Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Of Religion, and It's value

This began with a conversation with a friend about some recently published articles in the WSJon the value of religion to atheists and another in "the Spectator" talking about the need for believers to be at the forefront of their own defence.

Coincidentally, I read a related article in "The New Statesman" on a similar topic.

I personally agree strongly with The Spectator article.

Religion is about belief; when we talk about “looking for meaning” in our life – in a previous age this would have been called “a crisis of faith”. There is a pressing need at least in the popular press, for what Mathew Parris calls "a muscular defence of religion", particularly in the neo-liberal circles. As acommitted Muslim, I continue to believe that there is absolutely value in religion to the population at large driven through a multiplicity of factors.

The WSJ article on the value of religion is certainly interesting – but leaves unanswered the question; why do we need the Agape restaurant; why do I need this concept when I have religion? Unless it is offered only as a limited solution to either those who already lack religion or to engender bonds and feelings of trust between those of different religions. But even at this point the argument starts to break down; in calling for a return to community based values, surely those communities are best defined around their own belief systems.

It is surely too much to ask a commited pro-lifer (I’m using the American cultural context as short-hand for the rest of the world) to form bonds of community with a radical lesbian pro-choicer.

Surely it would be easier to ask that within the confines of our religious doctrines; a return to belief as called for in the Spectator article; or at least enhanced debate about it. I fully agree that the slow subsidence of religion into a set of quasi-cultural practices and rituals ultimately diminishes anddissipates the ability of religion to break down social barriers and enhance communities.

Looking back through history, one need only look at Christ for an example of a radical social reformer; determined to undermine the established hierarchies and rebuild a society where self-worth was not measured in terms of power or riches but in terms of 'goodness', in terms of empathy. The prophets Muhammad and Moses; can similarly be seen as radical reformers determined to reinvigorate their societies from a centuries old decay.

In our current post-modern reality; the need for this is all around us. The stench of decay emittingfrom our current decrepit institutions is starting to cause people to look for new guidance. What else is the American "Tea Party" movement and it's ideological bed-fellow (albeit from a different angle), the "Occupy" movement; but an attempt to radically reform society? And it is the failure of religion to respond to the needs of the people, to reform society, which saw "Occupy" protesters being evicted from their position at St Paul's Cathedral in London

But, without a single clear lode-stone guiding these movements, they're bound to fail. Which is why, the most successful revolution in history that of the Protestant movement; is intrinsically bound up within the framework of religious doctrine and dogma. It's not for nothing that Communism has failed conceptually; it is because without a clear illuminating doctrine; the position will continue to be shifted by externalities until what remains is but a pale shadow of itself.

So to be clear, I disagree with de Botton, his temple of Atheism will not (can not) succeed. True reform and the ability to help dramatically reshape society must come from within a religious conceptual framework.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why the secrecy bill isn't actually an issue

I can't take it anymore.

The blind headlong rush, to follow the sheep and condemn the ANC.

The OMG, "I now know what it's like to live under Apartheid" Facebook statii.

It's insane, incredible, people falling over themselves to get on the bandwagon.

I suppose it's got to do; partly at least, with people's anger and frustration at being unable to really challenge or fix any of the real societal ills in our country, and this therefore gives them an avenue through which to lash out.

At least, I hope so; I hope that many of the people that I know and respect, aren't completely blinded by propaganda ... by the current mass public hysteria.

The number of people I know who fell over themselves to condemn something they hadn't read was exceptionally disappointing (Read it here, if you still haven't)

I'm not saying that the bill is perfect, not saying that there couldn't be improvements made to it. But, and this is the important part; by and large this Bill is many times better than the Bill introduced last year; and that even with the flaws that this Bill has, it does not in any way signify the "End of Democracy" as so many have put it.

First up, what many people don't know - is the crucial need for this Bill. Classified information in SA, is still controlled by a bill dating back to the Botha era in 1982. That Bill does not make provision for declassification of information, which is why the family of someone like Ahmed Timol, still can not access the information surrounding his death. So, the need for this Bill, is real - we need a way as a country to control classified information and the declassification of that information.

