Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

First a quick word for a blog post after 9 months, lately I have been working on quite a lot of things which I will slowly try to bring into some story. The current commitments and time constraints might not allow me to do it very soon.

Today I was not planning to write anything either until it poured my heart out to hear that today was ‘International day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade”. So I decided to write few words before I again pick the biography of Olaudah Equiano from my collection of unfinished books. A quick word to those who don’t know, Olaudah Equiano was a slave who bought his own freedom and became one of the pioneer of abolition of slave trade in Britain. BUT This day is not day to remember one person or few people, it is the day that we pay our deepest respect and sincerest remembrance to those 18 million slaves who sacrificed their lives and went through hardships while paving a way to freedom. It is important to note that one third of those slaves were women. This year, in the Women’s History Month, we must give a particular tribute to the women who died and suffered during slave trade. 

Then we must remember and thank our heroes (men and women) who lead the movements of change and fought heroically on all intellectual and human rights front. Finally two cheers to all the heroes from all walks of lives who are still fighting against racism and slavery.

At the end I must say slavery IS worst crime against humanity whether in organized form or unorganized form. I don’t want  to put slavery in history by using word WAS because it exists and it is there in the worst form due to the fact that not many people really know about it. This modern day slavery exits in the form of human trafficking, sex trafficking, forced labour (general and debt bondage), child slavery, criminal exploitation and domestic servitude etc. I will quote only one line  from UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which might make us think.

“People trafficking is the fastest growing means by which people are enslaved, the fastest growing international crime, and one of the largest sources of income for organised crime.”

We must stand up together to put an end to the modern day slavery as well as to racism. It is only possible if we remember the suffering of 18 million slaves in slave trade. 

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why I don’t eat in restaurants

Three months ago, I made a pledge with myself for not to eat in restaurants whatsoever, today I feel happy to announce that I have successfully completed it and have extended this pledge to further six months. I have a simple thought to share with you.

It has been fairly easy experience without compromising my social interaction, most of the people have been supportive. Upon a typical invitation, my response include acceptance of invitation to gathering with an apology for not eating out. People then ask for my reason of not eating, giving me opportunity to speak against food wastage.

In past, I have not been eating in restaurants much but always felt guilty for two reasons. My pledge actually is due to second reason

1) The food customers waste as consumers

I always found it strange when people decide to waste left over food. It is very simple to get this food packed and take with you. I don’t want to look good on the expense of others but I feel disgusted by such consumerist act of wasting edible food.

2) The left over food wastage by restaurants

I had many depressing moment when restaurants and food courts threw away all the edible and untouched food. I used to dine in a food court as a student, I would watch all the food on the counter and in the kitchen going in the waste by the end of shift. I tried to flag up this issue but trust me nothing I could do, If you live in UK then probably it will be more easy to understand. Nevertheless, this is happening everywhere.

Even once I was eating in food court and I knew the food was about to be wasted, so I requested person over the counter to give me little extra food. She simply said she can’t because I had to pay for this extra food and after few minutes that food was in dust bin. This food could have been given for free to less fortunate or to homeless humans.

I actually made my pledge after one year of this incident when I was eating a buffet, near the closing time I witnessed the horrendous act of food wastage. At that day I made promise to myself not to be a part of this food wastage by restaurants.

How I maintained necessary social presence

Being a middle class social creature, I had to maintained my necessary social presence in these situations by having a tea, coffee, or a drink.

How I survive while travelling

Eating fruits, sandwiches from local stores, and eating from local take away and avoiding mega food chains where food wastage is likely to happen (lesser evil 😀 )

How I survive when I haven’t food with me 

Sandwiches from shop

 Will it change anything?

Probably not! this thing will keep happening everywhere. But I have lesser moral conviction as I try not to participate in this food wastage phenomenon and try to create awareness by this little act.

Pay it forward

I know several objections can be raised but lets look within ourselves. This little act can create little more social awareness about food wastage and related absurd practices. If you think I make sense, please tailor this pledge for yourself.

Please share this thought with your friends who might make such pledges and let me know if you have similar ideas.

