Tuesday 31 March 2020

Quarantined in my self-isolation

No fun in this
If I am to be honest, I am not enjoying the sequestration, quarantine, self-isolation, or social distancing rave of the moment as part of the scheme to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. Much as I am a confessed hermit, I still like social interaction with other people and more on the physical than the virtual.
This social interaction is the equivalent of the grooming observed in a band of gorillas, we are all social beings. At least, I have not developed the ability to commune with inanimate objects and by that derive the benefits I would otherwise gain from seeing fellow human beings.
Obviously, I have to calm myself down and relax, there is another week and a half left of this matter and it could be extended. I would hate to think of what effect it would have on those of us who live alone at home or are used to social events that were so suddenly snatched away.
Sacred cows of our society
In our society, we lose objectivity when anyone suggests a cause is for charity, we are unquestioning and quite generous to charitable causes. You only have to watch the money mountain grow at nightlong television events like Sport Relief in the spring and Children in Need in the autumn, we have been had in a cult and many exploit it.
One other cult is our beloved and revered NHS, founded in 1948, we would not have anyone touch our National Health Service, yet, it has been raped, pillaged, starved through the decades, shedding many of its social underpinnings for the profit motive, but it is being called upon to fight this Coronavirus epidemic hobbled, restrained, underfunded, under-resourced, under-equipped and radically politicised.
A disservice to the NHS
It is not enough to throw money at the problem, someone should be solving the problem of throwing the NHS personnel in the middle of a pandemic without Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) against a virulent and highly contagious pathogen. Much as we applaud the NHS, we cannot justify sending them on a suicide mission for that is not what they signed up for.
They are there to save life and it only behoves the authorities to provide tests, protection and tools for them to perform excellently without having to be kamikaze heroes. Medical personnel are dying, many are gravely ill, and others are in isolation away from the battlefront where they are needed, because of failings in the system.
Exploiting our NHS love
To heap insult upon injury, NHS staff are being threatened with disciplinary action if they voice the dangers in their working environment, that is just unconscionably evil and whoever suggested that action should be booted out of the NHS forthwith.
On the message to the public, it was easy to attach the need for us to stay at home to the cult of the NHS. We are to stay at home to save the NHS, yet, the NHS staff are not given adequate protection and support to save themselves from ever-present danger at work and being vectors that take it to their homes. The government has been utterly derelict in their duty. Lest we forget it was used to drag us into the madness of Brexit that has consumed this country for 4 years.
If only we could see
I remembered reading books by Lobsang Rampa in my late teens which covered paranormal and occultic themes. In one of his narrations, he was in a physics class where electromagnetism was being demonstrated with iron filings used to visually show electromagnetic waves. He told the class he could see electromagnetic waves and he apparently went through a test of his assertion with him being able to tell when the waves were present or not.
Won’t it be wonderful to have that kind sight to see where the Coronavirus is, in the air and on surfaces and by that be able to navigate the world without interacting with it except when found in enclosed places with others or when someone expels droplets by sneezing or coughing?
Back to my feeling at the beginning of the blog, this self-isolation is having the effect that I want to further isolate and extricate myself, I feel I am losing the mental capacity to call up people and engage, I am tired.

Monday 30 March 2020

Thought Picnic: In the days of useful ideas

Hour after hour
The days come and go, 24 hours ticking by with the concern whether much has been done or achieved. How minutes turn into hours as a perpetual movement of the ever-present that was the future in the last minute remains both the mundane and a mystery.
That passage of time is captured in the Today, the Thomas Carlyle poem that is also in the Anglican Hymnal, but I think I first heard it in primary school and that school in Bukuru, Jos was not religious at all. [Poetry Foundation - Today, Thomas Carlyle] [Hymnary – So here hath been dawning]
So here hath been dawning
Another blue Day:
Think wilt thou let it
Slip useless away.
Out of Eternity
This new Day is born;
Into Eternity,
At night, will return.
Behold it aforetime
No eye ever did:
So soon it forever
From all eyes is hid.
Here hath been dawning
Another blue Day:
Think wilt thou let it
Slip useless away.
Slipping out of done
That is my enduring fear, the many days that I probably, possible, inadvertently, deliberately, or lazily allowed to slip useless away, with no ability to redeem my time apart from working in the hope that the newly allotted day from eternity slips into the eternal past with a mark of achievement and the fulfilment of purpose.
In my frail and errant humanity, other weaknesses emerge, desires I should tamp down, ambitions I should aerate and allow to find the winds of inspiration and determination to execute. I have been thinking lately where ideas come from, the wellspring of thoughts that can be used to change things, make things, see things, do things, to the benefit of both myself and humanity.
Growing ideas
I have toyed with the idea of returning to school, I have learnt a lot in a structured environment as well as build new networks for connections, projects and friendships. I need to read more accessing diverse topics to broaden the spectrum of my ideas landscape. Maybe, I try too hard when I should ease myself into a comfortable use of my mind.
There are no easy answers, but one thing I know is my honeymoon with procrastination must end, my dalliance with good intentions that rarely proceeds beyond that is unhealthy, I need to regain the joy of adventure in learning and practice, I yearn for a daily record of the useful with the knowledge that next would be better. Somewhere in there is both the joy of living and the inerrant pursuit of happiness.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Thought Picnic: The privilege of attending good schools

