Earth Day!

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If we are ever to halt climate change and conserve land,
water and other resources, not to mention reduce animal suffering,
we must celebrate Earth Day every day – at every meal.
Ingrid Newkirk


 

It is strange that such an event goes unnoticed, so poorly promoted. Yet I think it should be amongst the most important occasions not to celebrate but to meditate about our “Home”, planet Earth. Our home’s address that consists of a single word: Earth.

It is also strange that we are preoccupied about claiming resources on other planets where our own is left forsaken by the same who anticipate how to colonize other worlds. Such a thin excuse to cover what in our own house we are unable to keep things right.

Shall we keep on using our critical resources and leave our own waste and trash moving on to cleaner places and redo the same?

I find it very ironic when many official sources and NGOs promote recycling and the fact of being “green”, they drown us  discoursing about sustainability. Speaking of recycling without proper civic education is in itself a waste of time and energy.

The real sustainability is out of our hands if we do not consider ourselves as part of this sustainable balance. Alas we grant to profit the biggest part and allocate so little to the base foundation of people wellbeing and profit prosperity that is our planet.

Interchanging between people and profit has proven so far that prosperity has not benefit masses, as many populations still suffer from hunger and lack of decent life.

How odd it is that research dedicates many efforts to extend people’s health and life where millions do not have clean fresh water and proper food, not to say they are left starving and lack knowledge that will grant them their autonomy and freedom. Do these technologies care for making some people work longer to grow the profit of the few?

Earth Day is such an important day!
Wishing you to male it yours not just on April 22, but every day we still live on this amazing place we call Earth!

Until our next chat,

Michel ©

 

The Forgotten Language.

 

Blog April 201


 Strange that we all defend our wrongs
with more vigour than we do our rights.
 Gibran K. Gibran
(Sand and Foam)


 According to the site “Ethnologue” site (Ethnologue.com), considered as a trusted source on linguistics and world languages, there are approximately 7100 used (spoken, written,…) languages today amongst the 7 billion people living today.

 There are many regions in this world where populations strive very hard to protect their own language as it refers to their history and legacy. 

 Among all these spoken languages there is one, just one that seems to be missing, or should I say forgotten. Yes that language existed some time ago, the human language.

If each nation is proud to protect and speak her own language, what about human kind who seems to have really forgotten what it is to speak the most exclusive one? The one that does not need years of learning, school attending, grades and tests, its learning starts from the first day we come to life.  Yet the one that is disremembered so easily.

 Whatever country we live in, we are solicited from every source of information. Whether it is daily messages, formal communications, political discourse or social and personal exchanges, the human language seems to be left out. Left out to the benefit of other expressions that progressively dehumanize the essence of our own behaviour.

 The frequent use of comparatives, affirmations and how often negative expressions tend to be the only menu that is served every time we are receiving any sort of information. This tends to be a precarious exposure to a new standard of personal acculturation.

 The use of verbal innuendo became the panacea to seduce people, double meaning is, alas, king. Messages often transmit the form and seldom the substance.

 It is not a matter of syntax or grammar, it is rather how the true meaning of things are transmitted to people. The true nature of things.

 News networks are fondly using sensational expressions, words that will glue us to the screen, from a simple event made a drama, and for a global concern a simple piece of news.

 The scale of values has swung from an extreme to another.  Networks in general seek to wow people so they come back and listen to their daily flow of “things” they present as truth, even if unverified and poorly validated. They have “processed” their audiences to trust their certainties as solid facts. Whom else should they believe when they parse every piece of news with their regular panel of experts who seem to have found all of the answers to complexity and problem solving?

 And if the information appears to be missing accuracy, another event covers the previous and the 24/7 ingestion of what people need to listen and believe goes on.

 I wonder how many people can explain clearly what they understood from a live TV coverage. Sometimes I just keep record of how many times the reporter repeated the same expression under various fashions. It is very disappointing that most important events are so poorly covered. I had a friend who used to say on such situations: “It lacks substance!” Before turning off the TV.

 And yes, substance is all what it is about. Substance mixed with true human attitude.

