My Mom Tricked Me into Going to a Ugandan Boarding School
Uganda’s boarding schools have a slightly dodgy reputation, in that they’re basically Victorian borstals in the sun and quite regularly host dormitory fires, killing tens of students at a time. So you can understand why the threat of being sent to one might put the fear of God into any tearaway British teenager, especially if the threat were sprung on you out of nowhere and you were given absolutely no say in the matter.
In 2011, Rachael Nakaye boarded a plane to Uganda with her mother and younger sister, under the impression that she was going on a three-week vacation. Turns out she wasn’t. Instead, she was sent to a boarding school where she had her head shaved, was sexually propositioned by one of her teachers, cowered in classrooms while the school rioted on two separate occasions, and had guns pointed at her by Ugandan police. She was stuck out there for about a year, but she’s back now so I had a chat with her about her experience.
VICE: Hey Rachael. What were you like before you were sent to Uganda? A terror? Rachael Nakaye: No, I was good but stubborn—just a typical teen, really. I failed my exams because I was focusing on my athletics. I trained so hard that year and was ready to enter nationals and possibly European trials. I also started taking modeling seriously and was looking for a new agency.
Why did you fly out to Uganda in the first place if you had so much going on in London? My mom told me I was going to be a bridesmaid to one of my favorite aunties, who used to live in London. There was a wedding, but I never got to go. Instead, my mom told us that she didn’t book a return ticket and that we were starting boarding school in five days. I was so angry because I’d already heard about the multiple fires at Ugandan boarding schools that had killed students. Oh, and the caning. My little sister was hysterical.
Did you like Uganda before you found out you were being effectively trapped there? I love Uganda, but only for a holiday. I think being gay shouldn’t be illegal and woman should have the right to an abortion, especially when poverty and HIV rates are so high. It’s not fair. In 2008, I saw a woman stripped and beaten after trying to pay with fake money at a restaurant. Also, they banned hotpants and showing too much cleavage and used to beat you up if you did either, which I could never get used to.
The Conspiracy Theory Community Are Dangerous Enemies to Make
It was a clear day in New York when the poster-boy of British conspiracy theory made a shocking announcement. Times Square buzzed behind Charlie Veitch as he stood there, training a camera on himself and declared something so unthinkable, so upsetting, insulting, ignorant and evil, that it changed his life. To paraphrase, he said: I don’t believe the American government blew up the World Trade Center. He uploaded the video to his YouTube account and then everything went bananas. You see, the conspiracy world, of which Charlie was a central part, doesn’t like it when you question their accepted truths. Charlie’s revelation cut deep. Their champion was about to become their most hated pariah. ……….
Conspiracy theories really depress me. Hours after the bombs went off in Boston, Buzzfeed were able to publish a post called “6 Mind-Blowingly Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Boston Bombing.” Conspiracies are where the libertarian and the hippie meet, and today not a single event of note can pass without being fed through the paranoid grinder of the fantasists. But their stupidity is not the most miserable thing about them. No, the most depressing thing about them is the rate at which they’ve been taking over for the last decade.
In 2012, the philanthropic Leverhulme Trust, most notable for funding dreary desk-based research, offered a grant for academic investigation into conspiracies. “Conspiracy theories,” their announcement read, “have received remarkably little examination. Though they prompt almost obsessive attention in the public imagination, they have been largely ignored by academic research.” It’s true, encouraged by the internet, fuelled by the global economic crises, championed by popular culture (Dan Brown and The Matrix, specifically), the last ten years have seen a conspiracy boom. Perhaps, while extreme Islam has gained more press, and smug atheism is more sensible, it’s possible to argue that conspiracy theory has become the first dominant philosophy of the internet age. No-doubt, the Leverhulme Trust—with its connections to the multinational corporation Unilever—and its grant, inspired far more paranoia than academic insight.
Earlier this year Public Policy Polling conducted a survey about the public’s trust in some of the more established and outré conspiracy theories. The results are infuriating enough to drive rationalists up a tower with a rifle and start shooting. Apparently, 13 percent of respondents suspect that Barack Obama is the Antichrist, while 37 percent of Americans think that global warming is a hoax, and 28 percent of dickheads believe in a sinister global New World Order conspiracy. I’m told it’s supposed to be consoling that only four percent believed in David Icke’s lizard men, but the way I see it: FOUR PERCENT OF PEOPLE WITH A VOTE BELIEVE IN LIZARD MEN.
Is It Wrong to Celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s Death?
