Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas

Remember those so called "bimezas" and "kabazos" that the government in its infinite wisdom banned? Well, some guys in Australia got together and organized one of those things, a public debate on some of the prevailing notions and beliefs around the world today. Hosted by the Sidney Opera House in the first week of October 2009 and dubbed "The Festival of Dangerous Ideas" it featured such topics as "Democracy is Not for Everyone" and "Religion Poisons Everything" among several others.

The festival's opening address was given by atheism advocate Christopher Hitchens on the topic of "Religion Poisons Everything", which was countered by Australian Roman Catholic Cardinal George Pell in a session titled "Without God We Are Nothing". The Crikey, the erstwhile controversial Australian electronic magazine, summed up the event in these words: "For the Darlinghurst secular-liberals most of these ideas were either safe, or so ridiculous as to be of no interest. Really dangerous ideas — ones that people might act on — didn't get a look in."

I don't know about the guys at The Crikey, but I watched the debate on "Democracy is Not for Everyone" and I was impressed with the arguments for and against the motion. It was filled with intellect, wit and more importantly a realism contributed by the speakers' honesty, analysis and experience. I would so much as go ahead to encourage everyone to watch these debates but I am afraid they can be classified as the stuff of intellectuals. Apparently that stuff is boring to most people, a notion I find silly because anyone who has the inclination and capacity for reason is an intellectual. I personally believe the average farmer is more of an intellectual than the average acolyte of the revered "corporation".

I find myself playing around with these dangerous ideas, I ask myself what is the true essence of "Life"? What truly is "Liberty" and how can I engage in "the pursuit of happiness"? I am delving into ideas that are merely given lip service these days so as to lend credence to mercantile misadventures.

A member of the audience remarked that it was high time humanity got back to the business of thinking and extending mental boundaries. It has become apparent that these ideas that we praise without reservation, ideas like "Capitalism", need to be revisited and fine tuned to fit the needs of all society and not just a select few. Perhaps the greatest coup d'├ętat of our time has been the one on Liberty by the unrelenting greed that drives mercantilism. I personally believe we need to revisit the entire idea of capital as a factor of production and figure out a way of a giving it a social dimension from the ground up and not the half hearted handout that "corporate social responsibility" is. Don't get me wrong and assume that I'm advocating for a radical shift to "Socialism" or some other form of government; all I'm saying is that we would be better served by a combination of different ideologies than just one. The idea that to have a meaningful life, one must engage in the unending pursuit of "money", something that is by definition meant to be scarce, is fallacious at the least. It simply cannot be true because to say so would mean that more than half the world's population, including myself, lives a meaningless existence and will be doing so for a long time to come unless we do something about it.

I wish to teach my generation that as long as we dream and use our imaginations, we can achieve anything. The simple truth written in all these self help books is that we are what we think we are and all that's left for us to change is our thoughts and opinions.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The PIFF Speech That Never Was

Apparently I was supposed to make some sort of speech last Saturday; thankfully I managed to dodge it. I like to think that I know myself very well and I know that if I desired to master the art of public speaking I would do so. However, I know the kind of power and influence that comes with it and I do not wish to have it. The very thought of having people hanging onto my every word scares me. I believe that everyone should be able to think for themselves but for those of you who still have questions about the Pay It Forward Foundation Uganda and would like to hear all about it from the horse's mouth, well, here goes this horse.

First off, let me thank all of you who made The Masquerade Party what it was, it was great having you there! Thank you for all your support and enthusiasm.

The PIFF is above all else an idea, perhaps we're just idealists but we truly believe that the world can be a better place if we all just cared about each other a little bit more. Personally, the idea is premised on the kindness I have experienced in my life, without it, I would not be here today and I am very aware of that fact. The world today is set up as a ruthless jungle where the meek, poor, helpless, unfortunate and many others are trampled upon and considered nothing more than units of production. Somehow as a species, we seem to have lost that very thing that defines us, our humanity. The PIFF seeks to change this attitude by encouraging you to believe with us that being kinder to whoever you come into contact with can make the world a better place.

