Friday, 26 September 2014

What is the safest place on earth?

It is certainly not the White House. Earlier this week I read that there has been a staggering 35 breaches of the White House perimeter since the mid 1970s. The latest incident involves a decorated Iraq War veteran who scaled a fence on last Friday night and got into the White House. It was later reported that he had more than 800 rounds of ammunition in his car and was arrested in July with a sniper rifle and a map marking the executive mansion.

In truth, there is no place on earth that is truly safe because the safety of the place depends on the people who protects it. The Great Wall of China is thousands of miles long, 30 feet high, and 18 feet thick and was built as security against the northern invaders. It is a massive construction, and was intended to be impenetrable. In fact, impressive as it was, the wall was breached not by physically breaking the wall down but by a simple ruse: the gatekeepers were bribed.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Are you drunk?

A recent research study suggests that one drink a day could be enough to increase the risk of heart disease. The research found those with a gene variant that resulted in lighter drinking had lower heart disease incidence, contradicting popular claims that moderate consumption has a protective effect.  This finding adds to the general message that drinking costs lives, especially for those who get heavily intoxicated. That is on top of the tragedy we see on the roads from drunk driving.

The idea that drunkness is costly is infact at the very heart of Nahum’s oracle against Nineveh. Nahum starts by declaring that God's judgement is coming on Nineveh because through its oppression of God's people Judah it is actually at war against God.  Nineveh has embraced sin as its emblem and God will punish them. To be exact, Nineveh will punish itself : For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. (‭Nahum‬ ‭1‬:‭10‬).

Monday, 22 September 2014

Race in America (A Comment)

I am privileged to have a group of colleagues who like a bit of intellectual debate over ideas and current events. A month ago we found ourselves discussing the inequality of incomes in the United States in the context of Ferguson. We were curious to know the disparity of household incomes across blacks, Hispanics and White Americans.

In the course of that discussion we found that black people only make up 13% of the population, third behind Latinos (15%) and whites (72%). There was collective bewilderment. Apparently I am not the only one who was ignorant of this basic fact. I had always thought blanks represented something like 40-45%. That discovery led me to draw the following conclusions, as an African looking in from the outside.

Friday, 19 September 2014

How much is enough? (A Comment)

This is a rather late comment on an important book I read earlier in the year : 'How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life' by the brothers Robert and Edward Skidelsky. I say late because there's a long gap between when I read it and now, so my thoughts may be loose in places. For the same reason, this is a comment rather than a review, though the difference is subjective. 

The book is exactly as its title suggests. It is offered as a contribution to rethinking what we want out of life: what money is for and what is meant by ‘the good life’. To make their point, the authors reanimate certain philosophical and ethical ideas which they believe "have long been out of favour but which are by no means extinct".

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Ten Tips for Taking Criticism

1. Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. You need to learn how to interpret criticism. Is it positive criticism to build you up or negative to tear you down? Someone once said that constructive criticism is when I criticise you; destructive criticism is when you criticise me.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can develop the ability to laugh at yourself, you will be much more relaxed when given or giving criticism. We all do some stupid and silly things. Blessed is he who can enjoy his blunders. We are approved by God; we don’t have to win the approval of others and look good in their eyes. We are not perfect people. Too many of us take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.