Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Death of Debate and Discussion

I've decided to put a pause on my usual haranguing of the Nigerian system (and yes, the Black World Order in general) and focus on topical questions  - still in my areas of focus such as human/economic development, renewable energy, political/social reform - that can encourage debate and constructive discussion. The one thing that I continually decry in the black community is the slow death of the debate.
This is something I've observed with my friends both in North America and Africa, as well as with the black communities in North America and countries in Africa. Oh, we meet and we talk, but usually we're shouting over one another and most importantly, we aren't listening to other people's points of view and discussing them in a non-threatening while still critical manner. For our societies to take full advantage of the diversity of thought, energy and drive of the young black professional, these are attributes that we must imbibe and display. If nothing else, we can be an example to those generations who've gone ahead of us.
To those who deride debate and discussion as a "waste of time", choosing instead to follow their "action-packed plans", I say to you - action is important and will be part of the overall educational, social and economic emancipation of the black race (be it in Africa, the Caribbean or North America). However, just as the pen is mightier than the sword, so are debate and discussion over rabid action, which is usually designed to do no more than draw attention to a cause. Where debate and discussion fail is when the true aim of a movement is compromised and subsumed for the sake of an individual or group's selfish interest. In the race for economic and social development in Africa, many technocrats abandoned their ideals and people-oriented plans when presented with fat contracts and juicy appointments. In the race for the social and economic advancement of African-Americans, many community leaders abandoned the needs of their constituents for political offers and distinguished posts - most of which came with the price of silence in the face of economic inequality and social injustice. In the Caribbean, the story wasn't much different.
Far be it from me to suggest that we don't play our roles in nation-building and equipping future generations of people of African descent to take their rightful place in the global polity - I just urge that we continue to debate and discuss the issues that will enable us to achieve the real aims, dreams and hopes of all our kith and kin rather than relying solely on the crumbs handed down from the elite whose interests - at best - are to maintain the status quo.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Should Singular Black (i.e. African) Achievements Be Celebrated?

This morning I received an e-mail which a close friend forwarded to me. I'm guessing she expected me to react positively and with joy. Unfortunately, I found it hard to - not because I didn't celebrate the achievements of the African-American man described in the e-mail, but because I questioned the raison d'etre of the e-mail. I've replicated the e-mail below along with my response...

E-mail Text
" America's High Tech "Invisible Man"

By Tyrone D. Taborn

You may not have heard of Dr. Mark Dean. And you aren't alone. But almost everything in your life has been affected by his work.
See, Dr. Mark Dean is a Ph.D. from Stanford University . He is in the National Hall of Inventors. He has more than 30 patents pending. He is a vice president with IBM. Oh, yeah. And he is also the architect of the modern-day personal computer. Dr. Dean holds three of the original nine patents on the computer that all PCs are based upon. And, Dr. Mark Dean is an African American.

So how is it that we can celebrate the 20th anniversary of the IBM personal computer without reading or hearing a single word about him? Given all of the pressure mass media are under about negative portrayals of African Americans on television and in print, you would think it would be a slam dunk to highlight someone like Dr. Dean.
Somehow, though, we have managed to miss the shot. History is cruel when it comes to telling the stories of African-Americans. Dr. Dean isn't the first Black inventor to be overlooked Consider John Stanard, inventor of the refrigerator, George Sampson, creator of the clothes dryer, Alexander Miles and his elevator, Lewis Latimer and the electric lamp.

All of these inventors share two things:
One, they changed the landscape of our society; and, two, society relegated them to the footnotes of history. Hopefully, Dr. Mark Dean won't go away as quietly as they did. He certainly shouldn't. Dr. Dean helped start a Digital Revolution that created people like Microsoft's Bill Gates and Dell Computer's Michael Dell. Millions of jobs in information technology can be traced back directly to Dr. Dean. More important, stories like Dr. Mark Dean's should serve as inspiration for African-American children. Already victims of the "Digital Divide" and failing school systems, young, Black kids might embrace technology with more enthusiasm if they knew someone like Dr. Dean already was leading the way.

