Sunday, 30 December 2012

No Mr. Mandela

I was not intending to write anything this side of 2012 but today I read something on my Facebook timeline that made me angry. It was one of those photoshoped/powerpointed images with fancy background and fanciful font, another one of those quotes to live by. This feeling was compounded by another piece of news in the Reuters website entitled Yale under fire for new campus in restrictive Singapore. The Facebook quote I read was from Nelson Mandela.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world"
You are so wrong Mr. Mandela and for me that is very hard to swallow as I have you in such an high esteem. I guess I never came across this statement before or only now completely understood its cruelty. As you are an educated man, you fell into the fallacy that poverty and inequality exist because people have no education, do not go to school, can't read or write, do not know the capital of Papua New Guinea or the fission of the atom. And that is so cruel and unfair to those people. You think that an educated man has more chances of success, forgetting that those chances will only be valid if there are still uneducated men and prizing success as the ultimate goal of man's journey on Earth. You confound "uneducation" with ignorance and they are not the same. Education is not the opposite of ignorance neither is knowledge... wisdom is. There are so many ignorant doctors, lawyers, engineers, politicians, presidents, kings... You are right in one point though, where you say that education is a weapon. Unfortunately you forget once again that weapons never changed the world, at least the world of harmony and equality you dream of and where in so many ways you are its truest human representation. So many weapons have been used for centuries with derisory increments to human fairness and happiness. You forget that in "educated" countries, with "educated" people, Sandy Hook School moments will occur and so will LIBOR manipulations.

The education you refer to is yet another import/export from the Western "Civilization". The Third World (the poor) bought their needless airplanes, cars, motorways, high speed trains, jet fighters, tanks and machine guns; education is now the new must have. Because education can be bought, someone had another eureka moment "If it can be bought damn sure I am going to sell it!". Education is now sadly a commodity, an object of desire no different from a Smart Phone, sold in exchange for oil, diamonds, gold and sweat and tears. Education is becoming massified, where knowledge is getting diluted into more and more people, millions of graduates becoming billions, with no change whatsoever in human relationships. You can spend all the money in the world in education, everyone may become a doctor, engineer, lawyer or just be able to read and write. The world will not change a bit. How many educated dictators has this world seen that spend years treading through the corridors of Yale, Oxford or Sorbonne? The next dictator, mass murderer, ethnic cleanser, financial scammer, drug baron, will surely be "educated" to Western "standards".

No weapon will change the world, ever! Save your money, your resources, use your money wisely... You should not try to "educate" your people because that only shows that you are not happy for what they are already, and they always have been. Respect yourself and mankind for its infinite wisdom and resourcefulness! 

Respect... now that's a word that could change the world. And it is reassuring to know that it cannot be bought or sold or taught, only learnt.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Fürstenberg? Never heard!

HSBC Head Office in Hong Kong
The last posts may have been a bit too heavy so today I decided to "lighten up" a bit with a true story that always makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I remember it. I think this could be a good time to share it with you.

In 2004 I worked as a temp for a car leasing company. I was assigned to the underwriting team that was dealing with affiliates ie car dealers and franchises that wanted to sell personal leasing and did not have the resources to provide that type of finance. So... quite often a fax or letter would arrive with a request, a few bits of documentation, personal details, address, type of car, employment details, etc. All requests for underwriting were manually assessed and the Head of Underwriting had this constant shout "Last 3 payment slips! No payment slips, no car!". Only after, a thorough credit check would be made. My role was to verify if all the relevant and accurate information had been gathered by my colleagues, use common sense when not all boxes were ticked and then wait for the Shout of "No car!". The paperwork was kept on yellow folders with the name of the applicant visible for correct filing and retrieval.

One day one of my colleagues approached me a bit dumbfounded with a prepared yellow folder where the applicant name read "Princess Alexandra von Fürstenberg". The Princess was requesting a leasing for a 5 door Vauxhall Corsa for 2 years. He asked me "Is this a hoax? A trick from the media to test any double standards we might have?" I looked at the address, looked like a very posh place in London, details seemed to fit and told him to confirm with the affiliate who had made the request. He replied that the Princess had not attended in person but her Personal Secretary did.

