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Dealing With Life Issues

What is The Most Powerful Influence in Our Lives?


Each of us can name key issues in a relationship that are likely to damage it, but all those issues do not suddenly appear from nowhere. They actually dictated by one subtle personal element, in particular. One we are often unaware of: perception.

As human beings, we do more than merely experience our world – we also perceive it, forming opinions about it, then using that perception to define situations and events and also to judge others. To cope with the varying stimuli which bombard us every day, we have to make sense of our world; make inferences and then draw conclusions which are often biased in our favour. They reflect how we have been raised, where we came in our family structure (whether first child or last), what we value in our lives, and what we want to be.

Perception, stereotyping and self-fulfilling prophecies are all powerful forces that affect communication and human relationships in different, often negative, ways. Our interpretation could be wrong but what we perceive is our reality, one that is dictated primarily by our gender, colour and age, regardless of what others may think about it. Most importantly, our feelings and actions grow out of these perceptions to confirm, sustain and reinforce that reality.

That is why it is very difficult to understand the world of someone else if you do not share it. You cannot empathise with their views, which might be meaningless to you. In fact, if you do not appreciate the values and beliefs of others, they have no relevance, they become difficult to deal with and are likely to be perceived as threatening. Only familiarity and knowledge provide meaning, but you would have to share another's gender, experience or culture to fully appreciate their perspective. Until that time, you will always see life only through your own lens and make judgements from that perspective which might seem illogical, or even irrational, to others who are different.

Different realities

That accounts for the degree of personal conflict we feel relating to difference. We never know how to treat difference and will either try to ignore it (like being 'colour blind'), level it to being 'the same' as our culture or experience, or adopt a superior attitude and treat it negatively. We do not share the same reality with anyone else on earth, even when we are in the same room, the same house and the same relationship. Yet parents, for example, go to lengths to treat their children the same, to dress them the same way and deny their individuality, especially twins. Some twins might look and behave the same in 95 per cent of instances but there is still that five per cent which makes each individual unique and marks them out as special. That unique five per cent needs to be respected.

We think we all see life in a uniform way, and are often impatient or intolerant of those who do not share our personal view of the world. But this approach is very limited and has far-reaching effects, especially in intimate relationships. The differences in outlook make the individual's perception the most important element between two people. Being governed by confidence and self-esteem, perception can be either positive or negative, pessimistic or optimistic, gloomy or bright. Bearing in mind the two different genders involved in the majority of relationships (which seldom see eye to eye because of their individual make-up), perception is most dangerous to partnership longevity. It not only breeds fear, which shrouds the relationship in negativity, it also controls an invisible element, expectation, which tends to be the silent killer of even the best unions.

Four essential things we all desire in life and why they could be the answer to reducing crime


In the UK we have a problem with juvenile delinquency. To deal with it, we also have a veritable explosion of orders relating to restraining anti-social behavior (called ASBOs), which does not appear to be having the desired effect. On the other hand we have the cult of celebrity.

The desire to be like celebrities, worship at their altar and seek our own 15 minutes of fame. Turn on your television set any day of the week and 3 out of the 5 main channels are likely to have reality programme involving celebrities! Hardly anything else occupies prime time television now. Programme makers have discovered the current secret of getting a big audience and are milking it to capacity. So, is there any connection between anti-social behavior and the desire for fame? You bet there is. They are two sides of exactly the same coin.

The idea for the SAVI© self-enrichment concept came to me while I was trying to work out what motivated people:

a. Why some of us would do certain things but not others;

b. Why extraordinary people feel the sky is their limit while ordinary mortals prefer to see the gloomy side of life or to just do the minimum;

c. Why the hopeful ones among us see the bottle as half-full, while the 'realistic' ones see it as half empty;

d. Why some people procrastinate in making decisions and taking action while others get on with it in a jiffy and, most important of all, why some deviants turn to crime and negativity while most of us prefer the straight and narrow.

We hear a lot about failed relationships in social interactions. At work, in particular, there are always personality clashes, never-ending difference in perceptions relating to bosses, managers, project leaders and others; wide rifts between unions and management; conflict between lovers and their partners and problems between parents and children: all because of a marked lack of SAVI©, or, more likely, a perception that it's missing.

Ask anyone if they enjoy their jobs and at least 60% will tell you that they don't. A significant number will also add that they can't even face going to work many mornings, while too many vote with their feet and are absent more times than they're in. Is the job all that bad? Not at all. Most people gravitate towards the things they like to do. They actually CHOSE a personal career, no one forced them into it. If they are unhappy, something more important lies at the heart of their discontent.

They all lack SAVI©, but they are probably unaware that they do! I have tons of SAVI© now through my own work and achievements, but it has not always been like that. It used to be a dark struggle to get it! So why don't the majority of people have this key enrichment? Mainly because it depends on many positive things happening around them, so it won't come in neat, handy packages.

The meaning of SAVI©

By my experienced reckoning, most people need just four major things to feel great about themselves, to do anything for you, to love you to bits, to do their job well, to feel alive and kicking, to achieve a great amount in their lives and to feel like wonderful human beings. Deviants or potential criminals need a fifth element (P) to feel in control of their environment and good about themselves. That is why one can never erase criminality and deviance from our world unless that element is going to be provided from elsewhere. SAVI is essential to our lives to boost our contribution to our home, work and environment. Where it is lacking there is a very unhappy individual, or a deviant in the making. To have SAVI is to feel good: about the self, about life, about living and about purpose; to feel energised and at peace, more empathetic and compassionate.

