting idea. It is an existing reality.

Thus, disappointing it is, that we have even debating on whether to introduce sexuality education for our school children. But sexuality education?

There has been a huge misstep, with people calling this a  sex education. It should not be so. It is sexuality education.

For sexuality education is not just about sex. It includes lessons about families and social relationships. This learning can benefit children, as young as five, in the very minimum. It will enable children to differentiate between appropriate physical contact and abuse.

It offers children important lessons about gender dynamics, including issues of consent, coercion, and violence. It provides  vital lesson for both girls and boys, about their bodies, about their sexual identities.

UNESCO, a multinational agency, reports that each year some 16 million girls, aged between 15-19 (and two million under 15) give birth. This occurrences often marks the end of their formal education. Magufuli, a departed tyrant, had banished pregnant school girls from school, indicating this naivety is not spared even at the upper echelons of decision making.

AUNESCO data shows some 3 million girls, aged 15-19, undergo unsafe abortions each year. These numbers are linked to a lack of education about sex, sexuality, and the human body.

There are certain facts, even as ostrich would bury its neck under self induced ignorance of situation, would acknowledge. It is a fact that humans have sex, often long before their adulthood. In light of this reality, it is immoral, and perverse, to withhold potentially life-saving information from young people. After all, knowledge is power.

Therefore, by giving children a better understanding of their bodies, we can give them the power to protect their health – and their futures. Sexuality education for children is not an agenda for determination. It is an imperative.

Why President Uhuru’s Lock-down measures are Legally Doubtful

President Uhuru

By Baikolia-O-Bamung’o

Public Health Act, the first law the President hinges his lock down dictates, was enacted in 1921. It applies to managing infectious diseases, indicated as smallpox, plague, cholera, measles, spinal meningitis human trypanosomiasis and beri-beri, and others.

This Act allows the Cabinet Secretary for health to formulate measures to contain a contagious disease. However, this measures must effected by way of a notice in the Gazette.

A notice in a gazette is a statutory instrument and must be processes in accordance with Statutory Instrument Act, which has certain prerequisites for making subsidiary legislation. This includes a requirement to conduct regulatory impact assessment and facilitate public consultations.

It may be that the President has no power to issue a fiat on public health. This has been clear since the 1980’s case of Murithi v Republic, where it was stated the President cannot usurp a mandate legally assigned to someone else.

As such, the pronouncements made by President, having not been immediately backed by a valid notice in the Gazette made by the Cabinet Secretary, have dubious legal basis.

The Public Order Act, the second law the measures are hinged, and which makes provision for the maintenance of public order including declaration of curfews, was enacted in 1950 purposely to deal with Mau Mau menace and related insurrection.

The constitutionality of this statute is doubtful, it having not been aligned to the Constitution, especially with Article 24 that provides clear parameters on how a fundamental right and freedom may be limited.

The ONLY power that the President has to make dictates of the kind he made, is the power to declare a state of emergency, the power that is donated as a mandate of the President under Article 132 (4) (d). Visibly, the extent and impact of the lock-down measures amount to a state of emergency. Has the President declared a state of emergency through the back door?

Declarations of state of emergencies are fairly uncommon in democracies. However, illiberal democracies use them as a tool to derogate and override human rights and often to political machismo and underwrite peripheral political agendas.

Covid 19 is a public health emergency and may indeed attain a threshold for a declaration of a state of emergency. However, that must be done in accordance with Article 58 of the Constitution. This Article provides that such declaration shall not be longer than fourteen days, unless the National Assembly resolves to extend the declaration. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to determine the validity of the declaration by any person aggrieved.

It has to be noted, even when the statehood is endangered, any measure pronounced by the President must have particularity, because human rights cannot be suspended “until further notice” as announced. Further notice? This maybe tantamount to a coup on the bill of rights and enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.

If a state emergency should last only for fourteen days, and that is on very dire situations, how can a mere public pronouncement or a statutory dictate have tenacity to suspend enjoyment of fundamental rights perpetuity or until unnamed discretion is satisfied?

The measures announces are consequently void on the following account:

1. They amount to a declaration of a state of emergency through the back door and not in accordance with Article 58 and declared under Article 132. Hence, even the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is ousted by this non characterization.

