Monday, 31 August 2009

One Test for All

It is the duty of any ambitious athlete to maintain a disciplined and punishing training schedule for months or even years before a major event. Rippling muscles on their necks , shoulders ,arms, thighs, legs and "six-pack" hard, muscular midriffs are the end results of months of such sustained work-outs.
These muscles are essential for the athletes' peak performance.
No muscles , no medals!
This is why millions of people are suspicious of the motives behind the demand for a gender-check for Caster Semenya.
There is no dispute that Caster Semenya , the record clinching 800 metres female world champion looks like a man.
The South African female athlete DOES look and sound like a man!
And so what? Is that news? What should she have looked like?
Elegant, graceful, stepping gingerly on the tracks ;like a ballerina?
How many of the other world -class female athletes look like women?
Is is feminine to have those rippling, strong muscles of a weightlifter which are the trade marks of ANY top-class female athlete worth her salt?
One would not be surprised to hear demands for drug tests for "overperforming" unknown athletes from "nowhere"; but a demand for a gender-test for a female athlete who looks like a man ?
Strange.Very strange.
It was said that Caster came from NOWHERE to win the title. Very funny! From nowhere? Yet she defeated athletes from "somewhere " by a very wide berth. She and her coach were able to develope a winning strategy which gave her the gold medal in record-breaking time. To the chagrin of some people.
Their strategy, according to Caster was: "Allow them to run ahead , then at 200 metres to the post, sprint forward and kill them. Finish them !"
The gender-check should be not for Caster only , but should be extended to ALL leading female athletes. Especially the female athletes from Germany, Russia and the Eastern European countries. Have you seen the muscles these "women" parade?
Please, if you are reading this and you KNOW or you have seen any medal-wining female athlete , anywhere on earth, who has a feminine body, kindly "educate" me.
What does a "feminine body" look like? It is soft and supple. Not created for extreme physical exertion. Definitely, not rock hard and bulging with strong muscles!
When a man and a woman wear identical tight-fitting jeans and T-shirts, one should be able to differentiate between their body shapes. A flat and trim tummy looks good on anybody. A normal woman should not be flat and straight, front and back, like a ruler!

Since "feminity" is the issue now, it is interesting that the "powers-that-be" in the multi-billion pounds Fashion Industry have a very different mind-set to the World Athletics Governing Council about what the female body should look like.
The latter thinks women should look like women; but the former does not think so.
So while we are at it , why not extend the gender -check ; coupled with a sanity -check to the "beautiful women" who strut their stuff on catwalks and those women and girls who would do ANYTHING to maintain the "in-look" of looking skeletal and as flat as the back of a double-decker bus?
In order for them to comply with the dictates of the "all-knowing" Fashion and Fitness Industry?

It is one thing to make a personal choice to reduce oneself to a neurotic state by trying and failing to achieve some perceived "perfect shape".
What is unacceptable is the mind-control by a group of people to foist their own concepts of "beauty and good looks" on the whole world.
The truth is :the healthy female figure is one that is neither obese , flabby ,skinny or extra thin.
What is normal, feminine or attractive in a size 4 or size 0 woman? With a flat skinny chest and flat skinny bum; with all her bones and tendons jutting out? Also, it is unhealthy and unattractive for anyone, male or female to be overweight.
It is unfair to put pressures on women and young girls to become thin in order to be "acceptable" as attractive and desirable.
Such pressures have caused suicides and mental illnesses like anorexia, bulimia , clinical depression and self-harm amongst the female populace.
Who reserves the right to determine the "acceptable look" for any human being? Acceptable to whom and for what purpose?
There are professional demands on some women for them to look like "Mr Atlas" or like a flat plank of wood. There are also women who are content to choose what size they want to be; that is healthy and based on their Body Mass Index (B.M.I.)
Different women have different B.M.I.s.
Women should not live their lives based on the dictates of the Fashion and Fitness Industry.
Some women are obsessed with the desire to be thin while many others are elated when the answer to their question:
" Does my bum look big in this?" is; "Yes, it does!".
Such women spend thousands of pound on bum and bust enhancing tablets, injections and implants.
Whereas some other women prefer for their pelvic bones, shoulder blades , ribs and spinal column to jut out through their size 0 clothes.
Muscular , beefy, flabby, thin or skeletal , the bottom line is: what message is being sent out by the person?
Is it " I am an athlete, or a model,or I keep fit and trim or I live my life according to the dictates of others"?
Or is it "I please myself; I don't care what others think of me:
if you don't like my shape, get ON YOUR BIKE "!
Whatever the message is, show some understanding and sympathy for why certain people look they way they look.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Social Mobility

Social justice in any society, is not just social protection but a system that ensures real opportunities for everyone to make the most of their potential.
A recent government white paper in Britain, has detailed government policies to enable social mobility in the society.
These policies would be focused on engineering a society where what counts is not where you come from , your parents' class or situation or their earnings.
Emphasis would be on creating new opportunities for the citizens, ensuring their success in the prevailing global economy and supporting child development in early years .
Also on the agenda are the provision of world-class schools, pathways for all, getting on in work, strengthening family life and supporting communities to support individuals.

Anyone who is familiar with how the British society works would agree that some , if not all of these policies are in place already; benefiting millions of the citizens of this country in varying degrees.
However, it is obvious that not everyone has equal access to certain professions and certain groups in many areas of the society have continued to maintain their exclusivity.
This awareness has created the need for government focus on providing stronger foundations for not just a richer country but a fairer society.

