Propaganda: The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause. Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause. (wordnik.com)
Sometimes being Aspergers sucks royally. My brain has been in melt-down for months now. Thinking and writing feels like wresting my feet from mud. Coherency is optional.
I know why this situation has come about. It is one that cannot be changed but must be lived with until it resolves itself. That’s the thing with life. Sometimes we are in control and sometimes circumstances control us. As anyone knows who knows anything about Aspergers, predictability is incredibly good. When I have to go through longer periods of unpredictability, melt-down is inevitable.
This is one such period. Blogging has become impossible. I can tell my reviews and articles are impacted, and writing drags me further into the mud. I’m not giving up, but I am giving myself space to come back to some sense of control.
I’m Nigerian, but I’m weirdly qualified to answer this because in 1979 the leaders of my country copied the American system in its entirety, after 8 years of the British system ended in utter chaos!
The American system here already seems on its last legs, what with the North-East burning, the South-East in pseudo revolt and the South-South controlled by pirates. From my viewpoint, its not the system that matters, its the leaders! We’ve tried democracies and dictatorships and all have been generally terrible leaders, with that said, the dictators have been by far effective and its not even close. Lets go back to the Nigerian past.
In the beginning of the 19th century, there were no African countries save Egypt(which was much larger) and Ethiopia, the area presently known as Nigeria could be roughly divided into three power spheres. Most of present day Northern Nigeria+Parts of Chad+Parts of Niger and Parts of Cameroon was the Sokoto Caliphate, the South West of the country+ Togo were dominated by the Yoruba States of Ibadan and Abeokuta, the South-East+ the South South were trading states who understood the problems war brought to trade, however the Aro state were the trading hegemon in the area(think of them as the Nigerian version of Goldie’s Royal Niger Company or the Dutch VOC). This was Nigeria at its most powerful, the closest thing to a democracy in my list, the Aro would be called a “flawed democracy” these days.
The British who eventually controlled the entirety of Nigeria by 1914 were obviously not a democracy and yet most of the systems they introduced; e.g the laws(in parts of Nigeria, things like the Sales of Goods Act and the Criminal Code are still those the British pronounced), the policing system, the lingua-franca, the rail network and old roads are still in use today.
Finally in 1960, we got our taste of democracy and it was a disaster, elections were widely rigged, riots were the order of the day, there wasn’t an agreeable census(still isn’t, we’re probably the only country in the world that estimates our population), corruption became institutionalised and it all culminated in 30 month civil war.
We returned back to the dictatorships and they despite being massively corrupt managed to; centralise power at the Federal centre which on one hand reduced the ability of the constituent units to start another civil war but is also the excuse some use for our underdevelopment, one bloody coup+ civil war later, General Gowon settled down to rule and introduced the driving system we currently use, the currency we currently use, introduced the NYSC. General Obasanjo, hosted the FESTAC, started Operation feed the nation and handed power over to the civilians.
This was the point where we adopted the American system, which gave us the government widely agreed to be either the most or the second most corrupt government in my nation’s history, which considering they have all been corrupt is no mean feat. Fun-Fact, the democracies are all ranked as the top four. I’ll get to why later.
We returned back to the dictatorships, and they managed to change the colour of our currency to the one currently in use, introduce the queuing culture into the country(this was the famous queue or be whipped stance of our current President in his dictator days), completed our Federal Capital, electrified the majority of the country, built the third-mainland bridge in Lagos, built the majority of our airports and express-ways. Also in my country under the dictators, I’m told electricity was better and the government provided water.
We’ve been a democracy now for 16 years and you’re forced to deal with stuff like this:
Those are obviously extremes, but in 16 years of democracy, American style democracy to be specific; our leaders can not point to one single infrastructural or societal achievement. They either take credit for things like “introducing mobile phone-networks into the country” or “renovating existing roads” as great achievements.
In my view, American style democracy has its flaws, and my country’s leaders have exposed it:
American style democracy is highly divisive, frankly America itself is a wonder to watch, divided across many issues and yet all loyal to the country. However here, its different, you see in Nigeria there is no such thing as a government safety net, in your times of trouble it is inevitably your family who rally around you and what is the tribe but an extension of family. It is why campaigns here are simply not voting for the “other”, it gets worse the further North you head with the horrific literacy levels. This of-course works when “your Brother” has the development of the country at heart and not wanting to loot state funds for a house at Hyde park, but so far all leaders have all preferred to loot the country blind.
