Quick Reflections- Seminar Beijing, China (May-July, 2017)

Below is an excerpt of my reflections on a training seminar in Beijing, China.

Represented sector- Land Development; Urban Planning and Research &Development (Informal Settlements and Indigenous knowledge)
QUESTIONS*
1. Overview, general comment and impression of this SEMINAR
The above named seminar was structured to fulfil the main purpose of assisting Jamaica in developing a sector around bamboo. The weekly schedules all consecutively flowed into each building a knowledge base and enhancing the capacity of the country representatives. All culminating into the practical application and demonstration afforded us by the three (3) well thought out weeks in YongAn, Fujian Province.
2. Professional knowledge you have learnt from this SEMINAR, including lectures and field trips. You can talk about this combined with your working experiences.
Having spent almost twenty (20) years in various capacities spanning Central and Local Government as well as in academia, I have learnt that LEARNING DOES NOT STOP. As a professionally trained Urban Development and Environmental Planning practitioner currently involved in projects and programme implementation, I understand the challenges involved in transferring knowledge into tangible actions that directly help the poor and vulnerable in the Jamaican society. Bamboo (and specifically the specie indigenous to Jamaica) can be used as a medium to alleviate some critical issues in Jamaica among which- reducing youth unemployment; providing low cost housing for the 30+% of the population who live in sub-standard housing and fuel the entrepreneurial efforts taking shape in the private domain.
3. What suggestions and comments for this SEMINAR? Are you satisfied with this SEMINAR?
Professionally, I satisfied with the organization of the lectures, cultural experiences and the opportunity to live in Fujian Province- one of the bamboo ‘capitals’ of China. My expectations for a seminar, as named above, were mostly met and many were EXCEEDINGLY met. I would suggest the following:
(a) Condensing of the first four weeks to three and perhaps a lengthening TO four (4) weeks in Fujian and,
(b) Reducing the final two weeks to one- this is all that is needed to wrap up the seminar.
With these two suggestions the duration would be two full months representing one week of savings.
4. Difference and shared things on Forestry and Bamboo in academics and industry. Specific examples are welcomed.
As a graduate of a College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the US, I have always noted the deliberate efforts to have comprehensive Forestry Management Plans (FMPs) in the US and paucity in Jamaica. Observing a similar approach in China especially as it pertains to bamboo plantations has made this deficiency very clear. Further the fact that project driven activities drive afforestation efforts in Jamaica is also a concern. Working on some – namely the CIDA- Ridge to Reef and the USAID- PARC projects highlights the vulnerability and unsustainability of the Jamaican forestry sector. Bamboo itself had been viewed as an invasive species so, much work is needed to remove this stigma and to begin to coalesce all the ground work thus far into a formal, national industry. Much work to be done.
5. Overall impression of Beijing and China
Personally, I know I have not begun to see even the ‘tip of the iceberg’ into the full essence of China-the country. However, what I have been able to see surpassed my dreams and ‘bucket listing’ of this country. Despite some inter-group issues- there was nothing that was allowed to diminish the beauty and appreciation of the experience. Being a city dweller and a professional Urban Planner I recognised the common issues of large urban areas and have even documented some of them. Overall, the best part of this first visit to China was the three weeks spent in YongAn, Fujian Province. The encapsulation of the rural-urban juxtaposition and the precision of the organization of the tours to offer demonstration and application of bamboo uses were absolutely impressive.
6. Possible cooperation idea between China and Jamaica in Forestry and other disciplines.
Many opportunities exist, a multi-sectoral, inter-agency approach is needed (LOCALLY) along with a multi-national partnership(INTERNATIONALLY) at certain stages of concrete milestones along the development cycle. Notwithstanding, Jamaica would need to either produce the resource in large volumes or directly manufacture value-added bamboo products (under viable financial conditions). Jamaica has a high national debt including huge import bills and the latter options would have to be done with several subsidies. Subjected to a tight fiscal space such subsidies may be hard fought. For the opportunities to be realized many activities have to occur concurrently and /or simultaneously. For example, a fast tracking of a policy (Central Government) inclusive of the full range of applicable standards (BSJ’s role).
*Questions provided by Facilitators – July 13, 2017

Marginalization and its consequences…

fight-inequality

I have been grappling with the thought that sometimes- well meaning efforts can have inadvertently deleterious effects despite being impactful. This often happens when I am immersed in some gender related activity. I think on the ways in which many cultures still do not allow the girl child to achieve her fullest human potential. Some girls are primed only as brides and thus chattels of their male counterparts whether as a parent or later as a spouse. It is therefore important work to empower females who are so socialized or who have escaped these oppressive regimes they had been forceably subjected to.

However, observations made in the field, in other societies including mine, is that young males have, or had at some point previous, become themselves marginalized. In Jamaica girls are out performing their male counterparts in most of the indicators of human development. See below for the educational attainment indicator example in Jamaica.

Although the number of boys and girls in Jamaica is roughly equal, according to some recent statistics, 48,992 boys and 81,111 girls sat CSEC subjects, and the girls outperformed the boys in all arts subjects and all science subjects, except mathematics. More than twice the number of females (67 per cent) are enrolled in the University of the West Indies (UWI) than males (33 per cent), and 59 per cent of those enrolled in post-secondary non-tertiary education are women.

