Friday, June 26, 2015

Why Racism Still Matters in Today’s World

There is no gainsaying the fact that racism has been a part of human history since time immemorial. It often stems out of a tendency to create stereotypes on the basis of race, colour, nationality, religion and other factors. The theme of racism got a renewed attention recently with the viral picture of the English Under-20 football team that showed the players sharply divided across colour lines in their mid-day meal (Picture below).
As if that was not enough, other pictures emerged of the split in swimming practices etc. of the same team. While some have criticized some media houses of making a mountain out of a molehill, others have wondered how we are breeding a generation to further sharpen the divisions and some few have been given a rude reminder that we are still far from uhuru as far as the fight against racism is concerned.
Without attempting to revisit the obvious, several media houses were agog recently with coverage of what seems to be a witch-hunting of the blacks in America. The rider that should follow is that this is the United States of America whose history of independence was hinged upon the quest for a free world and liberal state. It appears that the dummy the rest of the world have bought into is that a black man in Barack Obama has been elected, thus, dealing a fatal blow to the subject. However, the statistics shows that the abuse along racial lines have skyrocketed over the past few years in the last decade. There are those who have blamed President Barack Obama for not doing enough on the subject given his strategic position. The criticism might be founded but not properly situated. The truth is that a black president championing the racism battle is a profound error. However, the misdeeds are not just limited to the United States or the United Kingdom, the rest of the world has simply not done enough.
The recent cases of racial abuse in America and the rest of the world are too numerous to rehash here. However, what these events reminded us of is that the divisions of racism have taken new dimensions. While the days of rampant verbal abuse or gruesome genocide killings tied to race might have been put behind us, the manifestations have taken some dangerous forms that if not given the needed attention, might snowball into a major trouble. To insist that we should all move on and not open old wounds is the crux of the problem. Without stretching the truth, most of the efforts that have been adduced to eliminating the cankerworm have been largely lip-service. It is the kind of reaction that pretends to be doing something by putting it in our faces via sporting events and hashtags but with the fundamentals unattended to. The divisions across religious, political and economic lines in today’s society have further compounded the subject. It is fitting to note here that the challenges of racism in today’s world are not peculiar but must be attacked head-on with renewed vigour.
Race still matters in today’s world and that is majorly because the real questions to be addressed remain elusive from public discourse. The fundamental question is what will make a man dislike another man because of his decent, habits or way of life? It is that seat of thought that more than anything else, needs fixing. While skin colour is a major part of the race discourse, it is by no means restricted to it. It cuts across several factors. However, history tells us that skin colour and nationality differences have been the crux of the subject. From the Holocaust to the Apartheid, nothing aptly tells the story than this. Racism is worse than being tagged a second class citizen. It is deeper than a mere public debate, but we must revisit the conversation with a measure of sheer honesty and be ready to place no barrier on the discourse boundaries. We might never reach Eldorado on the subject but we can gain traction and genuine mileage beyond just rhetoric.

Monday, June 15, 2015

9 Things You Should Do Every Day Before 9 A.M.

1. Get an early start.

If your mornings are chaotic, the simple solution is to get up a little earlier than the chaos. This, of course, starts the night before by going to bed a bit earlier too.

Adjust gradually, wake up just 10 minutes earlier each week for the next 6-9 weeks, and you’ll barely notice the change from day to day. This extra time will help you avoid stress, speeding tickets, tardiness and other unnecessary headaches.

2. Meditate on the goodness.

Begin each day with love, grace and gratitude. When you arise in the morning think of what an incredible privilege it is to be alive – to be, to see, to hear, to think, to love, to have something to look forward to. Happiness is a big part of these little parts of your life; joy is simply the feeling of appreciating it all.

Realize that it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy. Make a habit of noticing the goodness that’s already yours first thing in the morning, and you will see more goodness everywhere you look throughout the day.

3. Stretch it out.

Simple, but so often forgotten… stretching your body in the morning has these key benefits:

Creates an increased range of movement in the body’s joints
Enhanced muscular flexibility and coordination
Increased circulation of the blood to various vital organs
Increased mental and physical energy levels (resulting from increased movement and circulation)

4. Drink a tall glass of water before consuming anything else.

Another obvious practice that goes by the wayside…

Your body is more than 60% water, and when you’ve been sleeping all night without drinking any water, it gets dehydrated and desperate for hydration. So quench your thirst with exactly what your body needs. Avoid drinking coffee, tea or other beverages before you have at least one tall glass of water. By doing so your body will start to wake up and you’ll naturally feel more energized and alive.

