Modern bike enthusiasts might find it weird but it was the man who brought the first car into Zimbabwe, to promote the cycling culture perhaps more than anyone else in the Southern African nation. And he pioneered it in an a way that would be tough to repeat.
In 1894, accompanied by a Scottish carpenter (name unknown), Charles Duly, 24, rode out of Johannesburg on a bicycle, travelled to Pretoria, then on to Polokwane, over the Limpopo river, through Tuli — Tuli being the first location north of the Limpopo/Shashe rivers where a ‘European’ style building, a police station, was erected — and Masvingo and then by the mail coach route to Bulawayo. Here is how the 1961 booklet explains the audacity of the act:
It was a country over which wild animals still swarmed, including lions. It was fever-ridden in a day when effective malarial preventatives were unknown.
The trip took Duly 10 days to complete. Over the same route an ox-wagon would have taken anything from 13 to 20 weeks. To beat Charles Duly and his companion today while cycling the distance on a tarred road would require you to average over 50 miles a day, in sweltering heat and with at least one mountain range to cross.
The year Charles Duly arrived in Bulawayo, the Bulawayo Chronicle was launched in what is now Zimbabwe’s second most populated city. Six hotels were operational:
the Central and
Board and lodging averaged some 10 pounds a month upwards. The city boasted a two-mile race-course, an athletic club, cricket pitch, tennis courts. It took passengers willing to travel to Harare four days by a mail coach (12 pounds single).
Pretoria (six days)
Cape Town (nine and a half days)
Beira in Mozambique (10 and a half days)
With the agency for the Raleigh bicycle brand, one of the leaders in its field in Britain, Charles Duly opened a cycle shop in what is now Jason Moyo Street (where Edgars is now).
One day, a khaki-uniformed man walked into Duly’s shop with a usual request of the day. After the Second Matabele War (1896-97), soldiers of the Relief Force were anxious to hire a bike to return to their base in Mafeking, or to go even further south to the Cape of Good Hope.
Around this time, in 1897 the first railway trains reached Bulawayo. Oh and guess what! — Bulawayo had electricity before London. One of those early trains brought Rudyard Kipling to Bulawayo. Two bicycles accompanied the popular writer on the journey to Africa. The epic railway journey was organised by Rhodes: “Cape Town – Kimberley – Bulawayo – Kimberley again – Johannesburg – and so back to the Cape. It was also on invitation by Rhodes that Rudyard Kipling came to Cape Town in 1898. He explored Bulawayo on bicycle, and visited the Matopos.
While in Bulawayo, he occupied a classic 100-year-old Edwardian building called Douslin House which now houses the National Art Gallery. Because the number of requests was huge, bicycle-pioneer-turned-entrepreneur Charles Duly made a policy of outright sale only. Even the stubborn request to hire from Rudyard Kipling did not change Duly’s sales decision. Kipling agreed to find a guarantor. “A good one,” insisted Duly. To which Kipling retorted he would bring two. One of the two was Sir Charles Metcalfe, Cecil Rhodes’s principal adviser on railway construction.
Hovering in the doorway enjoying the fun was Cecil Rhodes.
Rudyard Kipling hired Charles Duly’s bicycle for 7s. 6d. a day, including Sundays, an arrangement that lasted three months. He ended up paying far more than if he had purchased the bike. Seven shillings and six pence refers to the UK coinage before the introduction of decimal currency in the early 1970s.
Although nearly half a century earlier he had not heard of Rudyard Kipling when he came to the Cycle Shop, later on Charles Duly became an ardent reader of this writer. And despite the growth of the automobile sales, the cycle track still called him. He donated a track to the City of Bulawayo.
It was an ironic fate that when Charles Duly was officiating at a race meeting, at age 79, he walked unsuspectingly into collision with a cyclist, and the old bike enthusiast was injured. That accident, unavoidable and comparatively minor, was quite likely to trigger the end of Duly’s life about a year later, on November 21, 1949.
This week we were “utterly shocked” by the absence of cluster munition survival videos on the web. Check Google, YouTube. All you can get out of those communications is the utter shock of mutilation, death and devastation the murderers take pleasure in leaving you with. Georgia, Syria, now Ukraine.
Alright, shocked and killed we can easily be by just stepping out on the street. That’s not what we expect from the world wide web, folks! We look for life-saving information, we seek solutions to the problem.
As our town of Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine was shelled by heavy weaponry earlier this week, we wondered what the public security experience will be for those who survive the deadly attack by Smerch BM30 rockets. And — here and now — should we really care who launched them as long as we know how to dodge them?!
Okay, let the Kyiv- and New York-based journos speculate about geopolitics. From the safety of their homes.
