Monday, January 31, 2005

Mbeki stirs the ghost of Churchill

So South African President Thabo Mbeki is back in the news again. But this time the focus is not on substantive issues such as Aids or African peacemaking, rather it is the ghost of Winston Churchill. In a speech to the National Assembly in Sudan, Mbeki made reference to the writings of Churchill noting that he felt the great leader held racist views. This is evidenced for Mbeki in Churchill's book entitled the The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan which chronicles the British campaign in Sudan. Referring to African Muslims, Churchill writes: “Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live”. Africans as lazy, incompetent and fanatical . . . sounds fairly racist to me. Following Mbeki's speech, headlines pronounced “Mbeki slams Winston Churchill” and “Mbeki blames British imperialism for Sudan's problems”. On the radio the British public took exception to Mbeki's approach to their war hero. Newspapers such as the Telegraph criticised Mbeki's “extraordinary weakness” at laying the “present problems at the door of the late 19th century”. The incident is a curious one, though. Read more...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Instilling fear into scaremongers

According to pool safety expert Stephen Tate, there are 27 ways that you can be killed or injured in a swimming pool. An interesting, although somewhat irrelevant, fact I learnt the other night while watching 'So You Think You're Safe?' on television. The programme claims to explore 'the hidden dangers of going about your daily routine, and offers advice on how to avoid those dangers'. The show focused on the terrible things that can happen to you while on holiday. It offered essential advice. It issued warnings such as do not swim in crowded swimming pools, avoid pools if floating faeces are present and try not to make yourself into a human antenna by carrying an umbrella with a metal spike on top in a thunderstorm. Such programmes, besides offering invaluable and practical advice for the desperately stupid, highlight the obsession there is the West with personal safety. Read more...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Professional Development Course: Reconstruction after Conflict and War

In February 2005 the Office of Psychosocial Issues, an international organisation and group of consultants based at the Free University in Berlin, will be offering a Professional Development Course on Reconstruction after Conflict and War. The course aims to utilise the skills of two international facilitators working in the area of psychosocial support, community development and trauma management. The course is targeted at community workers and staff working directly with and supporting victims/survivors of political conflict. The 6–day course, for a maximum of 20 participants, will be held in two parts, the first in Northern Ireland and the second part in at a time and place to be confirmed. The course is awaiting accreditation from the Open College Network. Full funding is available for Northern Ireland-based participants and the event will be residential based. For more information download course information by clicking here.

Professional Development Course

In February 2005 the Office of Psychosocial Issues, an international organisation and group of consultants based at the Free University in Berlin, will be offering a Professional Development Course on Reconstruction after Conflict and War. The course aims to utilise the skills of two international facilitators, David Becker and Brandon Hamber, working in the area of psychosocial support, community development and trauma management. The course is targeted at community workers and staff working directly with and supporting victims/survivors of political conflict. The 6–day course, for a maximum of 20 participants, will be held in two parts, the first in Northern Ireland and the second part in at a time and place to be confirmed. The course is awaiting accreditation from the Open College Network. Full funding is available for Northern Ireland-based participants and the event will be residential based. For more information download course information by clicking here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Dr Brown, I presume?

The African explorer David Livingstone set out in 1865, at the age of 52, on his final and famous journey to Africa. At roughly the same age, almost a century and a half later, Gordon Brown, another Scot with grand ideas, has travelled to the continent. Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer or Finance Minister, leaves behind the alleged rifts between himself and Tony Blair for a fleeting six day visit to Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. As he grinds through his relentless schedule in Africa the tensions with Blair, which will ultimately determine whether Brown will follow him as British Prime Minister or not, may well seem a million miles away. Brown's African mission is to put Africa at the centre of plans for the G8, for which the UK holds the presidency this year. Remarkably, however, Brown was last on the continent seven years ago for a short stopover in Johannesburg. He can hardly claim to have a feel for the place. This has not stopped him, though, from routinely arguing for an aid injection and a debt relief strategy for Africa over the last ten years. But can he deliver the goods? Read more...

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Tsunami begs spending rethink

"It is easier to imagine the death of one person than those of a hundred or a thousand...when multiplied suffering becomes abstract,” the Peruvian novelist and politician Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in his book The War at the End of the World. The Asian Tsunami disaster has created 'multiplied suffering'. The destruction, in part because of the power of television, is, on one level, only too real. On another, the magnitude of it is really intangible to those of us thousands of miles away. I know I cannot capture the destruction in words. I find myself not wanting to reel off statistics of the number of dead and the horrible ways in which they died. The media's ever-present body count, generally rounded off to the nearest thousand, adds to the unreality of it all. It belies the impact on each individual affected. A catastrophe of this nature creates a sort of existential void. Why does it happen? How can we respond? Read more...

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Professional Development Course

In February 2005 the Office of Psychosocial Issues, an international organisation and group of consultants based at the Free University in Berlin, will be offering a Professional Development Course on Reconstruction after Conflict and War. The course aims to utilise the skills of two international facilitators working in the area of psychosocial support, community development and trauma management. The course is targeted at community workers and staff working directly with and supporting victims/survivors of political conflict. The 6–day course, for a maximum of 20 participants, will be held in two parts, the first in Northern Ireland and the second part in at a time and place to be confirmed. The course is awaiting accreditation from the Open College Network. Full funding is available for Northern Ireland-based participants and the event will be residential based. For more information download course information by clicking here.