Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Last Mile

"There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip."
- English proverb

Today's post was inspired by some articles I recently read concerning the cost of Internet access in Kenya, which has not seen significant price drops years after the landing of several sub-marine fiber optic cables. Prior to this, there were numerous promises of faster, more accessible and cheaper Internet. The promises have simply remained promises, reason being that the last mile costs to the service providers have so far remained unchanged.

Before you feel like I am digressing and talking about something that would more appropriately feature in Connect eMagazine's Telco Talk, let me get straight to the point.

The Irony of Life

IronicEvery time we embark on anything in life, how it starts naturally determines how it may end up, assuming all factors remain constant. When it is a good beginning, then it all proceeds and ends well.
For a lengthy and engaging endeavor, nothing beats the good feeling of that light at the end of the tunnel, an indication that satisfaction and achievement are nigh. However, as we have previously highlighted, life has a way of throwing some nasty surprises at us. Alanis Morissette finds this trait rather ironic.

Consistency, no assumptions
At this point, the question that begs asking is: Must things suddenly change at the last minute? For those who believe in destiny, Is this the nature of fate? And more important, What can be done to forestall this?

The answer lies in two fairly common words: assumption and consistency. Just because things have been going on all well sans any hitch is in no way an assurance that such welcome progress will be maintained till conclusion.
Human beings are creatures of habit, naturally opting to believe in and depend on the repetition of what has happened in the past. In our minds, we simply assume that it is tried and tested, that nothing can possibly go wrong. This is primarily the reason why disclaimers exist. Assumption is undoubtedly the mother of all screw-ups.
We should therefore not assume things.

In lieu of assumptions, we then need to go the extra mile [yeah, that one exists before you get to the end], and remain consistent. No need getting sloppy just because you have done 95%. Do not drop your guard just because you are now in your drive way. The contract does not become binding unless and until the signatures have been appended on the dotted lines.

So much can happen in a very short time period. A day is indeed a very long time, not just in the life of a politician, but in every single thing in life.
There is need to learn from these simple truths. Otherwise, we may learn the hard way [as one Argonaut did] that there actually are many slips between the cup and the lip.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Small's BIG. Not Just Beautiful

I have recently started reading Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher. It is a book that champions small appropriate technologies that empower people more. This in effect contrasts the widely held notion that "bigger is better."

We often believe that more is much better. We consider big cars, big houses, big farms, bigger audiences, tracts of land, big corporations and any other BIG thing a better expression of achievement and success.
This is not always the case.

The Small Boy
I remember reading a story about a group of children who were both neighbors and in the same class in school. Despite being of the same age, one of them was significantly smaller than his peers. He was shorter, thinner and had an unusually high voice. All this mostly worked against him, since his friends often taunted and made fun of him.

One day, the children were playing in an old abandoned house. Eventually, they ended up in the basement. The ground floor of the house unfortunately caved in and almost buried them alive.
In a panic, the children started shouting for help, but nobody could hear them since this was deep in a wood.
Hours later, they noticed a small opening through which they could exit the house. The only problem was that the opening was not big enough to squeeze through... for all but one of them.
The smallest among them would, they later realized, fit in albeit with great difficulty.

Once outside, the small-bodied boy ran back to their homes and called for help. In doing so, he saved their lives.

David vs Goliath
The above story illustrates our attitude towards the small and seemingly disadvantaged. We feel that we need to be like others so that we can make it. We look down on the small among us. We often heap undue and undeserved praise on those who exceed us in some way. The long and short of this is that we often sell ourselves short.

We need to realize that small can indeed have a BIG impact. In most cases, this happens more efficiently too. Small often trounces the BIG and mighty. Small can fit in more places. When you are a small target, you are much easier to miss.

After all, David defeated Goliath.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Avoiding Emotional Imprisonment and Harassment

"And after all this time,
I just hope you understand,
Sometimes the clothes,
Do not make the man."
- George Michael, Freedom '90

I continue to be tremendously upset by the irrational things people do in the name of being in love. Yeah right, you might say... What does a guy who prefers not to be in a relationship have to say about them?
Well, you actually don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what a problematic relationship is.

The Stacy Situation
This past weekend, a close friend told me how his neighbor is having relationship issues that are largely self inflicted. We shall call this neighbor Stacy [not her real name] for the purposes of this story.