While I may have issues with the way the world is set up, I realise that we have to conform to certain standards if we are going to be able to do our work, however in all that we do, we aim to uphold the values of Kindness, Integrity, Forgiveness, Respect, Trust and Unity. We seek to dispel the belief in the outside world that we cannot help ourselves and must always depend on foreign nations to offer assistance and even manpower. I look at my generation and I see that there is potential to build a nation and a world that is truly better for all of us. We only lack the belief.

The PIFF aims to be a social network or movement or whatever you wish to call it that brings together people from all walks of life and gets them thinking about becoming better individuals who will build a better world by tackling today's social issues together. The role of building civilizations is not the sole domain of political organisations as we have come to realise but rather it is the duty of every man and woman.

We hope that many of you are asking yourselves how to become a part of the PIFF and to answer your question; you just have to believe that a kinder and better world is possible and that it begins with you. Many people have stood up throughout history and said as much, some have said that "you must be the change you want to see", that if you wish to build a better world; you should start with the "man in the mirror". We beseech you to make a conscious choice, "to live from the inside out rather than from the outside in."

So we're going to crunch the numbers, draw up the plans and then get back to you on how you can help us help others. Yes, we want your money, at least a little bit of it.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Song for Keira

Here we stand by the fireside singing songs
Singing about tomorrow and the day that's gone
Thinking of the roads and tunnels long
We'll wander east and west 'til we get home.

The clouds are gathered, winds blowing,
Together huddled for the storm is coming
Pain pulls to the edge of night, falling
Searing and burning bright, we lie groaning.

Across the plains and up the mountains
With nature's towers and flowing fountains
We lay to rest your earthly form
A month and twenty days, your home.

Goodbye goodbye Goddess of peace,
Heart of innocence without sin
Your life with us a pleasant dream
One of us, forever we sing.

This world will not break our heavy hearts
For your laughter we have known, pure and light
Perfect forever you remain, peace to you we pray
One of us, forever we sing,
One of us, forever in our hearts.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Disestablishmentarianism: The New World Order

The world is changing. The financial meltdown brought to light a simple fact about the system of capitalism; that it is not without flaws. Excessive greed was at the heart of the crisis with the world's biggest financial institutions trading assets to the tune of several hundred billion dollars. When the housing bubble bust and these assets quickly turned toxic, these giants of capitalism, a system that dislikes government, found themselves having the "government of the people" as their lender of last resort. Some argued that these so called giants should be left to the fate of demand and supply but their voices fell on deaf ears. The impact, of the demise of Lehman Brothers at the hands of market forces on the global economy, forced governments all over the world to institute bailouts for their financial institutions. The BBC in its series, "Lehman Brothers: The Bank That Broke The World", reports that every tax payer in the developed world forked out £2000 to bail out the world's largest banking institutions. As the world struggles to recover from the recession, governments and businesses are trying to figure out how to prevent another such disaster. Questions like, "Why didn't we see it coming? How did it happen so fast? Who is responsible? How do we make sure it doesn't happen again?" have been on policy makers minds for much of the last 12 months and perhaps many more to come. The fact is simple, we need new thinking, and the mantra coined on Wall Street that "greed is good" has been shattered.

The world is changing. The issue of global warming can no longer be thought of as a fringe idea. The evidence is all around us. The ice caps are melting faster than before, the air is stale and full of gunk and the world's forests are disappearing faster than ever before. The results of our belief that it is our mission to go forth and multiply are only too evident now. The world's population stands at more than 6 billion people and according to number crunchers, that number will hit 9 billion by 2025. The current view is that we will need approximately one and a half earths to sustain such a population. We have been here before, some centuries ago a man of the cloth came to the conclusion that unless something was done, the population growth rate was going to quickly outstrip the food supply. His name was Malthus and his theory is still taught in classrooms today. We were saved by the agricultural revolution. Man set his mid to figuring out a way to sustain the world and was successful. Today the future seems bleak; a vast number of people are faced with starvation, the relentless march of industrialisation and all the ills that go with it threatens to engulf the world. At the current rate, The Federated States of Micronesia will be no more in about 20 years, Thailand will cease to exist by the turn of the century and much of Uganda perhaps will be nothing more than desert. The rapid change in the global climate and the threat it poses for many communities around the world will lead to social and political upheaval in many parts of the world. The fight for scarce resources will only intensify and the idea of a climate induced apocalypse is no longer the sole domain of Hollywood and science fiction writers. The way forward is not quite clear but it is evident that we cannot go about our lives as if it were business as usual, something must change. High on the agenda is discovering an energy source that is clean, cheap and abundant. I wish that one of my own could come up with this but instead it seems we might yet have to fight over the "black gold".

