Friday, 24 April 2015

UK Elections 2015: This election needs a human face

Some background
In 1968, my father then training to be an accountant and working for the NHS went to a pub with some of his English colleagues whereupon he met with his local MP and an exchange ensued.
This MP was Enoch Powell and the encounter was soon after his Rivers of Blood speech, the content of which traded on the fears and insecurities of the electorate by demonising selected minorities for political advantage. Immigration!
Populist demonization
This was a populist and sometimes right-wing campaign strategy, it is not new, and today we see the same elements of demonising minorities all around the world for political capital.
Be it minors, womenfolk, the poor, the different by race, tribe, religion, custom, beliefs or sexuality, the disabled, the powerless or the voiceless, some opportunistic politician has found something to excite the basest of our instincts to garner votes.
In this general election season in the UK, the leader of the UK Independence Party in debates decided to aim the crosshairs at refugees with HIV he falsely claims costs the NHS £25,000 for treatment.
This is sensationalist bunkum, but it gave impetus to a malevolent listener to this reprehensible invective to take the picture of an innocent man and make him the face and person of Nigel Farage's rotten lies.
It’s about real people
Bisi Alimi, whose story we know as the first Nigerian to come out on national television, who suffered personal and institutional persecution then had to flee Nigeria narrowly escaping death was the target of the atrocious besmirching.
We granted refugee status to Bisi Alimi and he has been of the most exemplary conduct, contributed immensely to the cause of LGBTI minorities and many human rights issues all around the world. If he remained a refugee, he is one we want amongst us as an inspirational figure and more, but Bisi does have a British passport, he is not a refugee.
However, that is beside the point, this attack was aimed at those who have sought refuge in our country with the devilish intent of persuading us to put cost above our humanity. That has been the bottom-line of the UKIP agenda, making cost the issue at the expense of our greater humanity and tendency to compassion.
The heart of who we are
When people come to the UK seeking refuge on humanitarian grounds, we have had a tradition of welcoming them and helping them thrive in our communities and society. This has been the case for centuries and long may we continue to set the standard for compassionate relief and humanitarian consideration.
The personal attack on Bisi Alimi was not only contemptible but completely unrepresentative of who we are. Yet we must know that this campaign strategy is shocking and awful, one trading on our fears to put wedges of division and difference within our communities.
Nigel Farage is a canny politician and he knew what he was doing by sowing seeds of suspicion and anger in the hope that some amongst us might act unconscionably and irrationally, along with his intention of shoring up support for electioneering purposes. We must repudiate this kind of talk completely.
Taking the fight to Nigel
However, under the auspices of the Thanet Trade Union Action, the irrepressible Bisi Alimi is taking the fight to Nigel Farage in the constituency where he is contesting to be the local MP and you are invited to Meet Farage's Tourist.
My hope is by the time Bisi Alimi has finished speaking we would see Nigel Farage for who he is and give him and his kind of populist rhetoric the heave-ho.
Nigel Farage is not the face of our hearts and minds, I believe Bisi Alimi more represents who we are and the example we want to better be to the world - open, empathetic, considerate, helpful, fair, just and truly British.
Please attend if you can and share with your friends.

Meet Farage’s Tourist
Thursday 30 April at 19:00–21:00
Odd Fellows Hall,

142 High Street,
Ramsgate, Kent.
CT11 9TT
Thank you.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

UK Elections 2015: A depressing prospect

On our fears
This election season is the first in the UK I have participated in since Tony Blair won with a landslide in 1997.
Having read manifestos, watched debates and reviewed all sorts of analyses and permutations, I have never felt as downcast about leadership quests in the UK as with the lot shopping for my votes.
Yet, having been on the sharp end of things in terms of moving back to the UK and finding no support systems for reintegration, the inscrutable hurdles into the welfare system for being out of work or being homeless; the policy framework that dehumanised me and many others with stories too harrowing for words demands change.
On our tears
There is no doubt in my mind even with the financial prudence of the Tory Party and the moderating influence of the Liberal Democrats, the Tories have to go. For the deficit, if it is the poor, the jobless and the everyday man that have suffered the most. The rich have been protected from most of the fallout.
The Tories continued the atrocity of privatising profits and socialising the debts. They sold off the commonwealth for a song whilst the big corporations cashed in with little sweat for the humongous rewards.
Oh my dears
The alternative; the Labour Party is bearable, but if they fail to win a comfortable majority, a possible coalition or arrangement with the Scottish National Party spells doom to just over 300 years of the union of Great Britain which comprises England, Scotland and Wales.
These political robots have no soul, no persuasion and no conviction, they are in perpetual soundbite spewing party points like clowns in a circus, and it is so depressing.
Never has a country in need of a vision to maintain hard-won relevance been at the mercy of men with no depth in experience or humanity, talk less of compassion.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Thought Picnic: Beyond the call of duty