2. The pronouncement is void for lack of particularity and certainty. If a state of emergency runs for 14 days with subsequent renew by the National Assembly, how can executive dictate be unhinged?

3. The President has no powers to make pronouncement on public health. That is the province of CS, and the CS can only make such a declaration through a statutory instrument, which much undergo a regulatory impact assessment on account of anticipated huge impact it has on private sector, public sector and fundamental freedoms.

4. There was zero public participation. The requirement of public participation is a must, for views of the people MUST be heard and considered, for it is a country by the people. The politburo like decisions have no venue in a liberal democracy.

5. As a periphery, the declaration was made and embodied by uncanny insensitivity, unhinged sadism and void of single drop of strategic empathy. There was no housing burning, that the citizens should not have been offered sufficient notice, to arrange their affairs.

In conclusion, The pronouncements cannot pass a constitutionality test, if challenged, and the court would certainly make adverse findings, if petition.

However, the pronouncement may be legally remedied by having it characterized as a state of emergency. This will allow creation of certainty and attendant rights including challenging the validity and involvement of the people through the National Assembly.

The author is a public policy analyst

Will BBI Amendment Bill create an imperial Presidency?

Claims, have been made, that BBI amends creates imperial presidency. The claim is not consistent with the facts. In fact, the powers of the presidency have been substantially diluted. We see.

There are no proposed powers or functions added to the presidency. On the contrary, the President will be required to share power with a Prime Minister and two deputies. It will not be possible to deprive the PM functions, for they are set out in the Constitution. Currently, the national government controls 85% of the revenue raised nationally with counties taking 15 %. But the proposal is for the national government to have 65%, against 35% for counties. An imperial presidency is not established by resource deprivations.

The qualifications for the Director of Public Prosecution are elevated to the rank appeal court judge and is an independent office and cannot be removed through Public Service Commission. That a power of the presidency, watered.Some Cabinet Ministers will be members of the National Assembly. An elected Minister does not owe sole basis for appointment to the President, hence can stand up on certain instances, without self sustaining fear of immediate dismissal.

The President, is now laser guided, in making the State of the Nation Address, must account for the implementation of Article 43 rights, which includes affordable housing and social economic rights. That, is lessening discretion.

Maybe, removal of vetting for Cabinet Ministers and Principal Secretaries offers presidency free hand in such appointments, hence more powers. But in an overall, the imperial presidency narrative, is a red herring.

National Security amends in the BBI Bill

Yussuf Hajji, the former Chairperson of the BBI team.

Hajji, Yussuf, the departed patriarch who led the BBI team, was passionate about national security matters. And so, numerous amends to the Constitution concerning national security are on the highway to the referendum. We review them.

1. The Kenya Defence Forces and the National Intelligence Service are proposed to be exempt from the purview of the Public Service Commission. Though the two national security organs have autonomy in practice, this will now be constitutionally regularized.

2. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is scaled as a third arm of the National Police Service, joining their counterparts, being the Kenya Police Service and Administration Police.

3. The DCI gets their own Deputy Inspector General as its chief and membership into the National Police Service Commission provided. The DCI, will now recruit their own staff and have operational autonomy.

4. The unity of command of the Inspector General (IG) into the Police Service is immensely strengthened. It is the IG who shall determine promotions within the service. It is the IG who shall make transfers. And may discipline the officers by suspending them.

5. Establishing a centrality of command around the IG results in a major watering down of the powers of the functions of the National Police Service Commission. It is now left as a shell for conducting recruitment and related Human resource function. The conflicts between the IG and the Commission would be tense of the past.

6. The National Security Council has got its membership broadened, and therein comes the Prime Minister. This is welcome, for it ensures a legislative arm representation in this politburo of security matters.

7. The Director of Public Prosecution gets a huge escalation from being an office within the national executive to an independent office, joining the duo of Auditor General and Controller of Budget. Whereas currently the removal of DPP is initiated through the Public Service Commission, now that will become a province of a tribunal. Further, qualifications for one to be appointed as the DPP is raised from that of one being qualified to be the judge of the High Court to one qualified as a Court of Appeal judge.

