Monday 30 September 2013

Thought Picnic: Looking to ride October like a horse of wishes

My wish, my hope
October dawns with hope and desire, the need for change and a greater outlook different from the recent past.
Weary as I have been and sometimes restless too, I have wondered what new thing I need to do to present myself better able and better suited.
Slight changes and modifications, trying new things and learning other things with the hope that one becomes fresher as expectations gain the palpability of reality.
Let the new month come with good, with favour, with luck and the best of everything.

Sunday 29 September 2013

Thought Picnic: My Ministry

My ministry review
When I was asked this morning about my ministry, I almost felt for my dog collar, as I wondered why I was not in church earlier than that moment.
The truth is I never aspired to be a religious leader and hence do not carry either the drive or the passion of those who stand at the pulpit preaching, proclaiming, postulating or prophesying.
I do however have a ministry as I cast myself as an encounter person, ordinary because of my simplicity though made significant by the stories I have to tell by experience and by insight.
My ministry explained
My ministry is my humanity it is the heart of my being, given purpose and undergirded by principles and examples in the life of Christ.
Then again, imperfect as I am, I seek to be a Good Samaritan having the bowels of mercy and compassion equipped to minister to need with as much ease as I am blessed to offer.
More so, for the sake of circumstance and opportunity, to be engaged in conversation temporal and spiritual even if a Samaritan woman who having had five husbands is not too unworthy to be asked for a drink of water.
Yet as if possessed by Legion, constantly depressing the self-destruct button my story becomes an encounter of great testimony.
My ministry in action
My ministry is life lived in all ways and means, a never-ending tale of gratitude and thankfulness with many who have selflessly poured out of their means into my bosom.
For I have gifts, some well used and others badly wasted and as I write I seek to speak of justice, fairness, truth, compassion and hope.
My ministry is conventional, to see the least, the deprived, the different, the poor, the little, the smallest, the seeking, the asking, the anxious, the worried, the sick and many more, to love them for who they are, to accept them wholly, to appreciate them fully and to engage them as equals, talented, able and called to excellence.
My ministry of the lesser me
However, I am far from fulfilling that calling for the limitations of my humanity but I am strengthened to reach beyond myself to do things I never thought possible.
What is my ministry? To live, to tell, to voice, to care, to engage, to feel, to tell stories that with life, there are things to do and places to go.
I need no office, I need no title, I am blessed and beyond that I strive to be a blessing and that in itself takes me from day to day, through the rough and the tough, despair and hope unto the promise that each new day offers a new beginning.
The greatest ministry
We will not all be apostles, or prophets, or teachers, or pastors, or evangelists, or preachers, but we can be ordinary people, with heart, with soul, with empathy and with desire to think, to act, to help and to give succour.
In most cases that is what the other person needs, someone who is there to listen, to comfort, to encourage, to embolden, to offer a shoulder to cry on and just be human. That to me is ministry, it is the ministry we are all called to, everyday of our lives.
That is my ministry.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Nigeria: How much do we pay our lawmakers? - Part II

Back on the streets
The Nigerian youth marched out to our legislative houses all around the country on Thursday the 26th of September 2013.
On Twitter, they mustered and gathered organised under the Twitter hashtag of #OurNASS where Nigerians demanded accountability, transparency and better representation. [Al Jazeera]
The occupation of elected political office had long shifted from the call to service to what was self-serving interests exemplified by outrageous remunerations that make the eyes water.
A salary to feast on
It is the long held belief that our democracy is both profligate and extravagant, it is safe to assume that the cost is unsustainable.
However, when the people congregated at the National Assembly in Abuja, some senators braved the crowds and came out to chat with the people where for the very first time a senator presented his payslip detailing the salary for one month paid in January 2010, in the previous electoral cycle as tabulated below:

Without considering inflationary changes and reassessments up to 2013, this alone presents an interesting reading on the percentages scale.
Multiples beyond belief
A senator will take 735% in allowances beyond his basic salary monthly with 200% going to housing and 250% going to managing a constituency office.
If the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions total more than the basic salary, you then wonder if the allowances are taxed too.
Besides this, the vehicle loan is 400% of annual basic salary, but if a term is 4 years, how does a senator pay off that loan without seeking extra funds over and above the salary?