Although technically Dr.. Dean can't be credited with creating the computer -- that is left to Alan Turing, a pioneering 20th-century English mathematician, widely considered to be the father of modern computer science -- Dr. Dean rightly deserves to take a bow for the machine we use today. The computer really wasn't practical for home or small business use until he came along, leading a team that developed the interior architecture (ISA systems bus) that enables multiple devices, such as modems and printers, to be connected to personal computers.

In other words, because of Dr. Dean, the PC became a part of our daily lives . For most of us, changing the face of society would have been enough. But not for Dr. Dean.. Still in his early forties, he has a lot of inventing left in him. He recently made history again by leading the design team responsible for creating the first 1-gigahertz processor chip.. It's just another huge step in making computers faster and smaller. As the world congratulates itself for the new Digital Age brought on by the personal computer, we need to guarantee that the African-American story is part of the hoopla surrounding the most stunning technological advance the world has ever seen.. We cannot afford to let Dr. Mark Dean become a footnote in history. He is well worth his own history book.

My Response
I think that his achievements are amazing, but...why do we always seek out and over-promote black folks who are doing well? Doesn't this make it more obvious that there are many who aren't?
Instead of wondering why he hasn't been given all the "recognition" we feel he's due, why don't we wonder why there aren't more like him?

My Friend's Response to Me
:) simple- if we don't then who will? And that directly impacts how many people like him we generate.

Fact: growing up in a society where most people in positions of power and/or success do not look like you limits an individual's idea of what/who they can be.
This is mitigated by strong families & home life. Unfortunately - those are no longer as prevalent for black children. If we don't tell our own stories we allow society to dictate what is told to our children and who their heroes should be.
That in turn impacts the number that can be more like Dr.Dean.
This is a discussion that I think is worth having, especially in the African community in the diaspora (African-Americans, African-Canadians, Caribbean Americans/Canadians, Afro-Britons, etc) because it may very well contain the key to changing (for the better) the way we view education and success. For too long, the "black" community has chosen to use one-off role models to show the way to the youth when all else fails. I don't believe it's working, so a change in how we seek to motivate our future generations may be overdue.
Now, I don't deny the achievements of Mr. Dean and both the author of the piece on Mr. Dean and my friend made some valid points. I took exception to two things in my friend's response:
 - the notion that kids growing up need to see someone LIKE THEMSELVES in a position of power or influence or prestige for them to desire it
 - papering over the influence of the family and working around that situation instead of through it.
Why? Because I think that's the ultimate cop-out for most black people.

What about the generations of poor rural kids from countries in Africa (using Nigeria as an example) in the 1930s to 1960s who were motivated to excel academically and became world-renowned engineers, doctors and scientists with qualifications from schools like Oxford and MIT? Others were architects of movements to end colonialism and became the founding fathers of their countries. Growing up, I can guarantee that they didn't even hear about (much less see) people like themselves, i.e. African/black, who were at the heights they eventually reached.

Bottom line - A child's success, especially in academics with the mental rigor involved therein, is MOSTLY about the emphasis placed on education by the people in that child's life - family, teachers, friends, etc.

Showcasing those who have achieved is all well and good and may have a minimal effect, but maybe I didn't like the way it came across in the email (despite all he's done, he hasn't been properly recognized, etc). That "whining" almost obscured the true genius of the man and does him a disservice. I'm sure his intent when coming up with those patents was largely for the intellectual gratification he received and not a yearning over global acclaim. What about his fellow inventors - it's not exactly as if we know all the Caucasian or Asian ones!

If I was a young kid who was inclined NOT to go to school and I read that email, I'd probably come away thinking that it WASN'T worth it to go through all that schooling only to end up without the acclaim I thought I deserved.

As long as we continue to over-celebrate the achievements of intellectuals of African descent, we'll continue to expose the stark reality - that there simply aren't enough of them to go around. Let's refocus our energies on ensuring that our youth have the knowledge and tools to become the intellectuals of tomorrow...and it starts with the family unit - we can't run away from that!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Man Died...And so?