Catching a wish
As I leaf through my back catalogue of The Week news magazines many of which I have not read, but I have settled on February into March, the news stories are probably stale but the perspectives give an interesting insight into how people expected things to turn and how reality turned out.
For instance, in Issue 1266 of the 15th of February, the market view suggested, ‘“There’s a growing view in financial markets that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Kit Juckes of Société Générale on hopes that the coronavirus outbreak might be plateauing. Quoted in the Financial Times.’ With hindsight, that now appears to have been wishful thinking for on the 11th of March the World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic. [WHO]
Summaries of the dead
There are many sections in The Week magazine, but this is not the blog for that topic, however, I read the full-page obituary of Issur Danielovitch, 103, whose life is definitely a story of note, it would go into my encyclopaedia of useless knowledge that comes in useful when making conversation with strangers somewhere. Yes, as your brow furrowed, that was the birth name of Kirk Douglas. [The New York Times – Subscriber access]
The next issue I picked up which I read partway through had two personalities in the Obituaries section, the first, Harry Gregg, OBE, 87, a former Manchester United goalkeeper who was a survivor and hero of the Munich air disaster where he rescued an infant and her pregnant mother as well as some of his teammates. [Guardian]
Yet, it is Wilfred De’Ath, 82, whose obituary had the most interesting story to tell as I read it. The heading read “Scrounger and vagrant who found fame through The Oldie.” It made me wonder what he could have done to deserve the exclusive real estate of a half-page reference in The Week magazine.
Good school plaudits
It got me thinking about why it was necessary to attend a very good school as part of the academic and life development. Whilst no knowledge is lost regardless of the school you attend, how the quality of school attended can set you up for life cannot be underestimated. For me, it would be my primary school education and then my postgraduate studies.
Now, The Week magazine touts itself as “The best of all media in one magazine”, it is an aggregator or rather, a curator of media from newspapers, magazines and journals from all around the globe for the week of publication, editing, abridging and excerpting articles, opinions, reviews, and schedules into a weekly magazine that I find a bit more informative than The Economist.
Wilfred De’Ath was of Huguenot and German descent, he attended Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet, ranked as one of the most academically successful secondary schools in England before going on to Oriel College, Oxford. He then became the youngest ever producer at the BBC, aged just 23, where he shared an office with the now Lord Melvyn Bragg. [The Oldie – Wilfred De’Ath columns] [The Oldie – 80th Birthday interview]
Going places
He worked with and interviewed many public figures, he was a well-connected man, moving in rarefied circles until a divorce and libel suit cost him his life savings. He chose to be a scrounger and vagrant, lived between England and France, stealing from church collection boxes and going to jail for leaving hotels without settling his bills. He appeared to enjoy the court appearances.
His apparent big break came when an Oxford contemporary offered him a column in The Oldie magazine that he was described as “a George Orwell for our times.” In the excerpted obituary, having set up home in Cambridge, he neither reformed nor repented, whilst still earning a reputation as a respected columnist.
Never belittle the small
This made me think about how many people we see dishevelled and unkempt who could have an interesting backstory, smart and intelligent that you’re left astounded if you engage them. In chatting to my mum a few days ago, I mentioned a neighbour from our ancestral village that no one had time for, the reviled Iya Soye, who at the break of dawn, was fully inebriated and staggering, always having an audible conversation with herself.
There were times I met and respectfully acknowledged her, we managed a conversation out of which were gems of wisdom and good sense, the lifelong lesson I took from those encounters was everyone has a story and you should expect to be surprised at what you might learn from people judged, stigmatised, castigated, or reviled.
Other school benefits
Then on the schools' side, some of the best friends we would ever make would be in school, whilst I do not retain close friendships from my secondary school, I am in regular contact with an acquaintance from primary school and my best friend is from my time in a polytechnic in 1984.
Furthermore, it is how the privilege of a good education which builds character moulded to your personality and your outlook to life to open doors before you by force of talent, association, opportunity, fortune, luck, or fate. He was not afraid to be reckless, the law did not scare him, he has well-written views, he knew himself and couldn’t care less what others thought about him.
Life is what you make it, with paths going in different and sometimes unpredictable ways. In the end, your obituary might just find someone writing a blog about things they learnt from how you lived.

Saturday 28 March 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - II

Emptied for a queue
As the world goes into lockdown, the menace of the invisible yet so significantly palpable holds sway in many communities fostering upon us an abnormality that can never be comfortable.
When I eventually got out of bed, I prepared myself with a shower and dressed up to get some essentials from my local supermarket. That walk to and fro would have to constitute all my exercise for the day.
The street was not busy, an eerie calm had settled on my neighbourhood apart from the cars on the main road and the double-decker buses that had just about 4 passengers in transit. At the supermarket, there was a queue, a strict orderliness of one going in only after one customer had left. I was 4th in line as we gave ourselves the 2-metre spacing standing in the chilling wind.
Shopping in vain
At a time, I began to wonder what everyone was shopping for, as quite a few shelves laid bare. My almost 20-minute wait ended with 2 customers coming out at the same time. I missed cornflakes on my last visit and they were still out. Potatoes too were not on the shelves; it might be sensible to visit earlier in the day.
I got the other things I required, checked them out the self-service counter left. My street, an artery that connects two railway stations in the centre of Manchester is nothing like it used to be. It shows that it is people and their activities that make up the heart and the soul of the city. Remove them and you have a ghost town.
Maybe Summer will be warmer
Though you could not ignore the many Deliveroo couriers, this would mean certain restaurants are providing takeaway food. I would think chefs, cooks, and restauranteurs come under essential services, to cater to those who can’t cook. I did think of having a TV dinner, a fish pie that I wasn’t tempted to buy yesterday. Well, they had run out of that too.
I have not gone panic buying, but I have had to stock up on sparkling water, whole milk, and canned soups. It is good to have some choices of food at home. If I can get out of my lazy phase, I might get to cooking something substantial. I think that would be tomorrow.
This is one week down and at 2:00AM the clocks spring forward for British Summer Time, it means my lover would now be just an hour ahead of me rather than two. Gosh! I miss him but we are confident once this is over, we’ll be back together again, in the beautiful Cape Town.

