Sunday, February 28, 2010

Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases!

Growing up in an African family with strong christian values, I learned quickly about the need to pray because - prayer is the master key. Right? My christian values were further concretized when I enrolled in a Catholic secondary school and remained a student in the institution for 7 consecutive years. During these years, I learned a lot and grew mentally and spiritually stronger. I must confess some of the things I learned at school, were learned the hard way, but the bottom line is - I learned them. One of the numerous religious lessons (some "unholy" things were learned too) I learned at school was the fact that devotion to the holy apostles should be cherished. Do you know the apostle St. Jude Thaddeus? Do you know he's the patron saint of hopeless and desperate cases? I got to learn about this in an unlikely fashion. You might be interested to know.

Back in secondary school (Form 5), English Language lessons were one of those lessons I didn't look forward to; not because I didn't like the course. It's fair to say the teacher (may he rest in peace) was a little bit too challenging. He expected nothing but the best from all of us and usually, he didn't like to repeat his instructions. I always remember the word, "in fact" - many people negligently spell it as one word. I'd also never forget the word, "cannot". Back in the days, misspelling such words (among other things) would incur the "wrath" of my English language teacher and qualify you as a hopeless case - a "Saint Jude's case." I was not the best student, but I was never a hopeless case in English Language. Coming to think of it, maybe I was in Mathematics. Were you a hopeless case under any circumstance?

When we were preparing for the General Certificate Examination (G.C.E), English Language was one of the compulsory subjects. Every student wanted to validate it, but according to my teacher, there were some students in the class who'd not validate the subject - without the help of the patron Saint of hopeless and desperate cases.

However, when the G.C.E results were published, I was happy to learn that my classmates - the "St. Jude cases", validated English Language. I guess they took the teacher's advise and prayed tirelessly to St. Jude Thaddeus.

This is how I learned about St. Jude Thaddeus. His feast day is October 28 and since my secondary school days, I pray to St. Jude, when faced with a hopeless or grave circumstance.

Are you in a hopeless situation? Are you in desperate need of a grave necessity? I encourage you to pray to St. Jude Thaddeus - the Patron Saint of Hopeless and Desperate Cases. He'd intercede for you.

As usual, I look forward to reading your comments and please, let me know when St. Jude Thaddeus helps you out of that hopeless and desperate situation!

Here are some Prayers to Saint Jude.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

New Trend in the Helsinki Metro

You don't have to be an expert in geography or world affaires to know that Helsinki is the capital city of Finland. Well, now that you know, there's a new trend in the Helsinki metro - there're beggars on board! Recently, I've been taking the subway a lot from the Mellunmäki area to Kamppi. Each time I boarded the metro last week, I had to deal with people soliciting alms. I'm aware of the fact that this is no news in some parts of the world, including countries like France, Italy, etc., but I must tell you - in Finland, this is a new trend.

One morning, I boarded the metro and the moment I secured my seat, a sorry-looking fellow approached me. He had something written (in Finnish) on a piece of paper, which for obvious reasons I could not understand. But there was one word I recognized - Moldova. Could the beggars on board the Helsinki metro be from Moldova?

I was shocked by the sight of a beggar in a metro in Helsinki, so much so that I could not immediately react when he stretched his hand towards me - expecting a donation. The gentleman didn't seem to have time to waste because the moment I hesitated, he moved on to the next person. But one thing was clear, everyone was surprised and no one was giving him any money.

When it became evident to him that Monday was not his lucky day, he approached me again and said something in Spanish. Like Finnish, I don't understand Spanish, but I heard him mention "20 cents" (about 0.27 USD). I could see desperation in his eyes so I reached for my wallet and gave him 2 EUR (approximately 2.7 USD). This is what he said - "thank you very much, brother." Now, I didn't give him a million EUR, but it warmed my heart to hear those words.

As the metro pulled to a stop, I wondered why he approached me twice and what the future holds for him, as a beggar, in a land where people barely greet each other - thoughtless of giving money to a stranger.

Why did no one, but me give him money? I'm confident that if it was somewhere in Africa, he'd leave the metro with a reasonable amount of alms, despite the fact that people don't have much to offer. Are struggling folks more generous or do they simply relate to other struggling folks? Why did all the seemingly affluent folks in the metro not chip in some alms for the beggar?

Luckily, I didn't hastily conclude. I waited another day - the very next day, I met the same gentleman on the metro, doing what he does best - soliciting alms. This time, he didn't walk up to me twice, neither did he look me in the face. I suspect he recognized me as the previous day's "good Samaritan" and did not want to bother me any further.

Now that you know what he does for a living, I think it's human for you to be irritated if some stranger expects you to give him money everyday, at the same time. This is probably why the metro beggar didn't receive any alms from the people on board the metro the previous day - they were sick and tired of donating to the same stranger.

What's my point? Don't judge any one's reaction to a situation at hand before you fully understand why they reacted the way they did. I'm glad I didn't conclude that Finns are not generous. Perhaps, Finns won't be donating to metro beggars anytime soon - until they come to terms with the new trend. No doubt, I was surprised to see beggars on board the metro in Helsinki, but a Finn would be embarrassed and culturally shocked!