It would mean the legislator will would have either to meet that from the allowance pool or engage in other business activity to meet possible shortfalls, this remuneration structure is uneconomical and presents the framework for nefarious activity, possibly corruption.
Not sustainable
What does not show in this salary payslip is the furniture allowance, which is 75% of annual salary paid in a lump sum at the commencement of legislative tenure and 5% for housing allowance.
We still need to get a current figure representing what we pay our legislators but in percentage terms with reference to the basic salary, it is unlikely as I have said before that any private sector job rewards people this well, this democracy at this rate and cost is unsustainable.
Other reading

Thought Picnic: Try a little tenderness to the children

It ought not to be so
As I came of out the station on Sunday on my way back from church, I heard a raised voice, a curt statement and then some threatening gesturing.
It was a mother to a child, a child probably no older than 7, probably born in England but with parents possibly born in Nigeria of the Yoruba tribe because she spoke almost too unkindly to her son in tones that left disconcerted.
I felt for the boy, she scolded him more like an animal than with intelligible consideration that might have come from learning differently from the way and the environments in which our parents brought us up.
We are not learning
There seems to be no evolution between generations for many parents today who have not integrated into the new societies they now reside in considering their wards are in no way conversant with the foreign cultural settings their parents come from.
I have constantly written about child-parent conflicts that result from this lack of appreciation of the setting, circumstance and situation where we are tempted to think the ghettoised communities we set up in Diaspora in our localities, our religious meeting places and our friendships we have, can substitute for living in our indigenous local communities back home.
Giving some attention
Nothing could be further from the truth, this is most evident in the matter of child rearing, and discipline where age-old methods given significance by scripture lifted out of context allows for the coarse word, the whip hand, and the serving of pain and restraints on freedom as a means to moderate behaviour.
Another thing is an understanding of who our kids are, their personalities and character, their hopes and fears, their emotions, inclinations and desires, most especially, having the ability to recognise when they are suffering.
This is crucial is identifying behavioural traits that probably need professional intervention before things get out of hand from autism through attention deficit disorders to depression and other possible mental illnesses presented as anti-social interaction and much else.
Exasperation beyond words
The point I am trying to make is in Ephesians 6:4
Fathers [and mothers], do not exasperate [irritate intensely; infuriate - to make very angry or impatient; annoy greatly] your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. [NIV]
Yes, parents have the ability to exasperate their kids, irritate them intensely, make them very angry or even impatient whilst annoying them greatly – these kids are human too, with feelings, emotions and the ability to react – they will eventually hit back, one cannot account for how hard they will when they do.
Nurture and care
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture [help grow or develop; cultivate] and admonition of the Lord. [KJV]
There is an element of care, attention, love, accommodate and involvement in nurturing that begs our humanity to respond from the heart, but you are either nurturing or exasperating your child except when you are possibly aping a schizophrenic that the child is unsure of what you are trying to do.
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord. [AMP]
Too many times, we have read and heard of tales where there is a complete breakdown in the relationship between parent and child, sometimes to irretrievable circumstances and it might just be that aforetime we missed the opportunity to try a little tenderness.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Nigeria: Give way on Twitter too

Quite irked, I really was

I posted the above tweet yesterday as I tried to contain my anger in dismay of some views expressed on Twitter.
There is nothing wrong with having opinions on many topics, in some cases, that person might well be a polymath, and we need the engagement of such brains on the diversity of issues that crowd the Nigerian discourse on Twitter.
Where I have issues is when opinions consistently offered unchallenged become a burdensome and unconscious form of hubris breeding intellectual arrogance causing disabling ignorance as Peter Drucker the legendary management consultant once said.
Give space for others
Sadly, when people occupy the opinion space so commandingly, we lose the input of the less articulate, but more knowledgeable leaving all of us the poorer for it at first and then allowing for the propagation of error and falsehoods that seriously needs debunking.
Even I have been reticent to enter into some scraps because it can both be laborious and energy-sapping, besides it descending into a shouting match, though I do my best to avoid that and settle for agreeing to disagree, moving on soon after that.
My tweet used the analogy of a torrent as in that of fast-moving body of water, possibly a river, and the banks being the ability to allow in interaction and discourse with the plains being the wider audience that might read the stuff, flawed as it might be.
Espouse good engagement
We all in terms of what we know, what we embrace, what we tolerate and how our patience is exercised, have a solemn duty of sorts to call out those who with their views upset the community of fellowship and the equanimity we espouse.
The simple advice I find myself wanting to give is, if you are prone to the verbal diarrhoea, find a private convenience with a huge water closet to do your thing, and when you leave, a finger depressing the air freshener for a minute would give others the opportunity to use the facility soon after you.
Thank you.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Thought Picnic: The healing that comes with telling