American style democracy simply cannot work in a country with the illiteracy levels mine has, the illiteracy turns voting into “client-talism”, where you have people voting not for the ideals espoused by the candidate, but for things ranging from Bags of Rice, N10,000 in cash to Smart-phones. I always find it hilarious when Americans complain about money in their politics; first-world problems. In between the cash for vote and the tribal politics, its simply impossible to vote in the right leader.
American style democracy is expensive!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so expensive in fact that my country currently spends 70% of its budget on recurrent expenditures i.e allowing our useless politicians to leave in style and paying our frankly useless civil service, with debts still having to be paid, this leaves very little for capital expenditures, which is why here we’re grateful for 10 hours of power, lecturers skip classes to handle private businesses, public hospitals are literally hell!!!, basically everything is messed up.
Finally, full democracy itself has so far had a poor record in transforming a country, the countries having the fastest rises from poverty have so far been either dictatorships or “flawed” democracies; flawed democracies are a term which I’ve never understood.
To conclude, many of the respondents to your question don’t know what its like to live in a poor country, the last time the world was poor(the great depression), democracy was nearly wiped out, to them democracy being the obvious best seems a no-brainer. Personally, I’m concerned that we’ve all seemed to settle on this one system and condemned the rest, throughout humanity’s history, it has been a constant experimentation with what forms of leadership is best for that particular area, Athens didn’t impose democracy on Sparta, the European monarchies didn’t impose monarchy on America; somewhere along the line that changed and the world has suffered for it. In my opinion to each their system.
The Chinese dictatorship has been good for China, one only need compare the reception Xi Jinping got from your country to the one my President got where he sneaked into 10 Downing, was kept waiting and went to beg(it was humiliating, personally). American democracy has obviously been good for America, though one could argue it has crossed the line into “flawed” democracy and dictatorships many times in its history.
Igbo democracy was good for the Igbo republics; Constitutional/Absolute monarchy was good for the Oyo; Military republicanism was good for Ibadan, a Theocracy was good for the Sokoto Caliphate.
American and British democracy has however been bad for Nigeria.
I’ll be writing quite a few posts on “the illusion of equality” because it is the topic I think about most of the time. Part of those thought processes is the question of whether or not anything can be done to reduce inequality. Of course, there is. Some opportunities to reduce inequality require changes in regulations, while others can be done by individuals. These two girls have found their own way. Until Dec. 19, you can donate money to worldbuilders.org. But first, check out this enthusiastic video that I just discovered.
“the right of different groups of people to have a similar social position and receive the same treatment”
Photographer: Chantelle D’mello
Photographer: Sally Crane
Photographer: JeCCo on Wikimedia Commons
An aerial view of Doha, capital of the State of Qatar. Photo-credit: Royal Dutch Shell Media Library
Photographer: Jerry Wong
Photographer: Martin Garrido
Luxembourg City: Christmas & Winter by Europe Video Productions
13 Cove Grove designed Aamer Architects
Photographer: Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times
Except for the fact that people are born and die, there is no equality in this world. People highest on the human pyramid stand firmly on the bodies of those below, keeping them in their place. Any perceived threat to their position, is stomped out as soon as it is revealed. Organizations and countries join in the battle to get to the loftiest position. After all, no one wants to be at the bottom. Do we? The three wealthiest countries in the world, in December 2016, are Quatar, Luxembourg and Singapore.
Qatar is the richest country in the world. Their borders are shared with the Persian Peninsula and Saudi-Arabia. Languages in Qatar are Arabic and Farsi (spoken by Irani descendants). Its area is 11,586 km2, or 4,467.6 sq mi, with a population of about 2,383,705 people (86% who are foreign workers). Qatar’s wealth is mainly due to rich oil- and gas-resources, and that wealth goes to its citizens and toward foreign investments. Qataris do not seem to have poverty. The Qatari do not work at jobs they consider beneath them, something they can afford to do because their living- and education costs are paid for by the state. Yet, Qataris make up only 6% of the work-force. All of this wealth is built upon the backs of South-East Asian domestic and migrant workers who are treated like slaves and Western foreign workers who are treated better.