Worked it out yet?

In a nutshell, SAVI means Significance, Appreciation, Value and Inclusion. Children who are underachieving lack SAVI - lots of it, because they feel inadequate. Workers who are unhappy lack SAVI hence the feeling of low morale and number of lost work days; troubled teenagers in their homes lack SAVI, spouses who are resentful and negative towards their partners all lack SAVI, in one form or another, and young delinquents, especially those who look at ASBOs as some kind of status symbol, definitely lack SAVI.

The Need to be 'Someone'
SIGNIFICANCE: Every one of us at some time needs to feel significant as a person, that we truly matter to others – to feel like a queen or king, if only for a day. Significance comes through personal control and authority – like running a business – which gives us that valuable anchor. Hence the rush to see our names in print or our images on TV, if only for 5 minutes; to participate in reality programmes or just to 'worship' celebrities and be a part of their world.

Being significant in the office, in the local village, the school performance or in one's job is the primary reason why many people compete for positions of status, even without payment, or give themselves various titles; why they are always craving acknowledgment, promotion, recognition and responsibility. Like servicemen who carry over irrelevant ranks from the armed forces into civilian life. They do not want to lose their status and significance. They still want to feel that their titles matter to their new colleagues. A loss of significance is also why the highest level of suicide occurs among men of 65 years old in the UK, who feel surplus to requirements and fret themselves to death soon after they retire.

Put simply, we all wish to be 'someone' and will seek that opportunity wherever possible.

APPRECIATION: To be truly appreciated is crucial to our sense of belonging and the biggest sign of its importance is in the home where parents and youngsters often cannot see eye to eye, or partners take each other for granted. Love gradually dies through resentment and neglect. Many partners, who were not appreciated themselves, are reluctant to appreciate their spouses. They too get little in return and that breeds low confidence and self-esteem all round.

Workers in particular, especially those who give their all every day without ever getting much thanks, praise or recognition for their tasks, feel the absence of this key element. We want to know we count, that our actions matter, that we are appreciated as contributing individuals to the home, to the profits of the business, to its success and its public reputation, but we seldom get it. And the absence of that feeling accounts for the most break-ups of relationships and the highest number of absentees from both school and work.

VALUE: Along with appreciation, we most crave the outward signs that we are wanted, worthy and have a place in someone's heart and mind. We seek that value endlessly through approval, through promotion, through praise, through acts of affirmation and above all, through love, hence the continuous need for a soulmate. Sometimes we are even afraid to put a value on ourselves in case someone else downgrades it, so we wait patiently for that value to be assigned by others - by parents, lovers, bosses, colleagues - but it is usually slow in coming and leads to much personal frustration and angst. Trouble is, often others are too mean to show value, especially through praise, prefering to criticise instead. And so the cycle of low self-esteem continues. Not likely to have been shown any value themselves, those who are mean with this attribute tend to lack the confidence, honesty and the esteem to make someone else feel worthy.

INCLUSION: To feel appreciated, valued and significant we need to feel included. Most minority groups, underachieving children, ex-offenders, workers at the frontline who are often left out of the decision-making loop, women in a man's world and people who feel unhappy in their jobs do not feel included. They often feel on the periphery, excluded, unrecognized, insignificant and unworthy – as though they are invisible, that their voice is not being heard. That kills their motivation and obscures their sense of value. That's why many of them sabotage work objectives, vote with their feet, underachieve at school, turn to deviance or commit further crimes after prison release. The cycle of exclusion kills the spirit and empties the soul of its understanding, empathy and compassion. Hence the increasing level of crime in our community.

Consequences of a lack of SAVI
A lack of inclusion leads to a fifth element which all criminals crave - power.

POWER: We will never eradicate crime, only contain it, because, in an absence of true SAVI, power is the only thing that matters: the power to maim, to rob, to bully, to intimidate, to destroy, to kill; to have some kind of authority and hold over another person's life – the ultimate power. Those who lack SAVI have a need for personal power that gives them the kind of SAVI they seek but in a way they dictate. They don't have to wait to get SAVI, they can forcibly take it through power over another or the power of disrupting their environment and causing fear and mayhem (terrorism). That's why some people commit crimes, not through any particular need, but to test that power against established boundaries (especially young offenders) or to seek revenge for feeling excluded from their home, work or community.

The power of SAVI is incalculable for our sense of well being. We can see its effects everywhere, especially in the reasons why people leave relationships or join political parties and exclusive clubs. They attach themselves to people and associations which provide the most SAVI and the biggest sense of inclusion. Hence why intolerant parties like the BNP will always flourish. They feed on people's sense of powerlessness, exclusion and insignificance.

If you haven't got it, you need to focus on which element(s) is missing for you and start the process of getting your fair share. Ask yourself honestly today: Do you have SAVI? If not, why not? The answer could not only be enlightening, it could also make a huge difference to your world and change your life for good!

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The Main Reasons For Apathy in Society


Apathy is a direct by-product of fear, disappointment and neglect. It exists when people's values are not reflected, their desires are unfulfilled within society and they feel a sense of alienation from what is happening around them. Apathy serves the main function of lessening future hurt and keeping them detached.

It is difficult to feel involved and included if we do not feel a part of our social milieu, if we believe there is nothing in it for us and if we feel excluded from the outcomes. In such situations there is no feeling of attachment or association. Instead, there is likely to be detachment in the form of an apathetic response to prevent further hurt, to protect the self from future disappointment and to dampen expectations.