Two weeks ago, a man died and there was a minor furor created by the fact that yours sincerely questioned the non-familial people (I think they call themselves ‘citizens’) who mourned that man. That man was the erstwhile President of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Far be it for me to be ecstatic about the passing of a human being from one life to another, but far be it from me to not comment on the unabashed outpouring of support and platitudes which in my opinion were factually baseless, ethically repulsive and frankly, inane.

I understand that as Africans, we place a premium on death - it's one of those things that you don't tamper with, inquire about or joke with. Someone who dies is said to have transcended and thus (perhaps) become a higher being or abodes in a higher (or lower, depending on their standing with God, I’d imagine) place. Typically, all sins are forgiven and all minor achievements discussed in exponential terms once someone dies; even if, as in this case, the nation lives with the effects.
However, I say without equivocation that the masses of Nigeria don’t 'mourn' the passing of any member of our so-called elite. For example, do you think the families hundreds of civilians massacred in cold blood by Murtala Mohammed and his troops in Asaba (circa 1967) mourned his assassination or celebrated it? I wager the latter! If you're in doubt, kindly look up the word 'mourn' in Webster or any dictionary of your choice. So at what point do we "mechi onu" (as the Igbos would say), acknowledge the will of God in such matters and let the real mourners mourn?

Now that I've explained my angle, let's get back to the late Mr. Yar'Adua. You have a leader (indeed, a President) who is dead, so you can well imagine the almost instant deification that was bestowed on his persona. He has been presented to the world - even by his most vocal critics – as a nice, incorruptible “servant leader” whose only crime was that he hung around bad company and had a shrew for a wife. Even Wole Soyinka called him "a tragic figure".

Hey, I get it…

…except it isn’t true.

Paraphrasing the Bible, only by telling the truth can we be set free. Nigerians need to start telling themselves and each other the truth – only then can we make progress as a nation. On that basis, let’s examine each of the adjectives used to describe the late man.

Niceness – Being nice goes beyond a smile and an engaging personality. Being nice also relates to how you treat those around you. I’m sorry for being blunt, but handing your “barely out of their teens” daughters to middle aged men as third and fourth wives is a barbaric practice which is not in the best interest of your children. When those men are mates of yours whom you plan on using to build your political dynasty or extract future benefits from; we are left with a cunning, grasping man whose interest is not in his daughters’ welfare, but his own. Doing it three times indicates inhumanity and selfishness of purpose. Was his wife driving the process? Hmm…who knows? Who cares? Doesn’t the Bible says about marriage - “and the two shall become one”?

Incorruptible – I usually laugh out loud at this one. Other than the fact that his election was a sham (and anyone who had any integrity would have demanded a re-run), this is a man whose assets grew from roughly $600,000 in 1999 to about $6 million in 2007. For those who are too dazed to do the math, that’s a growth of 1000% in 8 years for supposed public official (not including stocks, for those who’ll claim the Nigerian Stock Exchange was going crazy). Yes, you read that right. I know some people hearken to the fact that he “declared his assets” as reason to believe in his incorruptibility, but that thinking is so left-field and myopic that it beggars belief, especially when such people are in the supposed fourth estate (media). Let me ask this question – if a man stole a car 5 years ago and confesses to the car owner 5 years later without returning the car, is he still a thief? I’ll leave that as food for thought…

Servant Leader – If I LOL at his incorruptibility, I ROTFLMAO at this one. The great servant leader who always placed the interest of the country before his personal ambition did not
a) choose NOT TO RUN for office when he was hospitalized for weeks in 2007 during his campaign season,
b) choose to RESIGN from office when he knew that his prognosis was grim and that he was in fact, facing a terminal disease,
c) leave standing orders APPOINTING his deputy in his place or provide provision for the appointment of said deputy in the event of a situation such as in November 2009 when he was rushed abroad.

