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The long way home

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

My daughter has a legal tussle with her employer, now ex-employer. It’s no surprise that it has got to this stage because this is an employer with ‘adversarial’ in their corporate DNA. How else would you explain that when she requested a breakdown of her termination monies this was done through a lawyer?  It was only an enquiry and a perfectly reasonable one at that! When she resigned they were so miffed that they told her not to bother working her notice period and the relationship quickly soured. 

It was an unprofessional, knee-jerk reaction in response to feeling rejected, I guess, although this emotional style of managing and disregard for employees has characterised her experience.  She has been treated awfully, they have refused to pay her the correct termination money and right now, foremost in her mind is not wanting them to feel as if they have won. I told her “they can’t have won because they lost you”. My parental advice is simple – take the moral high road.

I try to preach being guided by a moral compass, which is about core values and personal ethics. Taking the high road means you can look yourself in the mirror and be satisfied about the way that you have behaved in difficult situations. It means that you recognise your ability to want to respond reactively with nasty behaviour but consciously choose a different response. The first time I came across the high road was from the lyrics of the Scottish folk song ‘The Bonnie Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond of which the chorus goes like this
Ye'll tak' the high road and I'll tak the low roadʉ۬And I'll be in Scotland afore yeʉ۬But me and my true love will never meet againʉ۬On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond

It’s a bitter-sweet story of lost love and the importance of home and although I never fully understood the song, my very young mind understood that there were two roads and if you took the high one, and another took the low one then I would get to my destination, in this case Scotland, quicker. It was a no brainer then that my first paradigm of traversing the landscape was to take the shorter of the two paths – the low road in order to reach my destination as soon as possible.  There is, of course, a metaphorical and even metaphysical, sub-meaning to the lyrics relating to the journey of life, offering a moral high road and a primaeval low road which is clear to me now, though it wasn’t then.

Throughout my life it seems that road metaphors have been presenting to influence and shape me: from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s tale when Alice comes to a fork in the road and sees the enigmatic Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asks. ‘Where do you want to go?’ the cat replies ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answers. ‘Then’, said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”  I learnt from this that if you don’t know or don’t mind where you are going, any road will take you there;   yet another is illustrated in the meaningful and determining book, Scott W Peck’s classic The Road Less Travelled which champions the old-fashioned values of honesty, hard work, discipline and integrity – hence the title, a quote from poet Robert Frost.

Despite this I still have private wars with myself debating taking the high road or a very low road smattered with signposts along the way saying, ‘fight’, ‘revenge’ and ‘pay-back time’.  Today I am facing one such conflict where my primal instincts to avenge have been ignited making me want to go for my opponent’s jugular, set fire to his house and light matchsticks under his finger nails. Apparently, I am not alone within this response – another great book references such behaviour when the protagonist said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.

In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them”. The good book will tell you that God was speaking of the stiff-necked, rebellious, idolatrous Israelites who rejected Him and incurred His wrath with their wickedness. So, if the Lord Almighty can slip-up and take the low road on occasion, I guess that’s some sort of validation for my own warped thinking from time to time.

Revenge has a sort of therapeutic feel to it – to let off some steam and anger and give someone a taste of their own medicine. It is appealing when you feel wronged to want to level the playing field and get even. But it is such a short-term, lose/lose view. I have been tried and tested on this road and I can tell you it’s bumpy and full of pot holes with no advantages. I was most tested during my divorce which was an ugly affair full of inflated ego, fear and revenge – a deadly mix – with both my self and my ex-wife being on the low-road.

There was just so much pain and suffering with our break up that we could only see one road – retrospectively I wish that I had done that all so differently – she does as well. We are great friends today because we have now mended our fences but in hindsight I recognise the waste and short-sightedness of it all.

We take the low road when we stop thinking, when we react with instinct and not insight. We take the low road when we don’t care about people and we don’t comprehend our connectedness as human beings. It’s true that the high road has less traffic and that when we are on it we often feel the low road is calling but that is what life is about – restraint and discipline and exercising good choices.

It’s a lesson that I have to remind myself everyday and one that I am trying to teach my kids, because at the end of my life I want to be able to say like the poet Robert Frost ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference’. And what advice for my daughter? 'Revenge is a dish best served cold' my darling, so exact yours by just going forward and being fabulous!

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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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