Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Observing the subtle racism at black success

Racism touches us all
Racism is a general story and a personal story, the tales I have to regale are many in my almost 30 years of continuous living in Europe. Whether it be in the UK where from when I was beginning to become reacquainted with the land of my birth or on mainland Europe where somewhere between being patronised and being belittled was a covert disrespectfulness you just ignored, you grew a thicker skin.
Racism became a topical issue from the weekend and in football, when the England international and Manchester City footballer, Raheem Sterling, was racially abused at Chelsea Football Club.
Raheem Sterling took to Instagram to give context to how and why racism appears to thrive against young black footballers through the way they are depicted in the mainstream media.

Commissions of omissions
He gave the example of how the reportage on two young black football playing colleagues had bought new houses for their mothers, “mothers who have put in a lot of time and love into helping them get where they are,” he said. The press had found a slant to paint these grateful boys in a bad light.
Not long after I had read that post, the BBC was reporting on Raheem Sterling’s Instagram post, quoting the post but incompletely and out of context. The BBC reported the boys had bought houses and left out the positive and mollifying message which was the boys had bought the new houses for their mothers.
That subtle omission of context painted the boys as excessively profligate rather than as endearingly grateful. That was enough to give a platform to forming negative opinions about people who had done some good, but in the reportage were made to look bad.
Jealousy needs no inspiration
It then no surprise that a black footballer as reported by BBC Sport who cannot exculpate themselves from being part of the problem, pulled out of appearing on TalkSport after their coverage of the Raheem Sterling story, for apparently, “former Reading striker Dave Kitson told the station that Sterling had incited ‘jealousy’ by exhibiting a luxury lifestyle on his social media.” [BBC]
Like seriously, a successful young man who happens to be black is exhibiting a luxury lifestyle on his social media? Nothing could be further from the truth, especially with Raheem Sterling.
In my own life, people would be jealous regardless of whether you’re frugal or profligate, the simple fact that you’re successful is enough to accentuate negative feelings, they need no inspiration to be rotten to you, given the opportunity of proximity in the hope to rile you.
We thrive, nonetheless
We have found accommodations or a state of mind, we have no reason to take offence, we ignore them, it is their problem and their headache. At other times, there is a gift of a quick wit, a riposte that sends them back into the crevasses from whence they emerge to glow in our light. Sometimes, it is others who observe the reprehensible and take action at no one’s behest apart from their good-natured disposition and humanity.
We are grateful for good fortune and success in our various fields and long may we have great stories to tell.
However, I leave the last word to one Jonathan Northcroft, the football correspondent for the Sunday Times, “Raheem Sterling represents the type of young black footballer that middle-aged white men of a certain type can’t deal with.”



Monday, 10 December 2018

Opinion: How much longer can we endure Theresa May and her #Brexit ineptitude?

She never could do it
News that Theresa May the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had decided to delay the meaningful vote on her much-vaunted deal from Europe for #Brexit was hardly a surprise.
It is depressing and a depressing state of affairs that a nation that in the last century was one of the leading lights of world leadership, diplomacy and political nous is in a state of ineffectiveness, utterly inept, incapacitated by infirmity, deformed in prospect.
I have never had the confidence that Theresa May could pull off #Brexit with any credibility or ability, she mastered and spearheaded a negotiating tactic that projected hubris and bluster, sending bombastic blowhards to Europe with delusions of grandeur convinced in the exceptionalism of the UK. Her powers of persuasion were deployed as dogged obstinacy, tinned eared in her hope that brinkmanship would yield a result.
A living insanity
For 29 months since she assumed office, she has followed the same course, mouthed the same mantras, repeated the same talking points and achieved nothing. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, "The definition of this #Brexit insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
It is insanity that bedevils this #BrexitShambles, she can win no support within her party and she has found no way to unite the country behind anything she has to offer apart from uniting us in disgust and revulsion of her deal.
Theresa May had ample opportunity and scope, she could have on becoming premier gone for a grand coalition to work on this #Brexit issue. Rather, she triggered Article 50 completely clueless of what she could achieve, then gambled away her majority on an ill-judged election before losing two Brexit Secretaries of State, a Foreign Minister and scores more from her cabinet.
Neither up nor down
Dysfunction and derision have become the hallmarks of this government hellbent of driven the country headlong into perdition on the force of ideology above reason. The Pound Sterling in the wake of foolhardiness not seen since the Grand Old Duke of York became a nursery rhyme of the utmost ridicule.
The problem is not in Europe, the EU-27 countries have already agreed the deal she wants to renegotiate with them, they all know it is the fact that she cannot persuade, convince, cajole, cudgel or bribe enough in the House of Commons to buy into her plan. She is an abject failure and if any Tory is ready to put the country above self-interest, it is time to pension off this apology wrecking the country and chart a new course in leadership and in Europe.
Stop this #Brexit nonsense now
The #BrexitShambles has sucked all productivity, progress and oxygen out of our national effectiveness and the ability for us to take our place in the comity of nations where we belong. There is no Kumbaya of rich pickings after #Brexit.
We belong in Europe, the best deal we could have we already have in Europe and we need to send better representatives than those of the ilk of Nigel Farage to Europe who would attend meetings, constructively engage our partners and win compromises, concessions and consensus that gives of the best of what Europe can offer.
It is time to end the leadership tragedy of Mrs Theresa May and consign her to the scrapheap of history. She has done enough damage already.


