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Speechless

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

The 21st of September not an auspicious day by any notable ‘day’ standards but it’s the day I received my invitation to speak at TEDx Gaborone.  Before I go any further let me give you the TED story. TED is, according to their website, “a platform for ideas worth spreading”.

It started in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged and TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

I have been watching Ted talks for a while and to think that I am now “in the club” is almost more than I can hope for. Last night I watched a TED talk on Aspergers and I am feeling quite inadequate because I don’t have that (great TED talk material), at the same time I am intimidated by others who have gone before.

I am not a motivational speaker (Tony Robbins), know anything about Global Warning (Al Gore) nor have a sex scandal attached to my name (Monica Lewinsky) or written a bestseller like Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert). So what am I to talk on and what will my story be? 

I sense this is important and while I am not sure exactly how it all works , I am visualising millions of people watching me on YouTube and I am struck by the terror, my usual fear of failure and a very strong thought that I don’t actually have a story to tell. It’s the same feeling you have when you appear naked in a dream in front of all your work mates.

You see, I have always copied and never been original. Those who know me might be shocked at this disclosure because other people tend to describe me as creative but I know where my ideas come from and it’s always other people.  On the basis that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I have always copied, in business, in theatre, in philosophy and in life lessons. 

I tend to take others’ ideas develop them or make them better. I am definitely not a blank-piece-of-paper type of guy and sometimes when I really don’t have a clue and copying isn’t an option, I improvise.

I am reminded of my first year at school in South Africa after my family had emigrated just months before. I was put in a class labelled “practical” for a number of reasons that are far too embarrassing to mention (but if you were to think truancy, bad crowd and wayward behaviour you’d be on the right track).

Practical was a euphemism for remedial I guess and if you didn’t know this by the name the subject choice gave it away…woodwork, metal-work, maths lit, business studies aka filing, typing etc. Those who know me today acknowledge this as an unlikely fit. 

When you have two left thumbs, and half of a technical brain and you are asked to make a breadboard (Woodwork 101), you do what anyone else does when faced with this overwhelming task, which was to outsource the task in a schoolboy trade agreement. Jeffery Brown was everything I wasn’t at 12, big, muscular, hairy, good at rugby and could plane AND weld. JB wasn’t too good at maths so we traded and after all, fair exchange is no robbery.

When it came to presenting our breadboards for marking we were strung out in a line and would, one-by-one, move forward to the teachers’ table for inspection after which the Woodwork Master, Mr Stalin (I kid you not and never was a name so apt) would award a suitable mark. The plan was simple – JB goes first and after being marked, surreptitiously passes his perfect breadboard to me and later in the queue I re-present it as my work. All breadboards look the same right?

But here is the twist; for the self-same piece of woodwork, JB got an A and I got a D. I was completely floored but it might have been at that moment when I realised that we are judged not by what we do but what people think we are capable of doing.  Comrade Stalin marked me on his expectation of my scant ability, and JB on the expectation of his perfectly turned and planed triumph.  I never did ask JB what mark he got for his maths homework but as maths is more cut and dried, right or wrong, he probably got the better of our bargain.

I have told this story many times before of how I cheated and by karmic punishment, was cheated of my A which of course wasn’t mine anyway. Sometimes I use the story to illustrate the illogic of the system and sometimes it is about being unfairly put into remedial class. It makes me think that there are things that happen to you in life and then there is the story you tell yourself of what happens in your life!

So who am I if I don’t have a story for the TEDx talk and what will I say to the millions of viewers who could potentially watch this? Already I am feeling sick at the possibility of having only 23 YouTube views, made up of my two daughters, ex-wife, present partner and my own personal 19 logged views.

But here’s the rub, because in putting this down on paper I realise I do indeed have a story. The breadboard is my story. It’s a funny story when deceit catches you out and you can do nothing about it. I couldn’t exactly challenge Mr Stalin (even if I had the courage) about his inconsistent marking principles without giving the whole game away.

It’s tragic that I was forced to make the damn breadboard in the first instance when I had been wrongly assigned to the academically-challenged practical class instead of staff making an effort to understand the difficulties I was facing dealing traumatically with a move to a new country, the culture shock, some incidental bullying and a smidgen of youthful rebellion. It is empowering when I consider the resourcefulness of the situation and using my wits and wherewithal to survive. 

So I am not sure if that will be my TEDx cautionary tale and modern, moral fable.  Who knows how much of a hit it could be but I can predict with absolute certainty that every one of you who wants to judge for yourself can be one more ‘hit’ on my listing.  So that should take the total up to at least 30 then!


STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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