There has to be some kind of payoff for people to feel they have a stake in their situations, surroundings or society. The payoff could be practical, physical, emotional or social, but there has to be something which makes it worthwhile for that person to participate. A classic case in point is the current Health Reform Bill in America and the opposition it has been getting from certain people. Those who have a lot to lose, if the status quo is changed, especially those in hock to lobbyists, as well as those who perceive nothing new in it for them, will be the most vociferous with the protests and the apathy towards it. Until they can see greater payoffs for themselves, the fear will override everything else.

Today's world is changing so rapidly, especially for older folks, there is a general air of apathy through fear and apprehension. Many people feel on the periphery of life, excluded and unwanted. For example, at least 65% of people over 60 in Britain don't even use the Internet. Much of what they cherished or which brought them to where they are now, are no longer valued, respected or upheld. This has left those people without an anchor, feeling isolated, fearful and expendable in a morass of new technology vying with outdated customs.

When we fear and feel disconnected it is easy to be apathetic, to feel disjointed and on the sidelines. Apathy today is most obvious in the field of politics where many people believe they are not represented by politicians, that democracy isn't really working to their advantage, their wishes and feelings are being ignored and they are without a voice. That is reflected in the increasingly low turnout at elections and the disappointment in the politicians themselves. That might explain why Barack Obama succeeded in galvanising the young around him with his leadership, especially those who have been apathetic to the political process because they have felt excluded from it. It seems that they got a sense of emotional connection with Barack's vision, which made them feel included, and aligned with where he is heading.

A feeling of irrelevance breeds apathy and many people who cannot relate to what is happening in our modern world, and who feel impotent to change it to any great extent, feel more comfortable being apathetic instead.

Where is the REAL World?


How often have you heard the statement, "Welcome to the Real World" or "Get Real!", especially from someone trying to change your view of life?

No matter how well intended to shock, or to show you 'reality', there is no such thing as the 'real world'. The world will always remain how YOU see it, no matter how it is seen by others, until you choose to change it. If you take away all the bricks and mortar which clearly represents our tangible world, there is no other 'real world' for us to see. The reason for that is very simple. The only world we have exists inside our head and is dictated by our emotions. Nowhere else. We alone make the world we live in, which explains why we each react differently to that world. That is why no two people will ever see the same world or experience the same reality. There is a key reason for this and it is called PERCEPTION. What we perceive, we are.

Our individual world comes out of our cultural, gender, class, religious and social experience unique to us. If you were raised, for example, as an Amish girl, devoid of material things, and you never ever experienced the outside world in any form, your world and what you perceive it to be, will be vastly different from another girl who grew up in Manhattan in the middle of all the innovations and technology. That Amish girl would find it hard to believe that such a technological world exists until it is physically proven to her.

Again, if you grew up under the shadow of Big Ben in the UK where guns are banned and people cannot use guns to defend themselves, you will actually feel strange, even vulnerable, if you are from America, where guns are allowed and having to live in London without a gun to 'protect' you.

Different beliefs
Thirdly, if you are religious and believe in God, your 'real world' would be quite different from that of someone who does not believe in God and cannot be convinced of such. They cannot see what you see unless they genuinely wish to and change their beliefs to match it. Whatever we were brought up to experience, to value and to cherish, becomes the essential core of the world that we see, which is why it is so difficult to change the hearts and minds of religious fundamentalists, racists, sexists and other fanatics who genuinely believe they are right to impose their version of 'the truth' because they have not been exposed to the 'world' or 'truth' of others.

Our individual perceptions of what the world should be owes nothing to a generalised reality we all share. In fact, we share nothing with anyone else except our humanity. All the social and cultural clothing we wear define our world, which is what makes agreement, negotiation or even having a relationship with someone so difficult to do. We are all operating in different worlds which shape our perception, ones that are difficult for others to access.

The bottom line is that you cannot make someone else see your point of view if they have never experienced it before, unless they wish to open their minds and learn more, because it would be alien to them. What you are saying would have no meaning and therefore be irrelevant to their needs.

Next time you are tempted to tell someone "Get Real" or "Welcome to the real world", meaning yours, just remember that they might look at your 'real world' but they cannot enter it. To do so would mean giving up what they value and cherish to accommodate what you cherish. In effect, they would be leaving their own heads to go inside of yours and that is near impossible. They already have a 'real' world for themselves, whether we like it or not .. and it's theirs!

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Why Sentencing Teenagers to Life Imprisonment For Any Crime is Inappropriate


America appears to be unique in sentencing confused and wayward teenagers to life imprisonment and throwing away the key, especially if they're black. But nothing could be worse for the future and social wellbeing of any nation than to virtually give up on its youngsters.

Children are our future - every child - not just the privileged ones. Whether they are free or imprisoned, their actions will decide the kind of world we end up with when they are adults. Encouraging an army of deviant youngsters to be incarcerated forever in jail, especially when peer pressure would have had a hand in their behaviour, not only alienates and embitters those serving time, but also the army of relatives who have to suffer with them too, forever. That's an awful lot of unhappiness and anxiety for communities to continually cope with. Never having the opportunity to atone for that crime in more positive ways. Most important, the essence of life is hope. When someone is robbed of that hope, they lose their value and the main reason to live.

The emphasis seems to be on punishment, punishment, punishment. But, as the best prisons in Norway show, punishment is combined with education and rehabilitation of the offender. Like military action, punishment can only go so far when someone is young, and is usually not very effective, as the re-offenders rate demonstrate with alarming regularity. The key should be rehabilitation, education and self-awareness. Giving those youngsters other viewpoints on how their life could be and improving the life chances they were already denied. In, effect, changing that person's perspective sufficiently for them to not only impact on the quality and direction of their own life, but also to make a difference to others through their own contribution.