If our dear servant leader truly believed in the policies of his party, his government and in his hand-picked (or foisted by his godfather, what’s the difference?) deputy, he would have done so. Certainly, the interest of the nation called for that – as evidenced by the political turmoil generated while he was away, the lack of credible government responses to crises (Abdulmutallab, anyone?) and the indecision of matters of state that required urgent action (power, infrastructure development, etc).
We have been witnesses to events in the United Kingdom where Gordon Brown chose to step down as Labour Party Leader (and Prime Minister) in order to give his party a shot at forming Her Majesty’s Government. Why? He believes in the capability of those in this party and in the benefits that his party will provide to the people of the UK. That IS servant leadership!

Bad Company/Wretched Wife/All Other Theories Spun by Sycophants – We’ve heard them all, and they are all baseless. Both scripture and secular life give us guidance in explaining this aspect of Yar’Adua, viz. Bible (by their fruits, you will know them), Secular (show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are).

If Yar’Adua was a ‘good’ man who was simply not strong enough to surround himself with men and women who shared his vision and could help him execute it, then he had no business being the President. In which case, why should I mourn his passing any more than I mourn the passing of the thousands of Nigerians who die on a daily basis because they have no access to healthcare, or because of inadequate security, or because they can’t afford to eat?

On the other hand, if he knew what he was doing, then why do we care?

When we have a leader who is committed to dispensing justice fairly to all and sundry, who is committed to electoral reform to ensure that every vote is counted, who drives aggressive legislation aimed at eliminating corruption in government and business (because then it’ll trickle down to the masses), who is committed to infrastructural and intellectual development so that Nigeria can be equipped to take its rightful place in the comity of nations and who is willing above all, to place the interest of the people above his/her selfish interest; if that leader is called out from this world one day, I and the people will truly mourn.

What are we left with? The man died…and so?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

One door closes, another opens...

My 2-year project is finally over...well, mostly. Transition reports have to be prepared, closeouts of documents remain and thank-yous have to be sent.

The National Society of Black Engineers just concluded it's 36th Annual - and first International - Convention in Toronto, ON last weekend. Yours truly was the Vice-Chair of the planning team for this event and it was both a relief and a drag to have it all end. Overall feedback of the event was excellent, justifying the decision to devote a significant portion of my life over the last 2 years to this project.

I remember when it started...it was just after the 34th Convention in Orlando that I got a call from Ainsley Stewart, a former National Chair of NSBE. I was at a point in my NSBE life where I was disillusioned with the direction of the organization and was looking to permanently "retire". Only a few months before that, I had resigned my position as NSBE International Chair, because I didn't feel that the Executive Board and its staff in Alexandria, VA was committed to the international expansion and/or had the desire to make NSBE a truly international organization.
Mr. Stewart - himself no stranger to the shenanigans surrounding NSBE politics - was considering running for the position of Planning Committee Chair and wanted me to be his tour guide on a one-day trip to Toronto that he planned for the middle of April, 2008. During his trip, we shared some stories and understood that we had similar concerns about the direction of NSBE as well as sharing a desire to make the first International Convention a resounding success. Naturally, I didn't hesitate when he asked me to be his Vice-Chair, and the rest is history.
There were challenges along the way - we had to recruit a team of highly talented team players, yet folks who were independent enough to challenge the status quo; we had to prove that the challenges posed by a visit to Toronto could be easily overcome - in effect, we were doing the research that could torpedo our plans; we had to fight a movement that didn't want to see the Convention in Toronto; and finally, we had to challenge a world economy that collapsed in the fall of 2008, taking with it many of our corporate sponsors and benefactors.
Through it all, the team held tight and made this Convention a success - over 8000 people registered for this event, companies DID hire at the Convention, we had some dynamic speakers, General Sessions were probably the best that I can remember - and the membership enjoyed the feel and vibe of one of the greatest cities on earth.