Friday 27 March 2020

Thought Picnic: Is Pharaoh Trump about to meet a COVID-19 Moses?

A Pharaoh in America
When I read that the approval rating of President Donald Trump had reached an all-time high because of his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, I marvelled at the collective amnesia of the people polled that were convinced of his command of the issue. [The Sydney Morning Herald]
As I gave it thought, another historical event came to my mind, at least I think some stories in the bible are historical and much as they can be revelatory, but this is not the place to debate it.
In the book of Exodus, the Israelites had been in Egypt for over four centuries and in the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II were deployed as slaves in the service of Egypt. Until Moses, the revolutionary was raised to seek their liberation with the demonstration of supernatural powers that are documented as plagues.
The delusion of approval ratings
There were 10 plagues inflicted on Egypt with increasing devastation until the Pharaoh relented. With each plague, the chronicler says God hardened the heart of the Pharaoh that he grew more defiant of Moses and his demands. I have always been puzzled about the part of the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart. Then it dawned on me, for each plague, the Pharaoh would probably have addressed his subjects, given them resolve, confidence and hope that those plagues would pass. [The Plagues of Egypt – Wikipedia]
I think Egyptians would have heard their god-king and been satisfied with how he was handling the nuisance of Moses. The Pharaoh seeing the reaction of his people which in modern times could be termed approval ratings. Knowing his people were behind him with no fear of insurrection or a palace coup, he would have been convinced he could face whatever Moses had to show and triumph in the end. His approval ratings would have been at an all-time high.
When the price is too high
However, the last plague which took the firstborn of all Egyptians could not be overcome with the force of personality, charisma, or inspired leadership. That plague had touched the core of Egypt that it probably would have inspired a spontaneous revolt. The Pharaoh had to let the Israelites go and when he chased them to the Red Sea seeking revenge out of anger and loss, his whole army was lost in the deep.
Now, I do not expect Americans to lose their firstborn as their Pharaoh personified in Donald Trump defies scientific advice and damns the consequences of a marauding and unrelenting Coronavirus that has infected 94,108 and killed 1,434 at the tally of the 27th of March 2020, but statistics are derived from individuals who have families, friends and wider connections of influence. [COVID19LIVE.Info]
When it touches you directly
I can only wonder if the survivors of the victims have the full knowledge of how Donald Trump ignored, denied and prevaricated as the impending plague was gathering the force of a tsunami in January that it has now seized upon the whole country would be giving him accolades and applause for his stewardship of this crisis.
By extension, if any of those giving Donald Trump high approval ratings are touched by the Coronavirus either personally or loved ones, would the impending disaster and experience cause a review of their original position that they would change their mind about him? I guess the question is what price is too high to pay for loyalty, confidence, and support of the President of the United States of America before it moves the needle of approval ratings in another direction?
Yet, I hope no one has to face the all-consuming grief of losing the firstborn of Egypt to know the truth, the facts and the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic, not only in America, but the world over.

Opinion: Now they stew in their ineptitude

I still cannot forgive it
I was chatting to a friend in Nigeria when it was brought to my notice that Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister had tested positive for the COVID-19 Coronavirus. The unrefined human in me if given vent might have thought it was just desserts, for this is a man that subscribed to the atrocious ‘herd immunity’ scheme that would have allowed the Coronavirus to run through the population without the shield of a vaccine in a Social Darwinism experiment that defied logic.
Yet, I hope I have more of the qualities of the best of our humanity in me to commiserate and sympathise, to walk a hard-long mile in the shoes of another to wish him a speedy recovery. With that, one would hope that the hubristic effrontery that informed the blasé view that the public should take it on the chin will be tempered with humility and a realisation that we cannot take life for granted and that the Coronavirus is no respecter of persons.
Only yesterday, we learnt that Prince Charles, the heir-apparent had tested positive too with mild symptoms, I probably felt more concerned for him than for our bombastic Prime Minister. Also, we found out that the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer were showing mild symptoms.
Stand up for frontline staff
To them too, I hope they recover as well as come out better men. In all, we must understand what is playing out before our eyes. We had the time and scope to act yet found ourselves at the point where frontline NHS staff are exposed to risk without adequate protection despite assurances the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was stockpiled and being distributed. In my view, that wasn’t enough, the staff should be fully donned in PPE garb at the point of contact with those suspected of infection.
They have been meeting these patients for weeks, the urgency to supply the demand is present and immediate. The same goes for testing the staff so they are not taken out of service in self-isolation when needed the most.
The issue of ventilators is another where the UK was invited to the EU procurement scheme, but it ideological recalcitrance lost us that opportunity that the contract for manufacturing ventilators landed in the hands of a caterpillar maker and a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, both of them have no expertise in that field, whilst British companies with the know-how were ignored.
Accountability and hope
Even in these pressing times, the government has not been weaned off the penchant of jobs for the boys. I would hope an inquiry into the government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic would be independent, far-reaching and unrelenting. There must be culpability for failings, irresponsibility, and ineptitude. With high office comes such demanding responsibility and accountability. For once, I hope Mr. Boris Johnson feels the weight of office with the truth that the buck does stop with him.
I don’t know where in the spectrum of the curve of managing pandemics we are in; it is likely to be longer than planned for. I wonder what the aftermath portends for travel and the requirements to be satisfied before embarking on a journey. I am however hoping for a better world beyond this.