They say you can judge a person best from how their children turned out. Harry Truman wanted his son to be “just like Jimmy Stewart.” He ended up having a girl instead. And she ended up writing a novel that was eventually turned into a Wesley Snipes movie. Not bad, Harry. Not bad. As for Ronald Reagan, he tallied up human rights abuses during his administration, but managed to raise a nice liberal boy who spends his time fighting for stem cell research and gay marriage.
Margaret Thatcher always had a bit more of an edge to her. It shows in her seed—like her son, Mark Thatcher, a convicted loan shark who hired mercenaries to launch a coup in a war-torn African nation. Thatcher’s own record in the “dark continent” wasn’t too good either. She called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and lent her support to the apartheid regime. Nor was the whole “armed overthrow of a government” thing a problem. Thatcher embraced Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who overthrew Salvador Allende in a particularly bloody coup in 1973, as a friend and ally.
That said, the outpouring of left-wing celebration over the death of the women who gave the British working-class a brutal spanking and wrecked her country’s social safety net strikes the wrong note. Not because Thatcher deserves more deference. And definitely not because the dead deserve the respect we so often deny the living. But because all the personalized anger gives her too much credit for riding social forces that were beyond her control. Thatcher wasn’t a mastermind, she was a second-rate politician who came into the scene at just the right time. “Global neoliberalism” is only synonymous with “global Thatcherism,” because she seemed to enjoy its destructive success more than everyone else.
First she came for the milk. Then she came for the mines. Then she ran out of things to come for, so she went after the soccer fans and acid house.
It might sound unlikely in an age where there are a pair of TV screens showing Sky Sports in every pub in the UK, but if you wanted to go toe-to-toe with the establishment at the tail end of the Thatcher years, the fast track to getting a beat down from the police was to watch soccer or listen to a series of repetitive records with the intention of dancing.
If you were looking for a measure of how the country has adjusted since Thatcher’s reign, you could do worse than consider how two constants of the modern mainstream—soccer and electronic music—were once painted as folk devils by a regime fast running out of new things to point its police horses at.
Granted, soccer fans had been under few illusions about where they stood in the perceived scheme of things since the 70s, and anyone with industrial or union connections would have been aware of Tory policy well before Thatcher came to power in ‘79. But for young people, the harshness of the establishment’s war on the twin evils of soccer and dance music came as something of a surprise.
Photo by Gavin Watson
It wasn’t till I fled a party in Dalston in 1989 that I felt it firsthand. The motivation for my hasty departure was the sudden entrance of a group of cops based at Stoke Newington Police Station who were notorious in the area for their thuggery. They’d come in, take the numbers off their uniforms, and break things up about as violently as they could without firearms, swinging at male and female ravers alike. Say what you like about violence—and this is what the state often forgets when it chooses to apply it—but it sure focuses the mind. If you were looking for a way to galvanise some of the last non-pissed off people in the country (white, middle-class men on euphoric drugs, in my case) then sending the Territorial Support Group onto the dance floor was an efficient way to go about it.
However, until the boys in blue actually turned up to do the truncheon dance, you’d be hard-pressed to find many ravers in attendance who genuinely cared about the government’s policies towards dance music (there’s little time to talk about politics when there’s sweating and jerking to get done). The photographer Gavin Watson—whose book Raving ‘89 documented acid-house raves in the late 80s and early 90s—agreed, telling me, “Politics became superfluous during rave. All of the bullshit that Thatcher was coming out with started to fall on deaf ears, because we were so wrapped up in the culture that we just didn’t have time to care about politics.”
Brace yourself, as this bit of news has gone vastly unmentioned on social media today, but Margaret Thatcher is dead. Britain’s first female Prime Minister passed away this morning after a stroke and leaves a relatively mixed legacy, in that she still has her supporters who stress that everything she did was completely necessary, she has an overwhelming number of people who despise everything she stood for, and she has the people who hate on her because it’s kind of punk or something?
I wanted to see whether a mention of the Iron Lady still manages to provoke as visceral a response in death as it did when she was alive, so I had a walk around London and asked some people a question: Are you glad that Margaret Thatcher is dead?
Ben, 21, broker: I wouldn’t say I’m glad that she’s dead, no. I disagree with her politics and I suppose you could say I’m hoping her politics die with her, but I’d never say that I’m happy for someone to die.
What do you think her legacy is? She defined modern conservatism, to an extent. She was a polarising figure—I certainly didn’t like her fiscal policy or her foreign policy—and I don’t think she was a friend to the lower classes.
What’s your initial reaction when you hear the name Margaret Thatcher? Well, she was the first female Prime Minister. You’ve got to give her credit for that.
That you do, Ben.