It's true that making donations to the the poor is honorable, but it's also true that you won't wholeheartedly donate alms, every day to a physically fit full grown man who could as well get a job and make a decent living.

Permit me to mention that this blog post is coming to you, from on board a WiFi-enabled train from Lund to Stockholm, Sweden - on the morning after my Masters thesis defence. What would the world be like without technology? I wonder...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Dreadlocks Myth

Dreadlocks refer to interlocked coils of hair which may form naturally or through manipulation. It is a symbol of a religious movement, notably the Rastafari movement, although an increasing number of people from different religions and cultures wear dreadlocks nowadays. Is it just another hairstyle?

Today, unfortunately, this unique hairstyle - with a long tradition of spirituality, is closely associated with defiance, guns, crime, irresponsibility, insubordination, untidiness, you name it. Even in the U.S, where there's a lot of talk about freedom and the dream of not judging people from appearances, dreadlocked folks have constantly come under attack! I was appalled when a judge in a New Orleans court ordered a teenager wearing dreadlocks to cut them. What happened to freedom? Do ideas about personal appearance cloud your judgement? Why do you think dreadlocks is constantly being associated with negative connotations? Is the dreadlocks myth a reality?

I have been wearing dreadlocks since 2003 - one year after I was admitted to study law in the University of Buea, Cameroon. Initially, people were surprised to see a law student with dreadlocks, but after sometime, it kind of became my "trademark". People described me as the "guy with dreadlocks" and I managed to literally get myself some fans and followers (I still have some today). Fortunately or unfortunately, many people became aware of the fact that it's okay to wear dreadlocks, provided you don't compromise your values and don't show up for a high-profile job interview (at least for now).

At home, I encountered some initial resistance from my mom. I remember she always told me that lawyers don't wear deadlocks. Her fear, which I understood, was that I was going to "change" and compromise the values tirelessly instilled in my siblings and I. However, she let me get away with wearing dreadlocks when she realised it was really what I wanted. It is worth mentioning that her worry was genuine, but I knew better, and never indulged in the things commonly associated with dreadlocks; I never smoked a cigarette ( not in my lifetime!), never dropped out of school, never became a criminal and neither did I negate my christian values or join the rastafari movement. As a matter of fact, I can look you in the face and reaffirm the fact that I've never confirmed any of the dreadlocks myths.

Do you know anyone whose behaviour or goals plummeted, when s/he started wearing dreadlocks? (I don't know any!)

Do you know anyone who has been profiled because s/he wears dreadlocks? (I know a few)

More importantly, have you ever regarded someone who wears dreadlocks as a "loser"? These are tough questions that should be answered in an effort to dispel the dreadlocks myth.

When I started wearing locks, I promised myself that I'd cut them after my Masters degree. As the day draws near, I can't help, but look back with nostalgia at the high and low moments of my 7-year dreadlocks experience. There were moments when, because of my dreadlocks, I was regarded as a local icon. Some friends and acquaintances called me "Icon for Town" - a slang we used at the university, to refer to a trailblazer or someone who stands out from the crowd.

Like I said, there were low moments too - when people MISTAKENLY thought I was just another uneducated, low-life criminal with dreadlocks. I always like the look on their faces when I "blow my cover", though.

Regardless, I've never regretted my decision to wear dreadlocks. I'm happy to have represented the many responsible folks out there who wear dreadlocks, and to have "busted" the dreadlocks myth.

From this day on, before you prejudge someone who wears dreadlocks, bear in mind that you might be going in for another big surprise because s/he might just be more educated, more successful, more cultured and generally a more dedicated citizen of the world, than you're! Get to know the dreadlocks carrier before you jump into hasty conclusions.

I'll leave you with the words of the legendary dreadlocked Bob Marley - "One Love."

The dreadlocks myth has been busted!

Monday, February 22, 2010

War Crimes in Video Games!

Today, I read a reseach project that explores to what extent the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights are respected in video games. As a master in the field of International Human Rights Law, I found the report interesting and thought-provoking. Do you (or your kids) play violent video games - games reproducing real armed conflicts? Do you respect the "rules of engagement" and rules applicable to real armed conflicts, or do you become "virtually violent" and commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in your video game experience? International human rights law frowns on and limits violence against vulnerable groups - especially civilians, caught in the crossfire. According to the research project, many game producers fail to incorporate rules protecting vulnerable groups, into their games - resulting in grave war crimes and crimes against humanity in video games.

The reseach project - Playing by the Rules: Applying International Humanitarian Law to Video and Computer games, was done by Pro Juventute and a Swiss association for international criminal justice, known as TRIAL. They examined 20 video and computer games. What they found would not surprise you - international humanitarian law is often not taken into consideration in game design. If you've played a video game, you'd agree that more often than not, players are allowed to kill civilians, damage property - including churches and mosques, torture captives (to get information), all without any sanction. This is what we call war crimes and crimes against humanity! It's happening in the real world - in places like the DR. Congo and other hot spots around the world.