Most messages beamed by the mainstream based-not-in-Kramatorsk media just drummed up the confrontation tune highlighting the — otherwise important facts that — cluster munitions are banned under international law and that Ukraine was shocked by the attack on a community “some 50 km behind Ukrainian lines and [thus] considered relatively safe before the attack.”
Some bits of life-granting solution communication came from the Governor of Donetsk Oblast Oleksandr Kikhtenko. At a press conference hours after the attack, he shed some light on the mechanics and electronics behind the killing power of 300 mm missiles — sure we all wish we knew that information much earlier; and the media is to still stamp the survival drill into our minds.
Some kudos also go to the Odesa Oblast Administration (Southern Ukraine) and the local news outlet here in Kramatorsk named Vostochnyy Proekt for sharing these bomb survival videos:
Sure thing, Ukrainians start to come out of the cluster munition attacks more resilient, survival tactics savvy. But like in any awareness raising/behavior change campaign having the right communication tools is as important as repeating the vital message a quadrillion times.
Problem reporting is so analog age. In the digital 21st century let’s finally start to think and communicate solutions, not just problems.
To our global reader out there, next time you are “utterly shocked” and think of launching a Twitter campaign — think @clusterbombsurvival not just @banclustermunition.
The army coup of 1966, sweeping away a corrupt and discredited regime, was greeted in the South [of Nigeria] by scenes of wild rejoicing. The coup leaders were acclaimed heroes; the politicians slunk out of sight …
By strange coincidence, a prophetic novel by.. Chinua Achebe was published in the same week as the coup, telling the story of the rise and fall of an African politician ending with an army takeover. ‘Overnight everyone began to shake their heads at the excess of the last regime, at its graft, oppression and corrupt government,’ wrote Achebe in A Man of the People. ‘Newspapaers, the radio, hitherto silent intellectuals and civil servants — everybody said what a terrible lot; and it became public opinion the next morning.’
Thirteen years later The China Syndrome — a film that describes a fictional worst-case result of a nuclear meltdow — was released 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. No wonder that for anyone who was around in 1979 the movie was a major event and sparked a lot of debate.
Back in summer 2013, I happened across an Estonian screening of a prophecy-laden piece of content myself. I was struck by the premise and actuality of the events recounted in Searching for Sugar Man, a documentary about Sixto Rodriguez, a performer and songwriter, whose two 1970’s albums went bust in the US, only to have them find new life as part of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
Sitting inside Estonia’s oldest cinema Kino Sõprus as I was watching the highly spiritual events unfold on the screen, I couldn’t help wondering why would the ‘unsung’ American singer settle on Estonia in the song that ‘prophesized’ his unemployment? Was there a hidden message for me watching this documentary about him, on my first trip to the Baltic country?
Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas And I talked to Jesus at the sewer And the Pope said it was none of his God-damned business While the rain drank champagne
My Estonian Archangel came and got me wasted Cause the sweetest kiss I ever got is the one I’ve never tasted Oh but they’ll take their bonus pay to Molly McDonald, Neon ladies, beauty is that which obeys, is bought or borrowed
Apparently, no matter whether you are a Nigerian, an American in South Africa or an Ukrainian in Estonia, behaviors can be changed much more effectively if the story we convey precedes reality in a sometimes shockingly and always strikingly convincing way. So how do you author the next prophetic piece of content?
In reality, “the basis for the film came from a number of nuclear plant incidents and in particular the Brown’s Ferry Alabama Nuclear Power Plant Fire which occurred four years earlier in 1975.” The screenwriters just knew their subject well. They proved to be extremely good at spotting a shocking possibility rooted in the down-to-nuclear-reactor-safety-valve reality.
If you want to be communicating your message of goodwill in a strikingly convincing manner be on the lookout for current and upcoming changes before others do. Beef up this knowledge and perceptions with expertise that is still not common today or shared by others. They will follow you for your original discernment and curatorial picks!
And remember: the best way to predict the future is to shape it.
One 2015 tip-off to wrap it up:
On September 10 this year, if God continues to save the Queen, Elizabeth will overtake her great-great grandmother Victoria and, after 63 years and 217 days, become UK’s longest-reigning monarch
The author can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Now let’s turn around and scrutinize the foreign media assets of Mother Russia’s not-so-poor: some of them promoters of the Global Russian concept, some — literary-minded Russians around the corner from our London-based readers.
And again the lines of loyalty, the stresses are quite blurred, as far as media agendas of Russia-backed enterprises in the EU and US are concerned.
Are the Western-operating companies we will now talk about pro-Kremlin or pro-poor?
Self-confessed avid reader of high-quality literature in Russian and English, Russian billionaire Alexander Leonidovich Mamut shelled out £53 million to acquire London-headquartered book retailer Waterstones in May 2011.
