Tuesday 31 January 2006

Not at any cost

Swallow your dog food
Kenya had declared a national disaster by reason of the fact that the rains had failed and hence a poor harvest and the consequences of hunger and deprivation have ensued.
Down in some faraway land (New Zealand) a food company run by a motherly lady who sprinkles nutrients on her porridge every morning offers to send 42 tons of those nutrients to feed the probably starving children of Kenya.
The offer is rejected with derisive comments as perception overrides reality in the quest to maintain dignity and pride – we are only human.
Aid on Trotters
Then in Palestine, Hamas prepares to take on the mantle of leadership which we must agree is well deserved because they have to-date been benefactors of their people a lot better than the erstwhile Fatah movement.
The West threatens to withhold aid because there is another facet of Hamas which exercises an uneasy ceasefire in attacking Israel that it wants to obliterate in favour of a Greater Palestine.
The curse of democracy means they have a mandate to run and if the West who so willingly enjoys trotters and the other parts withhold aid, other trotter-haters of the Middle-East might just step in and completely undermine any little influence the West might have in Israel-Palestine crisis.
Babe and Scooby
This shrill singing from the West does not seem to faze Hamas who might eventually moderate their views about Israel for the sake of peace and progress as the two-state solution betweens to saunter down the crooked roadmap
However, there is concern that the powder mix which when mixed with water forms a paste that could well rival the gourmet quality of Pedigree Chum might be construed as dog food even though the recipe has been modified for humans.
Pride or Prejudice
As Kenya swallows their prejudice and Hamas moderates their pride in an exchange of sentiments; it is hopeful that the West consider the Hamas social record of prudence, efficiency and service to the needy Palestinians and our dear lady of Mighty Mix dog biscuits rephrase her offer without the mention of dog
Kenya might then not bark at such a tainted but useful if not essential gift and Hamas might grunt as they recognise Israel and elevate the standard of living of their people.
Without prejudice
No offence is intended with regards to analogies appearing in this piece. The import is to illustrate agreement and strong disagreement as donors’ intentions and misunderstanding contrasts with recipients’ requirements and the maintenance of their dignity.