Secondly, people have spoken about how this act will make it impossible for the Media and Whistleblowers to prevent and expose corruption. Unfortunately, this just isn't true at all, for a couple of reasons:

A - The new Act, does not give any state official the right to classify information; only those in the three security departments (i.e. State Security, Defence and Police).

B - The Act, makes it a crime to incorrectly classify information - especially where this is being used to hide evidence of:

(i) " The decision to classify information must be based solely on the conditions set

out in this Act.

(2) (a) Secrecy is justifiable only when it is necessary to protect the national security.

(b) Classification of state information may not under any circumstances be used to—

conceal an unlawful act or omission, incompetence, inefficiency or administrative error;

(ii) restrict access to state information in order to limit scrutiny and thereby avoid criticism;

(iii) prevent embarrassment to a person, organisation, or organ of state or agency;

(iv) unlawfully restrain or lessen competition; or

(v) prevent, delay or obstruct the release of state information that does not require protection under this Act.

(c) The classification of state information is an exceptional measure and should be conducted strictly in accordance with section 12"

Further, the Act prescribes lengthy prison sentences for individuals who improperly classify information.

C - The new Act makes clear provisions for declassification of information, and requires that information that no longer needs to be classified must be declassified and information can not remain classified for more than 20 years except under exceptional circumstances

D - Information requested through access to information laws such as POIA must be reviewed and if the information can not be provided, reasons must be given. Where that information relates to breaking of a law, or environmental harm the information must be declassified

E - The Classification review board, that will review all classification decisions; may not include any state employees or members of political parties-> a simple and very easy way to prevent corruption and cronyism

F - In addition, if the head of a ministry refuses to release information; an application can be made in court - providing even further recourse

Now in addition numerous people have spoken about the harshness and draconian nature of the sentences that can be handed down for violation of this Bill.

If we compare the supposedly “draconian” measures to those prescribed around the world; we find that they are not nearly as harsh as one imagines. The Bill has it’s harshest penalties for someone revealing “Top Secret” (the highest classification) information to a foreign state – espionage in other words. For this the sentence is a minimum of 15 years to a maximum of 25 years. In the US for example, espionage leads to life imprisonment in a time of peace and execution during a time of war.

British law, similarly mandates life imprisonment or execution for espionage offences.

But, many people will cry out, the big issue is really around the “Public Interest Defence”. And yet again we find that the Act, makes provision for this. Section 43 of the Act, specifically allows disclosure of information where that is allowed for under the “Protected Disclosure Act”, or the “Companies Act” or any other law. When talking about evidence of corruption; this falls squarely in line with evidence that should be disclosed under the relevant criminal codes.

Lastly, people have spoken about appeals to the Constitutional Court, and spoken as if the highest court in the land is the only defender of democracy. What needs to be remembered is that not only is the court empowered by “democracy” to act in this matter; in terms of section 80 of the Constitution, this is completely envisioned as a part of a healthy and well functioning democracy.

In short, this is a storm in a teacup and people need to get their knickers out of a knot!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Post-Wednesday blues

So, today's the day after Wednesday ..
The day after, "today, or bust"

And frankly, I feel a little blue; but not in a crazy unmanageable way.
I'm irked that I didn't get an email .. 'cos I think my application is good enough; and I deserve to get in. But we'll see ... and there's still next week Wed and the following Wed before I know for sure.
And as my friend Maria (who got her invite yesterday) said, there's a reasonably chance that they review applications in a non-prioritised way and thus a good chance that they just haven't looked at my application yet.

So not down and out yet .. not by a long shot ... but at least one of the three applications kinda needs to come through ... 'cos that would just be horrendous

Anyways .. i'm bunkered down at work today ... wondering when the ANCYL marchers will come strolling by ... sooner would be better than later .. I kinda need a distraction today :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MBA anxiety

So i'm getting better. The bouts of sadness seem to have disappeared and life is generally sunny. Not totally sunshine and happiness to be clear but certainly things are improving at a healthy pace.

From where I was a few months ago to today, the path i've walked seems to have been both long and circuitous. But, now i'm fortunate enough to stand on a comfortable look-out point and from this vantage point, survey everything that has come to pass.