We don’t tell enough
I could almost feel envious of those who have been able to make a living out of the narrative. The narrative being the stories of their lives, their experiences from childhood to the present, bringing recognition and resonance to audiences who can both identify and commiserate.
In fact, I believe we do not all tell our stories enough for too many reasons to mention as we adjudge what we might have been through to be too mundane, lacking in drama and having nothing exotic.
The amazing thing is, the bleeding obvious when repackaged and rephrased, given context and purpose can so easily be profound.
Finding healing beyond abuse
I find myself writing this from the perspective of two sets of stories that need telling, the first I read yesterday of men holding up placards, not in protest or as part of a demonstration, but just a statement, one that went from what they heard to what they experienced – abuse.
You can read their stories here - 27 Male Survivors Of Sexual Assault Quoting The People Who Attacked Them – I cannot add much more to their stories apart from the fact that this is part of the bigger cause called Project Unbreakable, started by 19-year old, Grace Brown in October 2011; “to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art.
I added two memories of mine to the mix with the following tweets.

To Fathers and mothers of ourselves
The second story came from relationships we have with our parents concerning our upbringing initially and then the sharing of the secrets of our lives, many of which following the context of my last few blogs are difficult for our parents to understand.
Many of us still harbour too many secrets and are yet to come into the fullness of who we really are to those closest to us by blood – some wait for the release that might come when our forebears have passed on – in all, there is loss and there is regret, fulfilment and closure are not that easy to obtain.
Here in The Power of Storytelling on the OutTales Around the Fire blog that I follow, I could really identify with the three elements of ‘Killing My Mother’ that the author, Ade Adeniji narrated. I am sure many Nigerians can relate to this - The Father+Mother Project - Storytelling Performance takes place on the 5th and 6th of October, 2013.
A journey we must make
The most profound part of this piece can be found in the comment left by Pauline King, and she said, “I believe that we all gain enormous gifts from our traumatic childhoods and relationships – if we can but move from blame and despair to forgiveness and hope.
I dare say, in the process of understanding our lives, probably too many of us are still in the blame and despair stage and the journey to forgiveness and hope is like one of a thousand miles through dreadful places the boldest angels will fear to tread.
If anything, we must embark on that journey, if we are to find healing and a new fullness of life.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Thought Picnic: Having life is not enough

That journey travelled
It dawned on me this morning how far I had come from the Tuesday week four years ago, when I was admitted to hospital with a life-threatening condition.
By the time we discovered what it really was, I had the difference of between 5 weeks to live or survival, which involved intensive chemotherapy and a very long period of recuperation.
However, I must not deceive myself that four years on, with the ravages of disease come serious life-changing circumstances, some so radical as to fill you with hope-destroying desperation, despair and depression.
Finding more to life
Having life is not enough, there has to be quality and purpose to it, yet, one must be thankful and grateful for the gift of life and the opportunities it presents, to have hope and to be encouraged to continue the tough journey that lays ahead.
Yes, it dawned on me, when I realised I could not help someone I would have had no problem helping only 5 years ago.
With means, opportunity, ideas and insight, I had the capacity and the ability to spare nothing to set things in place and sort things out – Alas! I was no position to do so apart from find the crutch of my recurring sob story to lean on.
This story needs help
With the encounters of a harder life I have recently experienced in the last few years, I pick myself up and as many times as I find that I fall into exhaustion, relapse and tiredness as if one is losing the will to live after all that I have been through.
Whereas, all I need is a light, someone willing to take a chance, open to the risk of engaging a person with much to offer even if the first point of interaction does not create an amazing impact.
You stand at the cliff-edge wondering whether the myth of flight can be a reality or a walk back to face what presently gives no joy is a better prospect.
You ask yourself again, where would this long scary story end?