Luxembourg is a tiny country. Its population is 576,249 and has a mix of French, German and Luxembourgish as official languages. With an area totaling 2,586.4 km2, or 998 sq mi, it is in 172nd place in country-size. It is surrounded by Germany, France and Belgium and has been gobbled up by one party or the other until the end of WWII. So why so wealthy? With such a small area, it has low infrastructure costs. In addition, military spending is a minimum. The populace is well-educated and well-tended by the government, and unemployment is low. 85 percent of its wealth comes from being a tax haven and having attractive banking regulations draw corporations to set up head quarters there. Another important factor, that contributes to Luxembourg’s status as 2nd wealthiest country, is that 60% of its work-force does not live in Luxembourg. Therefore, that majority does not take money from Luxembourg’s privileged population yet pay taxes to it, adding economic pressure to surrounding countries. Poverty is not at large problem among the population, but there is be relative (compared with) poverty.
The Republic of Singapore comes in third. Singapore’s official languages are English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, although English has precedence as teaching and business language. Its area is 719.1 km2, or 278 sq mi, making it smaller than Luxembourg but with a much larger population (5,610,000 people). Singapore is surrounded by the Johore Strait, the Singapore Strait and the Strait of Malacca. One reason for its wealth is location. Singapore is a transportation hub between 123 countries and refines oil on a large scale. New businesses get large tax exemptions. Education is supported by the state up through high school and college and there is some housing assistance. Individuals pay a small tax. However, they must save 20% of their income, savings that go toward housing and retirement, savings that are managed wholly by the State. Wealth inequality is a large problem, a matter Singapore is trying to address by collecting data on income differences and types of poverty experienced by its populace.
Both Qatar and Luxembourg are parasitic countries. Both siphon work-force from other countries, keeping benefits to themselves while leaving their workers without access to state funds. Unless they are over a certain wage-bracket, Singapore’s workers are poor in practical terms, yet that poverty is not necessarily revealed on statistics, the same kind of statistics that sugar-coat actual conditions of workers in Qatar and Luxembourg. Imagine what the poorest countries must be like.
Language is power. Controlling definitions equals being one of the powerful. We use language to normalize oppression. Activists are told they must “go slow” or “be patient” because “change takes time”. Yet, change happens once enough people want it, especially if social media falls in love with a story.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), article 1:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Equality, to me, means that every intelligent being on this planet should have the same rights as every other intelligent being. For some of us, that means society has to adjust to us; and for others, it means that we have to adjust to society.
The two most basic rights, as I see it, are the rights to have enough food to eat and clean water to drink. “My article IsWater a Human Right addresses how states and corporations work on keeping clean drinking water a luxury product and not a basic human right. Willful pollution of drinking sources happens often and lying about such pollution and paying off politicians to get to keep on polluting is fairly common.
“The Global Hunger Index considers the minimum intake for an adult to be at least 1650 kilocalories consisting of a blend of essential “energy, protein, or essential vitamins and minerals”. (GHI) It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the world is incredibly skewed when it comes to having enough healthy food to be able to contribute to our societies.
“Actual hunger is when you feel weak because of a chronic lack of food, when you’re in pain because your stomach is empty, when you can’t concentrate because your brain doesn’t have enough calories to properly function and what 795m people suffer around the world, every, single, day.” (One)
“The WFP said that families are so short of food that children receiving school meals under the WFP’s emergency programme put part of their serving in a plastic bag to take home.” (AlJazeera)
No state is as hungry as the Central African Republic (CAR). A cycle of killing has become part of life since the Central African Republic Bush War began in 2004. Civilians, particularly women and girls, are violated in every way possible. Villages are destroyed and hundreds of thousands of muslim citizens have fled to neighboring countries (UNHRC). This has brought about lack of farmers and food. To make matters worse, it is suspected that outside funding to the rebels has been and is occurring. UN reports state that these last years of violence have brought about a 70% decrease in food production compared to pre-crisis averages. According to the World Food Programme, more than one million people in CAR face a hunger crisis. Then, there is the other side of the hunger coin. Obesity.
“In 2016, around forty percent of the adults in the world can be classified as overweight. In over a hundred countries across the world, more than half of the adult population is overweight.” (Gazette Review)
So. More than 10% of the population of the world goes hungry all of the time, while around 40% of the world’s adults are overweight or obese. Food waste (ca 25% of world’s food calories) is immense and land is taken from food production and used towards energy production. Outside states fund destabilization of countries for their own gains. The US has been particularly bad in this area ever since the Cold War started between the USSR and the USA/NATO. Corporations who want access to a country’s goods or to stop production of certain items have, as in the civil war in CAR, also been guilty of sponsoring destabilization of nations. Added to all of this comes environmental changes that exasperate already challenging situations.