5. Keep things simple.

One of my personal mistakes several years ago was trying to fit too much into my mornings. When I first started waking up early I wanted to workout, meditate, handle household chores, read, write, cook breakfast, reply to work emails, run errands, etc., and it turns out I couldn’t do all those things. I was waking up early and stressing myself out. I made my early mornings just as packed as the rest of the day.

What has helped me is having a few key things I do early, but not being over-committed to lots of goals and agendas. I’d rather have space and flexibility, which makes the time much more peaceful and useful. So the glass of water, stretching, gratitude meditation, tea, reading and writing are the only agendas I have on most mornings, but I’m flexible with those also.

6. Do a few things that move you.

Again, DO NOT fill your mornings with things you have to do… but, DO have a few things you can’t wait to get out of bed and get started on. For me, that goes back to my short list, which includes reading and writing – two of my greatest passions. For you, perhaps a long meditative walk, yoga, prayer, painting, or simply reading the morning paper.

In other words, don’t just have a long list of things you think you should do but don’t really want to do. Give your early mornings to yourself as a gift.

7. Read, review or listen to something that nurtures your mind.

Some of the happiest and most successful people I know read a bit of scripture each morning, some read inspiring books, articles or quotes, while others listen to radio, podcasts or audio programs that move them to get their day started. The key is having a ritual focused on absorbing small doses of self-improvement content to stretch and nurture your perspective and knowledge base. It starts the day off on a positive note with positive, productive ideas to guide your day’s journey. And that’s crucial, because your thoughts guide your reality.

So indulge in something positive every morning when you awake, and let it inspire you to do something positive before you go back to sleep at night. That’s how memorable, manageable days are made.

8. Be present, breathe, and appreciate the space between activities too.

Your early morning moments aren’t just about the things you do; they’re also about the open space between the things. That means the space itself is something to be appreciated as well.

So if you meditate and read, the morning isn’t just valuable because of the meditation and reading… the space around those two activities is also incredible. The time spent walking over to your meditation mat, or finding your book, or turning the pages, or pouring a cup of tea, or sitting and watching the sunrise… these little open spaces are just as important as anything else.

Pace yourself so you’re not hurrying from one thing to the next, but instead noticing and appreciating the spaces in between, too.

9. Move on gracefully to what’s most important.

As human beings we are goal oriented. We like making progress. When we accomplish one of our goals, we smile about it. That’s why the happiest people I know are also some of the most successful people I know.

As your early morning winds down, the key is to funnel your attention directly into the right things, not the urgent things. Because at some point we all wonder, “Why is it so impossible to get everything done?” And the answer is stunningly simple: We’re doing too many of the wrong things.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Reuben Joins the Yesterday’s Men

Nothing with the exception of nothingness lasts forever. The curtain has finally been drawn on the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, and with that has come a watershed for the men and women who were once the movers and shakers of Aso Rock. In many ways, they were larger than life, dreaded in several quarters and revered with the kind of reference that should only be reserved for the infinite. Alas, a certain change has come and the plot has taken a new dimension.

Reuben Abati is one of those that have become ‘Yesterday’s man.’ This is a phrase he once coined while in the euphoria of power to describe those he termed ‘The shoe-givers’ of yesterday who will not let his boss be. In his article titled ‘The Hypocrisy of Yesterday’s men’ Abati described the critics of the Goodluck Jonathan administration as ‘a group of power-point technocrats who have mastered the rhetoric of public grandstanding.’ The jury is still not out in determining the stint of Abati in the corridor of power but we might not even need the jury’s verdict on this one. It is difficult not to see that Reuben Abati did not cover himself in glory while he had a chance to demystify a certain myth that power ultimately erodes value in our clime. Abati’s dexterity in doing the job in the first place was never in doubt. In truth, he was one of the best pen-pushers around. He wrote with panache, his sentences inspired, his back page column in the Sunday Guardian newspaper was a reference point for most readers. As Abdul, my friend, once told me, ‘Abati’s writings and character makes me believe that the pen can inspire genuine change and will, someday in Nigeria.’ The detractors argued when GEJ dangled the carrot before Abati that the position will change him. In their case, they maintained that they had seen men of undefiled character become filthy once in such terrain. They feared for Abati and for all his convictions, they maintained that we will lose one of the nation’s conscience in no time. The apologists pleaded Abati’s case. After all, we say that to get the change we so desire, we must bring men of reputable character into the corridors of power to effect this.