Its long been accepted that boys develop differently than girls. Strong family support is needed to nurture  the children  in such a re-socialization process so as to take these into consideration. Girls have a proclivity to learn at faster rates than most boys. The education system must, even through resource constraints, have specialized approaches to capture and retain boys as well as girls. Concurrently, there must be a demystified definition of the gender roles. Our boys AND girls must be equally socialized to realize their fullest potential  within the context of modern societies. Traditional roles have to be retooled such that there are no restrictions contained in either.

Correlation between inequality and crime

Thus, it is ironic that the men are expected to be primary bread winners and providers in their traditional roles as ‘heads of households,’ within the current system that is failing them. In previous articles I have written about the high rate of male drop outs and the large percentage of unattached youths primarily concentrated by the males in the population. With the increasingly high national crime rate and the spate of murders in St. James, data can be found to provide evidence to the underlying cause and effect, not excluding the educational attainment. It is an imperative that we do not attempt to only mitigate against the attendant results but also strive to bring resolution to the innate nature of the problem.

We watch the news and documentaries and we wonder how can people be so murderous. We also wonder how people can be so callous as to scam the elderly out of their pension and life’s savings. It is time for us to get into the belly of the beast and slay the dragon from within. We need to start to understand, not empathize, but to dissect the mindset of deviants. As stated in a TEDWomen talk delivered by Jacqueline Novagratz in 2010 we should seek to understand how someone, ‘…[can] look at other beings, human beings, as lesser than [them]selves and in the extreme, to do terrible things.’ In an episode of the series Black Market on the Vice network, some young males (including boys as young as 12) who were involved in carjacking activities in Trenton, New Jersey, stated, ” its ‘us or them,’ when we are hungry.” This echoes the sentiments by many males who hang on the corner in many inner cities or impoverished neighborhoods here- as well some hardened criminals- and those relegated to a life of crime and illicit activities.

To help to make the connection and to solidify the call for attention to neutralizing gender gaps at the socio-economic levels, Novagratz makes the following point even as she was reflecting on a female parliamentarian who was imprisoned for war crimes.

And there is no group more vulnerable to those kinds of manipulations [see quotation above] than young men. I’ve heard it said that the most dangerous animal on the planet is the adolescent male. And so in a gathering where we’re focused on women, while it is so critical that we invest in our girls and we even the playing field and we find ways to honor them, we have to remember that the girls and the women are most isolated and violated and victimized and made invisible in those very societies where our men and our boys feel dis-empowered, unable to provide. And that, when they sit on those street corners and all they can think of in the future is no job, no education, no possibility, well then it’s easy to understand how the greatest source of status can come from a uniform and a gun.

‘Evolving Intelligence’

I recently, while channel surfing, came across the movie ‘Simone’ starring Al Pacino. What had seemed like a harmless, frivolous quasi- science fiction movie- when I watched it during its first release- had now become an insidiously reflective modern dramatic representation of the reality of artificial intelligence. Further I was led to also reflect on the covert ways in which false narratives have infiltrated our mass media and by extension our minds’ spaces. A pattern is emerging that we need to be aware of in mass media. This pattern can be framed in a question which is- Is it just me or when there are some real serious and earth life threatening events that something- seemingly innocuous- emerges that operates as a side event and/or deliberate distraction. …I am just saying. For example the numerous and questionable killings of black males in the USA vs. Pokemon, Mannequin, etc challenges.

2016 was a watershed year. A lot of societal and value system changing events took place and may have occurred undetected by the masses. It was a pivotal year for Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Just like the discussion around climate change, i.e. is it real or not? There were so many other crises for which real needed attention and resolutions were being derailed by rhetoric. We are in an age of constant ‘clear and present danger,’ environmentally, socially and politically. This requires global consciousness.

The average man cannot afford to be average anymore. We must be (not become) sober. (There is no time for a learning curve). 2017 is the year! This is the year that will set the tone for ….well everything. Our senses, our knowledge, our intelligence should evolve. We should all, as much as possible, dig deeper. Seek clarification. Be more discernible. Determine one’s core belief system. Be resolute. Evolve.

When Love becomes war…

Towards the end of the 2016 period  there was a lot of persons who seemed extra anxious to just be done with it… in some instances one cannot blame them. There seemed to have been so much that happened in the past several months, especially here on the island, which have given us quite a few scary pauses. One of the most troubling was an inexplicable spate of murders committed against women by their domestic partners. At the close of the 2016 the total stood at 24. As a woman this is twenty-four too many. As a social scientist I know that the reasons will be many and deep rooted. A writer in one of the main newspapers here offered up some suggestions as to why a man would kill a woman with whom he would have had a love relationship, at some point. Some of those suggestions were:

  • hurt pride,
  • sense of being betrayed,
  • the ‘no-other’concept -that the woman was made for ‘him’  and ‘no other’ male should get her,
  • the ‘my investment’ concept- that he has invested in her and no other male should reap the dividends,
  • the “my flagship” concept. This is where the woman through her attributes, whether by way of her education, colour, money, or beauty, makes the man look good. These things he does not possess, but because of his association with her, he looks good…and yet another reason, more often alluded to by many as the underlying cause for most domestic violence against women,
  • he deems her as his’“property”. He claims her as his own physically and emotionally. He feels that he can do with her as he wishes, even to the point of killing her.

