The Italian edition of Vanity Fair said that it had found George Hussein Onyango Obama living in a hut in a ramshackle town of Huruma on the outskirts of Nairobi.From an anthropological point of view, this is a good example how polygamy gets in the way of the development of a class system in African cultures. The museums of Europe and Asia are full of beautiful artifacts, most of them originally commissioned by the upper classes to demonstrate their upper classness, but Africa, with some exceptions (e.g., the medieval Benin bronzes), doesn`t produce much in the way of a more refined higher culture.
Mr Obama, 26, the youngest of the presidential candidate`s half-brothers, spoke for the first time about his life, which could not be more different than that of the Democratic contender.
"No-one knows who I am," he told the magazine, before claiming: "I live here on less than a dollar a month."
According to Italy`s Vanity Fair his two metre by three metre shack is decorated with football posters of the Italian football giants AC Milan and Inter, as well as a calendar showing exotic beaches of the world.
Vanity Fair also noted that he had a front page newspaper picture of his famous brother - born of the same father as him, Barack Hussein Obama, but to a different mother, named only as Jael.
In a monogamous society, an ambitious young man often aims to marry a woman raised in a higher class, who can in turn raise their children to behave in an upper class manner. For example, immigrant muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger has four children by Maria Shriver, the daughter of the 1972 Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate and niece of President Kennedy. In a polygamous society, however, men tend to compete for quantity rather than quality of wives, so there is strong reversion to the overall cultural mean in the upbringing of rich men`s children. A Kenyan Schwarzenegger might have had dozens of wives, but most of them would be local farm girls who would have raised his children in the traditions in which they were raised.
The grandfather of both Barack and his impoverished half-brother George was, by Kenyan standards, a wealthy self-made man, and their father had been a rising governmental star until his alcoholism and general knuckleheadedness led to disaster. But, even if Barack Sr. had been more prudent on the job, the grandfather`s and father`s typically Kenyan polygamousness (three wives for the grandfather and women by four children for Barack Sr.) would have depleted the resources available to the third generation by spreading them thinly among the many descendants.
Obama Jr. was, of course,very lucky to also belong to a small white family, with its contrasting Eurasian emphasis on quality over quantity of wives and children. So, his upper-middle class grandmother, "a typical white person" as Obama memorably phrased it, a hardworking bank executive from a good family back in Kansas, could afford, despite her only daughter`s imprudent decision making, to raise her grandson in a Honolulu highrise with a spectacular view and send him to the state`s dominant prep school, then off to fancy colleges.
By the way, The Onion had a piece a couple of weeks ago on a different brother by another mother, Cooter Obama.
And, here`s a cartoon by Rex May.