Blogging for a Cause

May 12th, 2009

If you’re going to blog, why not blog for a good cause?  That’s exactly the thinking behind this initiative and why I’m writing this post about the wonderful and important work that Global Voices Advocacy does.  An offshoot of the amazing Global Voices Online, which basically is the go-to aggregator for blogs all over the world that may not otherwise be heard, the site Advocacy arm focuses much-needed attention on building “a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists throughout the developing world that is dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and free access to information online.”

And in a world – particularly parts of the developing world – where processes that ensure freedom of speech are either non-existent or people are intimidated into keeping silent, this is important work.  Because the world belongs to its people.  Not governments.  Not corporate entities.  Not authorities.  People.  Including those – no, especially those – who may not otherwise have had a voice.

Which is why I’m voting for Global Voices Advocacy in this innovative campaign.  This blog post is part of Zemanta’s “<a href=”http://www.zemanta.com/bloggingforacause/”>Blogging For a Cause</a>” campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

If you have a cause you care about, or wish to join me in supporting Global Voices Advocacy, and you blog (or tweet), it might be worth your while writing a post about it too!  Remember – you can make a difference!

Stupid is as stupid does

January 13th, 2009

Are we seriously, unabashedly and mind-numbingly this stupid?

First we are told that the “old” Piarco airport (you know, the one that was abandoned in favour of the new multi-million dollar “barn” design) would be refurbished for the sole purpose of processing the arriving dignitaries for the Fifth Summit of the Americas – a gala affair for which there was also talk of leasing 200 BMWs for use by heads of state during the 3 days of the summit. Because of course, it would be gauche to expect the upper crust to go through the same Customs and Immigration areas as the rest of us Plebeians, just as it would be unreasonable to expect them to be shuttled around in buses. I mean, where’s the wisdom in that? 200 more vehicles on the road adding to the traffic congestion makes much more sense than minibuses that can transport greater numbers of people using a smaller footprint.

They finally saw the light on that issue, but common sense, as my father used to say, is not that common. The next summit-related controversy was the erection of the Wall of Shame to block the festering sore that is Beetham Gardens. Because of course the money that is being poured into making Port of Spain “look good” for these three days of meetings wouldn’t change anything in the Beetham if it were used instead to fund community programmes and skills-building workshops. Our priorities are so skewed it’s heartbreaking.

And then there’s the icing on this rapidly falling cake. The bright idea that – wait for it – trees (yes, TREES surrounding the airport in which the summit attendees will not be arriving) pose such a security risk that they are all being sawed to the ground with great alacrity. Does anyone in this country think of long-term repercussions before they act? Or even short-term for that matter? Part of the summit’s agenda is to discuss environmental sustainability – does the ridiculous irony of this strike no-one but me? And does cost not factor into the equation either? Surely, in the face of a global economic crisis, cordoning off the relevant areas (or even stationing security personnel at the trunk of every tree) will be astronomically cheaper than hiring tree-cutters.

Oh…and one more thing. When Barack Obama takes office on January 20th, he will likely be the most targeted President in US history – and I’m willing to bet that all the trees around the White House (and, as a matter of fact, trees that may line his path on any of his travels) will remain intact.

Call for Rising Voices Proposals

December 23rd, 2008

Global Voices has two key arms that are doing magnificent work. Rising Voices, which handles citizen media outreach, is now accepting project proposals for microgrant funding of up to US $5,000 for worthwhile media outreach projects.

The idea is to fund projects that teach citizen media techniques to communities that need to be heard, but do not have the tools at their disposal to learn about blogging, video-blogging, and podcasting on their own. If you have an idea for such a project, start working on your proposal now – the deadline for submission is January 18th.

Previous projects have accomplished wonderful results – check out a few of them here, including the awesome FOKO from Madagascar, Colombia’s HiperBarrio, Nari Jibon, Repacted from Kenya, Voces Bolivianas and an outstanding initiative from Jamaica called Prison Diaries.

Rising Voices is changing the world – and the blogosphere – one project at a time. The next project could be yours, so get busy! Apply here and apply now!

Donate to Global Voices

December 22nd, 2008

In a world riddled by division and intolerance, there is an ever-evolving, shining example of how we can actually live. Global Voices. Started as a simple blog in 2005, GV is now a global family of more than 150 active volunteer authors and translators and more than 20 part-time regional and language editors. GV stories can now be read in a whopping 21 different languages and the organisation also does sensational work in advocacy and in extending the reach of citizen media to communities that most desperately need to be heard.

