Dec 10

UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS…70 YEARS OLD TODAY!

 

HAPPY WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY!

 

 

Last week Thursday, I was gifted the opportunity to flex my creative muscles via an adapted and stylised presentation of the 30 Articles making up the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. You see today, 10th December 2018, marks the 70th Anniversary of the implementation of this UN drafted and adopted collection of rights, agreed upon to be the most basic and fundamental rights afforded to every human being on the planet earth…without exception! Apparently, so the story goes/suh dem seh (a phrase I will henceforth use by way of a disclaimer, in case what I share with you today turns out to be based on fake news at some future point), a group of people from around the world, appalled by the atrocities that took place during the second world war, decided to take proactive measures to ensure that human beings would never again be allowed to descend to the levels of barbarity, evil  and wickedness as was seen during the six year war. Yeah right, I sense some of you thinking.

 

 

YOUNG PERCEPTIONS OF WAR!

 

Growing up in England, my perspective of that war was always influenced by media images of valiant Englishmen and their allies, risking their lives for the rights and freedoms of their fellow countrymen.

 

Each November, as a child through to my teens, I would customarily wear the purchased poppies that my whole family wore in memory of those brave souls that sacrificed their lives for a noble cause. The only bad guys in that war story were the Germans, or to be more specific, a particular group of deranged Germans called Nazis. Apparently taking the life of another was only evil if, according to the rules of war, the lives were those of the bad guys. The fact that both sides of the cass cass saw the other as the bad guys was irrelevant to those writing the history books I studied. Bloody, valiantly fought battles and atom bombings were mixed in with stifled tales of torture, sexual abuses, murder of civilians and other unclaimed acts of barbarity…on both sides. No doubt the saying that “all is fair in love and war” could well have been coined during the said conflicts.

 

 

In the aftermath of that war, an estimated 60 million human beings were dead. WWII was dubbed ‘the worst war in modern history’, by the time it ended in 1945.  The United Nations emerged through unification of 58 country states, officially forming in 1948, with the primary purpose of bringing peace and upholding the rights of citizens in all lands. They drafted and agreed to the Declaration of Human Rights, the details of which most of the world’s citizens, I would hazard a guess, are oblivious. I hazard that guess on the basis that BBC World News reports (one of the few news sharing establishments I still have some level of trust in), consistently highlight unprecedented atrocities happening daily across our planet. As if on cue, as I drove home from my Human Rights presentation to the Mandeville Graduates of the Sutherland Global Microsoft Training programme, I felt a deflating blow when I tuned in to my radio to hear about the ‘alleged’ daily executions taking place in the African country of Burundi. The chilling report, as told by the BBC news correspondent, based on first hand intelligence obtained from eye witnesses and former perpetrators, stunned me. The pitch and inflections in the voice of the young sounding reporter, gave away a frustration that I presumed came from the fact that no decisive action was being taken by the UN nations, despite the submission of solid evidence to the UN leadership.

 

JAMAICA ON HUMAN RIGHTS?

 

 

Having become privy to and played a part in sharing the 30 human rights articles to an audience of Jamaicans, what now? Surely the scale of the global human rights breaches might suggest that those rights are destined to remain mere words on paper, while even the heads of states that are signatories to the declaration are themselves perpetrating, at worst, and turning a blind eye to, at least, gross human rights violations against their citizens. Closer to home, here in Jamaica, a modern day tropical paradise, the Tivoli Gardens ‘incident’ of 2010 still echoes a cry for justice that will ring in our ears for generations to come. Though I am considered an eternal optimist, the international and local news on any given day lends support to my concerns, that since the 1948 scripting of the declaration of human rights, matters have in fact gotten progressively worse, rather than better.

 

 

So, is it worth building the hopes of ordinary citizens by spreading the gospel of human rights to which they are entitled, yet potentially have little recourse if the state and its officers refuses to honour them? I say yes! Let the people know their rights! Armed with knowledge of what being a human being should afford them might at least empower some, and then more and more, to stand up for their individual and collective rights. Around the globe we are seeing and hearing of unrest and mounting frustrations among ordinary citizens that are saying enough is enough to leaders that have lost sight of their responsibility to serve and support all its citizens equally and fairly. The youth in particular are rising up to protest the disparities in treatment for segments of the society and blatant corruption within both government and private sectors.

 

HUMAN RIGHTS IN PLAIN LANGUAGE

 

 

All that said, given the energy of the youth of this world to clean up the messes of prior generations, I will do what feels right to me and proceed to sensitize my fellow Jamaicans and other world citizens to the 30 rights they have on the global stage, by virtue of the fact that they are human. The link below is to the Youth for Human Rights web page, which features a simplified version of the 30 Articles, as I shared with the young graduates.