Thursday 26 January 2006

Living with the results of true democracy

In search of Arabian Democracy
The clamour for reform on the basis of democratic change in the Middle East has been so deafening that one is surprised that unexpected news filters through loud and clear.
Part of the supposed goal of winning the war on terror is to help Arabians have more say in the way they are governed and loosen the grip of those potentates that have been in power since the world began.
We, the mortals in leadership
In the last 6 months death has separated four of the rulers from thrones of their fiefdoms; they being, Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Maktoum of Dubai and Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah of Kuwait.
More so, human frailties of health lead the successor to the Emir of Kuwait to give up the throne by the urging of parliament having ruled for just 8 days – Oh! That he be so honoured with a portrait in the chamber of kings – caption “He ruled with great wisdom for a week and a day”.
Apparently, these developments about human mortality and vulnerability might not have been read and understood those who have lead their countries into abject privation in Africa; having plundered resource and reserves leaving legacies of corruption and disaster.
Then there have been ripples of reform in Syria, waves of tumult in Israel with the forming of Ariel Sharon’s Kadima; the cantankerous but interesting pronouncements of the Doctor-Engineer Ahmadinejad in Iraq with the enduring prominence of the Pharaoh Mubarak of Egypt.
New home for the insurgency
One could nervously say that the war in Iraq has brought change on the wings of missiles and laser-guided bombs, as they are enlightened with white phosphorus and the people entertained by the insurgency of emigrants wielding terror who have settled in Iraq from Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Now that we are getting what we have wished for, there is a lot of back-tracking that one wonders what we really want for the people.
The White House usually promotes democracy as just the ability to go out and vote; so vote they have done in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Iran, in Egypt and in Palestine.
The people have spoken
The people have chosen their leaders; that is democracy. Democracy does not include the refinement; you are only democratically elected if you will be a stooge of the West or are liked by the West.
It explains why America cannot get on with the popularly elected Hugo “do not meddle in my backyard” Chavez of Venezuela as they definitely did not speak up loud enough about the coup that overthrew him for 4 days.
More so, with Evo Morales in Bolivia, it would be interesting to see how they deal with another popularly elected leader of the people who also happens to champion the growing of coca.
Somehow, the Americans have not noticed that the drug problem is at home in the United States and not the coca growing fields of Central America that are rendered useless for anything else because of pesticides.
Anyway, the West has tried to pre-empt the electioneering in Palestine by warning that an elected Hamas cannot be a partner for peace.
Doers are deserving of government
However, Hamas is a multi-faceted organ of Palestinian desire, they fight for the land through what is commonly known here as terrorism, but known there as freedom fighting – intafada. They are also the only organ apart from NGOs that have done well to provide social services to their people.
Even without having the kind of funds that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have, hospitals, schools, jobs and daily essentials to alleviate suffering form another platform of their principles.
It is unfortunate that they still look to see the end of Israel and though that is contemporaneously wrong; there is a grievance of deprivation, oppression, exploitation and global diffidence if not indifference to be assessed as it fuels the clash of civilisations that now plague the West.
Indeed, the people have spoken
The fact is, the people have voted for those they think can best represent them and shunned those who the West has feted and befriended without engaging them properly about reforming themselves for electoral success.
This is the case especially for Palestine, though not as clear from Iran.
With Hamas having taken 58% of the seats of the parliament, better than George W. Bush in his second term victory of 51% percent, it can be said that the Hamas has a better mandate than the American president to speak for and govern their people. So, it can be said for the leaders of Venezuela, Bolivia, Iran and even Chile.
Democracy however, would not go scot-free, as work would commence to destabilise ‘so-called’ hostile regimes that are unfriendly to America just because they have refused to conform to that standard that allows the embodiment of their civilisation to be emasculated by markets and ideas that provide no local value.
Read the results out loud again
We hear that the current president of the Palestinian people who happens to have lead the blundering and corrupt Fatah movement is being urged to retain his seat; in the light of not having a legislative base to carry out reforms he could not pass through the erstwhile parliament that he supposedly should have had more influence over.
It makes one wonder whether we all know the many meanings of democracy.
Whilst the last time I looked, it appeared that it was purely the government of the people, by the people, for the people – somehow, the first is right and the last two have gone by way of the wind.
We end up being governed no doubt, but by some people for their pockets.
The Secretary of the Arab League clearly depicts the dilemma of democracy – “America cannot promote democracy and then reject the results of this democracy” [1] – even I cannot fail to see the insincerity of purpose in this one.

