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Winds Of Change

I spoke last week about some signs of gradual easing of Lockdown restrictions in many parts of the world. People used to complete freedom of movement are now rattling their chains of confinement and putting pressure on governments if not to completely lift restrictions, then to provide a timetable for the phased easing of regulations.

Here in Botswana, where infection rates are low, HE President Masisi this week unveiled just such a plan, though full details are yet to be released; whilst in several European countries there are rumblings of discontent from the virus detainees about when they might reasonably expect to be released for good behaviour.

Well the Bible tells us that for every thing there is a season and this disruption will be no exception. But it will leave behind a myriad of unexpected consequences. Take pets, for instance. Veterinarians have warned of severe mental consequences to the lifting for the mental health of pets in general but dogs in particular.

It is a well known syndrome that dogs can and do suffer from boredom and loneliness if their owner is out at work most of the day. There are apocryphal stories of those owners coming home to find ripped up curtains and sofas, mess on the floor and general mayhem caused by their dog running amok whiles they were out earning an honest buck, though those animals are the exception, not the rule. Most become accustomed to a quiet, empty house during the day, hence the enthusiastic greeting when their master or mistress comes back home.

But recently the situation has changed. Owners appear to have stopped this bad habit of disappearing from nine to five and have realised that they need to stay home and pay their pet more attention. They have seen the error or their ways, come to their senses and finally got their priorities right. To use an old adage, the owners’ lives are now a month of Sundays, home very day where they belong, making sure of regular exercise with walks to the local park and keeping themselves fit and healthy with stick and ball throwing and such like.

Well, that’s how it appears in the eyes of the dog, anyway. So, you can imagine how it will seem when owners suddenly relapse after Lockdown and go back to their bad old ways. Out of the house as soon as they’ve downed their morning coffee, shooting off in the car, out all day gallivanting again, only bothering to come back early evening for a quick wash and brush up, then out to the cinema or the restaurant with never a second’s thought for poor Rover or Fifi, abandoned once more.

Vest are predicting a wave of doggy depression following the easing of restrictions with some very confused pooches wondering what they did to deserve the desertion this time, just when they thought the relationship was back on track and going so well. But not in any way to downplay the seriousness of canine mental health, all over the world there have been positive and unforeseen consequences of global locked-down syndrome.

Cleaner air and increased visibility

Cleaner air has perhaps been the single greatest positive effect of the lockdowns on the environment. Citizens in Northern India are seeing the view of the Himalayan mountain range for the first time in their lives, due to the drop in air pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus lockdown. Those living in Jalandhar in northern Punjab have shared pictures of the mountains from rooftops and empty streets, amazed by the view which has been hidden by pollution for 30 years.

Cities across the world have seen pollution levels plummet as people have spent less time in vehicles, offices and factories. Reductions in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide have been Europe, with cities including Paris, Madrid and Milan all seeing a reduction in average levels of nitrogen dioxide from March 14-25, compared with the same period last year, according to new satellite images. The images, released by the European Space Agency, show the changing density of the harmful gas – which is emitted when fossil fuels are burnt.

Clearer water

In Venice, famous for its winding canals, water quality appears to have improved amid Italy’s stringent coronavirus lockdown. Residents in the city have said the waterways are benefiting from the lack of usual boat traffic brought on by the hoards of tourists who visit each year.

Emptied of the usual array of motorboat taxis, transport and tourist boats which clog the canals, there has reportedly been a sharp improvement in the clarity of the water, thought to be linked to a reduced amount of sediment clouding the waterways, with muddy canal floors no longer being churned up. The change has reportedly offered locals clear views of shoals of small fish, crabs and multicoloured plant-life – sights often obscured by busy boating movement in the Lagoon.

Liberated wildlife

Wildlife elsewhere has also taken the opportunity presented by deserted suburban streets and city centres to venture out and explore. In Barcelona, Spain, boars have been spotted along the city’s normally bustling avenues, snuffling and trotting around where vehicles once jostled for position.

Meanwhile in Chile’s capital, Santiago, a wild puma was captured after being found wandering around the city’s deserted centre during a night-time curfew, having ventured down from nearby surrounding hills. “This is the habitat they once had and that we’ve taken away from them,” said livestock director, Marcelo Giagnoni.

Similarly In Northern America, orcas have also been encouraged to explore, with locals reporting spotting the majestic whales in parts of a Vancouver fjord for the first time in decades. And deer in Nara, Japan, have been on the move. With the park they inhabit devoid of tourists and the food they supply, small herds have been venturing into the city, nibbling on ornamental flowers and plants.

Even here in Botswana, local baboons have been quick to note the lack of traffic on the road and are taking full advantage of the safer conditions to roam further and wider in search of food which they normally scavenge from discarded fast-food containers and skips. As another old English adage goes, ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good’. It is, in fact, quite literally a breath of fresh air.

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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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