Empathy in human connection

I have  been thinking to write about ’empathy’ for many months. Finally while reading Prof. Simon Baron Cohen’s book ‘Zero Degrees of Empathy’ I decided to write on this simple yet most overlooked word ’empathy’ from very basic to bit advance level. In the end of the video I’ll make reference to book ‘Zero Degree of Empathy’ and a relevant video.

To start, I must say we often sympathize with people without really understanding their real emotions, situations and responding accordingly. This is the point where we actually confuse sympathy with empathy. I would start with a simple video from Sesame Street where Mark Ruffalo explains ’empathy’. Although it is meant to be for children but I have realized as a adult we often overlook empathy too.

Now lets take step further to understand difference between empathy and sympathy. How empathy is much powerful while sympathy is not really that helpful.

From above video we have seen empathy has four main elements (shown in following figure).

Now lets take conversation to bit advance level where Professor Simon Baron speaks about empathy while dividing empathy between two components ‘cognitive’ and ‘affective’. He further explains how psychopaths are different than rest of the populations. In addition to following video you might find his book ‘zero degree of empathy’ interesting to read.

The simple thought follow of the blog is that we have to realize the power of empathy in human connection while realizing other’ emotions (cognitive part) and should act accordingly (affective part). Without any of these two components we cannot really be empathetic.

Life without Toilet, World Toilet Day

Earlier this year WHO declared 19th November as World Toilet Day. This blog post is to create awareness regarding this issue.

When I was about 6 years old, I moved from a Metropolitan to my native village for sometime due to some family business. At that time, there was no electricity available. Having toilet facility was considered as a luxury. Majority people were deprived of basic sanitation facilities and would go to fields to defecate.

People would normally urinate in house or fields. However for men it was bit easier because they could even do it in some lonesome corner of street too. Female would be very careful about their whereabouts, they would relieve themselves either in house or in fields. Normally a secluded place in house was allocated for this purpose.

For defecating, people would go to fields very early morning or night time, normally night time was preferred. However anyone can pop in any time in the fields but you would not feel comfortable carrying a vessel of water for washing up later. This process was also done by using a clean lump of mud in absence of water.

Men would go alone in fields, as safety wasn’t much of concern to them. Female from a house would gather in groups due to safety concern. They would normally accompany very young boys and girls with them to develop this habit in them. People would carry a vessel of water with them called ‘Lota’. In field they would separate themselves and make themselves at ease. But to me this whole situation was very funny as I came from a city.

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                Lota

Sometime it would involve cleaning yourself with lump of mud than later on with water, but some people preferred washing with water directly. Anyways in case of absence of water, lump of mud was always the only option.

For children, it was bit easier. They would go outside the house during day time and will relieve themselves and then there was a particular thing ‘sliding their bum on the cleaner ground’ to clean. Majority of them would not bother to get washed.

In my village things changed after arrival of electricity as people started making toilets but this practice is still going on in poor families where they either cannot afford to build toilet or are not much concerned with hygiene and safety etc. People, in my village, were lucky as they lived in a peaceful and safer community. But later in my life, I would often read news in papers, women being raped or abused while making trip to defecate.

According to few recent tweets by World Health Organization (WHO), “Poor sanitation creates conditions for serious health probs such as diarrhoea, typhoid fever, malnutrition, polio.” Regarding safety it says “Women, girls particularly are risking their lives looking for a place that offers privacy to defecate, risking rape and abuse”.

The sadder fact is that “Of the world’s 7b population, 6b have mobile phones. Only 4.5b have access to toilets or latrine” and “More than 2b people in the world have no access to a toilet, half of these live in the WHO South-East Asia Region.” But things have got little better, “In the WHO South-East Asia Region 60% of the pop defecated in the open in 1990. This had come down to 39% by 2010”

It’s a good step from WHO to declare a World Toilet Day and to discuss this issue on international level but still “UN Millennium Development Goals: of all 2015 targets sanitation target is most behind. 1 in 3 people do not have a basic toilet”.

We have to work together to do humanitarian measures and to create awareness to make healthier and safer societies.

