Archive for June, 2011

06/29/2011

Looking For Love: Before You Settle…

Loud Mouth Lorna asks: “Ah wah mek some people frighten fi relationship so? Dem nuh memba seh if yuh lie dung wid dawg, yuh must ketch flea!?” 

The best way to be safe is to make sure you know the bed that you’re willing to lie in both inside and out.

The old dog and flea proverb above always had me in stitches as child whenever I heard an elder use it, until I got older and became more somber in my outlook and started to grasp its true meaning. We all deserve love and happiness, no matter what type of personality we have. There is always someone out there for everyone, and I am a firm believer in that saying as well. But, it is often how we go about looking for that someone that causes us to be in some difficult situations.

Ever had the friend who always had a new partner – changing faces like models do outfits in a fashion show? You know them pretty well, they are cool folks but it’s just like a parade of partners that would make anyone head’s spin? Yet all you hear when you talk to them all you hear is just emptiness or a lack of satisfaction? How about that cousin who is always with the same type – the ones that love to dominate and control? It’s the signs of some of those reasons playing out. Sometimes there are those among us how seemingly “settle for what they can get” and we chastise them. But are they really “settling”? By whose standards are they doing so anyways?

Some just want to be love; other was acceptance. Some seek financial independence; others seek a free ride from a willing meal ticket. Some grow lonely, and some just cannot stay alone for long. People often are in relationships for different reasons, and some get stuck in relationships for others. It really boils down to how one is able to view the situation.

Here’s why the regulars will stay “the man is stuck on talking about knowing what you want” – because it really helps you to see your situation clearly. Look, no one can ever see all sides of any relationship for the fact that their feelings are involved. Sometimes our feelings give us clarity and in other moments they obscure our judgment completely. It is really how we interpret and manage our feelings that will guide us through any relationship.

For example, take someone who is motivated by always being in a relationship. They like the security that comes with being with one person. They will often hop from relationship to relationship with almost no down time or time by themselves. They just enjoy being known as someone’s partner and that someone will shower them with attention, gifts and other things to make them feel wanted. They may even go as far having a child or committing to that person in a long term relationship, just to have those feelings constantly coming in. Now, is that a bad thing? Depends on the perspective you chose. But it becomes problematic if that person is doing that intentionally. If they know that’s what they want and are pursuing it, then well, they are sleeping in the bed they’ve made. If they keep just findings themselves in similar situations over and over again, it is something worth examining.

Sometimes you can get fleas that are not easily removed in the form of responsibilities and emotional baggage. It’s not about being over cautious but being merely realistic with yourself in terms of what you wants and needs are, and what you are willing to trade off. So it’s always good to read the fine print before to settle by signing on the dotted line.

06/28/2011

Meeting Goals Head On

“Never swim a mile and half just to avoid swimming a mile. When one does this, they not only avoid meeting the challenge of achieving their goals, they deprive themselves of the much needed growth that comes with the process by returning to their “status quo” starting point.”

06/27/2011

Dealing With Regret

“If one lives a life filled with regret, then they are not living as they are letting the opportunities life provide to make peace and move on from those regrets pass them by.”

06/26/2011

Pride, Prejudice and Perseverance

The big news of the weekend in NYC is that the State senate passed the bill to legalize gay marriage in New Yorkon late Friday June 24th. TheEmpireState now joins Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, DC and Massachusetts as the only areas in the country that recognize gay marriage on a state level. California at one point did so, but there was a referendum that passed that banned gay marriage but still honors the unions of those who wed when the pro gay marriage laws were in effect. This landmark achievement was hard-fought as it took a few Republicans defying party orders to get the needed 32 votes in the NY Senate to pass the measure. The measure was passed 33-29 in the Senate and 80-63 the Assembly.

While many gay rights supports rejoiced, it made me think about what are some of the ramifications of such legislation going forward.New Yorknow stands as the biggest state both in size and populous to sanction gay marriage. Will such a move open the door eventually for a LBTQ identified candidate to run for president? Will it mean that more LBTQ identified folks living “on the down low” will emerge, freer to pursue their lifestyle? Will such a landmark pave the way for other states to address LGBTQ rights formally with a gay marriage law? If more states make the move likeNew York, will it force the Federal Government’s hand to revisit the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) prohibiting federal recognition of gay marriage? Keep in mind that there are many states that acknowledge same-sex unions with some legal provisions in place that offer some of the important rights that heterosexual unions enjoy (e.g. making medical decisions and access to insurance).