The bounce back of Gold

By Baikúlia-òBamung’o

TRENDING in recently, is the news of foul murder there in Kilimani, Kenya’s leading dungeon of sin, treachery and illicit carnal carnivores. Grapevine that circulated after the murder insinuated the crime was a culmination of trade in gold gone haywire. Gold, again, is a hot cake in asset investing.

Historically, the biggest drawback of investing in gold is that it doesn’t pay dividends, like a stock, or interest, like a bond. Thus, there has always been an opportunity cost of holding gold, over those other assets. How things change! The price of gold has now reached an all-time high of $2,000 per ounce.

Once upon a time, gold was the King. Thereafter, it retreated to a sideshow, when the world abandoned the gold standard in 1971. So, why the spike now?

Donald Trump, the outgoing President of the United States, has initiated reclusive protectionist agenda that has diminished America’s standing on the world stage. This is coupled with the perception that the U.S. dollar is no longer a dependable safe haven.

Even before Covid-19, a fake pandemic, the price of gold had been rising as more countries backed away from the U.S. dollar as the world’s de facto reserve currency.

The end of the dollar’s preeminence has lacked a obvious challenger. The world’s second most important currency, the euro, lags far behind the dollar in measures of international use.

Meanwhile, the Chinese renminbi, heralded as a potential challenger not long ago, is only fifth, seventh, or eighth in the rankings, depending on the criterion used. And cryptos, such as Bitcoins, have been hijacked by scammers, drug Lords and Kilimani residents.

The end of dollar dominance and fake claim to throne of possible alternatives, has left no alternative other than ancient patriarchy being recalled back to the throne. The era of gold, restarts.

The allure of the Auction Theory

Auction markets illustration

Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson are the laureates for the Nobel prize for economic sciences this year. Their works on inventing new dimensions in regime of the auction theory.

Historically, a common auction method has been that of the sale by the fall of the hammer. In this method, people have always sold things to the highest bidder, or bought them from whoever makes the cheapest offer.

But this method has increasingly become rudimentary. New dimensions have arisen, and auction for goods and services for certain commodities, such as radio frequencies, has been difficult, because they are not able to be ingrained in the traditional way of auctions.

What is the psychology of the auction markets? Bidders behave strategically, based on the available information. They take into consideration both what they know themselves and what they believe other bidders to know.

In this mode, it becomes difficult to ascertain the value for auctions of objects with a common value, or where a value is uncertain beforehand but, in the end, is the same for everyone. Examples of such, include the future value of radio frequencies or the volume of minerals in a particular area.

In answering this dillema, Wilson, one laureate, showed why rational bidders tend to place bids below their own best estimate of the common value: they are worried about the winner’s curse – that is, about paying too much and losing out.

Over time, societies have allocated ever more complex objects among users, such as landing slots and radio frequencies. Therefore, expounding on the auction theory, is of great benefit to society.

Preparing for Kenya’s Minimum Tax

By Thura Nira

On January 1, 2021, Kenya’s tax landscapes significantly changes. The minimum tax, introduced through the Finance Act 2020, will come into force. This tax will be charged at the rate of one per cent of the gross business turnover, a huge departure from the existing tax practice.

Declare me a zero!

Kenya tax administration is based on a self-assessment tax. A tax payer declares their income from their business activities, and consequently computes and submits payable tax.

This model is anchored on trust with tax authority moving on presumption that the declarations of income by taxpayers are a reflection of the income generated. The tax authority only intervenes where there are doubts or suspicions as to the income revealed, where they may issue additional assessments.

Factory for losses!

In a capitalistic environment where making savings is cherished, self assessment on certain business incomes, such as corporation incomes, has been challenging. In view that the business incomes are based on the profit margin, a loss making entity would not pay any taxes.

But often losses are a creature of accounting, and not trading inadequacies. The tax rules creates an incentives for declaring losses to avoiding payment of taxes. This has led to certain companies forever being in loss positions. A debacle arises. Where an enterprise perpetually post losses. Yet, it remains a going concern. This is deceitful!

