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It started with a simple set of questions… “Dad, what are people doing? Why don’t they want other people to marry? Why don’t they do anything about global warming? Why are they always fighting?”

How do I tell her? How. Do. I. Tell. Her?

1001, 1002, 1003, die… 1004, 1005, 1006, dead…

How do I tell her that every 3 seconds a child dies from something that we could’ve stopped? From hunger. From not enough food. From not having an apple. Or clean drinking water. Or just a little porridge in the morning. That we have it in our power to stop it if we want. But we choose not to. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that our friends can’t marry because some people just hate their love too much? That love is sometimes not enough. That caring for each other is not what everyone else thinks should be. That the insecurities of the heart and soul of others drive hate instead of seeing the love. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that some people talk freedom but don’t believe in it? That freedom is freedom even if we don’t like what others do or say. That freedom to marry. Freedom to love. Freedom to see the love of your life die in hospital. That these freedoms are killed by bigots every day. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her the pursuit of happiness is denied for most? That it’s a lie that we are told by so many who deny the happiness of others. That justice, equality and liberty is claimed by many but believed and practiced by few. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her people believe in carrying guns that kill but don’t believe in caring for love? That it’s okay to defend the right to carry a weapon of hatred in your holster but not love in your heart. That it’s okay to defend the right to carry that gun but not the right to love? How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that I don’t know what our earth will look like in her future? That maybe we are killing this world of ours with our greed and want. That wanting, buying, driving, wearing, making, living, eating too much and all those things we do might be killing our world slowly. So slowly that we argue while the pot is starting to boil. Like frogs we are killing ourselves slowly. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that most people don’t really believe in human rights? That they speak of it as if they care and are willing to fight for it and die for it. But that they will deny others those same human rights. Their right not to be tortured. Their right to marry. Their right to choose. Their right to believe and love who they want. They deny it all. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that people are willing to let their fellow Americans die. That they can stop it but they choose to look the other way and walk away? That a public option will save lives but some of us are too selfish and scared and would rather offer up American lives. American blood. All because they don’t care to care. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that so many men carry hate in their hearts. They rape. They kill. They take away. That these are men we see and know. But we don’t see and we don’t know. That it’s okay to love the world. But be careful with who you trust. They will hurt you if they can because we know of those who are dead and missing. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her to not trust the man who speaks of God because they use and abuse His name? That they will hate in His name. That they will lie in His name. That they will give Him different names and still be full of hate and lies. That the hate and lies is preached by bigots claiming every religion – Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim – you name it. That it’s okay to love God but to not trust those who speak in His name. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that there are mad men in caves wanting to kill a dream? That there are enemies everywhere willing to take lives. Innocent lives. And that we live in so much fear that we are willing to do the same as them. We are willing to let innocent people die because of our own fears. That we play into the hand of the warmongers with our weakness of fear. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this and so much more? Racism. Discrimination. Child labor. Obesity. Diseases. Sexism. And all this stuff waiting out there in the world. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this? How do I tell her that if we all just wasted a little less. Wanted a little less. Cared a little more. Believed a little more. Loved a little more. Spoke out a little louder. Did a little more…

How do I tell her that I see the faces of those kids dying? I know their names in my dreams. That they are my kids. Our kids. Not a number. Her kids.

How do I tell her that I feel the love of my friends being denied? That I only feel threatened because they are being denied the right to love and live in love the way I do? They they are not gay. That they are me. They are her.

How do I tell her I believe in freedom? That it’s worth fighting for even when others are trying to kill it with their freedom-my-way-or-no-way lies and bigotry and double standards. That I fight for the rights for all because I fight for her rights.

How do I tell her I don’t believe in guns? That I hate guns. That guns have killed in my family. That I will still defend those who want the right to have a gun. But that I expect them to fight and defend the right of my friends to love just as hard. That those rights are all hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t know everything about global warming? That I don’t know the science that well. But that I know that it’s better to be safe than sorry. That I will fight for this planet because it is all we have. The only one we have. It’s all I can give her. This little planet in the middle of nowhere is her planet.

How do I tell her that human rights means we have to give it to everyone? To those who are like us. Who love like us. Who live like us. Who believe like us. And those who don’t believe like us. Don’t want to be us. That human rights means we take the higher road and don’t torture. That human right means we allow everyone to be treated the same way we are treated. In love and in marriage. And that I will speak out and fight for those rights. Every single day until we all have it. Because it is her rights.

How do I tell her I believe in justice, equality and liberty? That I believe it is fundamental to who we are and how we want to live. Even though other say it but don’t live it or truly believe it through action. That I will fight for her to have justice. That I will stand up for her to have equality. And I will defend her liberty. Because justice, equality and liberty are hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t want these Americans we live with to die? That I want them to live. I want to help look after them. I want them to have an option to get looked after when they are sick. And that the only option for them is a government option. That I have not option but support an option that will let Americans live. Because I believe that Americans are good. And that it is our duty to love them and respect them and help look after them. Because we are them. American health is her health.