So they were burnt?
Someone came up with a policy that reeks of exploitation much longer before it suggests a leaning toward loyalty. Yet there might be a historical view to the situation, but that does not make it right.
When you toil and sweat at the coal face, knowing duty and responsibility, there is remuneration and recompense for your work. That is a contract of confidence properly rewarded as it should be.
Yet for an organisation whose main stock in trade is wheelbarrows of money, a parsimonious tendency to extract for claims to be made on expense much later cannot be right, even if it is the established standard.
It is unfair
There might be many who have the means and breath to face up to a large extraction from their wallets, however, the truth is in this business moneys in churn, everyone is left at a disadvantage, but the organisation and that is hardly fair, if the call is the organisation requiring you risk much for it.
At a point, where one finds oneself demanding a review, embarrassment and shame might find inroads into the conversation, but that should never be the case. The requirement is well beyond the call of duty, it makes extraneous demands of loyalties and it might bring along its own stress.
Shoulder this responsibility
The incidental and the limited can in terms be expensed, but there is nothing wrong even in the era of cost-cutting drives that cut down to the bone in having the organisation itself organise trips, accommodation and much else that pertains to the comforts and the accoutrements that will allow one carrying a responsibility to do what they are engaged to do without distraction.
Besides, the organisation has the heft to negotiate the best deals in bulk and with a standing relationship, it should not be devolved to individuals to namedrop to be eligible. There are invisible costs to all these devolved arrangements and that all makes for a feeling being put under unnecessary duress.
Beyond the call of duty
Reassurances of reimbursement are not enough, someone eventually has to take the pain as it starts from the employee through the employee’s agency and rarely the organisation, interest lost and the organisation that scrimps on pennies to save pounds to rain upon a few in truckloads of bonuses does not have to laugh all the way to the bank. It is the money store, itself.
Then you think of other places, too long a list of places where no one has to bear the cost, because all is in hand, borne by the organisation and those with the responsibility to approve such.
There is no doubt in one’s mind, what is being required is well beyond the call of duty. It definitely is, and it must change.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Opinion: No man!

Just imagine if when Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, the paramount chief of Lagos in that moment of unguarded irresponsible verbiage had been challenged rather than applauded.
Wonder if the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, had been circumspect about foreigners if his views met with immediate disapproval as he spoke.
If in that interview cum media chat, President Goodluck Jonathan when he did not give a damn, the obsequious, star-struck and fawning interviewers had the temerity to ask him to responsively give a damn.
If those we look up to were given a piece of our minds contrary to blind followership begging for subservience.
If we balanced our respect with a modicum of irreverence that allowed leaders to lead without thinking themselves infallible, omnipotent or inviolable because they were conscious of their humanity and listening for good and sometimes difficult counsel.
I believe the story would have been about the reconsideration at that setting than the overheated reporting of the outburst. Maybe, just maybe, the world we see would have been a better place.
Sadly, leaders fail themselves when surrounded by acolytes who do little to complete and complement their leadership by vying for favour and recognition when they should be accentuating the good with fervour and curtailing the bad with wisdom.
There are too many 'Yes men', men without cojones, self-interested minions whose activities eventually show the whole enterprise they are in, in a bad light.
Invariably, they excuse the inexcusable, support the intolerable, defend the reprehensible and promote the atrocious with utterly damnable and illogical arguments as their acquiescence gives licence to impunity without any discernible consequence.
Yet, what a leader needs is a fearless and bold courageous follower or counsellor. Like the man who whispered in the ear of gladiators of old on victory processions: 'You are but a man, mortal and at the mercy of the gods and the times'.
No men, one who can stand up when all are bowed in worship and obeisance to say, 'No man! You can't say that,' or 'No man! You can't do that'.
The person to stay the folly, quell the anger, appeal to the better nature or arrest the stupidity that leaves men as sheep when they should be lions.
Just imagine if the courts of kings, leaders, the powerful, the rich, the elite, the privileged or those with responsibility or authority had viziers with gravitas or jesters with levity rather than Yes-men. Just imagine how much peace and harmony will reign.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Opinion: Wasting talent toward instant fame

