Friday 31 July 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XVI

Manchester unrestricted

One could be forgiven for thinking the local restrictions imposed on Greater Manchester at midnight had anything to do with the city of Manchester. For after my gym workout where Rebecca-Louise remained a tough taskmaster, I ventured out for a longer walk than yesterday.
From Sackville Gardens, through New Islington Green, then along the Ashton Canal Towpath, down by Cotton Field Wharf Marina and then to Angel Meadow Park, people were out gathered in clustered social bubbles of households that looked more like the household of Manchester than the more nuclear units mandated by the government.
I do not think law enforcement was even concerned about this situation, everyone appears to be for and to themselves going about their normal business without a thought for the pandemic or what it portends.
Sensibly keeping safe
If anyone is unfortunate enough to contract the Coronavirus and present COVID-19 symptoms, the message appears to be you have been unfortunate. It goes without saying that the government lost its moral authority way back in May when that exhausted every manner of goodwill excusing, exonerating and exculpating Dominic Cummings, the Rasputin special adviser to the Prime Minister.
The moment everyone began to think it was one law for us the people whilst Downing Street were a law unto themselves, there was no further persuasion or entreaty that could convince the public after from self-interest and self-preservation. I think there is a good sensible lot who want to outlive this pandemic and by everything possible, we will.

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XV

Cannot trust this dishonest government

On the matter of this Coronavirus pandemic, I had tuned out of the perfidious and the dishonest lying spectacle of Boris Johnson and his cabinet. Their message, direction, advice, instruction and guidance has been incoherent, ambiguous, misleading, ineffective, untruthful, distracting, lacking in conviction and in the main dishonest.
They have assumed the responsibility for nothing whilst seeking to blame others for their rank incompetence. In the same vein, I stopped watching television news, the rolling 24-hour spiel that is full of commentary but useless opinions and the false quest for balance.
Listening without the propaganda
There are respected epidemiologists who are neither in the pay of the government nor out for fame, they speak their minds with professional clout and clear messages. There is no propaganda to push and listening to them helps whatever arrangements I make for my safety.
Overnight, through muddled messages on the radio, I learnt that Greater Manchester had been put under COVID-19 local restrictions. Obviously, I thought it was the environs around the city where there have been waves of infections with the City of Manchester mostly intact.
Affected areas in North West England under new local restrictions.
We are restricted to a point
However, going to the government website, which is as navigable as to be forgettable, my city is included in the mix of places with significantly higher rates of infection that appears to be affecting more young people and affluent groups. [GOV.UK: Guidance - North West of England: local restrictions – what you can and cannot do]
For those with a vibrant social circle, the restrictions would put a stop to their socialising, making it illegal outside of their support bubble and households. Reviewing my own situation, not much changes, I have not created a support bubble, I haven’t neither been visiting nor socialising, attending places of worship is still allowed as long as they are COVID-19 aware and secure. I believe our village community gym with a booking system limited to residents of my village will still be open. I’ll be fine.
This pandemic is haunting and inconvenient, but for all the limitations on our liberties, staying alive is paramount and that requires being smart, sensible and taking no stupid risks. Manchester, we can do this.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - XIV

Get Out!

Even I have to consider that I spend too much time indoors, going from one enclosed area to another seeing the world only through my window and virtually on the Internet. After my workout, I thought I could do with some fresh air, get out and probably get 10,000 steps in the process.
Out there nigh on 10:00 PM I had no charted course but wended east towards Ancoats towards Trinity Way and on to Deansgate by the Town Hall to Peter Street and the Central Library, then home after a resting stop at St. Peter’s Square.
A maze to amaze
I saw a city quite strange, then I realise, I have not been around Manchester at night for probably 5 months. There were diversions for roads and pavements, closed off roads, the makings of a labyrinthic puzzle that never had a straight line, weaving in and out, jaywalking if need be.
The city is indeed gaining a nightlife, restaurants and bars open and the occasional drunken revelry assailing your indifferent composure, though I am not yet persuaded there is normalcy to this situation.
My legs should be insured
However, walk I did walk, gait exuding catwalk cum speed walking, making up my steps and home without breaking too much of a sweat. I think I should do this more often, it is good for the body and quite so, for the mind.
The music, for now, is still Anita Baker, if anyone saw me gesticulating in rhythmical response to what I was hearing, I guess it was not serious enough to call the men in white coats. There are mad people in Manchester, to a degree, we are on that broad spectrum. Yes, Brian is wont to saying it, Get Out! And I did.
St. Peter's Square tram stop
The Midland
Am I breaking a sweat?
My legs have walked this city
The Central Library