The introduction of the minimum tax cures this ping pongs curb and nails tax cheats operating under the guise of business losses. A minimum tax is charged on turnover, whether you will make loses or profits, is immaterial.

Mark my dates!

The rate of Kenya’s minimum tax is one per cent of the turnover. This is relatively fair. Certain countries, such as Korea, have a rate as high as 12%. The minimum tax will be payable by the 20th day after every quarter of the accounting year, that is, after the fourth, sixth, ninth and twelfth month. This is the same modality used for the installment tax for corporation.

Administratively, the minimum tax will be charged alongside installment tax. However, the minimum tax will only be paid if it is more than the installment tax, to prevent instances of double taxation. That is, only the higher of the two taxes will be payable.

The writer is a senior consultant with the Journal.

How to conceal a heist: A guide to looters, scammers and corruption mandarins

By Baikòlia-ò-Bamung’ò

Summary: Public funds looters are running amok. Looting may be easy, but it requires some sophistication to conceal looted funds. This easy offers an advisory on mechanisms within realm of international public finance looters may explore to conceal their loot and evade taxes.

You’ve just looted Eurobond. Or Covid-19 funds. Where would you hide the money? Would you put it in the bank? Maybe stash it under your mattress?  Please. That’s amateur thinking, for small-time looters such as county governors. This is a legal guide to public finance thieves on how to hold looted money and not have it seized by asset recovery agencies like fool’s property.

The tricks and tactics to conceal a heist are broad. They touch not just on financial regulations, but also on global corruption, crime, and even assassination. This essay is a guide to looters on how to conceal looted funds.

From Eurodollars to Eurobonds: Ungodly pact of the Allies

Prior to World War II, global finance was relatively unregulated. Money flowed rapidly among nations; it destabilized currencies and caused poverty and widespread social unrest, both factors in the outbreak of the war.

Years later, with victory in sight, the Allied powers turned their attention to preventing this situation from arising again. To this end, they decided that the value of national currencies would no longer be determined by market fluctuations. Instead, they would be tied to the US dollar, the value of which was pegged to US gold reserves, a stabilizing force.

The Allies also agreed that in the future, money would only be allowed to travel overseas in the form of long-term investments. Risky, short-term international investments were strictly prohibited. It was a bold and effective move – but it wasn’t to last.

These new international financial regulations worked well for a time. But before long, bankers started exploiting loopholes in the new laws. For example, although the US government oversaw American banks and regulated their loans to ensure stability, it couldn’t interfere with dollars that were stored overseas. As a result, London bankers could do what they liked with the dollars they controlled – the British government simply didn’t care. 

This uprooted currency became known as eurodollars, and it could flow among countries just like in the old days. This was the first blow to the stable postwar framework.

Not long afterward, eurodollars were joined by an even more daring financial innovation, known as Eurobonds. These new bonds were different from investments of the past. Through clever planning and artful negotiation with European authorities, bankers gave this new type of investment a whole host of attractive features. For a start, the profits earned on Eurobonds were tax-free – but that’s not all. 

In the past, institutions that issued bonds had to record the personal details of those buying them. Eurobonds did away with this restriction. In fact, Eurobonds weren’t tied to individuals at all; issuing institutions simply gave buyers a coupon to be redeemed when the loan’s term had elapsed. This made them enormously appealing to individuals seeking to hide wealth.

This situation was a far cry from the ideals that the Allies had advanced at the end of World War II. Instead of reining in the world of global finance, their new regulations inadvertently ushered in a new, more aggressive market – and money went global as never before.

Advice to looters: Use the loot proceeds to invest in Eurobonds. 

The haven of the offshores and the allure of Nevis

Offshore havens are perfect hubs for financial crimes and corruption. As any embezzler knows, the best place to stash ill-gotten gains is offshore, in a jurisdiction with favorable laws and financial discretion. Offshore havens are perfect hubs for financial crimes and corruption.

However, haven like British Virgin Islands or Cayman’s highlands are no longer very safe. Explore somewhere, a country like Nevis, a small Caribbean island with a population of just 11,000. Why Nevis?