Who knows what the future holds. One thing is certain: the fight for LBTQ rights is as far from over as is the causes of equality for people of color and women’s rights. For me, it’s a great moment to see another oppressed group achieve a long overdue milestone. Now the LGBTQ community is as diverse as any other group, and one can argue it spans a wider cross-section of people inclusive of ethnicity, nationality and socio-economic status. While I’m not as qualified to speaking on LBTQ matters, there is no doubt that their contributions to American culture, especially in New York, has been just as profound as any other group. People often forget that along with the youth and black and Latino voters, LBTQ support was critical in Obama winning the ’08 election.

This landmark moment will be celebrated in grand fashion at the Pride parade today. As one of the older and easily recognizable NYC day parades (first started in 1970), this celebration will probably be the most memorable as “the first parade after the law was passed”. I’ve been to a few of these parades and it is an energetic atmosphere as an onlookers, so it must be really off the hook as being a participant on the floats.

For a state that embodies a new beginning and the shot of the American dream, it looks like the lawmakers got this one right. Pride can overcome in the face of prejudice with persistence after all.

06/26/2011

Overcoming Obstacles

“When one is backed into a corner, rather than come out swinging wildly, one must make sure each step taken forward puts you that must closer to overcoming the obstacle, not just merely getting out of the corner.”

06/25/2011

The Politics of Sex

The last few months in the news have been a blaze with stories of now former politicians acting “inappropriately” – most notably Arnold Schwarzenegger and Anthony Weiner. For those who aren’t familiar, Anthony Weiner was a younger but well-respected Congressman from New York in the Democratic Party. He was seen in many circles as the next candidate to become NYC Mayor. He was recently forced to leave Congress due to a sexting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexting) scandal in which it was discovered he used Twitter to sext pictures of himself to a quite a few women. He has been married for 1 year and his wife is rumored to be pregnant with the couple’s first child. For those who want to dive into more of the juicy details: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/anthony-weiner-scandal-timeline-deceit/story?id=13781381. Now, this is all very interesting because it comes on the heels of the former Gov of California, movie great Arnold Schwarzenegger’s martial implosion over having a child with the live in housekeeper (http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/b242601_arnold_schwarzenegger_housekeeper.html).   

It raises two key questions: why are politicians held to such high moral standards? If politicians are celebrities in their own right, why don’t they get a pass in a similar fashion that actors, musicians etc do in the face of such scandal?

Someone recently shared with me that “politicians are held to a different standard” and that they “should be seen as positive role models”. In that person’s defense, their comment is pretty valid. Many of the politicians out there are actually working hard to do their job, which is to advocate and improve the lives of their constituents. Because they are in the position of being able to impact many people’s lives in such a wide scale, they should be people who are highly respected and use their access to power appropriately. For many of us it is hard to see how the bureaucracy translates into daily life, but if one looks carefully, it does. Still, they are in the same perception business as other public figures such as musicians and actors. We see it time and time again in the world of entertainment how spectacular the scandals can be in forms of sex, drugs, money, and or racism. Stories of over indulgences and abuse due to access get fed to us daily in tabloids in the form of rumors and mainstream media when those rumors are confirmed as facts. So why is it that when a politician falls from grace he is given up for dead, but when a musician does the same, people still go out there and by his music? Shouldn’t a politician be able to equally rehab his image in a similar manner?

 One can argue that it’s more about the perception of the difference between being a celeb (like an athlete, musician, or actor) and a politician and not the actual differences between professions themselves. I cannot speak on Arnold because I didn’t live in Cali while he was governor. I can say that he did butt heads with the GOP leaders from time to time based on his policies, but one can say some of the things he did were aimed at his idea of looking out for Californians at large. Look, what Arnold did should really be left between him and Maria Shriver (his now soon to be ex wife of 25 years) in the same manner that what happened should be left between Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin to resolve. We’ve seen politicians who did arguably worse than Weiner and reboot their images. Ex Newark Mayor James Sharpe went to jail for fraud and corruption (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/07/former_newark_mayor_sharpe_jam_4.html)– he is now out but still has weight in the community based on his mayoral record. On a similar martial vein, there’s the name of Bill Clinton – nuff said. Clinton was given another chance…somewhat. Clinton went on to finish his term but was seen more as a manageable non-asset than a true strength in some of the campaigns he lent his name to support specific candidates after he got out of office. The question is still the same: why is it fair to give a moral pass to other celebs or publicity visible figures that err in a manner similar to Arnold and Weiner?