Following the research - in a resulting report, the two organizations express regret that game producers, despite the possibility, fail to include rules of international humanitarian law in the games they produce. Incorporating human rights rules would educate the millions of people who play video games, about what is lawful and what is illegal in armed conflicts. They acknowlege a few games which punish (although partially) the killing of civilians. Most importantly, the report makes no secret of the fact that it's a bad idea for game producers to endorse the possibility of impunity for unlimited violence in armed conflicts.

I watched a shocking footage of a video game, entiltled, No Russian. You won't believe the level of violence against non-combatants that goes unsanctioned...

No doubt, video games are meant to entertain, but you cannot underestimate the message conveyed by war video games (when players are allowed to shoot civilians indiscriminately) - a message of impunity in armed conflicts and utter disregard for human dignity. Whether or not these video games prepare kids for war crimes and crimes against humanity, is a subject of another blog post.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Working Hard on the Wrong Thing

In the quest for financial independence and subsistence, people work very hard! Many spend all waking hours working - with the hope that they would make a decent living and save some money for the "rainy" days (we all have them). Unfortunately, despite the hard work, a good number of people fail to meet their goals - after paying all the bills, they're left with little or nothing. Can you relate to this? You would agree that there're people who work 40 - 45 hours a week, but live a life of struggle. No doubt, these are genuinely hard working folks - they set out for work at dawn and return home at dust, exhausted and not looking forward to the next day. I have talked with many people - people with unimaginable work schedules. They literally do nothing but work, yet I can't help but ask myself why they're not doing better (financially) - despite all the donkey work. Is hard work overrated? Is it possible to be working hard on the wrong thing?

Make no mistake - it's absolutely important to work hard to achieve your goals. But finding the right thing to work hard on, is much more important than working hard. You might spend many years working hard on something which is not designed to yield the ambitious results you expect. No doubt, you'd stagnate until you figure out what is designed to take you where you want to go. To illustrate this, you might have a goal to make 70,000 EUR (approximately $95,000) this year. This is doable, but working EXTREMELY hard - 24 hours a day, on a job designed to pay, 20,000 EUR (approximately $27,000) a year, would not make your dream come true. Believe it or not! They say it's mathematically impossible!

What you want to do is, find something that is designed to take you where you want to go and embark on it. A passenger plane (let's say, a Boeing 747) can't take you to the moon, can it?

Are you surprised you're not making any progress, despite all the hard work? Well, you don't have to be, because I got news for you - you're working hard on the wrong thing! You won't make any progress until you figure out the right thing to work hard on. How do you find the right thing to work hard on?

Don't spend too much time working hard on the wrong thing. Afterall, there's evidence pointing to the fact that it's counterproductive! Set aside time, each day - to reflect on what you really want and perhaps, find yourself a Coach or a Mentor (who has been there, done that) and follow in his/her footsteps.

Above all, watch your Associations - you've probably heard the adage, which states, "it's difficult to soar with the eagles when you're scratching with the turkeys." It's true! Associate with people who've been where you want to go or who're on the way to your "dreamland." In simple terms - if you want to get a menial job, hang out with people in the "industry". In the same vein, if you want to be a lawyer, doctor, teacher, entrepreneur - you know what to do. The bottomline is, hang out with the right people! It might take some time, but with a change in mindset, you'd eventually find the right thing to work hard on.

What's my point? Well, finding the right thing to work hard on is more important than working hard. I'd rather work smart!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Men with Embarrassing Wallets!

I was at the grocery store the other day - on the queue, anxiously waiting for my turn to make a payment - little did I know that I'd be standing in line, way longer than expected, simply because a man showed up with an embarrasing wallet. When the gentleman (seemingly) in front of me reached the pay counter, he pulled out a sorry-looking wallet to make a payment. The wallet was so stuffed that, as you'd expect, he couldn't find his bank card or cash. What an embarrassment! Later that same day, another gentleman overheard my phone conversation - about getting a new header for my blog. After the phone call, he told me he was a web designer and could take care of any website related issues. Before we parted, he reached for his wallet - instinctively, I knew he was going to give me his business card. I said to myself - "wow! This must be a serious businessman." Maybe I was wrong - he pulled out a worn out wallet, stuffed with pieces of papers. It took him quite some time to figure out where exactly he kept his business cards. I waited patiently, but I had already made up my mind - I won't be doing business with him. His wallet sold him out! Two embarrassing wallets in one day? It's definitely not a coincidence! There're many more men with embarrassing wallets, on the streets.

How does your wallet look like? Is it in good shape or is it round like a cup cake? If it's round like a cup cake, chances are it's stuffed with things you really don't need:
  • Receipts from 10 years ago
  • Business cards of people you don't remember
  • Scraps of papers with telephone numbers and email addresses
  • Expired bank cards, credit cards, ID cards and other things that you're, perhaps, sentimentally attached to.
The good news is -you don't have to throw them away. You're allowed to lock them in a drawer, somewhere at home. You don't have to carry them around and embarrass yourself.

