Nkosi Sikalel iZimbabwe

If there was ever a day to pray (and hope) for a country, it could be Zimbabwe today. Within the next 24hours, we might have finally seen the end of Robert Mugabe as president. There’s very little doubt that he has lost the election, it’s now a matter of whether he’ll let the election beat him.

And in the meantime, I found this story – a reminder of the quarter of Zimbabweans who have had to leave the country and are banned from voting in these elections as a result:

Expat Zimbabweans run own election

Zimbabweans cast votes across the world over the weekend as their country went to the polls — even though their ballots did not count. Mandla-akhe Dube, the general secretary of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign in New Zealand, said it was part of a global protest against their disenfranchisement.

"We wanted to highlight the fact that up to 4 million of us living outside Zimbabwe are disenfranchised," he said. The Government has not made a provision for us to vote by postal means. The only way we can highlight our plight is by conducting a mock presidential election."

Mock polls were held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as well as in the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United States, Australia and Belgium. At the New Zealand polls the result was conclusive.

"We voted in Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change with 74 per cent, followed by Simba Makoni with 23.65% … Robert Mugabe got 0% of the vote."

[from http://www.stuff.co.nz]

63 years older than me

This my Granma, Annie-Mary Minney.  She was born in Brynamman in south Wales on the 27th of March, 1919.  That’s ages ago!

Granma I gave her a ring yesterday morning to say happy birthday, and she was very happy.  She lives in warden-overseen accomodation (ie. eveyone has their own flat, but they all get checked up on regularly) in Exmouth, in which her two corridor-neighbours are Trixi (about 92 and very lovely) and Alf (88 last week and ‘the sprightly one’ of the bunch).  Granma was happy because Alf had come in to make her a cup of tea and read her cards, and then had popped off to make sure Trixi was up.  He also buys chips for them all for lunch on Fridays.

When Granma told me about that, I felt all warm inside – hearing about these three friends and their little community made me very happy.  I think I’m going to enjoy being old.

The Unbent Banana

Before a banana browns, or even ripens to a sickly-looking yellow, it lays alongside multitudes of its brethren, high in the canopy above a tall, straight trunk.  Bananas are ovaries; the fruity offspring of a tropical tree; and, as the reproductive organs of the plant, are pretty important.  The huge, juicy leaf-fronds cluster around the green, growing banana bundles, partly to conceal the plant’s private parts, but also to see how they are all ‘getting on’.  With each morning’s light, the fronds rustle with pleasure at the lengthening, maturing ovaries beneath them, woozy and delighted and broody.

The bananas themselves curve in semi-circular bundles like huge, multi-fingered fists; four or five per tree.  There can be anything up to forty fruits per fist, so when a single banana stands out from the rest, its sisters all know pretty quickly.  And that is what happened, once, to a banana in a bundle in Belize (which is in Central America).  She stood out.

Right from the time when her sisters were the size of green beans, she was the length of a runner bean.  They teased her, saying rude things that made her want to hide away, which of course was impossible.  While every green finger in her bunch was small and delicately curved, one after the next, all in perfect physical harmony, she stuck out strong and straight: vertical (in that she pointed directly down).

"You’re not a banana at all," chorused the sisters.  "You’re a cucumber!"

None of them had ever seen a cucumber, but the accusation stuck because it wasn’t far from the truth: when the rest had reached the runner bean stage, she was a courgette, only smoother and with paler skin.  Even the bananas from other bunches could see her now, and they sang teasing songs which they found funny, but weren’t.

"You are the main course, you are the main course, you are the main course – we are dessert!"

"Bananas are supposed to be in fruit salads!"

"Stop growing please – you’ll pull down the trees!"

2972879 The unbent banana kept her head down as far as she could, staring at the ground beneath her and trying to shut out the voices.  Why was she different?  Why couldn’t she just be one of the bunch?  She looked at her body and wondered whether, maybe, everything might even itself out in the end – that she would stop growing and be caught up by the others, or that someday she might have some nice, gentle curves to show off.

But as the days went by, no change came.  The clenched fists of fruit swelled, but one single swearing finger remained raised.  Some embarrassed people feel small; she felt huge – hopelessly, clumsily HUGE.

                           [I might tell you the rest of the story one day!]

PROGRESS: the Prozac of the thinking classes

A spot of culture.  I read an article (so can you! HERE) by this chap, John Gray.  He’s come up with some very thoughtful stuff (the mere label, ‘post-humanist’, makes me prick up my ears) and I thought you might be stimulated by a review of his most recent book.  So here you are …

Heresies: Against Progress and Other Illusions by John Gray
Guardian Review

Gray is an unwavering post-humanist. When we were little, the Catholic catechism used to assure us that God made the world for man’s use and benefit, and that therefore we are the lords of creation, with all nature, its flora and fauna, entirely at our command. For liberal humanists, this good news is still good news, but comes in a different bulletin. According to Gray, the so-called secular systems by which we in the west are ruled are in fact the products of spilt religion, as was the Enlightenment faith in the possibility of progress, "the belief that human life becomes better with the growth of knowledge".

Gray evinces a Swiftian contempt for our latter-day lay priestlings, direct heirs of the 18th-century philosophes who proclaimed a new paganism but were in fact neo-Christians, "missionaries of a new gospel more fantastical than anything in the creed they imagined they had abandoned". All the Enlightenment did was to promote religion by other means, and its belief in progress was only the Christian message "emptied of transcendence and mystery". One of the heresies promulgated by Gray is that many of those who today continue to hold to religious faith are far more profound in their thinking, and certainly better educated, than most of their liberal-humanist opponents.

Gray sees our faith in progress – "the Prozac of the thinking classes" – as the illusion that underlies the most egregiously mistaken political and social policies of the present day. Certainly there is such a thing as progress, but it is a fact only in the realm of science, while "in ethics and politics it is a superstition". Throughout his work Gray hammers relentlessly against the notion, first advanced in the Renaissance and reified in the Enlightenment, that history moves inexorably in a straight line, and that human nature will
necessarily improve as our knowledge accumulates. He grants that in some areas things do get better: we have abolished judicial torture, for example, and modern dentistry is a great boon. The mistake, he contends, the wilful, foolish and tragic mistake, is to imagine that more dental implants and fewer thumbscrews will make us into better beings. "Human knowledge grows, but the human animal stays much the same."

If you have a spare 37 minutes …

Don’t know if you’ll have had the chance to see this, but if you do have the time, please spare it.  This is Barack Obama’s speech from earlier today, discussing racial issues in the United States.

For people like me (who like the US but know that you don’t have to hate a country to point out its faults), it represents the kind of honesty you NEVER hear in American politics.

It also makes me wonder whether Obama would be better off not encumbered with the presidency, but free to be something more like a freelance advocate for reconciliation and reformation – either way, I think America wins, and that’s a very good thing.

You have to admit it’s a thoroughly intriguing exam answer …

Okay, this is very bad of me, but I needed to share some of what I had to mark this weekend.  Here goes:

Q.  Jesus taught that everyone should, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
What difficulties might a Christian experience when trying to follow this teaching of Jesus?

A.  Due to our human condition it is hard to always treat others as you would like to be treated.  For example if someone robbed you in the street, your natural reaction would be to become angry and desire vengeance.  However a Christian would have to treat the robber as well as they would like to be treated, despite being robbed.  Another situation where this rule could be difficult for a Christian to follow could be if a Christian was a king and had authority over many servants.  The king could not treat them as he would like to be treated as there would be no order.  This rule in practice is similar to communism which we know rarely works.

                            Sometimes I quite enjoy being a teacher 🙂