Friday, 21 November 2008

You have been tagged

I have been tagged by Asif who authors Life as I know it. Basically the tagging thing is a way to promote the (seven) blogs you like by mentioning their names in your blog. Being tagged also means that you have to share 7 random facts about yourself. So here it goes…

1. I have had five different surnames. And I might even go for the sixth one day soon.

2. I have moved house 43 times and been to 36 countries

3. I am in love, like never before

4. I can't stand chutney

5. I auditioned for the X factor a couple of years ago

6. I live in a small village opposite a pub

7. I have size 11 feet

OK, so one of the above isn't true.

Now it’s time to name seven of my favorite blogs.

Nomad (not me - another one!)

Thanks Asif!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Change or a Shift?

“Americans vote for Change” is the headline since Barack Obama made history last week. Which got me thinking. Just in my lifetime I have seen the arrival of the internet and mobile phones (even my ten year old has one), of a female Prime Minister in Britain (although I would like to distance myself from that “achievement”!) of a War on Terror and so called “global threats”. I have seen the IRA murder innocents in my country and I have seen too the conflict in Northern Ireland come to rest. My former flat mate used to keep a crumbling piece of the Berlin Wall in his bedside table and I have my own wonderful memory of myself, heavily pregnant, queuing in Trafalgar Square outside the South African Embassy together with the voters who delivered the first black President of South Africa (hahaha - my former father-in-law had said “thet will never hapin”).

But on a minute level change is a part of life, part of every moment. When I look out of the window across the road to the public house and the trees beyond glowing orange in the autumn sunshine, I do not see a static, dead world. I see a world where leaves are growing (or falling), grass is moving, wind and elements eroding paint from the pub wall, the car parked on the drive is very slowly corroding, and Steve, the pub landlord is becoming older (whether he likes it or not).

Life is a fluid thing, and how we are influenced and what we believe as we go through life changes along the way. I used to not like olives, I used to think the military was quite sexy, I used to only wear black, I used to be pretty intolerant of religion. What interests me is not change, but a global shift of consciousness – which is what I think this Obama fellow is all about.

Change is inevitable. It is The Shift which is remarkable. So be part of it.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Peace Day Awards

Today is a special day. It is International Day of Peace, but it is special for another reason – those that are close to me know why. A Gaelic Blessing for some special twins:

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep Peace of the flowing air to you,
Depp peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the gentle night to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you,
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you,
Deep peace of the One who is Light of the World to you.

Moved to tears I was today, as the spirit of the Lord was upon me (not in a Samuel L Jackson kind of way). Only one man was missing.

So on to business on this day of days. I promised an award. And without a shadow of a doubt first prize goes to Carl in Spain. Not simply for his account of his time in Sri Lanka – a place of course dear to my heart after a three years stint 2000-2003, but on account of Carl’s eloquent contributions on the BC discussion boards. So top Blogel Peace Prize goes to him.
But I haven’t finished there. Per chance I was awarded a Blogging Friends award from another favourite this week. Hanifa from Singapore. I am encouraged to nominate four of my favourites.

The task is easy. Carl, Hanifa, you are up there (although I have to confess Carl, I have NO idea what you are on about most of the time. For me Serendipity means only one thing – that wonderful island that you and I know). Hanifa, I am blessed that you have reached out to me. I commend you in return. For those of you unaware, Hanifa aka Hello Annie is a diverse well travelled linguist, who blogs about language. As I am about to add French to boost my smatterings of useless languages, I found her an inspiration.

The other two are also clear winners for me. Alex in India (although I kinda know that isn’t really his name) and I have been BC pals a while. For some reason he seems to follow my every move, comment on my every blog, not only that - he is articulate and funny himself – and rattles a few cages from time to time.

And Tony. No, I am not being a creep. The owner of Blog Catalogue doessn’t HAVE to care, but he does. He has developed Bloggers Unite and clearly has a conscience. He didn’t think twice about supporting the Blog 4 Peace campaign, and I do enjoy the clear simple blog he runs. check out his simple words on being an entrepreneur – very poignant for me at the moment.

So to recap:

Little pink bear – sometimes known as Alex

And here is a list of links to other BC bloggers who have taken part in Peace day. Thank you so much for your support!