What do I have in my wallet? As a matter of fact, I carry 2 wallets - brown and black. The black is designed to hold cards and nothing else - so I thought it wise to exclusively reserve it for my business cards. Hence, I know exactly where to fine my business card when I need to "dish" it out. The black wallet contains nothing else! The brown (finest Italian vegetable tanned leather by Claudio Ferrici) is usually pretty much empty - it contains my bank cards, ID card and pictures of my parents and younger brother (our Benjamin). I usually don't carry cash, but when I have to, my Claudio Ferrici wallet serves the purpose. Although I carry 2 wallets, you'd never see my back pocket bulge! As a matter of fact, I don't put my wallets in my back pockets because I don't want to sit on them. You'd agree that sitting on a wallet makes it look like something else.

You can hide your wallet most of the time and only bring it out to pay a bill or hand out your business card. However, during these rare instances, you never know who's watching. A sorry-looking wallet speaks volumes about you and would cost you more than you think - a potential customer, business partner or a date. Believe it or not!

By the way, do you think twice before drawing your wallet, while on a date? If the answer is "yes" - you absolutely need a new wallet as soon as possible. Fashion savvy people (men and women) are turned off by embarrasing wallets!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Imagine a Visa to Live and Work on Earth

For the benefit of doubt - a visa, as defined by the Free Online Dictionary, is an official authorization appended to a passport permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region.

Have you lived in foreign land? If you've, or aspire to - you'd agree that a visa (I fondly call it "kwali") is paramount and it's issued for a specific period of time (usually 6 months, 1 year, or more) - after which it expires. Upon expiry, your stay in the country in question becomes an illegal venture - a nightmare! In order to avoid the embarrassment, you need to renew your visa before it expires - that's if for some reason, you wish to stay longer in the country. As a matter of procedure, you must have a good reason why your visa should be renewed. A request for renewal would be rejected, if according to the immigration authorities, you don't have a good enough reason to stay longer, in the country. For instance, if you're a student, you must show that you've not completed your studies. More importantly, you have to show the courses you validated during the past academic year. This is because the authorities would like to know that you made an effort, but failed to complete your programme in record time, due to reasons beyond your control. If you proof beyond reasonable doubt why you need more time in the country, your visa would be renewed. On th other hand, if the authorities are not convinced, your request would be rejected and you'd be expected to leave the country as soon as possible. Now, imagine a visa to live and work on earth - would you agree that you'd be more successful and accomplished if you needed a visa to live and work on earth?

I've been thinking about this lately - people would work harder, and not only set goals, but strive hard to achieve them - if they had to secure a renewal of their visa to live and work on earth. Believe it or not, I've seen people work really hard at school or hold on to jobs - even odd jobs, because failure to convincingly work hard at school or to secure a job would be costly - failure would mean a rejection of an application to renew their visa - when the visa expires. A visa makes people set substantial goals and work aggressively to achieve them. That's the power of a visa!

When I was making my New Year Resolutions for 2010, I considered my goals (written down) to be reasons why I want to live and work in 2010. In this way, I HAVE to accomplish my resolutions - otherwise, my "visa" would not be renewed at the end of 2010. This wild imagination has pushed me to accomplish 2 out of my 5 key goals for 2010, in just the first 2 months of this new year.

The truth is - the fear of a sanction keeps people grounded and in their best behaviour. This translates into other aspects of life. Many people don't achieve their goals because the goals are not backed by any sanction - should they fail to achieve them. I challenge you to back your goals with a sanction! You'd be amazed by how much you can accomplish.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Black Man from Africa on Ski Slopes!

I'm not a fan of skiing and you'd rarely find an African who's interested in skiing, but who said Africans can't ski? The story of a black man from Africa on ski slopes in the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010, reminded me of the goal of this blog, On The Road To Success - to inspire ordinary people who seek to challenge the status quo and venture into less traveled paths. This is exactly what Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong is doing - he's entering uncharted territory!

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that 33 years old, father of two, Nkrumah-Acheampong would be representing his country - Ghana in the on-going Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Yes! There'll be a black man from Africa on ski slopes in Vancouver.

Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong was born in Glasgow but grew up in Accra - the capital of Ghana, in West Africa. Ghana is known for it's tropical climate and no snow. Needless to say, there're no ski slopes or skiers in the country. Nkrumah-Acheampong told BBC that the first time he saw snow was on TV back home in Ghana. His first snow experience was in 2000, when he moved to the UK for studies. Coming from a country with no snow, how exactly did Nkrumah-Acheampong start skiing and went as far as qualifying for the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010?

It all started a few years ago on artificial slopes in the UK, where the now professional skier, Nkrumah-Acheampong was ridiculed when he stated skiing. He met with a lot of scepticism, but never gave up his ambitious goal. Many could not envision an African on ski slopes. However, Nkrumah-Acheampong defied the odds and did not give up the dream - he carried on with passion and perseverance. And of course, it took some time, but his hard work and perseverance paid off.
"Some people were skeptical, others did not believe that it was possible to train in such a short period of time and try and qualify, but I think now I can stand up and say it's possible."
He admits his first experience on real snow was "terrifying", but he didn't quit and with the help of a coach - Dave Jacobs, he overcame his fears of going down the slopes. If I may ask, do you have a coach? Who's coaching you to success? Keep in mind that successful people have mentors (coaches)!