Thursday 26 March 2020

Thought Picnic: The gospel was never about Karma

Not what I believe
Coronavirus is not God’s judgment on the world. We need to stop preaching Christian Karma. The Cross of Christ destroys all Karma. God wants to save the world, not hurl disaster at it!” Dr Andrew Farley
This was a tweet that appeared to encapsulate ideas I have not been able to articulate for a while. The number of religious people who look for disasters to project of a version of a vengeful and truculent deity who can only gain our attention by visiting calamity and catastrophe on his creatures.
Too many times we have heard, after an earthquake, a tsunami, a hurricane, a plague, or some natural disaster, where hapless lives are lost in stories that never get told except in the sheer spectacle of the horror that leaves us with a sense of the fragility of life and the suddenness that could end it.
In comes a religious figure who in their Jeremiad finds a greatly unmistakable sign from on high, as if we are back to our primordial animist worship practices, the gods are angry and we need to bring sacrifices up to the temples, mountains or grottos to appease the gods to spare us from another disaster.
Come with Noah’s Ark
The Christian variety of the evangelical or charismatic strand are the biggest culprits, from prophets who see the evil to come but are rarely able, willing, or equipped to navigate their flock from the apparent wrath to come, but are ready to gain the fame of having foretold the passing of the disaster. Their revelation never goes as far as to be inspired to build a Noah’s Ark as a sanctuary from the many floods, saving life and more.
Neither do I believe in Christian Karma, I separate the revelation of the God of the Old Testament from the God introduced in the New Testament through the ministry of Jesus Christ. In my view, his only act of mischief would have been when he allowed the evil spirits in a possessed man to enter swine and that drove the swine into the sea, at which point those spirits would have needed to find other hosts. [Bible Gateway - A Demon-Possessed Man Healed]
Our capacity in calamity
Like a friend opined yesterday, he said apart from the fragility of humanity, there is a resilience and strength that cannot be fully understood, the capacity of man to face adversity and come out the stronger and wiser to life and purpose. The spirits could not destroy the man even though they made his life miserable and yet the swine had no capacity to handle those spirits, their entry was an immediate suicide run in the swine.
Anyway, one of the reasons I do not believe in the concept of Christian Karma was in the words of Jesus Christ himself, when you look at the verse after John 3:16, John 3:17 says it all, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (NKJV)
Salvation is not for retribution
You don’t save the world, believer or unbeliever, sinner, or saint, Christian, Gentile or any identity you might care to possess by destroying them. Condemnation is not the purpose, even if a natural disaster, plague, or some other adversity comes our way. The prevailing purpose, opportunity, and desire are to save, it is of salvation and triumph. That is not in any way the spirit of Karma.
So, it is with sadness when I could in my basest human instinct lay hold on Schadenfreude that I learnt that a preacher who thought COVID-19 was an exciting bout of mass hysteria had now fallen victim to the Coronavirus and passed away.
It’s a shame, I doubt his religious beliefs would have expected that, yet, we are only human. Things happen to us, but I hope in our story, we can take whatever happens and create a better happening. May his soul rest in peace and may his survivors be comforted and strengthened with fortitude in this time of loss. [RawStory]

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Interrupted conversations with Django

My doggone life
Every time I have this conversation in distant Bulawayo, I ignore the din of our conversation to listen to the distinctive musical chords of Django.
She sings for the foremost canine symphony orchestra, her repertoire is legendary as to be endearing, you can only want to meet her in effusive fandom for appreciating her talent. I could have met her, but I was constrained and restrained, barred and denied that great pleasure.
Every demand fell on deaf ears, for he would have made our acquaintance was envious of her. As she sang to my ears, he seized her, the dog-napper in his element put her in the van and made to getaway. He never did for I had let out the air in his tyres as he tried to put his foot down.
The seat of his pants
Well, he did put his foot down and his rickety van welded together with bits from a scrapyard, the windshield held in place with duct tape, and everything else rattled like cymbals and drums in cacophonous disintegration. And there he was strapped to his seat far in front of the van.
A crowd gathered around to help; the accident had apparently pulled off his dungarees that he was left in his underwear. Someone dared to ask, what happened, and he sheepishly answered, he had just tried to take Django away from her friends. The patriarch and the boyfriend. The crowd booed him and freed Django, for she was loved by the neighbour and definitely not a nuisance sheepdog.
Django happily jumped about and wagged her tail, we were reunited and then in one lunge, she took a bite out of his cakes. Oh, we laughed, as he ran off, his heels touching the back of his head as he sped away. What a sport you are, Django.