The experiences garnered from this project were many and I look forward to using them as a springboard for all the other plans and programs I undertake. From people-management to conflict-resolution, budget adjustments to time-management; the lessons were many, sometimes painful but always rewarding.
As a result of this Convention Planning (where I received and sent over 13000 emails in the space of 2 years), I know I can juggle multiple committments at once - after all, I still had my fulltime job (moving into 2 roles and gaining a promotion in that time) and a personal life. I'm excited about going forward and establishing myself in the areas I'm dedicated to - political reform in Nigeria, leadership development in North American inner cities, sustainable development in Africa - and most of all, as the theme of the Convention indicated, I'm ready to engineer a global impact.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Opportunity makes all the difference

There was a question I pondered last week. It's one that has been asked often and by many, but I've never really been impressed with the answers. Not so much because they were wrong per se, but because they didn't produce an "ah ha" moment...they weren't entirely logical.
The question is - why aren't enough kids of African descent in North America excelling academically?

For a long time, some of us have opined that the only way for black kids to excel would be for them to stop viewing athletes and entertainers as role models, and rather look up to teachers, professionals and political leaders. I'm not necessarily moving away from this point of view, but I've started seeing things in a different light.


Because to answer my question, I HAD to look at the world of athletes and entertainers, particularly the former. I did this in a different way, though...

Tiger Woods.

The Williams' sisters.

Lewis Hamilton.

Donovan McNabb.

What do each of these athletes have in common? Not just are they supremely talented and successful, they've been able to succeed in sports that have traditionally been the domain of white athletes. Of course, the sports/positions they excel in - golf, tennis, race-car driving, passing quarterback - are ones that have been classified as those requiring either an above-average IQ or an upper-middle class upbringing. I hope I'm not shattering anyone's illusions when I remark that these two traits are seldom associated with black atheletes  whether true or false. In fact, a middle- to upper-middle class black kid is far more likely to choose the academic path than his/her white peer, but I digress...
While we celebrate the achievements of these athletes and proudly crow about them "breaking the stereotypes" and "proving that we can do anything anyone else can", we forget one fundamental truth - it's not the skill of these atheletes that enabled them to go where no one has gone. It's not because they were more intellectually gifted than other black athletes - as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, nor is it because their parents were rich and provided them with a higher-class upbringing.


All that separates these athletes from those that didn't make, all that separates them from other athletes who've been stereotyped as having more brawn and "athleticism" (I'm not a fan of that word), all that separates them from you and me (yes!) is opportunity. Now, you're probably saying to yourself - what else is new?
Well, get this - how did Jackie Robinson break into the big leagues? Opportunity, not talent - he wasn't the most talented player in the Negro Leagues.
How did you go to university and grad school? Opportunity more than talent. There are many more talented people than yourself who didn't get that opportunity - no matter how smart you are. However, your parents were enlightened and knew the value of education...or if you're of Nigerian descent, society simply demanded it :-)

What am I getting at?

The success of an individual is almost always down to opportunity and the grasping of said opportunity. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an excellent book - Outliers - which explained more specific cases, but the underlying theme was the same. While I wonder why he didn't extend his microscope to understanding more multicultural examples of this phenomenon, I highly recommend his book.

What would Serena and Venus be if they hadn't lived close to tennis courts in Compton?
What would Tiger be like if his Dad didn't have a passion for golf? (cue the lewd jokes...)
What would Lewis Hamilton be if he hadn't used his arrogance and gift of gab to convince Ron Dennis to take him on as an apprentice driver at the age of 12?
What would Donovan McNabb's football career had looked like if he hadn't gone to Syracuse and their pass-happy offense? Likely another black, running (read - athletic, rather than smart) quarterback...

It's all about opportunity, not some innate proclivity for violence, entertainment and playfulness - and we NEED to let the kids know this. Too many times, we approach them as if we are treating hopeless cases, even in the instances where we think we're trying to help. We classify them by simplistic statistics like "high-school graduation rates", rather than encouraging them to reach for the clouds and achieve their potential. We tackle the problem of low SAT scores without understanding the family conditions that led to those scores - the broken homes, the abusive parents, the lack of education on the part of said parents - and therefore ensuring that even if this kid is successful on the basis of our metrics, he or she may never contribute positively to society because they are damaged on the inside.