When Nevis gained independence from Britain in the 1980s, a group of American lawyers led by a man named Bill Barnard had the ear of the island’s leader, Simeon Daniel. In just a few years, Daniel and these lawyers transformed Nevis into the ideal place to stash secret assets.

How did they do this? Well, Nevis no longer recognizes the judgments of foreign courts, so any attempt to get at someone’s assets has to be conducted within the island’s own legal system. That means posting a $100,000 bond just to begin your case. And if more than a year has elapsed between the offense and the day you file the papers, the court will dismiss your claim.

Before you get that far, though, you need to figure out whether or not the assets you’re after are in Nevis. But the island has a “confidentiality ordinance” that prohibits sharing financial information with anyone who can’t prove their right to hear it.

Island of Nevis, a offshore haven,

Intimidate, kill, when necessary

Nevis isn’t an anomaly, either. Around the year 2000, the British island of Jersey made headlines when Financial Management Company Ltd (FIMACO), a mysterious company based on the island, attracted the attention of Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov.

FIMACO was a Jersey company founded in 1990. The Company has gained fame as a result of a series of scandals related to the IMF loan funds, operations on the Russian debt market and the issue of obtaining commission income from operations with the state currency reserve. Skuratov noticed that FIMACO had received tens of billions of dollars from his country’s central bank. But as far as he could ascertain, the company served no purpose whatsoever. It was a shell. 

Skuratov suspected that the funds sent to FIMACO were being funneled back to central bank officials through other channels. This suggested widespread corruption in the central bank, with officials using the hidden funds to finance lavish lifestyles.

Skuratov went public about FIMACO, and not long after he did, state-controlled TV broadcast footage of a man resembling him cavorting happily with a pair of prostitutes. The pushback seemed to confirm his suspicions. Skuratov was fired not long after, and his successor abandoned the investigation. Corrupt rulers enrich themselves in some of the world’s poorest places.

Silence them!

One of the remarkable things about kleptocracy, the rule of the corrupt, is that it has an irritating knack for overcoming national borders.

Corruption doesn’t respect national borders. Want an example of corruption reaching across borders? Well, it would be hard to find a clearer one than the 2006 murder of UK resident Edwin Carter, also known as Alexander Litvinenko. Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died of polonium poisoning in London in November 2006. 

Now, polonium is not found in the natural world, meaning that Litvinenko had almost certainly been deliberately poisoned. Why? Well, before he emigrated to the UK, Litvinenko exposed a secret Russian government organization dedicated to assassinating troublesome politicians and businessmen.

Alexander Litvinenko on his deathbed. For fear of our safety, we don’t know the second gentleman, but we suspect he is a saint

When he arrived in London, Litvinenko continued to share information about kleptocrats with private investigators. The information he provided on one dangerous Russian magnate and politician led to the collapse of a multimillion-dollar deal the man was planning. And that, it seems, is what sealed his fate.

Within two months, Litvinenko was dead. All signs indicated that two acquaintances of his, who visited him in London just before he fell ill, were responsible for the murder. But the men had returned to Russia by the time Litvinenko died, and their government refused to cooperate with the British investigation.

In fact, one of the suspects, a man named Lugovoy, was soon awarded a medal for “services to the Fatherland,” and also won a place in the Russian parliament. As if this weren’t enough, he sent one of Litvinenko’s friends a T-shirt reading, in slightly awkward English, “Polonium-210 . . . nuclear death is knocking your door.”

It seemed clear that the the the order to murder Litvinenko had come from high up in the Russian government. This wasn’t an isolated incident, either – there have been many other murders in the UK with indications of Russian involvement. But while national borders have failed to stop these crimes, they do pose obstacles to investigations. So far, Russian authorities have refused to play ball.

Increasingly, it seems that there’s no such thing as a safe place to expose the crimes of kleptocrats.

Manipulating America’s obstinacy on FATCA

The era of Swiss financial secrecy is over, but new problems have emerged. In 2007, a banker named Bradley Birkenfeld earned himself a forty-month prison sentence and banked over $100 million in a single move. 

What did Birkenfeld do? He told American authorities about his involvement in a huge Swiss tax evasion scheme that deprived the US Treasury of $100 billion in tax revenue every year. As a whistleblower, Birkenfeld was entitled to a portion of that money. But because he wasn’t fully honest about his own actions, he also wound up in jail. 