It's worth mentioning that Nkrumah-Acheampong failed to qualify for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. However, he kept working hard, with his eyes fixed on the next goal - Vancouver 2010. Due to his hard work, perseverance and stubborn determination, today, the flag of Ghana is flying in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And guess what, all the sceptics are now spectators - sitting up in the stands or glued to TV sets, watching a black man from Africa, perform on the ski slopes in Vancouver, where all the fame, action and money is. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong has defied the naysayers and made a name for himself.

What's your story? Do you give in to scepticism? Do you watch things happen or do you make things happen? It's up to you!

In case you missed it: Real Africans Don't Apologize for Being African!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Mockery of Education in Scandinavia!

Scandinavia is a region in northern Europe, which includes the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Island are also often considered parts of Scandinavia. Having lived in Scandinavia, precisely in Sweden and Finland, I can tell you that it's one of the most desireable places in the world to live. Scandinavian countries are for the most part wonderful! If you doubt it, check the UN Human Development Report. In 2009, BBC reported that Norway, was the best country to live in. Also in the top 10 best countries to live in 2009, were two other Scandinavian countries - Iceland and Sweden. It's worthy to note that Helsinki, Finland is among the world's top 10 most liveable cities in 2010. In academia, Scandinavia is home to one of the World's top 100 universities and education is tuition-free, in some of the countries - Sweden and Finland, precisely. Tuition-free education in the region attracts thousands of students from all over the world - Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and graduates from Scandinavian universities are equipped to compete for top career positions worldwide. Many international students flock to the region and receive the best education, free of charge. After graduation, some find jobs in their field of studies - mostly out of Scandinavia, while a good number of those who hope to find jobs in the region, hit a brick wall and soon realise that there's a mockery of education in Scandinavia.

Like I said, I've been on the ground in Scandinavia - from Rovaniemi (northern Finland); to Gothenburg (west coast of Sweden); to Lund, Malmö and Linköping (southern Sweden) and Stockholm (south-central east coast of Sweden) and back to Helsinki (southern Finland); not forgetting Copenhagen, Denmark. You'd therefore agree that I have a grasp of the region and hence - "locus standi" to address the plight of university graduates - I mean Masters and PhD holders in Scandinavia.

Everywhere I go in Scandinavia, it's the same story - university graduates can't find the jobs for which they spent many years in school, preparing themselves. As a result, highly educated folks (mostly foreigners) are reduced to menial jobs like
cleaning, dish washing, newspaper delivery, you name it. Those who choose the cleaning job have to clean hotels, schools, restaurants or homes; those who choose to be dish washers have to wash dishes in hotels and restuarants; those who choose to deliver newspaper have to wake up at 1AM everyday (irrespective of snow, rain, sun or whatever is outside) to go make deliveries - they have to wake up this early because there's a reading culture in Scandinavia and newspaper subscribers expect their newspapers delivered before 6AM, daily. This is the story of university graduates in Scandinavia! It's a story of well educated folks, caught at the bottom rung of a society - far from home.

The truth is, some of these jobs are fairly paid - up to 9 euros (approximately $12.25) per hour and there're graduates who subscribe to be full-time workers - 8 hours a day. Is this what they really want to do? I have spoken to many Masters degree holders and a few PhDs and they have one thing in common - they don't like what they do! They apply for menial jobs because they have to put food on the table. This is well understood. But, the problem is - most graduates become complacent and stop looking for other options. They get caught up in the routine of their menial jobs and think they can somehow keep doing what they're doing, until another option shows up from nowhere. This, in my mind, is hallucination at it's best! Gone are the days when manna came from heaven! There's no way you'd live the life of your dreams if you don't make an effort to break free from a system that insults your intelligence! No doubt, you have to put food on the table, but don't stop searching for what you deserve.

So, why would a society that provides tuition-free education not provide it's university graduates with the jobs they deserve?

Some blame it on the economy. This is a lame excuse because underemployment has been the plight of numerous university graduates in Scandinavia - long before the economic meltdown. Others blame it on language barriers. This is a valid argument! Scandinavian countries have their local languages and most of the international students who graduate don't bother to learn a local language. You'd agree that it's impossible to function in a society if you can't communicate with the people. However, a good number of graduates speak Swedish, Finnish, Dannish or Norwagian, but what they get is a "better" menial job. Yes! A "better" menial job!

There're international organizations (with English as a working language) in these countries - why don't they employ international graduates? Unfortunately, most jobs where foreigners can compete are expressly
reserved for nationals of a Member State of the European Union or nationals of the European Economic Area. What about qualified and talented nationals of non-European countries? Should they go clean, wash dishes and deliver newspapers - to make a living? This might or might not surprise you, but there's a kind of "legalized discrimination" in the labor market in Scandinavia.

Well, call it whatever you want, but you can't deny the fact that there's a mockery of education in the region! Where else in the "developed" world is it normal for Masters and PhDs to work in the field of cleaning, dish washing and newspapers delivery?

For the thousands of underemployed university graduates in Scandinavia, life is a constant battle of survival - sink or swim! Find a good job and create the lifestyle you deserve or be complacent and spend the rest of your life, working menial jobs. The system in place, although largely responsible, can't take all the blame. You have to improvise! Why not start a business? After all, there're lots of opportunities out there.