Thought Picnic: Being a real person and not a faux parson

Serve it cooked
As much as possible, I do not want to wear my religion on my sleeve, I do write a lot on spirituality and beliefs, but mostly to explore the depth of our humanity. I believe for myself that elements of my character, values, and outlook find their grounding in a broad and liberal Christian foundation.
I am fine with contextualised insight, but dislike being preached at. Some time ago, I was invited to a WhatsApp group of the Class of 91 of my secondary school. Considering I have maintained minimal social contact with my classmates and schoolmates apart from a few on Facebook, I allowed myself in to observe.
Sadly, there was no particularly productive discussion going on apart from people sharing snippets of pompous religiosity with no indication of what it meant to them or how it affected them. I do not think I lasted a week in the group before I extricated myself.
A respectful disposition
What irked me most was I was probably the most religious due to circumstances relayed in an earlier blog that my nickname was Pastor, and at no time did I thump the pulpit with my beliefs. I was left wondering where and when they suddenly took on a mantle of religious calling to pontificate amongst their peers.
In fact, the ones who did eventually go into ministry who I respect for taking on the challenge, do not exaggerate themselves upon me to suggest they have a revelation too new to be ignored. Probably, down in their hearts, they do recognise that a prophet is yet without honour amongst their own. For we of those times together know enough history even if their paths might have been obscured after we left school to the present. Each is still owed courtesy and respect.
The nuisance I was
I know I have made that mistake before when I wrote tracts of religious insights and sent to friends, before I started blogging in earnest. My best friend remonstrated responding to one of my emails, he was not interested in my religious musings, rather he was more interested in what I was up to, my life, my circumstances, and maybe some intimate things you will share with friends.
Taken aback, I went on the defensive retorting that what I was writing about was really about how things affected me. I remember it was soon after I had the HIV diagnosis and when I wrote about it, I was circumspect about the matter but resolute about the lessons and the future ahead of me. I did, however, reflect and abandoned the activity. I would think other recipients out of politeness simply passed my religious emails to the junk folder.
Affected to effect
My hope is that I have the best virtues of religious and Christian instruction imbued in me to reflect warm and kind humanity, able to sympathise and empathise, ready to listen and understand, willing to consider a broad view of things, believing the best of everyone and persuadable of different things by discussion, by debate, and by merit. Maybe there are ways to see the positive and the objective with the ability to help or give succour.
It is a progress of constant improvement with a willingness according to Peter Drucker, to “discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it.” I am really working hard on that. I strive to be the warmth you feel rather than the fire that singes, the lamp that shows the way rather than the light that blinds the eyes.
This was not the blog I was planning to write when finished the first paragraph, but by the third, I realised I probably would be writing another blog on what was on my mind before I started writing this one.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Through the prism of the #Coronavirus leaders are devaluing human life

All days matter
Sometimes, you have to mine the rich seam of biblical stories to illustrate issues in our contemporary times. There is no better time to share an event in the ministry of Jesus Christ where he healed a woman who had been afflicted for 18 years on the Sabbath.
Having demonstrated compassion and mercy in the healing of the woman, the leader of the synagogue was livid with rage and indignation, completely oblivious of the amazing miracle, he remonstrated saying, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.Luke 13:14 (NKJV)
Obviously, the leader of the synagogue was keeping the law, the 4th commandment of the 10 delivered to Moses in the wilderness on tablets of stone.
8Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11 (NKJV)
No Sabbath for the pain
The leader of the synagogue did have a valid point, but there was another call to his humanity. I do remember clearly when I had cancer and the pain that was sometimes too otherworldly for description, the pain did not take a break on any day and not on our modern Sabbath of Sunday.
In fact, on one Sunday, the Fentanyl pain patch I wore on the skin of my belly had peeled off that I was in such pain until the effects of the newly applied patch kicked in, I laughed myself to delirium, my friend thinking I was having a psychotic event. I was relying on the endorphins released by laughter to assuage the pain.
Jesus responded, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?Luke 13:15-16 (NKJV)
By this, first Jesus was offering the primacy of works of necessity over everyday work. Leading a beast of burden to the water on the Sabbath was work but of necessity. Then, by comparison, he averred that healing on the Sabbath was a work of necessity as much is it was one of compassion for the woman that could not wait another day, even if she had been afflicted for 18 years.
Our humanity is paramount
This brings me to the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in some countries, in the UK where the outrageous policy of pursuing herd immunity with regards to a virus for which there was no vaccine. The implication being the UK government was afraid for the cost and consequences to the economy if the country were locked down. They were ready to sacrifice the vulnerable, human beings to the capitalist machine.
It was in my view the most apathetic and dispassionate act of inhumanity a government was ready to visit upon its people just not to upset big business. Thankfully, reason prevailed, but it would be impossible to forgive the government for ever suggesting it and there can be no redemption for the thought process that allowed it. They had sided with the leader of the synagogue against the core element of our humanity to preserve and protect life.
Human beings over the economy
Over in America, Donald Trump is grappling with a situation over which he has little control. Just a month ago, he could boast of a record rising stock market and the best employment figures in US history. Today, the stock market is below the numbers when he took office on the 20th of January 2017 and unemployment figures are rising. The interventions from the Federal Reserve and Treasury have not stanched the stock market decline, the sentiment is broadly negative.
It appears Donald Trump is ready to go against the advice of the medical experts and truncate the measures put in place to limit the spread of the Coronavirus, in order to give a fillip to the economy. The risk is the Coronavirus will cut a larger swathe through the country and they would be in a worse place than they are now. Much as the economy is important, human beings run these economies and the machinery it depends on, human beings must always come first. [BBC]
America loving people more than money
As if this was not bad enough, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, 69, who will be 70 in April suggested that the older generation of the 70s were ready to sacrifice themselves and die for the sake of America going back to work, because the Coronavirus was destroying America, and what he meant was destroying America’s economy.
You know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.” said Dan Patrick [Guardian]
It is interesting that “keeping the America that all America loves” was not people, else it would have included the parents and grandparents of the children and grandchildren. It does also make one wonder if Americans would be more predisposed to selling off their parents and grandparents. It must be plumbing the dregs of our humanity to rate the advancement of the economy over generational ties and familial love.
Yet, the Lieutenant Governor would have us believe that the greater love might be better expressed in espousing the American way than having our parents and grandparents with us. Let Coronavirus take them away, for they are expendable. The economy is the god of happiness and fulfilment.
The Sabbath was made for man
I appreciate that there are many in power that have neither the emotional intelligence nor the human compassion to see the value of humanity in the face of adversity. Human beings become an inconvenience in the pursuit of riches and legalism. Like the leader of the synagogue, what mattered most was keeping the law, damn the infirm, they can suffer another day or even die than be given succour, mercy, consideration, and healing on the Sabbath.
To which Jesus responded in another place in the gospels after healing another on the Sabbath, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.Mark 2:27 (NKJV)
For all the importance we want to place on the law and other activities, the human being and humanity comes first.
What is a life worth?
The question to those who think otherwise, you have to ask, “How much is a life worth?” Is it better to save life or to pursue our aims oblivious of the suffering? For the Good Samaritan saw value in the person of the helpless person who was robbed and left for dead by the wayside, just as a priest and another walked by. [The Parable of the Good Samaritan – Wikipedia]
The story that got told was of a plain Samaritan who happened to be kind, for it was his deed that saved a life, he went out of his way to act out of human kindness when he could have concentrated on the urgency of his own business. It is in recognition of his deeds that his story became that of the Good Samaritan. Human kindness is what creates the story of life that matters more than anything else.
This should be our thinking, those who are not able to put humanity first and do everything to save a life no matter the cost will be ready to sacrifice anyone including their children, parents, grandchildren, and grandparents to their other pursuits. Beware of these wolves, they are wickedness personified and evil beyond description.