How do I tell her not all men are bad? That there are good men out there. Men who love and care. Men we can trust. And that it’s worth trusting and finding the men we can believe in and trust. That we men will fight those who hurt. Because these are her men.

How do I tell her that God is good? That it is okay to believe and not be part of the lies told by those who claim Him – no matter what they call Him. That God is good and God is love. That I will fight for Him and claim Him back from those who use and abuse His name. Who lie and spread hate in His name. Because He is her God.

How do I tell her not to fear the mad man in the cave or anyone else who lives to hate? That fear is not what makes us who we are. That love makes us who we are. That the love we have is stronger than the hate of others. That love should never be seen as a weakness. Because I will fight for it. Because this love is her love. My love for her. My gift to her. Love.

How do I tell her that when I am alone in my thoughts… On the bus. Running. In a hotel. Flying. That I cry inside when I am alone. And sometimes I cry on the outside for all these strangers to see. Thinking of this. Knowing that I don’t know what we are doing. That I don’t know what we are leaving for her tomorrow. For her future. Her world. I just don’t know.

I don’t know what world she will inherit from us. I don’t know what world we will leave behind. For her. And for her kids.

But I do know that I will fight for what I believe in. I will fight for her rights. Her right to love, believe, be free, have no fear, carry a gun, marry who she wants. her right to be herself. My big angel. Because I love her. And it’s all I can give her.

I want to tell her that the world is full of good people. That every single day I work with people who make this world a little better. One step at a time. Sometimes small but always forward. I want to tell her we will fight the good fight. Every single day. There are more of us than what the world might think. And we are strong. And we will never give up.

I want to tell her I do what I do because of her. That I see her face when I work. I see her face when I fight for what is right. I see her face when I live my life. It drives me. I want to leave her a world to be proud of. I want to leave her a dad to be proud of.

But I don’t. I don’t tell her any of this…

I take her hand and we dance on a Saturday. I joke with her and I tickle her. I play with her and I tease her. I help her with her homework and I say I’m proud of her great work. I have fun with her and walk her to the bus stop. I hang out with her and watch Harry Potter with her. I lie watching music videos with her and write silly stuff to her on Facebook. Sometimes we talk about Madiba or God and space-time limitations. Or science and mathematics. Geography or food. Even a little bit of serious stuff like politics and rights. And then I talk to her about crazy silly things and give her my books to read. I pull her finger and burp as loud as I can. I go mess up her bed and chase her around. I just do the things a crazy silly stupid dad is meant to do. Because she is my girl. My oldest girl. My big angel. And I’m just her dad. That’s all I want to be. The cool guy who loves her more than life.

She is my Ubuntu. I am because we are.

So I don’t tell her. But I know. I know we have to fix this world to make it ready for her. She deserves nothing less. She is perfect. She needs a perfect world.

We’ve got work to do. My big angel is coming and I’ve got a world to clean and get ready…

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I’ve tried to stay out of the political debate on health care over here in the US. No one will be surprised by my position on this one. I’m not going to comment on the Obama speech or even the stupidity of Wilson. No, I won’t. I want to scratch a little bit deeper here. Deep down to a little thing known as personal responsibility…

So you are against universal health care. Or the government option – or whatever the hell you want to call it. Let me get this straight…

You are against government providing health care to those who can’t afford it or those who the private insurance companies deem as too costly to cover. Better to let them die, right?

Look, the current system isn’t working – we can all agree to that. The problem is that your proposal doesn’t address any of the fundamental challenges of the system – covering the poor and those in need. If I lose my job today then I lose my health care coverage as well. Except if I have the money to pay through my neck for it while I don’t have any income. Doesn’t sound right, right?

Let’s agree on one thing before I rant – cut some of the crap being covered by health care. Obesity? Stop eating crap. Obesity isn’t a disease. Cancer is a disease. Way too much shit is covered by health insurance. Plastic surgery? 90% are crap. Only those with facial defects and burn victims should be covered. A new boob job because you want bigger boobs doesn’t count. Whiter teeth? Go British I say. Cut the fat off coverage and only cover stuff that is really pushing people to their death.

Blame the pharmaceutical companies for lobbying for crap to be covered. They create “medicine” that will address these social “diseases” and then lobby the hell out of (mostly) Republicans for these to be covered. Why? Not because they want to address the real health issues but because they want to make a bigger profit from growing some hair over that bold spot of yours or magically make your beer and Mickey D laden fat go away.