Number two in our list of global Russians with a penchant for media investments abroad is Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev, former KGB staff and currently publisher of four UK newspapers, including the one that has called his book chain-owning namesake “an oligarch with close links to the Kremlin.” Alexander Yevgenievich reportedly stated that during his time as a spy in London, he used the Evening Standard to find information.
Lebedev used to own the Moskovski Korrespondent, but closed it down “for political reasons after it published a spurious article about Vladimir Putin having an affair with an Olympic gymnast half his age”
On 25 March 2010, Alexander Lebedev bought the loss-making The Independent and Independent on Sunday for £1.
Accompanying two Sashas on the Olympus of Russians with preference for foreign media assets is Sergei Polonsky @Spolonium, himself an Olympus-builder.
Alexander Yevgenievich knocked Russia’s real estate developer Sergei Yurievitch Polonsky from his chair as both men were appearing as guests on a show about the global financial crisis that was being recorded in Moscow for the Gazprom-owned NTV channel in September 2011.
A blow that did not connect cleanly was prompted by a dispute over Sergei Yurievitch’s project named Башня Федерация.
Expected to be completed in 2015, the Federation Tower is said to be able to withstand a direct hit of an aircraft [as you guessed what they meant here]. The building is a hit with extreme sports people, as well as film and TV people.
Notorious for his stance and public pronouncements, Sergei Polonsky has often introduced creativity-laden ideas into Russia’s otherwise parvenu post-Soviet elites.
In November 2011 his international investment and development company Potok∞ launched a reality project named Большой дом. Using Youtube, Twitter and Alexander Mamut-owned blogging service Livejournal, Polonsky’s team boosted business by revealing to the rest of us the behind-the-scenes of the Federation Tower construction process, including brain storming sessions, corporate parties, desicions on hiring and firing.
Polonsky has set a goal of earning not less than USD1bn through his jungle-based business education venture.
From New York magazine:
Another set of projects invariably bears the hallmark of his older sister, Irina, a patron of arts and literature. In private life, Mikhail and Irina form an unusual, closed-off unit. Until recently, they lived together in a relatively small Moscow apartment, well after Mikhail had become a billionaire. Most likely at Irina’s urging, Mikhail has endowed a lavish literary award, a publishing house, an arts festival, and, finally, Snob [a magazine for the “Global Russian”].
The Mikhail in question is Mikhail Dmitrievitch Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, politician, and owner of the ONEXIM Group and the US basketball team the Brooklyn Nets.
With an initial distribution of 20,000 in NYC, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco and some 700,000 Russian speakers living in the United States (as of 2010), Snoboriginally launched in Russia in 2008 with a USD150 million investment from Mikhail Dmitrievitch. In London, “the magazine bought up billboards in the Underground and elsewhere and slapped Russian-language ads on them, perplexing Brits and embarrassing local Russians.” For New York, they imagined “something that speaks to Snob’s globalist brand, and something that shows that the Russians actually understand contemporary New York.”
Yuri Milner has described his time at the World Bank as his “lost years”, due to watching from afar the privatization of government holdings during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin
Yuri Borisovich (Bentsionovich) Milner wraps up our overview of Global Russians on a shopping spree for media assets, with his investments in Facebook, Zynga, Twitter, Flipkart, Spotify, Groupon, Alibaba, and Planet Labs via the Mail.ru Group and Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global).
At one point in the 1990s, Yuri Borisovich worked for Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now an émigré. A meeting through mutual friends resulted in Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest person, becoming a shareholder of Mail.ru Group in 2008. In January 2007, 30% of shares of Mail.ru were bought by Cape Town, South Africa-headquartered Naspers, an e-commerce and pay TV company, with assets like MultiChoice, DStv, MWEB and M-net.
Milner envisages that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems will increase our collective intelligence
An acronym of sostoyavshiisya, nezavisimyi, obrazovannyi, blagopoluchnyi (accomplished, independent, educated, thriving), Snob magazine under deputy editor Maria Alexandrovna Gessen @mashagessen some years back “made a turn toward social activism, battling, for instance, the Putin administration’s revisionist sugarcoating of Joseph Stalin.”
She was dismissed from her position as the chief editor of Russia’s oldest magazine, Vokrug sveta, a popular-science journal, in 2012 after she refused to send a reporter to cover a Russian Geographical Society event about nature conservation featuring President Putin, because she considered it political exploitation of environmental concerns
So if the Global Russian “aggressively adopts traits of other cultures without betraying his own” — he ‘cooks like a Frenchman, entertains like an American, and forms friendships like a Russian’ in American nonfiction author Masha Gessen’s words — and if he/she is not 100% pro-Kremlin how many percentage points is he/she pro-poor? What do you think?