Monday 23 September 2013

Thought Picnic: In life, we will always differ

Of secrets deep inside
Following on the issue of acceptance and understanding of my parents and relations concerning things that affect and define me, I realise there is much we probably will never get to talk about.
Many decisions and allowances have become the story I have never fully told, yet, I have friends urging and compelling me to reveal more facets of my makeup.
Finding a new direction
Beyond that, there are elements of activism that I am not too conversant with, but I have experience of because of whom I am and what I have.
To some, these issues are lifestyle choices, but to those who live within that framework, if we could really make those choices we would have made completely different ones.
There is no reason to go against the grain to prove a point deliberately, we are not obstinate and stubborn people geared to offend, upset and embarrass anyone, we are just human.
We suffer in silence
However, elements of our humanity are still difficult to understand and accept; some of it comes with fear, with shame, with stigma, with discrimination and sometimes violence unwarranted.
Besides this, some of us bear in ourselves a death sentence, organisms seeking to sap away our life force and yet we refuse to give in – we are survivors, telling a tale mostly to ourselves that we will see another day, another year and more beyond that.
Both different and the same
We just want to get on with our lives and not have to face the unremitting scrutiny of people who want to define our lives by what they consider the norms to which we cannot adhere.
When we do sit down to talk about some difficult and hard truths, we might be different but no less than anyone else engaged in the pursuit of love, happiness, peace, joy and a life worthy of remembrance and positive impact in our communities.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Thought Picnic: Are those blanks signs of depression?

Much talk no hearing
A few Sundays ago, I was in church and whilst I appeared to go with the flow, when it came to the sermon, I did not get anything of what the pastor had to say.
In the multitude of words, I comprehended nothing, besides the fact that he was speaking English – my thinking could not connect with what he had to say.
Somewhere along the line, he did ask if we were getting something out of what he had to say, I probably was in a minority not knowing his preaching style to be sure of how it worked for others.
Present and absent
It reminded me of a number of episodes in my academic life when I appeared to be present in class but not present in mind or objective.
There was one instance where I do remember drawing a complete blank. On reflection, I was going through some sort of crisis but there was no one I could talk to about what my experiences were to be sure if I could get help.
Lost without help
My parents would never have understood it, my father being a brain-box just would not have appreciated that I was attending class and not getting it, he would have had me off to vocational classes with the usual excoriating remark redolent of my slow development and my slow responses probably connected to my premature birth – who can say?
My mother would have had me visiting prophets, seers and marabouts trying to ward off evil, real or imagined, besides drinking copious amounts of holy water, some so rancid that it sickened to the pit of my stomach.
The effects of depression
This rotten mental block persisted for about 3 years, and eventually lost me 5 years of tertiary education after secondary school. I would have tortuously recited an interminable number of times Psalms in Yoruba over bowls, buckets or cups of water – it made life less than fun to live in every dimension possible.
I am yet to understand what I really went through; depression comes to mind, something we Nigerians have yet not begun to understand in the slightest.
Ignored emotional needs
Yet, we are under constant pressure of competition and comparison, expected to perform because every other encumbrance has been removed as tuition, board, sustenance, provision and many other parental responsibilities that have been equated to love meeting emotional need.
It was a dark time of my life and in all; it took the best part of 10 years to realign my course not having understood but taking religion and kept a stoicism about things that they will all turn out right.
Understanding the rhythms
These cycles of darkness and light have come and gone through what has become my story. At times, I am so sure of what I need to do and at other times even what I am sure of doing does not seem to produce the results that once came without much exertion.
I have a constant process of assessment and re-evaluation going on, hoping a Eureka moment will dawn on me and with that, the answers to the puzzles of frustration I have long endured.
Thankfully, this Sunday, what the man spoke about was very clear, easy to understand and useful – I need to renew my thinking again.

Saturday 21 September 2013

A limerick to ridicule some beliefs

You go to church or thereabouts,
But you seek solutions like you’re visiting marabouts,
What you give so much to address,
Is exploited too well by preachers who oppress,
Then you think you believe, but what you do is feed your doubts.