A youngster of 14 needs emphasis on their emotional health, a key area of life which is given little attention in our world. At that age they have a natural overriding need to be appreciated, significant, valued and to belong. To be validated and reinforced as people. Hence why they gravitate towards friends, groups and gangs. But the downside of that is they are more vulnerable to pressure from others to be deviant and more easily to be manipulated, especially when they feel excluded and unwanted. Then they spend the rest of their life regretting their actions.

It was Muhammad Ali who said: "The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life." Precisely. Sentencing someone virtually for the rest of their life deliberately ignores their natural evolution. Very few people still pose a threat to society when they are in their 30s and 40s, no matter how badly they behaved as kids. Natural maturity and emotional growth ensure that their views on life inevitably change, while education and intellectual development bring greater maturity as they age. It means that yesterday's wayward youngster has every opportunity to be tomorrow's model citizen with a little bit of awareness, encouragement and motivation.

Lone objector in protecting children
That is why I am in entire agreement with the justice meted out to the two young 10 year old boys in 2001, who cruelly murdered James Bulger in the UK some years ago, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. They served only 8 years of their sentence before being granted parole. Their being in prison for life would not bring Jamie back, but changing their lives for the better can prevent them killing someone else. I believe that is far more important than continuous retribution for the sake of it. Compare that to American Ashley Jones who committed two equally horrific murders at 14 and was sentenced to life, which means life. Her own grandmother, who was injured as well in the attacks, believes Ashley, now 23, deserves a second chance as she is not the person she was at 14. Of course she wouldn't be because that is what growing up and evolving is all about. Life is a journey, not a single event, and we change with every step through our experiences and social education. The mere fact that we start off as babies and end up as adults show that we are forever growing and learning.

Incredibly, the United States was the 'lone dissenter ' in December 2006 when the United Nations proposed a resolution calling for the abolition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children and young teenagers. The vote was 185 to 1, with only America holding out. Very tragic that. Forgiveness and love lie at the heart of our society. Take them away and what we have are emotionally damaged shells seeking constant revenge under the thin veneer of 'justice', while slowly robbing our future of the greatest potential and asset it has to make our world a better place - our children.

Emotional health is one key part of the health triangle: physical, mental and emotional. In fact, our emotional wellbeing dictates the other two areas, yet gets the least attention because it is not understood, neither are its effects appreciated, especially on the young. We urgently need new approaches to punishment because Britain also has the highest rate of incarceration in Europe, yet youth crime is actually on the increase, getting more uncaring and vicious. Addressing the state of teenage emotional health and changing the automatic knee-jerk punishment reaction is now a priority. Otherwise we will all suffer in the end as our ignorance and desire for revenge continually breed, and reinforce, a nation of resentful deviants.

Lawmakers, especially in the USA, need to establish whether youngsters have the same emotions, thoughts and experience as adults. If they are NOT adults, how can they be entitled to adult punishments?

Why Can't African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, etc, Just be Called Americans?


On the face of it, this should be an easy thing to do - claim to be just an 'American'. It's a simple label, right? No, wrong!

Labels do matter much more than we can ever appreciate because they give significance, demarcate communities and tribes and emphasise history. They are tied up with personal identity and aspiration and actually dictate values, perception, beliefs, behaviour and sense of inclusion. Most of all, such labels decide commitment and loyalty because it is all about how the users perceive themselves, and wish to be addressed, not what other people want for them.

The first 'Americans' were White Europeans. That has always been acknowledged and understood. In a truly equal society, everyone would be thrilled to call themselves just 'Americans'. But no multicultural society is ever equal because minority communities are always at the mercy of the majority who control the politics, education, economics, media and national narrative and also set the public standards of acceptable behaviour for all. In short, majority communities have the POWER which ensures racism continues at a brisk pace because there will always be vested interests in keeping the status quo which mainly benefit the majority.

Empowerment and pride
This tends to leave minorities feeling impotent and inadequate, if they cannot share that power in any meaningful way. In fact, in such diverse groups, one is likely to be judged first on one's colour and use of language before one is treated with any form of inclusion or accorded any real respect. In the absence of such respect, empowerment and pride come from emphasising one's roots. Many minorities believe that, by losing the cultural labels, they would be swallowed up in the social context of being simply 'Americans' without actually getting access to the respect, trappings and lifestyle many White Americans enjoy, an invisibility which then makes their situation worse. It also means their own progress is able to be charted against that of the majority community.

For example, it has a more powerful effect on the self-esteem and aspirations of African Americans to read that Oprah Winfrey is the first Black female billionaire than if it was just the first female one. The fact that she is Black, in a world dominated by White billionaires, gives hope to people like her. So the African label in this sense has a very empowering and reassuring role.

The term 'American' for White Europeans was appropriate when they went to the USA because they were the first newcomers, but if the Native Americans were simply called 'Americans', we would miss out on the chance to actually acknowledge their heritage, to see their culture at first hand and to learn from it because people would naturally assume they were White. Adding the Black, Latino etc prefix to the term 'American' is thus a statement of identity and pride. It suggests everyone is proud to be American, but even prouder still of their heritage and roots. In the public domain, it also allows for monitoring the reflection of that multicultural community at every level in a more effective way.

Why do some teachers like to have sex with their students?