Today's a good day to be doing this, this little bit of self-reflection; mainly because I desperately need to take my mind off of the impending sense of doom that comes with the opening of the MBA interview invitation stage. Today is the first day for Harvard interview notifications, today and the next two Wednesdays. So i suppose I shouldn't really be as nervous as I am. But, it very much feels like "today, or bust" - because the majority of invites will go out today. I'll know for sure by the 9th of November; but I think if nothing comes through today, i'm going to start putting together the list of my second round application schools and a new application calendar.

I'm just nervous I guess, more so than I've been in a very long time. I think it would actually be more helpful for me (unlike most people) if I didn't know the dates, just knew that they were going to let you know by the 10th of Nov latest; because then it would have come as a pleasant surprise if I was contacted early.

So, anyways; back to my vantage point ... things seem to be going well -> Work, family, friends ... most everything seems to be ticking along smoothly .. Let's just hope that it lasts and isn't some kind of calm before the storm.

Till next time (probably next Wed) :-)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reflections on love

This started on one of the countless threads (oddly enough, they seem to have slowed down recently .. wonder where Ned is)

I think i'm starting to get a handle on this whole "love" thing.

Think i'm starting to understand what it means to be me ... think i'm starting to understand what makes me tick, what makes my heart pound.

And right now; i'm beginning to realise, much to Rash's horror .. that, that is all that matters.

Dewdrop was talking about "Criteria" and how they don't matter - and he's right .. As I've grown older, I've realised that none of the criterion matter.

Not sure who was blogging / linking to the posts about illiterate lovers, about lovers who write about lovers with passion; and none of it matters .. nothing matters except the ability to make your heart race. If that doesn't happen, nothing else does.

There are some non-negotiable criteria I guess .. for me at least .. it should be a she to begin with (I briefly toyed with the idea of making this negotiable then decided I wasn't that open minded). But that's about it.
A friend was telling me the other day, about how he fell in love with a Jewish girl. After some time, she converted; then it ended ... and she ended up marrying another muslim guy.
Which goes to show A - that the muslim girl criteria isn't really a good one .. and B - I don't know if I care anymore.
Why should it matter? If two people are compatible, can agree on a method, on a system for running their lives and that of their family; what does it matter? Didn't the prophet marry both Christian and Jewish wives; and they remained Christian and Jewish.

I guess, what i'm trying to say is: "If your heart skips a beat at the sight of him / her then that's it .. Khalaas .. It won't matter if the person is black, pink or green if they're 5 foot tall or 7 .. Because somewhere inside of you; some part of you know. And when you're wondering about criteria and having doubts and second thoughts somewhere inside of you will still know"

And you'll catch site of him/her or see a photo or even just think of the person and all those 2nd thoughts will be whisked away like they don't exist .. Because when your heart skips a beat, the mind is just an innocent bystander watching as the express train of your heart goes by.

Till another time and another place, here's hoping I catch an express train sooner rather than later :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holes in the heart

"There's a hole in the world tonight, don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow"

That's how things feel right now .. desperately trying to keep it all together.

"There's a cloud of fear and sorrow" -> Can't be more spot on than this.

I think i'm stuck in an Eagles phase, would be nice to get out some time ...

So I haven't written in over 4 months; another year has past .. and I, I am older and perhaps wiser.
More cynical certainly.

There's some good news I suppose; i'm starting to gain more clarity on life .. at least the immediate professional future if nothing else.
Going to be in Abu Dhabi for the next 2 months at least; with a view towards making it a year long stay.
And then .. and then MBA .. and then .. who knows

Clarity, 2 months at a time I guess

And i've forgotten how to write, rusty I guess .. hopefully it's like riding a bike; not something you really forget, just that you need to practice once or twice.

So here's to clarity, and more writing, and a world without a hole

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Falling ...

I think, i'm falling for her,
i think, she might be the one.

I'm not perfect .. I don't quite no what to say or do,
sometimes; when i'm with her .. I stammer,
Like a blubbering idiot .. or babble on uncontrollably

I'm not quite sure what it is,
She's pretty - but not the prettiest
She's smart - but not the smartest
She's bubbly - but not frivolous
She's caring - but not the softest
She's stubborn - but not the worst
I'm still not quite sure what it is ..

But, I think she might be the one