The truth is that if almost any kid was raised in the family I was raised in, they'd be productive members of society, performing well above average and even more. You had to read in my family, you had to do homework, you had to be in the top 5% or 10% of your class at a minimum - parental displeasure was evident if you didn't!

Let's give kids the opportunity to be successful and in doing so, let's improve the collective worth of the black community in North America, because if there's one thing that's clear - it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the circumstances they find themselves in.

How do you do this?

 - Mentor kids - but when you do, sound like you expect them to excel
 - Challenge teachers who call kids "special needs"
 - Let them look up to sports stars for inspiration - but direct them to focus on the hard work and dedication of those athletes
 - instill "black" or "African" pride in kids. Self-esteem is essential to confidence and excellence
 - stop talking about the "problems" and focus on the "opportunities"

Simplistic, perhaps - but a heck of a lot more logical than all the other explanations defenders of the status-quo - including members of the black community - would have us swallow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What keeps you up at night?

I love the question posed in my title.


I really don't know.

It's one that I started hearing with regularity when I started working for Petro-Canada (now re-christened Suncor after our merger with the "old" Suncor). The head of Petro-Canada's downstream business was fond of talking about opportunity development areas as items that "kept him up at night". I thought that was such a great way to explain what others might term "pains in the a*s" or "who is bringing us down so we can fire them?". It made issues seem not quite trivial, but certainly worthy of being resolved through brainstorming and perhaps a good night's sleep!

So what keeps me up at night?

I think the fear of not being relevant when my life's work is done is what does it for me. This isn't to say that I'm so caught up in my own importance - or lack thereof - that I will ignore any other success I'm part of (if not entirely responsible for), nor does it mean that I won't be happy until I'm as famous as Barack or William Gates...no. However, I have set out certain targets that I would love to accomplish between now and the time I'm 35 and others yet that culminate in my 40th year on this earth. None of the goals are necessarily earth-shattering, but I believe they are relevat, not only to my ego, but also to ultimate good of this world - in particular the African continent and peoples of African descent. I realize this does appear to defeat my ego-less pretentions, but rest assured, my intentions are purely altruistic/nationalistic.

By the time I'm 35, I would like to:
 - work for myself
 - be considered materially successful
 - achieve my dream of social entrepreneurship in Africa and perhaps the Caribbean as well
 - be able to point to concrete, life-saving (or improving) projects that I've been part of

By the time I'm 40, I would like to:
 - work because I want to, i.e. financial independence
 - do some missionary work every year, if I'm so led
 - expand from where I was at 35, vis-a-vis infrastructure development in developing nations

Of course, there are other personal goals which I won't necessarily elaborate on now :-)

I realize that as time goes on, other things - family, kids, health, mortality and the other realities of life are more likely to keep me up at night, I recognize that a time will come when the small pleasures - walking, talking, eating, sleeping - will matter as much as the big dreams...but I'm happy that I'm still at the stage where big dreams are possible, and I look forward to working to make mine come true. In the meantime, I'll keep working on dreaming up the breakthrough :-)

What keeps you up at night?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Change is a good thing

I was assigned to a new role at work yesterday - it's a role I've always wanted, so I can't complain - in addition, it's a clear sign that the company values my skills and abilities. I'm excited about this opportunity. Even if weren't, there's nothing better than a fresh slate, new opportunities and the ability to close the chapter on a productive, but "getting close to stale" segment of one's work life.

I really believe change is a good thing. Folks often counteract that by pointing to firings, divorces and all manner of "within our control" human incidents to prove that the reverse is just as true. But my questions would be:

 - Is your being fired a bad thing because you lost your source of income or is it because you've lost the chance to do something you truly enjoy, desire and cherish? My guess is that the former - more often than not - is the real reason why people are despondent when they are laid off. Generally speaking, the more passionate you are about what you do, the less likely you are to be in a position where those skills aren't being recognized to the extent that you are fired. In this case, I would opine that you are better off being fired so that you can discover your true passions and while, yes, it may be painful for a short while...if marshalled properly, you could end up celebrating a new lease on life.