In the past, Swiss banks had cooperated with their clients to hide assets from US authorities. But after Birkenfeld’s revelations, everything changed.

In light of Birkenfeld’s revelations, the United States drew up new and more stringent regulations for dealing with overseas banks. These banks would no longer be trusted to ensure that their clients paid taxes. Instead, Congress passed a law requiring all foreign financial institutions to reveal the names and assets of the US citizens on their books. If banks refused, they faced a tax of 30 percent on any investment income gained in the United States.

The Act came into operation in 2015, and it’s already eradicated some common types of tax evasion. But the new system is far from perfect.

Navigating the Common Reporting Standard

Take the Common Reporting Standard, or CRS, the crown jewel in the system that takes on hidden assets all over the world. In many ways, it’s a step in the right direction. In the past, governments swapped financial account details only on request. Now, countries participating in the CRS do so automatically. This makes it far easier to identify anyone trying to evade taxes.

But there’s a problem. As we’ve seen, ill-gotten gains flow out of some of the world’s poorest nations at an alarming speed. But even with a mountain of financial information at their disposal, many of these countries simply can’t scour databases in search of financial wrongdoing.

What’s more, one powerful country doesn’t release data in accordance with the CRS. And it’s not a typical tax haven: it’s the United States.

Nevada, here we come, with our loot!

Although foreign banks have to tell the United States about their American clients, American banks don’t have to return the favor. This makes the United States an increasingly attractive tax haven. Many US states are becoming international tax havens.

Some countries are notorious tax havens – Switzerland, obviously, and the Cayman Islands. But when looking for a place to stash ill-gotten billions, few looters would think of the US state of South Dakota. 

But they should. Why? In a word: trusts. A trust involves passing your assets to a trustee, an individual or institution that follows the instructions you laid down when you made the agreement. Before the 2007 Swiss banking scandal, South Dakota’s trustees held $32.8 billion. Just a decade later, they held $226 billion – a sevenfold increase in ten years!

South Dakota isn’t the only state that’s abusing trusts. In fact, it’s another state that really pioneered the practice: Nevada.

Imagine you’re a billionaire and you’re trying to figure out how to pay as little tax as possible. You’ve heard good things about the laws in Nevada – but what exactly does the home of Las Vegas offer someone in your financial position?

Well, first of all, Nevada allows you to create trusts that last 365 years. In the United States, if you use a trust to pass assets to a descendant, you only pay taxes on those assets when the trust ends. When a trust lasts for three and a half centuries, so does your tax avoidance.

And it gets better. It’s common practice for island tax havens such as Nevis and Jersey to make it incredibly hard for creditors to go after assets, and Nevada is much the same. If two years have passed since you put your assets in a trust, they’re untouchable. 

So if you go through a divorce and your ex-husband tries to claim a portion of the billions in your trust, wish him good luck! No creditor has ever managed to extract assets from a Nevada trust.

Finally, Nevada can keep your billions just as secret as Swiss banks used to. If you give a non-US citizen any formal power over the trust – for example, the power to change the trustee – then for tax purposes, it’s a foreign trust. This means that the United States legally can’t share information about it with foreign governments. 

And if it’s registered with an American trustee, then it’s simultaneously American, according to the Common Reporting Standard. And the CRS, of course, is the one to which the United States doesn’t subscribe.

Advice to looters. In short, Nevada might just be the safest place in the world for your looted billions.

When money went global, the rich and dishonest saw an unprecedented opportunity to protect and conceal their wealth. Because laws stop at borders but money doesn’t, vast riches can be siphoned off into jurisdictions with financial secrecy and laws favorable to hiding cash. This leaves governments and regulatory bodies with little option but to chase money around the globe.

However, use these legal mechanism, you will have your billions safe.

Are you a stoic? The Allure of stoicism

1. Saint Rita of Cascia

The schedules of saints Judas and saint Rita must be busy.  Saint Judas, the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes and Rita of Cascia, the patron saint of sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, the sick, bodily ills, and wounds, embody the tempests human being go through in the journey of life.