Child molestation ( بچہ بازی ) in Pakistan

Child molestation is a widespread issue which exists in almost every society ranging from slums to posh areas. It is a myth that it only occurs in illiterate and societies of low socio-economic standing. In developing countries like Pakistan child molestation is more common than it is think of, this can be more pronounced in families where the parents (or guardians) are themselves unaware of imminent danger or do not suspect potential offenders from relatives, friends, servants and teachers.  It is important to remember that both male and female kids are at equal risk of chance of child molestation.
 
I can quote several incidents either known to me personally or told to me. First I will just quote from Europe, as a starter, then I will straight come to Pakistan. A friend told me about when she took a trip of school girls in Cologne (Germany), at least four men approached the kids to make proposition. Once an ex-friend Pakistan of mine who was married boasted about having sex with under-age girl that day I decided to say goodbye to our friendship.  I heard of a 7 to 8 years old kid in Pakistan who was used by elders who offered him kites etc to take advantage of him. Once I was walking late night in Pakistan, I guy was carrying a 3 to 4 years old female kid. He was asking that kid to kiss him deeply on lips (bear in mind no one kiss a child on lips in Pakistan).  I don’t want to go into those unnecessary details on these incidents.
Do not take this issue light, it’s a serious matter. Just imagine if this immoral and criminal act happen to our own kids. Imagine how much trauma, psychological and physical suffering can happen to a child. If you want to understand what damage child molestation can do to a child then I would advise you to do a basic Google search. I have no qualification or experience to talk further on this issue.
Parents mostly think of strangers as potential sex offenders but mostly they fail to realise that in most of the cases offenders are acquainted with victims.  “According to Sahil, an organisation working on child abuse and awareness raising campaigns, acquaintances including teachers, van drivers, shop keepers, servants, friends of the family, etc make up the first category of child sex offender, whereas strangers make up the second. Lastly, the third category is relatives of the child.” [1] There are many cases of child molestation by Maulvi sahab (teachers hired to teach Holy Scripture to kids at home or madrasa).
 
“According to the recent statistics given by SAHIL, a non-government organisation, Punjab is on the top of the list for child molestation with 62 percent of such cases, 154 in Lahore and the rest in other cities of Punjab. In total, 68 percent girls and 32 percent boys have been the victims of child molestation. The number increased by 9.4 percent as compared to 2008. Statistics show that around 81 percent of the cases were registered with the police. The study shows that 2,012 children were reportedly abused in 2009 and most of them were abused by acquaintances. ” [2] Imagine that this figure is nothing as compared to unreported incidents where either people keep silent due to social stigma or lack of evidence. Thousands of cases go unreported as children do not tell their elders.
I won’t write on how child molestation can be minimized as there is plenty of literature available on-line or maybe I will write a separate blog post about it. It is important for parents to realize eminent offenders from  relatives, friends, servants, teachers, maulvis. Parents and guardians should develop friendship with their children so that children can have the confidence to talk to their parents.
[1] Mavra Bari, February 27, 2012, “Child sexual abuse: Paedophiles in holy garbs molest kids, betraying parents’ trust”, tribune.com.pk
[2] Hina Akhtar, July 30, 2010, “Paedophilia in Punjab reaching alarming levels”, daily Times
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Mental illnesses and attitude of society

Mental illnesses like psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (etc) are not sign of weakness but most them are due to chemical imbalance inside the brain. Sometimes this chemical imbalance can happen without a reason, It’s similar to having an accident and getting physically disabled. So we should be careful how we behave and speak to mentally disabled people.

Following are examples of some of ridiculous thing to say to a person with mental illness:
“Get busy, and distract yourself.”
“Why can’t you work?”
“Stop focusing on the bad stuff, and just start living.”
“Just pray about it.”
“Do you want to get better?””
“get over it”
“You have everything you need to get better.”
“You can snap out of it. Everyone feels this way sometimes.”

Nobody chooses to create chemical imbalance in brain so why to label them crazy, retard and a psycho etc. If it is OK to discriminate, stigmatized and deny opportunities to mentally disabled persons then it should also be the same case with other illnesses diabetes, heart problems, sinusitis etc. Obviously you will appreciate the last one then we should ask one question from ourselves and people around us.

Why it is that we sympathies physical illnesses but stigmatized mental illnesses? Why?