Monday 23 March 2020

Imagination is a seed to blogging

Just my imagination
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Said Stephen King the world-acclaimed novelist.
I cannot say I have read any Stephen King novel to completion; the horror genre will send my rather vivid imagination into overdrive. One night, listening to the stories read at bedtime on BBC Radio 4, I could not understand why the story took a turn for the scary, until the 15-minute abridged version was ended as an excerpt from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.
Thankfully, I was in bed with Steven, else I would have been beside myself in fright. Whoever suggested that book for bedtime reading might have done it for a laugh, I was not impressed in the least.
The terror I saw
I have dreamt up enough to scare me out of my wits and out of my own imagination came two encounters with a huge red-breasted beastly apparition that no one else saw but convinced me I had seen the devil. This apart from the voice I heard in the middle of the night.
It changed my life, I was just 10 and a witness to bizarre stories shared between my aunt and our houseboy, I took them away and developed them into my personal terror. I learnt what fear was and when I eventually ended up in boarding school, I had to be ejected because I was seeing things and reciting Psalm 23 possibly a thousand times a night, no one could sleep in my hostel until I was completely exhausted. Then. I had to be up at 5:30AM.
In the process, I was taken to seers, prophets, medicine men, bathed in forests, had incisions in unmentionable parts of my body with concoctions rubbed in, wore amulets, ate the incomprehensible and prayed more prayers to last an eternity. It probably would have been better to just take me to a child psychologist, but no one knew better.
I can blog from nothing
When it comes to blogging, I am probably still an amateur, the many times I have waited for inspiration for what I should write about, then, at other times, I have had the disciplined to begin to type away at my keyboard and the blog begins to take form and soon I have a story.
The second paragraph seeded the consequent paragraph of this blog, none of which were on my mind when I finished typing the first. As I read it back in my mind, I realised there is something to relate to horror, terror, and imagination. Then with other viewpoints to buttress the process of creating a narrative that becomes a blog. I have something I can publish.

Sunday 22 March 2020

Mothering Sunday, of Mothers and Baptism

Calling mother today
This Mothering Sunday was quite unusual, though it is commonly known as Mother’s Day, it is in fact supposed to be the Sunday when people visit their Mother church, usually, where you were baptised and it could be your local church. The extension to this is the opportunity to celebrate and honour one’s mother. [Mothering Sunday – Wikipedia]
These Coronavirus pandemic times have placed limitations on this celebration as the need for strict social distancing has closed places of worship and our mothers being more vulnerable members of society need to be protected from contracting the virus. It has meant keeping a distance from them. A friend posted visiting his mother where their social interaction happened in the front garden.
For me, I for the first time called my mother to wish her a wonderful Mother’s Day, I was taken aback at the sense of happiness, joy, and gratitude for calling her on this occasion. Then we talked about many other things as we do, between jest, banter, and seriousness. Obligatory prayers and advice, I felt good about it.
Memories of the Mother Church
Before I called, I dug up my Certificate of Baptism, I was baptised 45 years ago at the St Luke’s Anglican Church, Jos on the 31st of March 1975. The Venerable E. A. Oyetade conducted the baptism and the witnesses, long forgotten now, but friends of my parents and members of the church then were Mrs. C. M. Obasoro, Alfred Olu Amanerimi who my mother said was from the Delta region of Nigeria, and Joseph Ajibade Kehinde.
My Certificate of Baptism with redactions.
Then, the church was in the Diocese of Northern Nigeria, until it was split off into the Anglican Diocese of Jos in 1980. This would be my mother church. It is however different from the church where I was confirmed some 6 years later at St Jude’s Anglican Church, Ijesha-Ijebu. [Anglican Diocese of Jos – Wikipedia]
I can only wonder about what has become of all these named people, whether the venerable rose up the church hierarchy to an archdeaconry or bishopric, I cannot seem to find any other information about him apart from what is on my certificate.
In the faith of my childhood
It is interesting that he wrote in my date of birth rather than my age as required by the column heading. The same can be said of the sponsors, they all have become part of my recorded history, faint memories in the minds of my parents of encounters in their son’s development of faith. People they trusted to stand as witnesses to my acceptance into the communion of the Anglican church.
Obviously, my acquaintance with other strands of Christian faith has led me to accept another baptism with full immersion in a river rather than the sprinkling of water at a font in the church building. To me, both are significant, I see the first like a baptism by John the Baptist and the second in Pentecostal circles as a baptism by the disciples of Jesus Christ, as Jesus himself did not baptise people, according to a narrative in the gospels. [BibleHub – John 4:2]
As I have written before, my wanderings in faith has led me back to the faith of my childhood in the Anglican Church. It is where I belong and find fulfilment.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday 21 March 2020