One policy already in place, which has impacted millions of lives in the society is the laudable policy of helping parents to give their children the benefits of a good head-start in life.
Government support in the form of free childcare and various reliefs e.g. housing benefits and tax reliefs for each child , being enjoyed by parents ; have given immense financial reliefs to millions of parents in the country for many years.
I believe , as stated in the government White Paper, that increased support for child care is needed by parents to enable faster social mobility .
This would bridge the gap between children from different backgrounds ; aiding them to have the same opportunities as their peers.
A child's early experiences and the environment in which he lives and learns during his early years have a profound impact on his subsequent years.
When the oppurtunities for learning and development are missed at an early age,it is hard for children to catch up.
This is damaging to the children , to families and to the society as a whole .

Prior to this White paper on social mobility, other polices had been implemented to aid citizens to achieve their desired ambitions for upward social mobility.
However, as with any bunch of policies, the impact of their contents and intent on the society would depend on the extent of their implementation.
I know that government intentions and actions are not all it takes to implement policies. The individuals in any society have prominent roles to play in realising laudable government policies.
If a drowning man is offered no helping hand , he would sink , soon or late.
Or when he attempts to stay afloat , if "under-currents" drag him down or his head is pushed down , further into the mire by "hostile hands", his chances of survival would be very slim.
Worst still , there are those people who make no attempts whatsoever, to keep afloat in the turbulent waves of life.
Instead they would blame God , their parents, government and even their spouses for their dire situations.

In this society , there is an enabling environment of grants and facilities to aid anyone with a "success mind frame " to maximise their potentials, to climb and remain on the social ladder, if they so desire.
I strongly opine that the battle for ensuring social mobility is firstly, won or lost in human minds.
Why would any ADULT in Great Britain be unable to READ and WRITE simple English , their mother tongue? In a land of excellent educational facilities ?
Who is to blame for this?
There are millions of able-bodied men and women in Great Britain, who have never worked, even for one day, in their entire lives.
They would , easily, give you a dozen reasons why they CAN'T or WON'T work for anybody and why they deserve to live comfortably for the rest of their glorious lives, on the generosity of the government and good people of Great Britain!
Surmounting obstacles to social mobilty and even surviving the global economic down turn depend not only government's laudable fiscal policies but on REORDERING personal priorities and changing self-defeatist ATTITUDES.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Balancing Acts

There are days when you wish that time would stand still or that there would be more than 24 hours to the day. Sometimes, there are so many tasks that it takes sheer willpower to finish even half of them, at any given point in time.
In this society, there are numerous opportunities available for those who care enough to excel in life. To grab them,more people are multi-tasking than ever before.
The prevailing mind-frame is to put in as many nuts or iron rods as possible in the fire. With this lifestyle comes the need to ensure that every aspect of one's life is included in the total package of multi- tasking.
Each life has various facets to it and no man is an island.
There are relationships and commitments to be focused on. Regarding family life, love-life, spiritual life, nine -to -five jobs, businesses, hobbies, interests and having a relationship(time?)with one's self.
Time with one's self means ensuring a balance of the needs for the spirit, soul and body. Like self-grooming,health issues,a personal relationship with God and feeding one's soul with profitable ideas and information form reading,listening and learning.

I assume that at least 70% of the human race have these same aspirations in their lives.I try to adhere to healthy balance by sheer determination.
It has been said that women are better at multi-tasking than men. Maybe.
Whatever, when one has made the choice to maximise one's potential in life, plans should be put in place to ensure that time and efforts expended on various commitments would be well -balanced so that no one aspect is neglected.

Easier said than done because time is fixed and waits for no one.
Every one has preferences and we ,all, reserve the right to choose how and where to apportion our scarce and fixed time.
The depth of love or preferences in our hearts for someone or something , would determine the time and effort we spend on them.
Where there is a will , there is a way.
I enjoy spending my time in the company of some people more that of others who are equally important to me. Also, I prefer spending my time doing certain things more than doing others which are equally necessary to be done .
So, to avoid a vacuum or unnecessary strife in daily living, what do I or anybody do to balance up?
I have discovered that a little bit of self-discipline helps .
The human spirit or human will needs taming to prevent it from scampering off course. A man with a tamed will becomes a creature of habit. Good habits.
Self-discipline is a system of self-control with the aim of attaining stated objectives or targets and maintaining an orderly lifestyle.
There is nothing as embarrassing as forgetting business dates and time; or a family member's or friend's birthday, wedding anniversary or invitations to meet up for, lunch,dinner or a drink!
Forgetting to phone or visit someone you know who is going through a challenging period is an unforgettable faux pas.

I have my own system of controls which may not be the ideal for other people .
My pager comes in handy with ring alerts to remind me of many things.
I input little notes with alerts to remind me of things to do, of appointments ,of phone calls to be made and names of people .
I set up "TO DO" lists at the beginning of each week. Detailing things to do in my work , businesses , family, my relationships and in the church.
Also I plan how much time to spend on each of them.
Even with these controls in place , there are times when I get carried away and spend more time hanging out with my family and friends than earlier planned. That is, doing want I enjoy doing most.
But it is better to plan ahead and not meet targets fully, than not to plan at all.
Whatever the plan of action employed, a dose of self-discipline in any life is imperative to ensure a peaceful co-existence with others.
Have a happy life .

Happy New Year !