Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose

So sang Kristofferson and Joplin after Bobby McGee left them heartbroken and bereft.

That may be true in the sense that relationships and possessions carry obligations which are fetters on your freedom.

Throughout Africa, freedom from colonial rule has led to continued corruption and tyranny, the destruction of agriculture and plunder of natural resources without regard for posterity and a disregard for welfare of the people, which will soon leave nothing left to lose.

In the supposedly more civilised ‘western world’, increased freedoms have led to the inability of governments to curtail or restrict the increasingly conflicted demands on the fiscus and the disempowerment of Police, Border Control and Armed Forces. Soon they too may have nothing left to lose, because everything is free.

But I digress.

I have recently done a course on What Works in Development Aid strategies

corruption funnel

The course started off by saying that not many aid strategies worked because of the rip-offs by the empowered elites in recipient countries.

Somalis, Sudanese and Ethiopians are still starving after how many years and dollars of aid . In addition, because the development aid in health has been so successful, there are many more people doomed to hunger!

We are talking big money: $135 billion in 2014 spent by OECD countries alone!

The United Nations sustainable development goal number 1 is: to leave no-one behind by 2030. Cute, hey?

trickle down effectPerhaps consideration should be given to the existence of the development aid industry as a whole: from UN agencies, to government ministries, to universities to aid workers and supply chain operators – is it worth the significant expenditure of taxpayers dollars?

Should foreigners be intervening in sovereign states to prolong life expectancy in a world where natural resources are being depleted and destroyed by too many people?

Or is the development aid industry too entrenched to re-consider its roots. The disguise or suspicion of imperialism and market growth will remain.

Should we continue to shore up tyranny by removing the desperation of their populace, who eventually must be the authors of their own liberation? The alternative is the one that communism and agencies like the CIA instigated: arming people to enable them to confront abuses. Is the morality not the same?

The survival of our world is threatened by the wholesale destruction of our environment by unrestrained economies with burgeoning populations. The survival imperative is to safeguard resources. Economic and political interventions are apparently tenuous and entail the appeasement of tyrants for success, which is morally unpalatable.

Military intervention to impose and sustain appropriate institutions and practices is an alternative, but failed in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somaliland, Syria and is much more expensive and politically sensitive!

However, my putative rant hit a brick wall.

A little more research and thinking about the topic suggests that it is in fact very necessary expenditure:

  • On average, the richer states spend only about 0.7% of their gross national incomes on aid (relatively insignificant)
  • it curbs global spread of diseases
  • it buys friends, allies and access to resources
  • it provides markets…
  • the aid industry employs many people at home and abroad; e.g.: in the US all aid supplies must be made in the US.

In 1990, 1.9billion (36%) of the the world population of 5.3 billion, lived in extreme poverty. In 2010, only 1.2 billion (18%) of the increased population of 6.8 billion, lived in extreme poverty. Aid is believed to have significantly contributed to this reduction in poverty and increased life expectancy and the eradication of a number of diseases.

It also definitely contributed to the 28% increase in population.

 

There are other secondary (or maybe primary objectives), like the renewed

scramble for Africa, illustrated by the numerous and significant projects

china aid.gif

funded and manned by China.

 

 

It is ironic that China was one of the main supporters of the spread of communism in Africa, until its loss of credibility.

 

 

 

However, over 150 countries (of the 196 in the world) have committed

themselves to the United Nations Development Programme’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

 

This is where our hopes lie, as signatories can be held accountable to their commitments.

Here’s hoping!

global goals

 

 

Profanity palls

I cannot claim to be angelic in this regard; I admit that I sometimes blurt profanities in theangry words company of those that dislike such language. I always regret it,  but this little streak of perversity persists.

But if we pause to look at profanity, we see a bunch of stale words which have not evolved much except in the mouths of those seeking to offend or draw attention to their meagre presence and vocabulary.