It's true that Scandinavia is a desireable place to live; but it's also true that there's a mockery of education in Scandinavia!

In case you missed it: Odd Jobs for the Highly Educated in Europe!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Remembering Nelson Mandela's Release 20 Years Ago

Do I need to tell you who the legend - Nelson Mandela is? He was the first black president of South Africa and served in that capacity from 1994 to 1999. Before he became president, he was an anti-apartheid activist and was convicted to life in prison on charges of sabotage and other crimes committed while he led the movement against the brutal white minority regime. Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending what he calls the "dark years" - 18 years, in a notorious South African prison - on Robben Island. Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990. Today - 11 February 2010, in harmony with the world in general and South Africans in particular, let's pause to remember Nelson Mandela's release 20 years ago.

How it happened, is a true testament of the fact that "nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change." South Africans were sick and tired of white domination and were in desperate need for change. Many oppressed South Africans looked up to one man to liberate them - that man was Nelson Mandela. Throughout his imprisonment, local and international pressure mounted on the government to release him. South Africa's president at the time - Frederick Willem de Klerk, succumbed to the pressure and announced Mandela' release on February 1990.

On this day - 11 February 1990, Mandela walked out of the Victor Vester Prison, a low security prison where he spent the last 3 years before his release. His release was broadcast live on television channels around the world and South Africa has never been the same again. On the day he walked to freedom, Mandela addressed the nation, declaring his commitment to peace and reconciliation. He said, among other things:
"Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognize that apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organization and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy. The destruction caused by apartheid on our sub-continent is in-calculable. The fabric of family life of millions of my people has been shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed. Our economy lies in ruins and our people are embroiled in political strife."
What a speech from a man fresh from prison - where he was subjected to 27 years of unimaginable torture, forced labour and inhumane treatment. He didn't preach war; he didn't preach revenge; he called for forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, security, national unity and democracy.

Nelson Mandela is truly a great moral and political leader of our time! It takes certain rare elements of character to be able to rise from oppression and more than a quarter-century of imprisonment - to president of a "Rainbow Nation" and winner of more than 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

I just started reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography - Long Walk To Freedom. You have to read it! It describes his early life, education and 27 years in prison. It's thought provoking. You won't believe what this legend had to endure. Here's an excerpt from Nelson Mandela's autobiography:
"Apartheid's regulations extended even to clothing. All of us except Kathy, received short trousers, an insubstantial jersey, and a canvas jacket. Kathy, the one Indian among us, was given long trousers. Normally Africans would receive sandals made from car tyres, but in this instance we were given shoes. Kathy, alone, received socks. Short trousers for Africans were meant to remind us that we were "boys.""

Today, Mandela is 91, in good health and according to CCN's Christiane Amanpour - "continues to inspire prisoners of conscience." Permit me to leave you with Mandela's own words during his trial in 1964:
"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

One Reason why Domestic Violence Against Women still Prevails!

On Monday 8 Febuary 2010, a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook which boggled my mind till today. It was the story of Katie Piper - an aspiring model whose future was changed forever when a man (hired by her boyfriend) threw sulphuric acid in her face. Katie's story is a reminder of the many women around the world caught up in violent and abusive relationships. According to the "Real Men" Campaign, in the U.S., domestic violence is a major problem and is the leading cause of injury to women - more than rapes, muggings and car accidents combined. On the other side of the Atlantic - Western Europe, Finland has one of the highest rates of domestic violence. According to Statistics Finland, 43.5% of Finnish women surveyed had experienced violence (from a man) after the age of 15. The statistics are staggering and violence against women is truly a frightening social problem. But one thing is clear: most victims admit that they had been assaulted in the past but did not tell anybody. They often wait until they believe their life is in danger. This leads us to one major reason why domestic violence against women still prevails today despite all the campaigns and education.

Women are tolerant (God bless their souls). I'm not blaming women for domestic violence and under no circumstance should women be blamed for violence against them. But it is plausible to argue that one reason why violence against women still prevails today is because many women tolerate violent and abusive men. They stick around in silence in abusive relationships hoping things will get better.

Before Katie Piper's boyfriend hired someone to throw sulphuric acid in her face, he beat and raped her in a hotel. Katie didn't tell anyone; not even the police. She didn't tell anyone because she feared that he'd kill her if she did. Don't you think it would have made a difference if she turned him in after the initial abuse? This is the story of many women across the world.

It's worth mentioning that a good number of women tolerate violent men for the sake of the children. This, no doubt, is a valid reason. But do you believe it is better to stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of the children? Even if you stay, statistics show that you'd leave the relationship at some point - when your life is in danger. So why wait for the situation to get worse? What happened to the old adage: better safe than sorry? When did physical violence and demeaning words become a normal part of life? Who ever said kids would be better off watching their dad engage mom in "mortal combat?" Most importantly - why do women tolerate domestic violence? Could it be a matter of Self-Esteem? Do women think they don't deserve better?