Friday 20 September 2013

Hospital: Hepatic scrutiny

Situation to woman
I could remember the day I had a deep biopsy almost 4 years ago when the consultant dermatologist asked one of his understudies to probe the fungating cancer tumours in the ball of my foot and the second toe of my left foot.
The pain was already unbearable and otherworldly as the woman flooded my foot with injections of Lidocaine to no effect. After seven shots, I could still feel the raw pain of cancer, excruciating beyond what words could describe, but the biopsy had to be done.
So I laid on the gurney, a nurse holding one hand as if I was enacting a sketch of a woman in labour, she asked me to take deep breaths, though I did not have to push, I did ask for an epidural but none was offered.
In the end, I had some tissue folded into a big pad and put that between my jaws for the firmest bite force I could muster and gave in to the worst of the biopsy, which ended after 10 minutes.
Situation to ponder
I was in pain for another hour after that, it was one of the worst experiences I ever had in my life, but it was necessary to ascertain the type of cancer I had for them to determine the course of treatment.
Today, I was to have another experience that could easily have been happening to the other gender as I wondered aloud if it would be healthy and speculated about its gender, then remembered we do not gestate.
Before I knew it, someone was congratulating my wife and I; that left me in a rather tight corner before I stuttered my thanks and moved on swiftly ere I had to divulge too much about my warped thinking and complicated relationship arrangements or the lack of them.
Situation of liver
I was to have an ultrasound liver scan, and I really was not expecting a foetus to be kicking and grimacing in my belly.
Preparations for that meant drinking lots of water to have a full bladder and no food for at least 6 hours before the scan. I find water tasteless that I only got half of the two litres I was supposed to drink into my system.
I registered, and within minutes, the sonographer called my name, took me into a consulting room and then asked me to take my shirt off, sag my trousers before lying on the bed.
She applied some jelly to my belly and used the probe to rub it all over the exposed parts of my abdomen before I had to take a series of long deep breaths that I held for almost a minute before I was allowed to breathe normally again.
Situation is good
I could not see the scans as they allow women to see the ultrasound scans of their life foetuses, however, we did come up with the idea of projecting the scans onto the ceiling to keep patients entertained but that might not be possible under the NHS.
Turning onto my side, my arms raised above my head, she did more scans until she declared that my liver looks fine. Over time, I will continue to have blood tests and possible biannual scans – great relief and thankfulness, one cannot afford another major event for this day.

Thought Picnic: Hope shortens the day

Of news you cannot change
11 years ago, he heard and learnt with confirmation that life will be different; it will change and be the determinant of the future whether it be long or short.
He took the news with stoicism, aware that events that led to this conclusion could only have been his fault and so he had to face the consequences of his actions.
However, at the back of his mind, he reckoned that much as he had allowed those circumstances, he could not condemn himself in the things that he had allowed. Regrets will not change the facts of the new life ahead of him.
Where hope is
The day could have been long with anger, the night following with depression, the future looming with thoughts almost suicidal, every waking hour filled with worry and the will to live sapped of all its verve that tomorrow will never come.
He did not let that dominate his thinking, for beyond this was the possibility, the realisation that the missing component to the hearing of such news is hope.
For hope takes you from today to the next, it gives you expectation of change however remote it might be, it shortens the day and ushers in the morrow continuing the cycle of life for renewal.
Keeping on
That hope, despite all, has kept him going, through thick and thin, much and lack, excess and privation, having and having not, and it still shines as a beacon of things to come.
For the many milestones that the 20th of September represents, he will not faint; neither shall his sight fail to see that things will only get better and that the best is really yet to come.
Here is to life and all the experiences that have become an elixir of life.
Related Blog

Thursday 19 September 2013

Blogging: Facing the shame of my bad writing

As an experiment, I am counting the number of times I edit this blog after I first clicked the Publish button: 6
I am still learning to write
I have to admit I have a problem too many ideas course through my active mind and with that the desire to tap at my keyboard and produce a blog. I have been doing this for a long time; I am in my tenth year of blogging.
When I first started blogging, I passed my copy through a grammar and writing style checker to ascertain the readability of what I have written and found that it consistently registered too high on the scale for it to cater to a broad reading audience.
Checking grammar and readability
The grammar checker became a moderating influence as I tried to make my thoughts easier to access and thus easier to read. Shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences, and sentences I could read back to myself without pausing to understand why I wrote that way, captioning and much else came into my writing.
Still, I end up doing a poor job of it; the ideas are generally sound but riddled with errors. These errors are rarely of the spelling kind but of the grammatical context, writing style and readability kind.
The strange thing is I have not been able to bring the kind of rigour I give to business writing to blogging as if it is a mind-set thing and hence my problem compounded.
I can return
I find safety and refuge in my blog, I am able to constantly review, edit, correct, rephrase, and refine what I have written without the need for an intermediary, because it is my space.
I carry my shame constantly reminded that though my mother tongue is English and I pride myself in the ability to express myself excellently, I am still a very bad writer.
Inspiration and review
What I have noticed with my writing is that the flow of inspiration is quite different from context of review. Somehow, I have found that if I lose the first draft of anything I have written I am usually unable to recreate that flow of inspiration again.
I do feel that loss deeply and that is why I prefer to create my blogs on an offline editor, because each time I have done it on an online editor, I have lost everything. This happened only a few days ago – I have not been able to reproduce that inspirational burst since then.
Mind apart
I say to people, when I have my fingers to the keyboard, I am like a man possessed; my fingers trying to keep up with the torrent of phraseology churning in my mind, much of which is fully formed in my mind but my fingers rarely keeping up with it.
My senses then fail to spot what I have left out; between what I was thinking and what I eventually wrote; my sight deceived into thinking they are the same.
Reading to my hearing
At one time, I took to reading my draft blogs out to myself as an editing process; I still do that for my most important pieces. Nevertheless, I am quite impatient because my newly crafted blog feels like bread just taken out of the oven, the aroma, the warmth, the softness and everything that makes freshly baked bread enraptures you, you want some of it, there and then.
Therefore, you finish the blog, give it a scant review, annotate it, caption it, format it and publish it, satisfied that the job is done. Hours, days, weeks, months or even years later, you go back to read that blog and palm to face embarrassment – Did I really write that?
In the heat of the moment, I did, but because it is my blog, I can review, edit, correct, update and constantly do that for the lifetime of the blog – a blog is never finished – it is a living document and that is because, I am really a bad writer.
Readability Statistics
I enabled the grammar and style checker for this blog, but it was not used for this section of the blog. Between the first attempt at writing this blog, and what you can read now, I improved on the readability but lost some of the literary and artistic license I take in how I write. I guess that is what really makes me a bad writer.
The Readability Statistics of my very first draft 

