A defining moment in the black civil rights movement in America came in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus, for a white passenger. This action resulted in a bus boycott and chain of events which finally resulted in black passengers moving from the back of the bus to the front and ultimately the end of segregation in public transport forever. A specific experience in my own history also involved a bus, although the outcome was slightly different.
Last year I did a Ted Talk entitled “I Am Not The Voices In My Head” which was finally uploaded on YouTube this week. During the talk I recount a story from my youth of how as a young boy of 12 arriving as an immigrant to South Africa I had a traumatic experience at the school civvies day. This happened only a few days after I had arrived in the country and was anticipated as a fun day when all the students would get to attend school in their ‘normal’ clothes instead of the usual stuffy and boring school uniform.
Dressed in my trendiest best, I stepped off the school bus to realise that I had got it all wrong. Here I was dressed the epitome of small town 1970s Scottish fashion with high-waisted, bell- bottomed pants and platform shoes, a look that obviously hadn’t travelled to South Africa.
I looked like an alien who had just parachuted in from Mars. The rest of the school didn’t know that this was the last word for the trendy teen back home and let me tell you in Johannesburg my outfit was an abomination. I had just created the fashion faux pas to end all faux pas. The stares were palpable, the laughter unmistakable and I was so embarrassed and humiliated that I prayed the ground to open up and swallow me. When it didn’t I spent the rest of the school day hiding in school toilets and feeling like a loser.
Fast forward to today. After my Ted Talk was uploaded I invited my sister to watch thinking that she would get a good giggle from remembering this awkward period of my life to which she had been witness. I received the following text message from her “Just for the record I wore a cream trouser suit and hid the whole day in the sick bay. God, we certainly were traumatized!” So caught up in my own story and trauma had I been, I never realised that this day had been tough for her too.
It has been 40 years since I stepped off the bus and straight into the jaws of hell, never knowing that my sister had endured an almost identical experience. Like me and with insufficient coping skills, she went with her survival instinct which was to hide. You see, one of the most critical thoughts that people have about themselves is that they are different, and not in a positive way but in some negative and alienating way and this thought was all encompassing that day. Here we were, two misplaced immigrants, different, awkward and alone, – one in the toilets and the other in the sick bay, unbeknownst to each other.
I don’t know if it would have made it easier that day if we had somehow teamed up, and declared our collective quirkiness and uniqueness. Perhaps we could have consoled each other and laughed at the situation. Perhaps just by knowing the other was in the same place could have acted as comfort but without the confidence, skills or insight that one develops as you grow older it’s unlikely that the situation and our response would have been any different. We were just 2 gawky, insecure adolescents, convinced we’d be laughing stocks forever.
We never spoke about it that evening at the dinner table because we weren’t the kind of family who debriefed and checked up on how each other was doing in the nuclear, television family ‘How was your day?’ kind of way. Reflecting back we were probably just so relieved to have the school day over and be back in a safe environment ready to strategize for the next day which would become a pattern of ‘keep your head down’, ‘soldier on’ and don’t let anybody know how desperately unhappy and scared you are. I had looked with envy at my big sister who I thought had eased seamlessly into her new life.
To me it looked like she had immediate friends, acceptance and was just fine. As I speak to her today she tells me a different story. So caught up in my own isolation and insecurities, I couldn’t see hers. I did not have the courage to lead and say “Let’s do this thing together and let’s be there for each other”. If I had, perhaps the next few years would have been easier for us instead of feeling like crawling through thorns. But bit by bit my sister and I killed off those parts of us that didn’t fit in with the new world and slowly carved a place for ourselves. Neither the cream trouser suit nor the bell-bottoms were ever seen again and the incident not mentioned until 4 decades later.
While I don’t feel the need to always look at the past to interrogate my life’s hiccups. I do find that fresh reflection, like my sister gave me, allows my understanding of that time to deepen and I can even appreciate and understand why I am who I am today and why. This allows acceptance, laughter and perspective. I don’t run away and hide anymore. Today if I am a bit different from you, I am more inclined to think you need to suck it up because I eventually got weary of not standing up and speaking my truth and that is why I do now. Maybe this is where Rosa Parks was that day when she defied the bus driver by refusing to move to the back of the bus. As she later revealed, she didn’t refuse to stand because she was physically tired, but that she was simply tired of giving in.
I wasn’t nearly so brave back then and the flares and platform shoes have long been consigned to the scrapheap of fashion history but I like to think that if they were still at the back of my cupboard I wouldn’t be afraid to put them on and confidently step out in 70s style. Metaphorically, I mean!
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.
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”
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.”
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.
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.
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.