Thursday, September 23, 2010

Teach a Man to Fish...

Give a man a fish and he eats for day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime [Chinese Proverb]

For the poorest of the poor in today’s world that old proverb is bullshit!

It should read; Teach a man to fish, and he just gets enough of a glimpse of what life could be like if he could afford a damn boat, that he hates you even more when you leave him standing on the shore!

The world’s poor already know how to fish, and grow crops and manufacture any number of consumer goods. What they lack is credit and the ability to get their commodities to market.

Earlier this week the United Nations General Assembly met to discuss the progress to date on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Of the 8 goals for reducing poverty and increasing equality only goal number 8 (Develop a Global Partnership for Development) even touches on the need to help develop small business. Yet it is small and medium sized business, especially those based in agriculture, that have proven time and time again to be the engine of economic growth for the wealthiest countries. If businesses were supported and given the chance to grow, I dare say the implementation of all of the MDGs would be made easier. With increasing domestic assets and sources of taxation the lesser developed countries would not be as dependent on foreign assistance thus lowering the cost of aid doled out by the wealthier nations. It’s a win-win!

Since the early 1990s Micro-Finance has become one of the fastest growing and most effective methods of raising real people out of poverty. Small, low-interest loans, which encourage trade among the world’s poorest, have been proven to move people from dependency on foreign handouts for mere survival into productive economies. Raising people out of poverty increases world wide security, reduces the threat of terrorism and violence and lessens strain on the environment.

This past week I hit 100 followers. I promised myself that when that happened it would be time to step it up and go from a passive journal to a real on-line community. I want to this blog to become a meeting place for people who are passionate for change.

My focus is Micro-Finance. I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. I know first-hand what it’s like to build a business from scratch only to have it ripped away from you by market forces beyond your control, I know how hard it is to pour your heart and soul into something only to be told that you are a bad risk and I know that even a tiny bit of credit on fair terms can make all the difference in the world.

I am asking each and every one of my followers to get involved and help entrepreneurs. It’s the only way that makes long-term sense in fighting global poverty. Go to the Believer’s Trust tab at the top of this page to find out how.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. – Albert Pike

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This is NOT okay!

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. [Jesus; Matthew 25: 35,36]

As many of you who have been tracking with me for a while will know one of my main points on this blog has been that Peace without Justice is Oppression. Now I recently heard Justice defined as being motivated by compassion where compassion, which literally means “to suffer with” or “to suffer alongside”, is an emotional response to the absence of Justice. Put simply compassion is the emotion we feel when we are NOT okay with the suffering we see, it causes us to join with the sufferer on an emotional level.

Thanks to our 24hr a day news media, compassion is often felt by and for people on opposite sides of the world whom we will never meet. Regardless of physical distance and vast cultural or political differences we can all relate to suffering. Who can forget the out pouring of compassion we all experienced just 8 months ago when an earthquake practically destroyed the island of Haiti or even today while flood waters cover one fifth of Pakistan?

Natural disasters are a natural fit for compassion but what about man-made disasters?

Canada is currently debating legislation which would make it legal (although still against the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights) for the coast guard to board ships suspected of carrying migrants while still in international waters and keep them from our shores. Why? Because the minute the ship enters Canadian waters the passengers would have the right to petition for refugee status. This could take years to resolve, usually resulting in the granting of permanent residency and a possible increase in human trafficking.

There is a clear double standard at play here. Why are we so willing to spend billions of dollars to help rebuild shattered lives when natural disasters hit while on the other hand crying foul and claiming we can’t afford to help when war and political unrest force people from their homes and quite literally onto our doorstep? The only crime these refugees have committed is having been born into a culture and a time that puts them in the minority surrounded by people who treat them as second (or even third) class citizens. There is no shame and certainly no crime in seeking a better life on the other side of the world. Isn’t that what our ancestors did with they founded this country?

Those of you who follow Canadian news media of course know that I am referring to the recent wave of Tamil refugees to land on the coast of British Columbia. But similar scenarios have also been played out on the coasts of the United States and Australia.

If you don’t want refugees showing up on your shores the way to stop them isn’t through confrontation on the high seas. You instead need to address the living conditions, both social and economic, that they face at home. How many Tamils would be willing make a risky and uncomfortable journey to Canada if it meant leaving a comfortable life and secure future in Sri Lanka?

Unfortunately debating foreign policy while refugees are knocking on your door is kind of like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. They’re here we have to deal with them and Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats, excerpted above from Matthew 25:31-46 is a good one to keep in mind while we do.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Lonesome Valley

Every so often, as I continue to develop this blog I run into something that causes me to stop and revise a lot of what I thought before. It’s like coming up to a T in the road I can’t continue in a straight line anymore, I have to make a turn. This past week has been like that for me.

After just over a year of writing I finally decided to take a closer look at existential philosophy. To be honest I used to think that the whole idea of existentialism was pointless and I had very little time for it. But that was before I understood what it really means. Funny how that works sometimes isn’t it?

The reason that I initially resisted existentialism was that I thought it was fatalistic. I thought that the statement at the core of existentialism was that life has no meaning and no purpose, que sera sera so to speak, but as I began to take a closer look at it I realized that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact the core of existentialism isn’t a statement all but a question.

Existentialist don’t start by saying there is no meaning, they start by asking what the meaning is. When I realized that I began to understand that I am an existentialist and that The Earworm is an ongoing existential study of our post modern society.

While the search for a meaning to life is at the heart of existentialism, according to psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl the question itself is actually a red herring. In his landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning” first published in 1945, Frankl explains that life demands meaning from us, not the other way around. For man to ask “what is the meaning of life” is to confuse the issue by trying to put the answer outside of ourselves when it is really life itself that demands, “what is the meaning of you?”

Put another way; it is up to each of us to find meaning in our own lives. Without it we may as well just give up and die right now.

When Dr. Frankl returned to clinical practise after three years as a prisoner at Auschwitz, witnessing and surviving through some of the worst human atrocities ever perpetrated, he would often ask suicidal patients what had stopped them before they came to him. After all, if they really wanted to kill themselves, wouldn’t they be dead already? The answers he got pointed to the meaning and higher purpose that his patients were able to find even in the depths of their own despair. They would talk about love, family and unfulfilled dreams. In a word, they would talk about meaning.

Nietzsche said that “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how”. Pain and suffering are a fact of life. No one knew that better than Dr. Frankl, but it is meaning and purpose, despite that pain and suffering that can see us through absolutely anything.

There is a meaning to life, but it’s up to you to find it. In the words of an old American Spiritual;

We must walk this lonesome valley,
We have to walk it by ourselves;
O, nobody else can walk it for us,
We have to walk it by ourselves.

Our task is to find meaning in the walk.