The Readability Statistics after 20 minutes of editing the first draft.

I think there is much room for improvement.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Nigeria: A case for jail threats against those refusing vaccination

Protecting our shared community
I would hate to be in a society where vaccination is forced on people, but we need to understand the responsibility to be vaccinated if we are to participate healthily in our shared commonwealth, society and community.
The news is that 120 parents or guardians were arrested and threatened with jail terms if they continued to refuse to allow their wards be vaccinated. [Punch]
Polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute, viral, infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the faecal-oral route. [Wikipedia]
Herd immunity
It is preventable by immunisation or vaccination and recipients of this preventative measure block person-to-person transmission of wild poliovirus, thereby protecting both individual vaccine recipients and the wider community (so-called herd immunity).
The operative phrase here being herd immunity, the threshold in percentage terms a community population has to reach in vaccination numbers against preventable diseases to avoid an outbreak leading to a possible epidemic. [Wikipedia]
The chart above with regards to vaccinations against Diphtheria, Measles, Mumps, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Polio, Rubella and Smallpox with the attendant modes of transmission implicitly confers a societal responsibility on everyone, first by not being a vector for transmission and avoiding that by being vaccinated.
With thresholds ranging from 80% of the population for Polio to 92% for Pertussis and Measles, it would be considered irresponsible for certain members of the public to shift the responsibility unto others by hoping the coverage of herd immunity when they interact with society assures their immunity if they have not yet been vaccinated.
Preventable means taking responsibility
More pertinently is the fact that in 2008, the WHO estimated that there were 1.5 million deaths amongst children under 5 due to preventable diseases. Preventable and avoidable possibly if those children had been vaccinated. [WHO]
Now, where there are no vaccines or a community has not had the opportunity to avail themselves of this life-saving activity, one’s sorrow and sympathy flows unabated as one also advocates for more vaccination drives to the unreached or deprived ends of the world.
Dread and death
However, where religious ignorance and rabble-rousing rhetoric of stupefying controversy as happened in Nigeria has bewitched the people into thinking the vaccination drive is to sterilise the population, then one wonders about the choices between needless childhood mortality or preserving maternal fertility creating a perpetual cycle of birth and death, joy and sorrow until indifference sets in.
That is not to say there is no cause for concern, vaccines are not perfect and as in the case of the Pfizer experiment in Northern Nigeria; what they did was unforgivable, the unethical conduct was reprehensible, and it set back the global vaccination drive that has left Nigeria as one of the only countries in the world with a polio problem, however, we cannot because of it stop the need to vaccinate and avoid preventable childhood deaths. [Wikipedia]
Just one and it spreads
Back to my premise for this blog, just because certain parents refused to take the MMR jab, in 2013, there was a measles outbreak in Wales, which affected 1,455 persons, 664 of those in Swansea and there was one reported death, in August 2013, there was a measles outbreak that found patient-zero in an evangelical mega-church in America.
The whole point I am trying to make is this, it is your prerogative not to get vaccinated, however, if you intend to share the same space as others, breathe the same air they breathe and interact with others as another social being, then that prerogative has to be subsumed to a greater good – you taking responsibility as much as others to be immunised or vaccinated and prevent unnecessary hardship, avoidable sorrow and needless deaths.
The choice is clear
It is in view of this that I support the jail threats made to the people arrested in Niger State of Nigeria, whilst it might be read as an encroachment on their rights, the wider responsibility is to society, with the desire to interact with the community comes a responsibility to help keep that community healthy and safe by attending to the smart obligation of being vaccinated.
Obviously, you can completely isolate yourself from civilisation, but then, hopefully you are too far away from any community to pose any risk at all, else, get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Opinion: Before the law, the veil is removed