And of course all those I haven’t mentioned who have linked and blogged – many thanks. I am sure I will report more on it in coming days.

Shamelessly mine own
My path to peace in Iraq two years ago

Apparently those I have nominated have to pass it on. Yes I guess it’s a chain letter, but a very nice one. You have to nominate an award to:

1. A máximum of five bloggers
2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog
3. One has to be someone new or recently new to your blog and live in another part of the world
4. You must link back to whoever gave you the award

Monday, 15 September 2008

International day of Peace - 21 September 2008

Fellow bloggers, why not Blog for Peace this Sunday?

And Dont' Forget to TXT 4 PEACE!

Or send a postcard - For more visit the UN peace day site.

"International Day of Peace is also a Day of Ceasefire – personal or political. Take this opportunity to make peace in your own relationships as well as impact the larger conflicts of our time. Imagine what a whole Day of Ceasefire would mean to humankind."

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The Reverend Nomadic discusses Ramadan

My summer recess is over and I am back. A warning to those expecting a tight piece of written work from me this evening – I am liable to ramble on a bit as I skip through civil war and onto true love, passing through a Muslim festival en route. Not quite Kerouac, but largely unedited and helped with a large glass on red nonetheless. After prompting a discussion on the Blogcatalg discussion boards about Ramadan, my fellow bloggers have asked me to blog about it. What does Ramadan mean to me, as an uber-nomad who has lived amongst Muslims? Hmmm, with respect and peace be upon you all, I am not a follower of Allah – it doesn’t ring my bells. Those close to me who are, show signs of increased compassion and thoughtfulness, but also fatigue and a quiet distance akin to a hangover. I will point you randomly in the direction of my favourite Muslim blogger, Hanifa.

I can, however tell you what fasting and contemplation mean to me – which play their part in Ramadan. Fasting, as I get it, is about giving up something generally taken for granted and an observation of what is to follow. I sometimes fast for a couple of days at a time. It focuses the mind, and cleanses the body. I am usually at my most inspired and creative following a period of abstinence.

Contemplation is probably even more boring for you to hear about. It is a reassessment of my position in life, and most importantly, this year it has meant some important changes. Ramadan is an appropriate time to announce my plans to launch an organisation that promotes non-violent resolution of conflict (using media and arts). Sound a bit hippy? I am fairly determined to make this as dynamic as it has to be. Never before has it felt so right. As with a lot of things in my life at the moment, not least the true love for a Land Rover 90 and the man set to drive her.
So in contemplating peace I got to thinking about a country I stopped in for a good three years and got to know better than most – Sri Lanka. I am not about to give my views on the complex civil war that has engulfed the island for over two decades, killing over 70,000 people. OK, well I might hint at it. I won’t take sides though, I can see both arguments – as distorted and distressed as they are. I do refuse to buy into the demonising of the Tamil Tigers thing. Their violent murderous crime is well catalogued, but perhaps what isn’t, is their ability to protect and give order amongst a chaos brought about by an oppressive government (which I witnessed first hand in 2003).

This is not simply about fighting terrorists as Ravindra Wickremasinghe seems to think in the Asian Tribune this week. In Afghanistan last month I was told that “anyone could become a Taleban in the eye of a foreigner”, then I guess any Tamil could become a terrorist in some eyes. Careful.

I was thinking about Sri Lanka when a friends Facebook status informed me that he was once again displaced. I found out he had left the island of Sri and Serendipity and headed where many have headed - to another much larger island full of strange creatures such as wombats. During the ceasefire a few years ago, I travelled with this friend to Jaffna and the north and saw the places he grew up in shattered by what Lankans loving call “the problems”. His departure from Sri Lanka is as significant to me as the assassination of my friend in Basra last year. A hope extinguished. One less ray of sunshine in a difficult place.

So, (she says in her best Radio 4 voice), thought for the day is to consider all those who tonight are not where they want to be. Those who are apart from their lovers (a-hem). Removed from their children, or displaced from their cherished homelands (for whatever reason). Or, like the blogger Mohammad Erraji, away from their families (because he is in prison in Morocco).