While I’m on obesity. Yes, we carry the burden of that in the US and most developed countries. Stop eating crap and start going outside. If you get a heart disease because of your diet? Make sure you have good funeral coverage. I’m sick and tired of people being covered by health insurance for things that they do to themselves. Over and over again.

You shot yourself in the foot with your own gun? That’s stupid so pay up yourself. You want to carry a gun them suffer the consequences…

Back to the point though. So who will care for those who lost their jobs and can’t afford health care insurance? Or those who the insurance companies judge as too risky or too sick to cover? Let me give you an alternative to the government option.

You.

Yes, you. I’m talking to you Mr and Mrs I’m-Against-The-Government-Option. You should be paying for it.

Why? Because you claim to be on the side of America and the Christian right. That’s just stupid. It’s not an answer it’s just empty words of fake patriotism. America and Christianity is about solutions and not just about shooting your mouth off.

You can’t open your mouth without giving some form of solution. The health care system in the US is a failure. No one can argue against that. We all know it and we all accept it. Private industry is not the answer. I would love for them to be the answer but, in this case, they are not. They are generally the best answer when it comes to making cars (huh?) or computers or televisions or other crap we don’t need to survive. Oh they can make the medicine and medical equipment we need better than any government. But they have proven to be a complete failure when it comes to dealing with our actual health coverage. Especially when it comes to the poor and those in need.

So what alternative are you offering here? Some wishy-washy plan that will NOT result in those people being covered? I’m not interested in making your insurance any cheaper. (Or mine for that matter.) I’m interested in how we deal with those in need. Let’s assume for a minute that we won’t go for the government option. Let’s think of a plan that will help those people in need in another way.

And this is where you come in…

You can’t be American (or anything else) without taking some level of responsibility. You can’t open your mouth against something if you aren’t willing to offer up some form of solution. You do this way too often.

You are against abortion. But you are not willing to take in the unwanted kids. Or those born with disabilities. Or those born with alcohol syndrome. Or those born through rape. Or where the mother died because of the birth. I don’t see you rushing forward and claiming these babies. You shout from the side and walk away when someone holds up the results of your actions and stupidity. Here is my advice to you…

Man up or shut up…

I’m sick and tired of us having to pick up after you. I am sick and tired of having to clean your mess. You spew stupidity and we liberals have to live with the mistakes of your actions and empty words. Yes we do – why do you think those who work for charities looking after unwanted babies, HIV/Aids patients, battered women, the environment, animals etc are almost always a bunch a liberals? Because someone has to fix the crap you created. And I am sick and tired of cleaning your mess.

Shut up or pay up.

You are big enough now. Time for you to take responsibility of your own empty words and actions.

You want abortion to be banned? Then fine. You take care of the unwanted babies. The sick babies. The disabled babies. Because remember, you don’t want government to interfere either now…

You want to carry a gun in the open or hidden? The fine. You take care of those kids and innocent people getting shot by their mates by accident. You take care of what your actions resulted in. Remember, you don’t want government to intervene…

You want to stop people suing others because of defects in stuff they bought or doctors who didn’t do their jobs properly? Then fine. You take care of those people who lost their jobs and income when they got injured and hurt. Remember, you don’t want government to interfere…

You want to be able to cut down every forest to dig for oil and coal? You want to be able to dump your crap anywhere you please? Then fine. You take care of the… oh wait. We are all going down on this one. Here’s my solution. We’ll take that gun you like to carry so much and shoot you. I’ll even dig your grave myself. Hell, you are busy digging mine with your policies and actions. That way we can claim our bit of oxygen left as you wasted yours with hot air – in more than one way.

Man up or shut up.

You can’t just spew stupidity without coming up with a workable solution. You can’t be anti everything. Not when what we are trying to fix is all fucked up. You are either part of the solution (any solution) or you are part of the problem. It’s not working stupid. Fix it. And it you don’t like my plan then come up with a better one. Take responsibility for your stupidity.

It’s easier to say what is wrong with a specific part in a proposal than come up with a workable solution yourself. But it doesn’t solve the big problem standing like an elephant in the corner waiting to walk all over all of us. Someone is going to get hurt and I will be damned if it is me and my kind again.

Let me put it this way.

If we had to write into law the current state of health care. Guess what. We will all be against it – you and me. The current system doesn’t work and what is proposed by the Big O is better. Not perfect but at least better. And if you don’t like it? Then either come up with a better plan or take responsibility of your own position and stupidity.

Man up or shut up. Own up or pay up.

Until then – grow a pair of balls and stop shouting from the sidelines. 

And one more thing…

This Christian thing you claim to have going on your side…

God stood for very few basic things. Actually, it all comes down to a single concept – love for all (remember that bit? You should love others like you love yourself and as much as what you love God blah-blah-blah…) Dammit you must hate yourself a lot if that part is true. And I believe it is true.