In a bid to explain why women tolerate domestic violence, Iyanla Vanzant - a woman who tolerated 9 years of domestic violence from her husband said, "one reason is that we have seen other women who get beaten. We become what we see... We accept that as part of the norm. We just don't know any better." Iyanla is author of Interiors: A Black Woman's Healing in Progress. She envisaged that in order to break free from domestic violence, a woman has to make up her mind that it's not going to happen again.

Guess what, "if a man hits you once, he will hit you again." Have no illusions about it.

Before you stay in an abusive relationship, make sure you read the poem entitled "Another Woman."

And in case you missed it - Real Men Don't Hit Women! Men who abuse and violate women should not be tolerated.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda!

The past weeks have been full of controversial parliamentary bills! In France, there is a proposed partial ban on veils; in Uganda, there is talk about "aggravated homosexuality" - a proposed legislation in the parliament that would impose harsh sanctions - including the death penalty, on homosexual behavior. How constitutional could this be? As you'd expect, unlike the controversial bill that bans veils in France, the proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda has come under fire from the international community and human rights activists.

The anti-gay bill in Uganda was introduced in October 2009, by David Bahati, a Member of Parliament (MP) of the ruling party - National Resistance Movement. The bill calls for the death penalty for those having gay sex with disabled people, under 18's or when the accused is HIV positive. It is worth mentioning that in Uganda, homosexual behavior is currently illegal - sanctioned with up to 14 years in prison. The proposed anti-gay bill would add a new dimension to the illegality of homosexuality in the East African country - in some cases, the death penalty for the accused and sanctions of up to 3 years in prison for those (including family members) who do not report the identity of a lesbian, gay or transgender person, within 24 hours.

The Ugandan parliament is expected to debate the bill in late Febuary or early March and according to BBC's correspondent in Kampala, the bill has a good chance of being passed. As a matter of fact, an Independent MP said the bill has a "99% chance" of being passed. This is the case because the bill would likely have the support of senior members of the ruling party. Keep in mind that the President of Uganda - Yoweri Museveni has made no secret of his anti-gay views.

The leader of the free world - Barack Obama has, no doubt, denounced the proposed anti-gay bill. He said, "we may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it's unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are."

The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affaires and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have unconditionally denounced the proposed bill, because it threatens human rights.

The United Nations (UN), has not been silent - Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the bill is discriminatory and would harm Uganda's reputation on the international scene.

In my opinion, Ms. Pillay is absolutely right - in the eyes international human rights law. I therefore totally agree with Ms. Pillay and all those who have kicked against the proposed bill. It is unconstitutional and contrary to the fundamental principle of human rights - "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."

What's your standpoint on this issue? Should people be sentenced to death by virtue of their sexual orientation?

According to gay rights groups, there're over 500,000 gay people in Uganda from a total population of 31 million people. All of them would be executed, if this "odious" anti-gay bill in Uganda is voted by the parliament.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Burqa and No French Citizenship!

Earlier this week, the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy took another shot at the burqa! The Immigration Minister of France - Eric Besson, refused French citizenship to a man whose wife wears the burqa. What's the burqa? It's clothing that covers a woman from head to foot, with an opening for the eyes and the hands. It is not worn indoors in the presence of the family - it is worn when the woman leaves the house. The burqa is a vivid reminder of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban rule, women were required to wear the burqa. The oppressive Taliban regime is long gone but women are still wearing the burqa. Make no mistake, not all the women wearing the burqa find it oppressive. A woman in Afghanistan once said, "I feel naked without my burqa. I cannot take it off. I would feel like everyone is looking at me." This points to the fact that many women wear the burqa by choice. What therefore is the raison d'être for the denial of French citizenship to a man whose wife wears the burqa?

In France, there is 57% support for a ban of the burqa and the case against the piece of clothing is not seen as breeding islamphobia or an attack on islam - it is considered to be a fight for the liberation of women from oppression. In France, the burqa is seen, by many, as a sign of oppression!

In June 2009, President Sarkozy labelled the burqa "a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement." Politicians call it a "walking prison for women." It is therefore no surprise that the French parliamentary commission recommended a partial ban on veils that cover the face. The ban is yet to be voted on. However, the denial of French citizenship to a man whose wife wears a veil sends a strong signal - that the burqa is not welcomed in France. Believe it or not! According to French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, by forcing his wife to wear the burqa - the man failed to respect the "values of the Republic." Hence, he cannot be granted citizenship. The Minister of Immigration, on his part, said the man was refused citizenship because he called his wife "an inferior being" and forced her to wear the burqa in public.

It is worth mentioning that France already has a ban for wearing headscarves in state schools. However, a complete ban of the burqa could be overturned by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (I love this court!). No doubt, this is the case because it would infringe the human rights of the many muslim women who wear the burqa by choice.

What's your standpoint on the burqa and French citizenship? Could this be an attack on Islam?