Unfortunately in the era of social media, both Arnold and Anthony will be stuck with both issues as serious blemishes on their records. Still, Arnold will be able to rehab his image (so did Clinton) while Weiner may never be able to do so. While I am not condoning the acts of both men, perhaps it might be time to reexamine the moral compass that we use to scrutinize everyone in the public eye – particularly elected officials. Politicians are still more real people than the automatic “bastions of morality” that we may still view them to be.

06/25/2011

No Monkeying Around

“A  monkey in a dress and a monkey in a suit is still a monkey. You can either be the monkey’s handler or be the monkey that someone can mishandle at will to suit their purposes.”

06/24/2011

Seeking The Best With God as Guide and a Runny Nose

 One of the all time great Jamaican proverbs is:  “if yuh want good, yuh nose haffi run”. Its meaning is along the same lines of: “the early bird catches the worm” – hard work is always rewarded. Such a phrase is typically reserved though for the great education conversation – those moments when a child seems to not be applying themselves as readily to their educational pursuits in a manner that is pleasing to the parents.

So as this phrase gets beaten into the heads of many kids ad nauseum, we may actually not be giving kids what they really need to be successful people – not just education hungry sponges.

The education system I was raised in was built from the British model. Basically competition is the order of the day. Educational goals and markers were structured in such as way that as a student, it felt like I was always competing with other kids in the class, particularly the smart ones. Want another source of pressure to do well: I was raised in a household where the only other HS male got a scholarship based on his CXC exam results (http://cxc.org/about-us/about-council)[1]. The 411 on that system is: you go to school from Kindergarten to 6th grade. At the end of the 6th grade you take a placement test to go to High School called GSAT (http://caribbeanexams.com/gsat.htm)[2]. In High School, one would spend 7th-11th grade working towards the diploma. At 16 you take your CXC exams to be eligible for your HS diploma (similar to regions here in New York or FCAT in Florida). Once you have your HS diploma, you can take 2 more years of precollege course and then at 18 apply for college. So potentially HS would be 5-7 years long, with 5 being the minimum.

 In a system where education is not free, there is tremendous pressure for kids to be successful – especially if they are from working class or poor socioeconomic backgrounds. Parents have pay for tuition every semester, and if the kid needed summer school, that was not free either. There were both private schools and public schools at the Kindergarten to 6th grade level, with the private schools charging more per semester than what it cost to do a semester in college! Yet the private schools had waiting lists to get into the very elite ones.

 When kids do well, it allows them to be in a position to become successful adults who are able to support their families – the ones they create and their ones of origin. It was one of those unwritten reasons why dropping out of school was not cool at all when I was coming up. I can remember having my folks throw the threat of what could happen to me if I dropped out of school in my face and I was scared as hell. Granted, I was a good enough students but that was the tactic to keep me in line. I can think of friends who dropped out and it was like they were never seen or heard from again.

 So, my high school’s motto is in Latin and translates as: “With God as Guide, we seek the best”. It was really more like “With God as guide and parents breathing down my neck I NEED to be the Best”. I can remember fondly when my CXC grades came out at how embarrassed yet proud of my grades I was. I did well, but had friends who got scholarships. I never escaped the shadow of the scholarship winner in the house either, but I was proud because I did fairly well.

Why bring all this up? Well, people in the Jamaican educational system have realized that it is not about just getting the best grades. Students should now be put in a situation where they are retaining information better and not prepping just for the exams – the same issue students face here in the US, especially when it comes to the SAT exam. There is an ongoing council of principals and respected educational officials making ongoing recommendations to address the issue of “swatting to pass tests” – and with kids’ futures being serious investments, the stakes are higher now more than ever given the global economic climate (see what the kids in Japan have to face when it comes to testing).

 Another serious issue with the system is that it is geared through competition to create the best possible candidates for high skills jobs such as lawyers, doctors, etc. When people drop out of the system, it is hard to regain entry if your education allows you to earn a certain amount and financing going back to school is so challenging. Some people take the tack of forgoing college education because they see how hard it is for college graduates to gain employment. The catch 22 here is lethal in the face of competing for resources needed to make a better life and be productive in society.

 So if we really tout “education as the key to success” then why are we still teaching kids how to get the best grades to land a job, but not the skills and knowledge needed to stay employed? What are you really telling college students who have the grades to get noticed but there are no jobs to hire them? It’s hard to seek and be the best when the deck is so stacked against you.


[1] Before the CXC exams, there was the British O and A level exams. O Levels was for the standard 5 years for the HS diploma, A-Levels applied to the 2 pre-college years.

[2]When I took the placement exam it was called the Common Entrance exam. It became GSAT when I was in 8th or 9th grade of HS