Good question, but I don't think it's because some teachers 'like' to have sex with students, per se. I think they are drawn into it because it has more to do with their own lack of self fulfilment and feeling of being unappreciated. it really depends on the individual teacher but the following factors are usually at the heart of the problem:

1. Low self esteem: The teacher perhaps believes that he/she is not really attractive, not valued and not significant in their own life. Someone young, fresh and innocent valuing them, especially in a discrete way which carries some risk, would be very appealing. They forget their position of trust, their role as a guide and mentor, and lose sight of their objectives.

2. Lack of attention in their home/work: Such teachers are likely to be lacking value and achievement in their own home, or even in their profession. The idea of someone fancying them, especially when they perceive it to be less risky than going with an adult, would carry some kudos for them. Furthermore, working in close proximity to a student who values such adult attention too and is not yet able to understand or even control their feelings would provide the basis for what follows afterwards.

3. Lack of respect for themselves and others. Teachers who would give in to their sexual urges relating to students they should be protecting have little respect for themselves, or the youngsters in their charge. That is why they are prepared to ignore the professional boundaries and do what they like, regardless of the possible consequences. When we respect someone we are likely to protect them instead of to manipulate or use them.

I once taught an incredibly bright Year 10 pupil whom I was grooming for Oxford and whom I sensed had a crush on me. However, his reaction was entirely different. He was deliberately detached from me, behaving impeccably in my presence, though extremely tense whenever he was near to me. He would spend a lot of time just staring at me, and looked pretty miserable whenever we had one-to-one discussions. I was very uncomfortable sometimes because my natural instincts was just to give him a hug, as I would do my own children when I sense their discomfort or pain. But I resisted the temptation because I didn't know what effect close contact might have had on him and I wasn't confident enough at the time to allow him to talk about his feelings and put them in perspective.

Years later, when he had graduated from Oxford University with first class honours, he wrote to thank me for my help. Much more assured and easy going, he admitted the crush and said it was agony being in my presence because he just wanted to touch me. If I were another kind of teacher, I would have probably gone along with him and crashed my career right there! We were able to make light of it as adults, but it wasn't funny at the time to either of us.

No doubt, to those of low confidence and esteem, it feels rather thrilling to be valued by youngsters in this intimate way. But if such teachers took themselves, their jobs and objectives really seriously, they would see the harm that can be done when trust and professionalism are mindlessly thrown away for superficial, and fleeting, attention and affection.

Does anyone ever have the right to mete out their own punishment when the law does not seem to be working?


No one has that right. We are either ruled by the law, or we are not. Once anyone takes the law into their own hands and does what he/she likes, with the blessing of everyone else, we have sunken beyond animal levels. It becomes a free for all, the strong brutalising the weak.

Take the example of the man who buggered his stepson with a tool handle in revenge for him raping his half-sister. What makes this man any less of a criminal than the stepson he was hurting? What makes him less brutal than the stepson? What makes him any different if he can quietly and calmly plan and execute that on someone? That young man clearly needed psychological help, not revenge. Changing his life so that he doesn't repeat that awful act should be more important than damning him forever. Otherwise we will simply get more of the same. The answer is to try to change the law, or protest about it, not become judge and jury ourselves. The law cannot apply to some and not to others.

It is not an eye for an eye that let's us retain our sight. It's love, education and forgiveness. Given America's history of hangings, lynchings and swift justice, and the consequences of those, one would have thought it would have learnt something from them by now. They weren't the answer then, and they are not the answer now. Two wrongs NEVER make a right. It is easy to bay for someone's blood when it has nothing to do with us, but it would be an entirely different thing if the teenager were related to us.

When we are angry and mad at someone, where do we stop short in that justice? That boy could have died later from the effects of what was done to him. It all depends on a person's capacity to bear such actions. Everyone is different. And what would have happened then? Both the father and the brother would have been gone, devastating the whole family in the process. People also forget the psychological effect on that poor girl, not only of the rape, but she will mistakenly continue to believe, for a long time to come, that she was responsible for what happened to both her brother and her Dad. I think she could have done without that as well.

If we are going to start deciding what punishment everyone should have for any crime we don't like, and also do it ourselves, given the chance, why do we need any kind of laws? We might as well go back to the caveman days of everyone for himself. Some of the chilling comments I heard around the case showed that we have hardly evolved through the centuries, despite our so-called education and innovations. We are still back there somewhere, living by a lawless code to suit ourselves when we feel like it, yet expecting some kind of law to work for us when we are in need of it.

We really cannot have it both ways. Using violence against another doesn't make anyone into a man/woman. That's the mark of a coward taking out their feelings of inadequacy on another equally helpless person simply to feel self righteous. It solves nothing at all in the end except the sad destruction of everyone involved.

But that's my strong opinion. What about yours?

Is it time for the British government to be more proactive on diabetes?


A recent report has revealed the dramatic rise in the incidents of diabetes in Britain. It is a sorry story because we already have 10% of all annual NHS costs being spent on diabetic treatment and medication, which is a massive amount of money. But the treatment for diabetes in the UK is second to none.

It does not have too many external symptoms one can easily spot, hence people are likely to labour under the illusion that they are fit and healthy, while anything could be happening inside their bodies, especially the danger of stroke, heart disease and reduction in eyesight. What this report makes clear is that if you are overweight, obese, fat, ginormous - whatever you wish to dress up the weight as - you will be prone to diabetes and might even have it this minute. And diabetes is no joker. It is a ruthless killer.