Love handles stories with ease

Let’s do love simply

I have ambition, much of it that I want to achieve, yet, even as the Fairy Tales lyrics of Anita Baker become part of my meditation as I walked the treadmill, it was another song playing on my mobile phone and so I was saddened with reality stepping into view. The lady who sang Lead Me Into Love and danced to the Rhythm of Love expecting marital bliss of a future she dreamt of the Men In My Life was sadly with the Wrong Man. [The links are YouTube videos of Anita Baker]
Still, dreams must not die in the story of another, for earlier I read on Twitter of a lavish wedding that presaged a rotten marriage within a year, then the turnaround with another that brought a beautiful marriage beyond an ordinary wedding, from which I got the inspiration for a tweet that spoke my heart and mind.
You know what @Brian07j, we are getting married, we don't need a lavish ceremony, though, if it happens, I am not against it.
Easy as I go
Even so, my mind was beginning to play games with me, being alone in the gym, my hairs were beginning to stand on end for no reason at all. My racing heart knocking on the expected heart rate, I began to rationalise before overdrive made it unbearable and soon even with the incline, my heart rate was coming down.
Back to ambition, the mirror ahead was reflecting the majesty of my love handles looking for a stage to perform a slovenly catwalk, I know eventually it would be Sayonara to them, traipse on the treadmill for as long as you want we are on to goodbye eventually.
Rebecca-Louise was back on form today, I did much more than yesterday, and let’s not go into any more detail. Soon, my 50 minutes were up, a good workout, I am not training for the Olympics, I am just doing fine.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

I paused the video so she could take a rest

Too mule to train

My Brian would love the role of a personal trainer, bless him, but not if I could help it. For one, I respond better to gentle persuasion than instruction. 4 years of secondary boarding school was enough of being ordered around that I was unpersuadable about going to sixth-form school and my mother who was a principal then could have obtained entry to any school of choice, but she could not get between my ears.
Obviously, he has taken interest in my return to the gym, discipline and persistence are rivals to my continuing to the point of seeing benefits. The topic of music for my workout came up again and his suggestion just was far from impressive. Yes, I could say to rowers in Cape Town, “Put your back in it, just a little more.”, God forfend in my sweating exhaustion I play that back to my own hearing to urge myself on. [YouTube:Masters at Work – Work at your leisure.]
My drumsticks hurt
As for calling me chicken as if to dare me, what I decide to do is what I do, names are just that, names. Don’t forget chickens are probably the hardiest and most maltreated animals in the whole, yet they thrive in whatever condition they are in. To be chicken is to have tenacity, the will to live and hold life sacred without unnecessarily courting danger.
I picked up a little more speed in my brisk walk on the treadmill, going at 6 km/h for starters and then up to 6.6 km/h for the last 15 of 25 minutes. I worked up a good sweat. Then moved to the floor exercises, going back to an old favourite Rebecca-Louise Smith on YouTube and she left me in the dust. It would take time. Maybe I should take the advice of a comment. “I paused the video so she could take a rest.”
Meanwhile, for my workout music, it was Anita Baker which strangely was not on my phone, I had it in the cloud on OneDrive and thankfully, the gym offers free Wi-Fi. To stream directly from the cloud, I use the CloudPlayer Premium app.
Suffice it to say, by the time my timeslot was up, I was ready to up and leave. Tomorrow is another day.