I subscribe to an omnibus blog digest (Medium) which presents individual views on ‘anything goes’. I follow topics on art, cooking, creativity, history, politics, productivity, psychology, racism, religion and technology.

Much space is taken up by angry people. You may not believe how much is written on racprofanity Tism, feminism and anti-feminism. Vitriol and profanity spew out!

Profanity usually accompanies extreme displeasure or discomfort. It has also become some sort of sign of manliness. Big boys use profanity to impress little boys with their naughtiness and daring.

Some women seem to believe that they are liberated by their profanities. How sad! People striving to emulate others in every way destroy their uniqueness and charm.

What is also very sad is the proliferation of profanity.history_of_swearing_in_hollywood

It seems now that coarseness has become an indicator of equality, maturity and defiance. Users seek to shock perceivers and inspire the same sort of admiration that big boys sought from little boys.

Unfortunately for them their audience is different and is discerning and scornful of such puerile and pathetic efforts.

It would be tragic if the economics and rationale of media moguls prevailed anprofane sponge bobd
we are faced with further entertainment perversions, worse than Married at First Sight (#@&%!!) and presented with ‘real life’ scenarios in childrens’ hour

twain profaneGenerally speaking, I believe that, if used, profanity should not be spoken in the presence of parents or children (or by them) or indeed, anyone who would be offended by it

 

no interest profane

Ouch! But that is a stern test for big boys and girls!profane crutch

 

Nuff said!

 

A Moral Compass

 I often feel that we are morally adrift, that we do not have a clear sense of how to ground our identities and actions to ultimate values that transcend time and place. That is not to say that our society is largely immoral. Just amoral—lacking a clear compass or a foundational guide.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/gregg-henriques-phd

moral-compass

The image shows integrity as the core or hub of the moral compass: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles

synonyms: honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honour, honourableness, upstandingness, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness

My preference was for the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance

Prudence anever-let-societynd justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it and temperance tells us how to do it.

Virtue is not easy; it involves sacrifice and challenge of ormoral-compass-quote-roosevelt at least avoidance of peer pressures.

When I wrote about this about 12 years ago, someone commented that we should not require these values/virtues/principles to be taught in school but instead set the example ourselves. I agree that we should but know we frequently fall short…

So if integrity is the true North of the moral compass of life, how do we instil it in our own lives and those of the next generation?

Your ideas, experiences and thoughts would be appreciated. My spur of the moment suggestion and this is what I am doing, is to start a conversation, issue a challenge, ask for help. Would that be worth it or should we just leave it to osmosis and hope for the best?

small-step

Change is gonna come

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman

If one despairs for too long, one may resort to desperate acts.

Certainly if I was an American, the Trumpfarce would lead me to believe that the prevailing system of government has failed. I am not American, but that’s what I think.

Democracy as we know it originated 2000 years ago; the US Constitution and European parliamentary conventions were designed for agrarian society.

Government bureaucracies can no longer keep pace with the chsamson-destructionanges and complexities of our world today.

There are all sorts of distortions and allegations and conspiracies and we can no longer discern what the truth is, nor rely on elected representatives to tell the truth.

What we are witnessing in the US is the self-destruction of a huge political system.  Hopefully it will be the harbinger of a new dawn in political mechanisms. It is not just the US that needs political change.

It is not just the US that needs political change.

Post truths have been bolstered by alternate facts and the need to be first with the news makes Twitter the prime source, with its fake news and flake views of the mad, bad and greedy. Journalistic integrity has largely sold out to Mammon.

All of a sudden, people are hating each other because of the political T-shirts they wear. The concept of loyal opposition in Parliaments or Congresses no longer exists. The modern political goal is solely the attainment and retention of power, notwithstanding the destruction and obliteration of the views of nearly half the population!

When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when different kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, parliaments become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose.

If you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.strong-from-weak

Most great things in your life won’t happen by chance, they will happen by choice.

I believe we need to do a reset, and stop limiting next-gen governance by the tools and assumptions of our past approaches.

