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Monday, August 20, 2012

A Valuable Lesson From Kirani James

The Olympics Games are a gathering. The gathering of people, from around the world, in one place; the displaying of multiple colors that represent different countries; the adrenaline rushes  that occupied our bodies due to the apprehension of us anticipating the athlete/s that represented our country win gold, has subsided. The London Olympic stadium is empty now, everyone has headed home. The games are over.
However, here are some questions I must ask. What is the purpose of the Olympic? Is it just a gathering of men and women who trained for years to compete against each other for the purpose of seeing who the best in their disciplines are? Is it just for capitalists to rain in millions of dollars after blocking out local entrepreneurs from cashing in on the flow of tourists? Or, is it an arena designed for countries (the Superpowers) to demonstrate their strength via human beings? Indeed, explicit from the London games, was the comparing of the London opening ceremonies with that of the Chinese’s (Beijing 2008). Mine (Democracy) vs. yours (Communism). Also the counting of the number of medals won by each country was what the media (CNN, MSNBC etc.) became occupied with.  Is this what the Olympics are all about? Who wins what, and how much, or is there something greater about the Olympic than just individuals showing of their agility, their speed, and their strength etc.
The beginning of the Olympic Games is dated to 776 B.C. (Before the Common Era), in Greece. The games were held in honor of the god Zeus. It was a showground for the winner to confirm, his or her connection to the gods, the Olympians. Women raced, for instance, to win a position as the priestess of the goddess Hera, or to prove their worthiness to participate in temple rituals. In addition, the Olympics were used as an opportunity to spread the Greek Hellenistic culture. In essence, the Olympics, in its early Greek years, was a politically, as well as a religiously driven festival.
Today, however, these athletes participating in the games do not have to display their talents to validate their connection to gods or goddesses, nor do they compete to secure participating in temple rituals. Despite this, however, the politicizing of the Olympic Games remains today a reality. Over the years of the modern games, the world has witnessed, in the 1930s, for example, Nazi Germany’s use of this arena to promote its racist idea of Aryan superiority. Despite women participating in the early Greek games, it became a male dominated festival, women was deliberately restricted from participating. It was not until the 1900 games women were allowed to participate. This 2012 Olympic Games has seen countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei, that had prevented women from participating in the games lift their restriction; a step forward for women rights and human rights.    
These truths may have been the last things on the minds of those who gather, in their homes or in the Olympic stadium, to view the games. Instead, focus may have been on how spectacular the opening ceremonies would have been; on the glitter, and the glamour of it all. Some spoke of how their soul was moved by the opening ceremonies and the pre-show. Others may have been interesting in the chiseled physiques of the male athletes’ and/or that of the well-formed females’.
I too enjoyed the games. I was moved by the spectacular displays of the opening ceremonies in London 2012 and also in the one held in Beijing 2008. Moreover, I admired and enjoyed the athletes displaying their incredible talents in these various disciplines. However, despite all of this, as I sat steering at my Tele, I could not help but feel that I, and  the many other people around the world, were assembled, in person or via television, for one reason and one reason only; to reaffirm something greater – which is humanity, and this, I believe, is the real meaning of the Olympic Games. This is the message, I maintain, we should take away from the games. The message of Humanism. In fact, this very message is reaffirmed by the athletes themselves, via their camaraderie, and love they display towards each other despite the competition. 
So, what does humanism mean? In essence, “It (humanism) is above all an affirmation of the greatest common value we human beings have: the desire to live with dignity, to be good” (p. xiii Epstein, Greg), and this desire to live with dignity and be good was fascinatingly on displayed during the London 2012 Olympic games via the action of our very own (Grenadian) Kirani James.
No doubt, Mr. James did himself and our country extremely proud, indeed; winning, for the country, its first Olympic medal; certainly an extraordinary achievement. It was a delight to witness this young 19-year-old man displayed such talent. Despite showing the emotional energy that came with achieving his goal, as all athletes does, Mr. James, however, did not just become lost in the moment of achieving the prize every competitor in the 400meters coveted, the gold medal. No! Mr. James remained abstemious, clear headed and instead stepped over, and congratulated by extending the warmth of love by embracing and shaking the hand of every one of the competitors. In fact, the humanistic gestures extended by Mr. James to the South African athlete, Oscar Pistorius – a double amputee – of, not only exchanging tag names with Pistorius, but also embracing the South African athlete and hailing him the motivator for Mr. James to continue on should certainly have a profound influence on the world; certainly, a display of the Olympic ideal.
Kirani James has reaffirmed to Grenada and the world the spirit of love; the essence of humanity. He has demonstrated the true essence of the human being; the drive to be good, the drive to love. He has reminded the world that we must embrace humanity - each other - regardless of differences. Furthermore, Mr. James has demonstrated that “we cannot afford to wait until tomorrow or until the next life to be good, because today – the short journey we get from birth to death, womb to tomb – is all we have” (p. xiii Epstein, Greg). Great job Kirani James! You deserve the Olympic Kotinos - the Olive Wreath - of humanity (the Kotinos was made from olive lives from sacred olive trees grown near the temple of Zeus at Olympia which was use to crown Olympic winners in Greece). Thumbs up!  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Prayer is Not What Grenada Needs