Sunday, 9 December 2018

Thought Picnic: Don't lose the honour of the opportunity to help

Regaining opportunity
“Opportunity once lost, can be regained, albeit, after a temporary setback.” This was a saying shared with me by an uncle figure when I was in secondary school. It became one of the most important pillars that stood for times when everything else seemed to have crumbled around me.
My parents from what I know were high-flying successful people in their academic lives and into their careers that I am not aware for any failures in anything they were educated and trained to do, except when they appeared to dabble in areas where they had no expertise. What I learnt from them was more along the lines of the age-old saying, “Opportunity once lost, can never be regained.”
Confidence and nothing over
Invariably, apart from aspiration and confidence, I cannot say I learnt anything about facing failure, really failing and finding the resolve and wherewithal to rise from that scrapheap to find new achievement. My dad would have been top of his class in his accountancy examinations in 1969, whilst he won other prizes, I am told he fell short out of over-confidence.
That story was told me when I decided on a minimum of 6 subjects for my West African Examinations Council finals out of secondary school in 1981, my mother intervened citing that I was exercising the same over-confidence that plagued my dad and ensured I had 8 subjects to contend with.
On finding opportunity after failure, that honour and privilege goes to other uncles who faced failure head-on, understood what it meant to fail and fail again, yet never relented until they succeeded. It is to them that I owe that other story of my life’s achievements, successes, privileges and good fortune. To them, my gratitude must remain inexhaustible.
The honour of opportunity
Which brings me to another perspective of opportunity and the use of the situation for the benefit not of ourselves, but of others. In all walks of life, we are provided to opportunity to open our hands and open our hearts, someone needing advice or help, a recommendation or reference, sometimes we are given the magnitude of influence to affect the future of someone else in ways that would put them on the trajectory of success well beyond what we could for ourselves achieve.
At some point in the life of another person, we are the sentinel, the gatekeeper, the possible force for good, that opportunity that has come in its time, yet, I am privy to information and circumstances where the myopia of some has beclouded their ability to see that for them to be in that position, it is an honour and a privilege, for that time alone, everything depends on them, and what do they do, they close the door.
You are not omnipotent
They have the power, the influence, the authority and maybe even the audacity and for their small-mindedness, they refuse others the allowance to progress. To them, there will never be gratitude, no praise shall be sung of them by others because they have sown bitterness and the curmudgeonly in the hope that all opportunity is destroyed.
Opportunity once lost, because of what you have done or refused to do, can be regained without you eventually, albeit, after a temporary setback that you put in place, but power and influence in transient.
The opportunity you once had to help can be lost forever, that does not mean opportunities are closed to the person providence honoured you to do something about at a particular time. The help you give is just a bonus, it makes you part of a better story, people would succeed with or without you.
Prepare yourself for gratitude
Yet, I must come back to the need for thankfulness and gratitude, honour those who see the honour of helping you as a privilege they would never let go of until they have contributed their utmost to the very best to see you get along. We have good people in this world amongst the fair-weather friends who are hollowed-out dregs of humanity, who pretend to smile with you only to find ways to be your detractors.
You know yourselves, you have betrayed the sacred trust of friendships and relationships, when you had the means to make a difference for the better. Your time will pass into ignominy. I am saddened to have lost respect for those of whom much more was expected.
Gratitude is an amazing uplifting spirit like I had my contract extended without prompting last week, on getting the news, I wrote to my managers thanking them for their confidence in me and the contract extension. In response, my manager wrote, “You’re welcome Akin, you deserve it!”