The answer to ensuring the equal right to enough food and to clean water is simple, but ever so difficult to implement. The only element we cannot control is the environment. Even there we have some tools that lessen damages.
Stop fighting over resources.
Stop food waste.
Grow products that the ground can support.
Prioritize food production over excavating luxury items.
Share and share alike.
It really is that simple. Really. And also that difficult. Sadly, I am too cynical to believe we, as a race, will fight our greed and share privileges. Over and over again, history has proven that we don’t. History continues to do so. You and I need to change our thinking and behavior to model a society where food and water resources are shared equally among the planet’s intelligent beings. We can use the tools (social media, voting, campaigns, lobbying, networking, etc.) available to us to influence politicians and corporations to “get with the game”.
“… every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
The UDHR is a declaration of intent and not legally binding. Its purpose is to try to define what fundamental freedoms and human rights are. Far from all nations have agreed on those definitions or even the need for a declaration of human rights. Even the countries who ratified it often do poorly in ensuring their national state upholds its principles if those principles go against tradition, beliefs or current regulations. When signatory member states are as varied as the People’s Republic of China, Norway and Syria, it is no wonder that the road traveled has been filled with potholes.
Originally, the UDHR was written in English but has later been translated into 500 languages. Language is a powerful tool. Definitions matter. Nations need to know what is meant by a concept or they risk endangering relationships with other nations. The UN created the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to help nations and individuals understand the UDHR. The first article of the UDHR states:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
What do concepts such as “free”, “equal”, “dignity”, “reason”, “conscience” and “spirit of brotherhood” mean? A common thread seems to apply regarding the implementation of Article 1. We have a long way to go.
3-5 April 2008 a group of experts got together at a conference in London arranged by The Equal Rights Trust. At this conference titled Principles on Equality and the Development of Legal Standards on Equality, they put together a document called Declaration of Principles on Equality, consisting of 27 principles that aim towards understanding equality better.
People are discriminated against for such characteristics as age, disability, race, belief/no-belief, gender, sexual orientation, marital status and maternity. Discrimination may be direct or indirect. In Mississippi and North-Carolina, USA, a bathroom law was passed forcing men and women to use a bathroom/locker-room that matched their birth-sex instead of their gender. People with disabilities may be accused of faking it or using their disability to get attention (gas-lighting). The following 27 principles, hopefully, enable law-makers, businesses, health-personnel and others become aware of steps they need to take to make their society more equal. Whether people really want others to be equal to themselves, is a question I fear has a depressing answer.
The right to equality
The right to non-discrimination
Definition of discrimination
Relationship between the grounds of discrimination
The right to equality is the right of all human beings to be equal in dignity, to be treated with respect and consideration and to participate on an equal basis with others in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life. All human beings are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
2 Equal Treatment
Equal treatment, as an aspect of equality, is not equivalent to identical treatment. To realise full and effective equality it is necessary to treat people differently according to their different circumstances, to assert their equal worth and to enhance their capabilities to participate in society as equals.
3 Positive Action
To be effective, the right to equality requires positive action.
Positive action, which includes a range of legislative, administrative and policy measures to overcome past disadvantage and to accelerate progress towards equality of particular groups, is a necessary element within the right to equality.
4 The Right to Non-discrimination
The right to non-discrimination is a free-standing, fundamental right, subsumed in the right to equality.
5 Definition of Discrimination
Discrimination must be prohibited where it is on grounds of race, colour, ethnicity, descent, sex, pregnancy, maternity, civil, family or carer status, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, birth, national or social origin, nationality, economic status, association with a national minority, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, health status, genetic or other predisposition toward illness or a combination of any of these grounds, or on the basis of characteristics associated with any of these grounds.
Discrimination based on any other ground must be prohibited where such discrimination (i) causes or perpetuates systemic disadvantage; (ii) undermines human dignity; or (iii) adversely affects the equal enjoyment of a person’s rights and freedoms in a serious manner that is comparable to discrimination on the prohibited grounds stated above.
Discrimination must also be prohibited when it is on the ground of the association of a person with other persons to whom a prohibited ground applies or the perception, whether accurate or otherwise, of a person as having a characteristic associated with a prohibited ground.
Discrimination may be direct or indirect.