I became part of the Global Voices online community in 2006 and still never cease to amazed by the stories we cover, the voices we amplify and the bridges we help to build, simply by being committed to the concept of constructive discussion.

For all of us who have benefited from GV’s clear and reliable coverage in order to better understand global issues, it’s our turn to help. To keep the conversation going, Global Voices needs donations and they’ve made contributing very easy – just follow the instructions here.

I do hope that you’ll donate to this worthy and important cause. I know I will.

Limited Thinking

October 30th, 2008

So I’m line waiting to pay my phone bill when two elderly, middle-class gentlemen join the queue and begin to chat.

Fellow #1: So how are you? You good?
Fellow #2: Good, man.
#1: You keeping healthy? Exercising?
#2: I getting plenty exercise dealing with the illiterates in this country. (Proceeds to refer to specific government agencies that are not providing him with his preferred level of service).

The conversation meanders somewhat, turning to politics, the state of the country and eventually, statistics that were apparently released (I say “apparently” because I have not seen these statistics myself) on the poor academic performance of secondary school students. (It was a long line).

#2: Do you know that X percent of students are failing Maths and English? Maths and English! (He repeats himself for emphasis). The two most important subjects there are. (Then, somewhat derogatively…) Not Art, not History, not Cooking! This is why this country will never go anywhere.

Uh-huh. So the solution to Trinidad and Tobago’s downward spiral is to create a society of people who excel in Maths and English. As a people we apparently don’t need a creative outlet (tell that to the thousands who play Carnival every year); we have no need for history because we already know where we’re heading (nowhere fast) and we can survive by eating our very carefully pronounced words. It’s not that I don’t recognise the importance of those two subjects in daily life, but I do not accept that everyone must excel academically in order to add value as a citizen. Is there no room for the artist? The musician? The chef? The welder? The craftsman? The farmer?

I was just about to say to Gentleman #2 that this kind of limited thinking does much more to contribute to our lack of direction as a society than an insufficient grasp of Maths and English – but being an average mathematician, I quickly worked out the equation in my mind:

New perspective + Ignorance = Waste of Time.

And being an English speaker, when the cashier said, “Next!”, I proceeded to move forward and pay my bill.

That US Presidential Race

October 30th, 2008

So we all know that politics is a game. But bear with me for a moment and let’s compare politics with sports. You’re a swimmer. Or a track and field sprinter. You’re in the home stretch. The finish line is so close you can almost touch it. What do you do? A smart athlete – a well-trained one – would keep his eyes on the prize and concentrate on running his own race. But what is McCain doing? He’s continuously looking over at the other lane, more concerned about the competition than he is about raising the level of his own performance. Such a tactic not only demonstrates a lack of self-confidence, it loses races. Athletic and presidential.

Besides which, McCain’s questioning of “whether this (Barack Obama) is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the other great threats in the world” is probably not the most advisable political path to follow. W, to whom McCain lent his support the overwhelming majority of the time, leaves, as part of his dubious legacy, the fallout from the 9-11 attacks on America. Can anyone forget how he continued to listen to that students’ reading for what seemed like forever after hearing the news of the attacks? And then waged war on Iraq, despite repeated confirmation from UN weapons inspectors that there were no “weapons of mass destruction” to be found and that Saddam Hussein’s regime had nothing to do with September 11. And to add insult to injury, never managed to find the real perpetrator of the attacks, despite threats of “smoking him out” from his cave. Followed, quite fittingly, by McCain’s promises to “follow Bin Laden to the gates of Hell.” So, really – who’s the candidate that Americans should be more concerned about when it comes to homeland security? The “experienced” maverick who can’t catch the outlaw despite two terms of his party being in office, or the “green” senator who intends to tackle foreign relations the smart way – by sitting down and discussing things?

If I could vote, you know where I’d be casting my ballot.

When Television was Television

October 29th, 2008

The local television industry has lost one of its founding fathers. God speed, Uncle John. It was a pleasure to have known you.
John Trevor Barsotti: October 24 1937 – October 24 2008.

