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"Think of these three things: whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account"--Benjamin Franklin

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Back from the Retreat: What is Poverty?

a beautifully verdant view of the hotel from the bottom of the hill

a scene from hotel room (left)

I was rather struck by sissoula’s refreshing honesty when she claimed that she was “so poor” when she was a kid that it got me thinking—what is poverty?

I ask this rather apparently-futile question because I am confused whether such an apparently poor person can now be considered rich by dint of her education and her outlook on life? It also, for me, resonates of the hypocrisy that society creates: you are poor because of the material benefits you ostensibly DO NOT have—a car; a house (whether rented or not is a moot point); sufficient disposable income to do things beyond subsisting.

Is that the difference between poverty and wealth? Lemme re-phrase: what is the difference between poverty and wealth? Is it intellect, or those material things advertising foes enforce on us?

AT the hotel where we were staying an hour outside the capital for the retreat, I met an intelligent young woman whose job function totally belied her intellect. She works in housekeeping at the hotel. She approached me; we started talking. She was very expressive and very educated, yet because she had been unable to continue tertiary education she was stuck in a hotel…for now.

I know she’s gonna go far, but it hurts me that this young lady would be disrespected by some hotel resident because he/she made the monumental mistake of assuming that if she were more educated than that, she wouldn’t be working there at all.

Does McDonalds and struggling students come to mind?

The long and short is that we probably take ourselves too seriously, and make too many assumptions about the people we meet. A (materially/intellectually) poor past doesn’t guarantee a (materially/intellectually) poor future, which means it takes effort and hard work—irrespective of your background to become a better person than you think you are, or can be.

Does Branson who dropped out of secondary school come to mind? And countless others?

But it also throws up the question of whether it is solely intellect or a combination of intellect and EFFORT that makes you a better person.

You may have been poor, but clearly, you were only gonna go somewhere if you applied the two concurrently.

Or is it something different altogether?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Back on the 31st January


I’m off – with all members of staff—to an organisational/institutional retreat an hour outside the capital (beautiful, lush, by-the-sea) for a few days.


I doubt I will be blogging, though I will be thinking about it;-)


Till then!



Thursday, January 19, 2006

Time & Tide Wait for No Man: In Defence of New Year Resolutions

It took my small brain a long time before I understood that quote my parents were always throwing me and my brother's way. They liked to use it especially around exam periods, and my brother and I would look at each other, scratch our respective heads in wonderment, and wonder what on earth our parents were talking about: Time and Tide wait for no man.

Tide? WTF?!!

As we grew a little bit older, it kind of dawned on us--as did the value of resolutions, but, like the proverbial kids, we didn't take it too seriously. It was really only after my brother passed away in 1991, and I was left to think more critically about things, rather than rely on his three-and-a half-yr-older sagacity that these things started to make sense.

Still resolutions confused me, and so it is with some sense of hilarity that I came across "Joey Madison"--the very sexy young twenty-something--who blogs secrets on Madison's avenue and her take on resolutions:

My mind is in a million zillion pieces... It's a new year - did I mention I hate the new year?! Everyone rattle tattles on... starting over, blah, blah, blah, new beginnings, blah, blah, blah, another chance, blah, blah, blah. No - we are not starting over, I don't get to erase my bills and start with a zero balance. It's not a new beginning - it's just a continuance of the day before, we go back to work, we continue dropping off and picking up the kids from school, we do our laundry, cook dinner, etc... our daily lives continue. And it's not another chance - another chance at what?


I think Joey has a point about debts not being erased to zero, plus the fact that it's a continuance of the old day. It is so very true, albeit a deeply cynical view. I do not think it's a crime deluding yourself that things are anew just so that you can do that bit better than yesterday.

After all, a lot of us exposed to the Western lifestyle have spent most of our lives watching professional liars act so well on tv, be affected by their performances, and impressed etc, so why is it odd that we cannot delude ourselves that we are living a "new year'?;-)

If I told you the number of films that have affected me for the better, you would probably blush. Yet what in essence these actors were doing, were lying to me that they were in another world saving a life, or something, so why cannot I perpetuate my own lie of being in a new year?

Ok, so I have belabooured the point, with much apologies (it's friday!), but my point is that we all delude ourselves in so many aspects anyway. Why change now?

I have resolved to read more; spend more time consolidating my intellect than chasing members of the opposite sex(!); lose more weight; exercise more; be fitter.

We shall see! The difference with me this year is that I taped my resolutions and try to listen to it at least once a week--just to remind myself of what I have committed myself to. Whether or not this will work is a moot point!

I actually like New Years. It is an opportunity to not just pretend to be better, but one to look deep within you, and see how you can stretch your potential more than you did the previous year.

Long may it continue!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Patrice Lumumba Must Not be Forgotten

Forty-five years ago this day, this man in the picture, then premier of the newly-created African republic of Congo, was tied and dragged by his captors and killers to be killed in a gruesome way.

Today, I say


to Belgium for having killed this man, and


to the US for having had a President under the name of Eisenhower who ordered his death because of the distorted view that the man, fighting for his country, was a Communist.

Like I referred to in an earlier post, Lumumba's assassination is symptomatic of the growing desire by the US to utilise assassinations as a continuation of politics by other means. JFK in 1963, Robert Kennedy; (I strongly believe) then-UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in 1961; Martin Luther King in 1968. The fact that these assassinations took place in the decade between 1960 and 1970 is no co-incidence!

you can read more here:
  • The Unquiet Death of Lumumba
  • Friday, January 13, 2006

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!-->In Response to Daniel

    Happy New YEAR TO ALL bloggers!


    This promises to be a fantastic year for ALL of us. 2006 for me seems so auspicious, I donno. Maybe it is something about it being 4 years away from 2010, and one year after 2005. Whatever it is, there are so many anniversaries going to be celebrated this year. I know for example that Oct 1956 will be exactly 50 years since the Suez Crisis took place that pitched a then-perfidious UK and French collusion with Israel against Nasser, sending then UN-SG Dag Hammarskjold to tick off the UK. Anthony Eden, then-UK premier would resign. The Guardian newspaper called it “an act of folly without justification”. I wrote a paper on it back in college:


    It is also fifty years since the Japanese joined the UN; Feb 15 1961 is 45 years since the UN agreed at the Security Council to send forces into Congo. 17 January is exactly 45 years since Lumumba—then Congolese Premier—was assassinated by the CIA, with collusion from the Belgians, with his body cut up and dissolved into acid.


    Another unspeakable evil was committed 45 years ago in the Congo, and Belgium was key in his assassination—the archives are incontrovertible about this. Hammarskjold would also die in a plane crash in Ndola in 1961, bringing an end to the leadership of one of the most charismatic UN S_Gs in living memory.


    With what is happening with Russia over gas and Ukraine, I am reminded that 1856 was when the Crimean war took place. 140 years ago, the Russians were hated by the UK like nothing. Their supremacy has been on the silent ascent exactly 140 years later. Napoleon III, then, was key, trying to emulate his uncle in nationalistic feats, but failing badly.


    The list goes on…In Belgium this August, the country will remember 10 years of the so-called Marche Blanche, for that is the year (same year I started college) that Belgium would play host to one of the biggest and most egregious horrors in the 20th century: the discovery of the bodies of Julie and Melissa in the cave of the notorious paedophile Marc Dutroux.


    And many more…


    Did I ever say? Diplomatic historian by leaning, political scientist by training, and eccentric by day and nightJ


    I will be back, but work is calling for action plans, and whatnot…







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