Direct discrimination occurs when for a reason related to one or more prohibited grounds a person or group of persons is treated less favourably than another person or another group of persons is, has been, or would be treated in a comparable situation; or when for a reason related to one or more prohibited grounds a person or group of persons is subjected to a detriment. Direct discrimination may be permitted only very exceptionally, when it can be justified against strictly defined criteria.
Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion or practice would put persons having a status or a characteristic associated with one or more prohibited grounds at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim, and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
Harassment constitutes discrimination when unwanted conduct related to any prohibited ground takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
An act of discrimination may be committed intentionally or unintentionally.
6 Relationship between the Grounds of Discrimination
Legislation must provide for equal protection from discrimination regardless of the ground or combination of grounds concerned.
7 Discrimination and Violence
Any act of violence or incitement to violence that is motivated wholly or in part by the victim having a characteristic or status associated with a prohibited ground constitutes a serious denial of the right to equality. Such motivation must be treated as an aggravating factor in the commission of offences of violence and incitement to violence, and States must take all appropriate action to penalise, prevent and deter such acts.
8 Scope of Application
The right to equality applies in all areas of activity regulated by law.
The right to equality is inherent to all human beings and may be asserted by any person or a group of persons who have a common interest in asserting this right.
The right to equality is to be freely exercised by all persons present in or subject to the jurisdiction of a State.
Legal persons must be able to assert a right to protection against discrimination when such discrimination is, has been or would be based on their members, employees or other persons associated with a legal person having a status or characteristic associated with a prohibited
States have a duty to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the right to equality for all persons present within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction. Non-state actors, including transnational corporations and other non-national legal entities, should respect the right to equality in all areas of activity regulated by law.
11 Giving Effect to the Right to Equality
States must take the steps that are necessary to give full effect to the right to equality in all activities of the State both domestically and in its external or international role. In particular States must
(a) Adopt all appropriate constitutional, legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the right to equality;
(b) Take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that conflict or are incompatible with the right to equality;
(c) Promote equality in all relevant policies and programmes;
(d) Review all proposed legislation for its compatibility with the right to equality;
(e) Refrain from adopting any policies or engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the right to equality;
(f) Take all appropriate measures to ensure that all public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the right to equality;
(g) Take all appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination by any person, or any public or private sector organisation.
12 Obligations Regarding Multiple Discrimination
Laws and policies must provide effective protection against multiple discrimination, that is, discrimination on more than one ground. Particular positive action measures, as defined in Principle 3, may be required to overcome past disadvantage related to the combination of two or more prohibited grounds.
13 Accommodating Difference
To achieve full and effective equality it may be necessary to require public and private sector organisations to provide reasonable accommodation for different capabilities of individuals related to one or more prohibited grounds.
Accommodation means the necessary and appropriate modifications and adjustments, including anticipatory measures, to facilitate the ability of every individual to participate in any area of economic, social, political, cultural or civil life on an equal basis with others. It should not be an obligation to accommodate difference where this would impose a disproportionate or undue burden on the provider.
14 Measures against Poverty
As poverty may be both a cause and a consequence of discrimination, measures to alleviate poverty should be coordinated with measures to combat discrimination, in the pursuit of full and effective equality.
15 Specificity of Equality Legislation
The realisation of the right to equality requires the adoption of equality laws and policies that are comprehensive and sufficiently detailed and specific to encompass the different forms and manifestations of discrimination and disadvantage.
All persons, particularly those who have experienced or who are vulnerable to discrimination, should be consulted and involved in the development and implementation of laws and policies implementing the right to equality.
17 Education on Equality
States have a duty to raise public awareness about equality, and to ensure that all educational establishments, including private, religious and military schools, provide suitable education on equality as a fundamental right.
18 Access to Justice
Persons who have been subjected to discrimination have a right to seek legal redress and an effective remedy. They must have effective access to judicial and/or administrative procedures, and appropriate legal aid for this purpose. States must not create or permit undue obstacles, including financial obstacles or restrictions on the representation of victims, to the effective enforcement of the right to equality.
States must introduce into their national legal systems such measures as are necessary to protect individuals from any adverse treatment or adverse consequence as a reaction to a complaint or to proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with equality provisions.
States should ensure that associations, organisations or other legal entities, which have a legitimate interest in the realisation of the right to equality, may engage, either on behalf or in support of the persons seeking redress, with their approval, or on their own behalf, in any judicial and/or administrative procedure provided for the enforcement of the right to equality.