Keep in mind that it is not clear if the man who was refused French citizenship actually forced his wife (a French woman) to wear the burqa, or if it was her choice.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tail of the Tiger Golf Balls - The Mistress Collection

I heard about this yesterday on France24 and I thought it was interesting - Tail of th Tiger Golf balls - the Mistress Collection. Have you heard about them? A lot has been said and written about Tiger Woods, since the world was rocked by a scandal of epic proportions. Initially, I promised myself not to be caught up in the saga, but later wrote about - A Damaged Game: Golf without Tiger Woods; when Tiger's mother-in-law collapsed at his home in December 2009, I responded to the media frenzy that followed, by asking the question - Did Tiger Cook Dinner for his Mother-in-Law? I even wrote about a Swedish TV Presenter who, in her own words, claimed "Tiger Tried to Recruit Me as a Lover." Have I been caught up in the media frenzy? Probably, because today, I'd like to introduce the tail of the Tiger Golf Balls - The Mistress Collection.

Yes! You guessed right - Tiger Woods' mistresses have been featured on golf balls! A company - Creative Classics, has produced golf balls with the pictures of Tiger's first twelve mistresses inscript on them - one mistress on each ball. It even gets better - their names are written on the special balls.

The balls are being sold on a website - What actually caught my attention was not the balls, it was the slogan - "He likes to play a round with them... now you can too!" Can you imagine? How low can people get?

As you'd expect, one of the alleged mistresses - Joslyn James, a porn star, in her first press conference on Wednesday since the scandal took the world by storm, has protested against the sale of the golf balls. She said,

"I've come forward today because I feel it is wrong for a golf ball to have my picture on it. As a victim of violence myself, it bothered me to think that someone would be standing with a dangerous club in their hands and hitting a golf ball with my face on it."

Do you think she stands a chance of getting an injunction against the sale of the golf balls? I don't think she would. What I know is, it's immoral to profit from someone's predicament.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Controversial Tradition of Whaling in the Faroe Islands

I received a shocking and graphic email on 1 Febuary 2010. It was a mail protesting against whaling in Denmark (the Faroe Islands, precisely). I was particularly shocked because Denmark is a country where there's a lot of talk about global warming and saving the planet - why would the State turn a blind eye to such a controversial tradition?

There's a brutal tradition in the Faroe Islands, which has outraged nature activists, animal rights activists, environmental activists and might be outrageous to you, as well. Every summer, in the Faroe Islands, hundreds of pilot whales are savagely slaughtered in the sea. How is it done? When a school of whales is located, local inhabitants, in small boats drive the whales ashore (to shallow water), where they are killed by waiting islanders. Special hooks are used to cut the whale near the dorsal fin. The whales that are not beached are stabbed with hooks and pulled ashore. Although it has been written that whalers now implore "less brutal" techniques, it is worth mentioning that the whales don't die instantly and because of the large number of whales targeted, the sea in the area is stained red - polluted with blood. It's alleged that the "celebration" is to show that the main participants - mostly teens, are mature and adults. By brutally killing whales? Now, this sounds weird, doesn't it?

Whaling in the Faroe Islands has been a long standing tradition and it's considered to be an important part of the culture of the local inhabitants. Is this enough reason for it to be tolerated? Have you heard about it before? Surprisingly, I heard about it just a few days ago and I don't have much of an opinion about it, apart from the fact that it's cruel and environmentally unfriendly (for lack of a better word).

Some have argued that the pilot whale is not an endangered specie and is far from extinction and that the cultivation of vegetables and fruits is almost impossible in the Faroe Islands because infertile soil (Tholeiitic basalt lava). Hence the inhabitants (the Faroese) are forced to depend on a major food source - which happens to be the pilot whale. They kill to eat, not for commerce or for pleasure.

Many people mistakenly blame Denmark for not outlawing this controversial tradition. The truth is, the Faroe Islands has been an autonomous province of Denmark since 1948. If you understand what autonomy is all about, you'd agree that the Kingdom of Denmark cannot interfer in the internal affaires of the Faroese. Thus, you can't blame Denmark for the controversial tradition in the Faroe Islands.

The protest email I received earlier this week, contains the following graphic pictures. Viewer discretion is advised!

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 1

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 2

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 4

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 5

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 6

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 7

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 8

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 9

Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter 11

No doubt, there's a controversial tradition of whaling in the Faroe Islands, but the question is - do you advocate the saving of the whales and let a unique people - with a population of only 48,353 (as of 2004), go extinct?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Internships at the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials

The Khmer Rouge is the name that was given to the totalitarian party that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979. The Khmer Rouge is remembered for nothing, but the brutal executions and torture of as many as two million Cambodian citizens. The brutal and arbitrary executions by the organization have been ruled as genocide. Hence, it is no secret that the surviving top leaders of the organization are now on trial (more than 30 years since the regime fell) at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) - a domestic court supported with international staff, for the crimes and violations of Cambodian law, international humanitarian law and international conventions to which Cambodia is a party.

The United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) provides technical assistance to the ECCC and it's seeking interns to work in the environment of this tribunal. Applicants are required to have completed a relevant first degree or be enrolled in a relevant postgraduate programme. Relevant experience in human rights law or international criminal law is an asset for prospective candidates. Am I eligible to apply? YES! Are you?

For more information on eligiblity and application procedure for internships at the UNAKRT, click here.

Good luck!

Search this Blog

Related Posts with Thumbnails