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Change Course

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I begin today with an extract from an anonymous poem printed in an English newspaper in the nineteenth century (Hampshire Advertiser – Saturday 29 August 1857).  The poem is entitled ‘A Change is As Good As A Rest’.

Ye sturdy old sons of the soil,
Who work through the day with such zest,
'Tis little ye have beside labour and toil;
But little of change or of rest.
That porter just over the road,
Of this bit of knowledge posess'd,
From shoulder to shoulder is shifting his load -
A change is as good as a rest.

That student, in sciences deep,
(With time's sterling value impress'd)
Now turns to My Novel, not thinking of sleep -
A change is as good as a rest.
That merchant gets up with the lark,
His duties are aught but a jest;
These over, he rides with his son in the park -
A change is as good as a rest.

My wife, in the kitchen below,
For dinner provideth her best,
Then crochets a nightcap for "dear little Flo" -
A change is as good as a rest.
Mark I then, fellow-mortals around,
All ye who would wish to be blest,
Much wisdom in this simple phrase may be found -
A change is as good as a rest.

The phrase ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is an old English proverb which came to mind this week when a colleague from a client company announced happily that he was about to leave for Johannesburg where  he would be attending a 3-day management course.  He looked very pleased at the prospect and when pressed merely smiled and said ‘Just to get out of the office’.

I think we can all empathise.  As much as we may love our work,  there are days when it can appear humdrum and bit same ol’ same ol’.  I’m lucky enough to work in an industry which offers new adventures and opportunities quite routinely, meaning that there’s no such thing as an entirely typical day. 

Yes, there is structure and formatting but there are many tools in my work box which keeps the function fresh.  In addition, my profession is by its very nature people-oriented and  every human being is an individual with unique skill sets, personality, problems, aspirations and background.   On the other hand, running a company also deals out a large serving of deadly dull administration but that could be viewed as the change that’s my rest – so in a very real way for me, each day throws up a new challenge of one sort or another.  

The ‘change’ here is not necessarily referring to time off in the form of leave days.  Holidays certainly offer up  the chance of rest and relaxation but annual leave is often restricted in many organisations.  Some indeed have enforced leave periods linked to annual shutdowns, often at peak holiday times such as Christmas when holiday booking prices and travel rates are higher and less affordable; and to those with large families trips away are often out of the question due to financial constraints.

On the other hand, just taking a break from the workplace can be refreshing in itself.  Time to read that book that’s been sitting neglected on the shelf   because you’re too tired to read it at the end of an exhausting day, time maybe to fix the bookshelf it’s sitting on, a job you’ve been putting off for ages for the same reason.  Then again, if you edit or publish books for a living, your idea of a complete change might be a box set television binge or a marathon weeding and planting session in the garden.

Going back to the poem, it’s clear that the author is not advocating  indolence per se- it was, after all, penned in the Victorian era of honest toil and the concept that the ‘devil makes work for idle hands’!   To the poor ‘sons of the soil’ in the first verse – agricultural workers in modern parlance, he (or she) offers sympathy but no respite;  To the porter in verse 2, the job offers only the opportunity to shift the load from hand to hand – not much of a change there; 

But the student is encouraged to put away their academic tomes and read a novel before bed;  The merchant to jump on a horse for a pleasure ride with his son;  And his wife obviously takes enjoyment from a little crochet work after the household chores have been taken care of.  Simple pleasures all and of their time but the principle remains as valuable today as it was then.  Substitute an hour in the gym for the ride in the park, any modern craft for crocheting and an hour on the computer for the stressed-out student you have our new millennium equivalent.

And of course there is the workplace itself where we spend such a large proportion of our weekday lives.   Large global corporations are increasingly designing flexible workspaces for employees with hot desks, communal collaboration areas and even play spaces comprising sporting facilities, sleep areas, and snack bars.

Consider this company called Atlanta Tech Village (ATV),  housed in a a 5-story building dedicated to tech start-ups including  Moxie Sports, Yik Yak and Salesloft where business owners have their own private office.   In the lobby there is a huge break room complete with couches, ping-pong table, foosball table, two 72-inch TVs for video games, two kegs of beer and a kitchen full of snacks and drinks.

CEO Jerry Slutzky insists the break rooms are not a distraction. “It aids to production,” he says.

“If you can escape and go play some ping pong or whatever it is…do it! An individual needs a certain amount of mental breaks throughout the day,” 

One study from Healthy Decide shows that a little distraction can even be good for your brain. In this digital era, when staring at a computer screen, a 15 second break taken every ten minutes decreases fatigue by as much as 50 percent.

Such radical workspaces are uncommon hereabouts, though some local organisations are coming round to the concept of more open planning and fewer offices and closed doors.  In the meantime, however, there’s always the possibility of a short training course in Jo’burg, bringing in mind another wise old English proverb – ‘out of sight, out of mind’!

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Columns

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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Columns

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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