Monday 23 January 2006

No harsh tongue for Mrs Verdonk

Love Holland, hate Holland
I find that living in the Netherlands excites extreme emotions of love and hate as each day brings interesting review.
Nowhere is that exemplified better than in the antics of the government of the country where populist politicians hold sway as they tinker with the assumed norms of Dutch tolerance proposing incredible hiss-making ideas.
At times, one does wonder if it is worthwhile wasting copy on this stuff, but there comes a time that commentary is needed before the extreme becomes the common.
Pim Fortuyn the populist politician was murdered by another pure Dutch man in 2002 all because questioning tolerance intolerantly creates scope for some to become intolerant to the extent of tolerating themselves the acts of intolerant crime.
That could also be read backwards, where dealing with intolerance in an intolerant way rather than instructively and educationally helps foster more intolerance that shocks a nominally tolerant society.
A language ban of sorts
Two issues excite my commentary, the first being the endorsement of policy that requires Dutch to be spoken in public places by the Minister of Integration and then the nomination of a ethnic minority politician for the Nobel Peace Prize. (topic for another outing).
The first can only be so instructive that one definitely feels utterly fortunate to live in the Netherlands as a full-fledged European citizen with very marketable skills.
I can only wonder how much sleep is lost by the government in trying to think up the next “smart” thing that makes people involuntarily pliant to a state that is looking like a lot worse is about to happen.
We have been getting used to laws in other lands that ban smoking in public places, which can be understandable for social and health issues. Where a law exists, the flaunting of it can exact due legal process leading to sanctions.
Even is the law to ensure that everyone carries a form of identification around on the premise that it stops terrorism; I would even try to research the logic behind that.
Every now and then the police obstruct bicycle paths at night to nab riders who ride without lights at night; they exact fines and cautions which is understandable for safety reasons to protect riders and the public.
Spreek je Nederlands? (Do you speak Dutch?)
The speaking of Dutch in public places is an interesting development in the debate of trying to retain Dutchness in a country overcome with the paranoia of losing their identity to that of immigrants of North African ancestry.
This is followed on with the concept that speaking Dutch automatically confers a congenital infestation of knowing everything Dutch in manner, comportment, societal values and integration.
It makes one wonder where indigenous Dutch criminals and social misfits got it wrong since they probably cannot speak any other language than Dutch.
Language as part of culture
Language does help foster an identity, along with traditions, customs and accepted values of the people. However, I am of the opinion that the Dutch would always be caught up in this paranoia until they have learnt to be glowingly proud of their heritage.
For instance, every summer, I am dressed up in traditional Africa attire for work and it excites interest from everyone as to the origin of the clothes, what they are made of, what occasions warrant the wearing of the clothes and many other points of costume trivia.
I cannot say that I have ever seen any Dutch person in anything typically Dutch, and where that is mentioned, it elicits derisive commentary.
It is therefore no surprise that people adhere to their cultures in Diaspora than adopt host cultures when the host citizens cannot find enough to celebrate of their heritage, history and culture.
Introducing the speech police
Most interestingly, the thought that fills all with trepidation is how to enact a law that forces people to use a particular language in public and how it is enforced through the use of the police when the law is broken.
With the promise of a reward everyone can inform and spy on one another and report on the Openbaar Taal Misbruik Aangifte (Public misuse of language reporting) Internet site – www.Op-ta-mis-an.nl for short.
Better still, declare a war on all other languages and put the country in a state of emergency as a threat to the survival of the Dutch requires every means to call all patriots to arms against the onslaught of other insignificant and culture-busting tongues.
Using your mobile phone you can record the event and MMS it to a toll free number, the national crime-watch television programme can then air the footage to nab the offenders.
It might be that someone speaks out loud in their home in another language and because it is heard on the streets that infringement can bring an unsavoury sanction.
I did not live in either the Nazi times or the McCarthy times of the 1950s in America, but one can only begin to see how this once rather tolerant country is unconscionably being lead down a path of unspeakable restraint in the quest for maintaining their identity.
It probably would mean that no other language can be taught in schools just as the black South Africans only had Afrikaans as their language of instruction in the Apartheid times.
So widely spoken, indeed …
Language can be used as a tool to prevent people from being relevant in any other place than their locality.
As Dutch is so widely spoken in the Netherlands, Belgium, Suriname, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and partly in Indonesia and France with South Africa speaking a variant that is not considered Dutch; it is so tumultuous a requirement for a language spoken by a grand total of 24 million people, with two-thirds in the Netherlands.
If only the language were more forgiving to those who strive to learn it through imperfections and inadequacies, it might probably be more widely spoken. That difficulty probably informs why the only one known pidgin Dutch is Papiamento and that only consists of 25% Dutch.
A seriously difficult tongue
That is most enlightening; but I lament my grasp of the language after almost 6 years of sojourn, and it contrasts sharply with how much I picked up of German in three months of evening lessons in the United Kingdom.
As it happens, this idea which is promoted as a “code of conduct” in Rotterdam by the party gave birth to the likes of Pim Fortuyn is heralded as bastion for the protection of the Dutch psyche.
Innocuous as it seems, it is probably the most sinister abuse of premise and purpose this century.
Pioneers of another misery
We should not forget that the Dutch pioneered the profiteering in slave trade having taken over from the Swedes and left it long before it became popular with other Europeans as the East Indian Company brought cleaner profits from trading in spices.
Pioneering another dastardly set of repugnant ideas which on the surface would make even right-thinking people acquiescent should not come as a surprise of Dutch ingenuity embedded in their heritage.
Mastery of the language is a commendable goal, trying incentive through expressed pride would probably do it better than the coercion that is really aimed at immigrants of no particular means.
If only I could find a harsh tongue for this “code of conduct”, I would not have half expressed myself with greater indignation.