Thought Picnic: When to bin the traditional hand-me-down rags of parental control

I was quite distressed

A few days ago, a video clip of a boy negotiating with his mother went viral. To many, it was pure entertainment, I, however, was very distressed by it that I do not intend to share it to propagate the scenario.
We have no backstory to the episode, but from what I could glean, the boy had done something wrong, probably seriously wrong for which there was to be some severe retribution. The boy crying with terror showing on his face, and in his terror was pleading with his mother to calm down, take a rest, or have a break before she unleashed her anger on him.
Some commentary suggested the boy was smart and trying to run rings around his mother. That is possible, especially when you know the kind of parents you have, you adopt strategies to escape their ire. The conversation mostly controlled by the boy was instructive and reflective, his mother is no doubt prone to irrational anger venting her frustration with severe punishments, else she would not have been advised to calm down.
Awareness lost to expediency
Towards the end, he asked to be given the last chance, the last chance in the world. That scared me like the boy could consider doing himself harm than face the wrath of his mother. None of this got through to his mother, she was insistent on beating him because somehow the boy had probably handled and broken something he was not supposed to touch. At the same time, he asked if his mother was videoing him.
This boy is aware, very much aware of himself and his failings, I am not sure his mother who decided to make a global show of his distress is half as much. In my view, a boy so mentally alert even at the imminent threat of harsh retribution needs to be dealt with in another way. The times when corporal punishment was the only tool parents, guardians or teachers had to command and demand the unflinching ultimate respect and fear of their wards is fast becoming useless.
Find better discipline tools
Corporal punishment is for mules and whatever your religious leanings, I would suggest it be the last resort having exhausted everything else and there is much to do, much more to learn to do to adapt to looking for more useful means of instruction than inflicting pain and nursing bleeding welts on the buttocks. The deprivation of freedoms or privileges with the prerogative of mercy is novel and yet effective.
I have watched some parents brutalise their wards in the quest for discipline and correction, sadly, the children now approaching middle-age are estranged, they do not have a wholesome relationship with their parents and that is sad. No, children do not outlive the cruelty meted out to them by their presumed protectors. Those who appear to do so are simply being pragmatic and able to compartmentalise usually for their own peace of mind in spite of and despite what they have suffered.
The future is a harsh judge
If you want a useful voice in the lives of your children, not so much to command or instruct them, but to have the honour of being approached from guidance when they are at crucial junctures of their walk of life, you need to review the hand-me-down rags of bad parenting and break that vicious generational cycle of visiting trauma instead of counsel.
Watch the child grow and begin to use reason and conversation, offer autonomy with good guidance on how to use the responsibility they have been offered, make mercy and forgiveness with consideration visible in times of disappointment or conflict. Find the expression of love beyond the provision of shelter, protection, sustenance and education, by being a bit emotional, because it shows you’re human and approachable. You can even give a hug and said the occasional “I love you, child.”, from deep in your heart.
You cannot tell how much that would mean to a child and how that would redound to their development in adulthood. These are the kinds of circumstances that make for good parent-child friendship and takes away the need for the child to scheme with cunning when they know they can trust you with anything going on in their lives.
Consider new possibilities
I am a man in my fifties, I have looked at many things about my relationship with my parents and other guardians. One uncle stands out as the one who gave me both the time and nurturing, we have one of the tightest relationships that even my parents would envy.
I would not be ambitious as to suggest how anyone should raise their children, but if you are going to make a public spectacle of them, ensure you are not making a worse spectacle of yourself in the process. Whilst many might agree with what she was about to do, I have no praise, commendation or encouragement, my disappointment cannot be more palpable for those who cannot learn from history, especially their own personal history are destined to repeat the failings of the past more worse than the precedent.
We can agree to disagree, but do not completely dismiss this perspective, I think it matters along with everything else in the toolbox of child-rearing. Thank you.
Some reference blogs

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Right back on the treadmill

Getting up to speed

It is still baby steps at the gym, a process of gradually helping my body adapt to exertion and exercise whilst slowly discovering the muscles and regions of imminent pain I never thought I had.
Brian is somewhat interested in what I am up to as I have now booked 14 50-minute dates at the gym. Most of what I have done is brisk walking for 25 minutes going up to 6.5 km/h and then some floor exercises.
I don’t know if my time slot is quiet or my village community is not that keen on this kind of trouble. The only other visitors have gone to the swimming pool instead. Now, earlier we talked about music to workout to, he just needs some pace and rhythm to work out to whether or not he likes the music. I would playback my music collection of Anita Baker or the Emancipation album of Prince.
The workout was energetic with me breaking a sweat as I reached and maintained the target heart rate, the track that stuck in my memory after the exhausting session, says everything. That’s my only mission, get trim and get him.