To meet the huge challenges confronting us, we need more than incremental digital tweaks, we need a breakthrough in large-scale collective wisdom.

We need new political systems which enable effective governance which meets the needs of our society; the information age is when and where it should happen.

We also need an acid test to identify the truth.

ph-3

Most of these thoughts and quotes come from blogs on medium.com and particularly:

Arthur Brock https://medium.com/metacurrency-project/broken-assumptions-of-governance-63cc946ccc6c#.2xe4svqwq

Christmas of my childhood

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” 
Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

My earliest memories were from colonial days in the 1950’s, when we lived in Swaziland. There were certain rituals and traditions some of which have lived on through the generations.

xmas-treeThe first was the hunt for a Christmas tree. I seem to recall that there was some subterfuge required as pine and cypress trees in and about the town were council property. Daddy could not participate as he was a high panjandrum in the government, so it was up to Mum.

Suitable trees would be identified during the year. As it got dark, Mum would drive to the spot (usually next to Mbabane Oval) and the tree was quickly felled with an axe and the tree stowed in the boot and we would hasten home trailing pine needles. Dad would splutter but faced with a fait accompli he was powerless.tree-decorating

Decorations came out of a box: beautifully coloured delicate globes and silver and gold tinsel, with the Star placed on top by Daddy, which made him an accomplice. Presents were piled around the foot of tree – cause of much speculation and dreaming. Quite a few presents as there were six of us and Gogo (as Granny Vialls was called), Bessie (the dog) the servants: Samuel, Lamzima, Jane and Tsabetse, our convict gardener.

We also made streamers by cutting and plaiting strips of red and green crepe paper.

nativityCarols by candlelight were held at the amphitheatre. Daddy who loved to sing,  would sing protracted Noweeeeeeeels, much to the amazement of all in general and our acute embarrassment! There were a little crib and a live donkey: I always loved Away in a Manger thereafter.

The Christmas box was a local tradition where little gifts were given to deliverymekids-treen and service people like rubbish collectors. We carried wrapped sweets in the car to throw out to the Swazi children who would run along the side of the road calling out ma-sweeet, ma- sweeti!

Oxmas-sockn Christmas Eve we would be given orange bags as stockings to hang on the end of our beds for Father Christmas presents. We retired very early and awoke at about four a.m. to start investigating … soon rustle, rustle would turn to yips of glee and look what I’ve got’s.

The best gifts for my brother and I were a space-age machine gun which emitted a ferocious rattle and flashed sparks. No-one slept after four am that Xmas.

Gogo would make mebos (tart apricot preserve) which was a great temptation. As we would be going to communion we were not allowed to eat until after mass. The mebos suffered at the hands of early morning sinners…

Father Botta knew better than to delay his parishioners by a long sermon and we invariably passed the Anglicans as they came out of church. Dad would say: beat the Prods again! (Not very good behaviour for a papal knight!)

After breakfast, there would be tidying up and the grown ups would sip port and nibble mince pies, while we hovered around the Christmas tree where the family presents were piled.xmas-kids-and-dog

Eventually, Daddy relented and Tim and I being the youngest had to deliver presents after he had read the label.

Then tidying up again, laying the table, trying to sneak charms out the crackers and stealing nuts and mebos

Wxmas-faree still managed to eat turkey with cranberry sauce and roast potatoes, wearing silly hats and reading silly jokes… then came the pudding, bathed in blue flame with glints of silver treasure. In the pudding, Mum had inserted sixpences and tickeys (threepence) which was big money – our pocket money was tickey a week.

Then a toast to “Absent Friends” and Daddy would choke up and Mummy would finish for him.family-cricket

We’d clear the table and set up the kitchen table for the servants’ dinner; somewhat hurriedly as there was lawn cricket outside. We managed a few overs before Daddy nodded off behind the wickets.