I am beginning to sound like Reverend Nomadic. My summer was filled with wine and good times, and I have much to think about, so a fast may be long overdue to bring me back round. So, a Ramadan Mubarak to you all. And most importantly may peace be upon you.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Without Wisdom

I can't believe it has been so long since I last posted. Clearly I am completely void of wisdom for the moment and taken up with public diplomacy and travel.
Once I recover from a month in France I will write something terribly clever about "change". In the meantime here is a picture of my cat, Mkya Ntini, who is by far the wisest creature in this house hold at the moment.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

How Nomadic became Jaine

Last night a wood pigeon was torn from its haven up my chimney by the claws of my part Bengal feline beast. Blood, feathers and screams from the children filled the room like some Tarantino take on Santa. The cat was sent to Coventry and sulked in the gardens with sooty paws, whilst I set about making life changing decisions for the pigeon and clearing the bird crap from my fireplace.

Let’s go back 18 months. On divorcing my non compatible other half I was considering surnames. I was certainly NOT going to keep the surname of a white South African oppressor (which had caused me much agro born out of wild assumption for the past 14 years). The name I was born with (and oddly rarely used due to the separation of my own parents) was considered, but as it only represented 50% of me I dug deeper. My mother now has step fathers name, an ugly one I have used in the past and dislike. Her maiden name, was, well really her father’s name and again missed out due regard to my maternal grandmother. I considered inventing a whole new super name. A hybrid of every name I have ever had, or digging up an exciting name of a long lost relation.

Then I made the decision NOT to have a surname. It would have been my fifth surname after all. I’m done with them. I decided to take my middle name Jane and use that instead. My friends said my new name sounded like a cake shop or a dressmakers – but I persevered. I then found myself in India (as any self respecting Nomad does every so often). Unusually for a business trip, I also had some time on my hands, so I spent a whole day exploring Delhi. Art galleries, parks, shopping for shalwars, crazy taxi rides and my last stop, by chance was the Digambara Jain temple. I stopped the taxi (a lovely Hindustan Ambassador run on LPG) and got out, and headed for the crazy throng of people noisily going about their worship. My blondness and white clothing may have made me stand out a little, but I felt right at home. Having spent much time in Buddhist and Hindu temples in Sri Lanka I slipped off my shoes and soon found an inner sanctuary where I could sit and reflect on my surroundings. A few children came in to watch me meditate, but soon left me alone and my mind settled.

An hour later after basking in the warm smells of incense and having an all over feeling of calm (actually heightened by the gentle chaos around me) I looked around for a building that I knew to be attached to every Jain Temple – an animal hospital. Barefoot I trod upon grit and slid on recently disinfected floors, as I toured the cages housing mainly pigeons. If anyone finds an injured or sick bird in Delhi changes are they will bring it here. Jains are known for their compassion for animals and dedication to a pacifist path in life. And I made a decision there and then on the surname. I would insert an “I” (a “me) at the very heart of Jane to make it mine. I would be taking an essence of Jain philosophy with me wherever I went.

So back to the pigeon. There are no Jain Temples in rural Hertfordshire, but I needed to do something. I asked my blogging friends for advice and was overwhelmed with helpful suggestions. Kat (and her litter box) suggested letting nature take its course (surprised “Kat” didn’t recommend letting the cat back in to finish the job). I spent the night thinking about this. I consider myself part of nature, and frankly I would like to help. To intervene. So I am about to take poor frightened bird to the local vets and I will pay handsomely to repair this creature (unless it is considered, like my Landrover, “a total loss”). Someone else suggested blogging about it – this is probably not quite what you had in mind, but I have at last had a chance to feel like the Jaine that I am.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

FIFA Owes Iraq 3 Points!

I wasn’t really sure where to write about this. It’s not REALLY travel is it (although I probably would have to board a flight to watch the Iraq team play)? And it is certainly not Public-Diplomacy (besides I have just filled my public diplomacy blog with a rant on Zimbabwe), but then again I don’t really think this is classed as Nomadic-Wisdom either, but there was no other place for it, lest I start YET ANOTHER flipping blog dedicated to random stuff, like Iraqi football.