Monday 27 July 2020

I do my hair toss in the gym

Terms of wordy abuse

With the progressive easing of the lockdown restrictions, gyms are not open subject to regulatory requirements of social distancing and strict cleaning protocols. My village leisure centre that serves occupants of 5 apartment blocks became a venue of interest.
The lockdown has focused minds towards a kind of fitness regimen to lose the weight acquired over 18 weeks of sequestration with the dearth of engaging physical activity. The management company of our village fired off an email seeking interest from the village and on responding we received a 55-point Terms of Use & Disclaimer document that we had to sign before having our gym entry cards activated and getting a link to the booking system.
Definitely maybe
That in itself was a mental and agitated workout because what could have easily been digitally signed with evidence of the duration of viewing the document was sent as PDF file, in 2020. I could not let that pass without intimating them of a better way of doing things.
The leisure centre consists of a gym, a swimming pool, a games room, a steam room and a sauna. The last two are not currently open and the games room will not provide snooker or darts. The equipment in the gym is marked out for spacing, some taped off rather than being moved out. There are no weights, lots of sanitising stations and cleaning materials for post-usage cleaning.
We are allotted 50 minutes per session for one of the leisure centre facilities per day and I spent my 50 minutes in the gym, doing a brisk walk on the treadmill before attempting some floor exercises. I think it is a good thing, it might get my mind off my weight too. We’ll see. Whilst Lizzo helps me look good as hell.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Church, a stranger place to mask

We are in strange times

This morning as I was choosing what to wear, it came to a choice of one of three jackets. Earlier in the shower, I thought of how things had changed, like the last time I wore a suit and tie to work was the 13th of November last year which was the last day of bookable time on my last contract before I considered doing other things.
Two weeks of courses, then tests, a month in South Africa, illness in late January that left me without strength for weeks, a time of relentless job seeking that fell into the onset of the pandemic and now coming to three months of living at work from home.
None of this has required my usual work attire formality, the obligatory shirt and no playing the mermaid with a hidden fishtail below the waist. You have to dress well enough just in case the need for you to get up during a video conference does not lead to revelatory surprises you’ll rather keep to yourself.
Mask hands sanitise repeat
When I chose a jacket, it had in the inner breast pocket the printed out church ticket booked for the 5th of July, meaning this was the fourth service I was attending after the gentle easing of the lockdown restrictions, or so I thought. We had already gotten used to social distance seating, sitting through the service, no hymn singing, the sacrament of the bread without the wine and desired prompt egress of the building after the service. We were settling into a pattern of sorts.
Leaving home, I was already in sight of the church when I realised, I had left my phone at home, it had the app with my ticket to attend the Sung Eucharist. Thankfully, the usher had a list of booked visitors and he recognised me by name. However, as I was entering the church I was asked if I had a face mask as a new directive had come from the upper church hierarchy requiring, we wear masks, not compulsorily, but necessarily.
Along with that came other instructions, for as we were wearing masks we were in danger of cross-contamination or infection if we touched our masks. We were advised to keep our masks on through the service and when coming for communion we should be in single file sanitising our hands after removing the mask, receiving the host, putting the mask back on and repeating the hand sanitisation.
All consolation in God
It all looked quite laboured to me as I debated whether I wanted to venture cane in hand, and every other thing. In the end, I decided otherwise, partly because whilst I endured an hour of being masked, I probably was not getting enough oxygen into my system that I was yawning more frequently as I was tiring out too. It was best I stayed in my seat for the whole service and once able after the service and outside, take the mask off.
Most of the attendees were good sports and also without the encumbrances that I felt I had, and the president was quite appreciative of everyone’s consideration. We are not sure of what the new normal would be, and between endurance and resistance, we would have to find a sense of convenience through these times.
For according to the reading of scripture today, of the many thoughts that occupy our minds, we know that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. This shall pass.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Bullshit! Shit is living