21 Evidence and Proof
Legal rules related to evidence and proof must be adapted to ensure that victims of discrimination are not unduly inhibited in obtaining redress. In particular, the rules on proof in civil proceedings should be adapted to ensure that when persons who allege that they have been subjected to discrimination establish, before a court or other competent authority, facts from which it may be presumed that there has been discrimination (prima facie case), it shall be for the respondent to prove that there has been no breach of the right to equality.
22 Remedies and Sanctions
Sanctions for breach of the right to equality must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. Sanctions must provide for appropriate remedies for those whose right to equality has been breached including reparations for material and non-material damages; sanctions may also require the elimination of discriminatory practices and the implementation of structural, institutional, organisational, or policy change that is necessary for the realisation of the right to equality.
23 Specialised Bodies
States must establish and maintain a body or a system of coordinated bodies for the protection and promotion of the right to equality. States must ensure the independent status and competences of such bodies in line with the UN Paris Principles, as well as adequate funding and transparent procedures for the appointment and removal of their members.
24 Duty to Gather Information
To give full effect to the right to equality States must collect and publicise information, including relevant statistical data, in order to identify inequalities, discriminatory practices and patterns of disadvantage, and to analyse the effectiveness of measures to promote equality. States must not use such information in a manner that violates human rights.
25 Dissemination of Information
Laws and policies adopted to give effect to the right to equality must be accessible to all persons. States must take steps to ensure that all such laws and policies are brought to the attention of all persons who may be concerned by all appropriate means.
26 Prohibition of Regressive Interpretation
In adopting and implementing laws and policies to promote equality, there shall be no regression from the level of protection against discrimination that has already been achieved.
27 Derogations and Reservations
No derogation from the right to equality shall be permitted. Any reservation to a treaty or other international instrument, which would derogate from the right to equality, shall be null and void.
Photo from “World’s Worst Pollution Problems: The New Top six Toxic Threats: A Priority List for Remediation” (2015)
Credit: MapsofWorld 2015
“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.” (Stephen Hawking from an interview with Ken Campbell on the 1995 show “Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken”)
Brainwashing is something that happens to all of us. Often we are brainwashed to the point of blindness. Letting go is immensely difficult. My religious beliefs, cultural beliefs and common-sense beliefs have all needed pruning. In the Mormon church members are taught that humans may one day become as gods, creating worlds of our own. Culture taught me that humans have a Right to nature. From common-sense lessons, I learned that humans were much more intelligent and complex than other living creatures. One after the other, these flawed and dangerous beliefs have been revised.
Letting go of the idea of my own importance was intimidating at first. I had to defy the advice of Mormon leaders to NOT seek outside sources. Ready access to information on the net made that possible for me. Today information is accessible to a degree I can barely comprehend. Some of it is garbage, but much information on the net is verifiable and valid. Learning Truth has been amazing, beautiful, freeing and mind-opening.
Now. Now I believe that I have no more or less right to exist than any other living creature. By life, I mean any collection of atoms that enables a creature to consume another. Everything from single-celled life to the collection of cells, bacteria and fungi that make up my body. My cells are no more significant than other cells that exist. Except to me, that is, and a very small circle of family and friends. Understanding that plants have their own form of communication and discoveries about other animals‘ helped me realize that intelligence, as humans define it, isn’t a valid definition for all life-forms. After all, we humans seem to happily destroys vital life-sources for short-term gains, and that seems pretty stupid to me.
Right now, in North Dakota, the US Government is deciding whether it will break another treaty with Native Americans. The Dakota Access Pipeline will trek across vital food and water sources. We shall see how corrupt the judge making the decision is. Wars (conflicts) about water are likely to become more common as clean water becomes scarcer. At times it feels as though the only reason countries, organizations or communities go war is short-term gain, yet long-term consequences for current life may be dire. Western culture pollutes to an unprecedented degree. Air-pollutants, water-pollutants, land-pollutants and light-pollutants are all a symbol of our consumer-addicted economies. Humans are committing species’ suicide and ecological murder. Most of us probably don’t even care. Empathy for future generations and other life-forms is sadly lacking in our evolutionary development. In more than one way, Hawking’s description of humans as self-important “chemical scum” seems fitting.