 

https://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/articles-1-15.html

 

Learn them, as one day, you may need to demand or exercise one of them, in the face of some violation. You do, after all, have the weight of the now 192 member states of the United Nations behind you. Let us trust that this is heavyweight enough when put to the tests.

 

As our island’s reggae icon, Bob Marley sang…”Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights!” Knowing them is the first step.

 

Sep 4

FROM CONSUMERISM TO COMMUNALISM…A PIPE DREAM?

 

 

Question. If the goods/services being advertised in the various media were absolutely necessary…that is to say they were ‘needed’ by the average human being (based on disposable income indicators), why do they hire actors or superstars to convince us? Why do they use near-naked males/females to stimulate the senses? Subliminal signs and sounds. Colour codes. And that’s just scratching the surface. If these goods/services were indeed necessary (not compulsory like motor insurance :)) wouldn’t the natural need for ‘things’, coupled with affordability, direct the human flow of customers to the respective ‘thing’? Furthermore, I just listened to a radio advertisement and, having a keen ear for voices, word choices, the authenticity and connection of the speaker to the overall message being conveyed, I found the tones of the characters used to be very robotic. Could it be the digital age compelling us to accept the monotonic tone of a robot to tell us what we MUST buy, lest we be haunted by a neighbourhood of fully equipped Joneses, left man/woman-less, lose street cred…or whatever the penalty implied in the ads for our NOT purchasing the goods/service being advertised. It all sounds like a subliminal stick up of the mind to me. There you are, torn between the items you absolutely MUST purchase and those you don’t get and then have to endure the shame, lower social ranking, poor self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy…in general the stresses arising from the knowledge that you don’t have the said high end commodity or the new brand of human weave, it’s much the same (especially if Mrs Jones/Lacretia respectively has one!!!). Exaggeration for some of you, but a real dilemma for others!

 

NO AGE LIMITS

 

 

Take your average teenager…my son for example…just 16 yrs of age and he has already developed a mild fixation on ‘the latest IPhone’. He is NOT working! How did the consumerism-wizards get a hold of these young minds that don’t earn a cent AND get them to convince us parents (whether by coercion/emotional blackmail) to spend so much (as a ratio of earnings) of our hard earned cash? Remember, I’m referencing the average and below teenager and don’t get me wrong, my son has an IPhone, but it’s certainly not the latest version…and he didn’t get this one ‘as it drop’ in the Apple stores! Case in point. I watched a YouTube video recently showing that a certain community in Liverpool (England), which was designated the ‘poorest’ part of the country, had record crowds at its Apple store in the town, on the morning of a new IPhone launch. Lines (‘queues’ for the British-British), were extremely long! The consumer bug had clearly bitten hard and embedded itself deeply in the psyche of those folk. Matter over mind you could say.

 

 

But what about us? Have you ever stopped to consider how badly bitten you are by the consumerism bug? How many things in your home, for example, are regularly used and not just giving you or the home-helper grief to dust each week? How triggered are you when the advertisements for, or even the second hand news about, the launch of the latest IPhone, BMW, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana …(I’ve run out of name brands as I’m a hopeless non-follower of fashion)…add your own brands here…then answer the question J. Now don’t be defensive. I am by no means judging anyone here, God forbid, I too am working daily towards a re-balancing of my life, re-evaluating what I need more of (which by the way is ostensibly non-material) and what I can identify as non-essential clutter (be it physical, mental or human), to lighten and simplify my life somewhat. My hardest trigger to resist comes from the vicarious pangs of wanting to help my son keep up his street cred amongst his peers, while pointing out to him that he must not put material things before people and a conscious livity, that the yearning for the IPhone is fed by the marketers who use their mind manipulation tricks, that keep persons reaching and reaching perpetually for ‘things’ that they don’t need. But heck. He’s been a great son, doesn’t ask for much, he did well in his CXC’s. Maybe just this once…let me check the cashflow? See, I’m not perfectly de-consumerised, but I plead Maternalism! 🙂

 

WHO IS AT THE CONTROLS?