Fact is. I don’t REALLY like football that much (probably wise, as I am betrothed to a Sheffield Wednesday fan). But being British I do ALWAYS support the underdog. This seems like a fair cause, so I thought I would support it. You can join the facebook group "The Stolen 3" if you feel so inspired. Or sign the petition. Here is what my pal Ali has to say:
Never over until it's over.The Iraqi National Football Team lost its last decisive game to Qatar, and officially is out of the last stage of the World Cup Qualifying round

It's well-known that Qatar, a country with wealth and power in the Asian Football Confederation (the Asian Football Confederation's President is Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam), will do all it can to make sure the Qatari national football team makes it to the biggest football tournament in the world. Qatar took advantage of FIFA's laws and has given citizenship to many players from South America and the other parts of world. While this may not be ethical, FIFA's laws allow it. The issue is regarding a Brazilian by the name Marcio Emerson who had already played for Brazil's under 21 national team in the South American U-21 Championship in 1999 (according to CONMEBOL, the confederation that governs South American football). A player can not switch to a new national team after the age of 21 (according to a decision made by the FIFA Executive Committee on March 19, 2004). FIFA investigated the matter regarding the complaints over Emerson and found that the player was not eligible to play for Qatar, however FIFA did not award Iraq the 3-0 victory nor the three points that it deserved (according to Article 55 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code) However, Qatar clearly breached FIFA laws and statues when they had Emerson play in the World Cup qualifying tournament and played against Iraq in its Qatar's home game on March 26, 2008. Emerson was instrumental in both goals scored in the game and Iraq lost 2-0, and lost 3 precious points which would've allowed Iraq to be one of the two teams qualifying to the final round.

For this campaign, we are planning a big offensive against FIFA and the Fair Play Committee to put things right. We need as many as you can to join this campaign. Thank You.

لا حياة مع اليأسعندما خسر العراق مباراته الاخيرة امام قطر ، فقد فرصته للتأهل للمرحلة النهائية لكأس العالم 2010 و ابكى هذا ملايين العراقيين.العراق يجب ان يمنح 3 نقاط اضافية من الفيفاقطر دولة لها نفوذها المالي و في الاتحاد الاسيوي لكرة القدم ( المتمثل برئيس الاتحاد محمد بن همام) و قطر ستفعل كل ما في وسعها لضمان تأهل منتخبها لكأس العالم.قامت قطر بالاستفادة من بعض نواحي لوائح تجنيس اللاعبين و اضافت مجموعة من اللاعبين من امريكا الجنوبية لمنتخبها الوطني بعد تجنيسهم. قد لا يكون هذا صحيحا الا ان الفيفا تسمح به.المسألة هي بخصوص اللاعب البرازيلي الاصل مارسيلو اميرسون. هذا اللاعب مثل البرازيل رسميا مع منتخب تحت الـ21 سنه في بطولة امريكا الجنوبية عام 1999. و هذا يمنعه من تمثيل اي دولة اخرى حسب قوانين الفيفا.الا ان هذا اللاعب في مباراة الذهاب لعب لقطر و سجل على العراق و خسر العراق تلك المباراة. رسميا و حسب قوانين الفيفا ( قانون في لوائح الفيفا صادر بتأريخ اذار 2005 الفسم الـ55 من قانون النزاهة في الفيفا) يجب ان تعتبر قطر خاسة و تمنح العراق نتيجة 3-0 و ثلاثة نقاط. في هذه الحالة سيتأهل العراق رسميا للمرحلة النهائية.العراقيين و محبي العراق ينوون بالقيام بهجوم على الفيفا لتساهلهم مع قطر و مجاملتهم. نرغب بجمع اكبر عدد من الناس في هذه المجموعة لدفع فيفا للرجوع عن قرارها المجحف بحق منتخب العراق و العراقيين جميعا. يكفي الاعتماد على الحكومات لمأخذ حق العراق. الدور لكم لمساعتنا للوصول الى هذفنا ، و الله المعين.لكم جزيل الشكرادارة المجموعة

Monday, 9 June 2008

Freedom of Expression: Where to Draw the Line?

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

In a bizarre co-incidence the online blogging community to which I belong erupted this week in protest against “extreme” bloggers, who were allegedly homophobic, racist and inflammatory. Many said the offending thread posters should be better “moderated” by Blogcatalogue. But some jumped to their defence and quite eloquently argued their freedom of expression, saying that individuals could exercise their own discretion and choose to read and respond or not. At the time I got on the highest horse in the virtual land and declared myself a member of the intellectual elite (I am ashamed).