 Compassion, empathy, are human related expressions. Care, concern, may be considered as  human attitudes. Truth sincerity and clarity,  describe professional and public attitudes.  Aren’t these the fundamentals of human universal language?

 How many times in a day we would use the positive words even to express a negative answer? Don’t we really miss that kind of culture? Let us prevent the actual to become the norm our young ones will learn as the adults of future, our world is really in need for a humanized change.

 Until our next chat,

 Michel ©

 

 

A Book! Creating a Story! A Story about Real Life!

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We are all storytellers, but if we are first storytellers,
and second humans, we run the risk of manipulating
our lives to create a story, rather than living out
our lives and sharing where we’ve been.

Darrell
Vesterfelt (Unblogger)[i]


 The first time someone mentioned I was a “writer” it really made me feel very strange. I never imagined I would be called “writer”. It has been over three years I started blogging for the fun, for myself, mostly because I love writing.

Nevertheless the idea of writing was persistent to the point it haunted my thoughts before I got myself into putting words about stories, these real life stories that happened to me.

From simple events to observations, taking advantage of every day’s commuting to work back and forth, interacting with coworkers in my field, and much more.

I rarely worried about finding a topic to write about. Life is such an amazing place where every second has its own story. My preoccupation being instead answering that essential question of how true my story was, and what it related to things I have lived for real.

I must admit I was very new to the world of digital writing. Most of my teachers during the various courses I attended wrote papers, some had their own blogs, and a few wrote and published books. It seemed to me the bar was too high to consider such activity.

Among the few researches I made, I purchased  a book about blogging, it was “the” trigger for my very first paper. A paper I wrote but never published. That book “Unblogger” by Darrell Vesterfelt spoke of why people would blog or write a book. A very different approach from the lot of many other authors, Darrell spoke about real life events, such events becoming stories he wrote and shared with his audience.. “Unblogger” sparked this entire adventure that has being ongoing since 2011.

One of the most challenging matter I was confronted to: deciding in which language I would like to write.

Living in a bilingual speaking country, I wished to share my papers with both French and English natives. After a couple of articles in French, someone asked me if I would not start writing in English as well.  To my worries about syntax and good writing style, a friend, who is an experienced writer and published author shared her own challenges about writing skills. She said, I remember “Write no matter what! We all do mistakes! You will never know how good or bad it is unless you write and publish your first paper” she then added, “Remember, if your subject is captivating, readers will be tolerant towards your writing” So I did, I did write and I did publish my first paper in English, it was read by 50 people, a couple of positive comments, I had all what it took to go on.

The main difficulty I was facing, and still it is, that regardless of the language I speak and know enough well, my grammatical and writing structure remained French. What a nightmare it felt when rereading myself to find a French translated text. It  lost the entire essence of the meaning. I knew it would confuse readers more than ever.

Back to square one! That is when ones regrets for not paying attention to the English teacher who provided all creative efforts to teach me grammar and syntax. Bless you Mrs. Daphne ! You were so patient with me, I owe you so much, even if I was always late submitting my assignment or being late in your class. I owe you for those little tips you wrote on the margin of my papers (filled with red ink), they taught me a lot, yes, I kept these very preciously since, on a file !

We all need to write, we all need to keep our memory alive. That is what writers do, aren’t they? Writing is first to indulge yourself, have fun. Fame and success can wait, but feeling good about yourself is of essence.

One of the movies & the books that influenced my passion for reading (and after for writing) is definitely Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. How powerful is a book, how more powerful is a writer!

In today’s world we do not write any more, we keep ourselves busy in creating “How to” guidelines and users manuals. If kids learn to read at school it is more to read these guides rather than unleash their imagination, the imagination through writing!

Until our next chat.

Michel ©  


 

[i] Unblogger: Discovering the power of story in a how to world

Where does “Education “stand from “Profit Inc.”?

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If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.
Susan B. Anthony

The add offered a variety of “products” to the high school graduates, then addressing to the “parents” aka the payers, it promoted an “affordable” tuition plan for their “loved” ones aka their “clients”.