Saturday 21 January 2006

When we were gay

Victimless probably; crime probably not
For a while, I have wondered about the issue of dealing with ‘victimless crimes’. Let me be clear about this, these are activities that occur consensually between people, probably in inappropriate places and are criminalised by a public morality because they do not represent what is the ‘norm’.
This is for all intents and purposes a very difficult subject that a blog cannot even begin to address.
One recalls that many years ago a world-renowned musician was caught importuning in a public convenience having been egged on by an agent provocateur member of law enforcement.
Using a public convenience in other members of the public might happen upon a situation that can cause disgust, distress and disdain is unfortunate, but it begs the question why adults of means and ways would do such things.
Then when the law serves to entrap people into criminality, I can find no words to express how appalling that is.
Good men lost for being themselves
This issue dare not speak its name, but one can only wonder how much more advanced our world would be if Alan Turing had not committed suicide in relation to his lifestyle whilst his professional life literally ended the Second World War by the work that broke German ciphers.
Probably Oscar Wilde, Joe Orton and Kit Marlowe a contemporary of Shakespeare might have gone on to do greater works than they have been acclaimed for. We have lost great men to the scourge of what society cannot seem to bear, moral conduct matters a lot, but to what extent the concern of other people about your private business?
There is a history to this talk, and not too far back in the 60s the worst thing anyone could be called was a bugger – it was a term of completely despicable import which supposedly equated practitioners with every unimaginable abomination of sexual activity, it could not be spoken in hushed tones less talked about.
Good men doing good things regardless
By and large, more can now speak up about a life, a love and a care that is hardly in the majority but is significant to those involved.
So watching Oprah earlier this evening, she was talking about all the charity work that makes changes to people’s lives, one of which was the rebuilding of a community in Sri Lanka where a member of her staff had lost a loved one and that person had returned home to America to get things moving to make a difference in that Sri Lankan community.
Women with jobs, houses and restaurants being rebuild, lives being put together again just because of a love that once before could dare not speak its name.
Wont see them in church
It still dare not speak in its name in many more places, as the church which is supposed to provide succour to all; privileged, deprived, depraved, destitute and all.
It selects those it would accommodate and rails like a screaming banshee against those who probably need it most, because they are probably more problematic to handle than easy social issues.
The greatest animosity now exists between them and the church and they distance themselves even further to be able to handle the conflicts of mind and purpose that has lead others like Justin Fashanu to commit suicide.
Sometimes the message from the church about reinforcing the virtues of good morality is founded on speaking more about ‘immorality’ than about the benefits of greater aspirations to holiness.
A business would not survive it is concentrated on managing debt than promoting its core business attributes.
Nigeria Un-Gay-ria
So, it was interesting amidst the crises that encompass Nigeria, most especially the oil conflicts, then the problems of the Presidency, the economy and corruption, they found ample time to rail against this abomination which is a Western sin.
Give me a big break here, the only difference between the West and Africa on this issue is they in the West can speak about it.
This ‘sin’ has been within mankind for so long, even some medicine men in the deepest darkest Africa to the townships of modern Africa have names that are as expressive as the activity itself with nothing left to the imagination.
We had names for these activities long before the West civilised us with the concept of acceptance, that level of hypocrisy is daunting if not amazing.
The internet reveals that many are who they are in Nigeria seeking the space to be themselves in a modern democracy and this is going to shut down by the moral police of the church and the Presidency.
Liberally gifting the illiberal
Between America and Nigeria we have had the most liberal church that has an ordained priest of that persuasion support, sponsor and equip the most illiberal church that wants to secede from the Anglican Communion because of this.
Methinks we have completely misplaced priorities on the vocation of the church which is to call people and not divide on the basis of not wanting to call in certain people.
Anyway, it is still a topic that whips up such deep emotions most especially amongst non-practitioners that it is laughable and amusing to see the vituperation that could almost accompany the stroke that precedes sudden death as disgust overwhelms their ability to really say how it does affect them – personally.
Love a homosexual, it might just change you or maybe just change your thinking.