 - Is getting divorced necessarily a bad thing? I think so...BUT, does that mean that staying in a bad or abusive marriage is better? NO. Sometimes, you come to the realization that far from trying to wonder if the genie can ever go back into the bottle...the genie was never in (or out) of the bottle. The bible talks about not divorcing, but I'm convinced that a wife as a punching bag on a daily basis isn't worthy of that woman's love, not to mention her presence. As such, I'm sure the Good Lord Himself will understand if that lady decides to give herself a few more years on this earth and get out of Dodge. In that case - as in the case where a man's wife verbally or mentally abuses him (it goes both ways, you see...) - while that option is not ideal, it is better than the status quo...and really, isn't it all about putting ourselves in situations where we can improve our collective lot in life?

So what motivated my soliloquy? Nothing really...but I remember the times when I preferred to go home after a long day at work and just be myself - work on some personal projects, visit with friends for a meal occasionally, sleep early, etc. Then over the holidays, I met some fun and interesting individuals - some in person during my trip to Nigeria and at home here in Toronto, some I connected with online, and others just wandered in somehow. All are energetic, purposeful (mostly) and brimming with new thoughts and ideas that inspire discourse and discovery. Now I find myself looking forward to leaving work and actually socializing and extending my evening hours to soak up the possibilities - in person, online, on the phone (gasp!)...it's been phenomenal and it's a good change.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti...can't they catch a break?

One of the motivations for me resuming my blog (other than the aforementioned renewal in clarity) was the recent catastrophe that befell Haiti, otherwise known as the first independent black nation in the world. I didn't shed tears because of the disaster because I was too numb to do so. I didn't get annoyed at the condescending tones used to describe the country by the media and the fat cats in Western capitals because really, what else is new? I haven't even really jumped on the constant tweeting bandwagon to show my support (unless you count my miserly 3 or 4 tweets a day) because let's be honest, only 38 people follow me on Twitter - and half of them aren't active users!

The impact this situation had on me was in form of the question in my title...can't Haiti catch a break?

This is a country with no known industry, with a high rate of HIV/AIDs, a legacy of both bad and corrupt government, a pariah to most nations in the world (even their not-so-great neighbors) and now this? Potentially a quarter of a million lives lost, whatever existing infrastructure destroyed...

Where does Haiti go from here?

After all the aid has been collected, disbursed and spent (and by the way, the aid collected will NOT come anywhere close to meeting even the minimum need of this devastated country), where will this country be left?

Who will help the fatherless and motherless children and ensure they don't slip into a life of crime?

Who will rebuild schools and hospitals - and not just take them back to their pathetic pre-earthquake state, but actually make them functional?

Who will ensure that clean water is available AFTER the international media loses interest in this story (as surely they will) so that disease doesn't spread to epidemic proportions?

As we scramble to help this nation - and the outpouring has been admirable - let us remember that the real impact of this disaster isn't the human tragedy we see unfolding now, but that which will undoubtedly arise in a year...and certainly in ten. Let us volunteer our time, effort and skills to make sure that the people of Haiti have a plan in place for the future, not just for today. As much as food, clothing and shelter are necessary for the short-term healing of Haiti, infrastructure development is what will be their long-term salvation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wow...it's been a while

Okay, I'm going to stop pontificating on my blog-writing laziness. It'll happen when it happens. Actually, I've done a few writeups in places like Facebook and on countless web portals and "communities". I'll just dredge them up!

In the past I mentioned looking for a specific train to hitch my blog to...I wanted to focus on a few things rather than spray my considerable powers of thought (ok, that was a bit much) over many.

Over the holidays - spent in the humid and chaotic climes of Lagos, Nigeria (more on that later) - I've formalized some of those. The developing world (in particular subsaharan Africa) is in dire need of stable, effective leadership AND infrastructure development. My passions lie in these areas and so will this blog.

Welcome back.