Learning on the job
When I write, I have both the Microsoft Word spellchecker and grammar checker active to catch the basic errors or highlight something I might need to review or on my own good judgement ignore. Then when I paste my copy in the blog editor, Grammarly tackles some context, the punctuation, number agreement but shies away from political correctness.
I have not set the grammar checking rules to a stringent adherence to Victorian style or James I prose, nor do I aspire to Shakespearean flourish. In a way, I think I have my unique way of using words, constructing sentences, and conveying my opinions.
There is no doubt that I still have a lot to learn, it is an ongoing activity of self-development. Obviously, I deviate from formality to levity, abuse structure for artistic license, I will try to explain the jargon, whilst attempting to avoid neologisms, the occasional colloquialism or is it expletive will surface and that without apology.
The bull always shits
This is because, there is no better word for it and when in my last blog the grammar checker went after BULLSHIT, I retorted with Bullshit! Yes, whilst there are uses for the shit of bulls as manure, it is what they naturally do like we all do, we shit and it is as much proof that we are living things and much as we breathe. A characteristic we cannot do without, else we are on to constipation and without prompt relief death.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines bullshit in usage as both an exclamation and a noun and as; thus, complete nonsense or something that is not true. Pardon me, it is apparently offensive too. I guess it is one of those times when the shit hits the fan and the fan splats the shit on anyone who has not already taken refuge under a table.
“This language might be offensive to your reader.” Screams the grammar checker. It’s my blog and dear reader if you have never had to look back in anger at the water closet, your immortality is secure. Let’s stop feigning disgust, shitting is life and life is shitting.
Bullshit highlighter.

Thought Picnic: Killing their people with incompetence

Nothing to hold my confidence

I have many views about how I think there is no upside to Brexit if at any time I thought the government of Boris Johnson had a tenth of the acumen, principles, competence, and/or the capacity of the coalition war cabinet of Winston Churchill, I might even consider they’ll pull off a useful EU deal.
Their response to the Coronavirus pandemic already shows they are completely incapable, the excuse that they did not know enough about the virus to act with alacrity, preparedness and purpose does not wash, because governments all around the world had the same access to the information we also had, New Zealand, South Korea, and Germany are good examples, even Scotland rejigged their response to contain it.
Killing their people with bluster
The difference is they took the information and acted on it, testing, detecting, isolating, locking down, monitoring, tracing, and informing truthfully. These are what others did without boasting and with a clear grasp of the realities they faced. The virus had no time for bullshit and there was no vacuous optimism that could take the place of effective action. It showed up Johnson, Trump, and Bolsonaro as windbags and their citizenry is paying for it with deaths that top the global tragedy of this pandemic.
For all this, I was listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 the other night when I heard the last few lines of a poem, haunting and dangerously fearful, I stirred from my slumber to look it up. Brian Bilston encapsulates the tragedy of our times, both on Brexit when he wrote it two years ago and now as we bungle a deal as much as we bungled the response to the Coronavirus. I am sorry, whilst I have no instant hope to give, I hope the only way is up from this rock bottom splatter at the bottom of the cliff. [BBC Magazine: Brian Bilson - 'How I accidentally became a poet through Twitter']
Hold my hand while we jump off this cliff
‘Let’s jump off this cliff – it’ll be fun! A right laugh!’
urged all the people (well, I mean just over half
of those who had bothered to speak up at all).
I peered down at the rocks; it was a long way to fall.
I said, ‘This cliff’s more than three hundred feet high
and my doctor tells me if I jump I will die.’
‘Cliff-jumping’s fine!’ they said. ‘Don’t trust doctors, trust us!
We read all about it on the side of a bus.’
Worried, I met up with my local MP.
I shared my concerns. He was forced to agree:
‘Why the rocks below would smash you to bits!
Where did you get this idea of jumping off cliffs?’
‘It was the will of some of the people,’ I said
and his expression changed to another instead.
‘I think,’ he revised, ‘you’re being melodramatic.
The problem is you. You’re undemocratic.’
On the clifftop, we waited. In silence we stood.
Then a voice: ‘Remind me, why is cliff-jumping good?’
But we looked down at our shoes, baffled and stumped.
Then, out of embarrassment, we held hands and jumped.