Our open outlook
There are many reasons as a Western European I love living here even as a minority of many sorts. Despite the occasional negatives of racism, deprivation, inequality and much else, we as a people are probably still the most tolerant, accommodating, liberal and gregarious of all humanity.
That might be disputed but on the whole, we live and let live; very rarely do we impose our views on others and apart from populists and rabble-rousers for political gain, we are a peaceable people.
Garb and barb
However, over the last decade or so, our liberal democratic values of separation of religion and state to varying degrees have been challenged by the ingress of cultures, traditions, beliefs and attitudes that are not fundamentally what we might call our historical Western Judeo-Christian heritage – some have balked, but most have acquiesced, we make allowances, many allowances at that.
Recently, it has been about religious garb, the matter of coverings and modesty vary just as our interpretations of what constitutes those might differ depending on our beliefs and customs.
Germans for instance are not afraid of nudity, in fact, it is called, Freikörperkultur (FKK) which translates literally to Free Body Culture, it is a movement quite different from nudist sun-bathing and any other forms of public nudity, but that is a topic for another day. [Wikipedia]
To veil and to reveal
Yesterday, in the UK, we pussy-footed around the issue of the use of the full veil in relation to Islamic tradition when a lady appearing in court for a completely different issue of witness intimidation took us on a legal distraction as to whether she could appear in court fully veiled and never have the requirement to take it off. [BBC News]
The wisdom of judges must be commended when they give their opinions on these very sensitive issues, because in this case, the judge was accommodating of the lady to allow her wear her veil in court during the proceedings but that veil had to be removed when giving evidence.
Indeed, anyone who takes the witness box should only be accorded privacy and the possible invisibility for their safety and privacy as we do with minors, however that cannot be extrapolated on religious grounds to prevent an essential instrument of recognition and expression critical to jury observation and assessment, court is beyond just the hearing of words in answer to questions and cross-examination.
The visage of safety
The primary mode of identification for the elimination of doubt and the building of communal trust is the face as far as Western Europe is concerned, if you must access the public space for the convenience of the majority, which implicitly includes safety and security, the face must be visible.
We are conditioned to believe that a covered face is indicative of an assumed criminality, and whilst a religiously modest and pious woman might well be the most law-abiding citizen around, having a veiled face introduces an unnecessary threat, redefining our conditioning whilst it also can be exploited to ulterior ends – it is an unnecessarily difficult accommodation that we have to tolerate.
Dressed to digress
Back to Germany, it was a case of whether a girl could be allowed to wear the modest burkini if she were forced to attend compulsory swimming classes and then the extended religiously-tinged demand of her parents to prevent her splashing around with scantily clad boys in the pool. [Wikipedia][Economist]
Whilst, the burkini is almost too much dress short of a wetsuit with the attendant issues that do not need much exegesis, it is quite an accommodation redolent of our liberal and tolerant disposition to many cultures different from ours, we find it acceptable enough to not only condone it but accept it as wholesome and fashionable for those who choose to don that garb of presumed modesty.
Freedom and entitlement
However, judges found this accommodation that first could not exempt the girl from co-educational swimming classes which is the norm, by stating that, “the basic right of religious freedom does not confer any entitlement to be spared from encountering, at school, the behaviour of third parties... [behaviour] which is widely observed in daily life, outside school, at certain seasons.
This construct should become both precedent and fundamental, because once again, the judges have identified the community of daily life as an unavoidable space of interaction available to the general public in which as human beings we are by choice allowed to participate and we cannot exclusively curtail that environment for the convenience of the few.
Freedom and allowance
The basic right of religious freedom is sacrosanct, you can practice it as fervently and fanatically as you will, but if you do not want to encounter the public in the observance of your beliefs, then the best accommodation we can afford is for you to absent yourself from that setting as a matter of right and privilege if of the age to exercise such a prerogative.
However, as a minor in Germany, where you must attend school and participate in activities that make up part of the curriculum, no entitlement is reserved to create exemptions to the point that each consideration if that situation arises creates disorder and chaos.
Adapt or depart
The broader point without stating it is the cliché - when in Rome, do as Romans do, and if you so feel that you cannot do as Romans do, the Romans should not have to change or adapt their Roman ways to your requirements as an entitlement, else they will no more be identified by their Roman ways, nevertheless, you having arrived in Rome might well find ways to adapt to what Romans do or extricate yourself from Roman influence by being in a recluse or leaving Rome entirely.
Beyond this, we must be concerned about the influx of ideas beyond the need for safety and security in the public space that informs the regulation of the public space by granting specific entitlements to certain persons, groups or beliefs which will curtail the freedoms and liberties we as a majority have for the satisfaction and accommodation of others.
The blunter point in terms of these conflicts of religious adherence that challenge the freedoms we all enjoy is that the law is finding better ways to say; adapt to your current environment and circumstances or depart to where those beliefs you so espouse have unquestioned currency.