Something is happening in the Middle East. There is an organisation of the United Nations called the UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency). It was formed sixty years ago to deal with the issue of Palestinian refugees. It is, according to the United Nations resolution that formed it, a temporary organisation. I imagine the idea was that the issues between Israel and Palestine would be sorted out quickly enough to allow peace to reign between the Jews and the Arabs; however it seems I am not the only one cursed with the disease of procrastination. The politicians tasked with solving the crisis have all pretty much given up on it and the consensus around the world is that there can be no peace in the Middle East. However the world has sat back long enough, the idea that one state can act unilaterally with impunity is distasteful to say the least. The Goldstone Report which has caused major political fallout is the beginning of a new trend and we cannot take the Israel's self serving propaganda at face value anymore. The idea that such a thing as the Dahiya doctrine is justifiable borders on the lunacy that led to WWII, the same lunacy that has been the oil feeding the fires of persecution throughout human history. Its results as evidenced by Israel's war on Gaza are nothing short of crimes against humanity. The greatest shame in all this lies on the Palestinian people for in the midst of persecution, they are divided. They fail to realise that if they presented a united stand to the world, they would go a long way in the fight for freedom. As for the so called people of the free world, it is nothing short of inhuman to witness such events and idly stand by claiming that it is not your duty to help. Those who purport the desire to do so clearly attempt to serve two masters, justice must supersede the interests of any state if the world is to live in peace. The time will come when Israel will attempt to cross the "Red Line" that is drawn by the Arab world at Al Aqsa mosque and may God be with us all on that day because it will no longer be as simple as matters that don't concern you or me, it will be a matter of religion for more than one third of the world's population and the idea of a holy crusade will not seem so alien to many people all over the world. As I write this, it has become evident that Obama has failed to get the Israeli government to cease settlement expansion, something that is in violation of previous agreements conjured up over the years in an attempt to make peace in the holy land. He finds himself losing credibility among the Arab nations as an impartial player which simply means that all those inspiring words he spoke in Cairo not to mention that Nobel prize have all been for naught. Yet, there is hope, even if it is the simple fact that I am now aware of these things and that I will never stop fighting for the rights of all who are oppressed. I add my humanity, whatever impact it may have, to the cause of freedom for all the oppressed, from the children of my country, to the Rohinya of Myanmar and to the people of Palestine. I wish to say that I stand with them in their struggle and I have hope.

I realise that I could go on and on about how the world is changing and how it affects you as a member of the human race but I believe that each one of us must make up their own minds as to where they wish to go and what they desire to do. I offer only one simple piece of advice, seek ye first knowledge and then pray for wisdom to choose the right path. We who are alive today are at the cusp of a new age in human history; it is the age of awareness. At no other point in history has mankind had access to information like we do today, we have the ability to hold a meaningful conversation with a stranger thousands of miles away at the click of a button and it would be silly of us not take advantage of this and build a better world. The idea that there is an institution in this world that cannot be changed or torn down is rooted in nothing more that people's acceptance of the status quo. As long as citizens all over the world believe that they do not have the power to change their lot in life, those who control and govern us will always do what they please at our expense.

For my part, I desire nothing less than peace on earth. I worship at the altar of Eirene and I will never stop seeking peace and happiness. This desire threatens to send me to the remotest corners of the earth, to sit in ancient temples and seek a path to enlightenment. Those of you who wish me to stay a little longer; I ask that you show the world that little bit of humanity. I ask that you come join us as we attempt to make the world just a little bit kinder and better.

PS: The Pay It Forward Foundation Uganda will be having a launch party this Saturday 07th November 2009 at Bricks Bar and Restaurant in Centenary Park at 4pm. All are welcome, especially you. If you would like to support the foundation, you can do so by buying a ticket or a tee shirt. See you all there.