Friday 24 July 2020

It perished in a lake of tea

Blandishing inexactitudes

Apparently, today marks the first-year anniversary of Boris Johnson assuming the role of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as being the First Lord of the Treasury, according to the formal titles as he became entered 10 Downing Street.
Obviously, he would trumpet his achievements, put a fine gloss on his incompetence, make excuses for the inexcusable, laud the profligacy of his government as prudent use of tax money, suggest the Brexit negotiations are working to plan, herald the Coronavirus pandemic response as world-beating, and with his remarkable sophistry work on many lies to make them true.
Death is not a celebration
What I know is that 45,808 UK citizens who could have celebrated with the Prime Minister are needlessly dead for whatever world-beating and considered actions his government took towards tackling the pandemic, we rose to the third country in the world with the highest number of deaths after the United States and Brazil. And of all the countries, we are seventh in the percentage of deaths compared to all tested 13.7 %. [Source:]
There is nothing to celebrate if family, relation, neighbour, friend, acquaintance, colleague, or stranger cannot join in our national community to herald this landmark has died a slow, painful, lonely death mostly attributable to what their own elected government did or did not do. So, let’s park the clapping and begin to face the reckoning.
My sordid tennis ordeal
Then maybe I have something to celebrate, a fly evaded all means of capture, a bothersome insect bringing frustration of agility, focus and ability. For the purpose of netting a fly that I have been known never to hurt but to kill, I bought an electronic swatter and zapper shaped like a lawn tennis racket.
I was ambitious even though I knew I was never able to get a racquet to hit a moving ball when at 8, I was taking tennis lessons, for the simple reason that I had a lazy eye. It would have been easier for me to be blindfolded and then rely on my sense of hearing and feeling the airwaves created by the moving tennis ball to track and hit the ball. Then I thought I could hit a fly?
There’s a fly in my cold leftover tea
There was one occasion when just swinging the racquet without aiming at anything zapped an insect, but that was my only luck in 6 weeks. Then absentmindedly, forgetting to put my tea mug in the sink, it was left in the living room with a remnant of unfinished tea overnight. I woke up this morning ready to make a cup of tea for the start of my living at work day and there was a fly and very likely the fly in the cold tea.
Who would have thought cold tea was a flycatcher? I have seen no flies taunting me today and that is worth celebrating more than a year at 10 Downing Street for the simple reason that the man who occupies the place has no humanity or competence to take this nation to a good place in good or bad times. My opinion, you can have yours.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Thoughts I had today

I am on a journey,
The destination is unsure,
It is an interesting voyage,
On calm and stormy seas.
Laid down on a gurney,
In pain, I do endure,
Burdened with such tonnage,
Of life not all at ease.
Then on bended knee,
For love that is so pure,
And now we set the stage,
To do things as we please.

Navigating my blog

Percolating to view

Having written over 3,000 blogs in almost 17 years, I have found that some blogs might never get read except if they come up in searches made on the Internet or within the blog itself.
I know I have not done much to promote my blog except when I post links to blogs I have just written. It then occurred to me, to post a navigation aid to my blog. Like some visitors might wonder why I have two search boxes on the blog. The first displays basic results in the body of the blog with the full text of the blog, the second is an extended Google search that displays blog headers in standard Google fashion, but under the search button.
To get at some of the blogs that may rarely get read if a visitor chooses not to navigate the blog under the My Blog Archive, by Year and then by Month opening the outline, I have added a Random Post button. It is random and hopefully, it would open up my old blogs to a new readership. [These are only available on non-mobile rendering or web view/desktop modes.]
Navigation aids to my blog. (Click to enlarge.)

Languages and snippets
When I moved my blog to Google Blogger, I added language translation, selecting a few languages. This uses the Google Translate engine and besides the listed languages, you have the choice from a dropdown list of other languages, including Yoruba as shown in the example graphic.
You can read my blog in Yoruba using the Google Translate engine. (Click to enlarge.)

As you would be translating from English to another language, ensure you first click on the Original button to switch the text back to English before clicking on Translate or nothing will happen.
I also have some blogs of interest, my Twitter feed with the most recent tweets and a random display of pictures from my Flickr album of over 11,000 pictures.
Please enjoy the blog and if you will leave a comment.
Thank you.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Octogenarians fearing a future dominance of F1 by black drivers?