I have type 2 diabetes for the past 14 years (the milder type) which is gradually turning into type 1, and with an added unique complication which I am battling at this moment. it is not difficult to see why diabetes would explode at such rates because it is a silent disease which thrives among the good life. For example, my own diagnosis was accidental. Though I had been feeling rather uneasy for quite a few months, feeling particularly lethargic, I didn't know I had diabetes. I just knew I was eating too many sweets. Then one weekend, when i had strapped on more than two stones (26 lbs) onto my body, I bought over 2 lbs worth of various chocolates and marshmallows and gobbled the lot! I was so shocked, I went straight to the doctor's on the Monday. Only with some intensive tests did he discover that my sugar went off the scale. Yet I had undergone other tests before which yielded nothing.

Even though my diabetes has worsened, I have found that exercise, a very healthy diet, close monitoring and, above all, a cheerful and happy disposition, have certainly helped me to defy the illness, especially the recent complications I have had. But perhaps we need a proactive approach to the illness, a kind of diabetic ambassador to travel the length and breadth of the country with a megaphone to warn of the silent dangers of it. It could save the NHS millions.

We need ongoing, and urgent, raising awareness of this disease and its dangers before the NHS provisions become overwhelmed by it, especially for those at risk, instead of a reactive approach just waiting until people have it. Yes, there are many leaflets printed about diabetes but unless you go to a doctor's surgery or come into contact with the information, you would be in blissful ignorance. In some perverse way, I would be an ideal ambassador because looking at me, no one would believe there was anything at all wrong with me, that I came pretty close to a coma a year ago; that with each new day, this debilitating illness gets worse and worse. They see me looking bright, cheerful and 'healthy', and they think I'm a charlatan, nothing wrong with me!

My grandmother was blinded by diabetes, with her legs plagued by gangrene, and my mother died from a diabetic stroke. If I had been given the proper awareness of the likelihood of me having it too, I might have done something about it much earlier than when I realised it. Or at least monitored myself more consistently to keep it at bay, instead of the real problems I am having to deal with now and the poorer prognosis for my life, brought on mainly through ignorance.

Why the world would be a better place without ENVY


Envy is one of the worst feelings within us. It is corrosive in its effects on our self esteem, on relationships, how we value one another, our perception of others, especially making us more judgemental and intolerant, and it dictates the quality of interaction we have with everyone else, especially those we grudge or aspire to be like. Altogether, envy leads to a desire for whatever someone else has which might make us feel inadequate or lesser in value.

For example, envy leads to unnecessary competition in society; the feeling that we have to keep up with the Joneses, to be the same as they are, in order to feel significant and valued. We don't feel right unless we are forever comparing ourselves to others. Yet no two people are alike and such competition does not take into account our inherent differences which are essential to our uniqueness. Thus we get into debt or damage ourselves emotionally or physically to achieve someone else's goals while we ignore our own equally valid ones.

Envy also robs us of compassion and makes us more intolerant of others. We are quicker to accuse, judge and condemn when we believe that person does not deserve what they have, neither our sympathy nor our love. We build up resentment against them and seek to destroy them instead. Envy lies at the root of how we treat others because when we are resentful of their accomplishments or their possessions, we become destructive towards them.

Finally, in our modern society, envy forms our attitude to others, especially how we treat people like celebrities whom we perceive to be 'better' than us. Not content to wanting to emulate them, we also take perverse pleasure in mocking them too which is why there is such prurient interest in celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, and why we take much pleasure in seeing their discomfort. We like them, on one hand, for their entertainment value and the aspirations we can draw from them. But as we do not believe their attention and success are 'fair' or 'deserved', the envy within us seeks to 'cut them down to size' too, hence the ambiguous stance the media and public take in their treatment of the very celebrities they have helped to create.

The world would be a much better place without envy because we would perhaps appreciate our own individual strengths, uniqueness and compassion much more instead of constantly trying to be like others, then resenting who they are or what they have earned, when we fail to reach their perceived heights. We would also value others more because our understanding and appreciation of ourselves would make us more empathetic to them.

Who is funnier: Men or Women?


It is difficult to generalise in these cases but, having listened to countless speeches and had many conversations, I do tend to find men funnier than women. Men seem to find it much easier to ad lib, especially one liners; they enjoy turning embarrassing situations into jokes and also love to tell a good story. They have greater confidence when expressing their opinions than women tend to do.

Women appear to be more self-conscious when narrating anything, though they can be more ribald when telling certain jokes, and are more open with their feelings. Women also seem far more nervous when speaking publicly, and less spontaneous in their comments, sticking to their scripts very closely. They are not as humorous in delivery as the men.

But perhaps you all know differently. Over to you, ladies and gents. :o)

The Last Inspiring Lecture of Randy Pausch: A man with 9 months to live


I was sitting minding my own business and feeling a little strange about my life when this dropped in my mailbox: a remarkable video of Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon. Even though he has been given only three months to live (he lived for 6 more months after that), by his positive attitude, one would think he had been offered great news and was going out to celebrate!

He has pancreatic cancer which is spreading rapidly and the doctors cannot do anything else for him. He gave a last lecture to his students, which he taped, and it has been downloaded over a million times. He has gone home to be with his family, but was invited on to Oprah to talk about his video.

At least I have learnt one thing from his lecture, that an apology has three parts:

1. I'm sorry.

2. It was my fault.

3. How do I make it right?

"So many people skip that last part", he added, "but that's how you can tell sincerity." Indeed.

It is was heartwarming to see him affirm something I have always believed: "No one is pure evil. if you wait long enough they will show you their good side. You can't make them do it in a hurry, but you can be patient."