These are very thought provoking and also insightful. I would like to add to the discussion that most human beings today operate in a state devoid of the core emotions. I engage with persons each day who are experiencing and have experienced abuse and I have surmised that too often we are so overwhelmed by life that we block out those intrinsic elements of our beings such as – empathy and love.  This suppression happens internally BOTH to the victims and the abusers. For example sometimes the victim stifles self preservation for the economic stability afforded her by being in the abusive relationship. At least on the surface of it that is how it would be perceived. Another example may be that she has low self esteem that the abuse sometimes becomes a sick, warped view of being love until it is too late. To the abuser who would have loved the woman, at some point or even during and throughout the abuse feels he loves her, he I posit, does not understand that love- in its most organic state- is not controlling nor hurtful. Love, in fact, is such that it is able to transcend human nature to dominate and to hold captive, thus enabling the ‘loved one’ to be free instead of bring any harm. Free to leave. Free to live.

Similarly,  suppression of basic human emotions happens, externally, to the ‘others’ who are around. We are able to quite easily videotape human tragedy before offering first aid. We are able to easily stay on our side of the wall or fence and listen to couples squabble and not get involve. Us, the others are able to excuse ourselves with, its their problem, I have got my own- which is so much more consuming. We have primarily become less of our brothers keeper. We have become allies in the love war.

 

Managing expectations…and fears

The results are in. You now know. What next?

I don’t know about you but this is the usual mental checklist post any test related activity. In academia, as a student, this is an innumerable occurrence. This scenario can also be applied to real life situations such as:

  • following a visit to the doctor’s office and also upon the return of  lab results,
  • at the garage when your motor vehicle is placed on the computer diagnostic machine,
  • when you are at the store after binge shopping and the clerk just swiped your credit or debit card and,
  • definitely after you have cast your ballot and you await the final counts.

Some instances are more nerve-wracking than others but nevertheless a commonality is anxiety. Nordqvist (2016) writing for Medicalnewstoday states that ‘anxiety affects a person’s whole being. It affects how we think and how we feel, and it has physical symptoms too. Anxiety resembles fear but when a person experiences fear, they know what we are afraid of. Anxiety is often less specific.’ I can relate. We all can relate. Meaning that we have had anxious moments in our lives.  It would seem that with all the environmental stressors of anxiety that it is quite necessary that we determine ways to mitigate against anxiety. I find that we need to develop ways to manage expectations as a way to accomplishing this.

Expectation (noun) is, according to the Oxford dictionary, a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. In addition to simply having a preference for the Oxford’s definition of English words I realize that this definition is often true of what we do when we have expectations. If we are to really understand, using this definition, what happens when we EXPECT we would realize that inextricably linked to this is a faith based belief system in action… if not then we need to really evaluate what we are doing as we live out our existence. Quite frankly we should not carry-on  zombie-like and comatose lives when we are breathing living beings. Introspecting on just HOW we exist must become a priority ‘spring cleaning’ action.We should take stock of not only WHAT we do but HOW we do and WHY we do the things we do. Go right back to the basics …even with the processing of our thoughts.

In so doing we will consciously be aware of what we desire and the implications, in the event that we do or NOT get what we desire, such that we will be prepared to have a healthy reaction. Back to the definition… if one holds a strong belief then commensurately one should have evidence to the high probability of said belief being fulfilled and /or manifested. The absence of tangible and scientifically proven ways of achieving the thing or outcome (object or subject of one’s desire) may make one seem … well frankly a fool…. yet if one intrinsically trust and value other ways of doing and other means of achieving then that individual frees his/herself from synthetic systems fed to mainstream society, meant to lock society into expecting particular outcomes. It is when people do not see or have the results expected – due to the society led belief systems- that there is anxiety and panic.

Thus expectation cannot be void of faith.

However misplaced faith is a pitfall to avoid at all cost. In selecting a candidate to represent you for example, as it pertains the governance of your community, country and dare I say the free world, an assessment of the person and their position on the core principles you stand for is not an exercise in futility. When you are confident in the candidate’s ability and when you are clear on what they value then you can only exercise your franchise and hope that the majority of the eligible voters do the same. Now this is within the context that the electoral process operates in the manner where it is the majority of the ‘peoples’ vote that counts. If this is the anomaly then you will expect that your candidate who will be a part of government will fight on and eke out meaning victories in the foreseeable future where it will really matter. There is no luxury afforded to wallow in disappointment and victim like sorrow. In fact it is a charge to be more resolute, to work smarter and fight harder.

Each individual must resoundingly amplify the faith that will herald the expected outcome, if not today but in the time allotted. Eventually there will be a collective and holistic realism to existence on earth.