Saturday, 8 December 2018

It is always my body first

Remembering the times
Some 18 months ago, I attended a neurocognitive clinic out of concern for a long-term condition along with the possible long-term effects of the medication I was on. Now, I know from research that many barely tolerate this medication, whilst I have adjusted well to it over my 8 years of using it.
In the past two years too, the consultants have been incessantly persuading me to consider switching to newer lines of medication with lesser presumably lesser side effects and more efficacy. Beneath that concern for me was cost, for years ago, I had been switched to a generic and more affordable medication, which is prophylactic towards a recurring condition I have not been able to shake off.
Change your medicine
The HAND test suggested I had folic acid deficiency anaemia, the readings of which since then have fluctuated between satisfactory and concerning, it is best boosted through diet, but there might be a need for a booster shot at my doctor’s. That need has not yet arisen.
Eventually, I relented choosing from 4 drug options one that would not change my pill burden thus resulting in changing my lifestyle and other routines for a frequent traveller consultant. The only benefit that came with this medication was I could take it with meals.
Beginning in the second week of October, I was given a two-month prescription for review in two weeks. I opened a diary for a daily record of how I felt using the medication and in the 17 days to the first review, I probably had one happy day.
Days of avoidable horror
Unexplained aches in my joints and head, excessive flatulence, constipation and insomnia were the recurrent events. Two rather vivid dreams killed every prospect of catching any sleep for the nights that had those nightmares, it was beginning to affect my productivity at work. Then I stepped on my weighing scales to note that I was close to my heaviest weight in 6 years.
At the review, I told them that the 17 days was insufficient a timeframe to make the decision to send me off with a 6-month prescription on the new medication, I wanted us to conduct another review in 4 weeks.
The issue of my memory concerns was brought up a few times, much as I had noticed memory lapses, I had created compensatory efforts to mitigate those shortcomings. Besides, if the decision to change my medication was to be predicated on my presumed failing memory, then another HAND test should have been conducted to ascertain from the original if there was a deterioration in cognitive function. That had not been done, and so to my mind, the premise on memory was completely flawed.
Not working for me
I maintained my diary for 44 days and submitted a 44-page documentation of my toleration of the new medication, it was not working for me and I wanted to be put back on my original medication. Recidivism from this new line drugs is recorded in research at over 50%, they are not as tolerated for the self-same side-effects we are told are fewer and more manageable than we find with our original drugs.
When I next spoke with the specialist, she was offering another line of drugs and I was having none of it, not another 7 weeks of being a guinea pig of drug tolerance, with the time from my original medication increasing to a point where it might lose efficacy, or I might have built resistance to it. I remonstrated to a state of distress that I do not intend to be presented prospective drugs à la carte menu to find out what works for me, I already know what has worked for 8 years.
Done with playing guinea pig
That, I believe was enough to convince the specialist to put me back on my old medication until my next consultation in April.
Apart from the first night of use, my old medication has brought back some of my sparkle and banished all those rotten side-effects. For, whilst a doctor might know what is good for you, you alone can know what works for you. Sometimes, you must be as forceful as you can be to have that viewpoint noticed and acted upon for your own benefit.
At the back of your mind, this must be the resounding mantra, “It is my body first before it is your guinea pig.


It is my crystal (15th) anniversary of blogging

A new introduction
When my first blog was published on the 8th of December 2003, I was in a hotel in Berlin when I had the idea to begin writing and as a matter of coincidence, I will be travelling to Germany again.
Reading through my first blog, I reflect on what has happened over the last 15 years, what has remained the same and what has changed. I am still English of Nigerian parentage, that sense of identity has not changed, rather become more ingrained, but I have returned to live in the United Kingdom which is fermenting under the ructions of the train wreck of Brexit.
It is very likely my dad would be reading this, he is on Facebook, but I have not made a specific provision for my mum to join social media, she is probably preoccupied with other activities. The Internet has changed considerably in the last 15 years, there is no telling who else might get to read my blogs.
On the job
In October, I celebrated 30 years of an Information Technology career, I am still trying to make Microsoft products do what customers hope and expect they can do. Along the way, I am asked impossible questions, pressed to provide answers and expected to perform miracles.
Nothing has changed in finding that the crazy and the outrageous idea needs to be kept at bay through forceful challenge and dispute. Solutions still require a good deal of thinking and I am no less excited by what can be done with the tools we have to work with.
The unconcerned purist
“Language is a tool of total expression.” That is a quote from my first blog, I still find myself a bit of a purist railing against malapropisms, neologisms, Americanisms and much else. I am probably not as pernickety and pedantic, there are times, I can’t really be bothered to react. I observe and move on.
I used to read the Daily Telegraph, it has lost many of its good writers, it is badly managed, and it has become a shrill village rag for Brexit, I cannot abide it, even if it were the last newspaper to hand. I have replaced the Economist with The Week and as I seemed to gather volumes of The National Geographic without time to read much of it, I stopped the subscription.
The crazy politics
When looking at politics, I must say it is the stump of the Liberal Democrats that appears to represent my views. The Conservatives are in a state of self-immolation over Europe as if that is news, the Labour Party has been hijacked by a leftist fringe of peddlers of unrealisable Utopia, it is depressing to watch the mess our politics have become.
It is about mantras rather than conviction, Brexit has sucked the oxygen out of any progressive activity in the UK for 30 months, it is as unrelenting as it is suffocating, we are led by crazies with an ideological bent devoid of any sense.
In the meanwhile
Now, back to my blog, I still love travel, it relaxes and refreshes me.
In 15 years, I have had an amazing life full of experiences of academic achievement, different jobs, surviving cancer, making friends, long before Twitter and Facebook became the rave.
I am thankful and full of gratitude for the years and everyone who has found something on my blog, you are welcome, and you affirm the purpose that inspired the 2,897 blogs that have graced this place.
Maybe, I would write more, I don’t know, but we must celebrate today. To follow the thinking of wedding anniversaries, this would be my crystal anniversary of blogging.