Go back a few days and I was sitting in the World Conference Centre in Bonn listening to Noble Peace Prize winner Dr Shirin Ebadi speak about Freedom of Expression. We heard some horrific tales from her native Iran and when Ebadi argued that the only time our right to freedom of speech should be oppressed is if it inspired a “hated that would lead to conflict or war” there was a murmur of agreement.

In his speech at Berkeley in 1983 Michel Foucault famously said the issue “was not to deal with the problem of truth, but with the problem of the truth-teller, or of truth-telling as an activity....” I would disagree with Foucault (dare I?) and say that truth telling activity, is just that - an activity, and that the problem is with the truth teller (or, as if often the case, the lie-teller). If society is sick, then how it expresses itself will be equally unwell. The question is what do we do with our sick? If we gag the extremists and hate press, you can guarantee that they will find another way to express themselves. And, (although it is probably very un-cool to question a Noble Prize winner and Foucault in the same paragraph) I would ask Ebadi who can sit in judgement over what is deemed inflammatory speech? I am sure the Government of Zimbabwe feels it is doing the nation a service by preventing the voice of the opposition. Given a real insight into the truth, its people may come to understand their own oppression and yes, you are right, demand change possibly through violent conflict.

One thing we could do with our “sick” is to educate them. Extreme opinion likely to inspire violence is often born out of ignorance and intolerance. In their academic work on Why Templates for Media Development do not work in Crisis States, Putzel and van der Zwan advocate the establishment of professional associates of journalists, committed to an ethos of "journalistic integrity....which can eventually serve as the conscience". Again, this raises the issue of who judges the integrity of a journalist (or blogger) and gives him a voice? Freedom of expression is gifted to every one of us under international law through Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but its vagueness leaves it wide open to interpretation and its implementation and the use of media regulation in many countries remains patchy at best.

I still don’t have the answer to who judges that expression is vile enough to oppress it. Nor who judges journalistic integrity, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is the increasingly empowered "community". The blogger Woolfcreek blandly suggested that the bad apples on Blogcatalogue would soon "be bored with our middle ground crowd and try to run off to another site". But a far more robust approach was offered by the suitably named “Offended blogger” who said “(Blogcatalogue) has come too far for us to allow hooligans to run amok here, destroying the community. And it is OUR community, so if there is trash in the street we should all pitch in and bag it up”.

I guess it comes back to my theory on personal responsibility. There are undoubtedly grey areas in the Freedom of Expression debate, but if each and everyone of us understands our responsibility and acts with integrity (not just the bloggers and journalists) the world would be a better place. There is no room for apathy (she says, calmly dismounting from her very high horse).

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Nomadic Torture

(picture: my cat, Mkya Ntini, who has no problem staying still whatsoever)

After writing about what nomads do best (move about, that is) I have discovered in the past few days what nomads do worst. Fellow nomad, Rebecca Campbell wrote in the Telegraph today about revisiting her homeland in the Australian outback. She said going home was the toughest test for her nomadic adventure. Not so Rebecca, so long as the immovable object continues its impetus, you will be forever nomadic.

But move, I did not. Here is how it happened. After a bout of heavy surfing on the blogcatalogue discussion boards (in which I was becoming more and more facetious) my gut clenched into a tight ball which bought a tear to mine eye, and my grey haired doctor scribbling an illegible note to the surgical admissions team at the local hospital. In pain, but still moving, I was more or less content to be travelling in my friends convertible Renault (ambulance shmambulance). The trouble began when I was asked to take a seat in the hospital waiting area. As a hyper active, peripatetic nomad (GO on, look it up, I know you won’t), with the nickname “momentum girl”, the very idea of sitting still on a blue plastic chair for a couple of hours was crippling enough. Even my intriguing surroundings – footballers with legs bent out of shape, a woman carrying her finger in a bloody towel and severely overweight nursing staff (which begged many a question) did not entertain me sufficiently and I was soon feeling cornered and nervously checking out windows and doors for potential escape routes.