Thursday 19 January 2006

Professional reputations in a rotten job

False facts force fiddles
Angst is never an emotion or state of mind one finds oneself grappling with. In professional life, it rarely ever features, since I project myself as an expert and authority in the field where the knowledge goods find a market.
This really became a dilemma when I took on a short term contract to help sort out some problems which were affecting the technical relationship between my employer and their client.
It so transpires that over the last year, they had been discussing the execution of this project such that many questions were asked, some answers were given and we can agree that some of those answers would make a jury take a negative view of evidence before them.
Business lies
Basically, there were misrepresentations which lead to certain conclusions that formed the basis of executing the project.
Businesses embark on projects hopefully as a business improvement or enhancement exercise knowing that every eventual benefit might incur an initial cost in resources, time and money.
In this case, the client already had a ceiling of costs for a project which under nominal circumstances would have had an implementation floor well above the projected and agreed costs.
GF≠C is ideal
For some, that would be a bargain, but we all know that even if your service terms were Good, Fast and Cheap, juxtaposing them would provide different results.
+        Fast and Cheap is usually not Good (Bad)
+        Good and Fast is usually not Cheap (Ideal)
+        Good and Cheap is usually not Fast (Acceptable)
In this case, the project manager having presented the ideal plan had the Sales People pare it down to the acceptable and they all ended up with a bad agreement, I now have to square that up to the ideal.
With the wealth of knowledge and expertise I bring in as well as being a resource to execute the project, a lot can be done, but none of which does well to approach the fundamental implementation floor worthy of any recognition.
My role however was one of either trying to resolve the prevailing problems or a complete re-design of the project, the former had mileage, and the latter was long dead in water.
In resolving the problems, some radical action had to be taken which for posterity would have my name attached till when some sensible assessment of what went wrong initially and that is corrected.
Speak for me - forever
I could speak for myself whilst on the project and in the company, but once I leave, having done what the customer required though that requirement falls way below my professional judgment, it makes one wonder who would speak up for me when another expert reviews the project further down the line.
My concerns for that lead me to consider walking away from the project.
I sought succour from mentors and friends which simply confirmed the notion that it would always be my call.
Weighing the consequences of protecting my professional integrity or probably pride by walking away, or trying to make the best of a bad situation by making myself available as a resource to implement what the customer wants with the best expertise I could offer.
Just not on
In choosing the latter, I had already remonstrated about the issues that were raised in negotiating the terms of the project
+        from the false assertion that they had experts of my calibre who had executed the project not only badly but wrongly;
+        the apparent lack of candour where claim and counter-claim pervaded the atmosphere till the real truth emerged in a forum of all parties;
+        the quest to cover-up the mess by subterfuge rather than owning up to the mistakes made
Those amongst many other little but significant issues have been addressed and would need to be reviewed again as this project hopefully comes to a close.
Egg-spurt needs egg on face
The only annoying bit remains that the in-house expert who has expertly made a hash of this project has not accepted the folly of his actions enough to leave this to the hired expert to first resolve and then handover with the opportunity to learn.
For me, it is a humbling experience which in other circumstances would have seen my walk out, the risk of humiliation looms but is distant from the fact that they all well know that I kicked up a right old fuss.
Once again, I thank my mentors and friends for their advice, soothing words and useful guidance, they are friends, indeed.
This time has been instructive, the people quite challenging and the project, well definitely interesting. Go figure!