 

We do it a bit differently in Australia these days and have Christmas braai (barbeque) on Christmas Eve, as it can get quite hot here in the day. But we still have port and mince pies and always remember “Absent Friends” which becomes harder as we grow older and the list grows longer…

One of our children has gone off meat so next year we will have vegetarian options:

  • Borshch (beet soup).
  • Vegeducken – layers of pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini and asparagus are filled with a crispy hazelnut stuffing and baked to perfection.
  • Vushka (small dumplings with mushroom).
  • Varenyky (dumplings with cabbage and potatoes).
  • Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage roll)
  • Kutia (sweet grain pudding).

merry-christmas-austrli

felinavidad

Are we headed for chaos?

In recent times, chaos has attained a hallowed status through simplistic argument that it is a necessity for the rectification of society. In other words: everything is so fucked up, nothing can be fixed, so let’s break it down and trump-fingerbegin again.

putin-mh17There are some very wild cards now in play in global politics. They are not who might be called gentlemen. I would call them loose kim-jon-uncannons, who have abundant egos, few scruples and Messianistic delusions.

Most of them have some significant weapons to play with and some are itching to play with them.

duterteThen there are the others who are really nihilists and anarchists who have been fighting the world for some time.islam-co-exist

 

The electoral middle fingers that have been jabbed into the longstanding beacons of western democracy, Britain and the United States, and the Establishment in general, signal a strong swing to the ugly-middle-fingerright. Circle those wagons, don’t let any strangers near…

Governments heeding that finger will effect shrinkage in unrestrained freedom; liberal causes and fair go will be shelved for a while. There will be a lot more of: Do what I say and shut your mouth or we will shut it for you.

The policeman’s boots are going to get bigger.

Freedom of speech and the truth are always casualties in times of trouble.

It is sad but real: history has shown us again and again – in practice, we are not peaceful and fellow human loving by nature.

The pendulum swings back and forth… history repeats.

Read Tobias Stone’s article:

https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.v8mm4ygc9

View story at Medium.com

 

 

 

The little joys of life

I have been moved lately by the little joys of life in my garden. As I lift my head I see five white butterflies flying by in close formation.

0b4fa-galahsTwo metres away from me a pink and grey galah has swooped onto the hanging basket which serves as a seed feed for our avian visitors. The first visitor of the day there is usually the beautiful 8410b-blueindianringneckIndian blue ring-necked parakeet, obviously an exotic escapee, who stridently whistles at us to replenish the dish with sunflower seeds.

We stand guard otherwise he is chased away by the numerous outrageously a7c32-rainbowlorikietcoloured rainbow lorikeets who perch in the nearby cabbage tree like Christmas decorations shrieking and murmuring. They are tough characters: I saw one back down a magpie on our lawn, hop-charging it until it moved on. They have just chased off the galah which is a much bigger bird too!

After the lorikeets have scarfed every remaining seed, they depart shrieking raucously, sometimes skimming close past me to show their lack of regard.fiona-lumsden-king-parrots

Then, if we are lucky, the beautiful King parrot arrives, usually the scarlet headed male, but occasionally his beautiful shamrock green lady.

 

At my feet, I hear an indistinct squeak, squeak – Lulu is dreaming in her bed. She is our new puppy. Although when our beloved Schnauzer Mooshoo died, we said never again, we couldn’t last without a dog, so we found Lulu. Such a grinning delight! She is cute and feisty, demanding and energetic. Quite a challenge for 60+ year olds!

Finally, more joy: we had four of our five children together for Mum’s macaroni cheese dinner last night, along with puppy, grandchild, two cats and three partners.

They live spread out across Australasia, so it was a rare opportunity to check out our big babies and introduce them to Lulu. My heart is full.

lulu-22-oct-2016

*King parrots painted by Fiona Lumsden

P.S. Last night we were honoured by a visit from a slighter longer joy than usual: a carpet python hung about a tree above a fence line hoping for an engagement with a possum or a rat. Isn’t it a beauty!

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