It so happens that Stacy has previously been cheated on, dumped for her best friend by yet another boyfriend and almost gave up on dating and relationships. Within a year of staying 'single and uninterested', Stacy chanced upon her knight in shining armor, a guy who despite her reluctance, was unrelenting in his quest to win her heart... As I listened to this story, Alanis Morissette's Precious Illusions was playing in my head...
You'll rescue me right? In the exact same way they never did..
I'll be happy right? When your healing powers kick in
You'll complete me right? Then my life can finally begin
I'll be worthy right? Only when you realize the gem I am.
Anyway, she soon realized that her new love life was indeed ironic, that life invariably has a not-funny-at-all way of sneaking up on you when you think everything is all okay and going right.
The biggest problem she had to deal with was her boyfriend's insecurity and its attendant issues. At first, she thought that he was being jealous and protective of his woman. In just a few months, he went beyond being over protective. He was rude to her friends, strongly suggested that she no longer interacts with her male friends and started bringing up arguments over petty things.

Unknown to her, Sam [let's give him a name too] had been snooping on her phone. He routinely checked out her phonebook contacts, call logs and messages.
He would be keen to ask her who was calling and why whenever she received a call from a guy in his presence. Stacy started getting worried, but decided to let it slide since he treated her like a queen in all other matters.

The incident that finally nudged her from a deep slumber happened last Saturday, while they both were in Sam's house. One of her male friends called and she picked, but said nothing. Assuming that it was a network problem, the guy called again and she did the same thing. He made one final attempt and Stacy rejected the call this time around.
While all this was happening, Sam was beside her in bed, silently burning in anger.

The Jude Situation
The following morning at about 10AM, the guy called again. She accepted the call but said nothing. Sam came to her and angrily asked her who it was that was calling her. Stacy said that was a friend. At this point, Sam grabbed her phone and checked out her call log, the last call was by a guy named Jude. Sam knew this guy had been friends with her for over three years. Stacy had assured Sam that she never dated Jude, and further said that they very rarely were in touch.

Sam started a war of words, loudly wondering why this Jude guy was calling. On her part, Stacy said she declined to pick the calls or engage in conversation because Sam obviously has issues with all her male friends. She politely requested him to stop chaperoning her.

At this point, Sam lost it and instructed Stacy to call Jude, and firmly put him off, reminding him that she had asked him to never call her. Interestingly, Stacy had never told Jude to stay out of touch. Hurting inside, she however opted to play along and called Jude. Her voice shaking, she "reminded" him that she had asked him not to be calling her.

Hours later when she left Sam's house, Stacy sent Jude and text and tried to explain the mid-morning situation...

Principles of Social Freedom
Listening to the above story, I wondered why some people do some things to people they allegedly love. In addition, I wondered why some girls let people deny them their rights of expression and interaction with those they opt to.

At the risk of sounding like an old record, I shall reiterate that people should learn how to let go and walk away from bad relationships. And fight the temptation to go back. Stacy is gradually setting herself up for assault and domestic violence should she end up with this bozo. He comes across as the kind of guy who can go and rough up his wife's boss. He might as well raise hell for Stacy's brother, asking him why he's calling his own sister. Damn!

What to Do?

I bet it'll sound better and perchance, be more compelling if what I need to say is conveyed by Victoria C. Woodhull, the very first US female presidential candidate who openly spoke and wrote about suffrage, free love and eugenics. I'll let her tell it like it is.

Carefully consider the following from her 1871 speech about the principles of social freedom.
What is the legitimate sequence of Social Freedom? To which I unhesitatingly reply: Free Love, or freedom of the affections. “And are you a Free Lover?” is the almost incredulous query.

And to those who denounce me for this I reply: “Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere. And I have the further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to see that I am protected in it. I trust that I am fully understood, for I mean just that, and nothing less!

I claim that freedom means to be free. And I claim that love means an exhibition of the affections. And therefore, in compounding these words into Free Love, I claim that united they mean, and should be used to convey, their united definitions. And when the term Free Love finds a place in dictionaries, it will prove my claim to have been correct,since it will not be set down to signify sexual debauchery, and that only, or in any governing sense.
Need I say more?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Greed vs Contentment

I recently read, for the second time, Sidney Sheldon's If Tomorrow Comes. It is the story of Tracy Whitney, a very ordinary woman who was framed by the mafia, wrongly imprisoned and upon her release, became a con artist. She often worked with Jeff Stephens, a fellow con artist who eventually became her husband.

Jeff was trained by his uncle Willie, who once told by him,
...remember, sonny, you can't con people unless they're greedy to begin with. You can't cheat an honest man.
People become greedy for several reasons. One is that they do not want to honestly earn that which they desire. Another one is that they are not content with what they already have.

The good book is quite clear about the need to be content. In 1 Timothy 6:6,
godliness with contentment is great gain.
So friends, we are called upon to appreciate and make the most of what we currently have. Contentment doesn't mean that we stop being ambitious. Contentment actually goes hand in hand with other virtues such as gratitude and honesty.


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