Because if you did love your neighbor… Let me ask you this. Letting a person die because they can’t afford to pay for health care and you knowingly supported them NOT getting any help. Is that the way God will want you to love? Letting someone die from cancer because they lived in a community where some mining company dumped their crap and now they can’t even afford their health care – and you knew about both of those. Is that the way God would want you to love?

So stop giving me the Christian crap. I think we might be serving a different God here. My God is ashamed of you. I know my God actually cares about everyone and cares for everyone. Ask yourself this before you open your mouth – What would God do? Would he be proud? Would he help those who needs help? Or would he walk away? If you pick this last one – here’s something to think about… He walked away from you a long, long time ago…

Own up or pay up. Man up or shut up.

I’m not cleaning your mess anymore.

Me 2.0: Count your followers...

Me 2.0: Count your followers...

Social media? Web 2.0? This idea that the web will facilitate communications. Allowing us to share information. Make new connections to each other. Yeah… right…

It started off so well. Finding new ways to connect via the web. Brilliant. Facebook allowed me to stay connected to my friends all over the world. To be connected to them in new and wonderful ways. Have fun via virtual touching. I could even follow their thinking and random ideas on Twitter. I can tell them what I like on Digg. And I can blog to just dump my thoughts and emotions in written space. It was good. Really good. Being connected. Being part of each other.

But it also bugged me a bit…

A few things have developed that makes me think we are moving Web 2.0 to Me 2.0. The Me of self. But only “better”. Being obsessed with ourselves. The individual over the group. The god complex coming out to play in virtual space.

I just see too many people disconnected from all of this. Especially my people from Africa. That’s not new. That’s all “fine”. It’s not as if they were connected before. But what happens now is that those voices are not even drowned out anymore. They are just not present. Because they are not connected to the others who have and who are connected. You live in a shack in the DRC? Tough luck buddy – no squatting in virtual space for you. Kid working the farm in Brazil? Sorry, no ideas for you to plant in our little space my friend. Sweating in the shops in Vietnam? No place for you to raise your fist in anger over here.

Oh get off it. I know the stories they tell can be found somewhere on the web. Mostly through the eyes of some do-gooder who are connected. But the problem actually goes deeper than that. It’s not just about them not being here or them being represented by other voices.

The places where we go – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Whatever.com, Myopinion.net, Idogood.org – we filter our interactions. We filter it to the bare minimum of our thoughts. The bare minimum of our interactions with the world. We can carve it nicely into little blocks of interactions for every part of our ego. An application for every self-interest. A site for every self-absorbed soul. Your life and meaning in a 140 characters. If you sweat in the factory or you work on the farm or live in the shack – sorry, you take too much space and I only have 140 characters for you. No character, only characters.

And so we filter away to basic interactions. Random thoughts in 140 characters. Fun interactions with friends and followers. A Digg at the other side. And the “people” who make us are left behind somewhere in between the tweets of virtual space. We update our status and forget who defines us. I am because we are.

I am because we are…

It remains true to Web 2.0. It becomes Me 2.0. We becomes me.

We define the “we” as those who can tweet and follow, update statuses and poke us, Digg us a story of fake depth – those who are connected. The new “we”. The real we being replaced by the virtual we. The faces of the masses drowned out by the faceless numbers on the net.

We started off with good intentions. We paved the road to hell ourselves. This new we that we live with. A virtual space made for our ego to be seduced to me-me-me.

I could still live with the potential of all of this. Because we could use this to spread our words. Be the voices of the voiceless and hope someone will listen when we shout into the dark virtual world of Web 2.0. Maybe find an audience and some new ubuntu friends to tackle the problems in the world. Random friends become us. Ubuntu grows to be more people defined by us.

But it didn’t stay that way…

We’ve always had the narcissist hanging around the net. That’s just fine. But what worries me is people turning into narcissists without even knowing. Without even realizing they are selling their souls for a tweet. Without knowing they are feeding the ego through an update of self. Becoming so obsessed with number crunching their followers. Turning into me-me-me. And that’s what worries me. People changing. And taking control without knowing their impact because they don’t see the mirror anymore.

Good people are turning into self absorbed ego-driven maniacs without even knowing what they have become. Because Web 2.0 has become the drug for the ego. Like a true ego addict they don’t even know they are addicted to the self.

Now we have these others taking over and infesting others with their neo-narcissism. The “me” crowd. It’s all about look how big my following is. Look at what I have done. Self promotion through the web. Decent people are being seduced by this idea that they are the centre of the virtual universe. I just published a book. Look everybody! It’s me! I just got a great idea. Look everybody! It’s me! Me-me-me. Goddam bloody me. People are becoming self absorbed by their own cuteness and their own sharp idea and their own bloody ego. And most of the time they don’t even realize it because this Me 2.0 is like a cancer that slowly eats up the real you and it turns you into something you don’t even see. It’s inside and you can’t see it. And you don’t feel it or hear it. But it is written in between your keyboard hits.