Religion is a human invention. Originally developed, it appears, to calm the fears of our early humans ancestors. It gave them a sense of security in an insecure,and uncertain world. It was the end result of the attempt by early man and woman to answer pressing questions early humans had about the environment around them. Who is responsible for creating the hurricanes, the monsoons, the volcanoes etc.?, and how can they petition that person or persons to stop sending these devastating disasters their way? Our ancestors thought long, and hard, eventually deciding that communicating to the "God" or "gods" in charge via ritual, sacrifice and even prayer as the ideal ways to appease him or them. This, however, was then. We have now matured to gain understanding about the workings of hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, etc. Today we (humanity) have and continue to develop real solutions to many real dangers. Not that we are totally safe from these natural disasters, but we are today better prepared to deal with them. For instance, we've created building materials that can better withstand the natural weather and have come up with ways to alert ourselves of arriving disasters. We now understand that sickness is not caused by evil spirits entering the human body and, therefore must be exorcised or prayed over to be healed. No! We have developed medical science.
Yes, indeed, I say all this to establish this fact, prayer does not work. Unless, of course, one views praying as a motivating tool; an energy booster, which works not unlike how sport athletes using chants (or even prayer) to mentally prepare themselves and focus on the task at hand before engaging in a competition. Praying for one’s condition to be changed and not literally sorting out a real solution to the problem, guarantees the problem to remain the same. As Christianity is concerned, this truth is evident in the Faith Healing Christian community of today. Every year innocent children are left to die by parents denying their children medical attention because the parents are invested in an irrational belief that says praying and having faith in God will ensure their children better health. They never do heal if the truth be told. 
In light of these facts, come Saturday August 4, 2012 and Sunday August 5, 2012, the Political leaders of the New National Party, as presented in an article published in the online Grenada news network, entitled The National Party Calls for National Days of Prayer and Reflection, are designating the mentioned days as national days of prayer and reflection for our nation because of the recent increase in violent crimes. Whether these people view prayer as the real solution to the problem, I don’t know. It seems to be a stretch to conclude that they do. On the other hand, they are, as the Faith Healing Community, vested in their faith, and, based on the article, it appear to suggest that they do believe that by praying God will be move to heal Grenada from the crimes. In fact, to convince themselves and others that they are taking the correct action, the outrageous claim that Grenada is a Christian Country was made. As if by verbalizing this false aphorism, God is now required to help. Hold up a minute. Do they mean that Grenada is a theocracy? The last time I checked we had a secular constitution that protects the right of all Grenadians to have “the right to freedom of conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to maintain or to change one’s religion or beliefs, and freedom to profess or disseminate one’s religion or belief, either individually or together with others, in public or in private”.  We are not a Christian nation, period.
Indeed, Grenada does have a problem with violent crime, and this problem is increasing. We certainly cannot let crime become synonymous with our lovely Spice Island. Real responses to the problem, by our leaders, however, have been wanting. It is not so much that our political leaders lack the ability to present meaningful solution to the problem. No! The problem seems to be deeply rooted in their belief in a messianic savior. The belief that someone will come that takes care of their problems. All one has to do is ask; “pray for it”. In addition, we are direct, through the article, to Psalm 121:1, as if to guarantee that what they are proposing will certainly work. “Truly, there is no better place but in the Lord to find deliverance”, the article boasts. 
Reading this article troubled me deeply. We are asked to place our sureness in wishful thinking. More so to trust in a group of people who believe that prayer can and will solve our country’s crime problems. I don’t know about you, but I can’t. This is not a solution to the problems. This activity is not unlike flipping a coin and trusting that the problem magically vanishes. This strategy is not planted in reality.
Grenadian leaders have to stop the pussyfooting around and really engage in developing real strategies to tackle the problem. Stop playing politics and develop actual solutions to this very real problem. Of course, I am not calling for these men clothed in long dresses not to engage in prayer in the privacy of their homes or churches (in their closet), but for these politicians to literally accept this as a genuine approach to fighting crime is ridiculous. If this assertion is correct, then they are men and women not fit for public office. 
Look, let’s be for real, Grenada’s crime problem did not come about because people stopped going to church or stopped praying. It is because of what you the politicians did or didn't do. Yes, you guys did and are doing a lousy job. The New National Party (NNP) government (Yes, the prayer party) handed an almost bankrupt country to the incoming National Democratic Congress (NDC) government. Today with a failing world economy, Grenada has seen huge job losses adding to the already double digit unemployment. So instead of calling for Grenadians to bow their heads and close their eyes to the problem, create jobs, build an education system accessible to all Grenadians; create an economic system that fosters social upward mobility. Step up and stop allowing big business and big banks from operating unregulated.

"Two government backbenches ... vote with members of Her Majesty's Opposition (The New National Party - NNP) to block an amendment to the Insurance Amendment Bill which seeks to protect the Grenadian population against fraudulent activity in the financials services sector." More

Please do your job and protect the people from being robbed by these "plutocrats and oligarchs"(in the spirit of Professor Cornell West). The problem is not that Grenadians are not praying enough. On the contrary, Grenadians are spending so much time with their hands clasped and eyes closed asking for a messianic fairy godfather, sky daddy, to fix their problems, that they forget they have the wits to solve their problems  themselves. Let NNP know that Grenada does not need wishful thinking. Grenada needs actual solutions.
A proposed solution - The way forward for Grenada and Grenadians