Before long my upper lip had lost all stiffness, and I was, dare I say it, asking for pain relief (in a very polite British fashion). It got worse. When I was eventually seen, the staff at the hospital trapped me in my bed by cunningly sticking a needle in my arm and attaching a tube and a bag full of saline drip to the other end. I couldn’t even slightly shuffle. Worse still, there was but a paper thin curtain separating my ear from my neighbours mouth. The Cambridge accent has never been my favourite (the REAL Cambridge accent, not the plumy one). She even irked the capable SHO, who I could hear suggesting to her that unprotected sex could cause infections that would bring on stomach pains like hers. I noted that he had made no such suggestion to me and wondered whether to be offended or not.

A few hours later, unlike the brave Ted Kennedy, I shuffled out of Addenbrokes tanked up on Codine and muttering to myself. And thankfully also unlike Ted, I had no diagnosis of malignancy, instead, I had…erm…just NO diagnoses. But the recommended treatment may prove fatal. “Just rest, do nothing, eat nothing for 24 hours, take it easy”. My cool friend in her Renault smiled slyly at my groan – she knows me well. And since then everyone I know has called to offer the same recommendation. It’s almost as if they KNOW I burn candles at both ends and in the middle. Were I able to ignore the advice I have no doubt that I would, but although the gut now lies flat and lifeless, so do the legs. And the head is spinning and my mouth has that poo taste bought on by nothing having passed my lips. Worse - I am doing something I NEVER do – watching daytime television. Endless shows about antiques, decorating and buying houses fill my brain, reminding me that tomorrow morning I have to shift mine into the back of a van and move it. Groan. I am just about able to raise my fingers to this keyboard despite this whirring laptop weighing heavy and hot and sweaty on my legs…..

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Nomadic Justice

"The great social nomad....prowls on the confines of a docile, frightened order" - Michel Foucault

I am about to do what a nomad does best – move on. NOT from this blog, silly (although I AM a flitting discussion board whore, it has to be said). I am moving from my current rented retro-bungalow on to another place which apparently is far more likely to attract my teenage daughter’s friends over to hang out (is this a good thing?) So next week I shall nonchalantly climb aboard my fully loaded (and beloved) Landrover and cross the mile long open stretch of green pasture that is the no mans land between Litlington and Bassingbourn and relocate.

I jokingly gave myself the name Nomadic as I figured I have moved about a bit over the years. Friends kept complaining that their B page in their address book was becoming a mess. I even changed my name to help this, but now the J’s are a problem. ‘Tis true, and rather sadly for a Saturday night I just worked it out, I have moved house 43 times in my lifetime (yeah and that IS more than once a year). And the pace is increasing – 10 times in the past 5 years. I have been “of no fixed abode” for three full years of my adult life and moved countries 12 times, dragging kids and ex-husband along and providing my mum with a fascinating set of holiday destinations.

It all sounds very unsettling, but I am simply a modern nomad. An űber-nomad. An “executive” nomad even. A genuine global citizen. Andreas Kluth wrote in the
Economist in April about the new urban nomadic lifestyles and the trappings of wireless communications, but I think it was more of a plug for a groovy café in California with wi-fi. He argues that although nomadism and travel can coincide, they need not. Erm….I beg to differ. My take on a nomad is someone who physically moves from one place to another rather than settling down. It is not about someone who checks his email on the train on the way to work or is able to text his girlfriend whilst in the bath (not recommended whilst on charge). One thing Kluth did get right was that nomadism is an addiction that can be likened to gambling. “There is a random pattern of awards, you never know when it pays out, so you keep going”. Maybe I can start a Nomads Anonymous Group for sufferers – but, hey, who would ever turn up?

So I think I have found a solution to my habit. I am about to become what is fashionable called a “two centre household” with my new place in good old Blighty and a beautiful set of four stone walls (with scope) in France. OK, so it has a roof as well as scope and an incredible man turning it into a proper home. It means I can hop on a budget airline (I KNOW I KNOW global handprints pretty bad right now, but I make sure my bananas are grown in Bassingbourn) and as I board the plane I can turn to the camera and say “My work is done here!” and so long as I have a Landrover at both ends of the journey, it may satisfy the craving. Consider it like a patch. I’ll keep you all posted. And if there is a gap in the discussion board postings, it means I have moved to a far away not-spot.