Web 2.0. It was a great development. Getting us connected in new and innovative ways. But it has changed the me into Me 2.0. Where we can drive our own image online and become even more self centred than before. What was hidden because of public “frowning” before is now let loose on the web because the ego goes unchecked. We’ve always lived this dangerous life where we think we know better and are better. It was checked by society. Now there is no one to check it because we can hide our faces behind our screens. The saddest part of it all is that we don’t even notice it. We don’t even know it. And we will fight this idea because it can’t be me right?

I mean really. Do you bloody well think you are God because you have followers? Do you expect these followers to become your diciples? Bow down before the might virtual God.

This is what I fear. That something that started as a new way to connect us actually tears us apart without us even knowing or taking notice because we are too absorbed in our own little virtual world where we are God. Something that makes information democratic becomes just another way for the individual ego to replace the ubuntu. You see it in little ways as peoples “updates” move from conversations to self promotion and ego boosting random self-perceived “wisdoms”. We don’t use Twitter to share random thoughts with our friends and converse with other. We now use it to create followers by the thousands so they can hear our wonderful stories and so that they can feel the glow of our 140 character Bible.

It’s in the nature of people I guess. We create something we think could be good. We start off doing good. And then we get seduced by the power it gives to our ego. We create something good but we don’t know how to control it. Actually, we don’t know how to control ourselves. It’s not in our nature to control ourselves. Even when we think we do and can. We are so easily duped by our own ego. We don’t even know it or see it. And we become like the people we despise. Those people who only think about themselves. Those same people who say they do it for “the people”. We become them. We just don’t see it. But it is hidden in those Tweets. In those updates. In those… hitting of the keyboard sending our ego into virtual space. Like a drug for the self-centered soul.

Me is the new religion of the internet.

Web 2.0 is turning us into Me 2.0.

It’s not social media. It’s self media 1.0.

Don’t update your status. Update your life. Don’t tweet the ego…

Will you take the flower please?

Will you take the flower please?

I am still haunted by this picture I have stuck in my head. The picture of the bully. The bully at my oldest angel’s school.

It happened a few years ago when my oldest daughter was graduating from her school. Well, graduating is pushing it a bit. She was just moving up to middle school. But we were proud parents. And we were there for her special day.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were out to sing us a few songs. Us parents huddled around waiting for our kids. Chatting away about this and about that. Taking up our seats on our nice comfortable chairs waiting for our our kids to graduate. And someone mentioned the bully.

She was also going to graduate today. She was in my daughter’s class. The discussion? We hoped that she won’t be in the same school as our angels next year. This year was tough enough. We really didn’t want our kids facing her again next year. The pushing on the playground and the shoving in the corridors. Enough was enough. And we all hoped the bully will land up somewhere else. Far away from our kids. Somewhere where she can cause trouble on her own and not cause any more crying at home.

This girl was really a bully. A big girl who bullied everyone at school. When they played she always took the ball away from the other kids. And then pushed them. Or just ran into them for no reason. Or shouting and screaming at them. You name it and she did it. The ways bullies do it. It was a bloody nightmare. She was always frowning and being nasty. Just one horrid girl that needed one good bloody hiding if you asked me.

We were still talking about the bully when the kids and teachers came out. There’s our angel! Big wave and even bigger smile and huge kiss blown her direction! Good! She saw me! Mission accomplished! Actually, I was only just warming up with silly things to do…

And then it was time for the end of school ceremony.

We all sat down and listened to the headmistress talking about the kids and what a great year they had. Just the usual blah-blah but special to us and for our kids. This was their big moment. And we hung onto every single word she had to say. We took photos and waved even when told not to wave. Our angel was a bit embarrassed (as she always is with me around!) but she waved back. And she had this huge grin on her face. We might embarrass her every now and again but she loved it. Just loved it. We could see it in her huge big smile. She’ll roll her eyes and whisper something to her friend pointing at me – her crazy dad. And the kid will look at me and laugh. I knew my girl loved her crazy dad and mom. Because they were there waving and whistling and smiling and taking millions of photos of every single moment – when she sang and when she got her piece of paper and when she walked up and when she shook the teacher’s hand and when she breathed… Clickety click-click. We never missed a moment and made sure we had the memories captured for her kids to see one day. The day she can tell her kids, “These are the photos my mom and dad took when I graduated to middle school.” And maybe she’ll tell them about the other times we were there.

Actually, all the kids were smiling at their parents. Smiling and waving and just being crazy kids loving their crazy silly parents. But I only noticed our big angel. “Hey girl! Look here for another photo! Do it or else I’ll dance!” That always got her laughing. And maybe a bit worried that her dad will actually do it. Because she knows he will!