Thank you so much for your inspirational presence, Randy. Suddenly, everything in my life seems so miniscule and unworthy!

What a guy. I salute your courage!

(Randy Pausch died in July 2008.)

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Memories of 9/11 From Across The Pond


The year 2001 was an awful year for my family. It started with the collapse of my mother in March in Jamaica, followed by her death from a stroke in April. Then Nasdaq had a bad turn that month too and wiped out the paper fortunes of my millionaire son, immediately followed by a terrible tragedy affecting his girlfriend's mother in Japan to coincide with my mother's funeral. There seemed to be no end to the pain and loss.

Four months followed of real sadness, bereavement and anger. Then on September 11th, I had to go to the dentist. I walked into his office very bright and breezy and he had a television on, which was highly unusual. A building was in ferocious flames and I cheerily asked what film he was watching. Pretty gruesome, I thought. Must be another Apocalypse Now, or something like that. But why would he be watching it, anyway, when he was at work? It was so odd for him to have a TV there, it didn't make sense. Then he said slowly and sombrely that it wasn't a film but a real life tragedy in New York happening that very minute. A plane had crashed into the Twin Towers. Suddenly my knees felt weak and the blood simply drained from my face as they kept replaying the attack over and over again.

The streets of Britain were almost deserted that afternoon (we were 5 hours ahead of the 9 am event) as people were glued to their televisions watching the awful scene of the attack being replayed over and over, every tiny movement of the dreadful scene cogitated and analysed copiously as commentators, in an obvious state of shock, searched for clues and answers to the unbelievable scene unfolding. Our hearts went out to the American people who suddenly seemed under seige from unknown forces as all kinds of stories around the tragedy materialised, took form and maintained a kind of heightened life of their own. Then when the two buildings slowly collapsed without warning, it was a terribl sense of loss as I had actually been in the Towers on three occasions when I visited New York. I just cried and cried at the sheer amazement and incomprehension of it all. I suddenly felt vulnerable, agitated, fearful and very, very angry at my feeling of impotence.

A few hours later I watched President Bush giving a speech with people forming a vigil near the scene. I could feel the tangible force of sympathy, love and friendship travelling across the Pond to embrace our American allies in their grief. I remember writing in my diary that night, as I sat in front of the beautiful poignant scene of people singing amid candlelight, these words which have also remained indelible in my head:

"President Bush, your people have suffered a terrible tragedy. We are all with you now. You have the whole world on your side, standing solidly beside you, and would do anything with you in the face of this atrocity. We can fight this together. Please don't let any knee-jerk act of revenge spoil this moment. This is a beautiful moment to treasure for the sheer power of global solidarity and support. Please don't rush anything. Enjoy this moment of global strength and fellowship and the answers will slowly emerge. America and the world are stronger now in this unity. No need to rush at all. It will be sorted in its own time."

Pie in the sky, that was. Faint hope. The very next day the bellicose talk of war began from the Oval Office, shattering the beautiful harmony. The rest, as they say, is history.

10 reasons why I loathe Christmas


Today I am feeling as sick as a parrot which the most awful cold, perhaps flu. If you came to my flat you would not think we are celebrating Christmas at all. There is not a single item of Christmas cheer around me, deliberately. I have such an angst against Christmas which only gets worse each year for the following reasons.

10. False cheeriness in the work place
No matter the politics at work during the year, the backstabbing and the nastiness, people are suddenly supposed to be kind to one another at this time. Doesn't seem to matter about the rest of the year. As long as everyone is jolly and spirited at Christmas, that's fine.

9. Tit for tat giving
Many people seem pretty scared of getting a present from someone they hadn't thought of giving one to. The present giving is often not genuine at all, just a merry go round, costing the earth for people who can't afford it, while most of those presents are such crap to the receivers, they end up in a cupboard never to be used.

8. Selfishness of Christmas in the obscene amount of eating and drinking
People in Britain gorge themselves on food and drink (that seems to be what Christmas is really about for them), put on lots of weight with hardly any thought for those in other countries who have nothing at this time. Yet, at every other time of year, they would be going on about Darfur and all the places that need their support.

7. Christmas cards

I received a Christmas card two days ago from a lady whom I haven't heard from in 9 months. I called her twice earlier in the year and she didn't even have the courtesy to return my calls. Yet here she was, sending me 'love and kisses', hoping I am well. I could have died this year when I was very ill and a fat lot of good her card would have been to me. Cards are so terribly superficial and meaningless. For many people they seem to be handy foils to the conscience of neglect as people dust them off and send them around while not really giving a hoot about the recipients.

6. The country being in debt

Britons will be spending money they don't have this Christmas in order to keep up with the Jones and everyone else. Come January the country will be steeped in credit card debt which people can't afford to pay off which then keeps us in an economic hole. It seems that this year shoppers expect to spend an average of £700 ($1300) each on Christmas. Two years ago, the after-Christmas debt in the country was £15 billion, with many lower income families unable to pay their share.

5. Being forced to celebrate

Many people feel that they are being forced to celebrate the festivities, whether they like it or not. Everywhere you go people are asking, "What are you doing for Christmas?", or "How are things shaping up?" If you're not doing anything it feels like sacrilege! How dare one doesn't do anything for Christmas. You are meant to feel like a spoilsport if you are not joining in.

4. Family fest

Christmas in Britain emphasises the family getting together and having a great time, yet 31% of households have people who live on their own, and 15% have no relatives alive to celebrate with, who are terribly lonely at this time. So how does christmas apply to them? People like me, for example, whose relatives are abroad and whose divorce has divided our family. One doesn't wish to launch one's self on one's friends. So whom do I celebrate with?