Opinion: Supermarket chains are not just noticing empty shelves

Affected in some ways
I guess if I did answer a phone call any time soon, one question that would feature would be about how I am affected by the Coronavirus. Now, if someone from Yorubaland did call, I would get a greeting related to the event, the circumstance, the achievement, or my feelings.
But then, what is Coronavirus to me? It is quiet and I have made three phone calls with only the option to leave a voice mail. Whilst I am happy to sit at home alone for extended periods of time, I have decidedly pulled up the middle Venetian blind in my living room to let in natural light. This afternoon, the sun reflected off a windowpane across the road into my face, it must have been a glorious day.
The self-enforced self-isolation is fine if it is my decision, but when it is advised from an external situation, the satisfaction with being a hermit is challenged by a feeling of being imprisoned. I can handle it.
Everything is closed
There was one final notice I was expecting to see because my apartment complex which is a village of 6 apartment blocks has a games area, a gym, and a swimming pool. The leisure centre has been closed until further notice. It should not bother me because I have hardly visited the gym, but the thought that I can’t, makes it feel restricted.
Turning on my television, I am regaled with the news of empty shelves in supermarkets and the argumentum ad passions deployed regarding the elderly and NHS staff unable to get essentials from the shops. I do honestly sympathise with these people, but I am not surprised that people are stockpiling beyond what they need.
Government generated anxiety
The fact is people are concerned and they are afraid, the feeble assurances given by the government does not engender any confidence that essential goods would always be available. The communication strategy of the government has been muddled at best as they have flown kites about possible lockdowns or restrictions to movement, the natural reaction of the public would be to adversely react. It is, selfish and inconsiderate behaviour, not in any way unexpected.
The blame for this lies majorly with the messages of the leadership. If you cannot inspire confidence or persuade people of the greater good especially after the division that has dogged our society for the past few years no appeal to good nature would suddenly make the selfless out of the buffeted by uncertainty, worry and concern.
Blame supermarket lethargy
Supermarkets would just have to rejig their logistics to fulfil inventories in these trying times, supply chains would also have to become more agile and responsive to changing demands. The supermarkets cannot now say they are unaware that they are running out of bread, toilet paper, pasta, or hand sanitiser. They might not have been able to anticipate the run on goods, but they could have done more to address the shortages once it became obvious.
That in these highly automated logistics environments, they have not been able to scale up and adapt to changes in demand or adjust their supply chains suggests there are fundamental flaws in the system that the Coronavirus pandemic has exposed. Also, assurances from the supermarkets have to be met with commensurate action; stock the shelves.
Meanwhile, those who thrived on gaining political power with lies, proffering easy answers to complex questions have now been met with an intricate conundrum that hyperbole allows us to suggest has not been encountered before; the inept are now in government.
In my case, I would just go for a walk around the block and maybe sit in the gated village garden to meditate. This will pass.

Friday 20 March 2020

Thought Picnic: How courtesy begets gratitude

Tough teachers in life
Having a sense of gratitude must always be one of the best expressions of our humanity. First, the humility to express it and acceptance from those to which it is directed can yield nothing but good. There are things I have taken for granted that were easily passé until adversity, infirmity, misfortune, disappointment, or regret gave me a wealth of experience I would have preferred to learn through easier means.
Yet, in life, they are all tough teachers, and the hope is whatever lesson is at the end of any experience is properly learnt and hopefully taught to others before they live through what you would rather not live through again.
Two amazing consultants
It must have been a kind of uncanny coincidence that earlier this evening, two consultants who have committed their expertise to my critical care tweeted within minutes of each other highlighting the work of their teams towards the Coronavirus pandemic.
The first, I met in September 2009 when I was diagnosed with a prognosis of 5 weeks if I was unable to respond positively to the regime of treatment that included gruelling chemotherapy that I took for 5 months. He was my consultant for a little over 3 years before I returned from The Netherlands to the UK.
The current, I met just about 3 years ago having been through a couple of consultants in London and then Manchester. When she introduced herself by letter, I did my research into her body of work and career in the UK and in South Africa, I was also able to glean such intimate detail about her personal life, all inadvertently online. Our first consultation left me probably more knowledgeable about her than she had readily studied from my notes.
Know your medical notes
In both cases, in fact, in all cases, I appreciate all the consultants that have been involved in the delivery of my care. I learnt that it was crucially important for me to know in detail everything about my condition, my treatments, areas of research, development and progress regarding my situation whilst being honest, forthright, and clear when talking about it with my consultants.
That did not come easily, my first consultant gave me that confidence because even as a professor of medicine, he took the time to explain the options for my treatment to me, printed out all the information I needed to know about the treatments, side effects and outcomes, listened to my concerns, actively taking them into consideration in the final decision process that I knew I had considerable influence in whatever direction my treatments would take.
The power of courtesy
My condition at the time of diagnosis was one of foolish negligence on my part, I was never judged nor condemned for it. It presented a rare opportunity for them to tackle a situation that medical science had satisfactorily caught up with and to students who were present at my consultations, it signified what a difference the knowledge and experience they eventually acquire to do in the future.
As a patient, I felt I had control because I was treated with respect, courtesy, and consideration. The freedom of expression and conversation between consultant and patient meant that we could easily discuss the medical issues as well as the broader life issues in a kind of holistic approach to patient well-being.
So, to my consultant in The Netherlands, I promised once the Coronavirus pandemic was over, I was going to visit him, which he acknowledged with a kind compliment. My current consultant, I will be seeing in a month for my biannual check-up. For myself, I have been blessed to have had these amazing people as my consultants and I will always be grateful for their professionalism, humanity, and kindness. Never be remiss in having a sense of gratitude.

