Sunday, July 24, 2011

Annual Nelson Mandela lecture 2011: To our Youth of today

On 23rd of July 20111, Professor Ismail Seragelding from Egypt delivered the 9th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture titled 'The Making of Social Justice: Pluralism, Cohesion and Social Participation'. It is worthwhile a read and I will not do justice if I try to repeat what he said so beautifully in his speech. Below the points points most resonated with me. It was encouraging to hear from such a well established scientist and globally acknowledged academic about the importance of creating social justice. Emphasising the enormous difficulties a highly unequal society might have to face along the way, he linked the necessity for social justice to the efforts of building social cohesion and the encouragement of citizen participation.

Him being from one of the countries where the Arabic spring took place, his message to support the youth of today was loud and clear. He converted the often negative perceptions of the 'Facebook generation of today' into powerful words of hope:
To our youth, and to all youth, from the Cape to Cairo and beyond, I say: You have been called the children of the internet, or the Facebook generation, but you are more. You are the vanguard of the great global revolution of the 21st Century. So, go forth into the journey of your lives, to create a better world for yourselves and for others. Think of the unborn, remember the forgotten, give hope to the forlorn, include the excluded, reach out to the unreached, and by your actions from this day onwards lay the foundations for better tomorrows.
So get on with the task of creating Social Justice, based on Pluralism, Cohesion and Social Participation, and in so doing take us to a new country, a country where, in the words of Tagore…
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led by thee into ever-widening thought and action—-
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”
 I hope this entry motivated you to watch or read the speech. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making others smile

The latest thing I bought for my car are 'eyelashes'. Those are some black plastic lashes pasted above the headlights. What I didn't expect is the effect those 'car-eyelashes' would have on the world around me. People smile and hoot, children wave - and the feedback is age-, race- and genderless. Even the guys who beg for money at the traffic lights. It's just black plastic. It made me think that we often underestimate that it takes very, very little to bring a smile to someone's face ;-).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Women are women’s worst enemies

The variety of style and fashion in Europe’s capitals fascinates me and while I was travelling through quite a few of them, I often found myself starring at other women. I did it unintentionally. In quite a few instances the woman I was looking at noticed my look and started to look up and down on herself, self-consciously checking her body and clothes. Some even started to nervously go through their hair or adjust their clothes.
It made me think about the amount of pressure lots of women experience regarding their public presentation especially at their places of work. It is probably not only the looks but also their intellect and performance that women are very conscious about and that put an enormous amount of pressure on women to compete especially with other on women. Women are very competitive among themselves. I have experienced it at work before, where other women become very intense and real control freaks when it comes to the performance of others. They start looking out for the mistakes of other women and make it a point to call it out. Interestingly, they are often much more relaxed about the male counterparts on the same issue. It might not always be conscious or deliberate but, I believe, is often driven by insecurities.
We are so full of self-doubt that we forget that we are all beautiful beings and that the person opposite us has similar insecurities and issues. I have promised myself to share more embracing looks and compliments with fellow women. I will intend to take the competitiveness out of the workplace. I hope this will inspire you to think about it as well....

“Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, “make me feel important”. Never forget this message when working with people.” – Mary Kay Ash

Saturday, July 2, 2011

An explanation for love

Love is the only virtue that can satisfy a person's need to connect with the world and at the same time keep his/her integrity and individuality (Erich Fromm: Discovering the love for life). Love is the unity with another person and at the same time the realisation of the ‘I’ and the integrity of self.
I believe this description of love explains the difficulties we often face in relationships. Major conflicts in relationships often arise because one person is not able to maintain integrity and individuality or because one of the partners does not feel the ‘oneness’ as the result of a strong connection within the relationship.
My mother used to describe relationships in a very simple way. She said that each of our individual lives could be seen as our own garden that we have to take care of our whole life. We plant our own seeds and are responsible for it to bear fruit and to blossom. In a relationship another garden is added, a joint garden of the two people who enter into the relationship. The art is to be a good gardener for both gardens – the joint and the individual one. How do you make sure that your flowers blossom, the garden is watered and there is no rampant growth of weeds in both gardens? Modern life makes it very challenging to find a balance. It is easy to get distracted and only work on the one but not the other. Ones work can take up so much attention that the joint garden has to be neglected. Children as fruits of the joint garden can become the centre of attention so that the own garden is overlooked. I think it is impossible to be a good gardener for both at all times but I think being conscious about the existence of those two spaces might make it easier to understand why we often struggle.
There is another feature that I think specifically women have to look out for - One cannot manage the joint garden alone. Even if you put all your energy and effort in, the other party needs to give as well. You need to allow the partner to be a gardener and contribute.
This practical picture of gardens frames for me the by Erich Fromm outlined tension of love as mentioned in the introduction. Romantic relationships are only one example of relationships where the explanation of love applies in our lives but I think those are the most challenging and closest to most of our lives.

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