I picked up the file put it on the pile of the Head and waited. A few hours later the shout of "No payment slips, no car!" echoed in the office and I started laughing (to myself by the way, didn't want to look rude) and retorted "Of course she does not have any payment slips, she is a Princess!". He replied "In that case I want to take a look at her personal bank statements!!!!!!" — I am laughing uncontrollably now while I am typing this by the way — "Look at her bank statements? You are a bit clueless on this..." I thought to myself... My colleague went patiently to call back the affiliate with the request looking more and more stupid by the minute. It was then agreed that a letter from her bank would be sufficient.

On the following day a typed letter arrived via DHL. My colleague showed it to me, typed in very expensive letterhead, with beautiful multichrome and the name "The Hong Kong and Shangai Banking Corporation — Head Office, 1 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong" and signed on the bottom, hand signed by the President.   The letter was saying more or less that the bank would assume any financial responsibilities concerning their highly regarded client Princess Alexandra von Fürstenberg.

I took the letter to the Head, he looked at it and shouted "Hong Kong and Shangai Banking Corporation??? Never heard of it! An Hong Kong bank? No way! I want 3 payment slips!"

Suffice to say that the Princess did not get the car, not with this company. Neither would have Queen Elizabeth II.

Monday, 17 December 2012

(a bit) Racist!

When the Army wins, it's a victory
When the Germans win, it's a defeat
When the Zulus win, it's a massacre

The expression "a bit racist" has been cropping up of late in the dialogue of English language. One day does not pass without listening to it on Radio, Television, the streets... I find its use almost endearing, not to apologize for an attack on any racial minority that lives in this country, but to excuse or slightly admonish the originator of the comment.

However... there is no such thing as "a bit racist", like there is no such thing like "a bit murder", "a bit theft", "a bit rape", "a bit adultery", "a bit punch", "a bit stab"... There is only Racist! The more you excuse yourself and others of the mindset you have regarding your outlook towards minorities, the more you perpetuate a state of affairs that is omnipresent on all minds, and by proxy, all institutions of this country... and you cannot and should not tone down your words or views by putting a little "a bit" behind your prejudices. The risk is that they will never go away and will stay on your subconscious as part of a National culture (I was almost inclined to add "British" National "Party" culture, well I just did!).

The point with racial discrimination is that is very hard to evaluate. I was formally taught in this country (what I culturally knew already in my heart from mine) that you do not need to be discriminated to be discriminated and this is not an echo. You are discriminated not only when you are discriminated as a matter of fact, but also when you FEEL discriminated! The main problem with the British/English society on this matter, is that they think they have done enough by sticking to the rule book of "Equal Opportunities" and tackle it with a sledgehammer. Unfortunately the rule book is omissive from the part of the discriminated because it has been written to standardize the discriminator. The rule book is unequivocally written from the discriminator's point of view.

And then I continuously find little gems almost on a daily basis, being one of the last, the Football Association's Anti Discrimination Action Plan which includes "cultural lessons" for foreign footballers. That is Racism with a capital R, the assumption that a foreign player needs to understand the values of the British multiracial culture. It is on the same level of the old and defunct British Empire bringing "civilization" and "culture" to those "savages" in Africa and Asia less than two centuries ago. Ah and the book would be again written by the same "missionaries". Some will soften this approach by calling it "patronising" but no, it isn't, it is (a bit) Racist. The biggest oversight is the fact that most of the football fans (and the FA) are in desperate need to attend "cultural lessons" given by the foreign players that come here and make the sport as brilliant as it is at present.

The same applies for the obtention of British Nationality. The exam needed for such coveted gong is yet another form of racism and discrimination, as most of the long living and natural residents would fail it. Worse, in many cases after the nationality is given, the new Nationals feel like they have now a licence to discriminate.  And there is no prize to be given to anyone that knows why this happens.