At the crossroads of equity

For much of my writing, whilst I have written about identity and the relative circumstances that confer privilege and opportunity towards my circumstances, I cannot say I have been an activist.
The surge in global protests and activism after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May, has agitated people, institutions, companies, organisations, and personalities with sometimes soul-searching introspection instructing positive responses with the promise for change and confounded others with indifference and the absence of awareness as they suggest there is nothing amiss.
Memorials and symbols have been revisited for context and significance, highlighting the plight of minorities around the world with the clamour for equality, equity, justice and fairness.
In certain recent events, I have found a spectrum of representation that had me thinking of how minorities fit in and thrive in host communities, especially at work.
Choosing between activism and presence
In an interview with The Guardian, Michael Emenalo, 55, once the Technical Director for Chelsea Football Club, was the lone black senior executive in the English Premier League. Early in the interview, he surmised about his status and his projection of it. “I had to choose whether I would let my activism be a distraction or allow my presence to be an inspiration.”
This is a concept I fully recognise and can relate to. I cannot say I was a flagbearer in certain positions that I have occupied in my career, but it was significant that other ethnic minorities seeing me in those roles found that their aspirations were not limited. More to the point, we cannot all be activists, sometimes just being at the top table is activism enough.
My primary function was not a human resource component of diversity and inclusion, but I represented it and gave light to opportunities those who saw me could pursue. My professional work spoke for itself even if there were times between being patronised and being belittled, you kept at what you do, and the end result proved how and why you were there.
When silence no more works
Then we have Lewis Hamilton, 35, of a much younger generation and a highly accomplished lone black man in Formula 1 who recently has been championing the need for Formula 1 to be more embracing and inclusive by opening up opportunities to those who might not see a pathway to a career in Formula 1.
His advocacy and activism are prominent whilst not distracting from his professional expertise where he currently leads the driver standings having been 6-time world champion. It goes without saying that few sportsmen have achieved his feat and dominance, not only in the UK but in the world. Yet, it is instructive that many others of lesser achievement and in other sports have been knighted whilst he remains an MBE.
This is not to conflate the global sport with British honours, but you wonder how much further his presence being an inspiration as in the case of Michael Emenalo needs to go for his activism to really attract more ethnic minorities to the sport.
Afflicting the comfortable
This is where two Caucasian veterans of Formula 1 appear to have been ruffled, but starting with Bernie Ecclestone, 89, who used to run Formula 1 when he said in June, "In lots of cases, black people are more racist than what white people are."
Even if Mr Ecclestone’s viewpoint was anecdotal, it was very unhelpful in addressing the issue of opening up Formula 1 to opportunities for ethnic minorities building up from gathering and scouting raw talent to nurturing them through apprenticeships, internships, and expertise acquisition schemes that would culminate in being able to compete on merit alone for openings in Formula 1.
Next came Mario Andretti, 80, in whose words you could see that Lewis Hamilton had begun to afflict the comfortable. They would rather he was silent than activist, with the hope that either organically or by happenstance the opportunities will just show, but Lewis Hamilton has been a Formula 1 driver since the 2007 season, that’s thirteen years and he remains alone.
I have a lot of respect for Lewis, but why become a militant? He's always been accepted and he's earned everyone's respect.” Mario Andretti
The big problem they refuse to see
Sir Jackie Stewart, 81, then says he doesn’t think there is a problem. Well, I say, if after 13 years and 6 world championships, the figurehead ethnic minority symbol simply needs to double down on the accelerator of his car without highlighting issues within his sport, that would be unfortunate.
He's quite vocal about these elements, I don't think there's as big a problem as there might seem.” Sir Jackie Stewart.
I am glad that Lewis Hamilton is not backing down to this trio of octogenarian symbols of white privilege laying out unforgivable tropes, because essentially, they are saying he should be grateful even though he is in his position by dint of hard work and great ability, and that he is being difficult as he is compelling his sport to radically review how it brings talent to the fore.
Then you have this niggling feeling that there is a foreboding and premonition haunting old white men, perish the thought that Formula 1 might become dominated by black drivers, they had better lament it now before a distant future invades the sanctity of their figurative Tutankhamun pyramids making them turn in their mummified graves.
I leave the last word to Lewis Hamilton from the BBC Sport article referenced earlier on this blog.
It makes complete sense to me now that nothing was said or done to make our sport more diverse or to address the racial abuse I received throughout my career.
If someone who has run the sport for decades has such a lack of understanding of the deep-rooted issues we as black people deal with every day, how can we expect all the people who work under him to understand? It starts at the top.
Now the time has come for change. I will not stop pushing to create an inclusive future for our sport with equal opportunity for all. To create a world that provides equal opportunity for minorities.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Thought Picnic: I rise with gifts to help