3. No connection with Christ

I don't know about other countries but Christmas in Britain has very little to do with Christ. In fact, a recent survey predicted that, at the rate we are going (40% of our population don't attend Church and are not religious), more than 90% of people won't be attending church by 2040. Christmas has thus lost connection with the man whose birth we are supposed to be celebrating. In fact, it is rapidly getting to be a question of "Who is this Christ?" :o(

2. Commercialisation and sheer cost

Christmas is now a gigantic shopping fest. The only places that seem to benefit most of all are the stores, helping them to make vast profits at this time. People's shopping are never done at this time. There is always something they forgot to buy or stuff they should still buy. Somehow, whatever they get is never enough.

1. The sad effects of Christmas
Starting this week, it will be two weeks of holidaying among relatives one never sees, being with spouses one hardly spend time with and gradually getting sloshed and bored out of one's mind. The terrible result of that is the high number of casualties recorded in hospitals at this time. The Christmas season has the dubious record of having the most casualties all over the country as people take their frustrations and boredom out on their families. Once reality sets in, with all the angst of Christmas day and Boxing Day, the knives, the fists and the violence comes out in full swing.

That is not so surprising because Christmas is not a 'normal' time. It is highly abnormal it the pressures it puts on those who can't afford it and the unrealistic expectations it generates. May people just get lost in the galvanising swirl around them without being able to get off the merry go round that is slowly bleeding our country of money, putting people in hospitals, thus stretching the health services even more and projecting one time of the year as the be-all of our lives when every one of the remaining 364 days matter too.

Despite my loathing for the season, I sincerely wish everyone A Very Merry Christmas and a Fantastic New Year! May all your dreams come true. :o)

Could you execute someone yourself, with your own hands? Push the electric switch or deliver the injection?


No, I couldn't do it at all, no matter how guilty they were and even if they had harmed a love one. I wouldn't want to do it either, because I am one of those who do not believe that evil cures evil. I believe that love and positivity affect people's actions far more than revenge or cruelty. We tend to treat behaviour as the actual personality,solid and unchanging. But though one's personality tends to be fixed, a person can always change their behaviour with education, experience, empathy, compassion, understanding and, above all, being treated with value.

Sometimes if we channel their energies into other aspects of life, we can also get the positive results we seek. The reason why we have so much crime and re-offending is because the emphasis is on punishment in society instead of educating and rehabilitating. Of course, once the term is served, the prisoner is then back out in society, disjointed from family, friends and job, with nothing worthwhile to do, perhaps nowhere to live and, more likely, with very little money, then expected to pick up where they left off and lead a decent life. But that is very difficult in many cases where people lack the basic emotional, physical and material resources to help themselves.

For long-term prisoners, getting their life back on an even keel must be so hard, after years of being at the state's disposal and having everything provided for them in a secure environment. No wonder the temptation is there to re-offend so as to get things as they were.

I think in certain murder cases, especially where it has been deliberate and planned, the person should be executed too. And I would probably be prepared to push the switch, even if it were for a woman. So gender wouldn't make any difference. But I have to say that many people who bay for the blood of others would baulk at carrying out the sentence themselves if they were required to do it because it is obviously better for someone else to do the messy work.

In the end, I guess if someone did something to our loved one, we could be barbaric in our reaction towards them. However, I guess if, like jury service, we all had to do that gruesome punishment we are calling for, at some time in our lives, it might make us think twice about what we wish to happen to others in our justice system and might even lead to more effective long-term solutions.

Is Dame Helen Mirren Right Regarding Rape?


Helen Mirren, the titled actress, has upset a lot of women and help groups in the UK with her comment that not all women who have been raped, especially those who changed their minds at the last minute and said 'NO', can expect to have their case brought up in court. Translated simply, that means if a woman ends up in a man's bedroom, of her own free will, takes off her clothes, then changes her mind and he forces himself on her, she doesn't have the right, in those circumstances, to prosecute her attacker!

A victim of rape herself, the BBC reported that Dame Helen said: "I was [date-raped], yes. A couple of times. Not with excessive violence, or being hit, but rather being locked in a room and made to have sex against my will."

And, asked if she reported the incidents to the police, she said "You couldn't do that in those days. It's such a tricky area, isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson. I don't think he was a rapist.”

It seems that she is not disputing what constitutes date rape. She agrees that once a woman says no, anything that follows against her will would be rape. But she believes, especially where there has been no violence, such cases should not be brought to court but dealt with differently.

The problem with her statement is that once a man realises he can rape a person, who has clearly said no in a change of heart, where is the line drawn? And what's to stop some men encouraging women into their rooms, then raping them knowing fully well they wouldn't be prosecuted for it? Dangerous suggestions here, in view of the vulnerability of women.

Sue Caroll , writing in agreement in the Mirror, said, "I think she probably understands there's a vast emotional chasm between a woman who's been degraded, violated and raped at knifepoint and someone prevaricating over whether to say "no" in a man's bed."

But, for me, rape is rape, whether at knifepoint or not. It is STILL a violation of that person's body, making them feel degraded and unworthy. It really isn't the nicest feeling to be raped, no matter what the circumstances, particularly as there would have to be some kind of force involved to complete the act. I think she said it because, in the light of proposed laws to make it even easier for women to bring their rapists to court, many people are concerned with the potential injustice these laws could engender and want women to take more responsibility for their actions.

But what do you think?


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