I found very disturbing the plea from Ed Milliband last week for the compulsive need to learn English as essential to social integration. That is also very racist, veiled colonialism again, as social integration is not the basis for a happier society: Tolerance, Humanity and Equality should go beyond any language barrier. West Indian immigrants have been coming to this country for the past century. They all speak English... and so did Stephen Lawrence.

I finish with a couple of pointers... the first on the Huffington Post about discrimination of minority ethnic women with some comments on the bottom of the page going both ways, well more on the way that would make Nigel Farage think that he has a chance of becoming the next Prime Minister. The comment I selected goes like this:

I know for a fact discrimination exists even when there are measures in place to prevent it. I used to work as a civil servant in the personnel department for a Government agency. We used to sift the applications and remove the front page so no decisions could be made on the applicant based on their age, race or gender. Those who fulfilled the criteria were short-listed for interview. A pass mark would be set (such as 70%) and if the applicant achieved this at interview, they were offered a job. One asian gentleman attended the interview and scored 73 but the interview panel marked on his form that he should not be offered a job because his spoken English wasn't very good. Bear in mind, he had performed well enough at interview to score 73. My boss told them that this was discrimination and he could not allow the panel to disregard anyone who had passed the score required. So the interview panel RAISED the score required to 75 to ensure this man would not have to be offered a job.

The next one is regarding one of my photos posted 4 May 2006 to which I jokingly gave the title of "Welsh Beauty". A few days later I got a comment on that page with expletives I had to delete. Later on 27 May I received an email from "A. Jones" with the subject "Still?"... have a read:

Morning Mr. Ferreira, I see that you didn't see it fit to address my last e-mail to you, so, before we go to the Race Relations Board, and maybe the Assembly Government. Let's be adult about this and look at it in an adult manner. I, being Welsh, object to your image of the sheep, in the gallery that you saw fit ti post on the W.W.W. and distribute to dpreview. All I ask is that you either remove that image, or more to the point, the insulting, offensive, rascist title. But you as an English man, well living in Manchester anyway. Ooops, before we go any further, let's have a look at that, Paulo Ferreira, Not an English name is it? Therefore, I don't know, you might have had the misfortune to have been born in England, but your name is certainly NOT of English descent. So what does that make you? Are you an "eyetie?" or perhaps a "dago?," or even (Lord forbid), one of those "rag headed middle eastern, suicide bimbers?" Mr. Ferreira, do you see what can be done by racial comments? An "eyetie, a wop, a dago, or a raghead." Not very nice, Mr. Ferreira, is it? Racial slurs like this go no way to this countries racial harmony, and with an ancestry like yours I would have thought that YOU of all people would not want to cause any racial hatred. Please Mr. Ferreira, remove that offensive tiltle. Yours sincerely. A. Jones. 

I learned that jokes in this country are mostly unidirectional, and removed the caption a few months later. It had stopped being funny, for me anyway.

Some would catalogue and defend "A. Jones" reply as a good example of positive discrimination. I look at positive discrimination in the same way I would look at Roman Abramovich complaining after a match, that someone on a stall charged him £50.00 for an hot dog.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


"Jack Brigance: — What is it in us that seeks the truth? Is it our minds or is it our hearts? 

I set out to prove a black man could receive a fair trial in the south, that we are all equal in the eyes of the law. That's not the truth, because the eyes of the law are human eyes -- yours and mine -- and until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices, so until that day we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts -- where we don't know better. 

Now I wanna tell you a story.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Art of Diversion

Jacintha Saldanha
A prank, a blag, research, all words used by the media to obtain information for lucrative purposes by breaking the law.