The question of how to live has been alive in every culture, religion and society. How should we tackle life’s challenges? And how should we face up to the ultimate challenge, reality of our mortality?

Throughout history, religious leaders, scientists and philosophers have tried to answer the question: how can we live a good life? How should we deal with life’s problems, react to adversity and prepare for death?

Saint Rita of Cascia, patron saint of sterility, abuse victims, loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, widows, the sick, bodily ills, and wounds,

2. Etymology of Stoicism

Stoicism, a philosophy of ancient world, offers lessons on these aspects, on the practicalities of living a good, virtuous life, foregrounding friendships and handling daily frustrations.

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor popularized it. Marcus, the emperor-philosopher, wrote his most famous work, Meditations, as a personal guide for his own self-improvement.

Stoicism is often misunderstood. When we say someone is stoical, we imply they are rather passive; tolerating what comes to them without question or emotion. But in reality, Stoicism is not at all passive, and it is not about suppressing emotion. It is about what we can do to lead a good life.

Marble burst of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, a leading stoic

For a nervous flyer fretting turbulence, a dieter struggling to shift stubborn pounds, many of us expend energy on things we cannot change.

Epictetus taught.  We must make the most of what we can control. And accept what isn’t in our power to change. This sentiment is widely known, but less widely followed. What is in the power, or control, of the nervous flyer?

What can he do to prevent an in-air catastrophe? A little. He can choose whether his trip is necessary, and if so, which airline to choose. What he cannot do is control or influences anything once in the air.

By now, he must accept the circumstances he is given, in this case, relying on his pilots, air traffic controllers, the weather and other factors outside his control. To fret further is a waste of energy.

This shouldn’t be seen as encouraging passivity. Rather it provides powerful instruction to focus on the things you can influence.

You are due for a promotion. You think you have performed well. But you continue to agonize about the office politics that could get in the way or colleagues who may provide competition.

A better approach would be to think like a Stoic. Satisfied you have done what is in your power to do, wait and accept the news calmly, whether good or bad.

Socrates, who heavily influenced Stoics and Western thinking, provided a model, albeit an extreme one. When a political opponent accused Socrates of impiety and eventually had him condemned to death, Socrates could have escaped thanks to helpful and loyal friends.

But he refused, telling his upset friends that he had to uphold his moral duty to accept the law and the justice system, despite its blatant misuse. We don’t get to bend the rules on the occasions when they don’t favor us, he argued. He accepted his death to maintain his integrity, to the cost of his friends and family.

Living with virtue was important to the Stoics. But what exactly did they mean when they talked of a virtuous life? There are four aspects of virtue – temperance, courage, justice, and, most importantly, wisdom.

These concepts of virtue have been fairly consistent throughout philosophical and religious history. Thomas Aquinas’s system of “heavenly virtues” kept the four Stoic ones and added faith, hope and charity.

Massimo Pigliuci’s book, How to be a stoic, that inspired this essay.

3. Cato and the inevitability of death

Cato was a senator in Rome and unusually committed to moral virtue. When he became a military commander, he marched, ate and slept alongside his men, who loved him for this.

He was also incorruptible. As administrator and tax collector for the island of Cyprus, he refused opportunities to enrich himself, as was normal at the time. Instead, he dutifully and honestly collected taxes to be sent back to Rome.

When Julius Caesar declared war on the Roman Republic and attempted to secure dictatorial power for himself, Cato fought him to defend the Republic, its institutions and values. Eventually, facing defeat, he killed himself rather than be captured, which would have handed Caesar a propaganda victory.

As the historian Plutarch describes it, Cato stabbed himself but did not immediately die. He lay bleeding, his bowels hanging out of his body. His doctor tried to save him, but Cato – seeing his physician’s intentions – tore out his own bowels and died. In death as in life, Cato was a model of virtue: sacrificing himself to avoid giving his morally contemptible opponent any political advantage.

Cato’s example may feel a little extreme, but for Stoics, that was part of the point. Inspired by the grueling experiences of people like him, we can surely conjure up the courage to rise to the challenges in our own lives.