Coronavirus streets in Manchester

Politicians polluting prospects
These Coronavirus pandemic times appear to invade every aspect of life and quite inconveniently for all. That it is fronted more by politicians that need to manage the message rather than experts who deal with facts does not make it any easier.
For instance, without any supporting data, Boris Johnson was suggesting this whole matter would be over in 12 weeks. I guess in the absence of any good news you throw something out there and leave everyone who really heard you scratching their heads in incredulity.
It does not engender confidence, it is as reckless as it is irresponsible, it is no time for soundbites from an inveterate japester. We want to send the virus packing, but it would take more than standing at a rostrum japing and genuflecting. [The Guardian]
Shut up, Donald
Over across the pond, Donald Trump stepped up to suggest Hydroxychloroquine was the panacea to the Coronavirus and the drugs was ready to be ramped up for prescriptive use. The FDA had not approved the drug as it was still being tested and was still being accessed for viability.
Various drug regimens are being deployed to this disease, many still unproven and inconclusive to determine what works and Donald Trump simply jumped the gun with the risk of forcing the system in a direction that could prove completely impulsive. [Daily Beast]
Those of us who used quinine compound drugs for the treatment of malaria in childhood experienced maddening side effects of severe itching of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. No one who experienced it drew any comfort from that knowledge especially when antihistamines did not reduce the itching.
Since sliced bread disappeared
I stepped out earlier to get some shopping, as the last time I was out, there was no sliced bread on the shelves, they are literally run out of eggs and all the toilet rolls were invisible. I am still at a loss as to why toilet rolls matter so much for the Coronavirus pandemic, I have not noticed acutely incessant diarrhoea as one of the major symptoms of contracting the virus. Then I don’t use hand sanitiser, I just use soap and water.
Today, at noon, sliced bread, toilet rolls and pasta were missing from the shelves, though I have enough food at home, it is worrisome that panic buying belies the lack of useful assurances, prevarication, and indecision from the government. The messages are mixed when pubs, restaurants and public places should be closed forthwith, and the government put in ameliorating steps to support businesses through these uncertain times.
Coronavirus streets
Leaving my local Sainsbury’s, I walked down to the low-budget Spar to see if I could get a loaf of sliced bread when I noticed to my left that the Grade II listed Refuge Assurance building that became the Palace Hotel and changed to The Principal Manchester, three years ago has now become the Kimpton Clock Tower Hotel. I have not noticed a building change names that many times in such a short while. [LiveAndLetsFly]
Obviously, there is some interest in the historic building within the hospitality industry and I suppose each new offer has been impossible to refuse. I am not holding my breath; I give it another couple of years, and it might be called the Changeling Hotel. [Historic England]
Further on, Starbucks was open but without seats and tables, having transitioned to a Grab-and-Go coffee shop. It looked quite eerie from outside. There were people on the streets, masks on many apparently from the Asian subcontinent, though long before this pandemic, many did plod our streets with masks. I did get my loaf of sliced bread from Spar and I made my way home. [Business Insider]

Thursday 19 March 2020

Opinion: Of our PM, cometh the hour, cometh no man

A good time to lead
I mused openly on Twitter about what a time it must be to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the First Lord of the Treasury. To sit in office as the leader of the 6th largest economy in the world whose waning global influence is deftly characterised by the will of the people in Brexit ensconced in a nostalgic past that never existed.
Boris Johnson won a landslide election on the mantra of ‘Get Brexit Done’ then promulgated laws to really get it done within a timeframe that would never shift at the pain of illegality. We left the EU for a transitional period until the end of the year on January the 31st.
Now, all that Boris and his team had to do was wait out the rest of the year distracting us with either a Canada+ deal or and Australian deal, which in effect is a ‘no deal’ scenario, because Australia has no deal with the EU.
A joke too far
Boris Johnson wanted to be Prime Minister so bad, he gambled on a lot of things, a fantasist with no acquaintance to the truth through his journalistic career, his penchant for abuse passed off as inconsequential banter is well-documented that it needs no repeating here. It is probably not delusional to think that having once been the Mayor of London, higher office beckoned.
Theresa May, whose record as Prime Minister, history might be less forgiving for, plucked him out of looming obscurity and made him Foreign Secretary, it was a joke that went too far, but it paved the way to the resurrection of a leadership dilettante whose charisma is a mountain to the molehill of his scruples or principles.
His cup to drink from
If for a moment, he as the Lord before his Passion did have a Garden of Gethsemane moment, a clear recognition of what the responsibility of the Prime Minister held beyond winging it as a circus clown with bombast, bluster and buffoonery, he might have prayed or rather refused to drink of the cup. The intoxicating brew of Brexit became a mission of drunken desire which as it reached ferment found the sweetening of spoonsful of the Coronavirus.
Now, duty calls to rise to the occasion, like he (Jesus) who went to the cross knowing the suffering it entailed or his hero, Winston Churchill, who with honest oratory painted the big picture with all its gloom whilst leading a nation through the hardship of World War II to victory over Nazism, I fear, with the Coronavirus pandemic, the hour has come, but the man is absent.
If there be any redeeming feature of Boris Johnson apart from his ability to make babies, it would be a transfiguration before our eyes, I would however not expect any of the great Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom to waste their eternal repose coming up for a chat. He is Prime Minister, and I wish him well if hubris doesn’t get the better of him first.
But I can better let my sympathies be with those in harm’s way, our NHS legion of people of inestimable value, for whom necessary protection is still stockpiled somewhere rather than on them, wearing the kit to keep them safe.