Awesome humanity
This is probably a difficult subject, but one that needs addressing in many ways. We have to ask, what makes the world go round and gives us the comforts that we enjoy and others crave for?
Whilst every profession in its way brings value, there are professions that are more than essential and without creating or engendering rivalries, might be more important than others.
In areas of medicine and technology, if people did not make careers out of the looking to ease pain and discomfort out of curiosity and determination, what kind of a world will we have?
Other professions
In my case, I know that the absence of health can literally mean the absence of ability, will, strength or purpose to do anything else. Last weekend, I hopped on a plane to Bucharest, just because I thought I could go there.
However, I would not be here if not for the doctors, the nurses, the medicine and more invisible but critical support systems had not come to play over centuries of repetition, standardisation and perfecting to find a way to put cancer into remission and keep my health at one of the best levels I have ever had.
My journey to Bucharest also would have been impossible without the fundamentals of physics, the applications of chemistry, many mathematical equations, visionary and sometimes daredevilry thinking that has made cars, trains, airports, aeroplanes and all the backend systems down to the person who has to do the graft work of lifting and throwing my luggage about as it follows me on my journey.
Nurturing talent
This brings me to an aspect of discipline that will apply to literally any vocation, in an opinion piece for the Evening Standard under the title of “Talent is worth little without the hard graft that must go with it.” Sarah Crompton writes about the absence of star English dancers in ballet or contemporary dance.
She mentions three of the leading choreographers who have expressed concerns about the standard of contemporary dance training, Akram Khan for instance says, “I am concerned that somewhere, somehow, the training young dancers go through in the UK is not supporting them in the rigour, technique and discipline that I am looking for in a dancer.”
Lloyd Newson, says, the students trained here “lack rigour, technique and performance skills,” then, Hofesh Shechter suggests, British dancers are “consistently outclassed by fitter, stronger and more versatile dancers trainer internationally.” Let’s not go into the fact that these three leading Britsh exponents are Bangladeshi, Australian and Israeli, respectively.
Then Tamara Rojo, who is the Artistic Director of the English National Ballet, gets to the heart of the matter, “Do we want to promote instant success and instant failure, or do we want to promote self-esteem and hard work?” Now, did I say, she is Spanish?
Really nurturing talent for life
This is not to say there is no raw talent in Great Britain, we have much undiscovered and unrefined genius lurking in the inner recesses of the many youths who have not had the teaching, lecturing, mentoring, coaching or just help to realise their potential.
In other cases, and this is where it gets rather unfortunate, the syllabus structure in many disciplines beyond dance, in schools and universities are not equipping our youth for the varied careers needed to have a thriving country that is building for the future.
Much as we hear that the UK has the fastest growing economy in the developed world, the fact is this is not trickling down or lifting people up, it is the rich getting richer and the poor sinking further into poverty. The political battles of our election already show that the visionary has deserted our leadership; we are aiming for nothing, just fame.
That seems to be the career goal of most of our youth, instant fame, lots of money and a jet-setter’s life, without the really backbreaking hard work, but what is instant is just what it is. There is no depth, no rigour, no discipline, no attention to the fundamentals stemming from the patient and painstaking attention to detail and we wonder why people crack. Just imagine lifting a weight you have never practised for and the back gives.
Project Manager fame
I see this in my field of endeavour, Information Technology, everyone wants to be a Project Manager and they have all acquired the certificates like garlands to litter their CVs with the jargon and superfluity of words as pertains what they seem to have done.
The British in its Empire days had one amazing exportable skill, it was one of managing people, organisation and application, recognising ability and gathering men to perform. This is what put the Great in Great Britain, between negotiation and plunder, we created an Empire on which the sun never set. That is now history.
Sadly, what we now find in many Project Managers who usually get paid a lot more than everyone else are people without the rigour, the technique, the discipline, the depth or basic understanding of the management of projects, the management of people, the fundamentals of the project, the appreciation of the talent pool necessary to achieve project goals and how to nurture that skills pool to achieve results.
Then you wonder why projects fail, because in most cases, Project Managers are an abstraction from the core reality, task masters who have rarely done the task, let alone understood the task and they only have to converse with you to lay out their ignorance like a billboard.
The need for more dirty hands
I have only found a few Project Managers in my 25-year IT career who have taken the time to get involved enough to understand what we want to achieve so that they can take some realism away into crafting their project plans.
I have in certain instances had to take projects I am on by the scruff of the neck and assume the role because my reputation is at stake. Yet, this is the instant success or instant failure Tamara Rojo talks off, the absence of the essential grounding and pain of long-term practice and application that becomes evident when we are really tested by the reality of getting things done.
Objective tests will no more cut it, we need comprehension tests, application tests, less simulation and more practical hands-on, hands-dirty work with the sweat and hard graft that brands perfecting whatever we do into making us completely dissatisfied if things are not just the way they should be.
I salute everyone who does that extra bit beyond the necessary to ensure what they do, even above the call of duty and responsibility makes our world a better place. Thank you.