The bully? She wasn’t waving. She wasn’t blowing kisses. She was bloody well pushing and shoving the other kids. With her arms folded and a frown on her face each time one of the kids close to her smiled and waved. You could see her lips moving. Saying things like, “Stop it you” and “Oh puh-leeze you wimp”. But I wasn’t going to let her spoil our special day. I was just smiling and waving and doing crazy things to let my girl never forget this special day.

The school had this really cool thing they do for children who do not have a younger sibling. They are given a rose to give to their parents. A thank you from the school for trusting them to look after their precious kid. And a goodbye as the school won’t see another one of their kids coming to their school. It was a really nice touch. Kids were called up by the headmistress and given a hug and a rose. The kid will then turn around and look for their mom to give her the rose. And a big hug and a kiss. Oh the mothers cried! Their youngest one finishing school! Look how big they are getting!

And the bully got called up to come get her rose. I was thinking that the school is lucky that she is the last one from her family to come to this school. You never know how her sisters and brothers might be. And I really didn’t want out youngest one to go through the same experience with the rest of her family. I was saying thank you for small miracles…

She got her rose. And she got her hug from the headmistress. And it was a bit odd. The hug was a little longer than usual. Longer than what the other kids got. And why was her shoulders shaking like that? It’s not that cold. And then she turned around. Slowly. To face the crowd of parents. And the tears was rolling down her face. Her little face…

She scanned the sea of people in front of her. But you could see that she knew. You could see it in her eyes and through her tears. She knew there was no one there for her. No one doing crazy waves. No one taking pictures. No one to give her a big smile. Her folks weren’t there. You could see her looking for her mom. But there was no one there. She was just a little girl on her own. Not a bully. Just a little girl crying.

She looked at the sea of faces for a few seconds. Hoping. But here was nothing and no one. Just tears that never stopped.

She turned around and leaned forward to give the headmistress one more big hug. And then gave her the rose.

And then she joined the other little girls.

And she was the only one crying…

What are we doing to our children?

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From the Loose Ends files…

A life worth living...

A life worth living...

The thing that always surprises me about Africa is not that people die from hunger, poverty, war, diseases, etc, but that so few die when compared to the struggle to survive. I mean really. Have you seen the hellholes in the DRC? Or in the Niger Delta area? Or Sudan?

And those are just the extremes. For many the daily life in Africa is one tough and stretched out battle. Getting the next meal. Staying warm in the shack during winter. Running out of medicine. It comes down to the basics of survival. Not everything in Africa looks like the Kenyan Serengeti. Trust me…

Still. Put a few umlungus in those same circumstances and you’ll have people dying like flies.

But even in this struggle Africans manage to create businesses by selling fruits and other goods next to the road. And they do this and continue to remain proud people. They maintain hope even in the worst of circumstances. Okay, not in places like Rwanda back then, but I mean in the “everyday” world of poverty, hunger, corruption and warlords. How come they can maintain their will to fight, stay strong and proud, live a life worth living, breathe in their ubuntu – while others in Western countries don’t?

Okay, I don’t know how this fits in here but I have this story I always tell to people looking at the charity pictures of Africa. You know, the one with the woman carrying the water bucket on her head or the poor hungry kid with tears in his eyes. Anyway, you look at those women of Africa and you feel sorry for them. Sorry for them? Pity? Puh-leeze! Think Bill Gates. You see those women of Africa selling their goods next to the road. Fruits and vegetables being standard issue. Here you have an African woman with most likely no schooling, definitely no business training, not a smell of financing in a 1,000 mile radius, and struggling to sell her goods next to the side of the road. With a hundred or more competitors each side of her. And she supports an extended family with her daily takings. And you want to feel sorry for her? You should sit down at her feet and learn from the master. Bill-Bloody-Gates I tell you. She is running a business where most of us won’t even be able to survive for a week. And she makes it each and every single day. By the skin of her teeth on most days – but she still makes it. Applaud her. Learn from her. But never feel sorry for her. She is strong. She is Mama Africa! Listen to her instead of telling her what she needs. She knows what she needs. Just be quiet and listen for a little bit. Shhh… L.i.s.t.e.n…

Anyway…

The point I am trying to make is that the greatness of Africa is not defined by the crap going on each day. Warlords? We’ll survive them. Hunger? We’ll share our last meal. Poverty? Of money but not the soul. Diseases? Okay, that one we can’t beat…

I don’t want to romanticize life in Africa. There are too many bad people living amongst my beautiful people. Too many people dying of war or hunger or senseless diseases. Or from a simple thing like dirty water. It is tough out there. It is tougher than you can imagine. But it doesn’t define Africa. And it doesn’t define Africans. Look past all that and you just see people. Proud people. Friendly people. Ready for a laugh. And ready to share their last bit of food with you. With a sparkle in their eyes. Proud and strong.

