There is an old Chinese curse that simply says ‘May you live in interesting times’ and right now I am wondering if much of the world has been collectively cursed.
Only in the past few days we have seen the beginnings of nuclear brinkmanship between Donald Trump in the United States and Kim Jong Un in North Korea, 2 leaders who are playing the ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ type of bragging game. So far that’s all it is – bragging and blagging and following, as the war of words did, on yet another failed nuclear missile test by North Korea, there’s no contest in the bigger and better stakes.
The US has had more than 70 years to develop and refine its nuclear weaponry and there’s no doubt at all that it has a huge arsenal capable of launch by land, air and sea. North Korea, on the other hand, is a relatively new kid on the nuclear block and appears to be, what in colloquial English might be called, ‘all mouth and trousers’.
That said, the world has done all it could since the end of the Second World War to avoid any nuclear conflict so any potential empty threat is enough to put the fear of God into us all and despite what some critics have said about Trump’s finger on the red button 9myself included), the real danger surely lies in a mad Eastern despot with absolute powers and a propensity for the sadistic?
And let’s not forget the recent US bombing raid on a Syrian military base. Trump has vowed to eschew the ‘all talk, no action’ policies of his predecessor and cut the Islamic terrorist snake off at its head so expect more aggressive interventions in the region and potential support from British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.
Over in the Balkans, President Urdogan of Turkey has just won a public plebiscite which potentially gives him sweeping personal powers. His new mandate allows him to transform his largely ceremonial role to a position with vast power as both the head of state and the head of government. The ‘yes’ vote allows him to scrap the role of Prime Minister and gives him sole mandate to appoint senior judges, dissolve parliament, declare a state of emergency and in some cases make law by decree:
Further, under the new system, Mr ErdoÄŸan could theoretically remain in power until 2029. According to his hustings stand, the country needs strong, stable leadership to counter the increasingly unstable near-Eastern region but critics countered that it was simply a move towards voter-mandated dictatorship. With Turkey the only buffer between mainland Europe and encroaching Islamic terrorism, the idea of an all-powerful potentate as head of state is definitely a matter for concern.
In Europe itself, France is in the throes of a general election in which it is almost certain the far-right, under Marine Le Pen, will gain substantial ground, whilst even in the ultra-liberal, ultra-laid-back Netherlands, right-wing candidate, Geert Wilders, made a strong showing in the recent Dutch elections. Factor in a deal of anti-Merkel sentiment in Germany, following deadly, home-grown Islamic attacks, many linked to her open-border debacle of 2 years ago and a swing to the right is easily detectable there too.
That’s a big block of western Europe leaning more to the starboard bow than would have been thinkable even 5 years ago – interesting times, indeed. You will note that I haven’t mentioned the UK, where the result of the newly-announced snap June election is pretty much a foregone conclusion and where the public has already voted to leave the European Union; many pundits are predicting more drop-out European countries in the foreseeable future, as soon as the Brexit dust settles so the once united European front is starting to come apart at the seams.
And closer to home, the net around President Jacob Zuma seems at last to be closing. His attempts to control the Finance Ministry, his theft of public funds to improve and expand his private residence, his alliance with the wealthy Gupta family and a shady arms deal from before he took office, are all coming home to roost and it looks now as though it’s not a question of if he is ousted but when. Stand by for a period of political and economic uncertainty before any attempt at rebuilding and reforming can take effect. And as our nearest neighbours and economic partners, we too will feel the quake and the numerous aftershocks.
So what does all this mean to the man-in-the-street? Well, in a nutshell, worry. Like much of the world, Botswana is still feeling the effects of the 2009 recession and it would not take much to plunge us back down. Our currency is especially vulnerable as the pula is tied to a basket of currencies, chiefly the South Africa rand and every downward turn that takes, affects our national reserves, our economic outlook, the pula in our pockets and the prices on the shelves.
Already it has lost against the pound sterling and the US dollar so expect to pay more for overseas imports. It also points to a time of uncertainty in the job market as some companies may close, others downsize and everyone, bar the wealthy elite, will feel the pinch. It will be dèja vu all over again.
So interesting times, yes, but perhaps the coming together of all these global moods and moves may well prove propitious? The darkest hour is just before dawn, so it’s said, not to mention no pain, no gain. Zuma is a corrupt and untrustworthy politician and South Africa cannot begin to revitalise till he has been dethroned; Islamic terrorism has taken hold of much of the near East and its barbaric fanaticism needs to be stopped; Modern Europe is a different place to its pre-war past and ‘far-right’ will never again morph into xenophobic fascism;
North Korea is a rogue state that threatens world peace so maybe it’s time someone stood up to be counted in reining it in; and Turkey still hankers after European Union entry so Urdogan will need to tone down his complete power grab if he wants to stay friends and join the club. So a pox on your Chinese curse, I say, and living in interesting times is surely better than dying in them?
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.