This is my 100th post!
Friday, February 20, 2009
I would like to be on holiday.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Apologies for this lengthy post, but I was so impressed with this article from the BBC by Desmond Tutu on Barack Obama that I wanted to share it in its entirety.
Desmond Tutu, the first black South African archbishop of the Anglican church and veteran campaigner against apartheid, gives a lecture in London on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the British Council. Here, he explores some of the same themes in an article written for BBC News.
I make no apology for talking and writing, in the UK, about a foreign leader. But expectations of him are so high and attention worldwide is glued to his every step as he reaches the end of his first month in office. He is the story of the moment.
I am obviously referring to Barack Obama.
Three months ago as I watched the news that could define an era, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and wonder. It could not be true that Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan, was to be the next president of the United States.
During the previous administration's term, I'd been asked to suggest one unilateral magnanimous gesture or action that the incoming US president might make to counteract anti-Americanism abroad. I said that while there were clearly pockets of anti-Americanism around the world, this was definitely not a global
phenomenon nor was it directed towards the American people.
What I certainly could attest to was substantial resentment and indeed hostile opposition to the policies of a particular US administration. I contended, as I do now, that the two are quite distinct and separate. An elucidating example dates back to the years of the anti-apartheid struggle. The Reagan White House was firmly opposed to applying sanctions against the South African apartheid regime, preferring what it described as "constructive engagement". Many of us were incensed by this policy and opposed it with every fibre of our being.
I probably dismayed many people when on one occasion I was told of the latest Reagan rejection of our call for US sanctions against Pretoria. I retorted, out of deep exasperation, "The West can go to hell!" I was then Bishop of Johannesburg, and some thought it was decidedly un-episcopal language.
I was very angry toward the Reagan administration, but that did not make me anti-American. And that is the point, anger and resentment toward the policies of a particular administration do not necessarily translate into anti-American sentiment.
When I was nine or so, I picked up a tattered copy of Ebony magazine. I still don't know where it could have come from in my ghetto township with its poverty and squalor. It described how Jackie Robinson, a black man like us, had broken into major league baseball and was playing scintillatingly for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
I did not know baseball from ping-pong. That was totally irrelevant.
What mattered was that a black man had made it against huge odds, and I grew inches and was sold on America from then on. Remember the extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and concern after 9/11? That surely could not have happened, certainly not on such a vast global scale if people hadn't genuinely cared. Everywhere, virtually. But what happened that all these positive warm feelings toward the United States were disrupted and turned into the negative ones of hostility and anger?
For those of us who have looked to America for inspiration as we struggled for democracy and human rights, these past seven years have been lean ones. When war began, first in Afghanistan and not long after in Iraq, we read allegations of prisoner abuse at Bagram air base in Afghanistan and of rendition to countries notorious for practising torture. We saw the horrific images from Abu Ghraib and learned of gruesome acts performed in the name of gathering information. Sometimes the torture itself was couched in the US government's euphemisms - calling waterboarding an "interrogation technique".
To the past administration's record on torture, we must add a string of other policies that have damaged the standing of the United States in the world: its hostility to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases; its refusal to assent to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; its restrictions on the use of US funding to fight Aids; and the arrogant unilateralism it has employed in declaring to be enemies any countries it deemed "against us" because they were not "for us".
I never imagined in my worst dreams that I would live to see the day when the United States would abrogate the rule of law and habeas corpus as has happened in the case of those described as "enemy combatants" incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay. Or that I would hear an American government and its apologists use exactly the same justification for detention without trial, as had been used by the apartheid government of South Africa - a practice that the United States at the time condemned roundly, as was so utterly right to have done. So, it was a devastating case of deja vu for some of us, thoroughly disillusioning. The Bush administration managed to rile people everywhere. Its bully-boy attitude sadly polarised our world.
Against all that, the election of Barack Obama has turned America's image on its head.
On US election night last November, I wanted to jump and dance and shout, as I did after voting for the first time in my native South Africa on 27 April 1994.
My wife cried with incredulity and joy as we watched a broadcast of the celebrations in Chicago, after the election results came through. A newspaper here ran a picture of Obama from an earlier trip to one of our townships, where he was mobbed by youngsters. It was tacitly saying that we are proud he once visited us.
Because the Bush years have been disastrous for other parts of the world in many ways, Obama's victory dramatises the self-correcting mechanism that epitomises American democracy. Elsewhere, oppressors, tyrants and their lapdogs can say what they like and, for the most part, they stay put. But ordinary citizens living in undemocratic societies are not fools; they may not always agree with US foreign policy, but they can see and register the difference between the United States - where people can kick an unpopular political party out - and their own countries.