No it is neither a joke nor a hoax; it was intending “serious business”. If the text ended there, one would not give it too much thought or concern, but it continued describing the benefits of registering to this university where social, humanistic and citizenship values would accompany students throughout their program, etc. etc. etc.

During my recent visit to Lebanon I met with teachers, students (clients) and parents (payers). To say the truth I knew that collecting education in the country has been one of the most important if not the first source of expenses, I tried to understand what have universities and higher education centers planned to help students to afford such requirements.

I admit I had an idea, but preferred to ask, hoping things did change since the time I used to live in the country.
I found out that things did not get better, worse would be a polite expression, I also discovered how most parents were living a very stressful state of mind as they had to struggle to afford these fortunes that were needed to ensure a good education for their loved ones. I met with people who worked double shifts or two jobs both husband and wife, just to meet both ends and of course pay these “affordable tuition plans”.

Some would say it is the price for ensuring the best for one’s children, and that is true, it is true when at the end of the loop these grads can hope finding a job, completing this entire (expensive) process. The truth, very rare openings can be expected in these days.

So let us recap this simple equation:
– Parents (Payers) work hard and occasionally sell a piece of land or mortgage their house to pay:
– Universities (Businesses) who always have a good explanation for the high cost, who:
– Graduate students (New job seekers)
The morality of this story is that there in none, most graduates leave the country to places where they will and would find a good starter in their professional and personal life!
But wait a minute, what is this country gaining from exporting the best of their future generations abroad? Where are those humanistic principles about “Educare” (The quest for knowledge), where are these plans for the building of a country?

I know there are many reasons why does education cost that much and such reasons would have a true and logical explanation, but aren’t we missing a key factor here? “Public Education” Aha!
Yes, public education seems to have inherited this say that the more expensive education is the better it is! Knowing that some of the top-notch teachers provide their services in both!

My brain tried to solve this flagrant contradiction, trying to share my thoughts with others, getting the inevitable phrase: “That’s the way it is, here!”

Strange times, strange logics, strange educational model! At the end of this unbelievable story, foreign countries should be grateful to admit all set and ready for the work force graduates.
The irony of accepting the: “That’s the way it is, here!”

Until our next chat

Michel J.B. – © 2016
 

Meet Jerry or a Lesson about Human Dignity

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When we deny the poor and the vulnerable
their own human dignity and
capacity for freedom and choice,
it becomes self-denial.
It becomes a denial of both our
collective and individual dignity,
at all levels of society.
Jacqueline Novogratz[i]


This is a true story that occurred today. The name was changed as I promised to Jerry not to divulge his real name, nor his whereabouts.

Jerry is a homeless itinerant, very hard to guess how old he is, yet after listening to his discussion ones knows he’s the kind of guy who’s seen and lived a lot. The circumstances of my meeting with him, unplanned, unexpected yet “never say never” as they say, we did meet.

The place, downtown Montreal (Canada), on St-Denis Street, at a well-known Coffee Shop (BTW they have an exquisite long double espresso with enough “crema” (Italian word for that rich and thick foam) only a professional barista can make. Ladies who ordered a latte had a little extra flower or heart toping the foam of their beverage).

Since I am not working on a regular basis, I go to the downtown rarely, unless I meet with former coworkers for a coffee or lunch, and for my hobby in taking pictures of places, buildings, these objects we care so little to notice, and last but not least I move where the action could happen and be at the right moment the right place to take the picture of the year” kind of thing!
So today was one of these days, and the St-Denis Street was a random choice, I’d say it was the first time I headed this area of my city, especially early in the morning. No shopping malls, or department stores, but many restaurants, pubs, cool places where people enjoy to hang on evenings, in other words the Montreal night life extravaganza! Not to forget the 24/7 coffee shops.