I am always surprised how few people in Africa look for excuses. You great them with a “howzit” or “how are you doing” and all you get is a smile and a wave of the hand to sit down and share a beer. Talk about Kaizer Chiefs or Pirates (I was a Seven Stars fan so in a bit of a limbo. Maybe Santos if pushed. Ajax on a good day.) Tell a joke or two. At my expense of course… But it’s not just in South Africa. You can go from Zambia to Mali and get the same response. “Sit down brother. Have a drink. So, what do you think of the time Senegal beat the French hey?” Never an excuse of why life isn’t as great as on the telly.

Maybe it is because we don’t define our lives by the material things we don’t have or even the hunger pains. It’s defined by… I don’t know. Something inside telling us that life is okay. As long as we have a little love in our lives and good friends to share anything with. Beer, food or even just a story. The meaning of life takes on many masks in Africa. We make life worthwhile instead of seeking reasons to give up. We just have to look around us to see a reason to moan and bitch. That part is easy. It’s easy to find a reason to curl up and die. But we don’t. We look at the little things that makes it all worthwhile. The little treasures of life – love, family, friends, beer, soccer, meat, putu, and… hum… more beer.

But back to my question: How come they can maintain their will to fight, stay strong and proud, live a life worth living and breathe in their ubuntu while others in Western countries don’t?

You know when I was shocked by poverty for the first time in my life? San Francisco. Yes. The City of Angels. I saw a homeless person in the streets. Nothing new. I’ve seen street kids all over Africa. High on glue or selling their souls on the corner. But it’s the eyes…

I’ve almost always seen hope in the eyes of my fellow Africans. Sometimes it is just a little sliver. A dying flicker of light. But it is there. You have to dig really deep sometimes. You can just make it out in the darkness surrounding it. But you can crack it open a little. Make it a bit stronger. Just by smiling or winking or making a joke or a hug or a shared moment or… the little things.

But in those eyes of the homeless guy in San Francisco? Empty. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Not a flicker of hope. It was the eyes of defeat. Of death just waiting to happen. Nothing left to live for. No reason or meaning anymore. Just dead lifeless eyes.

Why? Why do people give up? I know we have problems in this world. I know I am damn lucky. But do we have to stop trying to live when trying to survive to the next meal is tough enough?

Maybe the lesson from Africa is that things can always be worse. Can always get worse. And you can let that define you in two ways – give up and slowly die or stay strong and have the will to keep on fighting and keep on living. Just to live a life worth living for.

I don’t have a clear picture on this. I really don’t know why some people give up and some people somehow find a life amongst the dead and the buried lives and ruined land around them. But what I do know is that I have always been amazed that everywhere I have been in Africa – the slums, townships, war, poverty, dying kids etc – those things hardly ever actually defined the people I met and worked with. It was there but it wasn’t who they were. They were so much more than that in their own eyes.

They are alive in their own eyes. Even when they are dying.

And that make me live life.

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From the Loose Ends files…

I started writing this post a while back when I was in one of my “moods”. But a few things have happened and I’ve met a few people that changed my mind just a little. So I changed the ending a bit…

03-ps08-67ehumanity-posters

I have always tried to believe that there isn’t an us and a them. That there is just us. That we will all care about each other if we really try a little bit harder. If we just sat still for a moment and looked around us. If we just took the time to share a meal. Or a hug. Or a handshake even. Just start a conversation and we’ll all be okay with each other.

But now I am not so sure. I don’t know about “us”. I think there might be us and them. Maybe we are more fundamentally divided as a human race. More divided than just amongst those fake walls of religion, politics, race and whatever other lies we tell ourselves. I’m not saying any of those are naturally bad – just that we sometimes use them to keep us apart instead of using it to pull us together. A divider and not a uniter. And maybe the divide is deeper than the bridges we can build.

Divided between those who care about the world and the people who live among us and those who only care about themselves and their own self interest. Divided between those who care about the individual in the group and those who believe the individual is more important than anything else. Divided between those of us who believe in the us and those who believe in the me. Ubuntu compared to me-me-me.

I want to live in a world where we all care about each other. Where we care about our actions. And our decisions. But we don’t live in that world.

We live in a world where too many of those who rule rule only for themselves or for those who look/believe/talk/walk like them. Where decisions are made not in the best interest of everyone but in the interest of the few. Where people do what they want to do to get their own fill and damn the consequences. A world of those who have and want more versus those who have little and just want enough to make it to tomorrow. A world where the actions of a few can damn the many into poverty. An economy where those looking after the me can drag us down while they stay on top. A world of injustice. A world of inequality. A world of limited freedom. A world of no liberty. A world of those who have it and will keep it and those who have little but will still share. A world of us and them.