The criticism against Abati’s tenure as the Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, was not just that he was a stalwart in trying to enforce down our throats the ‘good deeds’ of his boss, after all in his defense, that was his primary job. However, it was the manner in which Abati attacked his principal’s opposition, critics and even well-wishers that destroyed his job. Abati was quick to hurl stones on any one that dared to question Goodluck Jonathan. In moments when he ought to be responsive and proactive in the discharge of his job, he was reactive. In many ways, he did a poor job in managing his boss’ image. In the bid to protect Goodluck Jonathan’s image, Abati enmeshed it more in the mud with his unguarded responses and character assassination. It has to partly fall on Abati that his boss was largely perceived as a weak president who could do nothing while impunity and uncommon malpractices thrived around him. Abati fought too many distractive petty wars of words; most famous was his squabble with Dele Momodu.

Today, Abati returns as another Yesterday’s man, who has tasted his own slice of the Nigeria power cake. We will probably hear more of how he ate that slice and the manner in which he did it in the days ahead. As is the path of his predecessor, Abati will most likely publish an autobiography of his own, accounting his stewardship. No doubt, this will make for a good read any day. Yet, the point here will be: To what name does Reuben Abati return? As I reflect on this, I wondered if Abdul’s hope of the pen inspiring change in our country someday has been eroded. I wondered if the convictions he had on Abati’s writings and character will have now gone to Siberia. I wondered if he would have now given up on the integrity of today’s journalist in our country. Yet, Abati will most likely return to us and we will forgive and accept him into the fold, but with a subtle sense of loss.

There must be something our system does to a man. There must be a default programming not to excel in our polity, and if there are any men who have defiled it in our part of the world, it must have been because they choose to go against the tide, defy the odds and were ready to inherit the scars that came with such attitude. We had hoped that Reuben Abati will become one of such men but alas, he has just become another Yesterday’s man.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

5 Things to Remember When Your Relationship Gets Rough

1. Every one of us is struggling in some way.

It’s impossible to know exactly how another person is feeling or what kind of emotional battles they’re fighting. Sometimes the widest smiles hide the thinnest strands of self-confidence and hope. Sometimes the ‘rich’ have everything but happiness. Realize this as you interact with others, long before you pass judgment. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own.

It’s a sage fact of life, really, that every one of us encompasses a profound and unique set of secrets and mysteries that are absolutely undetectable to everyone else, including those closest to us.

2. Some people will put you down no matter what you do.

Yes, there will be those who are critical of you regardless of what you do or how well you do it. If you say you want to be a dancer, they will discredit your rhythm. If you say you want to build a new business, they will give you a dozen reasons why it might not work. They somehow assume you don’t have what it takes, but they are dead wrong.

Do not engage deeply in a relationship that is holding you back, day in and day out.

It’s a lot easier to be negative than positive – a lot easier to be critical than correct. When you’re embarking on a new venture, instead of listening to the few critics that will try to discredit you, spend time talking to one of the millions of people in this world who are willing to support your efforts and acknowledge your potential.

3. Resentment only hurts its holder.

Holding a resentful grudge is like drinking toxic venom and waiting for the other person to grow ill. It’s an exercise in futility. And just as toxic venom is to the human body, so is resentment to the human spirit – even one tiny bit is bad for you.

Don’t magnify life’s difficulties by filling your mind with resentment. Instead, ease your burdens by choosing to let them go. If you feel resentful feelings starting to take hold, stop and consider the fact that there’s nothing to be gained by bringing yourself down over what has already happened.

Let today be the day you stop letting the ghosts of yesterday haunt you. Let today be the day you stop poisoning yourself with needless hatred. Forget about getting even with someone who hurt you, and instead get even with those who have helped.

4. Forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind.

When someone has hurt you it’s hard to be peaceful. But you do it anyway because you know peace is the only battle worth waging. Peace is beautiful; it is the manifestation of your love and the best resolution for a brighter future.

Being peaceful is hard sometimes – much harder than being angry and vengeful. It requires you to stay calm and let go of the pain. It requires you to forgive and move on. Of course, you don’t do these things just for the person who has hurt you, but for your own well-being.

5. True love is real and worth working for.

Whether it’s a friendship or an intimate relationship, when someone loves you, you know it. When they look your way, the world looks better. When they say your name, the world sounds better. When they touch your skin, the world feels better. You know your soul is safe in their care.

But even more so than any physical interaction, there’s a silent connection between you that you can feel in your veins. You can sit in front of them for hours, without saying a word or moving a muscle, and yet still feel them with your heart. It’s almost like they’ve always been a part of you – like a long lost fragment of your essence has found its way home.

It’s important to note though, that you learn about this kind of love slowly as a relationship grows. It’s not something you realize all at once. It about how two people treat each other, respect each other, and work together over a prolonged period, through good times and bad.