 

 

So if we are all the consumer puppets, who/what is pulling our strings? Perhaps those benefiting most from the consistently turning consumerism treadmill, supported greatly by highly paid marketing houses and not forgetting the Joneses, who never fail to bring attention to their latest acquisitions. I heard recently on BBC Radio, which is one of the few media sources I still get a sense of ‘factual-ness’ from (remind me, that’s a different blog topic), that the top advertising agencies in the world now hire the top neurologists, to assist them in knowing how the human mind and brain work!!! Now that struck me, as a person fascinated by neurology, to the extent of becoming a Neuronet therapist to assist children with learning challenges, but I digress. Those corporately hired neurologists…by all accounts,  are not hired to find out what the REAL needs of consumers are…more so to further manipulate minds, to steer wealth/last pennies in the direction of capitalist giants. Case in point, right now ladies, count (in your head if you are not in close proximity to your closet); how much shoes yu have? Now, how many do you wear regularly? Ok, then. Nothing new here I hear you say, but as the mind manipulation will now be based on the latest neuroscientific research, developed by privately hired neurologists…advertisers will be taking the term ‘getting into our heads’ to new levels. As I think about it, these same neurologists could, if more morally than materially guided, be more useful to humanity by devoting their time and expertise to developing mental skills that foster universal harmony. Anyway. It’s not for me to judge, but I’m just saying, as a born-again marketer, preying on highly stressed and strategically targeted masses, through mind-bending advertising, just seems wrong-up! I don’t know if I will be classified as a whistle-blower, but I recall my marketing course had us exploring strategies for, ‘capturing’ the minds of the consumer, persuading them that they ‘need’ this or that product/service that they never knew existed. Keep them purchasing, working to purchase more, borrowing to purchase yet more, then, financially extended, family relations strained, health compromised and consistently exhausted, you convince them to take the commercially advertised drugs that will keep you going that little bit longer, without checking the cause of the pain, in between the commercially advertised 2 weeks vacations…after which, the pain still exists.

 

 

Wow. Not a very pretty picture, now that I’ve stopped to read back. So, let me change gear and share what possible alternatives there are for those of us still hooked by the consumer-chain yet open minded enough to explore an alternative ‘livity’… or at least ease up on the throttle of our racing consumption engine. I’m not advocating a cold turkey extraction from the consumer train…that would be tantamount to jumping off an actual moving train and experiencing the shock and resultant psychological disorientation…as you realise you have just taken your whole wardrobe of Gucci shoes and matching handbags to the charity shop! I know it’s not easy once you are entwined, to unravel the old livity and re-ravel a new one…without the proverbial ‘trappings’. See, we even give the ‘things’ a name representing bondage! So, let’s get creative, like the marketers of these multi-billion dollar advertising agencies…with their highly paid neurologists.

 

 

If George Orwell did it, picture this. We are now in the year 2030…

 

There will now be a one month intermission.

 

Log in again the first week of October to…

 

FIND OUT MAKEDA’S PROPOSED ALTERNATIVE LIVITY STRATEGIES IN PART 2 OF “CONSUMERISM TO COMMUNALISM…A PIPE DREAM?

 

 

May 14

MINISTRY OF HAPPINESS AND WELLBEING

Just imagine for a moment that a Government of a modern day country chose to establish a ministry dedicated specifically to the happiness and well-being of its citizens and residents. Sounds outlandish, right? I mean, a Government  (according to Wikipedia and the Business Dictionary) is a system or group of people governing an organized community or state…that sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state. Not much room for the exploration of happiness and well-being in such a stiff-necked, protocol following world of Government one might say. Having worked within the structures of local government in the UK, I can testify that I witnessed no proactive strides to foster happiness and well-being within either written policies or human practices. Job descriptions were flooded with to do’s, but no attention was given to how the civil servants felt. Feelings were simply not questioned unless they rose to high levels, spilling over into ‘misconduct’ that interfered with the carefully planned out functions. No wonder there is so much talk of ‘extended tea breaks’ in our public sector world.

 

Image result for uae government

 

Anyway, imagine how surprised and delighted I was upon recently visiting the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and discovering that the Emirates had the foresight to establish a fully staffed government ministry…not just a department…dedicated to the happiness and well-being of persons living in/visiting each of its seven (7) federate areas (emirates). Now I was part of a theatrical delegation from Jamaica, proudly representing a monodrama piece, “Who Will Sing For Lena?” by Janice Liddell, at the biennial Fujairah International Arts Festival. From the moment of landing at Dubai airport, there was an immediate sense of feeling welcomed and respected. The feeling permeated the entire visit. It may not sound like a big deal, but having lived the majority of my life in England and had opportunities to travel, I can tell you that ‘welcome’ and ‘respected’ are not words that readily come to mind when recalling arrivals on the tarmac (in the earlier years) at many world airports. Even when returning to my UK ‘home’ soil I did not feel the warm and dignified welcome I got upon landing in Dubai. The point I am working to make here is that our Arab brothers and sisters, contrary to the stereotypical portrayals in the western media, took me aback with the genuine and consistent royal treatment meted out to our Jamaican delegation from the day we landed, right up to the day we left!  Are we following the right models?