And then I met a few people on the road again. I looked at my kids and realized the world is still not black and white. It’s still shades of gray. I walked into a few old friends and made a few new friends. And I realized that we will be okay. It’s fun to fight injustice. It’s good to take on inequality. It’s right to demand freedom. It’s better to ask for liberty. Because us few can change the world. Little by little. And we can live while doing it. We can have life while doing it.

We can save one child and that will be fine. We can work with one farmer to make it better. We can fight one disease ridden community at a time. We can stop one rape and make a difference.

Yes, the world isn’t black and white. There are so many good people out there fighting the good fight. Not just people but companies and politicians and activists. A company I love reminded me of that. Good people. Not questioning whether they should be doing all this but just doing it. Ha! Never thought I would find inspiration amongst the evil money-makers! But they are not evil. Not even close. They make a damn fine… hum… product. And they are good people. On our side.

Some of us will protest in the streets. Some of us will run our businesses to make it better. Some of us will just make a difference without thinking. Some of us will help the old lady cross the road. Some of us will speak up when we see something wrong. Some of us will stand up for justice alone and feel the power of the others. Some of us will share our last meal with the hungry outside the door. Some of us will tell our children. Some of us… Some of us will never forget. And all of us will make a difference in our own way. Nothing is too small and nothing is too big. A difference is a difference… No matter who makes it.

We are together even if we don’t know it. And even when we forget we are together and we are there for each other without knowing. Us. Separate. Divided. Alone. And together…

Together we will overcome. You and me and them. We are few.  But we are strong.  And we will never give up.

Ubuntu. I am because you are. I am because we are. We are…

I'm back!

I'm back!

Okay…

I know I have been a very, very bad boy. Not blogging and being all quiet for the last few (or many) weeks. I am soooo sorry. I promise I won’t do it again. BIG promise! I promise on the right foot of Steven Gerrard. And if you have to go and look that up… Come on you Reds! You’ll never walk alone! Anyway…

Getting off topic again.

I’m back and I’m back with a bang baby! Loads have happened in the last few weeks. Loads. All good. Started a new job with an amazing bunch of people and a great organization. We almost moved to DC but thanks to the intervention of some really good people we decided to stay in good old Boston. It took all of 2 minutes for us to “consider” the offer to stay in Boston… It’s how long it took me to put the phone down, talk to my lovely suffering wife and phone them back. Wish I could tell you more but I know you don’t really want to know. Let’s just say that everything is good and I am back.

I can feel the blood flowing and the thoughts running wild. Actually…

… I have over 100 drafts almost ready to go! So be ready to be flooded with some new stuff and new ideas. I am African! I am On The Loose! But I’m not really that Angry. Damn… No one is perfect.

Just a quick story before I come back with a bang though over the next few days.

I am the funny one…

It is official – I am the funny one. I was away for a few days and my poor lovely suffering wife had the girls all to herself. You know I mess around with the girls when I am at home – have another look at Quick! Pull My Finger! and Love Is In The Air and She Doesn’t Care and… Okay, I’ll stop there for now. Anyway, my little princess (the youngest one) and me always do funny things – pulling faces in the mirror before I bath her (“picture time!” as she calls it), tickles until she begs me to stop and asks me to lift up my arms for her to tickle me, and we do a little bit of “potty talk” when I call her peanut-butt and she tells me she has “art in her fart” (and my wife tells me she needs another adult in the room please…) We just have fun. I love seeing her laugh and shake her head in disbelief because of her silly dad – just like a mother. It’s my “job” to make them laugh. And we have our little rituals to ensure we have fun and a few laughs every single day. And my poor wife tries to take over on the silly part when I am gone. And she really tries hard.

She did all the stuff I do when I am home. A little “potty talk”, funny faces in the mirror and tickles that stops just when I think her loud laughing might scare the people next door – or in the next town…

So my wife was doing all the stuff I do and really trying to be the funny one. My little one just tilted her head and said with a bit of a sigh, “Moooommmmm”. (You know the way kids stretch out the word to tell you enough is enough and then roll their eyes? Oh wait, my wife does that with me…) But no laughing from the little one. Just a “Stop it, moooommm.” My wife asked her what’s wrong and why no laughs. Her response?

“Dad is the funny one”.

And what about mom?

The truth and nothing but the truth from my little girl. And I could not agree more.

“Mom, you are the lovable one.”

Damn right!

__________________________

See ya all tomorrow! Get ready. Be ready. Or run… We’re gonna go on a bit of a ride. I just read Ubuntu and What Are We Doing? again to remind myself why I am doing this in the first place. Oh… And don’t forget about I Am A Traitor

I’m back. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I know what you blogged last summer…