Few of us are as willing to face death as Cato. Indeed, many of us have a nagging fear of death. It is understandably troubling to consider the reality that one day; your consciousness will no longer exist.

Statue of Cato the Younger, a honorable man, about to kill himself.

Epictetus did not share these fears. He said, “I must die, must I? … if soon, I dine now, as it is time for dinner, and afterward when the time comes I will die.”

Stoics calmly thought about death. Why does wheat grow, Epictetus asked. Is it not simply so that it can ripen and later be harvested? He was saying that, just like wheat and all living things, we humans grow, ripen – or mature – and eventually die.

To pray for a man not to die is, Epictetus said, to pray for them not to ripen. We regard it as normal that wheat is harvested or dies and give it barely another thought. The only difference between wheat and us is that we are capable of reflecting on our own mortality.

But this does not change the reality; just because we have consciousness, and wheat does not, why should we waste time and energy fearing our deaths?

Stoics argued that you should constantly remind yourself of the impermanence of things, including humans. This way, you will better accept death and better appreciate life.

Epictetus said that, when it comes to things and people to whom you are attached, you should remind yourself of their nature. When you kiss your wife or child, he said, tell yourself you are kissing a mortal. You won’t be so upset if they are taken from you.

This seems a little shocking at first. But what Epictetus is teaching is not that we should be indifferent toward humans. Rather, he is suggesting two things.

Firstly, we face the reality that our loved ones are impermanent. And secondly, for this very reason – that our partners or children may die – we should regularly remind ourselves that they are precious.

We should, according to Stoics, take mortality seriously. But instead of finding stress in anticipation of death, we should find care and appreciation in life. Pause and reflect; put yourself in the shoes of others, and you will better handle provocation and misfortune.

In modern life, it is easy to be provoked to anger or frustration by any number of day-to-day irritations, from an insulting colleague to the inconsiderate passenger in a matatu eating smelly food.

If you break a glass, one you are a little fond of, you might react with some small sadness or irritation at your clumsiness. But were you to see a friend breaking a glass, you might quickly say “bad luck, never mind” and then think nothing more of it.

There’s a lesson in the way we react to others’ small misfortunes. We should accept our own misfortunes with greater equanimity.

So next time someone is rude to you, and anger starts to rise inside you, stop for a minute. Reflect on your situation, and put it in the context of others’ misfortunes, and you may find you can remain calmer amid the misfortunes of life.

4. Friendships

How many true friends do you have? In an age of social media connectedness, it can seem that the word “friend” is somewhat vague. Friends and acquaintances are often confused.

Ancient Greeks were lucky enough to have a richer vocabulary than we do, and the philosopher Aristotle talked of three types of friends, only one of which the Stoics regarded as important.

First, friendships of utility. These relationships based on mutual advantage. You and your favorite hairdresser, you are not friends as such, but you get along, chat about your lives, and, of course, you both benefit from the relationship. So are some work colleagues.

Second, friendship of pleasure. Your drinking friends, the girls you go out for a drink with. We’d call them friends, but the relationship doesn’t have to be particularly deep, it just has to bring some pleasure in the here-and-now.

Third, friendship of the good. We might call friends in this category our true or closest friends – the people with whom we find an affinity in personality that doesn’t require a business relationship or a mutual hobby for support. These ones, we are tolerant to their weaknesses.

Only the friendships of the good deserve to be called friendships. They would not deny the importance of the others but class them as preferred indifferent: perfectly reasonable things to have, but less important than the virtuous aspects of your life.

What do you do when you are with friends? You should, Epictetus argued, speak less about gladiators, sports and foods, and more about the important things in life.

We don’t talk much about gladiators today, but we do spend a lot of time talking about sports stars, actors and other celebrities. For Epictetus, such subjects were banal and empty. It may be easier to chat about Beyoncé’s latest album than, say, the pursuit of a good life. But Stoics weren’t much concerned with what was easy, preferring what was rewarding and virtuous.

Where conversations are about challenging topics, over time, you might find friendships more rewarding.

Stoicism can guide us toward a better life. In accepting what we can and cannot control, focusing on behaving with virtue, and by reflecting carefully on emotions and experiences, we can make better decisions and live a more virtuous life.