Knowledge is a resource

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I had the resources that gave the opportunity and privilege, in have that, I realise that such comes with great responsibility in how the resources are used, to what ends, and to what purposes.
Indeed, I am fascinated by those who recognise that what they have should not be abused subscribing to a higher principle or cause that serves justice and humanity.
I will not pretend that I have acquired to that standard of altruistic contentment, the emperor of my entire and all that can be surveyed. It is no less something to strive to, not for self but for others in knowing what to do with what you have got. I am surprised how watching the mundane can elicit profound knowledge.
Wisdom is in servitude
I do not consider myself a leader or a mentor, yet, I find that I am thrust into situations where by perspective, experience, inclination or engagement, something is demanded of me to which I must rise rather than shrink. I do not delude myself into thinking I have the powers of persuasion, but I can paint pictures and scenarios, hoping to bring hearts, minds, resources and commitment to a side.
That one does not have a burning passion to win at all cost, but to have done enough for options to be seen and decisions to be made gratifying, even if what I have done is create opposition rather than acquiescence. If anything, I have been honoured to influence and even if I had wished to be better resourced, I hope to have done anything I have done to the best of my ability.
If fortitude should bless me with greater responsibility, if I have acquitted myself well with little, I cherish every moment I had to engage, if a mission calls, send me with the wisdom of life I have been given to live.

Monday 20 July 2020

Nigeria: And the Oscar goes to Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei

The art of the ill

I have watched the implausible incredulity of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry version of Hollywood. The trite storylines of repetitive histrionics and melodrama that taxes your willing suspension of belief to the extreme. What people might not believe is how it is art that imitates life, that what you might term impossible or improbable in saner climes is everyday occurrence in Nigeria.
One such episode I could not ignore happened earlier today, when Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, the acting Director-General of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) appeared before a Nigerian House of Assembly Committee to face questioning on his stewardship of the agency he heads.
Now, we are led to believe he might have been indisposed but against doctor’s orders honoured the invitation to appear. That is beside the point. The live feed to the event simply shows that under the assault of interrogation, the professor suddenly took ill.

First aid originality
He appeared stunted and slumped over the table before when heroic members of the House came to his aid if that is what you may call it after observation. I can find not medical terms for any of the actions taken. The tugging of his shoulders from behind was not anything like the Heimlich Manoeuvre, not that he was choking on anything that needed dislodging from his throat.
The person who approached him from the front, appeared to be contemplating with great hesitation whether he was going administer the kiss of life through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but he could have had all fingers in the professor’s mouth trying to prise it ajar.
Now, miraculously, the intervention, either of discomfort or palliative urging appears to have revived the professor who from what I observed was starry-eyed and lifting his arms as if to dislodge the hands from his suffering buccal cavity. The spontaneity of the intervention made for an engaging global audience with intrigue. The professor did not die. Hallelujah!
Feeble bandits on account
Which brings me to the thought of how many influential people caught in embezzlement, malfeasance, fraud or misappropriation fearlessly and unassailably aggrandise themselves with moneys in their care with impunity and reckless abandon, when brought to account appear to fail in heart and health with the suddenness of some divine affliction.
One would not suggest it is a ploy, but too many in times past have been given the benefit of the doubt and much latitude to request and obtain leave from the courts to seek medical attention abroad. That avenue is trammelled by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Yet, I would be remiss in the duty of acknowledgement and appreciation if Prof Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei; and don’t twist your tongue on his first name, it flows with effortless ease off the tongue, is not considered for an outstanding prize for a live-action award of extraordinary artistic talent rarely seen in highly accomplished professional actors.
Professor Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei of Nigeria, please, step forward for the honours. A standing ovation is deserved.