Laura, 33, project manager: Who cares? She was old, right? She’s already out of office. I’m from Germany, so I don’t really care that much.
What’s your impression of her leadership? She was known for being really strict, really hard, right? That’s my impression, anyway.
What do you think her legacy is? I think to rule a country as a female, that’s important. Being the first female Prime Minister, she showed that a woman could hold her own on the global stage. As far as specifics, it’s not really for me to say what her legacy is. I’ll leave that to people who lived here during the Thatcher years.
The Journalist Who Was Arrested for Investigating a Pedophile Orphanage
Jersey is an island of around 100,000 people nestled into a cozy nook between Guernsey and the coast of Normandy. It’s mostly been recognized in recent public memory for its potatoes and the fact that it’s basically in France but everyone there speaks English. In 2008, however, small human remains were found at Haut de la Garenne, a former orphanage on the island. A subsequent investigation exposed a history of sexual abuseat the orphanage, tainting the good name of the people of Jersey in the world’s media.
The list of suspects in the case included British government officials and—according to the detective who led the three-year child abuse probe—Jimmy Savile was also investigated by police, four years before the full extent of his crimes would eventually be exposed. The problem is, because Jersey is self-governing and has its own, slightly unorthodox courts system, decades of potential crime against children in the orphanage remain almost entirely hidden, unexamined, and untried. Since the initial media Mardi Gras, international interest has faded and locals who have continued searching for justice—including bloggers, senators and police—have been shouted down.
When American journalist Leah McGrath Goodman heard about the story she made plans to write a book about the orphanage, but was met with resistance. In July 2011, she went to Jersey’s immigration office to check that the apartment and office space she was leasing to help with her research was in order. The officer assured her that everything was fine and they were happy to help, until she told him about her specific interest in the orphanage. The officer left the room and returned with his boss, who repeatedly told her to get a “writer’s visa.” These are hard to obtain in Jersey, primarily because they do not exist.
That September, after stopping in London on the way to Austria, Leah was held under arrest in Heathrowairport for 12 hours, searched, and granted no opportunity to contact her consulate or family. The UK Border Agency said it was all being done at the request of Jersey. Leah was then sent back to New York and banned from the UK. A year and five months later, with the help of a petition and parliamentary member John Hemming, Leah has permission to re-enter, so I thought it would be a good time to ring her for a chat.
While working as a general practitioner, I had a patient who would not stop complaining about her flaps—vaginal flaps, that is, or labia minora, to be precise. Miss Vagina Whiner first came to me saying she had lost all pleasure from sexual intercourse because she was so embarrassed by her saggy lips, which drooped about her clitoris like the slobbery chops of an overbred dog. I found it curious she had shaved prior to her appointment and wondered if this was to highlight the outlandish size of her flaps.
Unfortunately, vaginal aesthetics—much like penis size—is an area where the National Health Service of the UK generally will not intervene. Ugly people are not referred for a face-transplant, and the same applies to bad genital luck. I apologized, saying that there was nothing I could do and that it was an area for a private cosmetic surgeon. I also reassured her that enlarged labia are perfectly normal and common among women, especially after popping out a few babies.
But she was persistent in her taxpayer’s right to free medical attention and returned some weeks later demanding I see her. I again reiterated—declining to take a second look—that there was nothing I could do. The only time the NHS will refer a patient for cosmetic surgery is if the problem is causing pain—the genitals can rub uncomfortably against clothes or during sex—or if the psychological effect is severe. She paused before saying, “If you won’t help me, I’ll just have to do it myself. How do I best cut them off?” Er, you’re really best not to, I don’t care how steady your hand is, chopping bits of your vagina off with scissors in the shower is a bad idea.
Simon Mann Says He Was Asked to Help Start the Iraq War
Simon Mann is a British mercenary, most famous for his failed 2004 coup attempt against Teodoro Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea. An ex-Special Forces soldier, Simon cofounded the private military company Executive Outcomes, which at its height in the mid-90s ran two African wars and used oil money to fund a full-on air force and thousands of private soldiers.
In 2004, after pocketing millions fighting rebels in Angola and, he says, protecting a free election in Sierra Leone, Simon’s luck ran out. He’d been hired to fly to Equatorial Guinea with 69 South African heavies, capture the airport, and escort an opposition leader to the presidential palace. During a layover in Zimbabwe to collect guns and refuel, he was busted.