Obama's election has been an epoch-making event that filled the whole world with hope that change is possible.
People everywhere identified Obama as the bearer of a new hope, someone who could electrify crowds with spellbinding oratory, galvanizing many out of their lethargy. His election also said more eloquently than anything else that we black people are not God's step-children, despite so much evidence to the contrary.
That whatever we attempt, we can do it - yes we can.
In the midst of this celebration, however, a word of caution is appropriate. In the first days after 9/11, the United States had the world's sympathy, an unprecedented wave of it. President Bush squandered it. Obama too could easily squander the goodwill that his election generated if he disappoints.
It would be wonderful if, on behalf of the nation, Obama apologises to the world, and especially the Iraqis, for an invasion that I believe has turned out to be an unmitigated disaster.
While he's already promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay, he should also move to ratify the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. For many of us, an upright US was a great inspiration in our fight against the iniquity of apartheid. I pray that President Obama will come down hard on African dictators, especially because they cannot credibly charge him with being neo-colonialist.
The US administration needs to reach out to other nations, build bridges, listen.
Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have spoken of the importance of smart power and the role of cultural diplomacy in their foreign policy toolbox. The sounds and gestures coming from them are most welcome, but they must now carry through on these.
Keeping the relationships alive between different peoples, and the dialogue going in difficult times is essential. They pave the way for better times. In a world of increasing instability and mistrust and in the face of shared global challenges, we need to build understanding and collaboration between ordinary people, to forge the ties which can last a lifetime whatever is happening on the political stage.
We owe our glorious victory over the awfulness of apartheid in South Africa in large part to the support we received from the international community, including the United States and United Kingdom, and we will always be deeply grateful.
The British Council, where I will speak today to mark their 75th anniversary, worked with us during those years providing educational and cultural activities. These included training in the UK for 200 black South Africans and working with local groups on language teaching and reading in black primary schools. The British Council supported Nelson Mandela's work in reforming the post-apartheid diplomatic service and education system.
And here I must comment on the UK government's role as the US's biggest ally this past eight years, in particular in the war on terror. Your standing in the world has also suffered as a result of this close co-operation, although perhaps to a slightly lesser degree thanks to other more favourable actions in tackling climate change, interest in Africa's problems and campaigning on debt relief.
The problem today is that you don't have the redeeming Obama factor and although you perhaps don't come from such a low point, you don't have his advantage of international goodwill in restoring the UK's perception overseas.
Going forward, as we strive to create a stable, prosperous world for all, we need to work together with other nations for justice, equity and peace. We need to believe that the values of fairness and compassion are not only yours and mine; they are shared by all humanity.
Most of us do want to see peace.
And here I want to end with what seems so utterly obvious about what we learned from our particular situation in South Africa. Peace does not come from the barrel of a gun but is achieved when cultural differences are respected and the fundamental rights of all are recognised and upheld.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Good news for those of you who, like me, enjoy nice hobbies such as knitting, reading, crafts, or even playing computer games. Apparently it helps reduce memory loss as you get older.
I have just one question:
What if, like me, your memory is rubbish already?
Being religious could mean you’re a happier person, according to a study. It seems that religion could provide you with a “buffer” against life’s disappointments and problems.
Obviously I have a tendency to be a little biased here – my religious beliefs have got me through a lot of problems with my sanity (more or less) intact. Of course, I have no way of knowing if I would have got through them in exactly the same way without having religious beliefs – it is an unrepeatable experiment!
However, I would agree that generally, religious people seem to have a more positive outlook on life - a way of smoothing out life’s little ups and downs. I’m not saying that everyone with a religious belief can do that, or even that those without one can’t. And of course, people who believe that the world is damned and that the apocalypse is coming probably are less affected by the minor bumps in the road of life. After all, so long as they’re saved...
Back to my point. I think religion does provide a comfort factor, although I think this varies from religion to religion. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for it.
However, a ‘scientific’ study seems to me to be impossible. How can we quantify happiness? How can we identify what causes it? As people find different things make them happy, how can a study like this ever come out with a sensible answer?!
Equally, religion can be the cause of so much misery. How can religion improve our happiness if it is sometimes the cause of war or persecution?
What do you think?
Monday, February 16, 2009
Today's quotes are on a theme. No particular reason, except we all need a little motivational quotational on a Monday. Or is this a mistake?!
Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.
Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from.
Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
We're all capable of mistakes, but I do not care to enlighten you on the mistakes we may or may not have made.
Friday, February 13, 2009
In anticipation of a lack of internet at home over the weekend (the assigned installer of a certain well-known British provider of digital, satellite television and broadband apparently failed to turn up today. Again. We're switching to a different provider.), I would like to wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day. I hope you all manage to avoid its hideous over-commercialness and are able to enjoy the day with a loved one.