Thursday 5 January 2006

Obituaries for the living

Prognostication of news
With great interest I note the number of times the media has published the obituaries of persons still living as rumour defeats the patience to apply meticulous methods to the gathering of news.
Only too recently, we had the episode of the West Virginia mine disaster where reports of death and life were confused on the numbers of who was dead or alive.
So, it is with poignancy that I heard the admonition of the director of the Hadassah Hospital to act responsibly in the dissemination of news concerning Ariel Sharon and his condition; stating that any changes to his status would be announced promptly by the hospital only.
This was done in disputing the fact that rumour was already pervading the air of the demise of Ariel Sharon, however, he lives; as he tethers at the portal of the great beyond as those who really have their prayers answered pray for a miracle of restoration.
Miracles or debacles
From what one has observed, miracles mean many things to diverse people and the majority opinion lies with the desperation of a situation beyond which there is no hope, whilst the other lies with the expectation of change where hope and faith in God drives the powers of nature to restore strength to what was considered impossible.
Many get their miracles, either by being overwhelmed with helplessness that submits to despair or by being overjoyed with realisation that prayer is really meant to work or else it is useless.
What comes around…?
Just about 14 months ago, as Yasser Arafat was being transported to Paris for treatment, the Israeli cognoscenti predicted he would not return, I observed also the placards in Lebanese Palestinians that called out “Death to Sharon”.
No love lost amongst the children of Abraham, it seems; what a world of compassion we live in, where to be magnanimous is to be foolish and to be bitter is to be human. As a race, we humans have still got a long way to go.
One is not against the preparedness that greets the expectation of a great man’s passing as obituaries are drafted, edited, refined and primed for publication. The news network death vigil that accompanied the passing of Pope John Paul II over 4 days in March/April 2005 gives one pause for thought.
It was like the networks were the ECG machine connected to the dear Pope’s vital systems which were to trigger the outpouring of waves of news analysis and death tributes just as the last breath was about the depart the nostrils even if the heart still had one last beat to pound.
Publish and be mocked
Despite the mistakes of the media in the poor reporting of events, one can almost bet that Ariel Sharon would probably be declared dead long before he has departed just as news networks can call elections for a candidate long before the numbers are properly tallied. American Election 2000, for instance.
No doubt, the mouse is primed to click on the publish button as soon as truth or rumour pervades the atmosphere; that it would be so gratifying to really see Mr Sharon shame all those writers as he rises like Lazarus to take his people to the promised peace that has so far eluded the promised land.
If this mistake does get repeated, one might just advocate a news certification and verification standards body that would eliminate the unpleasant competition for publication in anticipation of consequent fulfilment.
I now know, I do not really want to be the first to know.

Wednesday 4 January 2006

How in God's name, did this happen?

This media circus should stop
My sleep was constantly interrupted as the news came from the West Virginia coal mine disaster, the search for 13 lost men changed constantly as the troughs and crests of a roller coaster ride.
There was such a baying for news as the networks analysed, cross-referenced and reported rumour with incomplete information which suggested one man had died, and then there were 12 survivors and just now, only one survivor in a critical condition.
In fact, one really wonders what to believe as the news developed that the mine was unsafe and critical safety issues prevented some from working at certain times.
All the while, hope and despair wrestled with the truth and reality as we were told the survivors who would be brought by the church; ironically, one can say to be buried of course, because someone must have known the whole truth rather than a twelfth of the truth.
Miscommunication unrehearsed
The problem here is, whilst is it dastardly unconscionable and beneath contempt that people’s anxiety was tugged at with devilish mockery, the need to address news conferences and report progress even where there was no information is becoming the bane of our civilisation.
One suggestion indicates that mobile phones helped spread incomplete information as eavesdropping and rumour coupled with the loud shouts of joy from the control centre spread a wildfire fire of terminological inexactitudes (lies).
First is hardly best
The quest to get there first with the news; first from the first witness or non-witness is just not good for our humanity as we viewed this globally.
The first report race means that not enough checks and are made of information received before it is relayed.
It is difficult to say for sure who should take the blame for this kind of media frenzy; from the news producers to the news consumers.
Business as usual
As we mourn the loss of 12 lives, the company may just go on because it is almost impossible to re-skill miners and there is a business to run, life just goes on as our humanity dissolves into the need to be fed by the work of our hands.
Life goes on at the expense of those who have been cheated of the joy of good news because checks and balances were not put in place to crosscheck what had been heard.
“Miracles do happen” as the Governor did say, but sometimes the man-made miracle is not the event itself but the gluttonous hunger and unquenchable thirst of the technology needed to deliver the news.
Beyond this disaster some lawyer is probably already preparing a brief for a class action suit against many that would not include the news networks.
We have not heard the last of this stuff yet and it is only day 4 of 2006.
How in God’s name, did this happen?