He ended up in Chikurubi Prison, one of Zimbabwe’s nastiest, before being extradited to Equatorial Guinea four years later. There he spent a year and a half in solitary at Black Beach prison, one of Africa’s nastiest, before being pardoned. Simon has written a book about his adventures, there’s a movie in the pipeline, and he’s working on a novel he wrote in jail. Between all that, he spoke to me about coups, spies, and kick-starting the Iraq War.
Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone.
VICE: The world of mercenaries is a pretty murky one. How did you get to the top of it? Simon Mann: Not on purpose. I left the SAS in 1992 and joined an oil company that had one project in Soyo, Angola. I went into the office one day and they said, “This is it; we’re fucked.” UNITA rebels had gone back to war, against the treaties they’d signed, and had captured Soyo, ending our business. I suggested that we retake the town. Two months later, we did. Then the government asked us to take the whole country back. We said “Yep, but it’s going to cost you.” We eventually had 2,000 men under contract and a turnover of $19.5 million every nine months.
A nice little earner. Then you went to Sierra Leone? Yeah. The Sierra Leoneans asked us to go diamond mining there, but there was a problem: a really bad war. So we told the president we’d help him if we could get help applying for a legal diamond concession. It cost us millions to keep fighting, but our money was coming from the war in Angola, which is what made us different from other warlords—we were reinvesting in Africa. Just as we were leaving, the president asked us to stay and secure the election, so it was us—not the UN—who protected that election. We kept asking, “What kind of fucking mercenaries are we?” We were the nicest, most well-behaved bunch ever.
Simon in Namibia, 1993.
Weren’t you also asked to help kick start the Iraq War in 2002? Yes. Someone who said he was friends with the American neocons asked me to come up with ideas to get the war kicked off. The first was to pick an Iraqi city away from Baghdad, go there with a rebel force made up of 6,000 Iraqi émigrés, take the city, then say, “Yah boo” to Saddam. That would have forced him to come get us and be zapped on the road by the UK and US, or let the flag of rebellion spread.
The second was far more criminal. We wanted to buy an old rust-bucket ship, sail it to Karachi, load up secretly with some weapons-grade uranium, or whatever, then sail it into the Gulf with a motley crew, including me. We’d then leak our presence to the Saudis, get the navy to intercept us, sink their ship—hopefully without killing anyone—then sail into Basra. The world would have gone nuts and we’d have had an excuse for war in Iraq.
That’s pretty scandalous. Well, yes. We actually got feedback saying that they liked the ideas, but not me. I believed them.
Gypsies and travelers have long been a marginalized group. I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls of intentionally side-lining yourself from mainstream society for hundreds of years. But recent changes to legislation surrounding traveler communities (meaning they no longer have government-approved places to settle) has made them even more segregated. A report showed that travelers and gypsies are in significantly poorer health than other UK-resident, English-speaking ethnic minorities. They’re also more likely to suffer from miscarriages, still births, the death of young babies and older children because their access to healthcare—as a group with no fixed address—is limited. Which is obviously all extremely depressing.
Another related bum-out is the fact that, within the last five years, the rates of drug abuse in both communities have risen exponentially, and suicide rates have grown to be six times higher than those of the general UK population. Travelers and gypsies are already both pretty closed communities, and I imagine they’re not going to become any less reluctant to talk when it comes to their family members killing themselves, so there’s not a huge amount of information out there as to why this has suddenly started happening. To get a bit of insight, I called Shauna Leven from the charity René Cassin.
Ex-residents of Dale Farm.
VICE: Hi Shauna. Can you unwrap this statistic that suicide rates in the traveler and gypsy communities are six times higher than the general UK population? Shauna Leven: First, I should just say that these statistics apply to Romani gypsies and Scottish, Welsh, and Irish travelers, not so much the Roma people who’ve started coming here more recently. However, they too experience the same kind of discrimination in Europe. Unfortunately, it’s hard to delve into specifics, because the NHS doesn’t collect statistics on health issues for this ethnic groups as it does for other ethnic groups.
Why aren’t they collecting statistics? It’s just not part of the NHS framework. Gypsies and travelers are recognized as an ethnic minority, but the discrepancy between, say, the life expectancy of travelers and the general population is mostly ignored. If you were seeing the same kind of thing in the Muslim community, for example, it’s much more likely there’d be statistics taken. Our first recommendation towards solving the problem is to go out and do more research about the topic, because that’s the first issue here.
The first issue is what’s causing it? Yes—well, higher suicide rates are really the result of a convergence of factors. Racism against gypsies and travelers is often referred to as the last acceptable type of racism here in the UK. Educated, socially conscious people often don’t hesitate before using the words “gyp” or “pikey” or other things like that, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. It shows the level of social exclusion that travelers automatically fall under for being travelers.