Sunday 15 September 2013

Thought Picnic: Free Your Mind

Opening the mind
It goes without saying with each interaction and posting I see on Social Media it is interesting to read views, opinions, entrenchments and prejudices along with the less bigoted, tolerant, open-minded and pragmatic accommodating stances of others.
I am more attracted to the accommodating types, people who despite who they are, are willing to understand and appreciate that there are others very different, very diverse, very separate, very distant from themselves, but still have a right to not only exist, but should be allowed the pursuit of happiness like any other.
Feeding our ability to sympathise
Our shared humanity when allowed to walk free beyond the little confines of our own experiences opens us up to realities we may never fully understand but still can embrace.
This is what feeds our ability to sympathise, probably empathise or even dare to be compassionate, when we extricate ourselves from the moralistic impositions that give us the licence for unfeeling indifference, judgemental apathy, disinterest, and incitement to hate.
We all are guilty of it one way or the other when we think little of others in comparison to ourselves or the people we hold in high esteem that we are ready to sacrifice them on any altar be it of religion, of belief, of creed, of custom, of tradition, of principle or of the law without any inkling or sense of tender-heartedness or mercy - we find basis and justification for where we stand and with that feel comfortable.
Free your mind
We have the capacity for more if we allow ourselves the frequent opportunities to extend ourselves.
It brings to mind the lines in the lyrics of Free Your Mind by En Vogue which go thus:
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don't be so shallow.
Freeing one’s mind is a journey in our recognition of the global village of great diversity we reside in, a world of over 7 billion people of whom we would find relationships of love and hate, friendship and enmity, fun and boredom, joy and sadness, acceptance and rejection with the challenge to treat others as we would love to be treated.
If we were to walk a mile in another man’s shoes, would we think differently about them and accept them in the brotherhood of our existence?
The beauty of blindness
Be colour blind, be gender blind, be sexuality blind, be religiously blind, be personality blind, be status blind, be blind to every difference that you don’t yet fully understand but exists around you by situation and by circumstance but still harbour a searching, curious, yearning spirit to find unity, affinity, amity and the best of the next and the next and the next until a bridge of humanity is built towards our togetherness and harmony. Free your mind.

Prejudice, wrote a song about it.
Like to hear it? Here it go.

I wear tight clothing, high heeled shoes
It doesn't mean that I'm a prostitute, no no
I like rap music, wear hip hop clothes
That doesn't mean that I'm out sellin' dope no no
Oh my forgive me for having straight hair, no
It doesn't mean there's another blood in my heir yeah yeah
I might date another race or color
It doesn't mean I don't like my strong black brothers.

Why oh why must it be this way
Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don't be so shallow.
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don't be so shallow

So I'm a sistah
Buy things with cash
That really doesn't mean that all my credit's bad, oooh
So why dispute me and waste my time
Because you really think the price is high for me
I can't look without being watched, and oh
You rang my buy before I made up my mind, OW!
Oh now attitude, why even bother
I can't change your mind, you can't change my color

Why oh why must it be this way?
Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don't be so shallow…

Why oh why must it be this way?
Before you can read me you gotta learn how to see me, I said
Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don't be so shallow... FREE YOUR MIND!