After an hour of taking various pictures, my caffeine crave was badly hitting its lowest level, I had to have some real good coffee.
I easily found the place, to get there you had to climb a couple of steps, I waited out of courtesy for the person in front of me to go in, he held the door, that is when I saw his face and clothing and felt surprised, very surprised to see an itinerant homeless person waling in such a place! We humans, are, at times our own worst enemies, we judge other people by their look, their hair, their clothes, I mean we categorize them according to certain (wrong, very wrong) social criteria and values based on the way they are dressed. When looking at Jerry (that’s his name for the sake of my paper, so guys this Jerry, Jerry these are the people who are reading this story!) I felt the shame rising to my face, as I realized how badly I misjudged the person as he was holding the door with a kind smile for me to get in easily, nodding very politely.

There was a line-up, the place was nicely designed various isles to allow people to enjoy a relaxing moments, the inevitable counters where students could spend long hours glued to their screens, headphones of their ears, you could wonder which planet they were visiting (I wished I could go back to these times of my life *Smiles*).

When Jerry’s turn came, he ordered a latte, a medium latte with an extra coffee shot. The young woman taking orders, whispered the barista that this order was a freebie.

My second cliché reaction surfaced instantly saying it was normal for “these people” to get their order for free, well hello for the humanistic and responsible citizenship I had been an advocate for so many years: I was judging a person in a situation based on appearances but also on accepted ideas (misconceptions) towards people who aren’t the same we are!

I guess the employee lacked discretion as Jerry heard her and said in a well-mannered French denoting this guy was not just well educated but had substance in his syntax and use of proper word, he expressed his disagreement about refusing charity, he also said it was a matter of human dignity to pay for something he purchased. He handed a five dollar bill, and tipped the young lady when getting his change back.

This guy felt obliged to prove to the people in the coffee shop he really earned the money and never begged for it, as we mostly think. That is when I felt how humiliating it must have been to defend himself, should he wore different clothes I’m certain nobody would have cared!

I felt my entire world shrinking to its smallest expression, such a sad scene. Nobody in the shop said a word, but how terrible can be a collective with stern faces all looking at the same person in such a screaming silence! It is sad to note that people who aren’t in conformity to our clichés seem to disturb the order of things, we tend to associate the external appearance to the so-called “standards” we are given in our days.

It was another chapter of my lessons learned not just for the day, I guess for a lifetime!

Jerry and I sat on facing separate tables, he opened the newspaper he took from the stand and after reading some of the headlines asked the manager for a pen and started solving the crossword challenge of the day. I noticed he smiled and laughed when finding the correct word. Not sure if ever someone among the present people ever cared what this guy was doing, he was training his mind and brain to keep on learning (his own way, but what an amazing way). I wonder how many of us who once done with college, keep any kind of learning pace for their own benefit.
Although Jerry needed a haircut, a shower and a change of clothing, he was shining among many others through his courage and will to keep up with his mind and self-esteem.

I engaged some conversation asking if the crossword grid of the day was an easy one, he smiled and said he usually solved it in less than 10 minutes he then said in a lower tone so I could be the only one to hear him “That is why I sit at this table I have the wall clock in front of me so I could time my challenge!” I felt wordless if wordless is enough strong to express the state of mind I was at that moment! I was, and beyond appearances in presence of a great mind, a great human person, someone who kept his own dignity with pride who did all what it takes to protect it.

I could read in his shining eyes that pride in his ability to challenge himself with mind games but also to win his challenges. It was for me time to head back home, so I thanked him for his company when asking permission to take a picture he laughed and said joking “Don’t go and sell it and make profit on my behalf!” We both laughed and I assured him I wanted the picture as a souvenir for this particular moment.

To say the truth, this guy not only made my day but showed me the most amazing lesson about human dignity! A lesson that will be hard to forget.

Until our next chat

© Michel – 2015
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[i] Jacqueline Novogratz is an American entrepreneur and author. She is the founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit global venture capital fund whose goal is to use entrepreneurial approaches to address global poverty. Acumen has invested over $90 million of patient capital in 80 businesses that have impacted more than 125 million people in the past year. Any money returned to Acumen is reinvested in enterprises serving the poor. Currently, Acumen has offices in New York, Mumbai, Nairobi, and Accra.