If not, happy Anti-Valentines Day. Go clubbing, drink and party like there's no tomorrow. Or curl up in front of a good film with some wine and chocolate. Whichever is your preference. Besides, apparently there's no hope for the weekend: sexual desire is entering a recession.
If desperate, you could always check out the anti-Valentines event arranged by anarchy activists Class War. There will be 'anarcho-speed-dating'. How could you possibly resist?!
Or you could test your romance levels with this Love Quiz. I scored 15/18 - 'You are a hopeless romantic. You're a dreamer, who believes that love conquers all.' *tries not to be sick*
Nine year-old Alec Greven has written a best-selling book called ‘How To Talk To Girls’. Apparently it is great stuff. And it proves, once and for all, that there’s no excuse for getting it wrong. If a nine year-old can do it…
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Congratulations to the South African TV station ETV whose news program fallaciously announced a report of George Bush's death. While testing a moving banner headline stating 'George Bush is dead', a technician accidently pressed the 'broadcast for live transmission' button. He is, in fact, still alive. I think. How do you tell?
Further congratulations are in order, however, for their stunning response to the Afrikaans language newspaper Beeld and the media group's website News24.com who broke the story:
"Its unfortunate, because we never comment on their mistakes," said [ETV News spokesperson] Vasili Vass.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This little gem is from Nick Robinson’s Newslog, describing the apologies yesterday by British banking leaders:
…the question was left hanging: “what are they sorry for?” For the consequences of banks’ failures for shareholders, staff and customers certainly. What was much less clear, however, is that they accepted personal responsibility for causing those consequences.
This felt more like the captain of the Titanic saying “I’m sorry the iceberg was there” and less like “Sorry I steered my ship into the iceberg and promised you that it couldn’t sink.”
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
So this is me...
Llyando has no blog of his own, and he doesn’t think he has enough time or enough to write to have one of his own. *waits for sounds of pity*
So, I’m going to let him write the occasional post here. Aren’t I the dutiful and loving girlfriend?!
Fear not, this does not mean there will be less wittering or ranting from me. Au contraire, you will now be snowed under by even more witter and rant…
Who knows, Llyando’s posts might be even better than mine. Although if they are, he’s being chucked of onto his own blog pretty sharpish. That is, if he doesn’t get totally addicted and have to start his own one anyway...
I was tempted to stick a great big picture of him here, but thought I’d probably get sent to bed without any supper if I did. I will try and get him to improve his profile at any rate.
So, look out for Llyando’s posts - they’ll be clearly marked. And please keep on commenting!
Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
Labels: quote of the day
Sunday, February 08, 2009
My father sent me an email this week (see below) that poked fun at not just modern parenting, but today's litigious society. When I came across this story on the BBC, I couldn't resist a post.
Have a look at this picture (from the BBC website). What would you do? Would you stop the boy from sawing? Or would you let him carry on, knowing that he'd learn his lesson and probably only bang his knee?
I'd let him fall.
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank Kool-aid made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because:
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were OK. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes after running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chatrooms....... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
If YOU are one of them CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good. While you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave (and lucky) their parents were. Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!
I am one of those British people who is terribly, terribly polite. Even to people who don't deserve it.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Yes, its back. One of the highlights of my year. The 6 Nations starts tomorrow!
Ah, rugby. Such a British thing to watch. Yes British. We invented it, so stop moaning. And yes, England are currently a bit rubbish, but so what?
32 men (and a ref plus a couple of linesmen, but who’s counting?!) racing up and down the pitch, chucking a ball at each other, tackling, thudding onto the grass, kicking, gouging, biting….
And you know what, they’re neither protected by 20 layers of padding, nor do they writhe on the ground every time they stub their toes. Yes, you know what sports I’m referring to.
Rugby. Its what makes Britain great. That and the Queen. Oh, and our tea drinking. And lets not forget cream teas. Or marmalade. Or even our naval victories over the French (I’m not holding a grudge, I promise!). And of course, there’s the Beatles…
Rugby. Its one of the things that makes Britain great.
There will be more posts later in the tournament (some probably slightly rant-like) especially after weve been to Twickenham to watch England v Scotland... Jealous?!
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Ok, so the poll doesn't seem to be working.
Spring has sprung, despite the snow (there were snowdrops in my parents' garden weeks ago...) and in honour of the, um, springiness, I've decided to change the theme to reflect this. Note the pretty leaves, the butterfly, the pink.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Reading this story about a Christian nurse who offered to pray for a patient has left me torn.