Equality matters. Unwritten sanctions against people who speak openly about bodily functions, especially female body functions, seem to exist everywhere. Menstruation is one of these topics. Sanctions against menstruating women are many. Young girls still get their first monthly bleeding without knowing what is happening. We are expected to hide the fact that we menstruate and must make as little fuss as possible. Menstrual products (reuseable pads, disposable pad, cups, tampons, ets.) are expensive. In many countries there is no access to menstrual products. Women must use rags that leak and are forbidden, by unwritten rules, to wash and hang their rags where they can be seen. Girls stay home from school because they bleed through their rags or there is no access to a toilet. Both genders enforce this form of discrimination and body-shaming. However, some women (and men) take steps to make life better for menstruating women. Especially poor countries struggle with access to menstrual products. Malawi is a place where a month’s supply of disposable pads may cost up to two days salary. Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe’s reuseable pads can make a huge difference in the lives of women.
Easing the menstrual woes
Brenda Twea | May 22, 2016
Menstruation is a normal biological process and a key sign of reproductive health. It is the natural monthly occurrence in healthy adolescent girls and pre-menopausal adult women. The onset can occur anytime between the ages of eight and 16, resulting in about 3 000 days of menstruation in an average woman’s lifetime.
In addition to persisting taboos, women and girls’ capacity to manage their periods is affected by a number of other factors, including limited access to affordable and hygienic sanitary materials and disposal options leaving many to manage their periods in ineffective, uncomfortable and unhygienic ways.
Very often, women and girls miss school and productive work days and fall behind their male counterparts, because of practical needs such as water and space for washing and cleaning the body, material for absorbing menstrual blood and facilities for proper disposal of used materials.
Menstrual hygiene and management can be essential in ensuring that one’s everyday life is not interrupted by menstruation. A College of Medicine research scientist and project coordinator for Global Early Adolescent Study, Trinitas Mhango-Kunashe is producing reusable sanitary pads.
“I sew reusable, washable sanitary pads made out of cloth. They can last for two years. This is a low cost alternative, a once off purchase which a girl could use for 24 times or more,” says Kunashe.
Tinapads, as they are called, are made of three types of fabric; flannel, toweling and water proof material. The pattern has wings which are snapped with press buttons to wrap it properly and comfortably on the underwear. “This will ensure that a girl stays in school all year round. If she is absent then menstruation management problem will not be the reason for her absenteeism,” she says.
Kunashe adds that she came up with this innovation after noting that girls usually stay home from school for days due to lack of proper and dignified sanitary materials. She notes that this affects their class work, and translates into poor performances and rises in school dropout rates.
“Our objectives are to reduce absenteeism rates caused by lack of sanitary products, keep girls in school, motivate them to stay in school, break the silence around menstruation and expose girls to Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) because our distribution will go along with three sessions on body development, body feelings and changes and how to cope with that,” she says.
Kunashe says it will be a pack of nine sanitary pads, down from the initial 10. The number was reduced in order to bring down the cost.
“In the pack of nine, three will be used on day one, three on day two; and two on day three and the remaining one on day four. The target is for the pads to be used once a month so that when they are washed, they should not be used again until the following month. As such, they will last longer. …”
Seven years ago today, at the age of 16, I had a major POTS episode. But at the time, I didn’t know it was a POTS episode. I was undiagnosed and blamed the whole event on myself, my interpretation of my own laziness, my inability to take care of my body.
My heart rate was sustained at 180+ BPM for close to two hours with a mess of other symptoms (nausea, blurred vision, I was white as a ghost, pain in all of my joints, etc.) and I ended up sleeping on the floor of the bathroom with gastrointestinal problems. My mom tried to take me to the emergency room but I was a headstrong teenager and refused. I reasoned that I was just having a stomach flareup and the tachycardia was a response to me being very out of shape after doing a bit of running around in the heat of summer.
Because for years, those were the things my cardiologists had told me when we asked about my tachycardia.
“You’re fine, you’re just out of shape.”
That night, my mom texted my psychiatrist, the only doctor along with my therapist who believed there might be something else at play besides “harmless” tachycardia. He told my mom to take me to urgent care as soon as possible.
They performed an EKG and they said there appeared to be nothing wrong, but sent me to the hospital where they performed an echocardiogram. Everything was structurally sound. We made appointments with my cardiologist. I didn’t get much help there.
You’re fine, Shannon. Drink more water. Add more salt to your diet. But you’re fine. Nothing’s wrong.
They did a holter monitor a few months later. They never really addressed the tachycardia, the fatigue, the chronic pain, any other symptom. They just referred back to the EKGs and echos. You’re fine, Shannon. You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine.
Seven years later, to the day, I just finished up my fourth conference with Dysautonomia International. …