Monday, 12 May 2008

One thing you would change?

I wrote this essay for the FT essay writing competition last year. OK, so it wasn’t very well thought out – “to make everyone just a little bit nicer” is so very British and not at all cutting edge. Not surprising I didn’t even get an acknowledgment of receipt. So, prompted by a Blogcatalogue discussion, I share it with you now.

American poet Maya Angelou writes that she takes responsibility for the very air she breathes and the space she takes up. Like Angelou, most people have some sense of responsibility. Maybe we have a subconscious list detailing what falls into our own areas of responsibility and more importantly what our own level of responsibility is. If I could the change anything I would raise the level of responsibility felt by each individual on this planet.

As an example, our own children learning to walk may score a 10 out of 10 on the responsibility-ometer, and an elderly parent needing some support at home maybe an 8. Someone in our community (but not personally known to us) who has suffered a loss may only score a 1 and be seen largely as someone else’s responsibility.

These ratings are personal and have tended to vary according to our own involvement - having a sense of responsibility for local drug addicts leaving syringes in the kids play area, will often depend on whether we have kids ourselves. If it directly affects us, we care. We act.

But we are being asked to change this. As global citizens we can be asked to give to earth quake victims in far flung places, and lobby our MPs on the threat of rising sea levels. Although we might not see the benefit from buying local fruit as opposed to bananas flown in from thousands of miles away, we are beginning to see that our choices have a ripple affect often far beyond our own experience.

On this wider level we are readjusting our sense of responsibility, but this needs to be in effect right across our lives. Everything matters. Over recent decades our species has looked more seriously at issues such as equality, rights, prejudice and the human affect on planet earth. But in tandem with this has been a sense that someone else will take overall responsibility, and as individuals we are not accountable. Perhaps we have become too disconnected with our actions to realise that everything we do, say (and buy) will have an impact on someone (sometimes someone picking bananas on the other side of the planet).

Martin Dickson says in his article that kicked off this competition that he would change the negativity of people towards media and quite persuasively argues that the media are but a mirror on society. However if the media where to tweak the dial on it’s responsibility gauge it would see that just giving the customer what it wants can in some circumstances propagate a wrong.

If our sense of internal responsibility were increased we might dig further into our pockets to give to the homeless, but we would also feed our children well and not blame the TV for promoting unhealthy options. We might buy products with less packaging and not blame local councils for their recycling policies.

And responsibility needn’t be a chore. As Kissinger said, “People think responsibility is hard to bear. It's not. I think that sometimes it is the absence of responsibility that is harder to bear. You have a great feeling of impotence”.

Britain is the No.1 nation for giving to charity. We can be proud of our generosity, but it doesn’t half make us feel good. How will we feel when local businesses thrive instead of fold? When our kids excel because of our input, when we live in a society run by people we have bothered to vote into government. In a society where low self esteem is rife, there is a lot in it for us. And because we cannot escape the consequences of our choices in everything that we do, there will be a greater feeling of being part of the whole.

If I could the change anything I would raise the level of responsibility felt by each individual on this planet. What I seek is to up the levels. Raise the stakes. So whilst some will diligently separate their tins from their glass, some will consider carefully the affect their job, actions and even words will have on others. Perhaps a generic raise in responsibility levels wouldn’t bring many of us up to Angelou’s level. But whilst a minor global lift in feeling may not see people sensing the responsibility for the air they breathe and the space they take up, it may help them be better parents, friends, lovers, employees and ultimately happier.

I can quite see why my entry wasn't considered, but there you have it. Let's all be a bit nicer.

Love from a True Brit x

Friday, 9 May 2008

"Rice urges Arabs to support the Palestinians" - should she?

OK so it is not just the celebrities doing the patronising finger wagging. You would think Condi Rice would be better versed in public diplomacy (it was pretty public, right? She didn’t take “the Arabs” aside and have a quiet word in their shell likes?) Did anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable this week when the great lady herself sent a “strong message” to the Arab world on increasing their support to the Palestinians? If the objective of the statement was to show folk’s back home that the US are “doing something” then I guess a few voters might have been convinced. As with my Clooney rant (below) I am not convinced that this form of pressure is going to inspire the honouring of financial pledges – in fact I think it will damage US-Middle Eastern relations further (No! How so?)