The word prank has been used recently to label the act of an Australian radio broadcaster that triggered the sad suicide of the Nurse Jacintha Saldanha last Friday. Everyone broke the law, from the start of the phone call, its recording, its broadcasting in Australia, its dissemination and high profiling in the United Kingdom's media. Surely this should have been worth of an injunction on the same level of the photo of the Duchess of Cambridge boobs. But oh no, nothing happened, until some "unforeseen" event triggered what is now a lot of backlash allied with salty water crocodile tears.
If you go to a bank impersonating someone else, with a card and false signature in order to withdraw cash from an account... is that a prank? a blag? research?

If you go to the GCHQ dressed as Her Majesty The Queen look alike in order to obtain some secrets for monetary exploitation... is that a prank? a blag? research?

If you know someone's answering machine code, PIN number and obtain private information or cash... is that a prank? a blag? research?

No... these are all crimes!!! Punishable with a sojourn in Her Majesty's accommodations.

I am tired of all these misnomers used by the media to cover criminal acts. "Pranks", "blags", "researches", "public interest", these are all crimes that go impune every single day.

You cannot make a recording of a phone call without advising the caller or called that you are intending to do so. How many times have you heard the tired wording "this call maybe monitored for training purposes"? Even after you consent to the recording (which you may decline by the way ie you can always say "I do not allow this call to be recorded for any purpose whatsoever!!" and create a logistic nightmare in the call-centre industry) you have to give consent (now written) for it to be used outside the remit of the call, including advertising, cinema, radio, television, written press... anything.

We all get diverted with softer words in the United Kingdom. Recently on Stephen Fry's QI, the word meddling was described in the XVIII century piracy manuals "if you meddle with an honest woman in the ship you will suffer death" where meddling is clearly... rape!!! and a crime punishable with death even by pirates. Meddling is rape, interfering is child abuse, troubles is war, highs are drugs, disruptions are collapses... you may add to the list if you want.

Why did Jacintha decide that her life was not worth living anymore? Why would a "prank" be so lethal?

King Edward VII hospital has been using diversion on this subject, concentrating their efforts on the guilt of the Australian broadcasters. But this event goes much deeper than that... why would a nurse have to answer a phone in such a "high profile" hospital with such an high profile patient at!!!???? Did Jacintha have any training dealing with direct phone calls? The Australians tried to "blag" their way for five times... no one in the Royal House security was made aware of those attempts. If Jacintha answered the phone directly in her ward where the Duchess was, how come the "blaggers" got the direct phone number for a ward that should be in high security mode? Jacintha was not the person to interpose a phone call on a direct line from Queen Elizabeth II at 5.30 am!!!

It all comes in the end to Jacintha's ethnicity, yes and this is yet another diversion word to cover race and racism. If she was an English Rose she would probably have noticed the "prank", having a good laugh and ending the call with "... nice try Lizzy!!!". I don't know how long Jacintha was living in the United Kingdom but according to the hospital she had been working for them for four years. She was described as an excellent nurse which is very high praise and can only confirm how good she was on top of her "ethnicity". How could she have denied access to the Queen? With her "ethnicity"?

But, on the following day, when Jacintha comes back to work from her hospital digs, her act has gone viral. Colleagues, doctors, managers, everyone is talking about this and about her, some smiling, others scorning, some suggesting that she might loose her job, some saying that an enquiry will be made and she will have to answer for it sooner or later. Scapegoating will occur. And when she finishes her mid shift for lunch and goes to the canteen, she listens to the murmurs, the smiles/taunts, the "oh bless her!!" pious looks and words, all "for a laugh" because in the United Kingdom if you can laugh you cannot offend, allegedly. And when her shift finishes, she goes back to her digs, husband and children 200 miles away in Bristol, lonely, very lonely. And the next day... all starts again.

The Australian broadcasters got the support of a psychologist as soon as they heard the news of Jacintha's death. What support did Jacintha have from King Edward VII hospital?

So, a hard working professional nurse came from another country with her family, got a job in a high profile London hospital and was good enough to be in charge of the caring for a Royal family member. Unfortunately for her she also belonged to the catalogue of jibes of another Royal family member.

And King Edward VII hospital, why on earth such a professional and excellent nurse was still living in hospital digs, away from her family after four years????