 

 

Now back to the UAE Government’s bold and refreshing move to establish a ministry for happiness and well-being. It became apparent as our festival package unfolded that many of the volunteers coordinating same were high ranking government personnel, including a Chief Happiness and Positivity Officer (what a job title!), that willingly answered my many questions about life in the UAE and the practical work of my now, favourite ministry. It was clear to me that the work of this ministry is more than just words on paper or that the officers pay more than just lip service to the cause/mission of the ministry.  It was in the air. In the smiles. In the social conduct. I was impressed.

 

 

Having packed up and relocated my life from England to Jamaica some years ago, I, for the first time, found myself considering whether or not another relocation was now in order. Had I become complacent in my assessment of the place I call home? Had my love for Jamaica blinkered me to really examine whether or not it is STILL the best place for me to continue calling ‘home’? What criteria have I been working with? Being the birthplace of both my dearly departed parents, Jamaica is a place I fell in love with even before first setting foot on the island in 1989. I recall vividly hearing my father’s stories of the land he loved and yearned to return to. I remember the first vacation here, when I bawled on a dingy, out at sea, at Doctors Cave Beach, because I didn’t want to go back (to England). I wonder now if all of these retained reflections are mere sentimentality. Dare I take off the rose tinted glasses and take a real hard look at my perception of my tropical island home. The unique, world emulated culture, natural beauty and spiritual potency of this island are just a few of the things that still tick my boxes. But are these enough? If so, why then, after 23 years, has a visit to a distant land, with a very different culture, a language that I can’t speak, got me (re)considering my love affair with Jamaica? Like any relation-ship I must now ask, is it sailing in the right direction? Have I given back to the country as much as it has blessed me or was it a one sided relationship? Are we still compatible after our respective evolving?  Why all the questions all of a sudden? (Sorry, that was another one!). Was it the potent sense of peace, consistent civil order or just the reciprocal respect that prevail on a daily basis in the UAE that caught my eye? Could it have been the reverence and respect shown to the country’s women and children that wood me?  It is do-able, I kept telling myself! I am not ignoring the fact that the nations common practice of Islam must certainly play a role in fostering greater unity and social cohesiveness, but short of a wholesale conversion to Islam in Jamaica, perhaps we could start with a simple Government implemented solution, that we might make our people happier and healthier…perhaps?

 

 

When asked about the crime rate in his area, a senior UAE police officer (who invited us to be guests at his home) had to scratch his head to recall the one (1) murder that happened back in 2013. A domestic dispute. I remember blowing down heavily at his response, as I reflected on the lives of those lost and being lost in Jamaica daily. The officer spoke of doors and gates to compounds being left open at night. I immediately recalled hearing my father speak of the same comfort in his rural home community in Manchester, back in the day. Today’s Jamaica has two States of Emergency, multiple murders daily, women and children looking over their shoulders, young disenfranchised men being rounded up in packs and detained at police stations for days without ‘due’ processing…we know the rest. Don’t get me wrong, while it saddens me to reflect on the dark side of our island, I remind myself and others often that the majority of my country folk are kind, loving, decent and honourable people, that will light up your day with the wittiest one liners…stop to help a roadside damsel experiencing vehicular distress and sing sincere hit songs of love! All is certainly not lost, but while we witness the media hyped destabilization of our peace and security, perhaps it’s time for our government officials to try something outside the box…as their Emirati counterparts have clearly had the foresight to do. In the meantime, while we await the injection of conscience for our leaders, we can each be our own Chief Happiness and Well-being Officers, taking stock of the contribution we are making to the happiness and well-being of our fellow country folk? How about a little more compassion and empathy for ALL Jamaicans, non-judgement of those outside our circles and a refocused perspective of hope for starters? Wouldn’t hurt us, neither on an individual nor collective level right about now.

 

 

Radical changes do not have to come from revolutions by fed up citizens. Should, perchance, the collective conscience of our government officials, led by our current commander in chief, give rise to a commitment to work towards the happiness and well-being of EVERY citizen…(more) bloodshed may just be averted. I’ve been called the eternal optimist a few times in my life, so should you at this point scoff at my lofty idealistic notion of putting government and conscience in one sentence, my only retort at this point is …”God nah sleep”. Mystical magical manifestations were not confined to the biblical era.  Let your consciousness be focused on the positive attributes of our land, the many possible solutions and Love. We will always attract what our powerful collective minds dwell on most. It’s divine order.

 

 

While the state of ‘Wakanda’ is being brought from fiction to reality, for now, I’ll continue to assess my relationship with Jamaica and determine whether or not we need to take a little break or work to re-ignite the passion!  What do you think?

 

Happiness, Wellness and Plenty Blessing!