I can’t help thinking that the US should be removed entirely from the whole brokering peace in the middle east thing. As Morgan Spurlock has found out lately, Americans are not exactly popular round them parts (no shit, Sherlock). They are hardly viewed as impartial - last week Rice stressed that "America's commitment to Israel is unwavering" and it has been for 60 years. And the whole 60 year thing is something that should send Britain’s crusading Mr Blair scurrying for cover - yes remember them terrorist Irgun what bombed the King David Hotel? (OK pedants I know that was 62 years ago), let alone delving deeper to Balfour’s was him what started it wasn't it? Just a polite suggestion – like Rice, perhaps Blair isn’t the best man for the job?

Is this causing anyone else to cringe….? Someone give them some effective public diplomacy advice, please.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

A Cross Government Approach: starting with Afghanistan

The Times today talks about connecting military and reconstruction roles in Afghanistan (Afghanistan: joined-up thinking). You may have noticed I had a small rant in response

Surely an exclusively military solution to the conflict isn't the aim of any of the parties? I concede that the MOD, FCO and DFID should work better together, but in Iraq I saw the CIMIC team working in reconstruction. And I could positively rant about the UK learning from the US comment!

But I didn’t and couldn’t (word count restriction) say enough. So some further points in turn:

1. I am convinced that forces in Afghanistan including the Afghans of course understand that an exclusively military solution to the conflict is not the answer (US Defence Secretary Robert Gates "we must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military" in November last year, and last month the UK Defence Minister told the Telegraph that we should “talk to the Taliban” )

2. Since trying to develop a cross government (and even bolder, a “cross-coalition”) communications strategy in Iraq a couple of years ago, I have become passionate about joined up thinking. This article does not go far enough. To muse that DFID and should work together with the military on reconstruction efforts is true, but the “working together” thing starts way before that – and in Afghanistan in particular it spans the whole of the international community (at least those signatories to the Compact) AND the Afghan government. Unless there is a clear vision for the future of Afghanistan and a unified approach, progress will be slowed. Paddy has said this of course (not that it got him very far -
read Sharif Ghalib for more).

3. The UK learning Hearts and Minds from the US government? Perhaps I shall open that to the floor. Why is General David Petraeus deemed to be a success, and exactly what hampered British reconstruction efforts in Iraq? And why are Brits chosen to be deployed to Helmand and Basra? Discuss……

Friday, 18 April 2008

Celebrity backers.....public diplomats?

(photo by Albany Associates)
Inspired recently by Mark Naylor's blog ( on Celebrity and Diplomacy - I would like to have a mild rant. It is my pet subject of today as I work with a company who are tasked with advocacy and public information campaigning in Darfur.

Here is what I said to Mark:

Celebrity Diplomacy is not as effective as at first appears. Often the main driver behind participating in ethical awareness raising campaigns has far more to do with the agent and PR team working for the celebrity and charities are often hand picked to show said idol in the best light. A genuine public diplomacy initiative for a cause will have the betterment of the cause at heart and not the image of the celebrity. We should be addressing the issues of the world in proportion to needs and not for quick wins and quick spins.

Sometimes celebrity endorsement can have an adverse effect too….for example spouting off about problems in Darfur without having a clear understanding of the issues or sensitivity towards the leaders involved. I am not convinced that a bout of arrogant finger wagging from a Hollywood movie star is the most diplomatic way of inspiring change from a regime where face-saving is inherent.

So what do you think? Is it helpful if a celebrity pleads with you to part with your well earned to buy food and medicine for needy populations? Or has Mia got it right - we need to lobby the governments of the needy populations to bring about change.....or, are both approaches wrong? Do we need to have a serious rethink about how we INSPIRE actions needed to bring about LONG LASTING change. After all, everyone needs an incentive to change.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

For more on Nomadic's real (as opposed to fantasy) journeys....

I have actually been around the block a bit (but I'm still Jenny....) If you are interested in places I have visited (37 countries at the last count) visit . From Bristol to Baghdad; Afghanistan; UAE and soon to be Sudan.