Flashback

October 24th, 2008

The air is different this morning. It’s not the still, humid, slightly oppressive atmosphere we’ve become accustomed to during this long, intense rainy season. Which is not to say that the wet season hasn’t brought its usual abundant blessings. The hills are emerald green, lush with possibility. Wet season is the harbinger of hope that leaves you awestruck by the simplest of miracles – a ripe tomato on a stem, or the glimpse of a butterfly as it flits through flowering hibiscus. Rain, especially the kind of loud, large droplets that are the signature of tropical climes, is beautiful to me: the entire landscape is suddenly covered in a silver gauze that cleanses and makes new. But grey skies coupled with dim newspaper headlines can weigh a little heavy over time.

I’m not sure whether Trinbagonians notice the change in the social climate; it’s crept up on us rather surreptitiously. We are a warier people, slower to offer a helping hand or even a casual “good morning”. We’ve almost become the antithesis of all things “Trini”. We’re less spontaneous, less friendly, more cynical. And sadly, we’re becoming accustomed to the winds of change.

But not this morning. Today, there’s a crisp coolness in the breeze, a lightness of being, almost. It’s fresh and friendly. Like “long-time” Trinidad. The craftsmen working on our neighbour’s gate gave me a “hail out” as I passed, as did our friend from next door. The sky is a distinctive shade of Caribbean blue. Birds are chirping. Orange butterflies chase each other through the bushes. I keep my eyes peeled for a majestic Blue Emperor; I know it’s there, hiding behind places we don’t think to look. I want my country to wake up to her own beauty. The audacity of hope.

Are the Republicans Serious?

September 29th, 2008

A snippet from Katie Couric’s recent interview with Sarah Palin:

Couric: You recently said three times that you would never, quote, “second guess” Israel if that country decided to attack Iran. Why not?

Palin: We shouldn’t second guess Israel’s security efforts because we cannot ever afford to send a message that we would allow a second Holocaust, for one. Israel has got to have the opportunity and the ability to protect itself. They are our closest ally in the Mideast. We need them. They need us. And we shouldn’t second guess their efforts.

Couric: You don’t think the United States is within its rights to express its position to Israel? And if that means second-guessing or discussing an option?

Palin: No, abso … we need to express our rights and our concerns and …

Couric: But you said never second guess them.

Palin: We don’t have to second-guess what their efforts would be if they believe … that it is in their country and their allies, including us, all of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe them off the face of the earth. It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth. That’s not a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States, in my world, those are the good guys.

Scary. Not only does she stick to a position she clearly cannot defend, but all those years of “foreign policy experience” (thanks to Alaska’s geographic proximity to Russia) are based on who “the good guys” are in “her world”. Well, the world is bigger than Sarah Palin and her views.

One caveat before I continue: I hold no illusions that arriving at peace in the Middle East is a simple undertaking, nor do I consider myself an expert on the crisis. But is this really who the Republicans are suggesting as the second-in-command to the “leader of the free world”? Shouldn’t the role of a “superpower” be to set the example? Instead of taking sides and perpetuating the cycle of violence, peace brokering should be the top priority in the Middle East. I’d hate to think that Palin, champion of the unborn, values the life of an Israeli child over a Palestinian one. Both sides suffer in a conflict like this. Grief isn’t reserved for the “good guys”. Differences do not make people evil. At least that’s how those of us with a bigger world view operate. But there’s more…

Couric: In preparing for this conversation, a lot of our viewers … and internet users wanted to know why you did not get a passport until last year. And they wondered if that indicated a lack of interest and curiosity in the world.

Palin: I’m not one of those who maybe came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and say go off and travel the world. No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of, I guess, that culture.

Uh-huh. So the only “culture” Palin really knows is that of the good old U.S. of A. Makes you wonder where the rest of the world stands if the McCain/Palin ticket actually makes it to the White House.

Interesting

May 29th, 2008

Came across this post today by Bahamian blogger Larry Smith. In examining the escalating crime rate and the higher incidence of violence among the country’s youth, he writes:

As former Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce chief Chris Lowe says: “Our laws have worked well in the past, but seem not to work today. The laws have not changed, nor have the rules governing the police and courts. So what has changed? Something must have changed.”

His answer? Today there is rule by political and personal favour rather than by law: “And it follows that, if we observe our leaders ignoring the law, why then should we ordinary citizens observe the law? And if we no longer possess any standards, anarchy follows – not in one fell swoop, but in an ever accelerating progression right before our very eyes.”