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Ignobel

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

When wealthy Swedish munitions manufacturer and inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel read his own obituary, which had been printed in error, he suddenly realised that he would forever be remembered for being that person who “had made it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone else who had ever lived”.  

In actual fact it was Nobel’s brother who had died but the mistake did give Nobel the opportunity very few of us ever have and that was to read his obituary while alive.  Utterly horrified, right at that moment Nobel knew that this was not how he wanted to be remembered. In fact ironically it had been the death of his brother which had made him determined to invent a safer blasting chemical than gunpowder or the recently-invented nitro-glycerine and had led him to turning the volatile material into a paste which was much safer to handle. His intention had been to save lives and here he was being held potentially responsible for the loss of untold numbers.  The rest as they say, is history. 

This chance glimpse into his legacy resulted in Nobel dedicating his fortune to honouring and rewarding those who benefited humanity through what we know today as the Nobel Peace Prize.

In this spirit there is an exercise regularly conducted in training programmes and appearing in many self-help books called ‘the obituary exercise’ which encourages one to consider what they would most like to be known for. The exercise takes the form of writing an obituary to cover and reflect such things as your values, personality points, characteristics, strengths or relationships.  If I asked you, as I was recently asked, to reflect on your life, would you say it has felt like treading water – metaphorically being in a rut; or thriving and prospering; full of emotional vitality and personal and professional success – in Positive Psychology (PP); ‘flourishing’.  

Perhaps there is one dominant theme or perhaps it is a bit of both?  If you are wondering what the heck positive psychology (PP) is, it’s the study of happiness and by inference when we flourish we are happy! In one of the most famous positive psychology books called ‘Authentic Happiness’ by the father of PP, Martin Seligman. He says it takes the bright hope that if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications and without meaning, there is a scenic road out.  The road that he talks of is one along which you can find such things such as small pleasures and gratification; strength; virtue; fulfilment; meaning and purpose.

I have been conscious of wanting all of such things and try as often as I can to engage in activities to improve my happiness. I want to open my mind to learning and exploring new ways of improving wellbeing. This is one of the reasons for studying PP and why I experiment in treatment methods and activities that result in positive mindsets, feelings and behaviours.

Some of the stuff I have done include questionnaires to identify my strengths, Mood Watch (which is a mood tracking app to monitor depression, anxiety and mood), yoga, coaching and counselling, self-discipline with exercise and diet and setting and tackling challenging physical and mental goals. All of these have helped to maintain and improve my wellbeing in some way. Although upon reflection, many of these were reactively motivated to relieve states that made my life miserable, instead of being proactive in building states that would make life more worth living.

There are loads of things that we can do to improve our happiness and they are well researched with empirical evidence so I thought I would share one such activity. William Penn said, “The secret to happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” The expression of gratitude which is a sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation is considered to be one of the most researched and robust positive psychology interventions. Gratitude promotes the savouring of positive events and increases a sense of wellbeing.

The aim is to redirect attention away from negative thoughts and towards positive ones. Whilst, as human beings, our innate negative thinking has produced evolutionary advantages of self-preservation, it is noted that such thinking is no longer as necessary in our modern lifestyle and is at the root of much of our anxiety, depression and general lack of wellbeing. By purposely redirecting our thoughts towards positive incidents, we can correct our negative bias. People who have an attention bias towards positive information report higher levels of positive emotions, and practicing gratitude is likely to be incompatible with negative emotions, even directly counteracting the effects of hedonic adaptation.

It is easy to introduce into your life and routine. “Three Good Things” is a popular positive psychology technique where people recall three positive things that have happened to them that day or for which they are grateful, and this has been shown to have beneficial effects.  There is no agreement on how often the exercise should be carried out for optimal effect; some studies suggest that doing this once weekly increases wellbeing. Others suggest that more than three times per week starts to feel like a chore as the activity loses meaning and effectiveness, like too much of good thing. In fact some people may also succumb to “gratitude fatigue” due to counting identical blessings repeatedly.  I suppose it is comparable to saying your prayers before you go to bed every night, or attending church once a week.  There’s no hard and fast rule – it’s what works for you or to put it another way, what makes you happy.  And right there is one thing to be grateful for today – that you bought a copy of this paper, read this article and decided, ‘What have I got to lose?’.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC

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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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